A Charter for Engaged Spirituality in the 21st Century
Working Draft Outline


Scholars of religion point to “the Axial Age” (roughly the first millennium bce) as the period of the dawn of the great classical religions that we know today. These days, it’s often suggested that we have entered a second great “turning on the religious axis,” a Second Axial Age. If the first brought the individual to the fore, the latter shifts our focus to the global dimension of ethical, religious, and spiritual awareness and action.


The great theologian Ewert Cousins (1927-2009) believed that the 21st century marked a new evolutionary turning that will reshape religion and spirituality in extraordinary ways.


If we shift our gaze from the first millennium bce to the eve of the twenty-first century, we can discern another transformation of consciousness. It is so profound and far-reaching that I call it the Second Axial Period. Like the first it is happening simultaneously around the earth, and like the first it will shape the horizon of consciousness for future centuries. Not surprisingly, too, it will have great significance for world religions, which were constituted in the First Axial Period. However, the new form of consciousness is different from that of the First Axial Period. Then it was individual consciousness, now it is global consciousness.


We propose that the “Awakened World 2012” conference center on the evolution of religion and spirituality in the 21st century. In that process, the Charter for Engaged Spirituality in the 21st Century can serve as an inspiration and a guide as we take up a number of vital questions. What are the most dramatic changes that might be on the horizon? What is the promise of our evolutionary age? What are the dangers, the challenges, and the opportunities? What does it mean to be at the threshold of a “Second Axial Age?” What commitments to action can we offer?


Sixteen Axial Markers: Domains and Stages

The Charter is structured around sixteen Axial Markers – observable signs that ours is indeed a time of dramatic evolutionary change in religious and spiritual values. The Markers identified in the preliminary materials are presented in a matrix with four vertical columns, representing thematic areas – Domains – and four horizontal rows, representing key Stages of the evolutionary unfolding. The Markers are certainly not the only indicators of progressive shift. While the list is not exhaustive, it is descriptive and persuasive. It will help to shape many of the event's discussions and, it is hoped, many of the concrete initiatives that arise from our group efforts.

(“See Chart”)