Question:  What does Common Space do?

Answer: Common Space provides a ecumenical network that fosters interfaith understanding.  We are free from traditional organizational boundaries, prejudice, and discrimination. We share a common concern, passion, and commitment to fostering understanding between the faith traditions. Through the open and respectful exchange of perspectives, contemplative practices, and pedagogy, we seek to enhance interfaith understanding. We affirm our shared humanity in its context of a rich, beautiful, and diverse planet. We acknowledge our common ground as stewards of nature, its species, and its processes.

Question:  What do you mean by “Ecumenical”?

Answer:  We use the word “ecumenical” in the inclusive sense suggested by the original Greek, “oikoumenikos,” which means simply “from the whole world.”

Question:  Why do what we do?

For us, Common Space represents the grey space that we, as a group promoting interfaith understanding, can inhabit between the boundaries of faith.  We believe these margins and spaces between can provide incredible opportunities for learning and relationship, and are places where the Ultimate Reality or Ultimate Mystery, by whatever name, will work for the good of everything that is.

Question:  Do you have a physical model for your House of One common spaces?

Answer:  Yes. We take as our model and inspiration the building of the main House of One currently being undertaken in Berlin, Germany--a synagogue, mosque, and church in one space. For more information, see this link.

Question:  Does Common Space have a frame of reference or starting-point for interfaith exchange?

Answer:  Yes.  Our starting point is the Points of Agreement established by twenty years of interfaith discussion at the Snowmass Conferences.  The Points are as follows:

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    1. The world religions bear witness to the experience of Ultimate Reality to which they give various names: Brahman, Allah, Absolute, God, Great Spirit.

    2. Ultimate Reality cannot be limited by any name or concept.

    3. Ultimate Reality is the ground of infinite potentiality and actualization.

    4. Faith is opening, accepting and responding to Ultimate Reality. Faith in this sense precedes every belief system.

    5. The potential for human wholeness -- or in other frames of reference, enlightenment, salvation, transformation, blessedness, "nirvana" -- is present in every human person.

    6. Ultimate Reality may be experienced not only through religious practices but also through nature, art, human relationships, and service of others.

    7. As long as the human condition is experienced as separate from Ultimate     Reality, it is subject to ignorance and illusion, weakness and suffering.

    8. Disciplined practice is essential to the spiritual life; yet spiritual attainment is not the result of one's own efforts, but the result of the experience of oneness with Ultimate Reality.

At the conference May 1986, the attendees came up with additional points of agreement of a practical nature:

A. Some examples of disciplined practice, common to us all:

    1. Practice of compassion

    2. Service to others

    3. Practicing moral precepts and virtues

    4. Training in meditation techniques and regularity of practice

    5. Attention to diet and exercise

    6. Fasting and abstinence

    7. The use of music and chanting and sacred symbols

    8. Practice in awareness (recollection, mindfulness) and living in the present                


    9. Pilgrimage

    10. Study of scriptural texts and scriptures

And in some traditions:

    11. Relationship with a qualified teacher

    12. Repetition of sacred words (mantra, japa)

    13. Observing periods of silence and solitude

    14. Movement and dance

    15. Formative community

B. It is essential to extend our formal practice of awareness into all the aspects of our life.

C. Humility, gratitude, and a sense of humor are indispensable in the spiritual life.

D. Prayer is communion with Ultimate Reality, whether it is regarded as personal, impersonal, or beyond them both.

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"A new common space has to be renegotiated."

This is taken from an extract from Pankaj Mishra's article published in the Guardian, 20 Jan 2105:

"Jürgen Habermas has come around to believing that the “substance of the human” can only be rescued by societies that “are able to introduce into the secular domain the essential contents of their religious traditions”. Habermas’s dramatic shift is one sign among many that the identity of the secular modern, which was built upon exclusivist notions of secularism, liberty, solidarity, and democracy in sovereign nation-states, has unravelled, and requires a broader definition. A new common space has to be renegotiated. The militarily and culturally interventionist, business-friendly but otherwise minimalist state peddling an ideology of economic growth won’t do. Such nullity might even play into the hands of fanatics who want to destroy the most valuable legacy of the Enlightenment: the detachment of the theocratic from the political.

We may have to retrieve the Enlightenment, as much as religion, from its fundamentalists. If Enlightenment is “man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity”, then this “task”, and “obligation” as Kant defined it, is never fulfilled; it has to be continually renewed by every generation in ever-changing social and political conditions. The advocacy of more violence and wars in the face of recurrent failure meets the definition of fanaticism rather than reason. The task for those who cherish freedom is to reimagine it – through an ethos of criticism combined with compassion and ceaseless self-awareness – in our own irreversibly mixed and highly unequal societies and the larger interdependent world. Only then can we capably defend freedom from its true enemies."

Full article, here:

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From Aldo Leopold's "The Land Ethic" (1948)

"All ethics so far evolved rest upon a single premise: that the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts. His instincts prompt him to compete for his place in that community, but his ethics prompt him also to co-operate (perhaps in order that there may be a place to compete for).

The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land.

This sounds simple: do we not already sing our love for and obligation to the land of the free and the home of the brave? Yes, but just what and whom do we love? Certainly not the soil, which we are sending helter-skelter downriver. Certainly not the waters, which we assume have no function except to turn turbines, float barges, and carry off sewage. Certainly not the plants, of which we exterminate whole communities without batting an eye. Certainly not the animals, of which we have already extirpated many of the largest and most beautiful species. A land ethic of course cannot prevent the alteration, management, and use of these 'resources,' but it does affirm their right to continued existence, and, at least in spots, their continued existence in a natural state.

In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such."

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Seyyed Hossein Nasr

"The traditional perspective of the Muslim -- and Christian -- is that man comes from a sacred heaven to an earth which is also divine creation. Even the American Indians have a sky father. What I am saying is that the whole of nature is descended from higher spiritual realms. There can be no sacredness of the earth without the sacredness of Heaven."

"The spiritual value of nature is destroyed. We can't save the natural world except by rediscovering the sacred in nature."