What is Intercultural Spirituality?

Rev. Ruth Hoppe

Speaking from the Heart, Drumming, Rites of Passage, and Dreamwork

Intercultural spirituality is an emerging force in our culture. The last half of the 20th century was and today is an incredibly creative time for most spiritual seekers. Spirituality can be defined as connection with the divine or with one’s own essence, as opposed to religiosity, which means participation in an organization, such as a church, temple, or mosque. Spirituality and religiously can go together, but one does not necessarily lead to the other. Spirituality is also seen as expressing one’s own authenticity, sexuality, and creativity – in other words, whatever is most sacred to oneself. Spirituality is not limited to the individual, for nurturing community is often a goal of spiritual life.

Speaking strictly for Americans, because I only know a little about what’s happened in the rest of the world, people have sought far and wide for new forms of spirituality. They shopped around for the perfect combination of deities, beliefs, traditions, and practices to meet their needs. Some spiritual adventurers have become serial group joiners, delving deeply into one practice for a while, then moving on to the next one. Others have rushed through so many cultures and practices, they have no idea where they’ve been. Some became tasters at a virtual smorgasbord, combining cultures, sacraments, and ceremonies in a wild, Californiaesque stew. For some, their journeys have taken them back to their original roots, but with fresh perspectives and appreciation for the traditions of their childhood.

Spiritual shopping has dismayed many traditional native peoples, who have seen their cherished spiritual traditions being bought, sold, trivialized, and trashed. On the other hand, some tribal people have eagerly sought out apprentices, whether native or not, because they wanted to ensure that their traditions would not be lost forever. Another goal is a practical one to preserve us all – that is, to spread an earth-centered gospel for the health and well-being of Mother Earth and all her living beings. There is a form of "amen" in Lakota that says, "Ah-ho-mitakweyesin! – For all our relations!" We are all connected – none of us acts alone.

Intercultural spirituality is derived from these odd and sometimes awkward combinations. At the heart of it is the discovery or recovery of a few core practices that enhance people’s health, harmony, and happiness. Some of the practices exist today only among tribal people, but they probably were practiced by all cultures at one time, if we go back far enough. Such intercultural activities may include speaking from the heart with respectful listening, drumming, earth attunement, vision seeking, singing, dancing, creating art, conscious breathing, life passage rituals, energy healing, sacred sexuality, prayer, meditation, and sharing dreams. This list certainly is not complete, but simply a beginning in understanding the implications of intercultural spirituality.