We are in the midst of a great spiritual awakening. The more eclectic term inter-spiritual is replacing the more religious based inter-faith. The old paradigm of church is evolving. Communities are witnessing the emptying of pews as many are leaving to join the growing ranks of those self-identifying as “spiritual but not religious.” No longer satisfied with the standard liturgies gone rote, I believe many are leaving on a quest for God – their own personal quest – to discover for themselves that intimate experience beyond understanding. The great Dr. George Washington Carver, who was born a slave but lived a master, predicted this over a hundred years ago by simply saying, “The flower told me so.” (See “The Man Who Talks with the Flowers” by Glenn Clark.)
“There is going to be a great spiritual awakening in the world and it’s going to come from laymen, from men who are going about their work and putting God into what they do, from men who believe in prayer, and who want to make God real to mankind.” Dr. Carver went on to describe the qualities necessary to this awakening: Love: “…not a mere sentimental attachment but a force which holds the stars…” Humility: “…resulting in a complete relaxing of all self-imposed emotions…relaxed as the flowers.” Expectancy: “…born of faith…awe…wonder…”
As an inter-faith minister, I feel myself straddling this growing chasm between that ‘ole time religion,’ anchored in the ancient texts, and the new spiritual awakening beautifully described by Dr. Carver. Why? Because I have found just a taste of that Love beyond understanding and have been left in quiet Humility, filled with some unknown Expectancy palpable with awe, by just what is found in those ancient texts. Oh, I can hardly think of it! Where would I be if I had never chanted the great Gayatri from the Hindu Vedas, Psalm 23 in Hebrew from the Hebrew Bible, the La illa ha illa allah from the Qur’an, or Jesus’ Lord’s Prayer in his own language of Aramaic, to name just a few? Where would I be if I had never sat in that sweet stillness following the chanting of those wonderous prayers to suddenly, unexpectedly, hear the silent voice of God?
So, as I continue to straddle the chasm, I urgently sound an alarm, indeed, a more shrill, mournful cry, “Wait! Do not leave the old behind! Rather, let’s glean from its depths what is there for us today!” Remember the experience of the Holy is eternal, beyond time and space. Listen to the mystics from across world faiths and you’ll hear the same Knowing. Let’s distill the ancient practices, portals to this eternal while, yes, leaving behind the many ways religion has been used to divide and harm rather than unite and serve.
Let’s pause…practice…and listen. Who knows? We, too, just might catch a whiff of the fragrance from that flower Dr. George Washington Carver always wore in the buttonhole of his jacket.
And, if so, we, too, may hear what we might have missed before: the voice of the flower, like the voice of God, silent and eternal.