Some readers of The Light Invisible know that I’ve been working on a book project — I’m happy to report that The Inner Church is the Hope of the World: Western Esotericism as a Theology of Liberation has now been released! The book has encompassed most of my thinking about esotericism and theology since I graduated from Union Theological Seminary in 2015, and I managed to keep working on it even while the Poor People’s Campaign took up most of my time (and that made its mark on the book, too). Click here for more info!
Category: Universal Reformation
As you might have noticed, there has been a lack of recent updates here on The Light Invisible — I’ve been very busy with a number of other projects. Readers of this blog might be happy to know that most of my esoteric work at the moment has been directed toward writing a book manuscript on Western Esotericism as a Theology of Liberation, which will hopefully see publication next year.
But the primary reason I’ve been unable to write for the blog has been my day job in communications and organizing. Through my work with the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice, I’ve been engaged in communications work for the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, the effort to reignite Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1968 Poor People’s Campaign for today. I outline the approach of the new PPC — specifically, the necessity of the unity and leadership of the poor for any attempt at national moral revival — in a recent piece for Religion Dispatches.
Recently a discussion came up at the Kairos Center about the way theologians, writers, and public intellectuals brand movements or schools of thought. I raised the example of conservative pundit Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option — the idea that, as conservative Christians have essentially lost the culture war in American life, they should follow the example of St. Benedict of Nursia and withdraw into small, countercultural communities of work, prayer, and contemplation. There, as in the monasteries of the early medieval period, they can weather the storm of the “barbarian takeover” of what remains of Western Christendom, and preserve what is valuable for future (and perhaps more amenable) generations.
We live in an era of great plenty, in the midst of an abundance unprecedented in human history. Yet we also live in a time of artificial scarcity — calls for austerity, rationalistic excuses for massive economic inequality, and attacks on the poor in the name of a death-dealing morality masquerading as level-headed budgetary concern. While the poor are told that they need to choose between healthcare and iPhones, the rich find it acceptable to spend thousands of dollars on exclusive music festivals held on private islands. On left and right, a fatalistic obsession with the temporary autonomous zone — brief moments supposedly free from the control of restrictive and rapacious neoliberal capitalism — replace speculative visions of a better future that once drove both the political imaginaries of social movements, and the utopian dreams of the occultists, esotericists, and fringe religious communities. In the memorable phrase of Nick Srnicek, Alex Williams, and Armen Avanessian, “the future has been cancelled.”
In 1893, the first Parliament of the World’s Religions was convened at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. This historic event brought together representatives from a number of world religions, including one of the first introductions for Americans and Western Europeans to the religions of Asia on Asian terms. Swami Vivekananda gave a famous speech at the Parliament and received a standing ovation from over 7,000 listeners. Soyen Shaku, the first Zen Buddhist master to teach in the United States, made his American debut at the Parliament, and his speech was translated into English by his young student, D.T. Suzuki. The Parliament is considered to be the birth of the modern interfaith movement, and the first formal interfaith gathering to be held in world history. Since the first Parliament, the event has coalesced into an organized movement with regular occurrences, with other historic Parliaments held throughout the world over the course of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Originally posted as a part of my column, The Blooming Staff, on the Agora, the group blog of the Patheos Pagan Channel.
In 1947, Protestant theologian Karl Barth introduced the phrase Ecclesia semper reformanda est — “the church is always to be reformed.” Barth used the phrase to express the Reformed conviction that the Christian Church must constantly examine itself and continue to evolve and reform; a teaching that thinks of the Reformation as a permanent state rather than an historic event. Since the Second Vatican Council, certain radical Catholic theologians like Hans Küng have also used the saying to express their desire for a Church that remains open to the world and to the spirit of the times. Pope Francis has in many ways resumed this spirit of dialogue and openness within the Church, especially when it comes to issues like poverty and climate change.