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A JEWISH PERSPECTIVE

Excerpts from Spirit Matters by Michael Lerner; Hampton Roads Publishing Co., 2000

“There is no verifiable data that can validate the statement that all truth must rest on verifiable data….In other words, scientism itself is another faith, its own foundation just as tenuous or just as solid as any other spiritual or religious tradition.” (p. 64)

“There are many scientists today who recognize that they need to validate the realm of the sacred.  In an ingenious argument in his posthumously published Ritual and Religion in the Making of Humanity, anthropologist Roy A. Rappaport argues that understanding how the sacred is embodied in spiritually oriented rituals may be indispensable for the survival of the human race.  ‘In a world where the processes governing its physical elements are in some degree unknown and in even larger degree unpredictable, empirical knowledge of such processes cannot replace respect for their more or less mysterious integrity, and it may be more adaptive—that is, adaptively true—to drape such processes in supernatural veils than to expose them to misunderstandings that may be encouraged by empirically accurate but incomplete naturalistic understanding.’” (p. 66)

“Psychologist Abraham Maslow posited a ‘hierarchy of needs,’ suggesting that we must first satisfy our material needs and only then address our ‘higher’ needs.  While this account may apply to people who are literally starving, for most others it is deeply mistaken.  Throughout history, human beings have frequently been willing to sacrifice material well-being for the sake of spiritual connection and ethical purpose.  Rather than thinking of material needs as the foundation and the spiritual dimension as a kind of accessory, we should understand the spiritual needs are equally real and equally essential to our being.” (p. 76)

“We may be encouraged to meditate or to do yoga or even to pray.  These practices, healing as they are, will not fill the vacuum of meaning in our souls unless they are part of a larger effort that changes our relationships with one another and the world—and changes the ‘bottom line’ of the world of work. Meditating for fifteen minutes will not offset forty hours spent manipulating others for self-advancement or corporate profit any more than it will offset the devastating psychic impact of knowing you are producing goods that are using up the world’s precious resources, destroying the environment, or encouraging people to be profligate shoppers and mindless materialists…. spiritual healing must address the spiritual healing of the entire society, not just the internal lives of isolated individuals.” (pp. 89-90)

“In a world governed by the thought patterns of the market, love relationships become unstable and difficult to sustain.  Yet all people are faced with the reality that if they play by different rules, rules of trust, mutuality, and commitment, they are likely as not to find themselves on the short end, being taken advantage of by someone else who has assumed that they had to play by the ruthless and narcissistic rules of the world of work.   “Love, of all things, should operate by a different logic.   “That different logic is the logic of the Spirit.  The less awe and wonder in our lives, the less we are able to see each other in anything but instrumental terms—and the more most people feel alone and scared.” (p. 98)

“Has somebody taught you that your real value is that you are so different from others in some respect or other—and that its only the ways that we are different that makes us really count?  Well, that belief itself is part of what spiritual practice seeks to overcome.  You are certainly valuable in your uniqueness.  But you are also valuable for what you have in common with everyone else—your ability to embody and emanate Divine energy.” (p. 100)

“We are loved by an eternal love that has sustained the universe since its inception….We are recipients of the loving energy of the universe, so powerful that it brought about the attraction between beings that ultimately led to our own conception and birth.” (p. 101)

“We are manifestations of the Unity of All Being, a moment in the development of Spirit, part of the consciousness that pervades all Being.  And our lives feel meaningful us to the extent that we can connect them to the highest calling we have, a calling to more fully manifest Spirit in our lives.” (p. 101)

“So many people struggle with the same internal conflict—a fierce need to be in a very different kind of world, matched with a pathogenic belief that nothing can ever change.” (p. 129)

“I often talk of God as ‘the Force of Healing and Transformation in the Universe,’ the Force that makes the transformation from ‘that which is’ to ‘that which ought to be’ possible.” (p. 133)

“…To see the world from the standpoint of the development of Spirit is a faith choice just as seeing it as little more than a jumble of random and indifferent facts is a faith choice.” (p. 134)

“It takes an act of faith, a leap toward belief in the Spirit and a rejection of the dominant cynicism of the contemporary world, to begin to believe that the goodness and generosity we’ve personally experienced are not exceptions, but are the underlying reality of our spiritual nature.” (p. 134)

“…loving another person is at once a manifestation of Spirit and a way to make Spirit stronger and more present in the world.” (p. 135)

“The alienated world is not merely imposed upon us.  It is something we recreate everyday through our own levels of despair and depression, through our certainty that nothing fundamental can change, and through the cynicism that closes us off from the realm of the Spirit.  I’ve called these pathogenic beliefs, because the more we believe our own cynicism and despair, the more we help create a world in which our worse fears come true.” (p. 135)

“…To look at the world as it really is requires noticing the specific contributions you can make, and then to make them, confident that if we each do this we can together heal the planet.  Every act of love and kindness counts.” (p. 135)

“To the extent that we allow ourselves to see ourselves and each other as manifestations of the universal spirit of love, the scarcity model (that there’s not enough love to go around) starts to recede and we become more and more aware of the love that surrounds us and is part of us. (p. 136)

“What Lewis et. al. demonstrate in their physiological conclusion that relatedness and communal living are the center of human life is that there is no division between our spiritual needs and our physiological needs—they are one. (p. 137.  The reference is to the book, General Theory of Love by Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini, and Richard Lannon.)

“And as we develop our sense of awe and wonder at the universe, we become increasingly unable to view the world as nothing more than a disposable ‘resource’ to be used for human consumption and discarded.  It is this sense of the miraculous and the sacred that will eventually provide the foundation for saving the planet” (p. 147-148)

“Thinking about the world as sacred makes it possible to stand up to the underlying logic of the globalization of capital….” (p. 153)

“Spiritual communities frequently teach and model a basic truth denied by the dominant society that: people are willing to take risks and make sacrifices for causes that go beyond self-interest.” (p. 154)

“Enmeshed in celebrating its own material successes, American society has become oblivious to the suffering it causes other human beings as it has to the destructive ecological consequences of its profligate consumption.  Yet future generations may look back on this period as one in which the wealthiest parts of the world became ‘silent executioners’ by willfully shutting our eyes to the pain of others and to the ecological destruction our economic system generates.” (p. 187)

“Recognizing philosopher Emanuel Levinas’ shrewd observation that ‘justifying the pain of my neighbor is the source of all immorality,’ more and more people are allowing themselves to identify with the suffering of those who are physically distant.” (p. 187)

“The spiritual approach must always insist on the limits of our own knowledge, a deep humility about the appropriateness of the means to our ends, and a willingness to recognize that even the highest spiritual goals can and often have been misused for destructive purposes.” (pp. 247-248)

“In the language of the spiritual tradition, we must have a deep sense of humility rather than the kind of self-righteousness that has all too frequently dominated the practice of religious and political movements.” (p. 257)

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