01: Awe-Inspiring Experiences is a group based at the University of California that seeks to study phenomena relating to wonder, transcendence and the feeling of oneness with the world.
Awe-inspiring experiences can include the mystical state of oneness or being part of one community or any other events or episodes leading to “changes in consciousness.” The three-year-old program holds two annual conferences and various workshops. The group seems to be largely concerned with the social and community impact of these experiences.
Susanne Lohmann, co-director of the group, says that understanding these experiences, particularly those that break down the “illusion” of separation between people and encourage altruistic personal relations, might counteract the thinking that leads to conflict and war.
(Source: Science & Theology News, April)
02: The Committee on Spirituality, Values, and Global Concerns is an official organization at the United Nations seeking to make spirituality the driving force in global governance.
The group emerged from a “Values Caucus” at the UN back in the early 1990s that sought to treat global issues within a context of underlying ethics and values. In its attempt to incorporate spirituality “into all areas of the United Nations agenda,” the CSVGC plans to lobby at international conferences, hold talks on the spiritual dimensions of global public policy, and explore the creation of permanent spiritual council at the UN.
Already, subcommitees on Spirituality and Science and Spirituality and Business are in the process of formation. The CSVGC and its predecessor draw on the “new paradigm” spirituality of philosopher Ken Wilbur stressing holistic and Eastern teachings.
(Source: What is Enlightenment? March-May).
03: The Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty was launched by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in late March to disseminate the stance of the Catholic church against the death penalty among members.
According to a study on American Catholic beliefs on the death penalty, included on the official campaign website, more Catholics today are inclined to take an anti-death penalty position, even among those who were originally for the measure. This tendency is particularly noticeable among Catholics who attend Mass more frequently and among younger age groups, especially those who study at Catholic colleges.
The campaign calls on Catholics to pray for all those involved in crimes, regardless of whether they are perpetrators or victims; learn more about Catholic teachings and policies in criminal justice at the federal and local levels; and work with politicians on anti-death penalty initiatives.
— By Ayako Sarienji, a New Jersey-based freelance writer and researcher.
04: Japan always surprises foreigners with its mixture of modernity and tradition. At the Tanegashima Space Center, a Shinto priest in full regalia performs purification rites to ward off disaster each time a rocket is launched. Those rituals have been celebrated for the past 20 years.
In order to write appropriate Shinto prayers, priest Kenji Matsubara had to acquaint himself with rocket science. Some prayers are specific for items which have to fulfill their own role. A prayer he wrote for the (successful) launch of a telecommunication satellite reads: “May the satellite send radio waves accurately so data communication does not cease.” A number of space program staff attend the prayers.
(Source: Asahi Shimbun, April 5)
— By Jean-François Mayer