Many thinkers today believe we are entering a “Second Axial Age”—a great shift in consciousness and spirituality equal to that which produced the headwaters of our great religious traditions between roughly 800-200 BCE. This shift is related closely to the process of globalization, and our emerging sense of oneness—we are one human family, one planetary body, one intricately interwoven tapestry of life.
While the First Axial Age opened for us the possibility of the transcendent and a personal quest for enlightenment or salvation, it also tended to break our earlier, primal sense of collective identity (rooted in tribe) and our deep, felt connection to Earth. In this next shift, we are picking that earlier sensibility back up, not at the tribal, but at the global level. In the process, our religions are being transformed.
Rather than being called to step into decline and death, however, they are being asked to offer their practices of devotion and transformation in the shared service of our collective awakening. The blessings, spiritual treasures, and “mystical bodies” of our great religions hold the tools needed to carry us into this next phase of spiritual evolution. They will only flow forward, however, when freed from the exclusivist identities and superiority complexes that have plagued their histories and that do violence to the single human body we are in the process of becoming.
Profound interspiritual permeability will characterize the next phase of religious understanding. Each tradition will have a vital body of practice to continue in the service of the human body. What will this look like for individual traditions? How do independent religious
bodies begin to interrelate and evolve? Exploring Christianity as an example, we will work with key thinkers such as Teilhard de Chardin, Bede Griffiths, and Raimon Panikkar.
The Rev. Matthew Wright is an Episcopal priest working to renew the Christian Wisdom tradition within a wider interspiritual framework. Alongside his practice of Christianity, he draws deeply from the sacred worlds of Islamic Sufism and Vedanta. Matthew serves as priest-in-charge at St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church in Woodstock, NY, and lives with his wife, Yanick, alongside the brothers of Holy Cross Monastery. You can follow his monthly column, Belonging, at www.contemplativejournal.com.
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