Democracy is a diluted socio-political expression of something far greater and deeper – a dream lodging quietly in humanity's dreamworld, in its stock of potentials. Electoral democracy is not an end in itself – though many people think it is. Like the Marxist 'dictatorship of the proletariat', it represents a transitional phase leading toward building a more complete social mutuality and 'direct democracy'. Electoral democracy gives an illusion of choice, yet in fact social choices are, by nature of the way democracy is today practised, not usually made by electorates. They are made for electorates, largely without consultation, not by them.
Direct democracy involves a much more profound state of social consultation, debate and inter-connectivity – it goes beyond elections, opinion polls and referenda. It involves building a society in which all its members co-evolve decisions and developments, moving beyond self-interest, lobbies and limited viewpoints to plumb the innate collective needs of the time and the circumstance. This sounds hopelessly utopian, yet it is closer to home than many might believe.
It involves the building of a sense of public one-mindedness and innate consensus resting on a clear set of unifying basic principles, accompanied by a shared sense of service toward the wider public and the world. It involves the practise of deeply engaging social techniques and procedures. Yet within this there is plenty of room for individuals.
At root, this isn't a matter of social compromise or of balancing one adversarial opinion against others, neither of a dominant force or ideology imposing unity or complicity on others or otherwise inveigling it into submission. Rather, it reflects the building of a commonality of spirit, social intent and humanness operating beyond ideas, opinions and standpoints, fundamentally bonding the human race. Given the right conditions, it takes but a few days for people to begin to master this, though it takes longer to evolve stable social procedures and conventions which can foster collective one-mindedness and one-heartedness.
While the core issue is to create a centre of gravity of basic unity, the paradox is that the full spectrum of human variety is thereby given new life and meaning. One-mindedness does not mean uniformity or coercion into agreement. One can disagree within it, while recognising that in disagreeing we are being united in a variegated sort of way.
This commonality of spirit is not a surrender of individuality or free will – rather it represents creating a social-psychological environment for their full expression. At root, it is a collectively-spiritualised state, an attunement to the innate oneness between us, out of which our individualities spring. Though when experiencing it, it feels entirely human and realistic. The existence of different 'others' ceases to be a threat.
Separativeness is an overlay on top of inherent oneness – it is a burial rather than a loss of oneness. However, it will take an enormous collective-educational breakthrough for us to begin to behave and communicate from a basis of inherent oneness. Not because it is difficult – it is natural, therefore not overbearingly difficult – but because we are so habituated to separative thought and feeling that our language, institutions, social forms and behaviour will need drastic, thoroughgoing change before we are able to operate effectively from a one-spirited, one-minded viewpoint, balancing unity with diversity. A shift in the locus of our attention must ripple through all of the 'ten thousand things' of manifest life before it becomes fully realised. Nevertheless, we could start on this process tomorrow if we so wished.
This stage of human evolution is some way off, even though it offers pragmatic solutions to the dilemmas of today. Yet if we chose to develop in the direction of direct democracy, it could take only decades rather than centuries to grasp it – after all, nowadays most of us are living several incarnations rolled into one, so intense is the pace of life. The rub also is that we cannot just go half-way: the co-creation of direct democracy involves a psycho-emotional re-bonding of the human race, not just minimalist agreement between differing constituencies. The development of the Internet in the days since this book was first written is a partial growth toward greater direct democracy, but it embodies but a stepping-stone, not an end in itself.
Liberty is a state of inner openness and demonstrated mutual trust – free of fixed standpoints. It rests on a foundation of basic social friendliness. Saintliness isn't necessary – just friendliness. Liberty also involves assuming complete individual and social responsibility, for and on behalf of self and all. Let me quote from a participant in one of the events I run, who here describes her experience of it:
It was great meeting people from all over the world and from different walks of life and backgrounds. All of us were equal at one level – the trappings of society, of our cultures, money and possessions were left behind. All equal – the words and knowledge coming out, but the academic papers and qualifications left behind. The skins can be shed, the senses attuned to get to the natural core.
A community quickly formed, full of relationships, love, drama, some conflict, laughter and tears. Bridges mended, bridges made, walls knocked down, conflicts resolved. I was amazed how conflict, differences, separateness were so quickly sorted out, to regain harmony. Every process was at warp factor ten.
Isn't it wonderful not knowing people's surnames and titles? They are just them. The awe-full accentuated feeling that all that is said and happens is significant! Perceptions get enhanced – you see even more of the beauty around you, in nature and in people. A veil is lifted on reality. To be able to hug, shout, roar, chant, sing! Valuing everyone, taking on board any views expressed. Allowing people time to express themselves.
It's a tricky balance to strike, between helping people to be safe and secure and allowing them the challenges to grow and move forward and be creative. This experience was multidimensional, non-denominational, practical, spiritual, physical, psychological, social, psychic, healing. Without dogma. Everyone contributing their own bit of a potential solution to the cosmic puzzle. All of equal value contributing to the whole. Achieving with great ease the outcome of being greater than the sum of our parts.
Being able to say what you feel, silly or not. Accepted because it comes from the heart. Taking away the borders of thought and being, words and deeds. The flow of growth, development and forwardness, all reflected in each other and in the event as a whole, and the outer bit attached to the universe.
When Parisians stormed the Bastille in 1789, crying "Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité!", and when young Germans leapt onto the Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg Gate incanting "Freiheit und Demokrati!" exactly two centuries later, they were ejaculating a cry from the superconscious of humanity, from its overmind. These were socio-historically cathartic mass phenomena. They were feelingful cries from the heart of humanity, invoking its greater potential – a cry from the future. It was enacted in specifically localised places and times – Paris in 1789 and Berlin in 1989 – yet it was done on behalf of all of us, all of us in all times. It was a reminder from humanity's superconscious of the direction we're heading – to some extent despite ourselves!
The superconscious, the overmind which speaks for the soul of humanity, is a transcendental storehouse of visions, collective spiritual urges and expanded human potential. It contains the programming available for the creation of the future. People draw on it when they feel so inspired or pained by life that they break through normal humdrum daily awareness into an invocational experience of higher possibilities – they 'see the light'. It is timeless and spans all, yet it contains a full picture of what is possible as well as a deep remembering of our origins and purpose.
It was glimpsed in 1945 when the UN Charter of Human Rights was agreed. It was glimpsed again during the Summer of Love in 1967 and at the time of the first Moon landings. It surfaced again in Tienanmen Square and at the Brandenburg Gate in 1989 – a time, if you remember, when public awareness was sincerely beginning to wonder whether major changes were at last beginning. It surfaced again in the Arab revolutions from 2011 onwards.
It is daily invoked in prayer all over the world. It is a guiding light which surfaces periodically, flooding into public awareness and leaving its mark: once revealed, it never fully goes away, even if buried beneath the somnambulence of temporal practicalities or clamped by repression. It raises people's hopes, standards and expectations, rendering life uncomfortable unless tangible progress is being made toward making those potentials manifest.
The superconscious humanistic-spiritual urge is nowadays well covered-over with psychological conditioning, social pressures and perpetual media-bombardment – even though visionaries, orators and musicians perennially attempt to awaken it. It concentrates and surfaces as a result of a focused awareness which is generated when things get intense, when they reach a stage where something must be done. Often such a state is distilled over long years of grinding hardship and oppression. It often comes when everyone has given up on its ever happening. Small yet highly symbolic events can trigger it.
Despair can cumulatively grow so large that human pathos and emotion become transcendental. If there is a need for change which is resolutely blocked – not uncommon in history – the resultant feeling of frustrated disillusion and blocked possibility leads to a strengthened background longterm buildup of aspirations, of dreaming and envisualisation, all fuelled by hardship. Grinding hardship is a form of long, slow sense-deprivation – it eliminates diversions and generates an accentuated and charged awareness within.
It doesn't have to be like this, though this is how humanity nevertheless often achieves its spiritual breakthroughs. What would be easier would be a straightforward spiritually-oriented decision to awaken – precipitated perhaps by tricky situations easily learned from, and through the exercise of collective wisdom. However, in history for such urges to be unburdened we are too frequently stoked up by long preludes of suffering and paradox. In European history, it took centuries of papal oppression before the tidal wave of the Reformation gathered sufficient steam.
Similarly, Buddhism took root in India 2,300 years ago in response to a relentless constriction imposed by the traditional Vedic caste system. Buddhism represented a social revolution which, in the end, had to be squeezed out of its home soil in India if the Hindu caste system was to survive. It was one of the greatest gifts India ever gave the world. However, the few centuries of florescence Buddhism experienced in India was sufficient to build it into what was to become, after its transplantation, one of the world's greatest religious faiths.
The concentration and focus of such overarching spiritual ideas can grow to a sufficient pitch that they eventually overwhelm the strongest, most resistant of oppressive forces. An idea comes into its time and becomes irresistible. The Jewish yearning to return to their homeland was distilled over the course of 18-19 centuries, long after the dispersions and diaspora under the Assyrians in the 600s BCE, the Babylonians in the 500s BCE and the Romans around 135 CE. After many arduous chapters of history, the Nazi holocaust of the 1930s-40s escalated the feeling of need for a safe home that the Jewish urge to return to Israel (Aliyah) overwhelmed all inertia, and international conscience was stung into action.
The aliyah principle had been at work for decades (actually, centuries) earlier, expressed formally in the Balfour Declaration of 1917. It was fully legitimised when the state of Israel was carved out of the British protectorate of Palestine in 1948. From the Jewish viewpoint, the re-establishment of Israel was an immense breakthrough. Unfortunately it was badly handled by the international community, leading to the betrayal of the Palestinians and to decades of grief for Israelis' victims, the Palestinians, Bedouin and Druze.
Though Palestinians naturally feel resentment against Israelis and the West for this, the real culprit, apart from global short-sightedness, was the very existence of nations – exclusive entities which endow rights only upon wanted, recognised citizens. The whole of the Middle East has been a multicultural region for millennia, and suddenly ethnic groups were penned up within borders, or lacking them completely. The story continues today, and the solution of the tale lies in a fruitful sharing of the territory of the Holy Land by all who count it to be home or holy ground.
Insufficient care was taken by the British who, between the world wars, ruled (or 'protected') Palestine. Preoccupied with post-war reconstruction at home, the British did not clearly think through what they were setting up in the Middle East when they went along with the creation of Israel. The British operated with a mixture of indifference, post-WW2 exhaustion and tired colonialist values. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians lost their homes and lands, many becoming refugees, to be booted from country to country whenever they became too numerous or restive. They unconsciously took over the burden of statelessness from the Jews.
Tragically, it took an intifadeh, the Palestinian uprising against the Israeli authorities in the late 1980s and again in 1999-2004, to sting the international community into action to find a more proper resolution of the competing land-needs of Israelis and Palestinians. The peace process between them has been slow and laborious because the wounds involved are historically very deep, and also because of innate hypocrisies in the international community. Even then, stateless Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait and elsewhere are mostly not part of the deal – they are assiduously ignored.
Deeply historical issues are at stake which go back as far as around 1800 BCE, at the time of Abraham: Abraham was mythically the genetic father to both nations, and to the Bedouin people too. Hebron, the first place Abraham and his people settled when they arrived in Israel (interestingly, Abraham bought the first Jewish-occupied land), has in modern times been a flashpoint of extremism and intolerance, holy to Jews and also Palestinians yet now populated mainly by Palestinians. Bethlehem, important to Christians, is similarly mostly Palestinian Muslim-populated. Jerusalem, a holy city for three faiths, is the political capital for the people of only one of those faiths. Europeans, who drew the lines on the Middle Eastern map, have been loth to initiate any demographic correction of the ill effects of such geopolitical cartography.
Meanwhile, Jews and Muslims, each getting their mundane and religious priorities and needs understandably yet hopelessly mixed, have dangerously staked out their articles of faith around the control of a piece of land, however holy. This is likely to lead to an inevitable spiritual crisis challenging a thorough reform of these faiths from within – for as people of all faiths inherently know, the cultivation of true spirituality overrides more mundane considerations, even in the case of holy places and temples.
If a religious faith – an outgrowth of the vision of the superconscious – obstructs its adherents' ability to live in peace, tolerance and cooperation, it has entered dangerous territory. In the Holy Land we have seen many signs of blatant darkness, not exemplary manifestations of the light of faiths. Such an apparent diversion from the spiritual path inevitably invites corrective interventions from the superconscious – from God, Jahweh and Allah.
The superconscious never creates suffering, though it does create an accentuated awareness which can seem to increase the pain of suffering. This turns down the screws. It seems to accelerate the badness in order to force people up against the wall, to oblige a deep choice. The pain of darkness is somehow accentuated in order to exhaust people's unconscious need for darkness, to help them see light. Outbursts of light, of good news and forward progress – rarely media-reported in the same way as negative events – then shine new light on the agenda, spotlighting their choice.
Sometimes light can come quietly. One manifestation of this was the non-outbreak of civil war in Russia in the Gorbachev-Yeltsin period. Few people have thought about this, yet it was a miracle – a miracle of maturity and a result of learning in the collective conscience of Russians. The pain of the civil wars of the early 1920s, of Stalinism and Great Patriotic War (WW2) put an end to Russian civil strife – everyone had simply had enough of it.
Light sometimes follows behind gunfire, ending it. Thus was the case with the American revolution, the Maoist take-over of China (at the time, a great relief) and the founding of the United Nations. However, the French revolution, bursting as it did onto a period of prolonged conservative calm Europe-wide, actually caused one of its biggest wars, the Napoleonic war. Light and darkness live closely together and switch sides periodically. They both serve to enlighten the soul in their own unique ways.
Yet throughout history the controlling ego of humanity has made inroads into control of humanity's deepest asset – religion. The redeeming power of religion is inevitably greater than that of its errors, or of the preferences or manipulations of religionists. Yet the light of religion has been repeatedly misunderstood and abused, leading to a corruption of righteousness and sanctity. Religious images and rationales have been used to justify human horrors.
Paradoxically, it is not necessarily strength of faith which breeds religious fundamentalism – it is doubt and weakness of faith. Such doubt leads to rigid adherence to doctrine and jilted interpretations of it. Extremists and fundamentalists of all faiths hammer away at the public psyche, attempting to persuade and cajole, to create as many distractions as possible, in order to prevent the hearing of the still small voice within – in themselves and all others. Fundamentalism is a loud and forceful substitute for living spirituality and basic humanness.
Times of peace, security and prosperity have a healing effect on nations: they allow cultural benefits, new opportunities, prosperity and a safe atmosphere for profounder social feelings to flourish. Such periods correspond to more feminine-oriented home- and community-building periods in history – periods which, again, often go unremarked in the annals of dramatic events and actions. During such community-building periods people build fine domestic architecture, attend to structural improvement, to agriculture and landscape conservation, they give more attention to children, education and social needs and they patronise and benefit from the arts and letters. That is, when the atmosphere is 'right'.
Such periods of history relax people's defences, decrease social competitiveness and exclusion, and give rise to rising mutual confidence and the flourishing of shared interests. Yet, these are often looked on as relatively event-less, in-between times, during which defining wars and notable atrocities omit to happen, therefore being seen as a gap, not a breakthrough. One of the problems accompanying such times is that they are usually fostered by a fortuitous combination of circumstances rather than a wholehearted, fully conscious social decision – thus, when those circumstances fall apart, cultural positivity dwindles too.
Crises can call on social creativity too. In a national crisis, the issues at stake are starkly exposed. Bouts of wisdom and innovation can spontaneously break out. Frequent are the cases when a divided people is reunited and reconciled by the threat of an outside invading or infiltrating force. The part-mythological Arthurian period in Britain (500s CE), when Britons united against Saxon, Pictish and Irish incursions, is but one example, an archetypal model of national revival in the face of tough changes.
It is frequent for nations to resort to retrogression, by default, by taking up arms or engaging in disarray or self-repression, but there are also occasions when the cost of this is also clearly seen, and master-strokes avoiding disaster are made. An example was the 'period of cabinet politics' in Europe 1713-48, where diplomats outmanoeuvred the expensive military agendas of monarchs and nobles for the sake of continent-wide peace, revival and stability. Similarly, there was a strong wave of European pacifist and social-justice movements between 1880 and 1910 which, in this case, fatally failed to forestall the disaster of WW1. Unfortunately, many such constructive crises pass unchronicled, since they embody avoided events which landed up not happening.
Healing opportunities can arise in a religious or cultural sense: the spirit of a nation may rise in response to new religious teachings and creative upswings. Music, folklore, architecture, literature, drama and festivals can gladden the heart of any people and coalesce forgiveness or understanding. The plays of Shakespeare or the ditties of the Beatles have reached places other influences – even alcohol – cannot touch.
A religious outburst can frequently bind previously-divided peoples by introducing a new social context: the invasions of the Middle East by Arab Muslims soon after the passing of Muhammad the Prophet was perceived by many recipient peoples as a relief from the age-old oppressive regimes they were accustomed to. The relative simplicity of the new Muslim religious dispensation, clearly defined and stated, was a relief to peoples thitherto following complex and contradictory ancient faiths.
Healing opportunities can also arise during times of forgiveness and reconciliation between social sectors, during times of honesty by former perpetrators or during outbreaks of peace after wars, civil wars or rivalries. On occasions, revolutions can represent times of social healing, letting off public steam, and on other occasions perseverance and national effort can bond people and resolve many issues. The healing of collective pain is the central focus of these essays.