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Contemplation and Dialogue by Cyprian Consiglio

The Golden String


Vol. 15 No. 2 Winter 2008-2009

What I am mainly concerned with here are, first, prayer and contemplation and how they lead into interreligious dialogue and, secondly, the dialogue of religious experience, in which people share spiritual practices with others of different faiths.

Perennial philosophy and meditation

I have been formed in the school of thought that believes there is what we call a “perennial philosophy,” a common core of teachings about the transcendental essence of religion that underlies the world’s authentic religious traditions. Bede Griffiths might refer to it as “universal wisdom,” a term I favor as well. This is a term that was coined in the West by the German rationalist philosopher Leibniz (1646-1716), but made more popular by the 20th century philosopher Aldous Huxley. (I want to add that not everyone is a “perennialist,” but there is a long tradition which goes back to William James, the author of Varieties of Religious Experience, and includes the great scholar of comparative religion, Huston Smith.) My favorite way to describe this perennial philosophy, this universal wisdom, is this: first, there is Spirit (or God, or divine power, however we may name it); second, this Spirit isn’t just outside of us, “supernatural”––it is found within, as St Paul says, “the love of God is poured into our hearts by the Spirit living in us.” But, third, most of us have no knowledge or awareness of this power of the divine within us because we are living in a world, in a state, that is marked by whatever we may call it––sin, delusion, separation. But, our religions teach us, there is a way out of this state of sin, delusion and separation, and if we follow that way as laid out by our tradition we will have an experience of this indwelling presence of God, which is an awakening, a rebirth, an enlightenment. Ultimately, the main purpose of every religion....

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