A message from our Founder

The Right Reverend S. Allen Shawcross, JP, OSJ, DD(Hon)

Welcome to the Australian Fellowship of Seven Planes web site.

It must be recognised that the religious face of this planet is changing. At a dramatic pace, more and more regions of the world are becoming environments of multi-culture and multi-faith. At the root of this phenomenon are international patterns of immigration. Throughout the 20th century, the worldwide movement of peoples and cultures provoked a meeting of religions that is new to history.

This historic encounter of religions is accompanied by another remarkable phenomenon—the multi-faith movement.

I don’t see multi-faith as disparate religious groups meeting to share their personal spiritual journeys, especially those elements in their respective traditions that have proved most helpful in understanding each other and then going their separate ways but as different religious groups united but separate under the banner of “One God with Many Names”.

In past centuries, Christian missionaries viewed other cultures and other religions as corrupt and godless. The modern missionary is more likely to see God as already present and active in other religious cultures and practices.

The first item on our “Statement Of Doctrine” declares: “There is one Supreme Being, called by many names, giver of life and the source of all healing”.  So it seems to me that there are several points of agreement between the various faiths:

  • The world religions bear witness to the experience of Ultimate Reality to which they give various names Brahman, Allah, Absolute, God, and Great Spirit.
  • Ultimate Reality cannot be limited by any name or concept.
  • Ultimate Reality is the ground of infinite potentiality and actualisation.
  • Faith is opening, accepting and responding to Ultimate Reality. Faith in this sense precedes every belief system.
  • The potential for human wholeness, enlightenment, salvation, transformation, blessedness, "nirvana" -- is present in every human person.
  • Ultimate Reality may be experienced not only through religious practices but also through nature, art, human relationships, and service of others.
  • As long as the human condition is experienced as separate from Ultimate Reality, it is subject to ignorance and illusion, weakness and suffering.
  • Disciplined practice is essential to the spiritual life; yet spiritual attainment is not the result of one's own efforts, but the result of the experience of oneness with Ultimate Reality.

Also there are several additional points of agreement of a more practical nature:

  • The practice of compassion
  • Service to others
  • Practicing moral precepts and virtues
  • Training in meditation techniques and regularity of practice
  • Attention to diet and exercise
  • Fasting and abstinence
  • The use of music and chanting and sacred symbols
  • Practice in awareness (recollection, mindfulness) and living in the present moment
  • Pilgrimage
  • Study of scriptural texts and scriptures

We at the Australian Fellowship of Seven Planes are always surprised and delighted to find so many points of similarity and convergence in the respective paths of all religions. Therefore we state frankly what we believe and why, without at the same time, making any effort to convince others of our own position. We simply present our understanding as a contribution to the www audience.

But we have some ground rules for multifaith dialogue. We are prepared to engage in dialogue but not debate. Debate is oppositional: two or more sides oppose each other and attempt to prove each other wrong. Dialogue is collaborative: two or more sides work together toward a common understanding. We prefer the collaborative approach.

So these are our ground rules for multi faith dialogue.

  • The primary purpose of dialogue is to learn; that is, to change and grow in the perception and understanding of reality, and then to act accordingly.
  • Each participant must come to the dialogue with complete honesty and sincerity.
  • Each must come to the dialogue with no hard-and-fast assumptions as to where the points of disagreement are.
  • Dialogue can take place only between equals... Both must come to learn from each other.
  • Dialogue can take place only on the basis of mutual trust.
  • Persons entering multifaith dialogue must be at least minimally self-critical of both themselves and their own religious or ideological traditions.

Finally I present some guidelines designed to facilitate healthy dialogue to create a safe space for meaningful conversation on all levels. This is particularly important when contributing to the various AFSP forums:

  • What we assume is often invisible to us. We assume that others have had the same experiences that we have, and that is how we listen to them. Learn to recognise assumptions by noticing when you get upset or annoyed by something someone else is saying, you may be making an assumption. Assume nothing - let it go - suspend it - and resume listening for understanding of the other.
  • Informed by your tradition, beliefs and practices as you have interpreted them in your life speak for yourself; take ownership of what you say and delete such phrases "we all", "of course", "everyone says", "you know", from the dialogue. The only person you can truly speak for - is you.
  • The purpose of dialogue is to come to an understanding of the other, not to determine whether they are good, bad, right or wrong. If you are sitting there thinking: 'That's good", 'That's bad", "I like that" "I don't like that", then you are having a conversation in your own mind, rather than listening to others.
  • Everyone is an equal partner in the dialogue. There is no seniority or hierarchy. All are colleagues with a mutual quest for insight and clarity. You are, everyone of you, an expert in your life. That is what you bring to the dialogue.
  • You do not have to agree with or believe anything that is said. Our duty is to listen for understanding.
  • Notice what needs to be said rather than what you want to say.

I therefore invite all of you to journey with he Australian Fellowship of Seven Planes, and together we can bring alive the real meaning of multifaith.

Allen Shawcross

Bishop Retired
Australian Fellowship
of Seven Planes

Foundation Congregation of the
Fellowship of Seven Planes

retired Bishop Allen Shawcross