This article has been chosen as a Making Sense of These Times
FIVE STAR PIECE
This is a teaching speech, giving us new ways to hold the stalemates of our
day. It fits well with Maureen Dowd's piece, providing some interesting
speculations about how the flower children "turned into the same selfish
people we thought we were against." Marianne takes us way out or way
in to where we are solving the problems from a different level of
consciousness that the one in which they were created (her homage and mine
to Einstein here). "I am of a generation, which thought that we could bring
peace to the world, and we didn't think it mattered if we ourselves were
angry. What we learned is that an angry generation cannot bring peace."
April 7, 2002 (posted here June 27, 2002)
A New Movement for Peace, Peace and Justice Conference, Toledo, Ohio
I am interested, as you are obviously, in the intersection of spirituality
and politics. When Mahatma Gandhi was asked, 'You are religious, you are
spiritual. Why are you involved in politics'? He said, 'Is not politics a
part of dharma too'? Everything that is our work in the world is
theoretically, from a spiritual perspective, something that we are here to
transform. And we are here to transform it, by being transformed within it.
And that, I think, is why the conversation around non-violence is so
important. It claims that we cannot give to the world anything that we
ourselves do not have.
I want to talk about two of the principles of non-violence that Gandhi
articulated, which were then picked up by Dr. King when he applied the
principles of non-violence to the struggle for civil rights in the United
States in the 1960s. First of all - very interesting - Dr. King used to say
that self-purification must precede direct political action. And also,
Gandhi, and then Dr. King, would say that the end is inherent in the means.
Now traditional political stratagem claims that the end justifies the means,
and what Gandhi and Dr. King said is that the end is inherent in the means.
I am of a generation, which thought that we could bring peace to the world,
and we didn't think it mattered if we ourselves were angry. What we learned
is that an angry generation cannot bring peace. Also, in my youth, we
thought of peace in terms of the absence of war. I mean the Peace Movement,
back in the 1960s, was basically the idea that if we could stop the war in
Vietnam at that time, there would be peace, which is like saying that if you
get rid of your disease, then you're healthy. But we now think differently
about health, and it's time for us to think differently about politics as
well. We know that health is more than the absence of sickness. Health is a
positive state that we proactively cultivate. You don't just wait until you
get sick, you cultivate health. Sickness is the absence of health; health is
not the absence of sickness.
And so it is with war, and conflict in the world as well. It's not like,
'well if we don't have a war, we're at peace'. In fact, Martin Luther King
Junior used to say that there are two kinds of peace. There's negative
peace, and there is positive peace. Negative peace is where there is no
outright war, but there is underlying tension and anxiety. Positive peace is
the presence of justice and brotherhood. So while many people would say that
as they look at it, there was peace before September 11, many of us would
say, 'that depended on what neighborhood you lived in'. Many people say that
September 11 shattered their views. I was at a talk in San Francisco, and
was introduced by a woman who made a claim, I can't remember exactly how she
said it - she said, 'All of our suppositions, all of our assumptions were
shattered on September 11'. And I said that for me, and for most people I
know, unfortunately, our assumptions were validated on September 11 - that
there has been a sense among many of us for a very, very long time that we
were living in a state of negative peace, not positive peace. A negative
peace in which there was tremendous underlying tension and anxiety, which,
it was only reasonable to assume, would at some point or another erupt.
The opportunity, obviously - the challenge, but also the opportunity of
current events is that we will take a quantum leap forward in our thinking.
We cannot take a quantum leap forward in our circumstances unless we take a
quantum leap forward in our thinking, and I am here today for the same
reason that you are, because one of our most powerful tools for change in
consciousness is conversation. A Course in Miracles says that miracles arise
out of total communication given and received.
When Dr. King talked about the principles of non-violence, when Mahatma
Gandhi talked about the principles of non-violence, they articulated a
philosophy which claimed that there is, within every human heart, a love -
what we would call God, of course - which not only heals personal
relationships but, according to Gandhi, would heal political and social
relationships as well. That's why Dr. King was so enamored by the teachings
of Gandhi. Dr. King said that Gandhi was the first person in human history
to take the love ethic, which he associated with Jesus, and lifted above
mere interaction between individuals to apply it as a large-scale social
force for good.
I am going to ask that you just hold that with me for a moment. Think about
what he's saying here: that love might be a large-scale social force for
good. Now you love - you love your friends and your family. Millions and
millions of people, the vast, vast majority, 99.99 percent of people on this
planet feel love in their hearts. But love is like gold - on this planet- is
like a gold that has not yet been mined.
And so, where we are with love now, is that it is a power, it is a force -
and God knows we all carry so much of it - but yet look at the terrible
disjunct between the love in our hearts and the horror that occurs
throughout the world. So isn't the task of our generation to harness the
love inside us, that it might be a large-scale social force for good? The
French philosopher, Pierre Theilhard de Chardin, said something I find very
compelling and very beautiful - as only the French can; everything is so
beautiful when they say it - he said that "one day, after mankind has
mastered the winds and the waves and the tides and gravity, we will harness
for God the energies of love, and then, for the second time in human
history, mankind will have discovered fire."
You know, our anthropological ancestors were creatures of the sea who made
their way to land, and we now stand at a juncture in the development of our
species, which is as fundamental and significant as that. Now we are
creatures of the land, who are challenged by history, to spread our
energetic, our spiritual, our attitudinal wings that we might become
creatures of the sky. And what that means mystically is that we now embrace,
and mystically identify with and merge with, thought forms that are higher
than the thought forms that now dominate this planet.
Now, I said that I was interested in being here today at this conference,
because I noticed from your literature that intersection of the spiritual
and the political. Let me tell you what I mean by that. Let's take what is
happening today in Israel. Now, many people have many opinions, but I'd like
to speak to you for a moment about what the spiritual perspective on this
situation is. You could say that there are various spiritual perspectives -
I coming from a metaphysical perspective.
With the mortal mind, you almost can't even conceive of an answer. On the
personality level, there are so many layers of anger, there are so many
layers of resentment, there are so many layers of pain. This is one of the
situations confronting the human race, in which we are challenged by history
to recognize what anyone in recovery comes to recognize. My life has become
unmanageable. There is a power in me, but not of me, that can do for me what
I cannot do for myself. The skill set of powers that we in the Western world
embrace, far too often come from technology, to science, to business, to
money, to the military.
You know, there's a line in Alcoholics Anonymous, 'You're best thinking got
you here'. This is where our best thinking, ladies and gentlemen, has
brought us, to the brink of global catastrophe. That's a big message. You
think you're so smart. The best answer that you can come up with is to have
more nuclear bombs than the other guy. Something is horribly wrong. But what
the spiritual, non-violent philosophy would suggest, is that the same mind
that created this, is not the mind that is going to get us out of this.
Einstein said, 'We will not solve the problems of the world from the level
of thinking we were at when we created them'. So any 'us versus them'
thinking has to go.
As long as we ourselves - and I'll go back to this idea of non-violence that
'the end is inherent in the means'. If we are stuck at any level of 'us
versus them' thinking, then from the metaphysical perspective, we are part
of the problem, not part of the answer. Now I am not saying you don't have a
political opinion. Of course, we have political opinions. It's a democracy
and it's a very good thing, as citizens, that we have political opinions and
that we voice them. But what we are talking about here is something beyond
mere political opinion. We are talking now about the application of a new
force, that broad scale social force for good that emanates from love, that
Gandhi talked about, that King talked about, that Pierre Theilhard de
Chardin talked about.
Now, from the perspective of basic metaphysical principle, including the
Course In Miracles, what the mind does to heal a situation, is to withdraw
from the level of thinking that it represents. So, for instance, with the
Israelis and the Palestinians, the greatest service we can be, not just as
political thinkers, not just as citizens, but as human beings who are
seeking to embrace the quantum 'next step', not only in our political
development, but in our spiritual development, is to ask that we ourselves
be healed of judgment, of any of them, of either side, for any reason. We
have the capacity to hold a space in which the spiritual reality of their
oneness is embraced and affirmed.
What do I mean by that? Well, books like a Course in Miracles claim, that as
human beings, we are like sunbeams thinking we are separate from other
sunbeams, or waves thinking we are separate from other waves. My physical
reality is that I am over here, and you are over there. But non-violent
politics is based on the notion that while your body is over there and my
body is over here, in spirit there is really no place where you stop and I
start. On the level of bodies, the Israelis and the Palestinians today, in
many cases, could not be further away. On the level of spirit they are one,
because God created only one Son, and we are all It.
So for us to hold on the level of consciousness to the oneness in spirit
between the Israelis and the Palestinians, does not destroy our brain cells.
It does not mean that we do not take a stand for justice as we understand
justice - and even on that issue, a lot of different interpretations,
because there's a lot of different issues. In my mind, it's hardly a black
and white situation; it's very complicated and very nuanced. But the point
is, more of a complication, and more of a nuance coming from you, they don't
need. More of a complication and more of a nuance is not what is necessary
here. What is necessary is that somehow they find the ground of being which
is beyond the personality level, which for them is almost impossible to
achieve right now, and how could we judge either side for their difficulty
in achieving it? You and I, though, have an easier time being clear about
that situation because we are not in it.
If you're in a situation, your circumstances are awful, and I start telling
you the only reality is love, you could say to me, 'Well that's easy for you
to say', and I say, "Well, that's why I'm saying it, because I don't know
this person you're talking about'. So for me, in this situation, it's easier
for me to see the abstract truth about your life. And then when I'm lost in
the midst of my own circumstances and craziness, someone else speaks
abstract truth for me.
Now, there are different levels of reality, and the level of reality which
is the physical world is considered, from a spiritual perspective, what the
Buddha called maya, or illusion. It's all really mortal hallucination that
we're having. And to the extent to which we remain inside the hallucination
trying to fix it, once again, we're really just more of the hallucination.
The Course in Miracles says, 'God does not give you victory in battle. He
lifts you above the battlefield'. Martin Luther King said, 'This is not a
personal love that we're discussing here. This is an impersonal love'. I'm
not talking about a personal love for the Palestinians, or a personal love
for the Israelis. We're talking here about an impersonal love that withdraws
its attachment to the level of the personality, and instead is lifted to
Now, in my own life, I had an interesting demonstration of this. As you
probably know, I am not a Republican, and during the Republican National
Convention - what was it, two summers ago? - I was not consciously aware
that the convention was taking place. I mean, I guess I knew, but I wasn't
thinking about it, and I wasn't planning to watch. I did my lesson from the
Course in Miracles one morning, and the lesson was, 'Give me Your blessing,
Holy Son of God'. And the whole lesson was about how you have to ask one
brother, one human being, who is a symbol of all the rest, and ask them to
love you. And your entire spiritual practice that day would be about your
establishing love with this other human being, and this would heal the
world, and this would heal your world.
I did the meditation that morning, and I read the exercise. I was deeply
moved by it, and truly infused. I was taken to that place where I really got
it. I put down my Course in Miracles, and I went downstairs. I was sipping
tea, and I thought I would turn on television, and there was a picture of
George W. Bush. I thought, 'No, not him Lord. Anyone, not him'. But I knew,
I absolutely knew, that this could not be more perfect. Now this is the
really hard part. This was the very beginning of the convention, so I had
three days of this torture that I had to go through. But I knew, I knew. I
had read Gandhi, and I had read King, and I knew that this, you know,
self-righteous, left wing anger of mine is me being a brat. It's not me
being an advocate for real change. I knew that intellectually. So I knew,
because I have read King and Gandhi, that I must be the change I want to see
happen, and for me to talk about peace in the world, while I am so
judgmental and warlike towards anybody who has the audacity to disagree with
me, is really not the new politics, thank you Miss Williamson.
So I really worked that baby. It was so beautiful. I worked at it over the
next three days, and my whole spiritual practice was about falling in love
with George W. Bush. At the end of the convention, he came out to give his
speech, and I had really worked at this - every time his name was said - I
was just blessing.
By the time he came out to give his speech, I had a very interesting
experience. I had prayed so much, and really owned what was mine - that I
really felt love for him. I felt totally emotionally flat about him. I felt
no need to personally dishonor him, and there were a couple of lines in his
speech that I actually very much admired - he talked about forgiveness, and
then some other things - I had no problem giving him his due when he
But this is what was very interesting to me. I listened to his speech. I
didn't feel a need to separate from him on a personal level. I did not feel
a need to withhold my appreciation and honor for him as a human being, and I
was more clear, more articulate, and more focused in my disagreement with
just about everything he said politically than I had ever been before. I
also noticed when I talked to my friends, that they were so apoplectic that
they could hardly carry on an intelligent conversation about his speech. I
noticed that my political perspicacity had actually been increased, and
other people I knew, who were stuck in this level of just judgment and, 'Oh,
this is so awful, blah, blah, blah', were actually, it seemed to me,
decreased in their ability to put forth a more serious, intelligent
You know, sometimes we have this idea that love will destroy our brain
cells, that love is fuzzy thinking. That is something we really need to take
on. Somebody ought to take some speeches by Gandhi and Dr. King, take the
name 'Gandhi' off it, take the name 'Dr. Martin Luther King' off it, send it
to a lot of magazines and op-ed pages and places like the New York Times,
and I'm telling you, it would come back with a note written that this is
just too New Age for our audience. Right?
The Course in Miracles says that love restores reason, and not the other way
around. So, for those of us who are interested in the non-violent politics
of Dr. King and Gandhi, one of the lines from Martin Luther King, which I
find fascinating is, he said, 'You have no morally persuasive power with
people who can feel your underlying contempt'. You have no morally
persuasive power with people who can feel your underlying contempt. So that
takes us full circle back to the principle that self-purification must
precede direct political action.
I had been fascinated by such ideas for a long time, as many of us have, and
the work that I have been involved with that I want to take this opportunity
to tell you about, is something called the Global Renaissance Alliance.
You know, we're living at a time of a great movement, and I do believe this,
and anytime you have a movement, no particular project monopolizes it or
owns it. No one has a corner on transformation of any domain, whether it's
political or spiritual. This is one work, and I just want you to know about
it, because it might be something that feels good to you.
What the GRA is, is a very simple template. It is a template based on a
subject that is pretty hot right now, and that is the notion of the power of
circles. I was driving home and there was some talk radio program on, and it
was some very, very conservative gentleman, and he was saying, 'I am so sick
of these peaceniks out in Berkeley California, and they think we should all
just sit in a circle and sing Kumbaya'. You know - those are the people that
would like to deport Gloria Steinem. Then a woman called in, and the
conversation was about this new Al Queda prisoner that they have. She was
saying that she thinks what we ought to do is that since, in certain parts
of the world they stone women to death, that she thinks every American
should be given a stone, so we could have at this guy. And then the talk
show host said, 'Sounds good to me'. But he's so sick of these peaceniks out
in Berkeley, right?
Well, once again, I think this is a time for us to remember, also, the line
of Martin Luther King when he would say, 'Don't worry about numbers. A lie
will fall. Doesn't matter how long it's going to take for the lie to fall.
If it's a lie, it will fall, and it will fall of its own dead weight. You
just claim a ground of truth. And when it comes to social and political
activism - and this is something, now, from a purely political perspective -
don't kid yourself. When the abolitionists first said, 'We're going to
abolish slavery'; they hardly represented a majority. They were considered
crazy, and radical, and impossible dreamers by the status quo of their time.
And suffragettes, when they said, 'We're going to give women the right to
vote'; they hardly represented the majority of people, even the women at
that time. They were considered crazy. They were considered radical and
dangerous, threatening to the status quo of their time.
So it's important, I think, for our generation, who is used to getting
things pretty easy, not to give up. It seems to us sometimes, like other
voices are in the media, and other voices seem to control the political
parties, or whatever. It's very important for those of us who believe in a
new politic, for those of us who believe in a deep democracy, a deep
democracy based on a level of compassionate conversation and sharing of our
stories with each other; a deep level of listening and a deep level of
sharing. For those of us who believe that meditation has its place, for
those of us who believe that forgiveness has its place, for those of us who
believe that genuine prayer for our enemies has its place. Jesus said, 'Pray
for your enemies, and bless those who curse you'. And even those who are not
necessarily into the Jesus authorship of the line, tend to know, 'Bless your
enemies' - it drives them crazy. Right? Love your enemies; it's good
strategy, if nothing else.
So, what the Global Renaissance Alliance is, is a template - very simple
notion of people sitting in small groups called Peace Circles- twelve or
fewer - because it's difficult to have an intimate conversation with more
than twelve people. The Peace Circles meet, usually, every other week. It's
simply a group of people, two or more, who pray together articulate their
own deeper vision for what they want, instead of articulating all the time
what we don't want. We have great power in articulating what we do want - in
making of the space of their circle through prayer and meditation, and deep
and holy sharing, a little piece of the heaven we wish to see in the world.
Scientists tell us that the world that we live in is holographic. The notion
in that is that every piece contains the whole, and the whole is in every
piece. So if we take little groups of people, we can among ourselves, create
genuine right relationship - genuine right relationship based on a deep
understanding of who the other person is as a human being, then we create
little pieces, little pieces of heaven.
After September 11, we heard a lot about cells of terror. Ladies and
gentlemen, it's time for us to create cells of peace, because there's a
synergistic power. The Course in Miracles says that ideas grow stronger when
they are shared. Notice, if you had a canvas full of little red dots, just
many, many little red dots, but you looked at it from far enough away, it
would look like a solid field of pink. And that's what happens here. As we
have enough small little pieces of heavenly energy, of energy among people
that has truly been lifted to a level of a deep humanity, you go to your
You know, in the cross - the intersection of the vertical axis and the
horizontal - it's that place where God meets the earth. Same with the Star
of David in the Jewish religion - the triangle pointing to God intersecting
the triangle pointing to man. That's our purpose on this earth. We are
mothered by the forces of the earth, we are fathered by the forces of the
sky, and everything - whether it is our politics, whether it is our science,
whether it is our business, our education or any other thing we do - when
those institutions become informed by a sensibility which recognizes who we
are - not merely as mortal beings, but as eternal beings, as spiritual
beings - then those institutions will change. The idea here, of course, and
I think this day testifies to this, is that anything else is inadequate to
The Global Renaissance Alliance
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