Fr. Thomas Keating OCSO
Peace and the Inner Life


Cistercian monk and former abbot of St. Joseph's Abbey, Spencer, Massachusetts. Former president, Temple of Understanding; founder of Contemplative Outreach and the Snowmass Interfaith Conference; and former chair, Monastic Interreligious Dialogue. Author of numerous books and articles on Christian contemplative practice and on dialogue with other religions.


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Theme: Peace and the Inner Life

What is the alternative to the culture of violence that thrives in so many regions of the planet? Thomas Keating suggests one real possibility.


As we confront the crisis of civilization culminating in the specter of humanicide, is there an alternative to the present plunge of humanity toward the abyss of unmost violence? There is an alternative. It is the commitment to the practice of charity. In the Hebrew language the term for charity is hesed – love that is boundless and everlasting. In Greek, agape -- love that is totally selfless. In Latin, caritas – unconditional love. In English charity or loving kindness – limitless compassion for suffering at every level of human experience.


Thomas Keating, Trappist monk, teacher of contemplative “centering prayer,” has been a peace activist for most of his life. For him, however, the key to building peace in the world lies in cultivating peace in one’s heart. The gradual enrichment of the inner life leads to a healing of the outer world.


We’ll talk with Fr. Thomas about his monastic experience, his interreligious work (including his long collaboration with His Holiness, the Dalai Lama), and his unshakeable faith in the possibility of peace on earth. And we’ll ask, what can we, as individuals, groups, and communities contribute to the realization of that distant goal?


Excerpt from Thriving in the Crosscurrent: Clarity and Hope at a Time of Cultural Sea Change (Jim Kenney, Quest Books 2010), p. 228-229:
Growing out of over a half century of profound dialogue between spiritual and cultural traditions and practices, interspirituality acknowledges and explores the very different but convergent spiritual visions and practices that nourish all cultures. The late Wayne Teasdale, author of The Mystic Heart, coined the word “interspiritual.” He expressed it as “the sharing of ultimate experiences across traditions.” As he put it, “Interspirituality is not about eliminating the world’s rich diversity of religious expression. . . . Rather, it is an attempt to make available to everyone all the forms the spiritual journey assumes.”


Perhaps you’re not a religious believer and have no interest in the existence of any transcendent reality. Not a problem, Wayne would say. You still have an inner life, and it can without question be broadened, deepened, and enriched. The exploration of interspirituality, as a matter of fact, sets aside the doctrinal disparities that separate the world’s religious traditions. Buddhists do not accept the existence of a creator God. Jews, Christians, and Muslims do—though in appreciably different ways. But all can come together to share what their communities have learned about the deep inner workings of mind and the still deeper life of spirit. It’s worth noting that humankind’s earliest reflections on evolution were spiritual in nature.

Further Reading:
A Conversation with Thomas Keating

The Centering Prayer