A New World Spirituality, Part One: Emergence and Interconnection

Editor's Note: This begins a four-part series of articles inviting readers to explore World Spirituality.

Wow, what a time it is! The world is in turmoil on virtually every level of reality even as it is pregnant with possibility and promise. The nature of the challenges that we face is, for the first time in the history of the cosmos, global in magnitude. The threat is a global threat to our very survival. The promise is the emergence of a global civilization, one rooted in an evolution of love beyond anything the world has ever seen. We need now, more than ever, a World Spirituality based on Integral principles.

The world faces world problems. Gone is the era where local kings, seers, and shamans dealt with their local issues. There are no more exclusively local issues. Everything affects everything else. Everything is interconnected and interdependent.

Of course, from a spiritual perspective, viewed through the eye of the heart and the eye of the spirit, this was always the case. However, the essential interconnectedness of all of reality was not apparent. The King of Burma had no felt sense or evidence that his actions and decisions would affect the ancient Indians who populated the Americas.

Now, however, the underlying wholeness of all of reality, the inextricable interpenetration of all of its parts, is becoming visible to the naked eye. One needs to look only at environmental and ecological issues to realize the essential interconnectivity and indivisibility of it all.

New world conditions are always precisely what catalyze the next evolutionary leap. As we realize that the challenges that confront us are world challenges, we realize that we must evolve a world spirituality to meet those challenges. But we must do more than just meet those challenges.

World spirituality is not just a solution to problems; it is also the delighted expression of the evolving Eros of consciousness realizing its potential to dance in the dialectical tension between unity and diversity. We are unique and autonomous as people and faith systems. We are also One in communion and even union with each other. Both are true. Autonomy and communion, diversity and plurality, the One and the many dance in higher integration as World Spirituality begins to emerge.

Paradoxically it is our very uniqueness that is the key to our communion. The realization of World Spirituality is that uniqueness, not merely sameness, is the currency of connection. Each individual and each unique collective expressed in a religion or great body of knowledge is a puzzle piece in the emergent wholeness that is waiting to be evolved by us. Spirit awaits our unpacking. This is the evolutionary impulse manifesting as Spirit in Action. Each tradition has a particular medicine, which is crucial to the health of the whole.

World Spirituality and Premodern Religions
World Spirituality is not just the shared Truth of premodern religions; it is not only the premodern religions that we turn to in creating world spirituality. Each great system of knowing—premodern, modern, and postmodern—participates in the forging of a World Spirituality. The emergence in modernity of science, of the evolution of the social sphere expressed in the rise of democracy, human rights, and the ascension of the feminine, are all key components in the formation of a World Spirituality.

Can you imagine today a serious World Spirituality without taking into account the impact of neuroscience, what I call Neuro-dharma, on our understandings of ritual and spiritual practice? Can you imagine today a World Spirituality without the emergent insights of postmodernity with its manifestations as multiculturalism and pluralism, without its profound understanding of the distinction between surface structures and depth structures and the role of interpretation and hermeneutics in creating all forms of spiritual and social culture?

Particularly, can one imagine World Spirituality without the evolutions that have taken place in our understanding of evolution? More important than anything, can one imagine a World Spirituality without a profound embrace of the evolutionary context within which we live and which depends on us? The evolutionary context—the realization that consciousness is evolving, and that every generation is responsible for giving its own unique gift to the evolution of consciousness—is the animating Eros in our attempt to give voice and language to the emergence of a

World Spirituality that is already happening all over the globe.