Comments by Adam Blatner

Nov 6, 2005
 Developed over a period of 18 years at the "The Snowmass Interreligious Conference." nine points were finally agreed on as common understandings by leaders of all the main world religions. Here they are with my comments.

1. The world religions bear witness to the experience of Ultimate Reality to which they give various names: Brahman, Allah, (the) Absolute, God, Great Spirit.
    Adam: I can envision other names that suggest less single-person association,  and more impersonal or collective-process way of envisioning the Wholeness of Being, the Great Becoming,  The Big Multi-Dimensional Blossoming, the Ever-Awakening, the Beyond the Beyond, The Ground of Being (Tillich), etc. If the male-gendered-ness of God is to be challenged, what about the single-entity human projection also?  Gaia as a concept of Earth-Spirit, for example, may be envisioned more as a trans-dimensional social being, only instead of the ants in the colony seeming similar, at this other dimension, each species and regional variant would be a different "entity" that interacts ecologically with all the others--which one can do in trans-dimensional spacetime. Of course, this all relates to:

 2. Ultimate Reality cannot be limited by any name or concept.
    Adam: ...and perhaps invites us to stretch it...

 3. Ultimate Reality is the ground of infinite potentiality and actualization.
       Adam: Whatever that means. Is God infinite in potentiality, or rather unsurpassable. The philosopher Charles Hartshorne argues plausibly that complete “omnipotence” would logically deny any freedom to the creatures. Are such indiscriminate superlatives truly needed or helpful?)

 4. Faith is opening, accepting, and responding to Ultimate Reality. Faith in this sense precedes every belief system.
    Adam: The dynamics of faith remain a bit of a mystery to me. It's why on one hand I am deeply excited and interested in the potential of spirituality as a factor in our unfolding evolution, but am wary about the tendency of faith to become stuck on the object of its attention, converted into varying degrees of "belief." There can be different degrees and also types of belief, but literal belief often becomes a problem. This idea is somewhat resonant with the key concept in semantics, that the actual thing-in-itself is not the word attached, or as the Zen saying goes, the finger pointing at the moon is not the moon.

 5. The potential for human wholeness - or in other frames of reference, enlightenment, salvation, transformation, blessedness, nirvana - is present in every human person.
      Adam: While each of those words calls up a host of associations, some of which may in the long run be more useful, others more misleading, the grounding in the human potential seems a useful reminder.
6. Ultimate Reality may be experienced not only through religious practices but also through nature, art, human relationships, and service to others.
         Adam: now we're warming up to my area of disagreement-- in number 8 below. If this is true, then....

7. As long as the human condition is experienced as separate from Ultimate Reality, it is subject to ignorance, illusion, weakness and suffering.
       Adam: I think this statement is perhaps overgeneralized and resonates with the subtle totalitarianism of number 8, next. It doesn't allow for the vigorous contributions and goodness of many non-believers whose lives are full, whose consciences are serene... and since the definition of ignorance includes both factual and mythic elements, impossible to fully validate. Still, the question must be asked, "But is this so?" "Is there any evidence whatsoever that this is so?"
    Are the people who claim to experience no separation proven to be free from weakness and suffering, and if so, can you name any of them?

 8. Disciplined practice is essential to the spiritual life; yet spiritual attainment is not the result of one's own efforts, but the result of the experience of oneness (unity) with Ultimate Reality.
         This statement is the most problematical, and is a multipart statement. First, it was created by a biased group, "religious leaders," folks who have an investment in the social organizations of which they are a part being validated and supported. Second, which kinds of spiritual life are defined, or is it a tautology?

    Consider Jane Doe, who thinks about God and nature, lives lovingly, does no disciplined practice that can be identified, no prayers as such, no routines, yet behaves respectfully, even reverently to the world around her-- well, I know a few of these folks, and by golly by gosh, they're spiritual, and a lot more than a lot of folks who claim to engage in "disciplined practice."
       So is that first part true. Is it "essential"?  And what is the "spiritual life" and how is it different from a life lived with a healthy component of spirituality. Indeed, is there any evidence that living a purely spiritual life is any better, any more contributory to the common good or the Divine purpose, than a life lived more directly involved with participating in the common advance of humanity, and with perhaps an edge of reference thrown in?
      Is it heresy to ask these questions? They seem fairly elementary.

   Then we get to the concept called spiritual attainment. What is that? Who has got it? Does Joe or Bob have it more than Adam? How would we know? What measures it?
          Sometimes I play with the paradox that goes something like,
                "I'm less competitive than you are, nyah nyah nyah."
       If one claims it, does that obviate the claim?  If others attribute it: Oh, Joe-Bob is self-effacing, but everyone knows he's "got" it."   But maybe others don't agree.  How much of the dynamic that attributes spiritual attainment to this or that saint or guru is a product of group dynamics and group self-hypnosis?  Is it taboo to even ask that question?
       Okay, finally, (pant, pant), what again about our example of Jane Doe. What if she has never had the "experience of oneness (unity) with Ultimate Reality" but she lives a more loving a productive life than Joe-Bob, who claims to have had that experience many times, or, worse (better?), claims to be "established in that consciousness." However, our exemplar counter fellow is in many of his relationships tactless, maybe even cruel. Or phonily sanctimonious? Or spends his life as the center of his own cult, teaching his own versions, gaining adherents, but other than playing the religion game, not really adding much to the world. Spiritual attainment?

      So this whole point was pretty problematic, and exposed many of my deeper discomforts about some of the new age trends that seem on the surface rather noble but might in fact be self-serving and misleading

 9. Prayer is communion with Ultimate Reality, whether it is regarded as personal, impersonal (transpersonal), or beyond them both.
           Finally, what is communion?  When I sing a popular song to cheer myself up and reinforce my deeper feelings of faith, like "Whistle a Happy Tune," or "Sing, Sing a Song," or "It's a Small World," or "My Favorite Things," it occurred to me that these are prayers of a kind also. I get realigned with God's purpose as I see it. But maybe they're 2nd-class, too recent, not good enough; maybe a prayer needs to be in old-fashioned language, maybe even in a foreign tongue. Maybe God doesn't speak English.

         So again, I kind of like the effort to reach out and make bridges, it's very ecumenical, and better than competition. Yet it's also somewhat ... sooo 20th century. What if the edge of our world and the future of interfaith dialogue involves the interface of tradition and the postmodern, science-fiction, MAD-magazine, playful, scientific, ecological, mind-stretching mentality that values stretching, testing boundaries, lifts the trickster archetype to a new respectability, indeed, a moral obligation? What if we are on a logarithmically upward-curving slope of invention, breakthrough, discovery, paradigm-shifts, that make the worldviews of belief, doctrine, and traditional concepts of belief systems obsolete? Wooo!

        Well, it could be invigorating, once you begin to cultivate the infrastructure of skills that involve art, playfulness, psychology, spirituality, and other dimensions that had previously been compartmentalized away from each other.

         In a process philosophy-oriented-spirituality--which I confess to--if Divinity enjoys the Creative Advance, then it must be recognized that Creativity includes a measure of Destruction (not malignant or malicious, just that necessity of death, autumn and winter, the winding down of a piece of music so another piece can be played, the finishing of a poem, the archetype who in India takes the form of the God Shiva-- what if that is as necessary to the metabolism of life as the need for a zillion tiny cell deaths that are absolutely necessary for the ongoing health of the organism (the form of Vishnu)?

      In other words, what if we are entering an era in which the principle of creativity is recognized as profoundly relevant, perhaps a core value. Traditionalism, which for centuries, perhaps even millennia, offered some grounding in social and cognitive stability, may be less relevant. With Huston Smith, I am not willing to throw out traditionalism, but rather to use it as a foundation that is appropriately used as a spring-board, to be subjected to a constant process of re-evaluation, and at times, or in certain ways, to discarding or neglecting selected parts. Is this disrespect? Not necessarily.

       Well, I was suggesting some substantial questions for discussion. What-all do you think of the above.   With great respect and love to y'all, your pal, Adam.