Interfaith’s Great Gift:
learning to see differently
while seeking the One… Paul Darwish
I look for the spiritual center that we all share. Whether you are a Protestant-Hindu couple about to marry, a Jewish-humanist family with a baby to name, a Taoist-Catholic family who wants to bless a house in a way that both families will accept, or a family that has no religious history, but is trying to find a spacious way to honor a deceased agnostic uncle, I will be happy to work with exactly what is meaningful to you to craft a ceremony.
Interfaith is something I live and breathe; my own spiritual practice is a woven connection of many paths, and I know it can work. I was raised in a skeptical scientific household but was drawn to spirituality early; baptized Unitarian, confirmed Episcopalian, attended Quaker school, celebrated Holy days with my Jewish neighbors as a child, and with my Native American neighbors as an adult. I studied Taoism, sat Za-zen, and am, by nature, drawn to all Earth-based traditions. I co-directed a women’s mystery school in Santa Fe, NM for 6 years, taught at Chris Griscom’s the Light Institute in Galisteo, NM for two, years and at Alan Oken’s The Wisdom School for 4. I was ordained by (and worked as Registrar and Dean for) The New Seminary, America’s oldest Interfaith seminary, founded originally by Reverend John Mundy, Father Giles Spoonhour, Swami Satchidananda, and Rabbi Gelberman. I see my other work, my life-long practice of astrology, as an affirmation of the enormity of Spirit and the interconnectedness of all existence.
I have two metaphors that help me describe my Interfaith perspective, one mathematical, the other biological. My father was a set theorist (an abstract mathematician that looked for patterns), he often used a diagram of intersecting sets, the Venn diagram you might remember from high school geometry, to describe phenomena. For example: I am looking for all our blue cups, i.e. the intersection between the set of all cups, and the set of all our objects that are blue.
What I look for in the interfaith movement is the intersecting set, that which all faiths have in common, whether they know it or not– and from that common ground, to appreciate the unique gift of each path, the special medicine each one has to offer. I think the interfaith movement– by shifting the focus to the common denominators and away from differentiating factors–offers a gift to the world. But since those differentiations are what some people identify with most, they are exactly what will cause tension at times, and will need all our expansive heart to include and reach around.
I think that as we study and explore the commonality and similarities of each path, we begin to see the patterns underneath in a different light. For example, when I hear that Krishna, Wittoba, Osiris, Attis, Inanna, Indra, Mithra, Dionysus, Hesus, Adonis, and Christ all were, in some form, crucified and rose from the dead–most after three days, and a many around the spring equinox, I look— not only at the beauty and power of each individual persona and story– but for why that symbol is so essential to our spiritual being, whatever our culture or history. It is a truth of our experience.
My spouse is a cell biologist; after our long talks about how symbolism is a common thread that connects spirituality and cell biology, another of my favorite interfaith images comes from the body. I see each one of us as an individual cell working within the body of the One. My reality as a separate individual is true, to deny it is to not take care of myself. But I am also a cell operating within the reality of the needs of an organ (my family and culture) which operates within the body of the whole: Spirit/God/the One. And if I deny that reality, and do not live in a way that honors the whole, I can become cancer, or do not live up to my potential– do not do what I was born to do.
Both realities are clear and true– independent existence, and being a part of the one; it’s just a perspective shift. It’s impractical and careless to get lost in Oneness and neglect my individual realty. But it is lonely when I am stuck in my independent cell-mind; spiritual pain can be defined as that sense of separation and isolation, and spiritual ease can be defined by connection, connection to one another, to a cause, to the One. Spiritual practice mediates the realm between the two, helps shift out of our solitary cell-mind into the Body-mind.
When I take an interfaith view, I see the elements which help me mediate that shift; a path each and every religion has found a way to trod, and begin to understand what is essential about that process that lies underneath the stories of each religion. This way we grow path, weaving many stories together so it is wide and inviting, and easy to traverse. That is Interfaith ministry to me.
In a pragmatic view, our rituals are doorways into a place of spiritual connection –where we can hold ceremony, wed, welcome a child or bless a house. They are made of the patterns and spiritual signals we garner from our family’s traditions or from spiritual paths that have significance for us because of our experience or philosophy; symbols and signals that work for us and place us in a spiritual context.
When we work together, I will listen for your spiritual signals to create a meaningful and connected experience.