Why Our Spiritual Traditions Have Failed to Respond to the Global Crises – And How We Can Change That Now
Many spiritual practitioners shun the social and political realms (even take pride in doing so) but we can no longer afford this. We need a clear-sighted awareness of the social, political, ecological and economic forces at play in the global crises, and an intelligent, active approach to transforming them. We cannot simply pretend to transcend them, ignore them or wish them away; they will come back to haunt us if we do not bring all our faculties into a full-hearted, conscious response, before the short window of time we have is irrevocably closed to us. The crises are occurring, no doubt, to wake us from our false sense of separation, from our Earth, each other and our own Source – it is up to us, and our conscience, to respond to the call.
Why has this not been happening, especially in our spiritual scenes; what are the signs this is starting to change; and what can we do to accelerate the momentum?
I mentioned earlier that neither the traditional religions nor New Age or post-modern spiritual paths have effectively challenged our systems, nor offered new visions of the magnitude needed now. The traditional religions, of course, are slow to respond, since their role is inherently conservative: to conserve and uphold the structures of society, and thus to support, in general, the social and political status quo. The New Age spiritual movements and post-modern paths, while offering new approaches – holistic, integral, evolutionary – have also failed to sufficiently challenge the materialistic system that is causing the crises; instead, a comfortable marriage has developed during the neo-liberal decades between spirituality and the consumerist capitalist system.
This is true both of the New Age movements, that cater mainly to well-off white elites, looking for stress relief and personal spiritual freedom, and the integral, evolutionary scenes, that have tended more and more to move towards business and technology, superhuman and transhuman memes, and looked down their nose at anything “green”: grassroots community, the feminine, social-political movements for justice, systemic change and deep, ecological renewal. Yet these latter movements are more pertinent than ever today, for healing our ecological crises and extreme social rifts. If we are not to devolve into a dystopian, inhuman world (robotic or barbaric), we have to renew and evolve our humanity and true community.
In our current society, what we do for our livelihood, how we earn and spend our money, is often dissociated from the moral and spiritual tenets we might otherwise espouse. Our “worth” is measured by our financial and material wealth, no matter how unjust or destructive the means by which that wealth was acquired. This is true in the mainstream culture, but insidiously affects alternative currents too; no matter how pure their original intentions, market forces and business interests inevitably take over, vitiating the true potential for change.
In the New Age, post-modern, neo-liberal era, spirituality has become complicit with capitalism, yet if it is going to act as a genuine force for transformation, this has got to change. Business interests – making a profit with “spiritual products and services”, therapies, technologies and high-cost retreats – all too often have co-opted the original, altruistic ideals of personal and planetary transformation, of spirituality as a force for change that serves the well-being of all. In fact, these are the directions — business, tech and self-profit, divorced from real care for the Earth and each other – which have gotten us into our troubles in the first place; let’s not allow our spiritual responses, which need to be incisive, inspired and robust, instead be hijacked by the same forces they need powerfully to challenge and change! The truth is “business-as-usual” is no longer an option, least of all in the spiritual world, if it is to be true to its name.
Fortunately, today, this long stagnation seems to be breaking. Increasingly spiritual groups – Christians, Buddhists, yoga, mindfulness and others – are responding to the social and ecological crises, and even coming together in collective action. Yet the missing link still often remains: the failure to clearly acknowledge the importance of systemic global economic transformation – not just individual or local ecological actions; or reforming business practices; or charity or social service — but a radical whole-scale transformation to a new cooperative, just and regenerative system, based on the deepest spiritual truths of our interconnection and unity. Compassion, prayer and good intentions alone cannot make this happen: it takes dedicated, well-informed and courageous action.
A vanguard of religious groups – notably the Catholics, with the Pope’s hard-hitting “Laudate Sei”; the Buddhists, with Ecodharma, One Earth Sangha, Extinction Rebellion Buddhists; and the Parliament of the World’s Religions itself, with its Climate Emergency Action – are addressing more directly the need for a deep-seated transformation of our global economic system. In these, and other new initiatives, we see very positive signs, and there is, no doubt, more momentum to come. The fact that Marianne Williamson, for instance, is running for president on a spiritual platform for whole-systems transformation attests to the near-miraculous speed with which things are changing now – it would have been unthinkable in the last election!
This sacred activist vision is also, as I see it, closely connected with the spirit of the Divine Feminine that is rising today. First let me say that this does not just involve the empowerment of women; it also vitally includes men. It is about a vital change in the collective consciousness to a more integrative, inclusive approach — not about polarization, either of gender, culture, race, nationality or any of the other bases that have been dividing us.
It is about a sea-change in our spiritual and social paradigms. Along with disconnecting spirituality from social and ethical action, the patriarchal traditions have mired themselves down in sexual and power abuses, discrediting spirituality as a whole. The time has come for the long-suppressed feminine to rise and bring us into balance.
The Divine Feminine, in its highest expression, embraces and reconciles all the oppositions that divide us, the schisms of mind and body, the borders that set us apart. As the Mother of all, She is our very Source: all existence is Her creation, borne of Her infinite fertile space, in visible forms and invisible, life here on Earth and beyond. Though She is formless and ageless, She encompasses all space and time. She is not only the Earth as opposed to the sky, immanence as opposed to transcendence, but that which interconnects both: the union between life on Earth as we see it and the unseen, unborn, unchanging dimension that gives it birth, sustains it and re-absorbs it into Herself. It is She that delivers us, into this life, and beyond it. She is the Mother who never ejects us from her infinite body.
Embracing this all-inclusive spirit of the feminine re-unites us not only with our own Source, but with our Earth and each other. As macro-cosmos, so micro-cosmos; as the feminine spirit rises, so do women and girls. Along with like-minded men, they are rising up and leading the way to the healing of our global society, a true evolutionary re-birth. Women, especially women of color, are offering new progressive platforms, addressing climate change, racism and social injustice, such as the New Green Deal promoted by Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. Greta Thunberg and youth worldwide are standing up with consummate courage, confronting the powers-that-be with the truth of our crises and demanding radical change.
The spirit of the Divine Feminine demands that we care just as much about our precious Earth and each other as we do about the Infinite, because we are all expressions of That – Her Creation, and Her own Self. This, the highest avatar of the feminine spirit of interconnectedness, especially called for in these times, heals and transcends all division. Today it is powering a wave of rapidly rising action, non-violent but uncompromising in its demands, despite and in response to the backlash from the bastions of power. We are seeing an upwelling of passion, compassion and truth-telling such as we have not seen for years, a new culture of fierce love.
The Divine Feminine is a portal to the all-inclusiveness of our true being, the fullest expression of our true non-duality. Through that door we come home, to who we always are and have been — the infinite Consciousness that is the ground of all being, the Whole. It is only through this deep recognition that we are already Whole, that we can heal the brokenness of these end-times, and transform them into a new beginning, stepping across the threshold of our assumed identities into our own true divinity, from our long dream of exile to our eternal home.
Lastly, I’d like to propose two ways that we can help accelerate this global transition to unity: the Spheres of Co-Creation, an online collaborative model; and the Shakti Centre Global, a sacred activist ashram. Both aim to bring about the union of inner and outer transformation, community and cooperation, on-line and on the ground.
Designed to foster the global transition to a sustainable, cooperative and just society, the Spheres of Co-Creation is a model depicting a spectrum of seven spheres of our being, from the innermost of eternal Consciousness to its outermost complex expressions: from Consciousness, Energy, Psyche/Worldview, Ecology, Economy, Socio-Political Governance, to the Planetary/Cosmic levels. It will also function as an active database: organizations working at all these levels can enter themselves online in the model, find each other and collaborate for planetary transformation.
The Shakti Centre would likewise combine both inner and outer dimensions, addressing the individual as well as local and global levels. Workshops and retreats would include non-dual meditation; energetic, holistic healing; sharing circles; compassionate communication and collaborative processes; ecological, community projects; research and outreach for global systems-change.
Both projects would enable those working on the inner and outer planes to come together, enlarge their horizons, and work in synergy as a unified movement. Both would also converge with the still larger, growing “movement of movements” today, bringing together diverse issues and factions into united action. Please join us! Let’s come together and harness the power of unity, our own deepest true nature, to heal ourselves and our planet, resurrecting the sacred in our world.
In these critical times, we are called to a new spiritual paradigm: non-dual in its basis, sacred activist in its expression, feminine in its all-embracing spirit. Recognizing the unity between formlessness and form is the hallmark of a mature spirituality, both personally and in our greater culture. The formless, infinite Source of our Being can then in-form our thoughts and our actions, accelerating our evolution from the deepest perennial wisdom. Our actions become a celebration of the miracle of creation, in all its myriad, diverse forms, and their undying Source.
A true non-dual vision is not in conflict with caring for this world, with consummate love and wisdom. We are called to something, ultimately, beyond this world we see, but first we have to answer the call to cherish this world, in all its sorrows and beauty, before its horizons can open up and we can step through, free.
Many of those who understand the full danger of the crises are scrambling now, looking for ways to protect themselves, to save themselves and their own. Maybe, for a short time, this can work. But, ultimately, I believe, the only ark that can save us from the storms of these times is the infinite ocean of love itself that is our own true being, breaking through and flooding us with its light. The climate crisis is an ultimatum — for us to act, in love with all we hold sacred, before it is too late; it may also be our ultimate rite of passage, if we can rise to its call.
1 For a first prototype of the model, see http://transformthesystem.net/spheres.cfm. Also see links to “A Holarchic Model for a Global Citizens Movement” and “Manifesto for a Movement of Movements” http://transformthesystem.net/manifesto.cfm