Never despair

World affairs can sometimes lead us into a trough of despair. Gandhi must have felt this sometimes in his battles for truth and justice. I just came across this quote which gives hope in difficult times:

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.”
Mahatma Gandhi

It also reminds me of EF Schumacher’s words at the end of A Guide for the Perplexed (pub 1977):

“Can we rely on it that a ‘turning around’ will be accomplished by enough people quickly enough to save the modern world? This question is often asked, but whatever answer is given to it will mislead. The answer ‘Yes’ would lead to complacency; the answer ‘No’ to despair. It is desirable to leave these perplexities behind us and get down to work.”
EF Schumacher

Of course, hope is the antidote to fear, and one of the great messengers of hope in the world has been Barak Obama. For example:

“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.”
Barak Obama

Soil, Soul, Society

“Soil is the source of all life… All life comes from the mother soil and returns to her…
If my outer body is soil, then my inner being is the soul. As I cultivate the soil to grow food for the body, I take care of the soul and cultivate love, compassion, beauty and unity to realise the harmony within and without.
When I am at ease within, I am at ease without… Through caring for soil I am a member of the Earth community and through caring for society I am  member of the human community…
…the trinity of Soil, Soul, Society is a way of saying in three words that we are all related, interconnected and interdependent. This is a trinity of wholeness and unity of life in its myriad forms.”

soil_soul_societyThe above words are taken from the forward to Satish Kumar’s new book Soil, Soul, Society: a new trinity for our time. They express the essence of what is in the book.

I have over perhaps four decades read much written by Satish, in his various books and Resurgence magazine editorials, and have heard a number of inspirational talks by this modern purveyor of wisdom.

The book contains little that is actually new to me, but does provide a good summary of Satish’s approach to the world and his three major themes. He shows how these came about through the inspiration of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain philosophy, the special influence of Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore and E.F.Schumacher, and the organisations that have flowered through these special inspirations. Along the way we find a passionate critique of modern Western civilisation and its unsustainable focus on economic growth at the expense of the natural environment and individual and social wellbeing.

The need is for a renewed focus on Soil, Soul and Society, reconnecting with the wisdom of ealier, sustainable, societies.

If you are familiar with Satish’s thinking, this will enable you to drink once more from his well of wisdom, reconnect with earlier inspirations. If you are not so familiar, the book provides and excellent introduction and overview. It is beautifully written in an inspirational style, and the ideas are so important today.

Today we are reaping the results of 50 years of these ideas being essentially ignored by mainstream political and media thinking and kept at the margins in various charities. How much longer can this continue, as we grapple with the unsustainable effects of that mainstream – notably inequality, lack of a stake in the ‘good life’ for many people, environmental degradation and global warming? No doubt this is a subject I will return to in future posts.

See also Satish’s TEDx talk.

 

 

Levels of Being

E.F.SchumacherIn the 1970s E.F.Schumacher was one of the voices crying in the wilderness for humanity to change direction. He diagnosed the basic philosophical problem underlying the ‘Western’ world view, suggesting that the mind/body split attributed to Descartes represented a break with the traditional wisdom of earlier societies, and its essential truth that there are different Levels of Being. These Levels are represented in the physical world by the essentially different natures of mineral, vegetable, animal and human – and by the corresponding mysteries of matter, life, consciousness and self awareness. And the wisdom tradition indicates that there are also higher levels of soul and spirit that we humans can aspire to.

This seems fundamental. If we do not recognise the possibility of higher Levels of Being then we voluntarily impoverish ourselves. Schumacher makes it clear: “The level of significance to which an observer or investigator tries to attune himself is chosen, not by his intelligence, but by his faith… his fundamental presuppositions and basic assumptions.” It seems clear that the materialists had thrown out the baby of human potential with the bath water of the religious faiths whose dominance they were trying to break away from.

Since lower Levels of Being are not aware of higher Levels, or of their significance, this has encouraged the majority of people to stumble along in a materialistic trance, lemmings approaching the cliff edge of the end of the world. And all in accord with a simplistic and restricted materialistic faith, known as scientism, that does not recognise our true potential.

In the world of my upbringing the word ‘faith’ was always coupled with the word ‘irrational’, conveniently ignoring the faith that underlies the materialistic view itself. An optimistic faith based on the premise of the existence of higher Levels of Being, for which there is so much testimony from our forebears and contemporaries, seems the rational response to the situation we find ourselves in. Higher Levels of Being generally correspond with a more inclusive and less selfish approach to the world (for example in my earlier heroes, M.K.Gandhi and Martin Luther King).

If we do not choose to follow the quest for those higher Levels we will certainly never achieve them, instead continuing along our present destructive path.

Accepting the concept of Levels of Being, we can see religions as being potentially in the role of providing alternative paths towards those higher spiritual Levels (see eg The Marriage of Sense and Soul, Ken Wilber). There is a strong attraction to the idea that there is this common core at the heart of all the world’s religions, as confirmed, for example, by Huston Smith’s extensive research (Forgotten Truth, Huston Smith). Religions become different paths towards a common aim, which is to connect with that which is highest in humanity. Each religion provides its own approach for following the path to this common spirituality, like a crutch which can be discarded when we are able to stand on our own spiritual feet.

Schumacher’s thinking here comes from his posthumous philosophical work A Guide for the Perplexed.

This post is an extract from my article Science and Spirituality.