The words “interspiritual” or “interspirituality” have become popular among certain commentators on contemporary spiritual movements. Reflective of today’s spiritual pluralism, the terms reflect the practices of persons who are rooted in a particular religious tradition, and whose spiritual lives are also enriched by practices from other faith traditions. The examples are numerous:
- A United Church of Christ pastor, who also practices reiki healing touch, grounded in Japanese spirituality and the philosophy of chi or ki.
- A Baptist choir member who daily practices breath and walking prayers she learned from reading Thich Naht Hanh’s Peace is Every Step.
- A seminary student, whose call to ministry was inspired by his encounter with Zen Buddhism.
- A lay woman in an Episcopal church whose spiritual life and health condition have been enhanced by practicing Tai Chi and Qigong.
- A layman in a Methodist church whose sobriety has been supported by daily meditations from A Course in Miracles.
My recent book Becoming Fire: Spiritual Practices for Global Christians can be described as a hymn to the positive benefits of interspirituality for Christians like me and the growing number of “spiritual and religious” Christians in our churches. I believe that it is important for persons to live an integrated faith which connects their relationship with Jesus and their various Christian and non-Christian spiritual practices. I do not take this quest lightly nor do I affirm what some derogatorily describe as the “spiritual smorgasbord” or “cafeteria Catholicism.” Spiritual integrity invites us to a global faith, grounded in God’s global revelation at the heart of Christianity.
Despite the perorations of conservative and fundamentalist Christians, I believe that Christianity is essentially a global religion. The incarnation of God in Jesus of Nazareth is a universal, rather than parochial, reality. Christ is larger than Christianity and Christ’s wisdom transcends denomination and doctrine. This global affirmation has its roots in New Testament theology: John’s Gospel speaks of God’s creative word (Logos/Sophia), becoming enfleshed in Jesus of Nazareth, and God’s light bringing enlightenment to all humanity. (John 1:1-5, 9) Despite his critique of Greek polytheism, the apostle Paul sees traces of divinity in every religious quest and affirms, using the wisdom of Greek philosophy, that God “is the reality in whom we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)
Interspirituality is nothing new in Christian experience. Celtic Christian sages and mystics saw God’s presence in the druidic and earth-oriented spirituality of the indigenous faiths. Meister Eckhardt asserted that all things are words of God. Julian of Norwich experienced divinity in something as inconsequential as a hazelnut and came to understand that God’s wisdom encompasses all creation.
Today, amid the polarization of our cultural and political sphere, we need a broader vision of Christian spirituality, one that inspires faith communities toward partnership, mutuality, and care for the earth and its peoples. I believe a commitment to God’s universal wisdom and global integrative spiritual practices provide one pathway to truly large spirited faith, welcoming the gifts of diverse cultures and spiritual traditions.
Bruce Epperly is the author of many books on spirituality, including the recently released Becoming Fire: Spiritual Practices for Global Christians, available now.