The Universel: Vision and Purpose
by Pir Vilayat & Sharif Graham

The Universel was founded in 1926 by the pioneer Sufi teacher in the West, Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan, as a temple whose building blocks are human beings. This creation at the culmination of his career embodies his futuristic vision, opening new perspectives: a spirituality which encompasses the bounty of outlooks articulated in the great religions, while at the same time opening and being open to new approaches which can answer the soul-searchings of people of our day and age. Our search now is for paradigms of the common ground of spiritual belief systems and spiritual experiences. This must be a shared vision, fostering both an awakening of consciousness and of conscience: consciousness in going beyond the common range, and conscience in grappling with the social and psychological problems which beset our challenging civilizations.

The Universel is now being expanded to encompass a broad vision of natural harmony between inner and outer life, and between human life and the rest of creation. As the new millennium opens, mankind seems poised on the verge of a breakthrough of realization, evidenced by environmental awareness, movements for economic justice and human rights, the emerging planetary consciousness, and many other positive trends. On the other hand, the increasing predominance of commercialism threatens to distract humanity from any deeper concerns.

At critical moments in history a fresh spiritual vision comes forth, opening a profoundly new perspective incorporating but transcending the insights of the past. The new vision arising in our contemporary world is dynamic and continually unfolding in a multitude of centers, but united by a deep common perspective. This perspective can be glimpsed in Inayat Khan's description:

Every atom, every object, every condition and every living being has a time of awakening. ... It is not that any new thing or world or being is to be created, but that there will be a rearrangement of all the parts until the whole is complete. ... Every electron and atom must take its own appointed place in the mighty scheme. This is the great evolutionary process. The God buried in humanity must be uncovered and placed on his throne in the heart of man. ... The whole universe has contributed to the way humanity thinks today.

The Universel thus represents a thrusting forward of our individual and collective consciousness into the future. The intention is to provide a causeway for humanity to travel upon so that ultimately we can attain our next goal and encounter the next chapter of our destiny. To do this, we will need to use our powers of intuition and perception, compassion, knowledge gained by experience, tolerance, and love to sense what will be the needs of humanity and the rest of creation centuries from the present day. We must work together to discover the face of truth unfettered and unobscured by preconceptions, prejudices and habits of thought.

To be able to fulfill our role in the awakening of humanity - which incidentally is already taking place - we need to discover within ourselves what is happening to humanity in our time, and conversely earmarking what is emerging in ourselves as it matches what is erupting in our social, psychological, and even physical environment. These call upon us to adopt new ways of thinking and feeling.

The new vision in our time affirms the sanctity and interconnectedness of all that exists. It embraces the maximum unfoldment of every individual within communities founded on awakened justice, the beauty of difference, spiritual liberty, equality of opportunity, and democratic principles. It recognizes that within the larger community of being all things have a unique place and contribution.

The Universel is a call to bring healing to our planet and those upon it; to mend the splits between spirit, mind, and body; to rise above our distinctions and differences; and to promote unity, not uniformity, in the world. The Universel calls for global justice, global ethics, and the balance between autonomy and community. It calls for each person to see the one truth within all religions, yet rejoice in his/her own. The Universel is a call to respect all, tolerate all, and offer mercy to all, honoring the divinity within the heart of humanity.

The Universel can now be embodied as an institute designed to promote and implement the emerging vision articulated above. The institute will establish a faculty to construct a curriculum addressing the following subjects:

1. Awakening of consciousness through the awakening of conscience, and updated thinking about God

2. Earmarking the emergent paradigms and inviting creative visions by exploring that complex construct which we call the self, pinpointing incongruities and self-deceptions, and working with these so that new qualities and a new self image may emerge

3. Complementing psychotherapy with psycho-creativity and spiritual counseling

4. Pursuing the ideal of excellence rather than commercial advantage

5. Protecting the planet from abuse by developing a sense of sacredness in our kinship to animals, plants and the planet

6. Fostering conflict resolution in interpersonal relationships, based upon trust and reconciling divergent perspectives

7. Liberating women around the world from being undermined, subordinated, discriminated against, harassed, and abused, giving them opportunities on a basis of equality with men

8. Rebuilding the social structures breaking down in our day (family, art forms, government, ethics) to honor honesty and freedom with respect and caring

9. Exposing and taking appropriate action wherever possible against social injustice (for example, maltreatment of prisoners of conscience, miscarriage of justice, malpractice in medicine, economic exploitation, food pollution and unprincipled genetic engineering)

10. Fostering new interactive methods of teaching which encourage students to take incentive and responsibility

11. Applying the knowledge gained by new scientific paradigms to our self-discovery

12. Fostering the awakening of each person beyond the personal vantage point into a cosmic transcendental one, the awakening of humanity to the divinity of the human being

For the purpose of creating such an institute, a Universel Council will be formed which will develop a framework and create the mechanism by which to appoint a faculty to develop the curriculum. The Council will be composed of people from all sectors of society who are dedicated to serving the enlightened functioning of humanity as we move towards becoming one conscious whole.

The Universel will provide a community of affiliation where those inspired by this new vision can find sympathetic connection and support; a community of education where new vision can be explored, developed, and communicated; and a community of collaboration where individuals and groups can share their work inspired by the new vision in a mutually supportive and developmentally fruitful environment. The Universel will be a living temple that stimulates and nurtures the creation of new modes of expression, and honors the sacred quest of our human spirit to know God by knowing ourselves.

[From: Heart & Wings - Summer-Fall, 2000]