Spring 2008 Letter by Ralph White

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Welcome to the first fully multimedia issue of Lapis.

The magazine has gone through various incarnations over the last twelve years. First, it was published in a paper format, winning Utne Reader’s Alternative Press Award. Then it migrated online to a format in which individual articles appeared as we acquired them. Now, Lapis returns with streaming video and audio, a beautiful photo essay and high-quality articles that bear its trademark engagement with both the inner world of soul, spirit and esotericism and also the outer world of society, the environment and the overall state of the planet. Our aim is always to approach the inner and the outer with equal rigor and depth. This, for us, is authentic holistic writing and thinking.

This issue gives a great deal of attention to the rise of fundamentalism, both Islamic and Christian, and looks at what lies behind this disturbing and inescapable phenomenon. Michael Thompson offers a rare description of Sayyid Qutb, the Egyptian philosopher who is a primary source of inspiration to Al Qaeda. Qutb is a writer little known in the West but we would be well advised to become more familiar with his influential critique of American civilization if we wish to understand Islamic extremism. Chip Berlet offers an acute analysis of Dominionism, the movement that believes that godly Christians are asked now by God to take the levers of political power in America to create the pure and devout nation He desires. And we will soon publish Douglas Sloan’s comprehensive assessment of what lies behind all forms of fundamentalism – religious, economic or secular – and how we can respond to it creatively.

Our new video format enables us to show you fragments of a conference organized by the New York Open Center and the International Forum on Globalization on the resistance of indigenous peoples to economic globalization. Much of the planet’s last reserves of untouched forest, clean water, oil and minerals lie on the lands of native peoples and they are now under huge legal, political and economic pressure to open their lands up to exploitation. Watch the videos and see the moving ways in which indigenous leaders understand their spiritual responsibilities as stewards of the land and refuse to give in.

In the audio section, we have an initial selection of radio interviews conducted by Lapis editor Ralph White. These include a conversation with Robert Bly on Sufi and Spanish poetry, John O’Donohue on Celtic Spirituality, Peter Gabel on holistic activism and Marta Moreno Vega on living African spiritual practices. We have a large store of audio interviews and future issues will carry a lot of compelling and contemporary discussions on issues of real importance.

John Beebe’s photo essay on Buddhism in Sri Lanka continues the Lapis tradition of presenting beautiful imagery to its readers. Peggy Moss offers her evocative text to the slide show and an accompanying full-length essay, providing us with an in-depth look into Buddhism as it is expressed in modern Sri Lanka, where the photographer and writer lived and worked together for one year with their young children.

Those readers who love the esoteric dimension of reality can examine our in-depth, illustrated article on Charting Rosicrucian Europe. It tells the rarely told story of how a beautiful and noble movement in 17th Century Europe survived war and oppression and spread subtly and widely throughout the continent. One of those familiar with its philosophy was Goethe, the incomparable poet, novelist, playwright and scientist, whose own story of falling in love with a young woman in Marienbad while an old man will be told by Christopher Bamford in Lapis later this summer.

I should also mention Jacob Needleman’s original article on Gurdjieff’s teachings as seen through the lens of philosophy. This offers an analysis of exemplary clarity of one of the 20th Century’s most enigmatic teachers. And Robert McDermott’s article, taken from the Lapis archives, offers many shrewd observations on the differences between East and West Coast America’s approaches to spiritual exploration.

Finally, our emphasis in this issue has been on the quality and depth of writing. In the future, we aim to make the Lapis site more beautiful and visually compelling. We encourage you to return often, tell your friends, and enjoy the trove of profound articles available in this issue and in our archives at Lapis online. None of this would be possible without the New York Open Center, from which this magazine springs. Many of our articles first emerged from conferences, lectures and interviews organized by the Open Center. As this precious institution heads toward celebrating 25 years as New York’s leading center of holistic learning and world culture, our hope is that Lapis will expand the Center’s reach and bring to the broadest possible audience our commitment to quality holistic writing.