Known as both a provocative religious leader and a respected spiritual iconoclast, Irwin Kula has inspired thousands nationwide using Jewish wisdom in ways that speak to modern life. He is the author of Yearnings: Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life (Hyperion, Sept. 2006), which won a “Books for a Better Life Award,” and was selected as one of “10 Best Spiritual Books of 2006.” Featured in the public TV special, “The Hidden Wisdom of Our Yearnings,” and the acclaimed film, Time for a New God, he ranked No. 8 in the “Top 50 Rabbis in America,” listed in Newsweek, and was named by Fast Company magazine and “Religion and Ethics Newsweekly” (PBS) as one of the new leaders shaping the American spiritual landscape. A regular on The Today Show, he is the co-host of Hirschfield and Kula: Intelligent Talk Radio (KXL, Portland, OR), and hosted his own public TV series, Simple Wisdom with Irwin Kula. Rabbi Kula is the President of CLAL, The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.
Transcript:Well I mean I think there’s at least two fundamental forces. One is a kind of spiritual evolution, or religious evolution, and this sense that we are both in nature and separate from nature at the same time. Those are two very difficult things to hold together. And a sense that we really can improve our lot; that life isn’t simply an endless cycle. And each religion, especially the _________ religions . . . each of those religions interpreted and taught that insight in different ways. But fundamentally, we’re not simply in an endless, repetitive cycle; but we are in an ongoing spiral; sometimes two steps back and one step forward; a real movement in progress towards ever-greater consciousness and awareness of life itself. I think that’s the one, single, great, propelling force. And the other is that that seems to have been always expressed in increasingly new technologies; increasingly new use of our minds to fashion objects that allow us to use that ever-evolving consciousness. Now sometimes that technology is ahead of our consciousness, so you can . . . you know, you can build the technology that actually kills you. And that’s . . . One of the real features of this moment is we’ve been through three of four major, technological, and psycho spiritual moments of transition. So whether it’s from hunter-gatherer, to agrarian, to industrial, now to we can call this technological, or informational, or we can call this post-industrial. And that goes with a spiritual cycle evolution. And if those two things aren’t together, a lot of people get killed in the mix. And now right now one of the issues that we are in that transition. We have a technology that actually captures the deepest spiritual insights. The deepest spiritual insight is that we are all inter-dependent and connected. That’s the fundamental spiritual insight of every tradition. And because we are interconnected, and because we are interdependent, we have to treat each other in a certain way; because when I treat you, I’m actually just treating myself in a different form. Now that takes a lot of awareness to get to to feel that. That’s why you have spiritual traditions doing their teachings on the wisdom side, and you have a lot of practices to try to make that happen. For the first time in human history we actually have a technology that matches that spiritual insight. That’s what it means to have a global community. That’s what it means to be able to have a global web. People really are interconnected, and I think that’s mind blowing because . . . And for a lot of people for sure it’s mind blowing because for one thing it’s kind of, you know . . . you know kind of talk about it in some kind of highfaluting spiritual way. “Oh we’re all interconnected. We’re all interdependent. A butterfly, you know, in Alaska. And we, you know, in Mexico waves,” that’s very nice. And here you go online and you see the technology and you are. My daughter has pen pals all over the world. She went to Hungary for a summer and she has pen pals . . . She has relationships and IMing people in India. She’s IMing people in Russia. She’s IMing people in Hungary, you know? I mean my parents . . . my father came here in 1938 from Poland. It was the longest . . . He had never traveled more than seven miles in his life, and he was traveling across the ocean. And now my daughter can go “poof” and talk to somebody in India and see what her house looks like. And so that technology, which in a sense concertizes and realizes the deepest spiritual insights, now it realizes it in the material world what this spiritual insight is. It was more than just the material world, but it’s an emotional, and intellectual, and spiritual, and ethical world of meaning that has to match up to that technology.