Input and Feedback from Friends and Colleagues

I wrote “Religion, Science, and Spirit: A Sacred Story for Our Time” over several months, from June to December 2012, with the help and support of numerous colleagues whose often profound insights continuously pressed me to deepen and expand the frame of my inquiry. See “The Personal Story Behind the Essay.

Because their comments are so rich in their own right and made essential contributions to my essay, I felt compelled to share them so others might benefit from their insights and inspiration.

Note that all of the commentaries shared here were written in response to earlier drafts of the essay. Many of the criticisms have been addressed and many of the suggestions have been incorporated. Some reviewers who were enthusiastic about an earlier draft may take exception to subsequent changes.

David Korten


Barry Andrews (former Unitarian Universalist Minister); Historical roots of the Integral Spirit Cosmology and the implications of its lack of institutional support. (July 22, 2012)

Thanks for sharing your paper with me. I find it to be an elegant, succinct and thought-provoking argument, and one with which I am in full agreement. … The weakness, not of your argument, but rather its sustainability lies in the fact that the cosmology of the Integral Spirit has many adherents ancient and modern, but little or no institutional support. Ideas must be embodied in communities in order to survive....[Read full text from Barry Andrews]

The Interfaith Amigos. Pastor Don Mackenzie (United Church of Christ, retired), Rabbi Ted Falcon (Bet Alef Meditative Synagogue, retired), and Imam Jamal Rahman (Muslim Sufi Minister, Interfaith Community Sanctuary), have for almost 11 years engaged in a deeply personal interfaith exploration and healing through their collegial exploration of the deep spiritual roots of their respective faiths. They shared as a group their comments and insights into the deeper teachings of the Abrahamic Faiths. [Read full text from the Interfaith Amigos]

Interfaith Amigo Pastor Don Mackenzie (July 31, 2012) As you know, we applaud this important work and wish to have the piece you put out be in a place that will, as you say, continue the conversation…. Most importantly, we feel it is crucial to note that while the seeds of “The Cosmos is Ruled by a Distant Patriarch” are in our traditions, the prevalence of that superficial stereotype remained due to the general ignorance of the people, an ignorance that gave power and authority to the clergy (and does so to this day), and the suppression early on of mysticism by the orthodoxy of the church.

Interfaith Amigo Rabbi Ted Falcon (July 31, 2012) Thank you for sending us this updated draft of your very important article. You are very right: It's time for a new story! …. That said, I believe it's important to recognize that the Patriarchal Distant Creator God model, while certainly present in all three Abrahamic traditions, is hardly the whole of theological discourse represented by those traditions. I would encourage some kind of limiting statement, indicating that this model is present in all those traditions, and representative of much of their early thinking.

Interfaith Amigo Imam Jamal Rahman (August 10, 2012 ) I want to comment on some of the facets of the verse: "Wherever you turn, there is the Face of Allah." The verse is from the Quran (2:115) ….If the Face of Allah is everywhere, it behooves us to spend less time and energy on trying to "understand" God and more time living in a way that expands our awareness of God in every face we meet.

Rev Bill Phipps, Canadian church leader and social activist; Moderator of the United Church of Canada, 1997 to 2000, and author of “Cause for Hope: Humanity at the Crossroads,” for which David wrote the forward. (July 10 and August 23, 2012)

This is an important contribution for a badly needed conversation…. Both the Older and Newer Testaments know a God that is BOTH distant AND intimate. I realize that too often the institutional church and the media do not recognize this basic understanding of the patriarchal God. But it is fundamental to Biblical faith.

The Bible also is clear that building justice and peace ON EARTH is a primary ethical responsibility for people of faith. Again, institutional religion and the media, as we know it, too often ignore this, but it is fundamental to "salvation".... [Read full text from Rev Bill Phipps]

Richard Wilson, retired architect, Bainbridge Island friend and neighbor, and an active member of Cedars Unitarian Universalist Church. (August 4, 2012)

It’s taken a while for my thoughts to settle, because I found myself squirming when the discussion began to open toward the possibility of an unnecessarily anthropomorphic cosmic consciousness or awareness. I am more comfortable with the possibility that “we are the universe becoming conscious of itself.”.... [Read full text from Richard Wilson]

Karma Tshiteem, Secretary, Gross National Happiness Commission of Bhutan (July 19, 2012)

Greetings from Bhutan! I enjoyed the piece you shared and could not agree more. And when you talk about the integral spirit story as a framework for relating to one another and to nature, I could not help but recall the foundations of our Buddhist philosophy and the idea of Interdependent arising. You may like to check that out.

Matthew Fox, Priest, theologian, and popular writer on Creation Spirituality (July 17, 2012)

Divine consciousness to me can be both personal AND impersonal and I agree that the Distant Patriarch has overly personalized it and invited untold projections (plus the psychologizing of religion and religion as comfort of recent times). But what is cosmic can sometimes be VERY intimate at the same time--that is what a mystical experience is all about!....[Read full text from Matthew Fox]

Sister Joan Chittister, Benedictine Sister and celebrated Christian author, she has been a visionary voices and spiritual leader of the Catholic Church for more than 30 years. (July 13, 2012)

This is, without doubt, the best short piece on this subject that I have ever seen. It not only provides a new template for thinking about God, the world, our own immersion in what we call "the mind of God" but it gives us a direction for dealing with this new material when the piece ends. It lays out a template for discussion that people like us should be promoting everywhere....[Read full text from Sister Joan Chittister]

Marybeth Gardam, Des Moines, Iowa entrepreneur and community activist. (July 12, 2012)

I LOVE the theme of the Three Cosmologies. And I can see how it would have strong impact among people who think deeply about these issues. I can see so many of the people I know who are stuck in one or another of these 'stories'. For me, I think I have always been in the realm of the integral spirit... even as a young and impressionable Catholic. I felt that God was too big to fit into the church's narrow frame....[Read full text from Marybeth Gardam]

Graeme Maxton, Economist and Author, The End of Progress – How Modern Economics has Failed Us. (July 7, 2012)

The logic that says we are part of a planet and cosmos, like independently cooperating cells in a body, is undeniable, certainly according to the Integral Spirit narrative. But I wondered when I was reading this if it could be that we are also the wrong sorts of cells. If humankind is actually a dead-end stage of the plan, rather than being a potentially beneficial part of the story, we are actually a cancer.... [Read full text from Graeme Maxton]

Garry Jacobs, Chairman of Board, World Academy of Art & Science (July 10, 2012)

The nature of the three cosmologies is clearly and powerfully presented in your draft…. As parts of a machine, we are insignificant and helplessly subject to cosmic laws. As exiles from heaven, we are lost souls striving only to recover what we have lost. But as conscious creative human beings, we have the power to alter the rules we have fashioned and the instruments we have created. We can break our slavish dependence and imprisonment by the institutions fashioned in the past that are no longer relevant or conducive to our welfare, as we have rejected feudalism and monarchy, slavery and apartheid.... [Read full text from Garry Jacobs]

Bob Scott, Director of Trinity Institute at Trinity Wall Street Church and former editor, Spirituality & Health magazine. (August 21, 2012)

Very engaging and thought provoking. I appreciate your reference to David Sloan Wilson, and I see the connections between the cosmologies story and the evolution story throughout…. Wilson points out that in modern discourse rational thought is treated as the gold standard. Whatever is not fully rational (and provable) is considered deficient. However, from an evolutionary perspective, adaptive thought is the gold standard. A belief may not be scientifically provable (he actually says it could be literally incorrect) but it may convey considerable survival value, while other beliefs—thoroughly rational though they may be—weaken us.... [Read full text from Bob Scott]

Stuart Kauffman, theoretical biologist and complex systems researcher. Former faculty in residence Santa Fe Institute, and author of numerous books including Reinventing the Sacred. (September 15, 2012)

If we see reality in a new way, something like your third cosmology David, and my quest too, we will inevitably BE in the world in a different way as we tell ourselves a new story. I do not know how to break the power structure by head on attack. But a new STORY from a different view of reality MAY render that power structure irrelevant as we transition somehow beyond Modernity into an adjacent possibility we cannot, typically, prestate, but do co-create.... [Read full text from Stuart Kauffman]

Steven Rockefeller, Ph.D. in philosophy of religion from Columbia University, and professor emeritus of Religion and former dean and chair of the religion department at Middlebury College; Co-chair of Earth Charter International Council. Led the drafting of the Earth Charter. (October 3, 2012)

It is important for the new story to acknowledge the reality and mystery of evil and the terrible suffering that comes with existence for millions of people and other sentient beings. There is much in the world that is not of God or insofar as it is, we cannot understand it. One fundamental purpose of a guiding cosmology is to help people respond creatively to evil and suffering and find meaning in the face of it.... [Read full text from Steven Rockefeller]


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