A lot of people are talking about the Green New Deal proposed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her supporters. I think it's time for a 'Spiritual New Deal', not just in America, but across the Western world. (I am British). I am still figuring out precisely what I mean by this, but the core of the argument goes like this:
There is a profound connection between the dysfunction we see in the outer world in terms of political, social, environmental and economic problems, and the inner turmoil and dysfunction that lies at the root of so much of the suffering we experience as individuals. If we are going to get serious about fixing the problems we see in the world around us, then we need to pay far more attention to the many ways in which our distorted ways of thinking and self-sabotaging behaviours cause parallel problems in our own lives.
Now, all this talk of a connection between 'inner' and 'outer' can sound very abstract. But there are some people who are making this argument very eloquently. Here's a clip from a CNN interview with Marianne Williamson, the spiritual teacher and author who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. Williamson is calling for a 'spiritual awakening' to try to heal the polarisation dividing the US: Williamson doesn't use the term 'Spiritual New Deal', but I agree with every word she says in that clip.
The question people will rightly ask is; 'what does this spiritual awakening' mean in practice?' Let's get one thing straight: It's not about ushering in a new era where we all live according to a certain religion. I believe that the major religions are starting to break down since they can no longer meet the needs of our current historical moment, but theynevertheless still each contain a core of mystical Truth. These Truths are like precious jewels that can help us conduct our lives with greater sanity and compassion and, by extension, redefine our politics. (I am drawing on the insights of the spiritual teacher Carolyne Myss here, having just attended one of her workshops in London. More about Myss at https://www.myss.com).
So a 'Spiritual New Deal' would acknowledge that timeless spiritual values have a legitimate place in helping us to resolve not only our personal problems, but also the great political, economic and ecological dilemmas of our age. These values could include: humility; community; a recognition that there is such a thing as 'sacredness'; an acknowledgement of the interconnectedness of all life; and an understanding that we are much more than individual, atomised 'little-me' egos trying to maximise our personal consumption -- that we do indeed have 'souls' that give our lives greater meaning.
I admit this is all pretty vague -- though fortunately some people are thinking this through a lot more clearly than I am. See, for example, the work of my friend Jonathan Rowson, a British philosopher and chess grand master, at Perspectiva. https://www.systems-souls-society.com/ (I wrote a profile of Jonathanhere: http://www.whatisemerging.com/profiles/figuring-out-the-next-move-for-society).
For me, the bottom line is this: relying purely on our thinking mind to run our politics has led us into an impasse. It's time to recognise that eternal spiritual truths can be part of the solution, and introduce an explicitly spiritual dimension into public life in a new way. I don't know exactly what that might look like, but I'm keen to hear your suggestions! If you're one of those people who thinks spirituality and poltics don't mix, then I'd also love to hear from you in the comments below.
Many thanks, as ever, for your attention. Matt.