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Q: Your book, Waking the Global Heart, deals with a wide range of material that combines psychology, mythology, history, and politics into a basic theme. Can you describe the basic message of the book and why you incorporate such a broad range of material?
A: The problems we face today have no simple solutions, nor are they restricted to any one area of society. They cannot be solved by science alone, nor by religion, nor merely by legislation, but by a complete evolutionary shift in our worldview that reflects all of these areas and more. What I attempt to show in the book is how we came to the worldview that is now destroying our planet and eroding the quality of life for many people, so that we can understand the hidden motivations behind events occurring today.
To this end, I ask the three questions posed in most myths: Who are we? Where did we come from? (or, How did we get into this mess?) and Where are we going? I don’t think we can implement a lasting change in values, behaviors, or policies, without asking all three of these questions.
Q: So who are we?
A: I see humanity as an astounding species, unlike any other, that is going through its adolescence – some of us in earlier or later phases of that stage. As a culture, we are rapacious and greedy, bursting with power and libido, yet sorely lacking in social and moral conscience. We use and abuse resources and each other as if Mother Nature were going to supply all our whims indefinitely, much as adolescents do, having come to rely on parents to supply their needs.
But in the process of adolescents becoming adults, there is often some kind of rite of passage. For the Jews it is a bar mitzvah or bas mitzvah. In indigenous cultures, it was an initiation rite. Unfortunately, for many boys today, initiation takes place through a neighborhood gang or the military, or for women, early pregnancy, or having to raise children alone. But I feel humanity as a whole is headed for a global initiation, brought on by the direct results of our current lifestyle: environmental crisis, rampant disease, natural disasters, global warming, military warfare, air and water pollution, oil shortage, economic collapse, and on the personal level – illnesses and tragedies that take us away from our normal way of living.
So who we are is an adolescent species, undergoing a rite of passage into adulthood. This rite of passage takes us from our current organizing principle based on the love of power to a new organizing principle, based on the power of love.
Q: In answering the question, “Where do we come from?” your book journeys through 30,000 years of human history. That’s a lot of ground to cover. Why did you think it necessary to take it back so far? What does the distant past have to do with where we are now?
A: I spent over twenty years as a psychotherapist. When a client came in to my office, I knew that I needed to not only help alleviate their current crisis, but lead that client to an understanding of how and why they created a crisis in the first place. Otherwise, they would just go out and create it again. That usually involved delving into their history, all the way back to early childhood, and piecing together the events and assumptions that formed their beliefs and behavior. Our earliest history is the original ground from which all the rest of our history unfolded.
Q: So how does our early history relate to the events that followed later?
A: Most history books write in great detail about a specific period or culture. We have American history, European history, Christian or Islamic history. And as the word implies – his-story – most of these histories are about a masculine period of cultural development that arose out of—and more importantly – in reaction to – the original ground of the Great Mother, and our primal embeddedness in Nature. If this were a client, I’d point out that they grew up in a broken home, and that a one-parent family isn’t the way things were meant to be.
Most of our subsequent history was in reaction to the original ground of the Great Mother, pushing away from the Earth, and denying what I call the “lower chakra” realms of the earth, the body, and sexuality. The events of our later childhood can only be understood when we take a complete perspective that builds upon our original foundation. That way we can understand what we have lost and what we need to reclaim to become whole again. This is not about denying anything, nor is it about blame, but about reclaiming the full spectrum of human possibility – masculine and feminine, heaven and earth, mind and body. As we began maturing, we gave up our ground to reach for the heavens. But now we are losing our ground, and this threatens our very our survival.
Q: So you’re saying the the flow of history mirrors the process of childhood development?
A: You can certainly look at it that way. We began in the realm of the mother, embedded in Nature. We were like infants, unable to escape the strict boundaries of Mother Nature – when it was cold, it was cold, when it was dark, it was dark. We followed the game and gathered the plants, but had no control over our surroundings and no means to transcend or escape their harsher side.
Then we learned to put seeds into the ground and gained some control over our food supply. Population expanded and we crawled across the land in our teeming toddlerhood, then were rocked in the cradle of the earliest civilizations.
As these civilizations grew, so did their resource needs. We matured into our terrible twos and on into early childhood, and entering sibling rivalry as we competed for land and resources, and rebelling against the mother. We entered a militaristic phase – where a culture or city-state could only survive if it had a good defense system, and often that defense was a good offense – so power became equated with conquest. This was the beginning of the age of power – an age from which we are only now finally ready to outgrow.
Our movement into the more intellectual realm began with the Greeks and blossomed during the Renaissance and the Enlightenment period with scientific discoveries. Our knowledge has continued to grow exponentially, but our maturity has not. We are still governed by an imperial system based on young kings drunk on their power. This is a parent-child model, based on obedience to parental authority. We seem unable to collectively or compassionately govern ourselves – which is a task of adulthood. You could say we suffer from arrested development. As adolescents, we are beginning to outgrow this model, but there is always that period of adolescence where the child both needs and resists the parent – and where the parent fights to maintain ever stricter control. But this control is eventually unsuccessful as the child sets out on his or her own.
Q: You talk about this as a rite of passage as moving from the love of power to the power of love. What do you mean by that?
A: We have been living for the last 5,000 years in an imperial, top-down parental power structure, with what is usually a single man and his select group at the top, ruling successive hierarchies of larger numbers, down to the masses who are basically powerless over their life circumstances. In ancient times, this hierarchy flowed from from kings to slaves. Now it is the gap between the rich and the poor, with an ever widening middle class.
From this model, it appears that the only way to overcome one’s own oppression is to court power as it is modeled on high, either by loyal service to those in power, by financial achievement or personal fame, or by conquest and domination of others. This love of power – sought after at all costs – is a model that is based on one part ruling over another. In the individual, it might be mind ruling over body; collectively it is culture over planet, the rich over the poor, white over black, men over women, and civilization over Nature. We have adopted a love of power, because it seems that it is the only way to regain our own sovereignty and freedom.
Yet, this is an old paradigm that was based on a younger, more impotent stage of culture. This paradigm wastes resources, squanders economic capital, exploits subcultures, and destroys the environment. It keeps everything in opposition and competition, causes stress and disease, and in fact, it isn’t making anybody very happy – not even those at the top! We suffer from epidemic depression, chronic illness, stress, isolation, and we’re destroying the environment in order to do so. It’s an outdated system, with the single man at the top being like a dinosaur brain – to small to rule the immensity of the beast.
Q: And the power of love, what can that do?
A: The power of love is the most basic power on Earth. It is the power that brings things into relationship, the power that integrates and combines, the power that creates more benefit from cooperation than competition, networks rather that markets, group synergy rather than isolated struggle. It is the power that heals, as medical studies have demonstrated, and as Christ tried to show us so long ago; it is the power of compassion that leads to a socially just society, espoused by the Buddha. A paradigm based on the power of love finds its rewards from joining rather than dominating, serving rather than exploiting, integrating rather than separating. Only by this monumental evolution in the organizing principle for society can we create a just world that is sustainable – but even more exciting – one that is dynamically creative, celebratory and ecstatic.
Q: This is all very nice, but if you read the news today, it certainly doesn’t seem like we are going in that direction. What makes you think that we are?
A: Well, here’s where you have to read between the “lyings” of the mass media. For instance, while crime has been reduced by half, reporting of crime on the news has increased sevenfold. While the Bush administration continues to spout the old model of us vs. them, people across cultures are networking on their own in self-organizing, non-profit, non-governmental organizations to address issues of social justice, environmental degradation, political regime change, scientific research on alternative healing.
These organizations and the people in them have created countless publication and websites. New technologies are leveling the playing field between first and third world cultures. Europe has a Commission on Human Rights that holds jurisdiction over individual countries, and in fact, sets policy for Europe regarding the humane treatment of its citizens.
Beneath the old order a new order is already arising, organizing itself along principles of compassionate caring, and the dynamics of self-organizing systems that functin on the basis of freedom, autonomy, relatedness, and the ability to see the larger picture, known as self-transcendence. Look at the aftermath of Katrina, where the government failed to adequately serve the people, while volunteer organizations raised millions from individual donations. Which system is actually working?
Q: In Waking the Global Heart, you talk about self-organizing systems as becoming the new organizing principle for society, as humanity matures into its adulthood. You state that control tactics actually hinder an organization’s chance of survival when it is under extreme stress. Are you proposing that we should just let go of laws and government and just see what happens?
A: No, of course not. The replacement of the old order is a natural maturation process, similar to the way a new tooth gradually pushes out the old one. When the underlying structures of the new body politic grow strong enough they will simply out-perform the old structures, which will eventually wither and die from lack of support. This will be a natural process, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy. Maturation never is, especially for those who rigidly try to cling to the old structure.
What we should not do, in my opinion, is rush to strengthen the old tooth that is now wobbling. That’s like tying down the deck chairs on the Titanic. I believe the old system is dying and the best place to put our energy is into the new systems that are rapidly developing, so that when the old systems collapse, we have something in place to sustain ourselves with. And that means you better invest your capital and energy in sustainable values, because they are the only things that will last through the changes.
Q: Can you give me an example of that?
A: Yes. For example the town of Willits in Northern California is working to become completely self-sufficient in terms of energy, food production, and medicine. They discovered that even though they are a rural community, nearly all of their food is trucked in from a great distance using up vanishing oil reserves, and robbing the community of local income, while most of their residents were driving out of the community to work to pay for that food. By employing solar energy and collectively grouping land together for local farming, they will be in a better place to survive an oil shortage or an economic crisis, regardless of whether they have become completely sustainable, or are only part of the way there.
Of course, most urban communities do not have that choice, but city planners can examine the avenues of production and its attendant workforce to keep its economy increasingly local. The more we localize our energy expenditures, the less energy we use and therefore waste, and the more stable we will be in the event of energy shortages.
Q: Waking the Global Heart is one of the few books that has a positive outlook on where we are going, yet doesn’t mince any words about possible difficulties. Most books focus either on an “ain’t it awful” scenario of everything that’s wrong with the world, or paint a pollyannic vision of the future that ignores our current difficulties. What do you see lies ahead for us?
A: Well, the reason I say that we are about the undergo a cultural initiation process, is that I think it is inevitable that many, many people will experience the stages of initiation: great loss, even death, with survivors undergoing a kind of underworld journey, with eventual surrender, spiritual awakening, transformation and rebirth. I don’t think it is going to be easy, and I think there will be increased unemployment and even loss of life as we head into the evolutionary wall that has had this message written on it for some time: transform or die.
But if we regard this process as a means of maturation that teaches us compassion, conservation, innovation, and a shift to humanitarian moral values, we will come out on the other side into a world that I believe holds such enormous blessings, that we can barely imagine it. When we support our fellow human beings instead of spending money to kill them, when we cooperate instead of compete, when we readjust our use of energy to work less and enjoy more, the creativity that will be unleashed will bring benefits we cannot even imagine. I don’t know if I will live long enough to see the new form in its fullness, but I firmly believe it will happen. We haven’t come through four billion years of evolution to spoil it now. We’re just teenagers, moving through an awkward stage, getting our hard lessons in life. And like the unfortunate teenagers that commit suicide – the tragedy is that they end their lives before they realize what kind of possibilities lie ahead. Destroying the rainforest before we understand all the medicines that we might find is a perfect example of ending something before we have discovered its blessings.
I pray that our civilization does not take the route of an early suicide. I believe we have a glorious future ahead of us, and a tremendous responsibility to bring that future into realization.
Q: You talk about initiation forging a new identity. What do you see as the new identity for us now?
A: Benjamin Franklin once said that his greatest invention was of the word American, as a catch all term for the Dutch, English, Germans, French, and all those who formed the early colonies. Our new identity rises above nationalities, genders, creeds, or races, to become truly global.
I use the term “co-hearts” as descriptive of a co-creative community of people working together to bring about a loving and sustainable world. And as co-hearts, we are living in a kin-dom — not a kingdom, based on kings, but a kin-dom based on a living web of relationships that includes plants and animals, and people of all kinds – place where we are all kin to each other. In the new story, who we are is co-hearts in a kin-dom, co-creating a sustainable world.
Q: What can the average person do to help bring about these changes?
A: In many ways, we all know the answer to this. Love more, fear less. Give more, take less. Cooperate rather than compete. Listen and learn. Conserve resources: recycle, renew, re-use, reduce. In the realm of technology, we are innovating for better design quality that uses less and gives more. We need to do the same for our behavior and social systems – design for more celebration and less suffering. Work for peace, and stop wasting our precious resources for purposes of destruction.
Every major social challenge of the past has required larger numbers of people to work together in order to solve it. Population explosion in the Neolithic called for massive irrigation projects. Getting goods to increasing numbers of people created industrialization. The growth of European economies has given rise to the European Union.
This time the social and ecological problems that we are facing will require worldwide cooperation. Not an easy task, but we are at least given the tool of the Internet through which to share information and networking and begin to work with a group mind, or what is called the global brain. What is needed now is to load compassionate values into that brain, and awaken the global heart.
All spiritual paths say the same thing. We are one community, one world, one people. This world is a precious jewel. It is our responsibility to share and care for that jewel and pass it on to future generations in better shape than we found it.