A Dangerous Spirituality

Over the years, I have noted multiple authors who have cited the works the highly respected and influential theologian/philosopher/author/educator/civil rights leader, Dr Howard Thurman. Not only was he the spiritual advisor to Dr Martin Luther King, but he was also a major influence on many Civil Rights leaders, academics and countless others who were fortunate enough to hear his sermons – simply put, he stamped his spiritual influence on an entire generation. Thurman’s incredible insights are as pertinent today as they were back in the day, even more so now, in my opinion. His conversations with Gandhi broadened his theological and international vision, &; in his autobiography, With Head and Heart: The Autobiography of Howard Thurman,Thurman said that in his meeting with Gandhi in 1935, the Mahatma expressed his wish that the message of non-violence be sent to the world by African-Americans.  How prophetic was that? It was King himself who catapulted non-violent resistance to the entire world about 30 years after Gandhi’s meeting with Thurman! Here are some of my favorite quotes by Dr Thurman which are deeply inspiring treasures worthy of serious reflection…..

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. 
A strange and wonderful courage often comes into a man’s life when he shares a commitment to something that is more important than whether he himself lives or dies

We are apt to be more influenced by the image we have of ourselves than by the fact of ourselves.  

“He who has more than he needs for efficient work is a thief.”  The essential point was quite clear and convincing.  There is no moral justification for having food and a surfeit of creature comforts at one’s disposal while numberless people all over the world in every country are without the necessities to survive. 

 Any person who questions the grounds of the society, who raises a primary question of human values, is in truth a disturber of the peace and a troublemaker.  

How to feel, and at the same time be intellectually self-respecting, makes for real conflict.

Whatever may be the tensions and the stresses of a particular day, there is always lurking close at hand the trailing beauty of forgotten joy or unremembered peace

There is no more searching question than this: Under what circumstances would you yield your life with enthusiasm?  As long as a man holds his physical existence of supreme importance, then he cannot make the surrender inherent in any profound commitment.

  It is my belief that in the Presence of God there is neither male nor female, white nor black, Gentile nor Jew, Protestant nor Catholic, Hindu, Buddhist, nor Moslem, but a human spirit stripped to the literal substance of itself before God.
In the conflicts between man and man, between group and group, between nation and nation, the loneliness of the seeker for community is sometimes unendurable. The radical tension between good and evil, as man sees it and feels it, does not have the last word about the meaning of life and the nature of existence. There is a spirit in man and in the world working always against the thing that destroys and lays waste. Always he must know that the contradictions of life are not final or ultimate; he must distinguish between failure and a many-sided awareness so that he will not mistake conformity for harmony, uniformity for synthesis. He will know that for all men to be alike is the death of life in man, and yet perceive harmony that transcends all diversities and in which diversity finds its richness and significance.

The burden of being black and the burden of being white is so heavy that it is rare in our society to experience oneself as a human being. It may be, I don’t know, that to experience oneself as a human being is one with experiencing one’s fellows as human beings. It means that the individual must have a sense of kinship to life that transcends and goes beyond the immediate kinship of family or the organic kinship that binds him [or her] ethnically or “racially” or nationally. He has a sense of being an essential part of the structural relationship that exists between him and all other men [and women], and between him, all other men [and women], and the total external environment. As a human being, then, he belongs to life and the whole kingdom of life that includes all that lives and perhaps, also, all that has ever lived. In other words, he sees himself as a part of a continuing, breathing, living existence. To be a human being, then, is to be essentially alive in a living world.

..there are many, many good people around, but very few who are good enough to disturb the peace of the devil.



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