How ISDnA Came About—The Inspiration of Bro. Wayne

by Kurt Johnson

The purpose of ISDnA is the furtherance of the prophetic interspiritual vision of Bro. Wayne Teasdale. Thus, it is my privilege to welcome you here with some comments on the co-founding of InterSpiritual Dialogue (“ISD”) by Bro. Wayne and others and how it became the driving force for the circle of friends with whom we now do this wider international work, ISDnA.

I became acquainted with Bro. Wayne in 2002 after Martha Gallahue, another eventual co-founder of ISD, told me I must read his book The Mystic Heart: Finding a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religions. I had little idea at the time that there was a profound synchronicity in this meeting. Wayne and I discovered we not only shared a long history in the celibate Christian religious life (for me 14 years beginning in 1969 with the Anglican Holy Cross order and then in wider, sometimes controversial, ecumenical experiments) but also life transforming experience which had flowed - for both of us - from Hinduism’s Advaitic traditions (where I now practice and teach and from Dzogchen (Tibetan Buddhism) and shamanism.

This profound confluence of shared experience made it possible for Wayne and I to readily communicate and I think was why, as Wayne learned of my and others’ wide connections in New York to the UN NGO (non-governmental organization) community, he asked us to begin (in 2003) what became InterSpiritual Dialogue (ISD). ISD became the dominant force in my own spiritual practice; it aimed at fulfilling Bro. Wayne’s vision, in The Mystic Heart, of an “association” (as he called it) to promulgate interspirituality and interspiritual dialogue. This “association” (evolving from his idea of a “Universal Order of Sannyasa”) was a core in Bro. Wayne’s dream and the topic about which he said he had gotten more response from the readership of The Mystic Heart than any other. It is fair to say that my 30-some years in western and eastern spiritual practice, and 20 simultaneous years in professional science (where my PhD and many publications concern ecology and evolutionary biology and where I also work with the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s “Dialogue of Science, Ethics and Religion”) found a “life cause” in meeting Brother Wayne’s vision of a world with all of its details transformed by the Heart.

An early meeting at Omega Institute, New York, in 2003, about the future of Bro. Wayne’s vision and the founding of ISD. The gathering included Kurt Johnson, Advaita leaders Neelam, Pamela Wilson, and Annette, Sufi leader Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Barbara Cushing of Kalliopeia, Alan Steinfeld of New Realities, Celia Macedo of the ISD email service, and other members and friends of the original ISD community.

After 2003, ISD grew from a circle of friends from diverse spiritual communities (especially the “Founding Counselors” of ISD, see, Who We Are) to a group with whom Wayne hoped to host at the 2004 Parliament of the World’s Religion a session on interspirituality and interspiritual dialogue. Again, little did I know that Wayne’s illness, making it impossible for him to come to the Parliament in Barcelona, would be the very mechanism for Waynes “group in New York” to meet the other major group with whom Wayne was also working - The Common Ground group, headed by Wayne’s dear friend and colleague at Columbia College, Chicago - Gorakh Hayashi. Gorakh well records that rather poignant meeting he and I had in a café in Barcelona, dominated by our concern that just as this effort was beginning, Wayne’s health appeared to be in severe danger.

Wayne’s transition in October 2004 brought a profound transition to my own life as well as others who had begun to work with him. It was shortly thereafter that the Interspiritual Dialogue and Common Ground groups began to see that their future, and the future of Bro. Wayne’s dream of his “Universal Order of Sannyasa”, appeared inextricably tied together.

Wayne had always predicted that it would be the power of “authentic friendships” that would drive his dream of an association dedicated to promulgating interspiritual dialogue and interspirituality. I asked him once how that could ever happen. He said, with that look about him that has such a sense of the imperative:

“We have to believe that extraordinary people will come forward and establish extraordinary relationships”

How prophetic this was, especially I believe to those who gathered at The Crossings, Austin, to honor Brother Wayne and his legacy in early September 2005. From that gathering developed the ISDnA “organizer group”, a representation of friends and admirers of Bro. Wayne who, from many geographic locations and spiritual and vocational backgrounds, have joined together to further dedicate themselves, and draw others, to Wayne’s “World Dream” through a wider umbrella, ISDnA. There are many of us who now find our own biographies indelibly tied with that of Brother Wayne. It is a testimony to his gift as a synthesizer, one who had the ability to record a vision that could pull many others in, much like profound art communicates to so many.

It is my wish that all those who have felt this pull from Brother Wayne’s Mystic Heart will work tirelessly to see something substantiate from his prophetic vision.

We at ISDnA realize we are only one of many “eddies” in what is a larger whirlpool of spiritual practitioners and others envisioning the possibility of world transformation. But we also are those who realize we happen to be a group whose own stories are now tied closely with that of Brother Wayne’s vision of The Mystic Heart. I am hoping that people far more able than ourselves will eventually become part of this world dream and find their personal stories also profoundly altered by Brother Wayne - “Monk in the World”.

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