As a responsible majority of Americans heads to the polls today, in a sincere effort to uphold democracy as the greatest collective achievement of human governance this far, it is no less than a responsible continuation of this process to ask ourselves this question: How must we re-think democracy at this time in such a way that it produces more light than noise, more peace than arguments, more true civilization that upholds the value, dignity and station of the entire human race?
Or have we given up on the viability of such a goal in the face of overwhelming global evidence of corruption and greed and disregard for human life?
From a narrowly-analytical left-brain perspective, it does appear quite impossible that our current collective governance processes can stem the tide of wars, tensions, and conflict, of the continued displacement and disowning of millions of human lives, of the rapid warming of our blue planet, of the cynical spread of the ‘greed is good’ culture and its concurrent politics-as-usual. But thankfully, the human mind, when duly honored, is in fact a much vaster capability, which also includes the intuitions of the heart, spiritual insight, perspectival whole-brain thinking, and a visceral aspiration for greater goodness, for community, for the continuation of the best efforts of generations and the advances of human civilization.
So perhaps, it is time to ask ourselves – are we using the endowments of our minds to their full capacity? Or are we incessantly getting caught in rivalries, petty reactivity and power-seeking, fed by the fast-returns consumer culture, and sacrificing the future of the generations to come for the more immediate sense of victory over another?
Many have noted that in this century of universal education, human minds seem to be becoming pettier and more trivial. Might that be connected to the fact that we have grown to associate progress with dismissing the need for spiritual education, and for the cultivation of the nobility of the human mind? Yet, without a careful understanding of history, we stand on no ground. And the careful examination of history shows that it is through the divine education brought forth and continually renewed through the centuries, beyond the clash and clamor of “religious” disputes, that human minds have been ennobled over and raised to their highest endeavors. Perhaps it is time for us to reclaim our legacy of mind and conscience, and gather together to investigate thoughtfully what may constitute the foundation of true civilization?
In the beginning of the 20th century, in between two world wars and the mind-boggling spread of totalitarianism with all its atrocities, a small book came out, generally unnoticed amidst the turbulence, but appropriately titled The Secret of Divine Civilization. Whatever may be our spiritual, religious, or philosophical commitments and differences, it appears to be no less than an ultimately responsible act to gather together and carefully study what this unique contemporary work proposes, through careful examination of spiritual history, as the foundation of true civilization.
I will end here with a quote from the book:
See then how wide is the difference between material civilization and divine. With force and punishments, material civilization seeketh to restrain the people from mischief, from inflicting harm on society and committing crimes. But in a divine civilization, the individual is so conditioned that with no fear of punishment, he shunneth the perpetration of crimes, seeth the crime itself as the severest of torments, and with alacrity and joy, setteth himself to acquiring the virtues of humankind, to furthering human progress, and to spreading light across the world.