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.
Will Keepin’s new book, some 20 years in the making, is entitled “Belonging to God: Science, Spirituality and a Universal Path of Divine Love”. The launch was held at Chrysalis Academy in Tokai, hosted by Genderworks and the Academy. We were treated to an introduction to what some predict will become a seminal and timeous work in the field of Interspirituality.
It is no easy task to sum up a book of such depth and diversity. Will Keepin has delved deeply (and by no means exclusively) into 4 traditions: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Science, via the scriptures, practices and mystical writings of each. With precision and profound insight he shows the common inner coherence of these paths, despite their often bewildering exoteric manifestations. Such a careful examination is exactly what is needed in this time of emotive and yet unfounded divisions, between faith traditions and between faith itself and science, based on spurious, shallow, incomplete and uninformed assumptions.
Shifted by some months to accommodate Will being in South Africa, the 3rd John Oliver Memorial Lecture was delivered at Erin Hall on the 21st February. To a full audience from widely various communities, he spoke eloquently and with considerable humility of his long journey as a scientist who has engaged questions of religion and consciousness, been close to Cistercian monk Father Thomas Keating of Snowmass, and had a mysterious (and unnamed) Indian teacher for some years.
His presentation of fractal geometry was breath-taking enough in its visual beauty. But he went much further, showing how this ancient idea is embedded in all deep faiths: the whole is present in all the parts. He further illustrated this inner unity by talking of Indra’s Net, the Hindu story of how the net of all creation is constituted by infinite jewels, and that every jewel reflects every other jewel.
The Secret turning on your heart is the entire universe turning – Rumi
Until now you may be viewing this offering as somewhat cerebral. However, with the full participation of his wife the Rev. Cynthia Brix, the retreat held at Temenos in McGregor was to prove otherwise.
For this was an affair all about practice, and to the surprise of some, a silent retreat, with times for teaching, speaking and discussion. Furthermore the group chanted, sang and danced.
But the lingua franca was really silence. In several settings, notably the Chapel and the Well, the group “held silence”. This core practice of the mystics of all traditions was hard for some but provided the grounding for a deep and authentic experience of Divine Love, which is for Will and Cynthia the chief aim of the entire path.
So when further teaching was shared it was received with real clarity, and absorbed at a deep level. Cynthia and Will proved to be highly skilled facilitators, helping those with at times very deep questions, to find ways forward with the best wisdom of religion and science, with an immensely practice-driven focus.
With a retreat format much more detail was possible on the teachings. The scriptures included the Jewish bible, the New Testament and Christian gnostic texts, The Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads, The Qur’an and Hadith, and Sufi poets, especially Rumi.
3 mystics were key – Ibn al Arabi, Meister Eckhart, and Shankara. It is with these that the interior unity across faith traditions becomes starkly apparent.
The insights of scientists such as Einstein and David Bohm are considered more than relevant to the spiritual quest. In this age of modernistic antagonism, a distinction between junk and quality atheism was proposed. A helpful thought from Will regarding the scientific objection to faith as a valid way of knowing, was that “Absence of proof does not constitute proof of absence.”
The clinical findings of consciousness research (for example Dutch cardiologist Pim van Lommel) are bringing us closer to the point where science can finally admit that the universe is constituted not only by matter and energy, but also by consciousness.
A bold prediction by Will is that within a few decades, and “almost certainly” in the 21st century, that science will finally accede to this fundamental shift in its assumptions.
Will Keepin and Cynthia Brix have gifted us with a framework and example of a way towards a new sense of belonging, by engaging both our reason, and our intuition, and by discovering or perhaps uncovering the implicit unity in our diverse faith traditions, on the path of Divine Love.
It is now up to those who have witnessed this vision to act upon it, and to be the community, umma, sangha, and church. This is a community of depth and compassion, a community who builds bridges in a world of walls, engaging heart mind body and soul towards a renewed vision of Divine Love.