The significant theme in Bede Griffiths: An Introduction to His Interspiritual Thought by Wayne Teasdale is his interspirituality. In addition, this book, surprisingly, pulls together all of the major thoughts in my previous blog posts:
- Teasdale in “Each of Us is Called to be a Mystic” and Ram Dass in “With Joy and Suffering” and “Love was his Real Teaching” each promote the East as a counterpoint to our Western beliefs.
- Julian of Norwich in “Mirth and Mourning” was critical of the Church and advocates for the feminine, Aivanhov in “Ablaze with Fire” believes the feminine is the way to improve the world, and Starr In “Our Vulnerability is Our Strength” explains femininity as a key to a better future.
- Harvey and Baker in “The Severity of Our Predicament” argue the importance of spirituality in our changing world and overcoming the belief that we are separate from one another or the universe.
- Bede Griffiths supports each of these ideas.
“Interspirituality is the activity and the process of exploring other traditions in more than an academic sense. It presupposes an intense personal interest in these other forms of faith and spirituality.” Teasdale
Bede Griffiths, born in 1907, was an English Benedictine monk and mystic who devoted his life to finding similarities between Christianity and Hinduism, while studying other religions and spiritual traditions. Wayne Teasdale is the perfect person to write about Father Bede’s interspirituality since Teasdale himself believed in and discussed the same idea in his The Mystic Heart: Discovering A Universal Spirituality in The World’s Religions.
My focus on Father Bede and his work is not about the details of his extensive struggle to intermix Christianity and Hinduism. While I admire his complex, comprehensive and worthy life’s dedication to that pursuit, my interest is the main points of agreement and disagreement he discovered in the two religions.
“He always emphasized solidarity with everyone and the whole planet.” Teasdale
Father Bede wants a union of intuitive wisdom and scientific reason. Christianity does not, he believes, allow us to see a bigger picture or a mystical truth. I agree. He explains that Rationalism separates the mind and the world. Instead, he sees the world as organic, with all parts interrelated, an idea from quantum mechanics. I wrote about this in my book The Trust Factor: The Art of Doing Business in the 21st Century, commenting that “the behavior of the whole, not individual parts, is significant.”
Father Bede studied this new science, this quantum mechanics. Seeing the world as organic, with parts interrelated, he saw the Eastern view of mystical union as a necessary component to religion, one missing from the Judeo-Christian tradition. As he explained, “The sciences which for centuries have been opposed to religion and spirituality are discovering links with it.” While this link has yet to be defined, the ever-changing field of science may be getting closer.
Another crucial difference between Hinduism and Christianity, this one favoring rather than critiquing Christianity, is that the masses of the poor and suffering in India believe this life is their karma and they will be reborn to a better life next time. If they can help one another, that is good, but there is no duty to do so. Father Bede feels that “when they reject the orphan and the widow and the poor they reject God.” Jesus taught that it is our responsibility to help one another, a moral demand. Unlike Hindus, Christians have an obligation to help, explains Teasdale.
“In the Christian tradition there has been very little recognition of the feminine aspect of God.” Griffiths
Father Bede sees the need for the “recognition of the feminine aspect of God” in Christianity, another example of a major difference in the two religions. He makes an interesting comparison of the Hindu use of gods and goddesses, explaining that Hinduism is not really polytheistic as the prevalence of the deities seems to indicate. Rather all are simply part of one God, Brahman, the One Reality. Hinduism also refers to Divas (masculine) and Devis (feminine), allowing for both the feminine and masculine.
While no gods and goddesses, Christianity does have many angels, such as the seven archangels, cherubim, seraphim, other ranks of angels and the individual guardian angels, all mentioned in the Bible. Just as many of the Hindu deities have specific roles, our archangels have assigned tasks such as Angel Raphael in charge of healing.
Father Bede believes that Hinduism embodies the feminine. “Bede is convinced of the necessity of including the notion of the Motherhood of God in Christian theology, of restoring the feminine aspect to its place in our understanding of the divine nature.” Perhaps the Holy Spirit could be the feminine person of the Trinity, he argues.
When I started this mystic blog and journey, I did not expect to have my research evolve into finding the feminine within the spiritual. As mentioned above, Julian of Norwich, Aivanhov, Ram Dass, Starr, and now Father Bede all reflect that inclusion. Father Bede even comments on the value of the body, not a stance one expects from a monk. “We have had a negative, or unbalanced view of the body and of sexuality,” he claims, reminiscent of Julian of Norwich’s view and her belief in the importance of honoring the body. This is the time for an awakening of Christianity to a recognition of all aspects of the feminine.
“He has made a beginning.” Teasdale
Father Bede believes Christianity focuses too much on our separation from one another and on our separation from the divine, while ignoring a mystical union and the feminine. Hinduism does not include the necessity of helping others. These are significant differences, yet Father Bede does not find them impossible to overcome. He spent his lifetime searching the theology of the two in order to show their compatibility and, convincingly, finds the similarities more important.
We need optimism in these times. Too much division is evident in our lives and in the world. What if we open our hearts to an understanding and acceptance of all religions, spiritual paths and indigenous traditions, as suggested by Father Bede? While expanding our hearts and minds, we can also include room for the feminine in Christianity, a seemingly ridiculous oversight today. Interspirituality should include all spiritual beliefs and all people.
“Bede Griffiths contributed substantially to the advancement of the ideal of universal unity and solidarity…Most important, it is a prophetic indication of the future.” Teasdale