WORLDSPIRIT on CIUT FM & CKWR FM
Airing 1987-1990 on CIUT FM and CKWR FM, WorldSpirit explored the varieties of religious expression, perhaps with some homage to William James’ The Varieties of Religious Experience, certainly, as James, to regard these expressions without judgement. The variety was determined primarily from what lectures or interviews came available, crossed my path. I produced the show with no budget and with volunteering about 30-35 hours a week on collecting content and on putting together the production. WorldSpirit was the only show on CIUT that was studio edited, mixed and produced to tape. All other shows were live or recorded as live.
Wisdom comes from listening and for any listener prepared each week to follow the voices on WorldSpirit, to journey to some unexpected and unpredictable place, to trust a show that had no set formula to identify itself, then there was the chance for the listener to see things differently – if not anew. A letter from a listener captured exactly what I hoped the show would be: she said every Sunday night at 8, she would turn on the radio, turn out all the lights in her apartment, lie full-length on her couch, close her eyes, and so preparing herself, she would listen to WorldSpirit.
Lectures, interviews, scripts were mixed together into 54 minutes to broadcast each week on Sunday at 8PM. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything; I was living in a rooming house without heat and working at night to pay the bills, sleeping about 4 hours a night. While I eventually wore myself out and wore out my voice, WorldSpirit taught me my radio production skills for writing, editing and mixing to a final soundscape. And it being CIUT, with a mandate to provide a media alternative to the mainstream, I was able to experiment with form and presentation in order to mold the listening experience.
My aim and my learning was to fashion a soundscape, as radio can so well, that was an interior and introspective journey for the listener. For me, the show marked a time of significant transition in my life – a journey I am so grateful for – a liminal space for my own development that the listener and I explored, hand in hand, each week.
Untypical of the standard WorldSpirit show, An Easter Mediation is my personal reflection on the Christian Easter Story that begins with telling of the ancient story and ritual tradition along with samples of traditional music for the feast day; gradually the telling shifts to a reading of contemporary literature excerpts as a way of continuing to imagine the story, but for our modern time.
Airing in 1990, An Easter Meditation was one of my last shows, if not the last show I produced. WorldSpirit shows were highly produced with a lot of editing, writing and mixing. This An Easter Meditation was the one anomaly: with no script, or plan, expert content or cutting of tape, I went into the studio Saturday afternoon, sat at the mixing board with a stack of albums on my left and a few books on my right, and in one take, slightly rough, recorded a personal meditation on the Easter story. It found me more than I made it. And for that it is a cherished moment. Listening to it again, of course wishing to edit it, I am moved by how much of the show must have come from my unconscious learning over the last years working on the show and reflecting on the direction of my own life. In a wisdom greater than I could muster on my own, the spontaneity of the show revealed my own theological bent and what informed it most. The frame I live in: the theatre, primarily.
I had taken a three-year study leave some years before from my profession as Anglican priest to develop more my skill as priest while still a young man. I began with a year in Israel to better understand and feel the land and life of the bible, and then build on my secular counselling training and experience with graduate work in pastoral counselling. Unfortunately the quality of education for the pastoral counselling was considerably less than the secular side, but then fortunately that disappointment led me to a new question more appropriate I felt for the unique work of my profession, and that was to explore how liturgy and ritual practice could be healing. Again it was the secular that eventually opened that door. WorldSpirit was the incubation; while working on the show in the studio, I would take breaks and cross the street to Robarts library at the UofT and peruse the periodical section. I came across The Drama Review and that led me to other readings and opened the door for me to the framing of my question. Such began the next phase of my life, and more serendipity leading me on. I packed away all my possessions in a few boxes and got a one-way flight to Europe with one address in Paris as my only plan. From there I found myself in the south of France at the Roy Hart Centre and there found the identification for my work in the work of Enrique Pardo and Pantheatre.
An Easter Meditation came as a gift from my muse, a very personal awakening, an assimilation of where I had been and where I’d come from, and to what I was becoming. The show felt as a gift of the muse, guardian for the way, graduating me from the learning found through producing WorldSpirit and leading me on to my next learning in the journey. I never did make it back to the practice of my profession. For what the journey became, for the gifts along the way, this show being but one, I am ever grateful. Ever grateful.
At the time of this recording, Matthew Fox speaking at the Applewood Centre in Toronto, was under pressure from the Vatican to cease public speaking. His views were too challenging, and along with other Catholic theologians was being “silenced” by his church. Matthew Fox eventually became an Anglican priest in the American Episcopal church which allowed him to continue in his work. Matthew Fox brought to the fore Creation Spirituality that he discovered himself in the mysticism of 13-14th century mystic Meister Eckhart and his mentor mystic Thomas Merton.
Hans Kung professor at Tübingen University was visiting scholar at the University of Toronto this is the first public lecture given. Hans Kung was the leading scholar and proponent of Ecumenism that originally looked for a common ground to bring together the many Christian divisions of thought and practice, and from this expanded to consider the common ground of all religious belief. Hence, the first show, the fundamental question of Ecumenism parsed in two ways, a fundamental religious understanding behind all religion and the claims of some religions or denominations to exclusivity: Is there One True Religion?
This was my first radio show airing January 18, 1987, the inaugural week that CIUT went to air as a licensed broadcaster. The station originally started in 1966 as a closed-circuit broadcaster for the University of Toronto. In 1987, It was in a whole new league, a broadcaster holding forth the mandate of being an alternative voice to commercial media. WorldSpirit, a 54 minute radio show scheduled Sunday night at 8PM, was created by CIUT staff member Ron LaVoie. As a volunteer newsreader for CIUT, I was thrilled to be asked by Ron to take on this show as he didn’t have time to produce it himself. The first 24 shows of the year programmed by Ron were lectures by theologian Hans Kung who had been guest scholar at the U of T. Producing those Hans Kung shows got me familiar with radio production. From that, I was able to developed my own WorldSpirit content and style. This particular copy of the first WorldSpirit show has a preamble for when, much later, a series of WorldSpirit shows was picked up by station CKWR.
While I was introduced to Fox with this show, later when teaching, I valued his writing on education (The A.W.E Project) as I was discovering and exploring Holistic Learning that came to be my inspiration and guide in my work at Humber College. As with many of the deep thinkers featured on World Spirit, Matthew Fox was ahead of his time, prompting us to a new way of thinking, being, acting, and now is such an important voice to address the deep issues of our day.
The above two shows fall into a theme of a Jungian interpretation of our lives given by perceptive and sensitive psychotherapists.
Phantom of the Opera stage show was on everyone’s mind in 1990, had saturated the media. My WorldSpirit show tries to see the Phantom of the Opera in another way than for its entertainment value and instead looked beneath the surface to what appeal might say about our own psyches.
If truth be admitted, my friend and interviewee,Eric Austin, had the idea maybe we could score some complimentary tickets to see the show that was sold out for a year. Neither of us had any money, just had enough to cover rents and food. Maybe, we thought, the Phantom producers would find our analysis refreshing and reward us with tickets. Of course one would normally go to the show before doing the commentary! But I was on a deadline. And I didn’t really follow up on getting tickets anyway; the analysis was more the interest. The idea of tickets was a motivator, but then the show itself was the real motivator and seemed sufficient. I did the whole show in five days from recording hours of interview with Eric, editing the interview for hours, eventually mixing the show for airing Sunday night finishing Sunday afternoon late! I did nothing for five days but work on the show, work I loved, and go to my job, work I did to pay the rent that I was happy enough to do. Over those 5 days I slept 17 hours. Good times really!
Grant Murray went to West Africa to work and took his guitar with him. Like Paul Simon, he absorbed the sounds of the African music and imbued them into his own. His music changed. He changed. On returning to Canada, Grant went into the recording studio and made an album with producers Ian Thomas and Carl Horton.
I had the privilege of spending a day with them during the recording. The assignment was originally for a CBC doc. With the interviews I didn’t use, I made a WorldSprit show. For the 54 minute WorldSpirit show I had enough time to play all the music that Grant graciously allowed me to air.
I feel the CBC doc on Grant’s music was my weakest work for the CBC. While I enjoy music, I don’t have a mind for it. I’m not of that world and so I didn’t have it in me to ask the right questions or get to the heart of the story. It was a good lesson. Know yourself. Stay within your own boundaries. I would have wished to have done better for Grant. It was an OK doc certainly, but not what I expected and wanted of myself.
The WorldSpirit show was kind of making it up to Grant. I could rely more on the music and Grant’s narrative to carry the show. For the CBC doc, it was based more on the insight into the making of the music, which is what I felt I didn’t really get to the heart of.
I don’t know what happened to the album. I don’t think it got too far which surprised me. I really enjoyed the music -decide for yourself when you hear it – can’t imagine why lots of people wouldn’t have loved this album, but then I know nothing about how the music industry works. Maybe this recording is a kind of buried treasure for you to discover.
Henri Nouwen – The Prodigal is a personal reflection by the academic, prodigious writer and pastor of the L’Arche Daybreak community.
Like Matthew Fox, Henri Nouwen was a Catholic priest and was influenced by Thomas Merton.
Another of his guides was Jean Vanier who started L’Arche communities that serve to foster and promote the gifts of people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. After many years on faculty at Yale and Harvard, Henri Nouwen accepted a position as pastor at the L’Arche Daybreak in Richmond Hill. The members of the community, he says, taught him and helped him a lot more than he them.
Henri Nouwen searched through his own life for a deep connection to people and a meaningful experience of faith and God. His honesty, openness, and sensitivity endears him to the millions of readers of his 39 books.
But not everything was made open. Only after his death did people learn of his other life-long struggle with his homosexuality and his priestly vow of chastity.
The show is a personal account of his conversion to faith, his rebirth, a new sense of faith after many years being a priest. He is the prodigal son returned, a reference to a biblical story of a desperate and wayward son returning to his father in shame, and unexpectedly to receive his father’s forgiveness and blessing.
Freedom Now revisits the 1963 March to Birmingham. A long time ago, yes, but in listening to the voices of that time, reveals a lot about ourselves and gives context and a broader perspective to our civil issues today around racial inequality and oppression of rights based on race.
i acquired the rights to air this show produced by others. I was grateful for being able to share with the listeners such good content, give the listeners a broader perspective than mine alone, and help myself manage my time, giving me a little more time for sleep! I had been running at 4 hours a night sleep with work to pay my bills and recording, editing and producing a weekly 54 minute show. All good!
Catholic nun and Jungian therapist, Eleonor Dixon leads us on an interior and personal journey. I’m putting it together with Freedom Now as characterizing two ways of seeing and being in the world: activist and therapist. I hope it will open up all kinds of questions for you.
To provide some variety for the listeners and more to include the wonderful voices of colleagues, I had others read the narration. Characteristic of the people working at CIUT in the early days, there was incredible talent and commitment to another way of doing radio, of making it about us, producers and audience, not about audience and commerce.
It was a real pleasure then to work with my colleagues on various shows. And in every case they grasped the tone and direction for the show and so wonderfully brought meaning to the production through the instrument of their voice, their heart and mind. I am grateful to Chandi Alexander for his work on this show.
Below are titles of some WorldSpirit Shows. Audio of shows will be added above over time. Unfortunately about 40 shows have been lost, even the titles forgotten.
- Hans Kung: Ecumenism -Christianity and World Religions, Parts 1-24
- Northrop Frye: The Dialectic of Belief and Vision
- Gateways to the Superconscious- Embracing Unlimited Self
- The Hero and Heroine in Everyone, Parts 1 & 2
- Gregory Baum: A Life
- Hans Kung: Is there One True Religion?
- Phantom of the Opera: A Psychological Analysis
- Henri Nouwen: The Prodigal
- Thiagyum Eastern Meditation
- The Life and Times of Nelson Mandela
- An Easter Meditation
- Bhakti Devotion : Oriental Christianity
- Myths Dreams Journey
- Psychiatrist Ralph Greenson: Why Men Like War, Parts 1 & 2
- Sadu Sundar, The Indian Mystic
- I Have a Dream
- Rebel Swami
- Paul Tillich: Existential Theologian
- The Celtic Way
- Mirrors of the Soul
- Grant Murray: Road to Kutigi
- Jacob Neusner: Theological Enemies of Religious Studies
- Freedom Now: 1963 Civil Rights March, Parts 1 & 2
- Mankind and Earth
- A Question of Survival
- Wilfred Cantwell Smith: Theology and the History of Religion
- Liberation Theology
- Ron Barnes: God in the 20th Century
- Channels to Divine Mind
- Oriental Christianity: Christianity in the Hindu Tradition
- Jean Shinoda-Bolen: Gods in Everyman
- Gateways to the Superconscious: The Divine Mind
- Peace of Mind: Vendanta Ancient Philosophy of India
- My Life, My World: Vendanta Ancient Philosophy of India
- Gateways to the Superconscious: Earth Changes
- The Game of Life: Vendanta Ancient Philosophy of India
- Pilgrimmage: The Journey to Promise
- Matthew Fox: Cosmic Time, Cosmic Christ
- The Great Goddess
- James Hillman: Pink Madness, Parts 1 & 2
It was a bit of magic. I had old reel to reel tapes of the shows in boxes, but I had thought they were lost being 30 years old. I couldn’t get any sound but noise from them. Some of the tape wasn’t so great even originally: CBC gave us tape but at times I was so desperate I had to use thin logger tape. Well I didn’t have any other copies of the shows such as on cassette, foolishly. What started as a Kijjijj sale of a mic to Jack Brenchley became an exchange of my reel to reel player for dubbing the tapes to digital format. Two musicians, also trained sound engineers, Jack Brenchley (Leaving Canada) and Patrick Lefler (ROY’S Garage), who with Covid had some time, miraculously recovered about 40 shows. They even had to bake some of the tape. Another 35 or so shows had already been lost, probably the tape reused. I am so grateful to Jack and Patrick for their dedication to this project, and I’m thrilled they have my beautiful Teac recorder to help them create their own remarkable music.