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Some places where Spirit and Activism meet


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 collectively.

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 injustice.


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 us.

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.

Just as light is "bent" by the topology of space, the probability structures of physical reality are "bent" by the topology of Spirit. The topology of Spirit includes the topology of intent, meaning, evolutionary development,* and the welfare of the Whole. These things constitute patterns that influence the unfolding of real-life events, whether by directly impacting physical reality or by impacting the consciousness of beings who then change physical reality.

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 to text>


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 the Whole.

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, etc.


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-evocation.

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

"Spirit and Stardust" speech by US Rep Dennis Kucinich

"Politics as Spiritual Practice" speech by former mayor Larry Robinson

Caroline 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 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 world.

The Center for Visionary Leadership's interesting site on spirituality and politics , features explorations of how to apply spiritual principles to social problems and citizenship, and includes a nascent effort to organize spiritually-oriented voters.

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