Being “spiritual” is not a navel-gazing, class-privilege, anti-intellectual, passive… thing


Jesus demonstrated a significant balance between maintaining an inner or spiritual equanimity and centeredness, and vigorous engagement in human affairs. Unfortunately what I too often find are people who are so heavenly/religiously/spiritually minded that they are no earthly good. Jesus was not a passive-ist; his spirituality compelled him to direct action in the world. Contrast this with class-privilege spirituality, which I wrote about in my posts: Starbucks Spirituality; and When Spirituality Becomes Navel-Gazing.

In contrast to this I have been talking a lot lately about inner anarchy, which includes:

(1) Turning away from those false beliefs, mindsets, narratives and ideologies that have been programmed into ur heads and ruling our lives from within.

(2) Turning toward our higher awareness inside that emanate from that life/ spirit/consciousness/source/dimension within us.

(3) Lifting that higher awareness up out of ourselves into the world by speaking it naturally to one another in our own words and living it along the everyday paths of life.

(4) Cultivating a true and authentic togetherness among us and others based on the common life, spirit and source that run through us all.

(5) Divesting ourselves from the current order that operates upon those false beliefs, mindsets, narratives and ideologies, and creating a new reality in its place through direct action.

For some people all this talk of the inner life and spirituality might sound like a bunch of gobbledygook, especially if you are coming at things from more of the activist or anarchist side. I addressed this matter in a post: The Spirituality of Anarchism. In my view, Jesus embodied the spirit of what was ultimately called anarchism. I discuss this in my post: Jesus the Rabble-Rouser, and in more detail in my book Inner Anarchy. A question sometimes arises about whether inner anarchy inevitably leads to anarchy, and I address that question in this post.

We cannot stick our heads in the sand and hope for some magical solution to the suffering of our world. Contrary to the false Jesus-story of institutional Christendom, Jesus is not going to ever float down from the sky to save our world. What Jesus taught instead is that we have the power and authority to do it ourselves.

Neither can we rush into the streets with random acts of activism if it is not being soured from our higher awareness. Otherwise, our efforts will be contaminated by ego, division, personal agendas and misguided hostility.

The sensible thing is to step back and identify the root issues that are holding humankind and our planet hostage, and devise a real plan of action to address it. Social revolution is not a new idea, and I discuss briefly why I think social revolutions have fallen short in this post: The Idol of Self.

Is the economic system of capitalism a violation of our higher awareness, and is it one of those root issues that need to be addressed if we plan to live in peace and harmony with one another and the planet? I’ve been exploring this topic lately and have written a few posts about it:

Is Capitalism a Lie? 

Should we be questioning capitalism? 

In Money We Trust

Can we do better than capitalism?

Work sucks 

The holiday the U.S. hides

If you want to seriously dig into this question of capitalism, a good book to read is: Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered by E.F. Schumacher. Here’s an online pdf version.

A few quotes from the book:

“The modern economy is propelled by a frenzy of greed and indulges in an orgy of envy, and these are not accidental features but the very causes of its expansionist success. The question is whether such causes can be effective for long or whether they carry within themselves the seeds of destruction.”

“If human vices: such as greed and envy are systematically cultivated, the inevitable result is nothing less than a collapse of intelligence. A man driven by greed or envy loses the power of seeing things as they really are, of seeing things in their roundness and wholeness, and his very successes become failures. If whole societies become infected by these vices, they may indeed achieve astonishing things but they become increasingly incapable of solving the most elementary problems of everyday existence.”

“I suggest that the foundations of peace cannot be laid by universal prosperity, in the modem sense. because such prosperity, if attainable at all is attainable only by cultivating such drives of human nature as greed and envy, which destroy intelligence, happiness, serenity, and thereby the peacefulness of man. It could well be that rich people treasure peace more highly than poor people. but only if they feel utterly secure – and this is a contradiction in terms. Their wealth depends on making inordinately large demands on limited world resources and thus puts them on an unavoidable collision course – not primarily with the poor (who are weak and defenseless) but with other rich people.”

“The economics of permanence implies a profound reorientation of science and technology, which have to open their doors to wisdom and, in fact, have to incorporate wisdom into their very structure. Scientific or technological ‘solutions’ which poison the environment or degrade the social structure and man himself are of no benefit, no matter how brilliantly conceived or how great their superficial attraction. Ever bigger machines, entailing ever bigger concentrations of economic power and exerting ever greater violence against the environment, do not represent progress: they are a denial of wisdom. Wisdom demands a new orientation of science and technology towards the organic. the gentle, the non-violent, the elegant and beautiful. Peace, as has often been said, is indivisible – how then could peace be built on a foundation of reckless science and violent technology? We must look for a revolution in technology to give us inventions and machines which reverse the destructive trends now threatening us all. What is it that we really require from the scientists and technologists? I should answer: We need methods and equipment which are:
– cheap enough so that they are accessible to virtually everyone:
– suitable for small-scale application; and
– compatible with man’s need for creativity.”

“… give a man a chance to utilise and develop his faculties; to enable him to overcome his egocentredness by joining with other people in a common task; and to bring forth the goods and services needed for a becoming existence. Again, the consequences that flow from this view are endless. To organise work in such a manner that it becomes meaningless, boring, stultifying, or nerve-racking for the worker would be little short of criminal: it would indicate a greater concern with goods than with people, an evil lack of compassion and a soul-destroying degree of attachment to the most primitive side of this worldly existence. Equally, to strive for leisure as an alternative to work would be considered a complete misunderstanding of one of the basic truths of human existence, namely that work and leisure are complementary parts of the same living process and cannot be separated without destroying the joy of work and the bliss of leisure.”

Lets just assume for a minute that we all agreed that capitalism had to go. There’s still the question of, now what? What do we replace with it. It’s not like people haven’t considered this and there are some who have created alternatives such as the gift economy. Of course there are some scalability issue here, and making sense of it light of globalization.

Which brings me to my last point. We need to reimagine “spirituality” to include discussions about things like how to make a gift economy scalable, or what it would look like to operate with a transformed mindset and practice of economics that is a manifestation of our higher awareness. Spirituality doesn’t have to be class-privilege or magical thinking; it can be intellectually vigorous, robust and engaged in the challenging questions and opportunities before us. A new world is not going to drop down from the sky upon us. No savior is going to drop down from the sky and fix it. We are who we’ve been waiting for.

Latest Comments

  1. Lyle Taffs says:

    Thanks for these comments Jim – and special thanks for the links to recent related posts! They help me to keep up with some reading of your writing.

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