Flickstein has been exploring spirituality for more than 30 years. A former psychotherapist who was ordained as a Buddhist monk, Flickstein founded The Forest Way, a non-profit organization located in Virginia that teaches meditation and sponsors retreats across the country to help develop spiritual growth. It was his work with The Forest Way that first introduced him to the concept of non-duality – and, eventually, what gave him the idea to start making “Voices of Truth.”
“I woke up, literally from my sleep, with an idea,” he said in a 2006 interview. “And the idea was, how can I reach more people to talk about the ultimate reality? And the idea occurred to me to create a film and in the film interview teachers from the major traditions of the world … who are mystics, current-day mystics, people who have directly experienced this non-cognitive reality themselves,” he added.
Inspired by the idea, he reached out to mystics either located in or traveling through the United States. Initially, he contacted 65 people, anticipating that few would reply and agree to participate in the filming of the documentary. Much to his amazement, 63 responded, “And almost everyone said, ‘This is the time to do so in the world right now.’ ”
Flickstein had the participants and a concept, but, he admits, not the technical skills necessary to make the film. So he searched for a partner and found Eric Temple, an experienced filmmaker who had worked with Public Broadcasting Service on numerous documentaries. Temple was intrigued by the project and agreed to serve as its director. Though Temple did not come from a particularly religious background, he said: “I certainly came into it with an open mind and an affinity for the subject matter and the goals of the film. It was a pretty quick and natural match.”
With the team assembled, Flickstein and Temple began their journey, traveling throughout North America to conduct the lengthy interviews with spiritual leaders. They were amazed by how productive the conversations were and the openness of the interview subjects.
“Everyone has been incredibly welcoming,” said Temple.
“We go in there with the people not really knowing us and 100 percent of the time we left as friends, with an invitation to come back,” added Flickstein. Along the way, they began to raise money to sustain the project. Flickstein has visited Quakers, Unitarian-Universalists, Buddhists and others on fund-raising missions. The visits are straightforward: Flickstein makes a short presentation about his philosophy and screens the trailer for the crowd. “Typically after the trailer, people stand up and applaud,” he said. Then, taking a page from church on Sunday, they pass the basket around the room and people drop in donations that have kept the cameras rolling.
The interviews themselves buoy Flickstein’s idea that behind all religious faiths exists a higher plane of consciousness, one that transcends dogma. One interview the team considered particularly successful was with Sheikha Fariha of the Nur Ashki Jerrahi Sufi Order. Born to a Catholic family in Texas, Fariha embraced Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam, after embarking on a spiritual quest. Today, she works to teach the curious about Islam and Sufism and how religion without the mystic and the higher consciousness can be corrupted.
“Sufism is really the fountain of Islam. It’s the nectar, what keeps it alive. Without Sufism, Islam becomes a brittle husk and becomes dogmatic, fundamentalist, and then really dies away,” she explained to the “Voices of Truth” team during her interview, her dark blonde hair peeking out from beneath a royal blue cloth covering her head.