WHEN WE FIRST LAUNCHED the Institute ten years ago, we said we were hoping to help create a new kind of human story, one that imagines life as a web of meaning and purpose, and that seeks to restore the sacred to the everyday.
THAT DESIRE HASN'T changed, but our vision has broadened and deepened, and taken us into surprising new areas, where we explore the inersection of "spirit, science and story."
OUR PARTICULAR PASSION at Two Rock has always been the close study of a certain kind of life: iconic mystics like Saint Francis of Assisi, Gandhi, Julian of Norwich, but also Jane Goodall, too, John Muir, Sister Helen Prejean, and other spiritually inspired models from all over time and place.
IT'S AN ECLECTIC GROUP made up of mystics, "proto-mystics," environmental visionaries, spiritual activists and others whose spiritual encounters have transformed them, and, in turn, led them to transform the worlds they inhabit. Their life stories couldn't’t be more different, yet they all reveal an arc of potential and expression that suggests much in the way of human possibility. And they are best revealed, we have long believed, through story.
"STORY", THEN, AND "SPIRIT" have characterized our work all along, as our books would suggest. "Science," the third element in our triad has slipped into our thinking by degrees. The fact that it has such a prominent place in our thinking, writing, and conversation today has everything to do with the extraordinary scientific renaissance we are all living through.
WE ARE NOT TRAINED SCIENTISTS, but we've begun to think that we have been functioning all this time as "ethologists" – investigators like Jane Goodall and Robert Sapolsky, who study behavior in the animals’ natural habitat. Instead of living with penguins or peacocks we’ve been observing these rare, spiritually charged creatures up close - tried to understand these lives and their meaning by looking at the whole life of each subject in all of his or her relationships.
THIS NEW ENGAGEMENT with current research in fields like neuroscience and evolutionary psychology is prompting us now to frame our ongoing inquiry in fresh ways: “What kind of an organism is a mystic?” And, echoing paleo-archaeologist Donald Johanson, "What is the evolutionary advantage of the universality of mysticism in human societies?"
OVER THE MONTHS TO COME, then, we’ll be posting short essays and recommending some remarkable films and books that consider these and related questions, and which continue to broaden our understanding of how these stories can better inform our own spiritual journeys.
Thanks for visiting,
Carol & Tim Flinders