It’s quite likely that my criticism of exclusive brands of religious fundamentalism in the past has detracted from my own spiritual health. In fact, there’s no doubt that it has.

I was saving this sort of material for the Greenism blog (at greenism.org, still in its infancy), but I’m strongly considering publishing more positive spiritual content here on the Search for Truth blog.

In his message to the public on the Centre for Spiritual Living, Edmonton’s website, Reverend Patrick Cameron writes:

Imagine a place that welcomes people of all races, religions, sexual orientations and social backgrounds in respect, dignity and love. A community that nurtures diversity and provides multitude of opportunities for anyone, at any stage of life, to grow spiritually. Imagine a spiritual community that communicates and celebrates the positive aspects of humankind, the world around us, and our relationship to the Power within. What would it be like to be part of a spiritual community that is practical and provides tangible steps and programs for individuals and families to change and apply spiritual principles in their lives immediately?

I’m quite sure that as time marches on, this type of spiritual tolerance will grow and fundamentalism will wane.

Sometimes it’s hard to find the right terminology to describe the broad, universal spiritual principles being peddled here on Search for Truth and so many other "spiritual but not religious" sites and blogs. I was reminded — recently by Wayne Dyer, and again today by Rev. Cameron — that the concept known as the perennial philosophy or perennial truth is one possible way to describe our belief system. (Here I go again with labels…)

In a sense — on account of its openness, tolerance, and acceptance of all "paths to God" — the perennial truth or perennial philosophy might at first appear to be the antithesis of religious fundamentalism. But is it, really? I don’t think so…

Perennial philosophy and religious pluralism

Religious pluralism is the philosophical concept that states that various world religions are formed by their distinctive historical and cultural contexts and thus there is no single, true religion. There are only many equally valid religions.

Because every individual religion is a direct result of the originating culture’s attempt to grasp and understand the incomprehensible divine reality, each religion can hold an authentic but ultimately inadequate concept of divine reality. These diverse belief systems produce a collection of "partial understandings" of universal spiritual truth, which requires a type of applied syncretism to achieve a complete understanding as well as a path toward spiritual enlightenment, salvation, heaven, nirvana — or whatever you’d prefer to call the ultimate goal of practice.

Although the perennial philosophy shares the idea that there is no single true religion, it differs when discussing divine reality. Perennial philosophy states that the divine reality is what allows the universal truth to be understood.

Each religion provides its own interpretation of the universal truth, based on the relevant historical and cultural context. Therefore, each religion provides everything required to observe the divine reality and achieve a state in which one will be able to confirm the universal truth and achieve spiritual enlightenment or salvation. According to Aldous Huxley, in order to apprehend the divine reality, one must choose to fulfill certain conditions: “…making themselves loving, pure in heart, and poor in spirit.” Huxley argues that very few people can achieve this state. Those who have fulfilled these conditions, grasped the universal truth and interpreted it have generally been given the name of saint, prophet, sage or enlightened one. Huxley stated that those who have reached enlightenment “modified their merely human mode of being,” and were thus able to comprehend “more than merely human kind and amount of knowledge.”

Words always seem to fall short of the experience.

When it comes to interpretation of scripture, there’s obviously significant disagreement between the more rigid, exclusive fundamentalists and the more open and accepting perennial philosophers, universalists, followers of Eastern traditions, etc. The latter do not and cannot accept literal interpretations of scripture such as the Bible; we accept it as metaphor, being convinced it cannot reasonably be taken in a literal sense.

But frankly, I’ve largely shed the need or desire to specifically define the unseen realm and what happens therein. Perhaps all the attempts to do so is a large part of what gets us into trouble. We start to spin stories and possible interpretations, and the best-sounding ones — or those coming from the most popular, well-liked, or convincing people among us — begin to be taken as truth. Another religion is born…

No thank you.

For now, I shall do my level best to adhere to basic, universal spiritual principles.

Resources: Perennial philosophy, perennial truth