Can Perennial Wisdom Save Our Future?

Roadside Musings

Can Perennial Wisdom Save Our Future?


Taking the "longpath" view of the future can help us become better people today and better ancestors tomorrow.

Ari Wallach, author of Longpath: Becoming the Great Ancestors Our Future Needs, suggests that human history is marked by intertidal periods of transformation: moments in time when everything shifts, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Among these, he lists the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions, the Enlightenment, and…now, this very moment in our history.

Reading the book and speaking with Ari on the Spirituality & Health Podcast, I couldn’t help but think of longpath in the context of religion and spirituality. Certainly, we have experienced intertidal moments in the history of spirituality: the emergence of monotheism, for example, and the shift from religions rooted in sacrifice (human and animal) to religions rooted in ethics, to name but two. How might our current intertidal moment impact religion and spirituality?

On the surface, the resurgence of ethnocentric tribal religion in countries as diverse as the United States, Russia, Israel, Iran, Indonesia, and India might suggest that the future of religion is bleak, violent, and devoted to fueling the darkest elements of the human psyche. At the same time, the rise of the spiritually independent—those who refuse to limit themselves to one religion or another and find value in the wisdom and practices of diverse religions—may suggest that ours is a time of spiritual revolution where the mystic wisdom of all religions offers us a global spirituality rooted not in ethnicity but ethics, not in zero-sum theologies of religious winners and losers, but in non-zero-sum theologies that speak of an infinite Aliveness called by many names (Chiut, Brahman, Tao, Mother, and many others) of which each life and all life is a part.

While this intertidal spirituality—what I call Perennial Wisdom—has roots in the mystical teachings of the world’s religions, these religions themselves seem to reject their own mystics (or interpret them in tribalistic ways that erase their universalist insight), suggesting that the future of religion is one of either irrelevance or transcendence. That is to say, religion as we know it will either stay the same and do all it can to foreclose spiritual and mystical evolution, or it will reinvent itself from its mystic core rather than its clerical hierarchy and evolve into something new that celebrates the divinity of all life as a part of and never apart from Divine Aliveness.

While I have devoted my adult life to the latter, I fear it is the former that will win out. Indeed, I suspect the rise of zero-sum religion and its messianic fantasies will, along with its secular doppelganger, the escapist techno–Gnosticism shaping much of Big Tech thinking and the metaverse, spell a great dark night of the human soul from which we may never emerge, unless we embrace the longpath thinking of people like Ari Wallach.

Listen to Rabbi Rami's interview with Ari Wallach here.

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Can Perennial Wisdom Save Our Future

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