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I'll Shut Up -

John Darling

They come together, these sacred leaders and seers, to — feel their way toward a new spirituality, one that takes in some major — pieces left out of religions for the last couple millennia - the earth, — the feminine and the idea of universality, meaning I am not identified — just with "my" religion, but see all humanity as very much belonging to — the same spirituality.

Sound like some New Age neo-pagans? No, it's the people — of Jewish renewal - and Saturday night at Ashland High School's theater, — they asked themselves and members of other religions to talk about a "new — cosmology needed for planetary healing" and also to do a candid report — card on "what's not working" with their own religion and how it could — change.

The main engine of Jewish renewal over the last half century, — 80-year old Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi ("Reb Zalman") was candid, calling — for a secular, not supernatural ethic. The earth is teaching us, he says. — The cosmos is the body of God. We are becoming Gaian citizens (Gaia is — the ancient Greek goddess of Earth).

"The only way we can get it together is together," he — says. We're all cells in the totality of one body. Ram Dass and Timothy — Leary gave us a gift - of losing our narrow, provincial experience, something — Reb Zalman confirmed with his first LSD journey, he says, "seeing religion — from the inside," seeing that every tradition has these "heart filled" — visions.

Reb Zalman calls it a Gaian ethic. It's what's going to — heal us. "What has happened is that we've been broken apart," he says, — referring to the whole of humanity. Our social fibers have been shredded, — we're in exile and we have things like nuclear families, single mothers, — bastard children (no mother would use that word). "It's like a bad immune — system," he says.

He's speaking gently, warmly, smiling in his white beard, — saying so many new and radical ideas that you have to glance at your neighbor — and suggest, did he really say that? But here he is, a respected patriarch — of the Jewish community for many decades, the spiritual father of Ashland's — Havurah, crying out for a new person on the earth - and modeling that — person.

Patriarch, smchmatriarch. He relinquishes all father-right. — We need matriarchs, not patriarchs, he says. The era of religious triumphalism — is over. Wow, you don't need that term defined for you. You can feel it. — Religious pride, the sense that you, in your major, organized religion, — with a billion adherents, are chosen and have the inerrant word of God — in your book.

And sitting on your pillow, meditating (alone), that's — not going to make the necessary changes for the world, either, he says. — How about more blessing of one another and of other and of the planet?

This man has to be the Martin Luther of the Judaic faith — and he's not just nailing some theses on the door of his own temple, but — of every temple.

Anne Bartlett has a hammer, too. She's the one who led — her flock into creation of the downtown labyrinth, next to her church, — Trinity Episcopal. We are hard-wired before birth, she says, for relationship — with "Other," which means other people and God, this within a cosmos that — she defines as "an ordered luminous web of interconnections, infused with — divine purpose and plan," something that isn't about living in different, — competing religions.

We (Christians), she says, have been in trouble with this — triumphalism thing since Constantine opened up an era of genocide in the — name of religion and "trampled on the souls of others," something that's — not over yet. Christians, she notes, need to start listening, forgiving — and practicing some humility. To big laughter and applause, she quotes — Desmond Tutu, who said, hey, God is not a Christian.

What is God? "God is a mystery - and we need to understand — Her as best we can," she says. Any Christian minister who writes a Good — Friday sermon, should be required to run it by a rabbi first, she adds — - to much laughter. Our hope, she concludes, is that God can be trusted — to being new spiritual life out of a global situation of death and despair.

Sound dark and negative? It wasn't. You had to be there. — The crowd (sold out) was loving it - and approaching it as a serious and — menacing planetary crisis that we have the power to change, rather like — citizens gathered to deal with a flood or plague. This is real. We're — in trouble. It's especially grim now, in a nation pumped up about saving — the world from evil, violent terrorists, all of whom just happen to be — of a different religion.

"We've got to try and stop the spiritual blindness," says — Agnes Baker Pilgrim, the local Takelma elder. We've got a journey to make, — one of only 18 inches, from head to heart, so we can take on a role given — us by the Creator, the care of all creatures created before us. She says — it simply: think of community first - and the generations ahead of us.

We're not here to have a lot of material gain, power and — prestige, but to learn the lesson of love, says Dr. Krishna, a Hindu. — Love must come with respect or love is false love. We're speaking in the — elemental building blocks of consciousness and values here, but it's so — rare that we hear these things in this jingoistic consumer culture, that — they sound novel, almost radical.

It's difficult to hold to the universal view that we're — one planet and we are not alone, say Ashland's Tibetan Buddhist lamas, — Yeshe and Pema. We have many lives to get it right and we do so by living — simply, practicing contentment and harming no being. Calm down, says Pema, — stay in the present, rest in the openness of your mind, don't be tyrannized — by the compulsion to think and "all should go smoothly on the spiritual — journey and you need not panic."

What we're being presented with here is the greatest sociological — transformation ever known, one in which the economy can become a satellite — to the "soul of the culture," instead of the other way round, says author-philosopher — Jean Houston, now of Ashland. The "reset button of history" has been hit — and we face the most profound task of any people who have ever lived.

You talk to people about this stuff and they all say they — know it's happening. Life is a lot different than it was, say, at the — end of the last century - and 9/11 plus the disputed 2000 election, while — not earth-shattering in themselves, were two huge body blows that put — all this on the table and greatly accelerated the process.

The sponsor of the weekend, Havurah's Rabbi David Zaslow — owns that the direction pointed out by Reb Zalman, and followed by his — own flock, is mystical, a loaded word that means, "It's not enough to — serve and worship God. Renewal is the understanding that God resides in — every one of us as a direct experience of the divine, a direct encounter."

The ecstatic experience of the divine, brought in by dance, — song, prayer (and an inclusive view of world as cosmos) holds firm to — the cultural identity, while letting go of what's dysfunctional in the — religion - usually the negative role of women and outsiders and the lack — of connection to nature. The emerging new trinity, Zaslow says, is self, — Gaia (nature) and God - and you can't have one without the other.

Contact John Darling, an Ashland writer and counselor, — at jdarling@jeffnet.org.