by Jaune Evans, Commonweal Board of Directors
“When two people meet in friendship, an Angel is born. ”
—Rebbe Pinchas of Koretz
Twelve years ago, Michael Lerner and Orland Bishop sat face to face for two days in the Commonweal library to explore Orland’s spiritual biography. Michael began by asking, “Orland, tell us about your current work. What do you do in Los Angeles? Orland answered, “My work aims at creating a space—spaces in consciousness—it reveals how I must be for someone to be themselves.”
Although they were already friends, blessed by an Angel of Friendship, a new Angel was born—an Angel of Creating Sacred Space Together.
Orland continued answering Michael’s question by explaining further about his work, some of it with young people in South Central L.A. as part of the Shadetree Multicultural Foundation:
What we do, we call it mentorship. To provide a context of support for someone to step out of difficulty into sanctuary, whereby they could reorient their willpower to transform the forces that inhibit their own kind of aspirations. So, it is how conversation could lead a person into self-mastery—and, it is a form of initiation. Dialogue is a form of initiation, whereby a person can reimagine their own psychology and begin to examine their own conditions. The examination itself is a therapeutic factor. What we provide for individuals in need is way to reflect on what they are experiencing. Reflection is an individual’s opportunity for recovery of their true self, and from there to begin to give meaning to processes of change that will eventually heal the conditions that have inhibited them.
In early February of 2023, Michael and Orland sat together again for two more days of conversation, continuing to explore Orland’s spiritual biography and significant happenings and insights of his work during the years since that earlier meeting. They touched into life stories from Orland’s book, The Seventh Shrine: Meditations on the African Spiritual Journey, From the Middle Passage to the Mountaintop, published in 2017, while also diving deeper into his current creative life as a global contemplative-activist, envisioning and embodying a practice and community of sacred hospitality, the space of support for recovery, reflection, and sanctuary from difficulty.
The video of the event is currently being prepared for posting on the TNS website. When I listen again to the original 2011 audio interview, I feel how Orland’s voice and elegant precise language are energies of healing. Even virtually, his presence creates sacred space, and “reveals how I must be for someone to be themselves.”
Though the words in 2011 and 2023 may not be exactly the same, the vibrant flow of Love in Orland’s spiritual life and teachings remains the same.
In the arc of his deep relationships to people, places and the great mysteries, in his practice of paying attention and willingness to act on behalf of eco-spiritual and social justice activism, Orland invites us into a shared cognition and commitment. When we care for the world together, the possibilities, probabilities and actualities of our work come together as sacred hospitality.
Stay tuned for the video, and more Angels being born.
Find the video and audio recordings soon on The New School’s website or other media players (Soundcloud, Apple Podcasts, and Spotify).