The gulf between the spiritual and political dimensions in human life has never been wider, while at the same time harmony between the two has never been more urgently necessary, or possible. But can they really go together? For me that means, can one’s mind/brain be anchored in attention and stillness, and still operate incorruptibly in the world, even in the political realm? I have no urge to hold office, but having a political, as well as contemplative and philosophical nature, I’m making one last bid to see if all three dimensions can fit together harmoniously and flower.
Most people have given up on politics altogether, and many others have sought escape in a supposedly spiritual life. But giving up on politics means giving up on the world, and escaping into a spiritual life is a delusion that denies spiritual growth.
It may become necessary to let go of the present world, as it has been necessary to let go of America, because, after risking everything for it, it’s clear that there’s no chance things are going to change here at this point in history. However I feel the verdict is still out where humankind as a whole is concerned, and as long as it is, I have to find out if I can make a difference in this world, though I can make no difference in my country.
Political engagement is not for everyone, and I’m not even sure it’s right for me. Even so, if one values democracy, one has to stay informed as a citizen and civilly speak up rather than cowardly shut up when the subject of politics comes up.
With respect to the larger question, there is little agreement on what the words ‘spiritual’ and ‘political’ even mean. I see spirituality as pertaining to the inner life of the individual, without adherence to a particular theological tradition and organized religion. I think this is what people mean when they say, ‘I’m spiritual but not religious.’
The vast majority of people believe the word political pertains only to the machinations of governmentsand politicians. But politics, in the true sense of the word, simply refers to the way people prioritize and organize society.
And at the great junctures of history (and none has been greater than the one at which humankind presently stands, frozen in place under the glacier of the past), politics is the art of providing an alternative before the inevitable collapse of an old order occurs.
The post-Cold War order of ‘the sole remaining superpower’ was dead on arrival. Now we’re running on fumes of the post-World War II order. Before it collapses, a sufficient but unknown number of people need to find out: What is our foundation and wellspring as individuals in the global society, now that we can no longer find meaning and coherence in belonging to particular groups and traditions?
Unmoored, must we individually and collectively become unhinged, or is there a deeper source of clarity and stability than the old forms and foolishness?
There is an infinite wellspring of insight available to us, but it cannot be tapped through any construct of thought, only through negating and quieting thought and thinking.
One’s inner life is private but not personal. Speaking personally however, to do philosophy I have to set aside thinking completely for a period every day, in favor of observing the movement of the mind and heart in the mirror of nature. I would have burned out long ago if I couldn’t let go of everything and observe thought/emotion into nothingness on a daily basis. In going beyond the known, the mind is renewed and the heart enlarged.
The greatest mystery of life, and difficulty for man, is that only out of silence and emptiness is there love. And whatever we construct, whether tangible or intangible, physical or intellectual, if we don’t have love, it cannot be meaningful for us, and lasting for humanity.
This is the underlying question to my mind: Is the transmutation of man occurring now? Without that, history will just keep repeating its vicious cycles, with variation, and our age will be seen as having blown the last chance to change course before ecological, political, and social catastrophes occur without alternative.
But what tangible political response can there be? Can world citizens create an effective political body flowing from spiritual insight?
Faith is not my strong suit, but I believe that when all the lies are spent, and there is nothing left to do but face the truth, humankind will turn toward the truth.
A global body, by whatever name, is urgently needed. It cannot have power, but must have influence over international organizations (including the UN, IMF, etc.). Therefore it must stand alone, and not be connected to the UN, including the General Assembly.
Obviously, such a body would have to completely steer clear of government and business leaders, though people out of office and executive position, and serving humanity in whatever capacity (such as Jimmy Carter and Bill Gates in this country) could participate in its deliberations and proclamations.
Prominent members cannot form the core however. That’s been tried already–for example with the Earth Charter, or the Global Council of Elders–and has failed to make a difference.
Well-informed world citizens from all walks of life, with the capacity to hold their beliefs and opinions in abeyance in favor of holding the space to question together, will form the core and constituency of the global polity.
Moved by a love of humanity and connecting with people all over the world, their insight would provide principled and pragmatic responses, in the flux of current events, to the immense and varied challenges facing humankind.