Interspirituality is about the sharing between persons and the integrating within one’s self of the ongoing work and the fruits of their spiritual practice. While “interfaith dialogue” has been around for some time, “interspirituality” is quite new – the phrase coined in 1999 by Wayne Teasdale in A monk in the world. (For a full treatment, see Rory McEntee & Adam Bucko’s 2015 book The New Monasticism: An Interspiritual Manifesto for Contemplative Living.) It has emerged as the world is changing, with a key piece to that change the plurality of religious orientations within a civilization or nation-state, rather than singular dominance of one, being the new normal. Or put differently that we live in a “post-religious” world. Interfaith dialogue is about committed members of different religions encountering each other, comparing & contrasting their faith traditions and theologies through conversation and learning. Perhaps it also involves developing an emerging spirituality through these encounters. Interspirituality is focused on this latter emphasis, and is rooted in different practitioners speaking from their spiritual practices. While interfaith dialogue hinges crucially on one’s interpretation of one’s tradition and often its authoritative texts, i.e. a cognitive-intellectual exercise, interspirituality’s commitments are more embodied and practical and seek insights and maturation. One consequence of this practice-based emphasis, is that insofar as an interspiritual dialogue is itself something you practice, the dialogue itself might be seen as a continuation, in another form, of one’s spiritual practice (and therefore better described as an “encounter” rather than a dialogue or conversation). Since most contemplative or meditative spiritual practice is silent, wordless, nondiscursive, nonthinking, interior work, dialogue can be seen as complementary, with the to-and-fro between silent practice and dialogue-as-practice serving to deepen & mature one’s spirituality.
The “inter” in interspirituality, like the inter- prefix in international, intercultural, interpersonal, or interdependent, really emphasizes what is between and across whatever noun it substantiates. So interspirituality is emphasizing what is between and across different spiritual traditions and practices. In this regard interspirituality is very contemporary with and very much part of globalization. Certainly our spirituality, which historically has usually been understood as defined by or contained within a particular tradition, is going to be greatly impacted by globalization: our neighbours, even family members, may belong to different spiritual traditions and thus our contemporary spiritual life would seem to need to adapt accordingly, with greater openness and inclusiveness to the “spiritual other”. (In these respects, interspirituality appears as the spiritual opposite to fundamentalisms.)
Like the perennial philosophy – which isn’t necessarily the philosophy for interspirituality, but it might be – it does push religions to think carefully about their own integrity and how they think about other religions. Like the claim to be “spiritual but not religious”, interspirituality poses a strong challenge to contemporary religions to change. In doing so it presents some new ways to think about how religions might relate to each other, now and in the future. (And certainly, the ecological crisis of today suggests that religions and spiritualities are challenged to change and grow in their ecological capacity and understanding.)
Interspirituality thus presents some interesting challenges for traditional religiosity.
Perhaps, for example, the deep engagement with another spiritual tradition will shine new light on one’s own tradition and illuminate it better than one has been able to do exclusively from within. Perhaps different spiritual traditions capture very different truths, and thus complement, or even complete?, each other. Perhaps all spiritual traditions are immature and incomplete and the next stage in their development is an interspiritual stage: rather than being a perennial philosophy claim of an underlying same truth of which different religions are different expressions, this might be an “evolutionary philosophy view” of religions evolving toward a future resolution in a higher truth. Perhaps religious traditions are incommensurable and incomparable in their traditional forms, but they can co-exist together as dynamic tensions of practice within persons as creative and irreducible individuals. Or a last version is that all of the above are the grist for the interspiritual mill, and to practice an interspiritual path is to develop one’s spirituality precisely by engaging these questions deeply.
The different webpages here present a few interspiritual paths.
If anyone is interested in finding out more about interspirituality, with many books, resources, organizations, persons, and conferences listed, go to The Interspirituality Network webpage.