Since its inception in 1984, the Open Center has been committed to a multi-cultural world in which the gifts of all spiritual paths with integrity are honored and celebrated. At this time of rising nationalism and fundamentalism, two of the most retrograde impulses in the contemporary world, we stand for a human present and future that embraces ethnic, religious, and cultural diversity.
Whether the path is Sufism, Yoga, Christian mysticism, Judaism, Buddhism, indigenous spirituality or the many other ways to a deeper understanding of the inner world, we support it. Of course, not all practitioners of such paths operate with equal clarity so we have always sought to exercise appropriate discernment when necessary. But the essential commitment to a society in which diversity is celebrated remains foundational to our work and always will be.
There are currently many grotesque forces at work in the world seeking to take us back to a time that brought us World Wars and countless difficult struggles for peace and justice. But New York has always modeled a wild and crazy mix of peoples and cultures, brought together to learn, if inadvertently, from each other, sometimes more successfully than others.
As the original major center of holistic learning in this vibrant world city, we have always felt a responsibility to offer programs that provide opportunities to slip into wisdom streams that may be far from the one we were born into but that enables us to expand consciousness, love, and compassion.
At a time of division in America, we must all decide if we favor ‘e pluribus unum,’ creating one out of the many, or if we want to work to split apart ethnicities and cultures and turn them against each other in a manner that so many immigrants sought to escape in their native lands. Living in this city teaches us that all human beings are essentially the same regardless of color or culture. We all have similar hopes and dreams and the same need for love and connection. In fact, we New Yorkers are privileged to live in an environment in which we can meet people every day whose backgrounds are profoundly different from our own. With a healthy holistic worldview, our appreciation of our shared humanity across racial and social lines can evolve joyfully over time. That’s part of what personal growth means.
So the Open Center, as our name suggests, heartily endorses Albert Einstein’s statement that our task must be ‘widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.’ We happily describe ourselves as a Center of Holistic Learning and World Culture. We delight in the endlessly diverse spectrum of peoples that America, and New York, in particular, is home to. We are fortunate to be able to embrace such an unprecedented array of different cultures and find common cause in our commitment to freedom, equality, and justice.
We must all find our own path to truth and wisdom, one that resonates with our own deepest being. It’s a blessing that never in human history have we had such an extraordinary spectrum of cultures, spiritualities, and practices to learn from. Let’s celebrate this, and turn away permanently from any dark suggestions that we find ourselves in hatred of the other. Openness and tolerance are, in fact, as history tells us, the path to enlightenment and wholeness.