Some roads to God have no signs on them
saying "This is a road to God." Some roads of Spirit
have no signs on them saying "This is a road of Spirit."
Paths that lead out of the swamp lead out
of the swamp no matter what signs are posted on them.
Some people will not leave the swamp if
a road has certain signs on it. Some people will not leave the
swamp if a road does not have certain signs on it.
We need roads of many signs and roads of
no signs, all leading out of the swamp. Because we all need to
get out of the patterns that degrade our lives, individually and
In our pluralistic democracy, we particularly
need paths that evoke and inspire people's implicit spirituality
without the trappings of explicit spirituality (language, assumptions,
rituals, etc.), so that people of all spiritual persuasions --
as well as those who do not believe in any kind of spirituality
-- can feel welcome and can naturally connect with and act from
their implicit native spirituality, individually and collectively.
One doesn't need to know one is a spirit
to be a spirit. A conversation or activity doesn't have to declare
that it is spiritual in order for spirit to manifest.
In a pluralistic democracy that embraces
many religions, spirit shows up in public forums and official
activities as personal authenticity, heart and attention to the
common good. When people see these things, some may see Spirit
at work, while others don't. Unbelievers who participate in activities
that are authentic, heartful and concerned with the common good,
still end up manifesting and serving Spirit. They don't think
of it as manifesting and serving Spirit. They do it simply because
it makes sense, feels good or moves them .
Spiritual activists may benefit by understanding
that activities that support personal authenticity, heart and
attention to the common good are Spirit manifesting, no matter
what name those activities go by. Asserting spiritual frameworks
where they aren't understood or wanted may actually suppress Spirit.
Letting go of Spirit may free it to show up in its many disguises,
as caring, attention, listening, transformation, help, etc.
At the same time, those of us who value
explicitly spiritual activities of various types need opportunities
to exercise our particular spiritual practices and capacities
on behalf of the common good -- especially together. This is central
for most spiritual activists, and in no way contradicts the need
for open public activities that are not explicitly spiritual.
I envision an activist spectrum ranging
from explicitly spiritual activities (like group meditation) to
implicitly spiritual activities (like deep dialogue) to explicitly
mechanistic materialist activities (like improving voting systems).
Often activities will contain a mix of these, such as an affinity
group meeting for prayer before participating in a nonviolent
direct action with non-spiritual groups to address a community
Spiritual activism can be easiest for those
who recognize that there is nothing in the world but Spirit. Spirit
does not need to be acknowledged or declared. It just Is, everywhere
and forever. Its Presence is a resource, waiting to be called
forth, tuned in to, aligned with, or simply to manifest through
Everything that manifests, manifests out
of, through, and in the context of Spirit. Spirit shapes the fields
of probability within which matter, energy, space, time and pattern
emerge into ever-new realities.
To the extent these four factors are all
aligned in one direction, relevant probability fields shift in
that direction. That is, physical reality tends to manifest according
to patterns of intent, meaning, evolutionary development and the
welfare of the Whole -- especially when all four factors are pointed
in the same direction.
However, this fact does not guarantee any
particular outcome. There are three reasons for this: First, patterns
of intent and meaning are co-created by all participants in life,
so no one intent can decisively determine any outcome. Secondly,
the welfare of the Whole -- while understandable in part -- is
ultimately beyond human comprehension, although it is not beyond
human intent. And third, the things that make up reality have
their own probability momentum, their own trajectories, their
own long-established habits that, together, sustain the predictability
that makes reality "real" and gives us such things as
"the laws of nature."
Nevertheless, there is extensive evidence
that fields of probability can be nudged, to a noticeable degree,
when human intent is aligned with meaning, evolutionary development,
and the welfare of the Whole.
This dynamic is of significant interest
to spiritual activists, for herein lies the role of prayers and
meditations for peace and healing. They shift the probability
structure of reality.
And yet, as potent as they are, letting
go of outcome in such work may be an important element of aligning
with the welfare of the Whole. Prayers and meditation might well
serve to evoke our own responsiveness to the needs of the evolving
Whole, as well as invoking the responsiveness of the Whole to
our needs and our sense of the common good.
* In the large sweep of things, evolutionary development
moves in the direction of [or generates realities characterized
by] more complex coherence composed of simultaneously greater
differentiation, synergy and integration. Intentions which align
with those tendencies are favored in the long run. <return
Caring is a desire to nurture the welfare
of someone or something. All action comes out of caring.
There are depths of caring. At the deeper
levels, caring arises from -- and naturally serves -- three things:
our common spirit, our common livingness, and our common humanity.
Anything which orients the consciousness
of beings to their deeper levels of caring -- which are our
shared deeper levels of caring -- will guide their thoughts,
responses and actions towards the common good. Their caring then
becomes naturally wiser.
The ground of being is Spirit. The ground
of nature, of organic existence, is Life. The ground of healthy
human relationships and society is Humanity.
This is true of every individual and every
human collective. Deep within us, individually and collectively,
we can connect to a realm where our shared identity, experience
and caring live. This realm I call the "core commons"
-- the core source of wise life energy that is common to us all.
It is wise because it emerged from the interconnectedness of life
-- our spiritual, biological and social kinship -- and it always
calls us back to those realities.
Because every distinct human being has,
at their core, this common Spirit, this common Life, this common
Humanity, there is always a potential for deep resonance between
us all on the imperatives of our common Spirit, Life and Humanity,
and on what might best serve those deep needs.
Holistic and spiritual activism include,
therefore, any form of focused citizenship that evokes that resonance.
Among these actions are:
1. Nonviolent direct action in which voluntary
individual vulnerability, danger or suffering evoke deep responses
in those who view the action. The absence of violence by the direct
activists is essential to call forth this resonance, since their
creating suffering in others would evoke empathy for the others,
rather than for themselves and those they represent. The purest
role of nonviolent action is to clearly call forth on ourselves,
with an open heart, the physical or spiritual violence of life-degrading
systems where those violent dynamics can be transformed by the
life-affirming resonance which is invoked deep within the people
involved in those systems.
2. Silent witness done with Presence --
the Spirit of the Whole. When those doing the witnessing have
a strong connection to their own core commons, it causes many
observers to suddenly connect to their own corecommons. Through
this dynamic the consciousness of many people can align into a
growing intention to transform (and sometimes prevent) the harmful
situation being witnessed.
3. Deep listening to other human beings,
from the place of our common Spirit, Life and Humanity. This awakens
life energy like connecting a wire to positive and negative poles
awakens electrical energy. Deep listened tends to help people
connect to their core common Spirit, Life and Humanity. Often
they discharge the confusions and distortions of their caring
towards the listener. In the process, their caring is healed and
they can more readily find their alignment with the welfare of
4. The creation and facilitation of forums
where the quality of dialogue nurtures participants' connection
to their individual and collective core commons. These forums
may be designed for the benefit of the participants, as in community-wide
interracial dialogues. Or they may involve deliberations to produce
wise, commons-based actions on the part of the participants, as
in community visioning exercises. Or they may be designed to engender
more wise, commons-based decisions on the part of official decision-makers
or the public at large, as in public mediations between leaders
of opposing advocacy groups.
5. Publicizing the occurance and outcomes
of such wisdom-generating conversations in ways that help the
public deeply resonate with them. This may be particularly powerful
when (a) participants clearly represent (or embody) the diversity
of the whole community, (b) the public is eagerly awaiting the
outcome and (c) stories are told of the transformation of specific
participants through informed, heartful dialogue. The spirit that
moved through the original conversation can then leap into the
hearts and minds of the public, like a fire leaping across a road.
6. Establishing such forums (and the dissemination
of their results) as official activities of politics and governance.
Institutionalizing the power of diverse small groups to develop
and inspire resonance in the public sphere helps establishes the
wisdom of the common good as the social context within which individuals
and groups pursue their diverse self-interests.
7. Art done from the place of our common
Spirit, Life and Humanity. Some of this art -- such as the symbol
of the Earth from space -- draws our attention directly to our
core commons. Other art manifests the core commons through our
individual uniqueness -- such as great novels about ordinary people
in archetypal situations we all face. Still other art manifests
it through compassionate, nonjudgmental viewing of our diversity,
such as the multiple-viewpoint drama of Anna Deavere Smith.
8. Meditation, prayer, ritual and exercises
of intent and magic focused on the well-being of the Whole --
especially when done by large numbers of people. Here the resonance
is not among the core commons of individuals (as in nonviolent
action and group dialogue), but between the core commons of individuals
and the Whole (or spirit guardians of the Whole) -- experienced
as the Benign Power(s) of the Universe, God, Goddess or other
Supreme Beingness -- operating through, with and on behalf of
the wishes of those seeking the well-being of the Whole.
These are only a few examples of spiritual
activism based on the resonant intelligence and wisdom-power of
the core commons we all share. I hope they serve as a guide to
help us develop new forms of spiritual activism and holistic citizenship
that do not need to be adversarial in order to be powerful.
Spirit seeks optimum benefit for the Whole
and for as many beings within the Whole as possible, given the
necessity that benefits be distributed unequally (e.g. what is
eaten is not benefited in the same way as what eats it).
Spirit does not support the welfare of humans
generally, or your or me specifically, at the expense of other
beings or the learningful unfolding of evolution. Thus the obvious
benign nature of the universe does not mean that it is there to
serve our mundane interests. The universe is there to provide
resources and companionship in our co-evolutionary journey, just
as we provide resources and companionship for the evolutionary
journey of all other beings and entities. The result may or may
not satisfy our personal desires.
There is often much to learn from those
times when we do not get what we want, or what we think we want.
There is also much to learn by trying to comprehend the welfare
of the Whole and the welfare of most beings, without attachment
to our limited, temporary sense of our self-interest. What does
it mean to be a conscious participant in the evolving welfare
of the Whole?
Mortality is real. Our ultimate survival
is not guaranteed by Spirit, except insofar as we are of Spirit,
and identify ourselves with That, and see life as an opportunity
to grow and learn as -- and into -- That.
But all physical and mental forms -- both
individual and collective -- are impermanent facets of the flow
of life in its own evolution. Believing that Spirit will take
favor on our impermanent forms, whether individual or collective,
is folly -- and even dangerous to other forms struggling to survive,
thrive and grow. Spirit is on the side of All. Spirit is on our
side only to the extent we are on the side of All.
And under no circumstances does that fact
guarantee the survival of our forms -- our bodily life, current
circumstances, desires, favorite ideas or relationships, planet,
Human compassion and wisdom seek ways to
pursue individual benefit that align with the well-being of the
Whole. Likewise, we could say that a system is compassionate and
wise to the extent its design and functioning generate situations
in which the individual pursuit of happiness naturally serves
the ongoing well-being of the Whole. (Most of our current economic
and political systems fall painfully short of that standard.)
Full compassion recognizes the two-faced
nature of suffering. Suffering is co-created by the dance between
undesirable circumstances of life and our desire that those circumstances
be different than they are. Suffering can be reduced by changing
the circumstances, or by changing our attachment to something
different. Compassion seeks to ameliorate suffering in both realms:
by acting to change life-degrading circumstances, AND by nurturing
the capacity (in all concerned) to transcend suffering and degradation
even in the worst of circumstances.
This is the wisdom of the Serenity Prayer:
"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot
change, courage to change the things I can [assuming they should
be different] and wisdom to know the difference."
This can be expanded. For example, as compassionate
activists, we may wish to use situations for learning and capacity-building,
and not simply for acceptance or change. Or we may want to move
beyond serenity, courage and wisdom for ourselves, and build social
systems that generate less unnecessary suffering and that also
help people cope with or transcend the suffering that arises from
pain that is intrinsic to life.
Compassionate wisdom traditionally includes
the recognition of universal impermanence combined with recognition
of the ubiquity of Spirit -- and the evocation of transcendence
-- in everyone and everything, individually. It is possible to
transcend suffering by letting go into Spirit, and people can
be helped to do that.
Compassionate activists, however, recognize
that not everyone will pursue spiritual enlightenment, but that
everyone experiences harmful and difficult conditions. So compassionate
activists use their own capacity to transcend suffering
as a source of power to transform degrading conditions that stimulate
suffering in others.
Love includes compassion -- and then goes
further, to support the full manifestation of the best evolution
of another being (or all beings) in their own terms, according
to their deepest callings -- seeking the fullest development of
their unique life. Where compassion seeks to relieve suffering,
love seeks to promote the fullest aliveness of the beloved.
There are ways in which compassion and love
are more permanent than any form. And there are ways in which
compassion and love must be created every moment, just as the
universe co-creates itself every moment.
The Creative Source of All is the Co-Creative
Source of All, which is everywhere, which is All That Is.
Co-creativity, co-incarnation, interactive
emergence, dialogue -- these are fundamental to reality and, I
believe, to spirit.
Assertion is always contained within dialogue.
Reality always emerges through observations and interaction. Being
and identity are always embedded in alive relationship.
We speak of "the observer" and
"the observed" -- but the observation IS reality. We
can try to slip out of this by thinking of a reality that transcends
observation, but our very act of thinking observes it into reality.
Fields of probability emerge into reality ("collapse into
100% probability") through relationship. And, although seldom
commented on, it is clear observers come into being through their
observations. Without observations, there are no observers.
Co-creativity, co-operation, co-incarnation,
Co is the Source of all. And All is the
source of co.
Human consciousness, even at its highest
levels, does not have an intrinsic capacity to see into and understand
the intricate workings of collective human systems, human-made
systems, and human-influenced systems. Although there is much
that can be readily understood about these systems, many of them
are new in the universe and insight into their workings, effects
and consequences requires specialized education and information.
Even then, we can only comprehend so much
about infinite complexity, and so we must fall back on humility.
Given the extent to which the current level
of suffering and degradation of Life on Earth is closely related
to the workings of collective human, human-made and human-influenced
systems, there are real limits to our ability to effectively exercise
our care and compassion and to ground ourselves in real wisdom,
in the absence of knowledge about these systems.
AND, given the complexity of these systems,
there is little chance that any one individual can acquire even
the most rudimentary knowledge to effectively practice spiritual
activism and exercise holistic citizenship in the broadest sense,
across all issues.
However, if diverse groups specialize in
this or that aspect of systemic functioning, and these groups
are adequately interconnected and embedded in collective learning
systems, we can collectively generate the wisdom we need to guide
our caring, compassion and citizenship.
We need a new framing for the role of nonprofit
groups, citizen advocacy, learning communities, and citizen deliberative
activities. All these need to simultaneously ground themselves
(a) in their core commons, (b) in an area of systemic functioning
that they have passion for, and (c) in the need for collective
learning around the functioning of human systems as a whole, to
generate the collective wisdom we need to liberate and guide the
human caring and compassion of entire societies.
If we can liberate the caring and compassion
trapped within the living core we all share, the co-creativity
we need will unfold as naturally as tomorrow's sunrise.
From the viewpoint of spiritual activism,
I see that as the primary task of holistic politics and citizenship.
For other holistic spiritually oriented
political material see
and Stardust" speech by US
Rep Dennis Kucinich
as Spiritual Practice" speech
by former mayor Larry Robinson
Casey's Center for Visionary Activism
- a wild, politically conscious, extremely alive and visionary
mix of astrology and many forms of spirituality.
The Global Renaissance Alliance http://www.renaissancealliance.org/GRA/index.html
is a citizen-based, international network of spiritual activists
called to take a stand in our local and national communities for
the role of spiritual principle in solving the problems of the
The Center for Visionary Leadership's interesting
site on spirituality and politics http://www.visionarylead.org/spiritualityandpolitics.htm
, features explorations of how to apply spiritual principles to
social problems and citizenship, and includes a nascent effort
to organize spiritually-oriented voters.