“The Emerging Cosmology” – Transcript of Reb Zalman at HH the Dalai Lama’s Roundtable


Below is an address given by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi at the Roundtable Dialogue for the visit of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama with other Nobel Laureates in Vancouver, B.C., entitled “Balancing Educating the Mind with Educating the Heart,” held at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, on Tuesday, April 20, 2004. It was later edited into its current form by Netanel Miles-Yépez.

[An Excerpt from an Unpublished Manuscript, The Emerging Cosmology; download a PDF of the text on this page here.]

Source of Time and Space

Source of
Time and Space,
Avinu Malkeinu,
Our Sovereign
Father and Mother,
Draw down to us
The great Renewal,
A stream from
The Infinite,
Attuning us to
Your timely intent.

Let Wisdom flow
Into our awareness,
Awakening us to foresight,
Guiding us to help
Instead of harm.

May every
Tool and device
Of human use
Be sparing and protecting
Of Your Creation.

Help us to set right
All that we have debased,
To heal what we
Have made ill,
To care for and restore
What we have injured.

Bless the Earth,
Our home;
Guide us in how
To care for her
So we might live
According to
Your promise,
Days of Heaven
Here on Earth.

May all the beings
You have fashioned
Become aware of You
And the gift of being
You grant them
In every moment.

May we realize
The Shaping
Of our lives,
And may everything
That breathes
Share breath
And knowing,
Delighting in the
One Great Breath.

Guide us in
The understanding
Of the art of partnering
With family, with friends,
And with neighbors,
New and old.

Aid us in dissolving
Old enmities;
May we come to honor,
Even in those
Whom we fear,
Your image and form,
In their hearts.

May our star soon
Rise on the day
When Your House
Will indeed be
A House of Prayer
For All Peoples,
Named and celebrated
In every tongue;
On that day
You will be known
As One with all
Cosmic Life.*

*A prayer composed by Reb Zalman and later revised into this current version by Netanel Miles-Yépez.

THE PROBLEMS WE FACE TODAY are not yielding to the solutions provided by our hallowed traditions and lineages in the past. Each of them had, built-in, almost from the beginning, a high degree of surface tension to separate them from other traditions. Even their most universal and inclusive statements were based on hegemonic and hierarchical notions of togetherness, suggesting to the others, “If you come under our umbrella, as a lesser adjunct, or a minor satellite, we will legitimate you.”

The attitude was basically triumphalist, which is to say, “When the Messiah comes, we will be proven right, and you will know that you were wrong.” Almost every tradition has a myth of a messianic figure to come, whether it is the Mashiah in Judaism; the second coming of the Christos in Christianity; the Mahdi in Islam; Kalki, the last avatar in Hinduism, or Maitreya in Buddhism. So triumphalism has largely defined how we have dealt with one another in the past.

Then came the Holocaust and Hiroshima, the moonwalk and the view of Earth from outer space, the Hippie revolution and the Internet; and it became clear that we could no longer afford to think of ourselves as separate, or to have reality-maps that do not base themselves on an organismic view of life on this planet.

Our theologians, teachers and preachers, in order to defend themselves against existential terror and the high anxiety of the spiritual vacuum in which they have to operate now, have by and large been co-opted by those who have pockets deep enough to build walls around the status quo, and by the ‘have-nots’ who want only a return to implausible security of the ‘old time religion.’

More and more, deeper thinking eco-theologians are coming to the conclusion that each religion is like a vital organ of the planet; and that for the planet’s sake, each religion needs to stay healthy, and to function well in concert with the others for the health of the greater body of the planet.

Thus, for all my universalism, I still need to be the best and healthiest Jew I can be, and to urge my co-religionists to do the same, as their contribution to the healing of the planet.

While I have gained much from my tradition, which has provided me with many sacred tools and the means of achieving various elevated states of consciousness, many of these tools do not seem to be immediately applicable to our current situation.

However, there is clearly a revelation coming down to us from helpers above our ken, as well as a chthonic push up from below, from our mother the Earth. Thus, I am less inclined to offer answers than to raise questions at this point.

Every generation needs new answers for the problems that the old answers have created. For example, nuclear fuel, pesticides and herbicides were all answers to questions posed by previous generations. And now they are the problems of this generation. Soon we will also have to deal with questions raised by the genetic engineering of plants and livestock. And who knows how soon? Even with human genetic stock.

The urge we experience to grow in awareness is often blocked and opposed by forces that want to cut us off from that creative, life-affirming urge, flooding us with mind-deadening distractions and addictions to things we don’t really need.

Yet, at gatherings like this one, we want to amplify that urge. We recognize that it is communicating with the push from the Earth, telling us of her need for healing; and with the teleological pull of the vision of organismic wholeness that wants to birth and grow itself in us. Here, in this place, at this time, we want to wake ourselves and others up to an even greater awakening.

We have become habituated to looking for the easiest and the most immediate answers so that we do not have to stay in the anxiety of holding on to the questions. We are afraid of the tension that these unanswered questions produce. The wrong answers, which are easily available, don’t work to stave off the impending disaster of our accelerating global dying. So what are some of the questions that we need to endure—for all the stress they produce—in order to allow real answers to come forth?

First Question

What Cosmology does our Mother, the Earth,
Want us to have in order that She may be healed?

Apparently, the cosmological reality-map we are currently using is not quite doing the job, and the teleological direction to which the harmonious life-matrix is pointing demands that we change that map.

Creativity does not reside in the slavish repetition of precedents. It is in daring, in the outrageous play with the least amenable possibilities available to our political and corporate culture, in foreign and spiritual realms, that we may find answers. These potentials dance before the mind’s eye, and from these visions will emerge an unexpected form, a creative proposal, a new way to understand and map reality.

We need to learn this process of questing in order to discover—and this is urgent—how to co-create, consciously, with the integral planetary mind, the cosmology we need in order to stimulate the healing of the planet.

Second Question

What is the most holistic and healthy ethos
Arising from that new Cosmology?

What are the guiding beliefs and values, the ethos or ethics that characterize our emerging community? The Cosmology of the industrial revolution gave us an ethic embracing productivity at any cost. The Cosmology of corporate capitalism and globalization pushes an ethic embracing consumption at any cost.

The Cosmology we seek should produce, first and foremost, an ethic that honors harmonious biological health in the individual and in the greater matrix of the environment.

In order to create this Cosmology, we can no longer rely on the mind of a single enlightened individual. The complexity of what we have to mind in the world, and in life, is too great for any one person to manage, and too heavy a responsibility to bear alone. The only way to ‘get it together’ . . . is together.

I want those who are able, who are mature in meditative disciplines, to collaborate and experiment with what it would take to enable us to operate in webs of consciousness, in networks of mind. Small circles of prepared souls who might seek to merge dreams and behold visions together. These people would serve as our ‘psycho-nauts,’ contacting minds in other regions, on other planes.

These are underdeveloped and under-utilized disciplines in our time. We are so sophisticated in our military technology, building increasingly lethal weapons of mass destruction, but our understanding of how to handle conflict resolution lags far behind. We need to explore and develop the ‘technologies’ of the inner-world as individuals and as groups if we are to keep from destroying ourselves.

Nor can we wait to explore and research new possibilities for optimal social and political harmony. What will it take to create the cultural revolution that is now so urgently needed?

I have often challenged modern educators to create curricula that would do more than deliver simple information; but which would foster and cultivate the kind of individuals the planet needs. We need curricula for handling information with an ecological awareness, that addresses the formation of character, that educates the heart as well as the mind, that increases one’s emotional IQ, and teaches the skills of cooperation that will produce the adepts, saints, tzaddikim, bodhisattvas, rishis and shamans that will need at this time.

Third Question

What are the upaya, the ‘skillful means’
eeded to lift our cultural trance, and to launch the Awareness of the emerging Cosmology?

The ‘aggregate mind’ of the current chaos of our current global consensus leads us into ever-greater crises. We must do the miraculous work of altering the awareness of millions! We must go deeper into the regions where muscle-effort is of no use, where only awareness can shift awareness. And it won’t be easy. Making this kind of shift in awareness, as one of my friends remarked, is like trying to change the tires while the car is still moving!

So we need to update the inner resources of our spiritual traditions, the ‘technologies’ that once worked so well for us, but which we later abandoned as outdated because of their association with a flesh-rejecting asceticism divorced from daily life and its concerns.

We need to ask our traditions—do our spiritual tool-chests offer practices that work for urban, ‘9-to-5’ people? If our suggestions for spiritual study and practice exceed 20 minutes in the morning, and 20 minutes in the evening, they are demanding more than most people can afford, and will not be done.

So we need to look at what still works among the old techniques and enhance their yield by learning to attune our consciousness to achieve the optimal transformational power. These actions of attunement need to take place in regions beyond the distracted awareness of the ‘shopping-mall’ mentality.

When I think of the turbulent mind-space we are inhabiting most of the time today, I feel almost schizophrenic. In it, I cannot hear the sacred, choral symphony of our common dream.  Just as we once lamented the ‘twilight of the gods,’ it seems that we are now experiencing a similar ‘twilight of the life-affirming archetypes!’

How can we access these archetypes? How can we imbue them with power? How can they empower us? We need to realize, once again, that we are not on the top of the chain-of-all-being. We need to learn once more the means of accessing the help awaiting us on the higher planes.

What do we need to do to address the matrix of the great Life-Process on the subtle plane in order to gain an understanding of the deeper Life-Process for ourselves? Only when we are able to do this again will we be able to truly embark on designing the necessary re-education of the heart and spirit.

Fourth Question

What adjustments do we need to make in spiritual Technologies, theology, physics, psychology, philosophy, Anthropology, biology, medicine, political science, the Arts, economics, communications, and most of all, ethics, In order to heal the planet?

The big questions remain.

The current state of Transpersonal Psychology and the emergent Transpersonal Sociology are too primitive to handle our crisis. Theologies that have not transcended the old triumphalism, who still insist that they have the only reliable truth, have become bankrupt; their magisteria have been laminated to obsolete reality-maps for too long. Having become absurd to the modern thinker, many teachings of the various traditions and lineages are being ignored because of their atavistic uselessness.

These are the problems and the questions we need to address. I invite every one of you to be co-creators of a new reality-map, to help in the urgent work of finding the answers we need to build a more holistic vision for the planet.

May we all be blessed with vigor, resourcefulness, joy, health, well-being, harmony in our families and in our work-life, to actualize our renewed hope.

May the words of my mouth, and the concerns of our hearts, be received and responded to by the One in whom we find refuge and redemption.