This address was presented on July 21, 1998 to the World
Future Society upon receiving the Earl Award. Rev. Parrish is the author of
numerous books, her latest being Adventures in Meditation -- Spirituality
for the 21st Century, a three volume set.
Thank you, Dr Kirby, colleagues, and distinguished
guests. As I proudly accept the Earl Award, I consider conversations of the last
few years with people of various faiths about the challenges facing religion in
our modern world.
Standing at the door of a new millennium, our choices
not only affect our personal lives, but also the collective life of humankind.
As the old world dies, a new one is being created. Just as technology has
forever altered our world, new and inner shifts are transforming our perception
of our relationship to the world and of the true self that dwells
Religion has provided dogma, doctrines, disciplines, laws,
commandments, and practices to steer an advancing people over the centuries. For
generations, each collective had its territory, purpose, and culture. This is no
No longer are defined territories valid. Fear and stereotypes
lock us into place. Having faced one another and noted our differences and
idiosyncracies, we have discovered a profound sameness! With curiosity and open
minds, we realize the "human" within traditions once ridiculed, feared, or
Religion is to empower us, to lead us to spiritual maturity so
that we recognize ourselves and each other as "souls," or whatever term our
Just as a plane's racing jets increase the momentum
and thrust until the plane can lift off, the momentum and thrust of our faith
prepares us to soar to holy consciousness. This momentum is experienced in a
variety of practices: prayer, meditation and contemplation, discernment,
intuition -- all become the turf of the mystic.
The daring religious
creative is not unlike the daring scientist who ventures into ridicule to prove
the benefits of his invention or pet theory. There is a point of breakthrough
when absolute conviction takes over and drives the scientist toward the goal.
Similarly, the power of our relationship to God transforms the practitioner into
As we mature under the care of our tradition, that which awaits
within begins to flower into its divine nature. All religions address the inner
nature and its potential. All sacred scriptures point to a moment of contact
that transforms a life. Certainly the many crises of today's world reveal our
need for new answers and different responses.
Religion prepares you for a
future of higher consciousness. We need more Mother Teresas, Mahatma Gandhi,
Albert Schweitzers, and other heroic models to lead us toward the future. We
need bold souls who hunger and thirst for righteousness to hold us to a higher
vision as we wade through challenges of our human nature.
We catch a
glimpse of greatness occasionally. Every era has its futurists who stand apart
and speak words little understood, but which resonate through time.
such religious futurist was born in 1182. Often deemed a religious fanatic,
Francis of Assisi rebelled against the dismal attitude of religion, saying new
values were needed. Francis valued each life for its uniqueness; his whole
message witnessed to love and respect for all life.
Now Saint Francis,
celebrated as a reformer and visionary, serves as the patron of today's
ecologists. Ahead of his time, Francis taught the primary fruit of love is joy
and that right relationship to all life in true spirituality.
his few embodied a social revolution. His futuristic thoughts created the first
peace corps movement. His Third Order of Secular Franciscans went about without
army, vowing to "do no harm, live within their means, and shun excess."
contemporary futurist, Dr. Edgar Mitchell has traveled a dramatic path since his
moon-walk in 1971. As the astronauts turned toward Earth, he sensed a profound
knowing of "universal connectedness." He was sure the universe was a conscious
entity and that a deliberate process was occurring. Now he was eager to
reconcile his church background and his MIT education.
In his book,
The Way of the Explorer, Dr. Mitchell writes that Extraterrestrials are
probably not hostile. I quote, "By the time a species is capable of exploring
the deep cosmos, they have surely learned more about themselves that we, and the
value of benevolence. It's safe to say they will be intelligent creatures who
already fully recognize that all life is connected, although it may have
different form and appearance."
Every era, in fact, every generation
produces its progressive thinkers -- the shakers and movers of their
The moment comes when we are no longer satisfied with religion as
we have known it; a cultural binding to sustain moral codes is not enough. We
cry out to know God more intimately. Regardless of tradition, we seek a shift
from cultural code to personal revelation. Religion has a work to do: it is to
move us to spirituality, to an awareness of our essence, that essential inner
Acknowledging the contribution of each is the fruit of
spirituality, Empowering each to contribute his or her gift to the whole is the
way of the wise.
We discover religion is both an art and a science. In
our scientific phase we created and defined dogma' dictated doctrine, and broken
our traditions into multitudes of denominations or sects.
represents the rational science factor; seeking spirituality we embrace
the art of religion. Spirituality evades dogma, distrusts doctrine, runs
free to rework understanding in hard-to-define ways. Spirituality dances with
insights and delivers glimpses to be contemplated before application.
Spirituality cannot be taught; it is caught!
A university student found
himself in a train beside a seemingly well-to-do peasant. The man was praying
the rosary, smoothly fingering the beads.
"Sir, do you believe in such
outdated things?" asked the student. "Yes, I do. Do you not?" responded the old
man, The student burst into laughter: "I do not believe in such nonsense. Take
my advice. Throw the rosary out the window and learn what science has to
"Science? I do not understand this science. Perhaps you can explain
it to me," the man said politely, some tears in his eyes.
The student saw
the man was deeply moved. To avoid further hurting his feelings, he said.
"Please give me your address and I will send you some literature to help you on
Fumbling in his coat pocket, the man handed the boy his
visiting card. Glancing at it, the student became quiet and bowed his head in
shame. On the card he read; "Louis Pasteur, Director of the Institute of
Scientific Research, Paris."
The urgent needs of our era challenge
today's deep thinkers to surrender safe waters for a higher vision. The goal
beckons to each to experience holy moments.
Exploring inner awareness is
fairly new terrain. Evidence of the soul-sick abounds. Hospitals and prisons
house those who sought breakthroughs by false means. Drugs equate to artificial,
mind-altering "medicine.'" When hopeless, any prescription will do. Crime lures
those lacking self-worth. Ignorance restricts some to dull
The spirituality is self-exploration and self-mastery, not
the pursuit of phenomena. But one may move through little-known currents to
reach new heights. Encouragement abounds, proclaiming the potential awaiting
just beyond the familiar. While lives lie in psychic havoc, when ego refuses to
bow to a higher power, embracing the simple and the pure with tenacity brings
Rapid changes are in store for humanity, for we have
intellectually matured beyond a literal translation of our world. No longer
simplistic, we can be simply kind. We can desire harmony and release rigid
pictures of how it has to be into the flow of evolving life. We are all
concerned about family values, broken homes, children without health care, the
large number of homeless. It is frightening to realize the kind of care children
receive is the kind of care they will give in the society of the
As thinking spiritual leaders gather anywhere around the globe,
the problem of hostilities bred by past rigidities becomes a topic of concern.
Artificial values and lifestyles promoted by television frighten caring people
of India and Russia, as well as concerned people here. Healthy relationships
between males and females, as well as differing segments of society soon becomes
a part of presentations and conversations.
Prejudices have locked people
into compartments for centuries. Believing one is better, favored, or safer
separates and barricades. Such belief systems feed hostilities and fuel
religious wars. Religious futurists must assist ecumenical relationships,
knowing that such concepts encourage many but frighten others.
races, nations, and religions to healthy relationships is of highest priority.
Somehow it is more acceptable to think of scientific discoveries and
breakthroughs in medicine than for centuries-old doctrine to shift. Yet religion
must evolve to meet today’s challenges.
Regardless of our particular
allegiance, we must remember religions die, many have. Some seeds fall on
fertile soil, some on rock. Some will be nourished, others will blow away and
die. They await within each of us; though in a soul-sick society, few recognize
this. The psychology of wisdom traditions suggests the art of inner knowing --
that is, realizing God's Will in one's life -- will be sought more intensely in
the new era than it was in our scientific era.
Humanity has built a
center for faith and faith experiences within the scope of devotion; today we
strive to create a place of "inner knowing" -- a facility for a more conscious
and "knowing" relationship with the Creator. Education has prepared us to be a
thinking, perceiving people, and religionists of today truly do desire a
conscious awareness of God's love, will, and wisdom in their lives.
as religion is often about dogma, spirituality is about joy. The forthcoming era
beckons us to seek our potential, but all of us cannot reach this by the old
familiar route. When creativity awakens, the artist or the mystic moves from
intellect to intuition; just knowing becomes a reality .
course, we do not all start from the same point. Just as talents and trials
differ, our creative essence will be set free in distinct ways as well.
Registering various levels of maturity, souls require different
In our journey from religion to spirituality, we move from law
to love, from personality to soul consciousness. Just as the frog egg brings
forth a frog, the apple seed an apple -- made in the image and likeness of the
Creator, we are "godlings." Just as we limit our Creator by holding only one
image -- either Father or Mother -- we too have a diversity of talents and gifts
to reflect back to the Source. It is obvious God loves variety, and each
fragment gets to personify a glimpse of the One.
Spirituality is God's
game. We cannot explain it; we cannot own it. We can only enter into the dance
and rejoice in it. Religion has three great struggles to confront. The
first is to help the peoples of world realize we are all one family with all the
experiences of a large family. To become whole we must assist one another. How
to respect other traditions while honoring one's own begs a response from each
Second, renewed hope will come as more people realize
religions have prepared us for a next and wondrous step; spirituality,
perceiving the deeper meaning of "the Father and I are one," can be
The third mighty step facing the field of religion, and the
world society as well, is to recognize the blessing the advent of women to
leadership brings. A hundred years from now, no one will understand what was so
fearful about the acceptance of woman into ministry.
tradition is in the midst of a second Reformation and will emerge to grow in
bold new ways.
The third millennium of the Christian Church will be the
millennium of the Mother. As we observe the technological wonders of our world,
we see the power God has invested in humankind. Now, we stand at the new
millennium, and we must recognize the value of the contributions of both males
and females in recreating a healthy planetary vision.
By embracing the
feminine side of nature with renewed respect, we expand our concepts of ways to
know, whether called E.Q., innate, or intuitive. Acknowledging such knowing will
bring healing of attitudes and right relationship -- within levels of self, with
one another' and with the world in which we live.
As we access the
mysteries of the feminine nature, I suggest we will find that play is the
missing ingredient in most adult lives -- not play as defined by another or by
an analyst, but play as defined by one's inner self.
play. They embrace life with a daring that others caution against. While others
carefully calculate time, dollars, and effort, creative people greet God with
new ideas, engage in dialogue, and allow themselves to become vulnerable to the
fiery touch of Spirit. Whether praying, writing, painting, or serving, they
delight in the essence of life called spirituality.
In these days, we
have no way of knowing what seeds we plant. As futurists, perhaps we need not
ask that question but only witness to the truth that is our own. we gather to
share ideas and insights to scatter both hope and warnings into the minds of
Profound thinkers do not wait for approval; their own
"knowing" must sustain them until others catch up. But share we must, for we
would disappoint ourselves if we did not make our voices heard. Change does not
come without agents who point out limitations.
Religions of the world
have achieved a great work. On the new frontier, 21st century mystics will
contribute to every field of human endeavor. The new impact of the holy will
revitalize human life to bring about a dynamic new era for all of
E. PARRISH-HARRA, Ph.D., is the founder of Sancta Sophia Seminary (1978) and
Sparrow Hawk Village (1981), a spiritual community in the foothills of the
Ozarks, near Tahlequah, Oklahoma. After a near-death experience in 1958, she
began an earnest search for a new perception of spirituality. Today, she is a
master teacher of teachers, international lecturer, and author of ten books. The
latest of these are Adventure in Meditation--Spirituality for the 21st
Century, each of three volumes earning the Athena Award for Mentoring, and
The New Dictionary of Spiritual Thought, containing 1100 concepts of
today's most important Western and Eastern esoteric and spiritual concepts. One
review stated, "No other reference book today provides the clarity and depth of
insight into the timeless wisdom teachings, going beyond intellectual
understanding to touch the innermost heart and soul."
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