History & Roots
At special moments in human history people have come together to harvest the wisdom of the world. Examples of this enterprise include the Library of Alexandria, the House of Wisdom of Baghdad, the interfaith House of Worship of Fatehpur Sikri, and the Platonic Academy of Florence.
Seven Pillars is founded in the tradition of these great historical houses of wisdom. Like them, it is dedicated to the dual project of synthesizing knowledge from the past and advancing new paradigms.
In our time, the need for fresh vision is perhaps more urgent than ever before. The pace of history seems to be accelerating as the world is transforming on a dramatic scale. Our species has reached the height of its powers, but our might has out-paced our wisdom, and life on planet Earth, the flower of four billion years of evolution, is withering before our eyes. Seven Pillars is a direct response to this crisis.
What is needed now is a new house of wisdom, one for all of the great traditions of the world, as well as the burgeoning wisdom in science, in the arts, in all that comes from the heart of human experience. – Pir Zia Inayat-Khan, Seven Pillars’ founder
Seven Pillars House of Wisdom was established in 2007, drawing particular inspiration from the Sufi teachings of Hazrat Inayat Khan, the interspiritual work of Br. Wayne Teasdale, and the cultural creativity of William Irwin Thompson.
The Sufi Message of Hazrat Inayat Khan
Hazrat Inayat Khan (1882-1927) was an Indian-born musician and mystic, often cited as the first teacher to bring Sufism to the West. Inayat Khan grew up in a house frequented by poets, musicians, and spiritual thinkers of many traditions. Later he underwent intensive mystical training at the hands of a Sufi master. These experiences endowed him with a penetrating appreciation of the essential unity of all religions and, more fundamentally, the unity of existence.
In 1910, Inayat Khan left India for “the West.” Over the next sixteen years he traveled widely, from San Francisco to Moscow, performing classical Indian music, lecturing on the spiritual dimensions of the problems and opportunities of modernity, and training initiates in the inner culture of Sufism. Amidst the crisis of conscience that followed the First World War, Inayat Khan’s movement sought to transform the cultural assumptions that had created the monster of militant nationalism. Part of this response was an interfaith service called Universal Worship, which, through lighting of candles and readings from scriptures of the world's great religions, portrays at a single altar the sweeping vista of the human encounter with the divine.
During the Second World War, Inayat Khan's daughter, Noor Inayat Khan, a writer of children's books, served heroically as the first woman wireless operator in Nazi-occupied France. Betrayed to the Gestapo, she was executed at Dachau in 1944, and was posthumously awarded Britain's George Cross and France's Croix de Guerre. Additional information on Noor's life can be found in the book, Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan.
Inayat Khan's eldest son, Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, continued his work as head of the Sufi Order International, and became an internationally recognized spiritual teacher and master of meditation. In his lectures, retreats, and books he drew extensively on the world's mystical heritage, as well as on music, science, and psychology. Additional information on his life can be found at www.universel.net.
Brother Wayne Teasdale and the Interspiritual Movement
A Christian sanyassa in the tradition of Fr. Bede Griffiths, the American Catholic monk Br. Wayne Teasdale (1945-2004) pursued the ardent dream of a movement of people of all faiths devoted to an emerging vision of civilization premised on the oneness of life. He envisioned a community without boundaries forging deep bonds by dreaming, thinking, and working together, and in this way consciously participating in the transformation of the world.
We are at the dawn of the new consciousness, a radically fresh approach to our life as the human family in a fragile world. This birth into a new awareness, into a new set of historical circumstances, appears in a number of shifts in our understanding. . . . Each of these shifts represents dramatic change. Together they will define the thought and culture of the Third Millennium. Perhaps the best name for this new segment of historical experience is the interspiritual age. Taken together they are preparing for a universal civilization: a civilization with a heart. – Br. Wayne Teasdale, The Mystic Heart
Additional information about Brother Wayne’s vision can be found at the Wayne Teasdale Memorial Site.
William Irwin Thompson and the Lindisfarne Association
In 1972 the oracular cultural historian William Irwin Thompson founded the Lindisfarne Association, a fellowship of scholars, artists, scientists, philosophers and mystics drawn to collaborate in the spirit of “mind jazz.” Central to Lindisfarne’s worldview is the Gaia Hypothesis of James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis, which posits that the Earth functions as a self-regulating living system. The four original purposes of the Lindisfarne Associates relate closely to the core themes of Seven Pillars.
1. Planetization of the esoteric.
Mysticism: Awakening latent faculties of perception through concentration, contemplation, prayer and meditation.
2. Realization of the inner harmony of all the great universal religions and the spiritual traditions of the tribal people of the world.
Revelation: Study of the prophetic message of the world’s great spiritual traditions, and gleaning the essential contemporary guidance of this message.
3. Fostering a new and healthier balance between nature and culture through development of appropriate technologies, architectural settlements and compassionate economies.
Cosmology: Pursuit of a re-enchanted scientific worldview that reconciles rational inquiry with the wisdom of the soul.
4. Illumination of the spiritual foundations of political governance through scholarship and artistic communications that foster a global ecology of consciousness beyond the present ideological systems of warring industrial nation-states, outraged traditional societies, and ravaged lands and seas.
Chivalry: Nurturance of awakened conscience and advancement of an enlightened activism.
During Seven Pillars’ Inauguration, William Irwin Thompson named Seven Pillars as a successor to the Lindisfarne Association in advancing the study and realization of a new planetary culture. Additional information on the Lindisfarne Association can be found at www.lindisfarne-association.org.
1926 - Hazrat Inayat Khan introduces the ideal of the Universel, a sacred space embracing all religious denominations.
1944 - Noor Inayat Khan, as an undercover spy for the Allies during WWII, sacrifices her life for the ideal of human freedom.
1972 - William Irwin Thompson founds Lindisfarne Association. Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan takes part in the first annual Lindisfarne conference.
2003 - Brother Wayne Teasdale visits Pir Zia Inayat-Khan at the Abode of the Message in New Lebanon, New York, planting the seeds for Seven Pillars.
2006 - Suluk Academy, a school based on the Sufi teachings of Hazrat Inayat Khan, and founded by his grandson, Pir Zia Inayat-Khan, introduces extended studies courses in Green Hermeticism, The Mysticism of Sound and Music, and Primordial Wisdom.
2007 - Suluk Academy extended studies offerings are spun off to form Seven Pillars House of Wisdom, incorporated September 21, 2007, in New York.
2008 - Seven Pillars’ Inauguration, August 29 through September 1, 2008, at the Darrow School, New Lebanon, New York.
2012 - Passing of the baton between founding Executive Director Jennifer Alia Whittman and incoming Executive Director Laurie Lane-Zucker (September)
2012 - Unveiling of The Seven Pillars online (November)
2013 - Launch of The Living Wisdom Tour (January)