Wayne Robert Teasdale (16 January 1945 – 20 October 2004) was a Catholic monk, author and teacher from Connecticut, best known as an energetic proponent of mutual understanding between the world's religions, for an interfaith dialogue which he termed "interspirituality". He was also an active campaigner on issues of social justice.
Teasdale had found himself spiritually challenged by the political turmoil of 1960s America, having the effect of plunging him into a spiral of reflective turbulence which lasted three years. While a student at a small Catholic college, he started visiting St. Joseph's Abbey, a Cistercian monastery near Spencer, Massachusetts. Here he came under the spiritual direction of the then abbot, Thomas Keating, a founder of the centering prayer movement. Teasdale received a master's degree in philosophy and later, in 1986, a Ph.D. in theology from Fordham University. His dissertation was on the theology of the Benedictine monk Dom Bede Griffiths, who had lived much of his life at an ashram he had founded in southern India. Teasdale went on to teach at DePaul University, Columbia College, the Benedictine University, and Catholic Theological Union in Chicago where he lived for many years.
Throughout the 1970s and 80s, Teasdale had a long relationship with the Franciscan Brothers of the Good News, a semi-eremitic Franciscan community living in hermitiges the forests of the Berkshires in Cummington, Massachusetts. He frequented the hermitage and often dialogued with the Franciscans there while working on his dissertation on Father Bede Griffiths.
Following a correspondence with Bede Griffiths, a founder of the Christian Ashram Movement, Teasdale decided to visit the Shantivanam Ashram in Tamil Nadu and for two years lived at an ashram nearby. Inspired by Griffiths' example, Teasdale became a Christian sanyassa ("renunciate") in 1989. He formally took profession as a canonical hermit under canon 604 in the Roman Catholic Church before Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago, in 2003.
Often he labored at various social causes, from environmental responsibility to homelessness, especially while he lived in Chicago. He spoke quietly about how to benefit the human community. Often people would be affected by the kindness of his heart. He could also be funny and rollicking. Teasdale served the Parliament of the World's Religions by sitting on its Board of Trustees, where he worked with others in order to convene the centenary parliament of 1993 in Chicago. This event brought together eight thousand people of many different faiths worldwide; out of it came the Guidelines for a Global Ethic.
Devoted to a new interfaith understanding, Teasdale came to espouse what he termed "interspirituality", a perspective that discovered in the world religions a degree of commonality which could be approached through mystical experience. Teasdale was active in promoting and developing this facet of spirituality.
He associated with several contemplative and interfaith groups, including the Hundred Acres Monastery in New Hampshire (his resident address for several years), the North American Board for East-West Dialogue, and Common Ground (Center for inquiry, study, and dialogue). Teasdale also was coordinator of the Bede Griffiths Trust. He became well acquainted with the Dalai Lama. As a member of the Monastic Interreligious Dialogue, he assisted the Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso) and others, including the Cistercian Thomas Keating, in negotiating the text of the Universal Declaration on Nonviolence (1990), which sought to further the Satyagraha ideals established by Gandhi.
The Synthesis Dialogues has sponsored several conferences for selected religious and secular leaders, which aimed at increasing dialogue between faiths and at discerning how such interspiritual cooperation could benefit human affairs in general. Teasdale worked with the group initiating the dialogues.
In 2002, Teasdale, with friends and colleagues, founded Interspiritual Dialogue (ISD), an NGO accredited by the United Nations Department of Public Information. After his death in 2004, ISD expanded internationally to become Interspiritual Dialogue 'n' Action. This network works to promulgate Teasdale's vision of interspirituality and the interspiritual age. In 2008, ISDnA, the Common Ground Conferences and other of Teasdale's friends partnered with One Spirit Learning Alliance and Interfaith Seminary in New York City to form an educational program based on Teasdale's work and that of the Integral thinkers such as Ken Wilber and Don Beck. A centerpiece of this program has been articulated by Gorakh Hayashi and Kurt Johnson, colleagues of Teasdale, in The Heart of Brother Wayne Teasdale's Vision of the Interspiritual Age (Vision in Action, 2008).
In 2009 ISDnA created the educational website InterSpiritual Multiplex: A Guide and Directory to InterSpirituality Worldwide. In 2010, ISDnA partnered with the Order of Universal Interfaith and the World Council of Interfaith Congregations to create, with some one hundred founders including many friends of Teasdale, The Universal Order of Sannyasa, as association of interspiritual contemplatives and sacred activists envisioned by and spoken of by Teasdale in all of his books. Soon after its January 2010 founding, the name was modified from "The Universal Order of Sannyasa" to "Community of The Mystic Heart, an Interspiritual Circle of Mystics and Contemplatives originally envisioned as the Universal Order of Sannyasa by Bro. Wayne Teasdale".
The purpose of the community (established as a religious order and able to ordain "interspiritual ministers" and "wisdom keepers") fulfills Teasdale's vision of an active international association dedicated to spiritual life practice, sacred activism and advancement of the interspiritual message. Kurt Johnson became the first administrator serving a circle-style leadership including numerous persons associated with Teasdale during his life's work.
Teasdale died of cancer in 2004. His funeral Mass took place at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago and he was buried in Calvary Cemett in Evanston, IL. As his casket was being lowered on a cloudy and slightly-rainy day, a circle of close friends of Wayne were gathered around his burial plot. The moment his casket touched the earth, a cloud that was blocking the sun moved and the shining sun bathed everyone in its warm light.
- Essays in Mysticism: Explorations into Contemplative Experience, Foreword by George A. Maloney (Liturgical Publications/Sunday Publications 1982) ISBN 0-941850-02-1
- Towards a Christian Vedanta: The Encounter of Hinduism and Christianity according to Bede Griffiths (Asian Trading Corporation 1987) ISBN 81-7086-122-5 Developed from his dissertation at Fordham University.
- The Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religions, Foreword by the Dalai Lama, Preface by Beatrice Bruleau (New World Library 1999) ISBN 1-57731-140-X
- A Monk in the World: Cultivating a Spiritual Life, Foreword by Ken Wilber (New World Library 2002) ISBN 1-57731-437-9
- Bede Griffiths: An Introduction to his Interspiritual Thought, Foreword by Bede Griffiths (Skylight Paths Publishing 2003) ISBN 1-893361-77-2
- Catholicism in Dialogue: Conversations across the Traditions (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers 2004) ISBN 0-7425-3177-5
- The Mystic Hours: A Daybook of Inspirational Wisdom and Devotion (New World Library 2004) ISBN 1-57731-472-7
- The Community of Religions: Voices and Images of the Parliament of the World's Religions, editor, with George Cairns (Continuum International Publishing Group 1996) ISBN 0-8264-0899-0
- Awakening the Spirit, Inspiring the Soul: 30 Stories of Interspiritual Discovery in the Community of Faiths, editor, with Martha Howard, Foreword by Joan Borysenko (Skylight Paths Publishing 2004) ISBN 1-59473-039-3
- "The Heart of Brother Wayne Teasdale's Vision of the Interspiritual Age" Vision in Action Spring 2008 (2008).
- "The Meeting of East and West: Elements of a relationship" Spirituality Today vol. 38 (1986).
- "Interreligious dialogues since Vatican II. The monastic contemplation dimension" Spirituality Today 43: 119-133 (1991).
- "Spirituality as a Primary Resource in Promoting Peace"
- Hermitage of the Heart: Contemplative Practices from Hundred Acres Monastery (2003 Sounds True) [Cassette] ISBN 1-56455-952-1
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- Interspiritual Dialogue 'n' Action
- Memorial site
- One Spirit Learning Alliance and Interfaith Seminary website
- Order of Universal Interfaith website
- Community of the Mystical Heart website
- Interspiritual multiplex website
- Amy Edelstein's interview with Teasdale
- Universal Declaration on Nonviolence
- Review of A Monk in the World
- "Determined to be Free": an interview with ascent magazine.