Sound and Silence

when necessary, use words

Three Days of Interfaith: A Groundswell of Goodwill

The “Interfaith Indaba – Journey into the radiant current of interfaith” – hosted by multiple communities and organisations, culminated last night in an observance of compassion for Sri Lanka at the Al Azar Mosque in District Six, Cape Town, South Africa.

Leaders and common people – Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Hindus, Buddhists, Africanists, mystics and many unnamed others met in numerous events to continue the discovery of that which unites.

Sheik Ismael Keraan (Al Azar Mosque), Stuart Diamond (SAJBD), Berry Behr (CTII), Fr Gerardo Garcia, Ds Riaan de Villiers, Sri Lankan Consul representatives Hon Mr Mrs Jacobs.

While the global circumstances around South Africa’s Freedom Day weekend – 3 devastating religiously-motivated massacres in Christchurch, Sri Lanka and San Diego – are deeply disturbing, the real story is the response.

And this bigger story is palpable evidence of a fresh emerging culture across religious, cultural and economic barriers in Cape Town. Many organisations are involved – this is indeed a “broad church” of activists, devotees, and seekers creating conversation and community on the ground.

The umbrella organisation and burgeoning hub for much of this conversation is the Cape Town Interfaith Initiative (CTII). The Inititive’s director, Berry Behr, returned last week from Jordan where she received (together with James Ellman) the first prize for World Interfaith Harmony Week from His Majesty King Abdullah II, himself an ardent and eloquent supporter of interfaith harmony. She insisted during the proceedings that the award belonged to all communities and organisations involved.

Amongst these actively engaged organisations are the The Novalis Ubuntu Institute, The Emissaries of Divine Light, Groote Kerk and the Dutch Reformed Church, Al Azar Masjied and other Muslim communities, United Religions Initiative, Holy Cross Catholic Church District Six, The Jewish Board of Deputies, CT Unitarian Community, The Turquoise Harmony Institute (founded by Fethullah Gülen, the Turkish scholar), and many more.

Over the weekend’s events there was teaching, oratory, meditation, song, drumming, dance, and most important, conversations that resonated with the energy of people discovering their power to love, heal and create, to take initiative and to risk, and to be their authentic selves in the freedom to serve others.

But isn’t music haram?

Friday at Novalis was a daylong seminar called the Future of Interfaith with Keynote speaker David Karchere, the spiritual director of the Emissaries of Divine Light based in Colorado, USA. It had a strongly intercultural as well as inter-generational dimension, and conversations flowed between suburb and township, learner and retiree, African, American, and European. One 14 year old participant summarised the event, noting “You are much safer when you make friends”.

Saturday, Freedom Day, was a tour of Cape Town’s sacred sights. The evening was hosted by the Turquoise Harmony Institute’s Turkish community, a tremendous display of hospitality and conviviality and opportunities for conversation with people from diverse backgrounds including Turkey, Kazakhstan, and Hawaii.

On Sunday morning, the CTII led their monthly “Sacred Connections” gathering at Novalis with a rousing call to deeper unity by David Karchere. He talked of our need to move from the negative fear based positions to tolerance, then respect, then understanding and then appreciation. He noted that any suicide bomber, far from expressing “faith”, had in fact lost all faith in goodness.

The weekend climaxed at Al-Azar. The Mosque itself is one of the few buildings that escaped demolition by the Apartheid government in the 1966, and it seems appropriate to have come together here in this symbol of the enduring power of faith and community in the face of deeply divisive and destructive forces that still haunt the world today.

While solemn, sensitive and sincere, there was also much joy and conviviality as perhaps 120 people affirmed their common dignity and connection to one another. Sheikh Ismael Keraan is a profound presence, educated, warm, deeply rooted in many traditions, and his growing relationship with courageous dominee Riaan de Villiers of Groote Kerk is truly a sign of hope. As one member of Al Azar said “This was unimaginable 5 years ago”.

This weekend’s events were certainly well organised. However, they represent something more than mere organisation: a groundswell of goodwill that is breaking out in Cape Town, in Colombo, in Christchurch, and across the world as people overcome the fear that fuels hatred, and discover the miracle of shared humanity that is open to and flowing with the Sacred, by whatever name we might use.

A beautiful message from the Andes

Don Alberto Taxo is a Iachak (community leader/healer)  of the Quichua/Kitchwa people of Ecuador.

I had the good fortune of meeting him recently at the Dawn of InterSpirituality conference in Costa Rica.

This film put his vision for the planet into a nutshell. Continue reading “A beautiful message from the Andes”

The Dawn of InterSpirituality, Costa Rica March 2018

A personal reflection on “The Dawn of InterSpirituality” conference held at Casa Siloe retreat centre, Birri, Costa Rica, on the 12 – 16 March 2018.

You are invited to take a step into the unknown, towards a possible future that can only be imagined, when the religions of the world truly meet each other …  this may be more important that we realize, and I suspect this conference will go far beyond our expectations.

Fr. Thomas Keating, convenor of the Snowmass InterSpiritual Dialog and co-founder of Centering Prayer.

Will and Cynthia
Rev. Cynthia Brix and Will Keepin Ph.D.

Convened by Will Keepin and Cynthia Brix and the Satyana Institute, the second Dawn of Interspirituality conference was held in Costa Rica in March 2018. This was a coming together of spiritual leaders, practitioners and seekers in a Central American context, bridging North and South, West and East, the Earth and Cosmos, with most major religious traditions represented. Continue reading “The Dawn of InterSpirituality, Costa Rica March 2018”

“Belonging to God”, an Interspiritual awakening, Cape Town 2017.

For 3 weeks in February and March 2017, the Western Cape was graced in thought, word, and deed by Will Keepin PhD, and the Rev. Cynthia Brix, who presented a radical (yet ancient) vision of Interspirituality at 3 different events. This included a book launch, lecture and a retreat. Continue reading ““Belonging to God”, an Interspiritual awakening, Cape Town 2017.”

Belief separates, love unites

To most people, “belief” defines what they hold dear. In creeds, confessions, and unspoken ways, belief codifies in word and concept the structures of thought, and is often ratified by the authority traditions in their world. When one is believing “correctly” one feels a sense of security. When religions disagree, or even go to war, the justification for this is difference of belief and the divinely sanctioned rightness of the cause.

Belief is about concepts, law and controllable, measurable precepts. It judges, controls, “divides asunder” and discriminates. Belief creates walls and categories. Belief separates.

So here’s the point … belief is very different to faith, to trust, and to love. The Yang-nature of belief does not empathise or seek connection, it cannot operate in compassion. Only love does this.

There is possibly no greater text on Love than the of Paul letter to the Corinthians. If there is going to be a guiding text for an interspiritual movement, this must be it. Do not read this narrowly, as an exclusive banner for Christianity, but rather see it as Paul’s free gift to the world, to all of us, regardless of what we believe:

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be cancelled.

1 Corinthians 13:4-10, The Message

Part of a blog series “Why Interspirituality is the future” leading up to The Father John Oliver Memorial Lecture “BELONGING TO GOD: Spirituality, Science & a Universal Path of Divine Love” by Will Keepin , PhD , co-founder of the Satyana Institute and a leader in the “interspiritual” movement.

The Father John Oliver Memorial Lecture will take place on Tuesday 21st February 2017 at Erin Hall Rondebosch, Cape Town, 19h00 for 19h30 (7.30 pm), hosted by the CTII (Cape Town Interfaith Initiative). See our Facebook event.

Relate or Die

One of the most straightforward and pragmatic reasons to believe in an interspiritual future is that if we do not learn to co-operate, and continue the all too apparent trend of unbridled competition, the human world as we know it, will cease to exist.

It’s by now a rather hackneyed thought that “religion is the root cause of war”. Of course this observation by Enlightenment rationalists who broke free from the dark ages imposed by Christendom was important. To step outside of the paradigm that created the crusades requires one to acknowledge the awful truth of institutional religion’s role in fanning the flames of hatred and xenophobia, exercising  judgement and genocidal hypocrisy, and of power mad avarice in the name of God.

But many now agree that despite all the negative aspects of our religious traditions that these traditions have bequeathed to us a rich heritage of wisdom. In overcoming our prejudices against others and their beliefs, we may find that we have been changed in ways that “staying put” could never have done.

An important example of such prejudice is the dismissal of Eastern thought and paths by many middle-western monotheists. But I am convinced that Eastern and Western thought need each other far more than they know. For example the idea of “yin”, the feminine receptive principle, shows the “Christian west” an alternative to its Trinitarian patriarchy which casts God as majority masculine shareholder in the Divine.

If we are not relating to our “other” in any of its manifestations, we are in fact dying. This could be in very small ways, bothering to learn an greeting in a foreign tongue, catching ourselves dismissing the voice of one we have always considered “wrong”, or “irrelevant”, making a visit to a temple or church that we have always thought of as “not us”, attempting to see the beauty in someone else’s scripture.

Or it could be in much larger ways, such as bringing peace to parts of our world that remain in the grip of demonically arrested, fundamentalist, and power-crazed forces.

Interspirituality offers us a way into our own prejudices, our own poisons, our own stale ideas that have not been expanding and reaching for deeper understandings of what Love might mean. And it may just be a blueprint for a new model of being human.

Integration IS salvation

Some religious traditions (most notably monotheistic ones) insist on their exclusive path to “Truth”, and create categories for the opposite, the “other”, such as “unbeliever”, “heathen”, “gentile” and “kafir”. They also create sophisticated theologies explaining why some are “in” and others “out”.

Other traditions accept those not of their kind, and are more generous and less damning towards outsiders.

However, the inner truths of all traditions stress a path to Oneness, variously described by terms like salvation, tawhid, enlightenment, moksha, individuation, or sagehood. No matter how divisive a religion is towards the whole, it is attempting to find oneness inside of itself.

The real meaning of “idolatry” is allowing the part to be taken as the whole. It therefore denies a larger reality outside of its self-imposed system. Every religions tradition aspires towards oneness of some sort, but many get arrested in their development in smaller idolatrous versions of the whole. Much of the fundamentalism of this age can be well understood this way.

We must therefore assert that all religions seek oneness and integration, and at some point if they can transcend the insularity of their partial view, all religions in their best expressions, seek integration. This includes every type of integration, that of the individual, the body corporate, and therefore, by the logic of this same truth, interfaith dialog, shared practice with other faiths and what we are coming to call “Interspirituality”.

Part of a blog series “Why Interspirituality is the future” leading up to The Father John Oliver Memorial Lecture “BELONGING TO GOD: Spirituality, Science & a Universal Path of Divine Love” by Will Keepin , PhD , co-founder of the Satyana Institute and a leader in the “interspiritual” movement.

The Father John Oliver Memorial Lecture will take place on Tuesday 21st February 2017 at Erin Hall Rondebosch, Cape Town, 19h00 for 19h30 (7.30 pm), hosted by the CTII (Cape Town Interfaith Initiative). See our Facebook event.

Why Interspirituality is the future

A blog series “Why Interspirituality is the future” leading up to The Father John Oliver Memorial Lecture “BELONGING TO GOD: Spirituality, Science & a Universal Path of Divine Love” by Will Keepin, PhD , co-founder of the Satyana Institute and a leader in the “interspiritual” movement.

The lecture will take place on Tuesday 21st February at Erin Hall Rondebosch, Cape Town, 19h00 for 19h30 (7.30 pm), hosted by the CTII (Cape Town Interfaith Initiative). See our Facebook event.

What is Interspirituality?

Interfaith dialog is known to many, but Interspirituality is a new concept. It is a positive vision of the future of humanity drawing on all the wisdoms available, including ancient and modern religious traditions, and the new understandings unleashed by science.

There are four stages leading to the interspiritual:

  1. Interfaith monolog

My faith talks to you, (or preaches at you!), with no need to hear your point of view, because I am absolutely certain that I am right.

  1. Interfaith dialog

My faith talks to you and your faith talks to me. We enter conversation about our respective positions, and hopefully learn something. Theodore Zeldin says “A true conversation occurs when both parties come away slightly changed.”

  1. Shared practice

We transcend mere exchange of ideas and experience each other’s space. I pray at your mosque, you visit my science club meeting, and we spend authentic time in each other’s worlds.

  1. Interspirituality

Beyond talking and doing, a space of shared being where none of us are the owners, it is a radically new mode of being that is created as we go. But we bring all we have to offer including our home traditions, enriching all.

Next post to follow: “Integration IS salvation”

Friday prayers, Shabbat and Church…

Listening up: Jewish, Islamic, Dutch Reformed and Catholic lend their ears.

It’s now after the fact. My previous musings about intentions and hopes have been put to the test, and I have spent 3 days with a group of Muslims, Jews and Christians in the Open Mosque inaugural Interfaith Retreat at Oewerzicht, Greyton, Western Cape, South Africa.

Many have expressed interest as to the outcome of this bold experiment. Some have been encouraging, some cautious, and others disparaging. The idea of spiritual intimacy with those of faiths that are often portrayed as the “enemy” has been and remains a taboo in many circles. Non-monotheists or liberal pluralists will probably not appreciate the gravities of the situation, it is no trivial thing to “risk your faith” developing closer ties with the “other”.

Friday Prayers

Dr Taj Hargey, The Open Mosque

In Friday’s introduction we heard a passionate and erudite message from Dr Taj Hargey, the Open Mosques founder, in which he appealed to Muslims to heed the Qur’an – the original text revealed to Muhammad, rather than the traditions based upon the Hadith, or sayings of the Prophet which were gathered some 300 years after his passing.

Rev. Natalie and Dominee Alwyn then presented the “Mission of Christianity” to a receptive and intelligent audience who were somewhat bewildered by the notion of the Trinity. To be honest, the more I reflected on it from the Jewish / Muslim point of view, the more I empathised with them!

Shabbat with temple Israel

In the evening Rabbi Greg Alexander of Temple Israel and his contingent led us in the Shabbat service. This felt comfortable, despite it being in Hebrew, with the sung service with guitar and djembe. This form of worship revealed an inner cohesion, relevance and inclusivity, the famed “familyhood” of Jewish culture and religion.

In the cold of the evening we continued singing as a broad community around the fire, led by Rabbi Greg and his musicians, and introduced more improvisation with flutes and clarinets as well as the shofar (rams horn) and dumbek (Arabic drum).

I tried to complete the full daily cycle of 5 salat/prayers, (and scored a moderate 3). I also took part in a dawn Hatha yoga session. It was good to have this more eastern practice in our midst to remind us that even if we could unite our middle eastern faith families, they still formed only a part of the greater whole.

Saturday Sabbath

Day 2 started with views on food in Judaism, Islam and Christianity, covering the ideas Halal and Kosher, and the vision of Peter in the Christian tradition to eat without restriction.

Dr Taj gave an important and in depth talk on the notion of jihad, in which he categorically decried suicide and random killing on strict Qur’anic terms. He taught that the jihad refers first and foremost to the inner struggle of the believer to submit to God. Its meaning has been distorted by the teaching and traditions of Hadith and the culture of fear, blind conformity, and wilful ignorance too often perpetrated in the name of Islam.

Interfaith marriage was the next topic, with several such unions in attendance.


After dinner, closing Shabbat and Maghreb prayers, we settled down once again around a roaring fire, to do Christian worship. This come predominantly from the Taize tradition, with cheeky additions of Arabic and Hebrew translations to well-loved hymns like “Da Pacem”  in which we sang Da Pacem Cordium/Give Peace to every heart/Salaam al Qaloob/Shalom la le vot.

At this time after 2 days of trust building and frank conversation, we were graced with an important moment when brother Ismael, somewhat overcome with the love of God, improvised a song on the guitar, and then began to sing a few verses from the Qur’an. I think this spontaneous use of the holy text in music making might have been quite novel to those who had been taught that it can only be recited by a qualified Imam or Muezzin and that instruments were not compatible with Islamic worship. At some point, with many taking part in its creation, a full “Alla-hu” chant, Sufi style “Zikr” (remembrance) emerged. People swayed and danced, and as the chanting subsided, an inspired, improvised song of sanctuary emerged from Rachel.

As a (post-)charismatic, I was really proud to have taken part in a Taize Christian worship session that liberated the Muslims to sing their Qur’an and then Sufi chants which gave way to a song out of the of the Old Testament tradition. Most agreed after this that music was to play a crucial role in this emerging integral spirituality.

Time for Church

Reverend Natalie Simons-Arendse, Anglican Communion

On Sunday, we had an Anglican Eucharist led by Rev. Natalie and Lay preacher / stand-up comedian Brother Derek. Of course its “open” nature meant that the identifying in the work and message of Christ was freely given to all in the bread and “wine” (meaning grape juice, of course 😉 ).

The rest of the day consisted of 3 workshops on the most challenging issues:  gender and female participation, Zionism, and same sex unions.

The quality of input was astounding; Rabbi-in-training Sofia led with her exposition of the book of Genesis and explained the biblical background to the issues. Rev. Natalie and lay person Zanele spoke eloquently about the state of women in the Anglican and Catholic Churches, with some lamentation. Dominee Alwyn also illuminated from a Reformed point of view. Dr Taj’s partner Jackie Woodman topped it all with a clear perspective on the 14 rights afforded to women in the Qur’an, and an insightful and indeed scientific view on the experience of masculinity and femininity within all of us.

Rabbi Greg Alexander, Temple Israel

For most, the real test was Zionism, Israel and Palestine. Rabbi Greg was thrown to the lions, and his opening statement was “I am a Zionist and let me tell you what I mean”. Oy Vey!

What transpired was a grilling from some very sharp Islamic angles, where Greg managed to keep his cool, create a safe space, answer in humility, and retain the trust that had been building all weekend. Chutzpah meets al-Rahman. Mazel Tov to Rabbi Greg.


The retreat with those of other faiths was an unqualified success. It exceeded expectations and was every bit as spiritually inspiring as any other retreat I have experienced. I felt the same exhilaration and closeness to others as I did when I went away with fellow Christians over many decades to renew and reaffirm our faith and community.

Once again, we risked ourselves and pressed into new spaces that might have been difficult, but because of the sheer force of love and acceptance from all participants, was welcoming and bathed us in the light of the Divine. Jesus, Mohammed and Moses (and Buddha and Lao-Tzu not to mention a host of others) would I am quite sure, have found delight in these simple acts of sharing, learning and listening.

In retreating together, we have the potential of a revivified pluralistic spirituality that is deeply rooted in the world’s most enduring faith traditions. We have, as a diverse and outlying, bob-tag and rag-tail group of integral prophets, incarnated something with real potential, a foretaste of the messianic age of tawhid /unity. It was an honour and a rare privilege to have experienced this, long may it grow in our hearts, city, nation and world.

Chill-dren of Adam: Natalie, Rachel, Cassim, and kitty.

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