In November of last year I was invited to represent the Theosophical Society at the 17th Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service at St. Procopius Abby in Lisle, Illinois.
This is a lovely event hosted by the Benedictine monks of St. Procopius Abbey. Representatives from nine different faiths came to this sublime hall to talk about their tradition and offer prayers and blessings to a lovely audience of open minded spiritually oriented pilgrims.
There were Buddhists, Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians; the choir from the Second Baptist of Church rocked the house. The Baha’i House of Worship Choir reminded why music has always served the sacred, their singers had me wanting to leap out of my seat and praise . . . everything.
It occurred to me at some point in all this rapture and glow of gratitude that I should figure out what I was going to say. I am a legendary procrastinator, a terrible habit enabled by an almost perverse ability to think quickly on my feet. Undoubtedly this habit is essentially simple immaturity, but there is a strange kind of alchemical intensity provoked by desperation, the proximity to performance acting as a crucible, quickening my connection to whatever strange source my words spring from (credit to Socrates for providing further philosophical justification).
As it drew close to my time, I noted that of all the groups represented, I was alone in being alone. I was preceded by entire choirs for Christ’s sake. My heart began to race, but then, quite suddenly the ideas began forming in my mind, whole phrases and paths of thought lit up as clear as a Broadway marquee. I am forever grateful for the reliability of this strange magic.
This is what came to me (not quite verbatim as I didn’t get around to recollecting what I said until several weeks later). And please know that unlike my usual speaking, this was very slow and deliberate, a prayer:
“As the representative of a truly syncretic tradition, I feel as if I should just wait until the very end, stand up and say, ‘Ditto’.
Of course, theosophists do more than that. When we attend events such as this, we listen to the many prayers and perspectives and ask, “What is it that unites them? What are their differences, and what can we learn from such unity and difference?”
I think it fair to say that all the traditions represented here today share certain commonalities, at least one of which is the recognition of a transcendent reality, a divine source, a holy Other. Further, that we can relate to this ultimate ground, that the very substance, nature and character of this relationship is love, and that in this relationship lies our greatest, and perhaps only hope for salvation.
Theosophists are interested in this original source, how it comes into being, and our various relationships to it in different times and places. As such, we seek to form a nucleus of the universal family, we encourage a comparative study of religion, philosophy, science and art, and we endorse an exploration of the undiscovered laws of nature and the unrealized potentials of humanity.
All of which can become terribly abstract were it not for the one simple, fundamental premise upon which all of Theosophy is predicated: the unity of all life. To that end, we have an invocation that I would like to share with you.
I’ll say it once so you can hear it, and then I will say it a second time and I invite you to repeat it after me.
O Hidden Life, vibrant in every atom.
O Hidden Light, shining in every creature.
O Hidden Love, embracing all in oneness.
May all who feel themselves as one with thee, know they are therefore one with every other.
Thank you very much, and blessings to you all.”
I met many wonderful people that evening, and I am very grateful for having had the opportunity to share Theosophy with them.
If you are able to attend this event next year, I encourage you to do so.