(Outline of a “Homily” to be given by Shaikh Kabir at the Aspen Chapel, Sunday, July 14 as part of
A Celebration of the InterSpiritual Legacy of Father Thomas Keating
We are almost like two species existing side-by-side. One species is focused on the material world of the physical senses, accepting as reality only that which can be measured, motivated by an individual ego self and the emotions it generates: the desire to be free of discomfort and to maximize pleasure, to receive approval and avoid disapproval, to gain attention and to avoid being ignored, and to be in control of people and circumstances.
The other species is motivated by an awareness that there is, perhaps, some nonphysical medium through which we are all connected, resulting in a degree of empathy, sensitivity to “vibes,” and glimpsing a sense of purposefulness in the unfolding circumstances of life.
These two kinds of humanity cannot merely be described as secular and religious, atheist or believer. In fact, we don’t have an adequate vocabulary to identify these two kinds of identities, these two modes of functioning, but for the moment, let us call the first the “ego identity,” and the second, “the awakened identity.”
The ego identity tends to act for the benefit of oneself (and one’s immediate family), is focused on short-term gain, sees nature and the resources of the planet in terms of their dollar value, sees politics as a zero-sum game, a competition where they are the winners and others are the losers.
The awakened identity is concerned with fairness and justice, sees nature and the planet as a living organism, is capable of looking seven generations forward, is concerned with the reconciliation of conflicts and the healing of trauma accumulated in the course of human history.
Religion itself can fall on both sides of this divide; hence, the wars and so-called “clash of civilizations.” Perhaps the essential difference between these two states is the degree to which one is controlled by a sense of self based in egoistic thoughts and emotions, as opposed to a self that awakens to a dimension of inter-connectedness, of inter-penetrating identity. One sense of self is ruled by rigid concepts, engaged primarily in service of self, and governed by animal instincts based in fear and aggression. Another sense of self is guided by the heart rather than the ego, living with an awareness of subtler human faculties and an open, non-defensive sense of self.
The clash of these two mentalities, these two states of consciousness, is reaching a climax on our planet. The very survival of humanity may depend on whether enough people can shift consciousness from one state to the other.
The life and example of Father Thomas Keating has clearly demonstrated that people who have practiced the contemplative disciplines of various traditions can find the unity of purpose, a sense of brotherhood/sisterhood, and, indeed, a profound respect and love for each other. The question before us is: How can this experience be shared with a wider humanity?