Liza Rankow, Ph.D.
OneLife Institute for Spirituality & Social Transformation
Liza J. Rankow is an interfaith minister, educator, and activist. Her work centers the personal and collective healing that is essential to authentic justice and social transformation. Dr. Rankow teaches classes on Howard Thurman in both academic and community settings, and is producer and co-editor of the six-CD audio collection, The Living Wisdom of Howard Thurman, published by Sounds True in 2010.
Mysticism and Social Action: The Ethical Demands of Oneness
Howard Thurman was born and raised among the working poor in racially divided Daytona, Florida, little more than a generation removed from slavery. In the foreword to his 1965 book The Luminous Darkness, Thurman describes the scars this left deep in his spirit and his enduring “sensitivity to the churning abyss separating white from black.” He goes on to say, “Nevertheless, a strange necessity has been laid upon me to devote my life to the central concern that transcends the walls that divide and would achieve in literal fact that which is experienced as literal truth: human life is one and all [people] are members of one another.” With these words he introduces his reflection on “the anatomy of segregation and the ground of hope.” He wrote it as an offering during the height of the Southern Freedom Movement (more commonly known as the Civil Rights Movement) in just two sittings, so indelibly was its message etched within him.
Seeing the Universalist Perspective in Howard Thurman
In The Sermon on the Mount According to Vedanta, Swami Prabhavananda states that his religion of Vedanta, derived from the Hindu scriptures called the Vedas, teaches that “all religions are true inasmuch as they lead to one and the same goal—God realization.” Thus Vedanta “accepts and reveres all the great prophets, spiritual teachers, and aspects of the Godhead worshipped in different faiths, considering them to be manifestation of one underlying truth.” He further asserts the character and beliefs of the founder of his religious order, Sri Ramakrishna, as one of the illumined saints who expressed in his lifetime “to a greater degree than any other teacher the idea of religious universality and harmony. Not only did he undergo the disciplines of divergent sects within Hinduism but those of Mohammedanism and Christianity as well. Through each religious path he achieved the supreme realization of God, and thus was able to proclaim with the authority of direct experience: ‘So many religions, so many paths to reach one and the same goal.’”
Mozella G. Mitchell, Ph.D.
University of South Florida, Tampa
Mozella Mitchell is Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at the University of South Florida and the author of Spiritual Dynamics of Howard Thurman’s Theology, The Human Search: Howard Thurman and the Quest for Freedom, and Crucial Issues in Caribbean Religions, among other works. She is Pastor and Founder of Love of Christ A.M.E. Zion Tabernacle, Inc. in Brandon, Florida.
Peter Eisenstadt, Ph.D.
Peter Eisenstadt, Ph.D., is an historian of American religion and history and co-author (with Quinton Dixie) of Visions of a Better World: Howard Thurman’s Pilgrimage to India and the Origins of African-American Nonviolence.
From Against the Hounds of Hell: A Biography of Howard Thurman
On 21 February, 1936, Howard Thurman, his wife, Sue Bailey Thurman, and Edward Carroll arose around midnight from their hostel in Bombay. They comprised three-fourths of the Negro Delegation sent by the American Student Christian Federation on a “Pilgrimage of Friendship” to their Indian counterparts. (The fourth member of the Delegation, Edward Carroll’s wife, Phenola Carroll, was indisposed.) By 21 February the Delegation had been on an extended speaking tour of British colonies in South Asia for four months. This night was special.
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