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PUBLIC EVENT: The Promise of Intimacy - Searching for the Divine in Modern Times

last modified Oct 30, 2019 11:12 AM
Presented by Coexist House and the Cambridge Inter-faith Programme, the first of thee panels on themes of South Asian Interfaith Relations at St Ethelburga's Centre for Reconciliation and Peace: 'The Promise of Intimacy: Searching for the Divine in Modern Times'

“The Promise of Intimacy: Searching for the Divine in Modern Times”

St Ethelburga's Centre of Reconciliation and Peace, London

6pm Thursday 31 May

Chair: Fatimah Ashrif (Coexist House)


Farhana Mayer (University of Oxford)
Luigi Gioia (V
on Hügel Institute)
Christopher V. Jones (University of Oxford)

Many faith traditions have, in their different ways, offered pathways for those desiring a deeper intimacy with the Divine. We often hear of words such as 'spiritual', 'heart', and 'soul' , as a way of describing these dimensions.

A central theme shared across various Hindu, Islamic spiritual, and Roman Catholic mystical traditions is that the divine reality is not simply another entity far out there, dwelling perhaps on the top of the Himalayas or on the peripheries of the Milky Way, but is situated in the deepest interiorities of the human heart. Therefore, the ‘union’ with the divine involves processes of the cultivation of interiority through which the religious practitioner understands that the divine beloved is simultaneously extremely distant and intimately present.

In South Asia, such teachings lead some to believe in an underlying unity behind different faiths. We see this sometimes expressed at the level of popular spiritual piety. For example, the way in which the shrines of particular holy figures - such as Ajmer Sharif in India - become a meeting point of the faithful from many different traditions. Meanwhile, many have noted the popularity of 13th century Muslim mystic Rumi in the modern western world, amongst those of different faiths (and none), such as through incorporating his poetry and practices into their daily worship/spiritual practice.

Such practices are not often fully understood and might be perceived at best as syncretic or at worst unorthodox or even heretical by some more traditional voices.

The panel will seek to explore spiritual understandings as these might be expressed by different faiths and how these might be/ are practised. With a view to offering the audience a personal encounter with the very real and lived beliefs and practices of others, panelists will be asked to speak about the celebration of “Divine intimacy” within their traditions, their personal search, where it has taken them and what they have learned about themselves and the nature of Divinity, the spiritual tools they have used in seeking the divine and how this impacts their personal engagement with the world.

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