John G Bell
Reflective Practicum 1
Spring '04 - Hormann

Weekly – Principles of Spiritual Leadership

Will Keepin's article, “Principles of Spiritual Leadership” is based on a spiritual understanding of the skills and capacities that facilitate social change. Based on your experience, are these principles appropriate or not? What would you add, delete or change? Post a response in the week 6 subconference.

In the Oct-Nov '02 edition of The Catholic Worker, Thomas Merton is quoted saying:

"So, instead of loving what you think is peace, love others and love god above all. And, instead of hating the people you think are warmongers, hate the appetite and the disorder in your own soul, which are the causes of war. If you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed - but hate these things in yourself, not in another."

To see the other as trying to do good, even when that act appears as evil to ourselves is a worthy endeavor. To see the divinity in others, in essence to remind the self of the meaning of the greeting Namaste, is one way, but there's also the very practical observation that everyone acts on the best information they have available to make the best choices they are able to make. When people make choices that hurt others, I honestly believe this is because they either do not have access to the information about the harm or are unable to see that harm, much like people are unable to see women in gorilla suits when concentrating on other things. The project of constantly widening circles of compassion is what Albert Einstein calls an “optical delusion of our consciousness.” Einstein further points out that:

This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening out circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

In the discussion of the 2nd principle, the lawyer is thinking that who wins the case is the winner. This is the adversarial legal system at work. It has a model of satisfaction that is win-lose, and requires the complete loss by the defeated as the method of satisfaction for the victor. This model of satisfaction is embedded in the culture of the United States to a great degree. In a world that is owned and controlled, those denied collective satisfaction find satisfaction in the legal system, and this creates an outlet for that desire through being litigious.

I'm reminded of Sam Keen's work in The Faces of the Enemy, a book and a PBS special, where he speaks to the function of dehumanizing the enemy. When the Other is dehumanized, all kinds of horrific acts against them become possible. The process of re-humanizing them becomes a cure and an imperative to the socialization of soldiers into killers of other humans. Another way I think of this is to remember, originally from the Roman playwright Terrence, that “nothing human is alien to me.”

In the 6th principle, I remember Michael Learner’s What it Means to Open Our Hearts to the Other where he says that the “absolute prerequisite for making peace” is to “reconnect with what it means in the Torah when it tells us categorically ‘Thou shalt love the stranger.’” The idea that in putting something on paper, I am also the logger; brings to mind Thich Nhat Hanh's poem “Please Call Me By My True Names” which ends:

I am the twelve-year-old girl,
refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean
after being raped by a sea pirate.
And I am the pirate,
my heart not yet capable
of seeing and loving.
My joy is like Spring, so warm
it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.
My pain is like a river of tears,
so vast it fills the four oceans.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughter at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up
and the door of my heart
could be left open,
the door of compassion.”

Also, within the idea of becoming aware of “all the problems of humanity in our own hearts and our own lives,” I see an echo of Walt Kellet's Pogo famously saying, “Yep, son, we have met the enemy and he is us.”

The 7th and 8th principles remind me of what I've called, after Winslade and Monk's Narrative Mediation, a position call. Interaction with other people that think differently than us is the only way in which it is possible to think critically about our experiences. The Johari window model speaks to this, where there are parts of ourselves to which we ourselves do not have access without another. Each interaction with another is a position call to re-evaluate our choices about what is an appropriate balance between being engaged in the world for our own benefit or being engaged in the world for the benefit of others. This is where I part ways in the 9th principle. I feel there is a balance between these two that allows the self to draw a line between being engaged in the world for the benefit of others over which the self is in danger of being permanently damaged. In Thich Nhat Hanh's Peace is Every Step, he speaks with a metaphor of leaving a window in our homes open to the world. He points out that “Our senses are our windows ... sometimes the wind blows through them and disturbs everything” He does however offer that “we need to sustain ourselves by choosing our surroundings carefully and nourishing our senses in each moment.” These together imply that it is appropriate to close our windows, and to be intentional and selective about our surroundings. This seems contradictory to the idea that we must let ourselves be at the mercy of the world's pain. I hold that there is an appropriate balance, but that balance, like creative tension, must be maintained. It is neither fully appropriate to be always open to everything nor to be fully closed from the world. The balance is the creative tension between the needs of the self to be for the self, the individuating self, and the needs to be connected to something larger than the self, the collective self. These are the two modes of being, that I call the Two Brains, from Lawrence LeShan's Why We Love War.

One of the most striking parts of the movie What the BLEEP Do We Know? for me is a segment in a transit station which brings features the possibility that our mental states change the crystalization patterns of water from Dr Masaru Emoto's The Hidden Messages from Water and asks if our emotions can do this to water, imagine what our emotions do to us.

The 12th principle brings to mind a comment by Elizabet Sahtouris interviewed in Cultural Creatives. She says, “ A larger intelligent system surrounds us and works for us – call it by any name you chose – if we acknowledge and let it guide us.” I've called a granular awareness of dynamic complexity. Granular awareness of dynamic complexity is the ability to think, feel, and see ideas, positions, people and events as all of their elements, their parts, at the same time as seeing the whole. In addition, when sensing the parts of this thing, it is possible to see the parts in context to each other, to the whole, and to other whole systems.

The creation of “a balance of head and heart” links to the idea of the dynamic collaboration between Gaia and Chaos in Wheatley. This is creative tension. The goal of creative tension is not to go from hierarchy to chaos. Switching from a single polarized position to a manic-depressive strategy, rapidly switching from one radical position to another radical opposition position, is not progress. Between hierarchy and chaos there is an opportunity to develop a granular awareness of dynamic complexity. The system's natural response to chaos is to develop hierarchy. Moving from chaos to hierarchy is the move from indecision to a process that supports decision making. While that is a functioning model, there are disadvantages such as incomplete information, overly political decisions, and a lack of balance between creativity and process. The creative tension between chaos and hierarchy is a space characterized by a touch of both anomy and anarchy. Most people use anarchy to mean chaos, but it literally means without leaders. The word anomy means without law. The learning organization attempts to develop creativity and to collapse hierarchy, which is a creative balance between the need to make decisions and empirical and the need to be creative and wholistic. I think that spiritual leadership creates learning communities as an effect and a goal.

These principles are great for what they are but they can not be a goal, and I'm a bit leery of the project of categorizing and classifying what I think of as a wholistic activity. Part of this is echoed in the words of Thich Nhat Hanh in Thundering Silence:

Nirvana is the release from the prisons of attachment, above all from the attachment to ideas, including ideas of impermanence, no-self, emptiness, and nirvana. All teachings are offered as skillful means to help us along the path. They are not absolute truth. If we do not know how to use these teachings skillfully, we will be enslaved by them.”

I suppose that at the base, I think that the idea of a balance between the mind and heart is the fundamental principle from which these rest follow naturally. I offer the following words from Robin Kelly from the Nov '02 edition of the New Internationalist that reflect this idea:

Despite having spent a decade and a half writing about radical social >movements, I am only just beginning to see what has animated, motivated, and knitted together those gatherings of aggrieved folks. I have come to realize that once we strip radical social movements down to their bare essence and understand the collective desires of people in motion, freedom and love lie at the very heart of the matter."

From this fundamental principle, I see creative tension pulling people toward love of each other and the environment where they live. An image that sings this deeply to me comes from Thich Nhat Hanh's Peace is Every Step. Hanh says, “Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”