The Dawning of the Age of Activists
How healed can we ultimately become while the social systems in which we live and move, and have our earthly being, remain sick?
Date: 12/14/2005 7:44:23 PM ( 16 y ) ... viewed 2634 times
The dawning of the Age of Activists
By Hanna Rosin
The swami says to his lady: "Are we lost?" And while he's speaking in terms of the campus map, it's tempting to take his question metaphysically. What on Buddha's earth is any enlightened soul doing in Washington, this wasteland of "negaholics," where left-brain bickers with Logos and no one ever evolves?
And yet, it seems inevitable that the New Age spiritual questers would eventually feel their way here. After 20 years of crystal gazing and mood therapy and slurping on chicken soup, the inner child grows bored and yearns for adult company. Already the New Age crowd has bridged the mind-body divide in medicine and business. Now it's time for the last frontier: politics.
And so at the moment we find ourselves at "Re-Igniting the Spirit of America," a four-day conference dedicated to sparking a new "spiritually based politics" based not on greed, lust and power but on self-abnegation and common interest.
If all goes well, the hundreds of Zen masters and visualizers and other awakened spiritual selves who have gathered on Georgetown University's campus since Thursday night will mobilize into what organizers call the League of Spiritual Voters, to storm (or at least "channel") the halls of Congress.
The language and tools of self-help apply equally well to politics, the people here believe. If a man can have a mid-life crisis, why not a country? And if you consider yourself blessed with a vision for healing the toxic soul, then why not a toxic nation?
For inspiration, join one of the breakout sessions this weekend: What's wrong with politics today is that no one explores "international crises with human intuition" anymore. (Are you listening Dick Holbrooke?) No one bothers to create "an inner peace treaty." (Hafez, hello!) And no one, not even Trent Lott, is qualified to apply "Chinese healing principles" to the body politic.
The conference was sparked by a moment of inspiration. Four years ago, one dedicated couple--Corinne McLaughlin and Gordon Davidson, educators who hail from California--had a vision. Most of their friends thought you could either be a spiritual seeker or a political activist but never both. They decided that was a dualistic trap and vowed to unlock it.
With that, the Center for Visionary Leadership was born to train a new generation of business and political leaders, to teach "win-win" solutions to conflicts "that transcend the usual adversarial approaches." And they located themselves in the heart of dysfunction: Washington, D.C., what Davidson jokingly calls "a spiritual hardship assignment."
Then in a remarkable show of oneness, it turned out the two were not alone, that the giants of New Age thought were on the same wavelength. Glamorous guru Marianne Williamson, healer to Oprah and Liz, soon after published her book "Healing the Soul of America": "For years, I thought I only had to heal myself and the world would take care of itself," Williamson, the conference's keynote speaker, confessed in her book. "But then, having worked on our own issues a while, another question begs for an answer: how healed can we ultimately become while the social systems in which we live and move, and have our earthly being, remain sick?"
The same thought struck Neale Donald Walsch, author of the best-selling series "Conversations With God," who at that point had just finished Book 1 and almost thought of stopping.
"Then the letters began arriving," he writes in the introduction to Book 2, which applies the self-help principles of Book 1 to social problems. "Letters from people all over the world. And then I knew. Deep inside I knew. This was right. This was exactly what the world needed to hear, at exactly the right time!"
Fueling the movement is the collective hunch that the country, even the world, is on the verge of a "tremendous shift in consciousness, a new wave of awakening," Davidson said in his opening night speech at the conference. Yet the politicians are still marooned at a primitive stage of development. "I've been to the place of old-time politics," Walsch told the rapt crowd on Thursday, "where people cast aspersions, subtle little hate-filled remarks. And when I went there I felt like that kid from the 'Sixth Sense': I see dead people."
To revive them, the gurus propose their own version of the Christian Coalition voter guides, called the Principles of Awakened Spiritual Leaders. Such a leader would forget himself and serve others, would fight special interests and stick up for the poor, would be adept at "whole systems thinking," meaning "a large vision to help all of humanity."
Such a leader would never, under any circumstances, appear as a guest on "Crossfire." (He must get "all negativities out, release them," writes Walsch in his book. He must agree that "there are no disagreements, only negative patterns of thinking.")
He will understand that the body heals itself, and therefore health plans should pay for chiropractors. He will intuit that "hemp happens to be one of the most useful, strongest, toughest, longest-lasting materials on [the] planet."
Sadly, outside the Natural Law Party and a few lone stragglers, there aren't many such enlightened souls right now. The conference is designed to discover and encourage them. If that should fail, Walsch himself is willing to make the sacrifice.
"I am ready," he said in an interview after opening night, "to run for senator of Oregon. And perhaps even president."
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