Mirabai Starr is an adjunct professor of philosophy and world religions at the University of New Mexico-Taos. She is the author of God of Love: A Guide to the Heart of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and other works, and is the translator of Dark Night of the Soul, by John of the Cross, and The Interior Castle and The Book of My Life by Teresa of Avila. Recently Starr has emerged as one of the most impressive voices connecting multiple religious traditions. Her years spent at the interfaith Lama Foundation contributed to her understanding; and so, apparently, has her more recent work as a locksmith.
MS: I believe we are endowed with a faculty of discernment that guides us to seek life-giving truths. When we encounter different faiths, we know exactly how to excavate and sift to find the jewels that lie at the heart of each tradition. Every religion contains a treasure trove of wisdom teachings and transformational practices, and each one is also burdened with divisive messages and a history of violence and oppression. The gems are our birthright, and this God-wrestling process is our legacy. Contrary to the assumption that the inter-spiritual path is for those who lack conviction—spiritual dilettantes who dabble in the feel-good aspects of religion because they’re too lazy to cultivate the discipline required for “real” religious life—it requires tremendous rigor and courage to say “yes” to the beauty wherever we encounter it, and to say “no” to whatever generates the poison of “otheriz-ing.” There is a subtle elitism—almost a violence—in the message that we have to “pick one path and go deep,” implying that following multiple points of entry to Spirit precludes depth. My own encounters in an array of religious contexts have been anything but shallow! And I am finding more and more people like me, who seem to be temperamentally incapable of choosing one way to God, to the exclusion of all others.
An Interfaith Crucible: