Parliament of the World’s Religions by Dr. Barbara Condron

Parliament of the World’s Religions Choral performance of The Power of Prayer around the World


In the Presence of Greatness

Members of the ICOM choir performed “The Power of Prayer around the World” during the 1993 Parliament. This cantata reflected the unity of teachings in nine of the world’s Holy Scriptures.
I was attracted to the School of Metaphysics at the
Parliament of the World’s Religions in 1993.
Since that time I have moved to the United States from England
in order to pursue my studies at the School, to become a spiritual teacher, and to attain all possible degees
of learning with the school. I am happy to be a part of an organization
which is at the heart of the emergence of a spiritual age for mankind.” AS


A Retrospection on the

Parliament of the World’s Religions

by Dr. Barbara Condron

From the Opening Plenary in the Grand Ballroom of the Palmer House on Saturday, August 28th to the Closing Plenary in Grant Park the following Saturday night, the Parliament of the World’s Religions was a constant source of inspiration, knowledge, and insight. Over 7500 people gathered in downtown Chicago from all points on the globe to join with those of like minds and strengthen dreams and visions for what we in the School of Metaphysics call the evolution of Spiritual Man.
From the first moment of Parliament, there was the sense of being in the presence of imminent greatness. The Opening Procession of over 600 dignitaries, individuals from the CPWR’s co-sponsoring organizations, and representatives of the fourteen major Host Committees in the ceremonial attire of the major religions of the world was soul stirring. These were the individuals who made this Parliament possible through spiritual and material involvement and support. As we entered the ballroom to the harmonious sounds of the Drepung Loseling Monks and the “Music of the Baroque”, a sense of awe and reverence filled the spirit just to witness the coming together of such a wide and diverse group of people. Blessings and invocations were given by eighteen religious leaders from the world’s faiths including Buddhist, Catholic, Hindu, Methodist, Unitarian, and Zoastrian traditions. Each prayer reflected the common ideals of peace, justice, and humanitarian fellowship. It became increasingly clear throughout the days ahead that we are indeed one people, with a common origin transcending the physical realm and embracing unifying hopes for a better world.
Sunday’s activities began with a silent meditation led by world-famous Indian spiritual leader and peace activist Sri Chinmoy who was instrumental in the creation of a space for meditation and prayer at the United Nations in New York. The major address, “Interfaith Harmony and Understanding” was presented by Robert Muller, former Deputy Secretary General of the U.N. and now president of a university in Costa Rica. Mr. Muller touched the hearts of everyone with his experience, vision, and personal stories of his continued communication with his recently deceased wife. He spoke of a dream for a World Spiritual Center or organization to be proposed to the U.N. in 1995, the fiftieth anniversary of that distinguished body. I was particularly impressed by his thoughts regarding the many educational centers covering every imaginable area of focus that exist throughout the world. Mr. Muller said that among all of these there was not one established for the study and attainment of peace. In the days to come, we were able to introduce this wonderful man to the School and College of Metaphysics which exist for the purpose he recognizes as sorely needed by all of humanity. One of the most profound statements he made was “everything depends on personal commitment”.
At a later plenary that day, Dr. Gerald Barney of the Millennium Institute outside Washington, D.C., delivered a mind-expanding address entitled “What Shall We Do?” During President Jimmy Carter’s administration, Dr. Barney was commissioned to provide a prospectus for the United States in the year 2000 based upon all open and classified information available at the time. Specially for Parliament, he and his staff updated his prospectus on a world-wide scale and presented the three significant challenges facing humanity: overpopulation, land use, and land productivity/yields. Dr. Barney described our need as a world community to dream a new dream to respond to these challenges, and his wonderful vision of global involvement in the future of humanity is an outstanding image filled with hope and cooperation.
Upon arriving, each Parliament member received a 150 page, book-size catalogue describing the week’s offerings. Program Chairman Jim Kenney stated it as filled with an embarrassment of riches, and indeed this was to be the case. At any given hour, Tuesday through Friday, two dozen major addresses, seminars, classes, or musical presentations were taking place on any of five floors of the Palmer House reserved for Parliament activities. These presentations were divided into six major categories: 1] The Earth, Science and Technology, 2] Social Challenge, 3] Community and Culture, 4] The Language of the Spirit, 5] Religions of the World, and 6] Body and Mind. People from all over the world – religious leaders, university professors, presidents of organizations – were sharing their knowledge on topics ranging from “Religion in the Year 2020” to “The Yoga of Cells” to “Kirtan: Devotional Songs in the Sikh Tradition”. As Mr. Kenney said, “The catalogue you hold in your hands is a simply extraordinary sampling of human religious and spiritual reflection at the close of the twentieth century.” 
Thursday evening saw the awarding of the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion to Charles Colson who founded the Prison Fellowship in 1976, now a world-wide evangelical organization. The $1 million prize has been awarded annually since 1973 and previous recipients include Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the Rev. Billy Graham of USA, author Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Hindu lawyer Baba Amte of India, and Professor Carl Friedrich von Weizacker of Germany. 
The magnificent Rockefeller Chapel on the campus of the University of Chicago was filled with several thousand who came to hear Mr. Colson speak on “The Enduring Revolution”. His talk was inspiring as he addressed the four myths facing humanity today. A disciple of Christianity, he equated these myths with the four horsemen in the Book of Revelation in the Bible. The myths cited were the goodness of man, the promise of a coming utopia, the relativity of moral values, and radical individualism. Mr. Colson said the revolution begins in the human heart, and it is found in submission to a moral law. The Truths he shared transcended any favoritism he showed to his own Christian faith, entering the realm of Universal Truth that we all can live by.
The Closing Plenary included the keynote address by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who endearingly addressed thousands in what he called “broken English”. The 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner was filled with Truth. He noted that most of the problems facing the world are manmade, and these stem from a lack of moral principle and self discipline. Noting that materiality leaves an emptiness, he identified the something that we find lacking is human spirituality. He stressed the need “to practice with the heart, not just the head,” and encouraged all of us to practice sincerely, not just one or two weeks, but year after year. “This will develop spirituality and communion with other human beings will come easier.” His words were well received by this metaphysician, and I’m confident that their meaning is embraced by any student of applied metaphysics. 
His Holiness stressed that the message of all great teachers is the same, and we must know the value of other religious traditions through experience. He spoke on how to achieve happiness through compassion, love freed from attachment. He addressed individual potential and the need to implement with determination the expanded ideas received from interchanges during Parliament. It was an honor to be in his presence. His wisdom, sincerity, and warmth were evident in every thought and word. We hope to receive permission to publish his complete address in upcoming issues of Thresholds. 
During the Closing Plenary, Dr. David Ramage, chairman of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, presented the Declaration of a Global Ethic signed by over one hundred religious leaders attending the Parliament. Dr. Ramage served as moderator during three days of meetings between the leaders. During deliberations, he described those attending as often having a sense of the Holy, a clear perception of the search for Truth, and a deep concern for the earth and its people. This well-described my own thoughts throughout the week of Parliament. The result of those deliberations is The Global Ethic setting forth core values found in teachings from all religions. An outstanding document, it includes a commitment to living Truth and recognizing all of humankind as a family. Those adhering to its precepts pledge to “increase our awareness by disciplining our mind, by meditation, by prayer, or by positive thinking.” These principles are easy for us to embrace and uphold because we, in the School of Metaphysics, know the richness of these daily practices. Recently at a National Teachers Conference held at School of Metaphysics Headquarters on the campus of the College of Metaphysics, all faculty members signed a document which has been forwarded to the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions supporting The Global Ethic in commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of SOM. And, we join the Parliament of the World’s Religions in its closing thought in The Global Ethic: “We invite all people whether religious or not to do the same.”
Parliament was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Its spirit will continue to thrive through all who made such a gathering possible, and I feel sure we will meet many of these great souls again. Every day I was honored in so many ways — to be in the presence of the most enlightened, intelligent, compassionate, and influential individuals on the planet, to be qualified to represent the School and International Church of Metaphysics and their teachings, to know with full conviction that the ideals and practices we teach are those that have been and are taught by all great Spiritual teachers and so much in demand world-wide. 
Here at Thresholds we are committed to sharing the Spirit of Parliament with you. In upcoming issues of Thresholds you will find articles which have their roots in what occurred during those eight days. You will learn about the Parliament of the People, a daily gathering of hundreds of Parliament participants who shared their visions for a better world. From His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s keynote address to the tenets of The Global Ethic, from indepth reports on the Millennium Institute to the teachings of the world’s religions, we will continue to share with you the wisdom and insights given by today’s great religious teachers in the issues to come.•

Dr. Barbara Condron, the International Church of Metaphysics representative to the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, was a presenter at this year’s Parliament. The text of her seminar presentation, “Spiritual Initiation: Gateways to Transcendent Consciousness” will be published in a future issue of Thresholds Quarterly. 

In their own words….
..reflections from those 
who made the 1993 Parliament possible

“We come to commemorate that glorious ground breaking event of 1893 and we come to better prepare ourselves to meet the challenges of the present and the future.
We ask that you delve deeply into the offerings of this event. They are rich and varied…But mostly we ask that you come to share, to learn, to enter into dialogue with others and to seek with others ways to overcome conflict and ways to nurture and heal our world and its people.
Most of us share the precept that it is good that we respect others even as we wish to be respected ourselves. May that be a watchword of this great and challenging opportunity.
I try to be a person of hope. I ask you to join me in the hope that from this gathering great good may come. Thank you for coming, for your faith, and for your hope. Welcome to an occasion which might send out beacons of hope to a troubled and broken world.
Let us laugh with joy, cry with sympathy and commit our efforts, both spiritual and temporal, to a future of peace.”

Dr. David Ramage, Jr. 
Chairman of the Council Board of Trustees
President of McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago

“At Soto Zen monasteries, meals are preceded by a chant: ‘Seventy-two labors brought us this food. We should know how it comes to us.’ There are 72 traditional roles in the monastery, from cook to abbot. Together they make the life of the community possible.
In our time the distinctions between community and planet seem to have disappeared. The health of the whole depends more than ever on the strength of the individuals and their ability to live harmoniously together, conscious of their interdependence. Because strength and consciousness arise from the spirit, the world’s faiths are central to our hopes of protecting Earth and living peacefully together. The 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions is dedicated to sending this message of hope to the whole world.
In the five years since we began the work of bringing this Parliament into being, I have seen how vision and a great purpose have knit together a family of caring and committed persons. At first there were only a few of us, meeting around a kitchen table. Now we are thousands. Now we know from experience how collaboration brings understanding and love, bridging the distance between our many different origins, cultures, and faiths — even between our individual experiences. Building our bridges of love and keeping them strong has meant effort, and all of us have had to grow in ways we might never have anticipated.
This work is an example of what is being done in many places to heal the planet. It begins small. It keeps its roots in the hearts of people. It creates communities. It nourishes. Each one of us knows this work is the path of the spirit in the world.”

Daniel Gomez-Ibanez, Executive Director 
Council for a Parliament 
of the World’s Religions

“Over the past several months, I have been personally blessed to have had the opportunity to work with such a dedicated, diverse team of women and men representing so many religions and faith traditions. These women and men have worked incessantly, many times under less than desirable conditions, with a singular goal, to make the 1993 Parliament a reality. Each day, we have witnessed an increasing commitment to interfaith dialogue. As a team, we have taken an adamant posture that it is only through our collective spirituality, increased interfaith understanding and dialogue that our problems will be solved. This commitment and dedication has come from all quarters; our trustees, our staff, our co-sponsors, our host committees, our donors and our volunteers.
We have learned from each other, and, as importantly we have unlearned from each other. To quote my African American ancestor and spiritual sister, Fannie Barrier Williams during the 1893 Parliament, “It is not an easy task to unlearn religious conceptions.” This has been the challenge in presenting to you the 1993 Parliament and this has been the opportunity we have been afforded…a Parliament that belongs to all of us.
Welcome, enjoy, learn, share and allow the experience of the 1993 Parliament to be more than a historical moment. Let it become the impetus for a renewal of dedication and commitment to positive change benefiting all women and men in our world community. May God’s blessings be with you.”

Dr. Nelvia M. Brady
Chief Operating Officer for Parliament and Trustee-Elect

copyright 2002 School of Metaphysics





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