"In 1984 Father Thomas Keating invited a small group of contemplatives from eight different religious traditions – Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Islamic, Native American, Russian Orthodox, Protestant, and Roman Catholic – to gather at St. Benedict's Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado, to engage in what he called 'a big experiment.' . . .

"During the first few years of the Snowmass Conference, a series of agreements arose among the attendees. Father Thomas compiled the first eight and brought them to the group for consideration. With lots of conversation and some editing, the Snowmass Conference Eight Points of Agreement came into being. We include them here as a way of sharing a contemporary expression of perennial wisdom arising not from ancient texts but from the lived experience of contemporary mystics – women and men who, while coming from specific traditions, dare to step beyond them to see what is on its own terms.

The Eight Points of Agreement

"1. The world religions bear witness to the experience of Ultimate Reality, to which they give various names.
2. Ultimate Reality cannot be limited by any name or concept.
3. Ultimate Reality is the ground of infinite potentiality and actualization.
4. Faith is opening, accepting, and responding to Ultimate Reality. Faith in this sense precedes every belief system.
5. The potential for human wholeness – or, in other frames of reference, enlightenment, salvation, transcendence, transformation, blessedness – is present in every human being.
6. Ultimate Reality may be experienced not only through religious practices but also through nature, art, human relationships, and service to others.
7. As long as the human condition is experienced as separate from Ultimate Reality, it is subject to ignorance and illusion, weakness and suffering.
8. Disciplined practice is essential to the spiritual life; yet spiritual attainment is not the result of one's own efforts, but the result of the experience of oneness with Ultimate Reality.

"Of the eight points, it is the fourth that adds the most to our understanding of perennial wisdom. Faith here is not defined as religion but rather as an 'opening, accepting, and responding to Ultimate Reality' that 'precedes,' and I would add transcends, 'every belief system.' As I recall one member of the original Snowmass Conference saying:

" 'Belief narrows my capacity to see what is by insisting that I see only what the belief wants me to see. My belief tells me in advance what I will see, and denies the validity of my seeing if what I see is something other than what the belief wants me to see. This is why Jews, if you'll pardon the reference, cannot see the truth of Christ or Krishna, and why Buddhists cannot see the eternality of Atman and Brahma, and why Muslims cannot accept Baha'u'llah as a prophet and Baha'i as a legitimate religion. It isn't that these rejected views are false, only that they are invisible to those whose beliefs deny them a priori. Faith on the other hand is the capacity to see without the blinders of belief.'

"Perennial wisdom carries its own beliefs:

• All beings are manifestations of the singular being – Ultimate Reality.
• Every human has the innate capacity to know Ultimate Reality outwardly as the Self and inwardly as the Eternal I.
• Knowing Ultimate Reality as Self and the Eternal I gives rise to a global ethic of justice and compassion for all beings.
• The highest purpose of humankind is to know, embody, and live from this truth.

"And these beliefs, too, limit what can be seen. Thus even as you seek to awaken to the truth of perennial wisdom, do not close yourself off to an even greater truth: the Tao that cannot be named."