Spiritual Approaches to Cultural Understanding: From Ibn ’Arabi to Ostad Elahi

A Lecture by Prof. James W. Morris April 23, 2004

Prof. Morris explores the longstanding combination of cultural diversity, tolerance and spiritual cooperation that has historically allowed followers of Islamic faith to live peacefully in diverse communities throughout Asia. The lecture begins by examining the principles of spiritual intelligence as expressed by master-thinkers of Islam, from the influential classical Islamic exposition by Ibn ’Arabi (d. 1240), to the most recent developments by the Iranian philosopher, thinker and master-musician Ostad Elahi (d. 1974). The universal spiritual principles underlying those past achievements are indispensable for real mutual understanding in every sphere of life. Amidst today’s familiar scene of warring nation-states, intolerance, endemic civil wars and fanatical mass ideologies, the principles offer insight into the past where, until recently, very different communities typically shared a remarkable degree of cultural, linguistic, social and religious diversity and creative self-expression. Morris is the chair of Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter, United Kingdom, and author of such books as Orientations: Islamic Thought in a World Civilization.

Location: Asia Society and Museum, 725 Park Avenue, New York