Talk About God

"All talk about God staggers under impossible difficulties. Yet monotheists have all been very positive about language at the same time as they have denied its capacity to express the transcendent reality. The God of Jews, Christians and Muslims is a God who — in some sense — speaks. His Word is crucial in all three faiths. The Word of God has shaped the history of our culture. We have to decide whether the word 'God' has any meaning for us today."
A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam

Find the Transcendent Dimension in Human Life

"Like other Sufis, Rumi saw the universe as a theophany of God's myriad names. Some of these revealed God's wrath or severity, while others expressed those qualities of mercy which were intrinsic to the divine nature. The mystic was engaged in a ceaseless struggle (jihad) to distinguish the compassion, love and beauty of God in all things and to strip away everything else. The Masnawi challenged the Muslim to find the transcendent dimension in human life and to see through appearances to the hidden reality within. It is the ego which blinds us to the inner mystery of all things, but once we have got beyond that we are not isolated, separate beings but one with the Ground of all existence. Again, Rumi emphasized that God could only be a subjective experience."
A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam

Decent Values

"Many Western people are also becoming uncomfortable about the absence of spirituality in their lives. They do not necessarily want to return to pre-modern religious lifestyles or to conventionally institutional faith. But there is a growing appreciation that, at its best, religion has helped human beings to cultivate decent values. Islam kept the notions of social justice, equality, tolerance and practical compassion in the forefront of the Muslim conscience for centuries. Muslims did not always live up to these ideals and frequently found difficulty in incarnating them in their social and political institutions. But the struggle to achieve this was for centuries the mainspring of Islamic spirituality."
Islam: A Short History

Discerning a Sacred Reality

"Genesis has been one of the sacred books that have enabled millions of men and women to know at some profound level that human life has an eternal dimension, even though they have not always been able to express this insight in logical, rational form. Like any scripture, Genesis points to a reality that must essentially transcend it. But the writers employ different methods from those of the Hindu Vedas or the Buddhist Sutras. The biblical authors force us to make an imaginative effort. They imply that it is a hard struggle to discern a sacred reality in the flawed and tragic conditions in which we live and that our experience will often be disconcerting or contradictory. Like Jacob, we will have to wrestle in the dark, denied the consolations of final certitude and experiencing at best only transient, elusive blessing. We may even find that we have been wounded in the course of our struggle."
In The Beginning: A New Interpretation of Genesis

Many Flowerings

"For the first time in history, people are beginning to adopt the religion of other cultures or are finding inspiration in more than one faith. Thus, Buddhism is enjoying a great flowering in the West at present; Jesuit priests are studying meditation from Zen practitioners; Christians have been profoundly influenced by the thought and spirituality of the Jewish philosopher and theologian Martin Buber; and the great classics of religious literature have been ably translated and are easily accessible. The effect of this change could be profound: It has been compared to the revolution that science produced in the consciousness of men and women during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. We shall never be able to look at either our own or other people's religions in quite the same way again."
Visions of God: Four Medieval Mystics and Their Writings

Going Beyond Ourselves

"Compassion has been advocated by all the great faiths because it has been found to be the safest and surest means of attaining enlightenment. It dethrones the ego from the center of our lives and puts others there, breaking down the carapace of selfishness that holds us back from an experience of the sacred. And it gives us ecstasy, broadening our perspectives and giving us a larger, enhanced vision. As a very early Buddhist poem puts it: 'May our loving thoughts fill the whole world; above, below, across — without limit; a boundless goodwill toward the whole world, unrestricted, free of hatred and enmity.' We are liberated from personal likes and dislikes that limit our vision, and are able to go beyond ourselves."
The Spiral Staircase: My Climb out of Darkness

Seeing Things as They Really Are

"All the great world faiths emphasize the importance of charity and loving-kindness because they work; they have been found to introduce us into a sacred realm of peace within ourselves. And they do that because they help us to transcend the demands of our insecure, greedy egotism that imprison us within our worst selves…

"True religion has little to do with self-righteousness, which is often simply a self-congratulatory form of egotism. The discipline of compassion is the safest way to lay aside the selfishness and greed that hold us back from God and from our best selves."

"These are desperate times and the world seems a dangerous place. But for the vast majority of human beings, who are not fortunate enough to live in the First World, it has always been desperate and dangerous. Very few could dream of the security and power symbolized by the towers of the World Trade Center. Now we have joined the dispossessed, but instead of resenting this, we can see it as an opportunity to effect the spiritual revolution which alone can save our troubled world."
Walking With God in a Fragile World edited by James Langford