The Institute of Spiritual Activism
‘The movers and shakers on the planet aren’t the billionaires and the generals. They are the incredible people around the world filled with love for neighbour and for the earth, who are resisting, remaking, restoring, renewing, revitalising…’ – Bill Mc Kibben
A new, spiritually-based, social activism is beginning to assert itself. It stems not from hating what is wrong and trying to fight it, but from loving what could be and making the commitment to bring it forth.’ – Marianne Williamson
Out of the confusion of a crumbling society are emerging individuals who are being touched by higher guidance. These will inevitably flow together with others of like inspiration and a new quality of society will begin to form. This is the true adventure of our time – Sir George Trevelyan
‘This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognised by yourself as a mighty one…’ – George Bernard Shaw
I have just written a new book called Awakening the Universal Heart: a guide for Spiritual Activists, which basically looks at what is amiss with our planet and at some of the different things that, as individuals, we can all do about it. This is so important as I see the situation in the world today being so grave with so much needing to be done at so many levels, and very possibly our very survival as a species being determined upon how humanity chooses to respond.
I think that if we are privileged enough not to be physically or emotionally ill or destitute , or are lucky enough not to live in a failed state or a war zone, that it is our human duty not only to share our resources more fully with those of our fellow human beings who are less fortunate, but also to commit to trying to have our lives be increasingly about making a difference. As Eric Assidourian put it: ‘Salvaging our society requires nothing less than a wholesale transformation of dominant cultural patterns, a dramatic shift in the very design of human societies.’
And how is this shift going to to take place if not through us – that is, through you and I, the people of the world? How otherwise, are our politics going to become less corrupt? How can our financial system work more effectively? What can we do about terrorism, the plight of refugees, the cataclysmic effects of climate change, and all the other many pressing problems that confront us all today?
I don’t think we can any longer solely rely on the ‘powers that be’ to bring about change, not least because all too often they are part of the problem and are often the ones who have got us into our messes in the first place. I think Gorbachev was absolutely right when he told us: ‘I became more convinced that fundamental change would not come from ‘above’, from the elected leaders of contemporary societies, but must come from below, from the people who live in those societies.’
In other words, we, the people, need to do more to ‘make a difference’ than many of us may be doing, and I don’t think this is predicated upon our necessarily being wealthy or a famous celebrity or having a lot of time on our hands. Anyone can make a difference. it is all about choice. We need to realise that being human implies certain responsibilities. Or as Albert Schweitzer once put it, we need to ‘get’ that
‘We who are heirs of a complex civilisation are charged with one major historical talsk: to aid the world in achieving true culture…to make the light of a truly humanitarian culture shine throughout the world.’
And in order for us to do this, as Gandhi said, ‘we need to be the change we want to see happen‘. In other words, we need to be that light; we need to have evolved our own humanity; we need to have awakened those domains inside ourselves that enable us truly to care about what happens in the world and truly experience compassion towards our fellow human beings and feel passionately about the evils of injustice and corruption. To help bring about such stances lies behind my idea for creating an Institute of Spiritual Activism.
AIMS OF THE INSTITUTE OF SPIRITUAL ACTIVISM
I envisage the institute having five main goals:
Goal number one OF THE INSTITUTE OF SPIRITUAL ACTIVISM
First and foremost, it will focus on putting the idea across to people that envisioning oneself as a change agent or activist for a better world, is an’ idea whose time has come’, and that our very survival may depend upon more of us ‘getting’ this and choosing to do something about it. The institute therefore wants to promote the idea that being a change agent/activist/difference maker, is fashionable or hip, and, at one simple level, is essentially about our discovering what it is that touches us or enrages us and choosing to do something about it.
Goal number two OF THE INSTITUTE OF SPIRITUAL ACTIVISM
Since we can only deeply care for the well being of our fellow human beings and our planet if our Heart life has begun to awaken ( in so many of us, our hearts are tightly closed and we live primarily out of our heads), this institute will offer training programmes dedicated to doing exactly this. There will be lectures, one-day and weekend courses as well as week-long retreats. When the work we do emerges out of a clear and loving heart that knows how to collaborate effectively with our heads, there is no danger that we will become activists for causes that are in any way retrograde.
Goal number three OF THE INSTITUTE OF SPIRITUAL ACTIVISM
The institute of spiritual activism will also train people in the art of being an activist, since many different skills are required for the many different areas that one may work in. Particular focus will be on helping people become more courageous and steadfast, more able to take powerful stands for those values they believe in, as well as more capable of dealing effectively with those forces out in the world which resolutely oppose change and which the activist will inevitably bump up against.
Goal number four OF THE INSTITUTE OF SPIRITUAL ACTIVISM
The institute will also be a resource centre giving information about all the many different forms of activism that exist – ranging from environmental activism, to human rights activism to peace activism, etc. This will enable people who feel inclined to want to be of service, to be informed about what is going on in those areas that particularly concern them. The institute will also invite well-known activists in the different fields to offer lectures and courses.
Goal number five of the institute of Spiritual activism
As newness is expensive and as many billions are required if our society is to move beyond its current crisis and touch a new level (see Chapter 25 of my book, entitled ‘Awakening the Corporate Heart’), much of this money will have to come from the corporate world. Therefore, the institute of spiritual activism will have a strong focus in putting on courses to promote corporate change and supporting executives to think along new lines and bring greater Heart into their work. This will enable them to align themselves more with the kind of philosophy expounded by Thomas J. Watson Sr., the IBM founder, when he suggested that ‘Companies were not created just to make money but to knit together the whole fabric of civilisation.’
The institute of spiritual activism will need to have a physical base which I suggest should be in London. It will require considerable funding if it is to get off the ground, and as I have already invested a lot of my own money to get the project this far and do not possess the financial resources to take it any further, this will need to come from external sources. I envisage this institute emerging as a result of a coming together of people with a similar vision and who will bring many different skills and attributes to the table. My intention is that everyone connected with this organisation will get back much more than they will have put in.