Speaking of Prophets: An Evening with Michael Lerner – Part 1

Speaking of prophets—those who stand up and speak out and interfere and grow their courage to do so—which is all of us potentially, I attended a beautiful event last night.  It was sponsored by the International Associate of Sufism who  presented a Humanitarian Award to Rabbi Michael Lerner.  Who so richly deserves it. 

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, bearded at center, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in a 1968 antiwar protest. Originally posted on NY Times article HERE

Lerner was a disciple and student of the great Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel who is absolutely among my very favorite theologians.  I have often said that if I was alone on an island I would want the works of two theologians with me, that of Howard Thurman and that of Abraham Heschel.  (Just so no one is scandalized, I would not need the works of Eckhart, Aquinas or Hildegard with me because they are so imprinted upon my soul and memory.  So they would be on the island with me also). 

Sufi dancers. Originally posted on Flickr by Aurora Favero HERE

The event was notable for several reasons.  First, because a Sufi organization, which is of course the mystical tradition of Islam with its heart universal and ecumenical that has birthed such luminaries as Rumi and Hafiz, chose a Rabbi for its annual presentation.  (Previous recipients of the award I am familiar with include cosmologist Brian Swimme and myself.)  It is always a blessed sign to see Muslims and Jews working together at deep levels as the brothers and sisters that they are and ought to be.  And that we all are and all destined to be. 

Secondly, it is good to be bestowing awards on one another—this is so needed in our hard times, namely the need to remind one another of the goodness and nobility, yes the grandeur of our species.  (Heschel speaks often of the grandeur on our universe and of our place in it.)  We ought to be doing more award-giving because such events are reminders of the beauty and courage that is all around us.

“Make America Love Again” posted on Flickr by Don Harder

We ought not take that for granted any more than we take Mother Earth and her many gifts for granted on a daily basis. “Fight the worst with the best” preaches Wendell Berry.  We need reminders of the best among us.  That is what an award ceremony is all about after all.  The young especially need to be reminded of the courage and brilliance we are capable of. I salute IAS for their wise work and inspiration in sponsoring such an event annually.

The news so rarely presents us not with stories of the grandeur of our species but its failures.  Especially the current news.  Though to be fair, human malfeasance and lies, its folly and capacity for denial feeds the news outlets such stories on a daily basis and renders it all too easy to fill headlines with the bad news.  We need reminding that it is not just sports figures and entertainers and soldier patriots who are heroes but many people like Rabbi Lerner, thinkers and activists who dare to bring a deep spirituality into our professions and political discourse who need to be held up.  Thank you, IAS!

Matthew Fox – Confessions: The Making of a Post-denominational Priest, pp 280-282, 336.

Banner Image: Rabbi Michael Lerner. Photo taken from Tikkun article HERE

Queries for Contemplation

Do you agree that creating awards is a useful and needed practice in our time?  If so, consider creating one and link up with others in your community to do so.

Meditate on “the grandeur of our species.”  Seek out prophetic souls serving the Earth and others in our community.  We often develop our own prophetic and courageous hearts by hanging out with prophets who teach us by example.

Recommended Reading

Matthew Fox’s stirring autobiography, Confessions, reveals his personal, intellectual, and spiritual journey from altar boy, to Dominican priest, to his eventual break with the Vatican. Five new chapters in this revised and updated edition bring added perspective in light of the author’s continued journey, and his reflections on the current changes taking place in church, society and the environment.

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2 thoughts on “Speaking of Prophets: An Evening with Michael Lerner – Part 1”

  1. Avatar

    Dearest Friends,
    Thank you for your email and the beautiful image.

    The image of the turning Sufi “Dancers” are called Semazens,
    they are from the Mevlevi Order.
    They are doing the body prayer ceremony called Sema, a celebration of the union on

    These Semazens that are from Turkey
    and wear black turn shoes and dark brown “Sikke” (the very tall hats)
    ….where the Semazens from the Mevlevi Order of America (to include Europe as well)
    wear white shoes and a cream-colored Sikke.
    Our Founder teacher is Postneshin Jellaluddin Loras.

    We all turn to the same ancient music and pray with the same prayers.

    This Mystical path existed before Humans created
    religions and dogma, rules and laws.

    And since you are a true Mystic yourself,
    the personal experience of Unity with our God (Allah)
    is still considered to be controversial, heretical, even radical…
    But as our great teachers both Mohammed (PBUH)
    and Jesus taught us that the Presence of God
    is closer than our hands and feet, or our jugular vein as mentioned in the Q’oran.

    “La Ilaha, IlAllah.” (there is no “not God”, Only God.)
    There is only the One presence that permeates and animates All creation.

    Thank you for all of your amazing emails
    and the important work you do in the world.

    As-salam Alaykum,
    (Peace Be With You),
    Alethea K. Devi
    Systems & Family Constellations Facilitator
    Spiritual Counselor & Mentor

    1. Gail Sofia Ransom

      Dear Althea, Thank you for sharing the beautiful traditions of the Semazens. It would seem that visual images of their whirling bodyprayer are more prevalent than information such as you have offered to us. I am sure many others share the same gratitude I feel for being enlightened.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

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