This website collects some of the work I have been privileged to do surrounding spiritual exploration and world religions. You can get a glimpse of this work and try it out through the Sample Journal Prompts in the Soul Explorations section. These prompts are excerpts from a manuscript I’ve written called Soul Explorations: A Journey/Journal for Two Through the World’s Religions. It is basically a set of questions and activities that give you a window into your interior life. I am currently searching for a publisher, though pieces of the work are being used in self-published form by several individuals and institutions.
The Blog section collects some of the homilies, sermons, and dharma-talks I have been privileged to give over the years. Most of them have taken place at the Washington National Cathedral and other interfaith settings. They draw on the wisdom of many traditions, betraying my preference for perennialism, the idea that all religions are unique paths up a single mountain of truth (I do not hold this view without reservation). I made a primitive attempt to explain this point of view in a short video called “What is Perennialism?” You can view and critique it in the Videos section. You can also find some guided meditations there.
Articles contains a couple of articles I have written for use in my classes: “A Story About You and Me: Myth, Demythologization, and the Surplus of Meaning” is an introduction to hermeneutics, the art-science of interpretation. “The Story of Theodicy: The Problem of Evil, Theodicy, and the Meaning(s) of Life” is an introduction to theodicy, a fancy word for the ways in which we explain the sufferings and joys of humanity.
8D: A Multidimensional View of the Seven Influences on Human Behavior and the Freedom that Transcends Them is my most recent paper. It synthesizes all the explanations of human behavior I have encountered over the years, theories that have all seemed valid yet limited in some way. Integrating them into this 8D model reveals how they all complement each other, even the contradictory ones. I am currently submitting 8D to academic journals for publication.
There are also links to some published articles. The first is “Beyond Words: The Experience and Expression of Truth.” It traces the appearance of ineffability, the idea that our communications are never quite adequate to our experiences, through the works of many major philosophers from across time and space. This piece appeared in Philosophy and The Public Realm.
The second is “The Highest Good: Kantian Ideal, Buddhist Reality,” which appeared in Thinking Outside The Box. This work claims Kant was right in the reasoning that led to his idea that we should enjoy happiness in proportion to our virtue. Kant didn’t see this truth reliably coming to be in this life, and so he postulated that we must receive an afterlife in order to make this highest good possible. I argue there is a missing ingredient that would make this coincident of virtue and happiness possible in this life: the practice of mindfulness. Kant’s equation doesn’t work because though we may be moral, we aren’t aware of it. How can we be truly moral if we aren’t mindful? We may unknowingly be committing immoral acts. The practice of mindfulness – central to all forms of Buddhism – can lead us to greater morality and awareness of all of our experiences, therefore bringing us greater joy. These two articles are from the early 2000’s. I believe there is value in them, but I also hope you will cut me some slack for errors I have made.
The remaining sections are for works in progress. Starting Points, Not Stereotypes: A Friendly Guide to Teaching World Religions is a book I am working on for the Center for Spiritual and Ethical Education. The book includes a short history of religious studies, a summary and assessment of the different approaches to teaching and “doing” religious studies that have emerged over the years, and a sample curriculum with resources, activities, and lesson plans for teachers to use, adapt, and draw inspiration from. Its audience includes not only new teachers but also experienced teachers, chaplains, and other educators who are new to teaching religious studies courses.
Secular Spirituality is a book in which we argue that spirituality is a universal feature of human life and that it can be secular or religious. I am collaborating on this work with Bob Mattingly, the Executive Director of the CSEE, and Steven James, a psychologist and data scientist at the University of Hawaii. We found that we have three unique approaches to this subject that converge in important ways. While we are writing with independent school educators in mind (because that is the mission of the CSEE), we hope that this book might find a wider audience of those curious to engage in dialogue about this most human feature of humanity.
“A Method to Their Madness: The Purpose and Function of De Li Non Aliud and Other Mystical Texts” is an academic piece that started as a paper but has grown to book length. Mystics–those who have experienced some kind of ultimate reality–have been known to break the rules of logic and language as they try and express their ineffable experiences. We do this rule-breaking in more mundane moments when we say things like, “I can’t tell you how beautiful the sunset was” (which shows apophasis: in telling how we cannot tell, we are actually telling), or “I was blinded by the warmth of its colors” (which shows the use of a paradox – blindly seeing – to express something). The modern scientific worldview has favored logic, and so we have tended to view the words of mystics as hyperbole, poetry, or mental illness. Regardless of the specific assessment, these mystical expressions were devalued as false or illusory interpretations of our common reality. As I began to read mystical texts, I found myself having mystical experiences that were instigated by my reading. I got the idea that perhaps these texts were not trying to communicate an experience, but were trying to inspire an experience in the reader. I came across one mystic – Nicholas of Cusa – who expressed this intention to “lead the reader to an experience” almost explicitly. My argument is that this “perlocutionary” (“having consequences for the reader”) aspect of mystical texts is their main function, but that academia has largely missed this point because of our modern scientific perspective. I believe this hypothesis has major consequences for how we read and interpret all of the world’s religious texts, so many of which contain mystical language. I am hoping to publish a paper-length article soon, as the lengthier piece will require more time to finish properly.
Finally, The Idolatry is a spiritual autobiography written in a format I call a “Literary Album.” It tells the story of my struggle with various forms of idolatry, which for me means any time we substitute something for something else, with pieces dealing with everything from cancer to corporate America and from consumerism to education. The antidotes to these struggles take forms as varied as mysticism, mindfulness, teaching, family, and love. I have been writing this book for about twenty years now, since I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease. Life has gotten more demanding since then, in ways much more fulfilling and wonderful than any book-writing could be, but it would be gratifying to have the time to complete this project nonetheless.
Have a look around! I look forward to any feedback.