MEXICO Spiritual Intelligence forum

‘One Garden: interfaith as interspiritual living’

Sub-title: seeing what contribution the One Garden model can make to

Spiritual Intelligence & Holistic Education

Presentation by Dr Roger Prentice   -    Contact:

"Interspiritual dialogue can underpin a new kind of inter-religious dialogue - (based on) ...the sharing of

ultimate experiences across traditions.....”  - Brother Wayne Teasdale

PREAMBLE:  Hi - My warmest greetings - & Namaste! -  from the UK to friends old and new in Mexico!  

This presentation is dedicated to all who have participated in The ‘One Garden’ project  in Brighton UK - who also send their greetings!  The project has been my main focus since my happy visit to Guadalajara.  Looking back the One Garden project has been a ‘learning laboratory’. However it started simply as a desire to explore, & be inspired by, spiritual teachings from the great traditions - with like-minded people.  It’s NOT a religion or sect - God forbid!  One Garden sessions are a safe place for like-minded people to celebrate & explore spiritual treasures - groups who see Oneness behind the many paths.  This presentation draws from a proposed MA in Interspiritual Studies - except here I want to emphasize the ‘how to’.   That is to say please try experiencing it - before you intellectualize it!

Let’s start with a joke, a very serious joke: “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”   For me the joke points to the No. 1 one fact in our lives; the Mystery of the Whole.  It also points to the fact that our unity, & True Self, lie beyond thought, concepts & opinions - they lie in fact in our ‘not knowing.’  Humility in acknowledging our ignorance unites us - and points to our learning to rest in Awareness, i.e. in the Now, i.e. in Presence.

1: INTRODUCTION: inter-spirituality as an ally for students of Spiritual Intelligence & Holistic Education

For me one of Dr Zohar & Ian Marshall’s major achievements is to have got ‘the spiritual’ on to the agendas of the organizations with which they work.  But where, in an increasingly multi-cultural world, do we gather the spiritual food, yours or your students, to nourish & motivate development of Spiritual Intelligence?  Perhaps our 3 year experience with The One Garden project can provide an answer?  Interspiritual consciousness provides personal deepening, without losing our faith community if we have one - via a kind of ‘Spiritual Federalism’.  This is spiritual food for us as teachers or psychologists.  It is also a way to teach & work with students or clients that involves two contexts - two contexts for all the texts we lay in front of our students.  The first context is that of being human - in my PhD SunWALK model I argued that ‘human-centred education’ is what the world needs.  The second context is that of interspirituality.  Interspirituality is food, inspiration & healing for all - from kindergarten to senior citizens.  At any one time some are ready for the challenge. Interspirituality can work for people who are happy in a mainstream faith, but who reach out via a universal ‘heart-mind’ (interiority as consciousness) - because they are free of ‘the dis-ease of exclusivity’.  It also works for those who have become ‘free-thinkers’.  For educators & psychologists the cultures surrounding the great traditions, from the Bhagavad-Gita to the teachings of Baha’u’llah, offer an unparalleled treasure trove of educational & psychological nourishment, inspiration & wisdom.

Dr Zohar & Ian Marshall’s work & the phenomenon of ‘inter-spirituality’ have both evolved in the last 20 years or so.   Spiritual Intelligence & the One Garden model of interspirituality can work whether you are agnostic, Humanist or deist - because we can read the great spiritual traditions as inspirations for learning & healing, especially for learning to be wholly, positively, human.  How? - well it’s all a matter of realization; the verb ‘to realize’ means to ‘bring about’ -  bring about  what is often already in front of our eyes or beneath our feet!  Often only the obvious is difficult to see!


Brother Wayne Teasdale also defines interspirituality as “the recovery of the shared mystic heart beating in the center of the world’s deepest spiritual traditions.”   His seminal book  The Mystic Heart  is essential to understanding interspirituality.  See his essay HERE & The Snowmass Principles & HERE

In one sense inter-spirituality is the most recent flowering of ‘perennial spirituality’. Although the term was coined as recently as 1999 by Brother Teasdale the roots of interspirituality go back a very long way. This recent flowering goes back to long-term dialogue and friendships particularly between Roman Catholic priests and monks, with Zen Buddhists, including Thomas Merton, David Steindl-Rast, and via The Naropa Institute Father Thomas Keating - and to similar ‘dialogue’ with Hindu spirituality.  Teasdale in his book The Mystic Heart makes clear the ‘interspiritual territory’.  It isn’t Comparative Religion.  It is seeing the mystical Oneness as the core of the great traditions.  With him I see the ultimate purpose of inter-spirituality as peacebuilding, see HERE.  Via ‘spiritual dialogue’ it is also inspirational for education & healing.  It now occurs to me that I see primarily’ intra-spirituality’, Teasdale primarily ‘inter-spirituality’?

For me ‘Perennial Philosophy’ is a misnomer; it is really Perennial Spirituality, a model of mystical life, & its core teachings are ‘Awaken:Detach:Serve’.  How many are ready to respond to interspirituality?   Well as an indication, depending on where surveys were done, up to 70% of people identify themselves as being SBNR - Spiritual But Not Religious.  There is now an international community.


In the One Garden interspirituality model we use two main metaphors.  Firstly ‘One Summit; there are many paths up to the summit, but only one summit’.  Secondly ‘The One Garden’.  Imagine a beautiful walled garden with 7 or more gates.  For each gate there is a ‘gateway teacher’ who points to the Oneness within the One Garden.  One Garden is also being in ‘the interspiritual state’ i.e. sensing the Oneness behind all, the formlessness behind all forms.  If Oneness is what your heart is telling you, you are already ‘in’ the One Garden!  

We Distinguish between i) Map-makers, ii) ‘Gateway teachers’ and iii) other great teachers.  Map-makers include Aldous Huxley, Ken Wilber, Karen Armstrong - but preeminent is Brother Wayne Teasdale in The Mystic Heart.  Gateway teachers point to the Garden’s Oneness from there own tradition.  For manageability we confine ourselves to 7 ‘gateway’ teachers & 7 main texts, within 7 traditions - Baha'i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Judaic, Sufi, Taoist.   For me all religious texts are an answer to the question that drove my doctoral thesis, “What is it to be positively & fully human - in the world with others?”  Through interspiritual inspiration we seek to Awaken more: Detach more & :Serve others better - the central teaching of the great traditions.  Most of our participants do service work in the community.

You might also ask, “Does inter-spiritual celebration & exploration enhance your understanding of your own faith’s teachings?”  Yes - astonishingly so - it is a kind of rebirth - we read with new eyes - & see the world differently, we see it with new eyes.  The re-birth occurs through paying attention to experience.

Experience is all, so experientiality, or ‘pointing to experience’, should be the constant concern of the educator.  This is evident in ‘the model of perennial spirituality’ which is the true core of all traditions here;

​1 ​There's a reality beyond the material world:  Which is uncreated.  It pervades everything, but remains beyond the reach of human knowledge and understanding.

​2 ​You approach that reality by:  Distinguishing ego from true self.  Understanding the nature of desire.  Becoming unattached.  Forgetting about preferences.  Not working for personal gain.  Letting go of thoughts.  Redirecting your attention.  Being devoted.  Being humble.  Invoking that reality.  Surrendering.

​3 ​That reality approaches you through:  Grace.  The teacher.

​4  You're transformed so that you embody that reality by:  Dying and being reborn.  Seeing the light.  Experiencing union.  Experiencing freedom                ​5 ​  You re-focus your life in terms of service to others.

4: REALIZING YOUR EN-LIGHT-EN-MENT - Do you ‘get it’ incrementally or as a ‘shazam’ experience?

Do you remember when the ‘light came on’ in some particular ‘aha’ moment?  Such moments suggest your enlightenment is incremental, not a major shift - such as Saul who became St Paul or in our own time Eckhart Tolle.  But we all start somewhere.  Interviews with One Garden group members frequently mention early childhood experiences.  In adult life there is a ‘first awakening’ which Eckhart Tolle refers to as ‘a shift in consciousness in which thinking and awareness separate’ - see HERE   ‘Magic eye’ 3D pictures can metaphorically stand for “aha’ moments, or Tolle’s ‘first awakenings’.

Tolle’s third book Stillness Speaks is written under the aphorism, ‘The human condition: lost in thought.’  Studying Tolle raises the question ‘to story, or not to story - that is the question’.  In all my work I have been committed to the importance of each of us having a personal ‘her-story’ or ‘his-story’ but Tolle’s deeply impressive teaching presents ‘our story’ as attachment, connected to being ‘lost in thought’ & something from which we must free ourselves in order to rest in Awareness (‘the Now’ or ’Presence’).   Educators and Psychotherapists have always worked with stories.  Are the two views resolvable?

5: REALIZING ONENESS: What might an interspiritual cosmology & theology look like?

Here is my version. Interfaith has not delivered what was needed - acknowledgement that ‘God has no religion’ - but She/He/It has many ‘names’ - Ultimate Reality, the Whole, Mystery, the Source, Allah, God etc.  I consider myself a Baha’i, a Buddhist, a Christian, Hindu Jew, Sufi, &  Taoist - & a Humanist & agnostic.  We are One human family, One Whole, there is only one religion manifested via different ‘chapters’, one set of core teachings, each Messenger is inspired by the same Holy Spirit.  Each religion reiterates the core teachings & brings some that are only relevant to the circumstances and needs of that time.  This means that we should keep ‘the changeless’ core teachings uppermost.   If we dig down in science or spirituality we come to the same ‘place’ - Mystery.  The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious; It is the source of all true art and science,’said Einstein.  What about ‘wonderment’ compared to ‘wondering’.  ‘Wonderment’ is the nondual state - willfully achieved via silence & stillness.  Sometimes it comes to us uncalled for, & undeserving, via ‘grace’.  Here I take ‘art’ to be the same as spirituality.  The main source of nondual teaching is Advaita (not-two in Sanskrit) & refers to the recognition that the true Self, Atman, as being is the same as the highest Reality, Brahman.

Ultimate Reality, Mystery, is the nondual context for all texts - within it we read all texts including ‘the text of self’.  That is we read the dual within the nondual - the ultimate context of Mystery.  We need the ‘wing’ of duality because out of it consciousness arises & we need consciousness to realize the ‘wing’ of nonduality!  When we can keep the ‘song of nonduality’ vibrating within us whilst attending to the demands of the dual, contingent world we have the means to happiness.  Our encounters with Mystery, because they come via awe & wonder, enable us to forget self - “The birds have vanished from the sky, and now the last clouds slip away.  We sit alone, the mountain and I, until only the mountain remains.” - 8thC Chinese poet Li Po.  When we forget self we experience a different kind of knowledge flowing through us called the ‘gnostic’ in the West, ‘erfan’ in Islam and the Baha’i teachings.  The ‘opposite’ to the gnostic etc is knowledge based on thinking & book-learning and general day-to-day experience.  

‘Wondering’ is philosophy (dual state) as in “I wonder  if....“.   Spiritual progress however requires that we also come to rest in ‘the now’, (presence, awareness) via being mindful.  Moment to moment we can ‘switch back into the nondual’ to maintain the context for dealing with the dual world.  Be careful though if you try to live nondually all the time.  Why? - because you will keep on bumping into the furniture & forget to pay your rent!  For me the greatest teacher on awe & wonder is Abraham J. Heschel

The Interfaith movement has not fully delivered what was needed - acknowledgement that ‘God has no religion’ - but He/She/It has many names - Ultimate Reality, the Whole, Mystery, the Source, Allah, God etc. With interspirituality we can consider ourselves a Baha’i, a Buddhist, a Christian, Hindu Jew, Sufi, &  Taoist - & a Humanist & agnostic - even if we are happy in a mainstream faith.


In addition to the 7 deadly sins religion degenerates when it loses its mystical core.  Restoration of that core is what interspirituality is about.  Brother Steindl-Rast writes about the democratization of the mystical.  We need to de-mystify the mystical.  John Hick, like Steindl-Rast,  says, 'Mystical experience …..does not seem to me to be anything other than first-hand religious experience...’ This is, however, the core of religion.' - Hick (1981 p.423).   Brother Steindl-Rast’s essay & model is in tune with Hick = it is a brilliant analysis of the ‘genesis & degeneration’ of a religion;

The model is of course also a template for creating useful models for modelling aspects of individual deepening - ‘the Hero/ines journey’ - or aspects of Holistic Education.  There are also psychological, social & political implications in the undervaluing of the mystical following the democratization of the mystical & they all centre on ‘space for others’ versus ‘control & manipulation of others’.  For Baha’is of course the need is not just for pure souls but for a new Messenger of God - for Baha’is that is Baha’u’llah.


Perhaps the One Garden inter-spiritual model can contribute to Spiritual Intelligence in the way that yang complements yin, or mythos complements logos or gnostic knowing complements .... knowing or erfan complements ‘ilm’.  Much depends on what ‘experiences’ courses create for the students.

1 Start every lesson or session with silence & stillness e.g. via a short breath-mantra meditation - e.g. “I rest in awareness.”   2 Start your interspiritual group, at home, at work in the community - people are waiting for you!.   3 Make this a life-time commitment - Research your practice & practice your research - a perfect ‘action research’ circle.  4 Absorb the teachings of those that ‘walk the talk’ - & beware second rate teachers & charlatans!  5 I still use the SunWALK model.  If I was still teaching in primary, middle or high schools or at university level I would teach interspirituality in a holistic way via creativity & PFC Philosophy for Children.  I also have a consultancy model for working in organizations.  6 Can we resolve ‘stories are good’,v ‘stories are bad’, & balance yin & yang, mythos and logos etc.  7 Use Professor Matthew Lipman’s Philosophy for Children and Adults in higher education - combined with meditation.

People of spirit need to pack, in loving spiritual terms, the same punch as Islamic State does in cruelty with swords & Kalashnikovs.  Working together as One Family we will achieve our goals.

Email me for a ‘live-links’ version of this presentation, ‘how to’ materials & our weekly newsletter and booklists.  Please send your questions & feedback - questions help me as much, or more, than my answers might help you!  I will post suggested answers on our site, no names - to be of help to others.  

Thanks - and God Bless Mexico and the UK!     -0-     Dr Roger Prentice:    END

Subpages (1): Perennial Spirituality