Spirituality and Politics

Marianne Williamson announced a special event today dubbed Sister Giant. With the announcement came a wonderful essay about the connection between politics and spirituality. I heartily recommend reading the essay, and I encourage my more radical readers to bear with her general liberal idealism and non-violence worship. For my more mainstream readers, I will absolutely get into my clear disdain for reformism and non-violence romanticism. This topic is very personal to me and has been key to my own spiritual transformation since 2009. Here is what Marianne wrote:

Over the years, many people on a spiritual journey have asked me why I keep going on about politics, and many people involved in politics have asked me why I keep going on about spirituality. Today however, more and more people seem to sense, as I do, that each holds a gift for the other.

People on a spiritual path – personal growth, spiritual practice, recovery, yoga and so forth – are the last people who should be sitting out the social and political issues of our day. And there’s an important reason for this: people on such journeys are adepts at change. They know that the mechanics of the heart and mind are the fundamental drivers of transformation. This doesn’t just apply to one person, but to masses as well; if you know what makes one life change then you know what makes a nation change, because a nation is simply a large group of people. America keeps trying to fix itself by moving around the deck chairs on the Titanic. Clearly this isn’t working, and people in the consciousness movement have some important clues as to why.

People involved in the inner journey discover the value of the feminine, or spiritually receptive and inclusive, aspect of human consciousness. Everyone archetypally is a parent to future generations. And a motherly love – putting the care of children before every other consideration — is the ultimate intelligence of nature. Yes, women are homemakers — and the entire earth is our home. Yes, we are here to take care of the children — and every child in the world is one of our own. We have evolved to a point to be ready to say these things, in a meaningful way and with a collective voice. Making money more important than your own children is a pathological way for an individual to run their affairs, and it’s a pathological way for a society to run its affairs.

Albert Einstein said we would not solve the problems of the world from the same level of thinking we were at when we created them. We need more than a new politics; what we need is a new worldview. We need a fundamentally different bottom line. We need to shift from an economic to a humanitarian organizing principle for human civilization. And women, en masse, should be saying so.

The US incarcerates more of its people than any nation in the world, or any nation in history. Our military budget is almost twice that of all other nations of the world combined. At 23.1 per cent, our child poverty rate is so high that it is second only to Romania among the 35 developed nations of the world. 17,000 children on earth die of starvation every single day. We are the only species systematically destroying its own habitat. And two billion people – almost a third of the world’s population – live on less than 2 dollars a day. There’s a lot more to those statistics than a simple “To Do” list can fix. Those facts will only change when we bring to our problem-solving a far more committed heart.

Currently, the US Congress is comprised of 16.8 per cent women. Our State legislators are comprised of 23.6 per cent women. Would our legislative priorities be what they are today – tending always in the direction of serving those with economic leverage first — were those legislative bodies anywhere near gender equal? Would the “war on women” exist as it does now? Would child poverty – or poverty, period – be given such short shift? I like to think not.

Yet there are understandable reasons for the lack of female participation in our electoral politics, not the least of which is that the entire political system is contrary to everything a feminine heart stands for. It lacks inclusion. It lacks poetry. It doesn’t nurture. It doesn’t love. And without those things, the feminine psyche disconnects.

Where does that leave us though, if we simply shudder at the thought of politics and then ignore it altogether? Talk about being co-opted by a patriarchal system! We will have gone from men telling us condescendingly to not bother our pretty little heads about important things like politics, to not bothering our pretty little heads without even being told not to! The suffragettes struggled and suffered so much on our behalf; what a travesty of everything they stood for, if we simply look away as though we can’t be bothered.

And yet we should be bothered. Our challenge is to not look away, but rather to transform the field; to create a new political conversation, our own conversation, out of which we can speak our truth in our own way.

My hope and intention is that Sister Giant will be an incubator for the emergence of that new field of political possibility, entailing a new conversation about America and a serious sense of sisterhood. It will cover everything from psychological and emotional issues to a spiritual perspective on politics, to actually training women how to run for office. I want to be a cheerleader for women who have never considered running for office or being involved in a campaign, but who in the quietness of their hearts might think, “Why not me?”

As we awaken individually, we will act more powerfully collectively; legislation and political campaigns will embody a new kind of thinking only if we engage en masse. In the absence of our engaging the political system, we allow it to become something other than what we are. That in fact is what has happened, but it’s also what we can change. For what we engage, we transform. And what we engage with our hearts is transformed forever.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said that the desegregation of the American South was the political externalization of the goal of the Civil Rights movement, but that the ultimate goal was the establishment of the beloved community. He said it was time to inject a new dimension of love into the veins of human civilization. He wasn’t called a New Age nutcase or considered an intellectual lightweight for saying such things, and neither should we be. I don’t think making love the new bottom line is naïve; I believe that thinking we can survive the next hundred years doing anything less, is naïve. Sister Giant is a place for anyone who agrees with that – male or female, from the political Left, the political Right or the political Center. It will, I hope, contribute to a new conversation, a new America and a new world.

First of all I have two purposes here: 1) to build/elaborate on what Marianne has said 2) to offer what I would call a common-folk, grounded perspective. I wanna say organic intellectual, but it seems a bit pretentious to label my own writing as that.

In 2009, I took part in a hunger strike to call massive attention to the ways in which the university I was attending was unduly putting many resources for students of color on the chopping block. Long story short: when the Age of Austerity had begun, the university administration was taking advantage of the political climate to push an agenda of cutting ethnic student resources whose money sources were different from that of the ones that seemed to just be drying up out of nowhere. I think you can see where I’m going with this. For those who don’t see, it was outright racism being pushed under ulterior motives.

This is in the middle of a climate where entire departments and programs were being completely eliminated, massive student fee increases, huge cuts to financial aid, less classes, more students, and less faculty.

One of the resulting organic mobilizations was the Student of Color Collective, a gathering of students from various ethnic student organizations/groups with varying degrees of socio-political activity. We resolved to support each other until we met each and every one of the demands of our respective communities. I can’t underline how powerful that felt to feel like we were having each other’s backs in our efforts. At times coalition spaces can disintegrate once bigger or mainstream groups get their demands met, leaving smaller contingencies and more marginalized communities hanging out to dry.

The collective mobilized. We had roughly a month to respond to the cuts announced at the end of the school year, leaving the cuts to go into effect over the summer when most of the student population would be at home. We decided to revive a tactic with historical significance to the activist community at the university: the hunger strike.

It wasn’t as simple as waking up one day and just not eating – though it certainly could have gone that way. A big brother figure of mine offered to give the hunger strikers some guidance to fasting as a native and spiritual tradition. He invited us to a sweat lodge ceremony to cleanse and prepare ourselves inwardly for focus, discipline, and vision. He also invited to speak to a medicine man passing through our area. It was all new to me. I did not grow up with native culture or much of any kind of spirituality. I had only began exploring spirituality about 2 years prior and still felt like a baby in gaining understanding of myself and my relation to all of creation and infinity.

He told me something that set me on a path to question what I had known and felt up to that point about life. He said “You have to be careful with this sort of thing. What you’re doing here is mixing politics and spirituality, and the two do not mix.”

My brain had what I call a “reset” moment. My thoughts came to a halt and I sat silent in thought and emotion for a moment. My heart told me it’s true and not true at the same time. It’s true because prayer has had yet to put a halt to many harsh realities of this world – a reality caused by politics. However, something deeper inside rang feeling “Everything is connected. Even when it is not apparent, one must make the effort to connect the dots.” This has stayed with me three years later and has continued to run deep through everything I do to where I still am exploring the question: How is politics connected to spirituality?

Never underestimate the power of asking yourself a question you’re committed to finding the answer to. If you really want it, the Universe will send you the exact experiences and pieces of information you need to know at the exact moments you need them so you may gain true understanding of the answers you seek.

Thank you to Marianne for having the courage to deny both the political and spiritual naysayers who are quick to brashly demand she “leave spirituality out of politics” and “leave politics out of spirituality” respectively. Also, we can’t forget the general call to avoid taking a stance on controversy so as not to upset the audience.

She offers up some great insight when she says “People involved in the inner journey discover the value of the feminine, or spiritually receptive and inclusive, aspect of human consciousness.

Politics is overwhelmingly a masculine environment. The duality of masculine and feminine is still present with the respective dark and light capacities. Detach the racial connotations of dark and light for a moment, as this is relating to spirituality, which does not place an inherent good/bad dichotomy on all things. The same goes for masculine/feminine. All beings – regardless of biological sex, gender identity, gender expression, and who they’re attracted to – have masculine and feminine energy running in and throughout them. For more info on detaching from good/bad, check out this video parable here.

The light masculine political energy is that of debate, intellectual dialogue, representation, and provision.

The dark masculine political energy is that of aggression, might is right, paternalism and domination.

The light feminine political energy is that of nurturing, care taking, children-centering, and inclusivity.

The dark feminine political energy is that of subversion, manipulation, lies, and deception.

These are my own personal and very brief descriptions that could be explored much, much further. I would ask you to consider: Which political energies do you see being manifested in your own government and many other governments world-wide?

I think we tend to see more dark energy of both the feminine and the masculine with a greater amount of negative masculine, as Marianne points out with her statistics of representation. And obviously feminists could not have so righteously named the system/status quo as being patriarchal in nature if it were not so male-centered in the first place.

However, as many (not all) radical Native thinkers have reminded us, the world will not necessarily be bettered by a so-called matriarchal system. It is ultimately about the sacred balance of both masculine and feminine. And feminism, for many, is about the restoration of that sacred balance.

Politics is ultimately about division and separation. While spirituality reminds us that we are one.

This is where I break with Marianne’s insight and analysis.

Politics as a whole needs to die. Politics is about basing ones actions on the presumption of scarcity and egocentricity. There is not enough to go around for everyone so I will dominate, lie and deceive my way into getting more for me/my family/my community/my country than for you/yours.

The current political order and structure was based in patriarchy. To be more specific, it’s a colonial power structure that was meant to serve the purpose that it has achieved and stratifies, directing power, energy, and money toward a shrinking minority of people who are mostly white, mostly men, mostly old, mostly heterosexual, mostly anglo-saxon, and so on and so forth.

I can’t sit here and day dream about a time when the political structure is returned to the people. Audre Lorde strikingly reminds us all that “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master’s House“. A restoration and cultivation of the feminine will ultimately melt the foundation that the establishment/status quo/control system rests on, imploding political institutions in on themselves.

And while I do find myself in agreement with non-violent principles, I grow weary of the spiritual camps that bestow so much glory unto Mahatma Gandhi, Cesar E. Chavez, Martin Luther King, Jr., and more who are overly romanticized and given far too much credit for the gains they helped achieve for the people. This is the nature of our ego-centric social order, however, ultimately placing more importance on the cult of personality than on the movements for Justice that gave them such rise to prominence. For every famed leader, there are faces of every day men, women, children, and elderly much like ourselves who they would have been nothing without. Just another voice shouting into an abyss of earthly consciousness.

And for every famed non-violent leader, there were self-defense leaders right alongside them, often times providing protection to these same non-violent leaders and groups. It’s a symbiotic relationship and I doubt we will see as large and effective thrust for change until we can respect the other camp’s methods to achieving the same objective more and more of us are beginning to long for. This is one consideration the debate around Diversity of Tactics should well pick up.

I won’t be attending Sister Giant, but I am glad a leading voice like Marianne is bravely leading people who heed her truths into culminating and ground-breaking discussion that many spiritual people NEED to have. I can definitely say for myself that when I’m around political people, I’m usually pushing spiritual discussions. And when I’m around spiritual people, I push political discussions. It’s hard to have a more comprehensive picture of reality without considering both frames of reference. So how, then, do spirituality and politics connect for me?

Spirituality is ultimately about practice. There is a term used in certain ceremony circles called the “walking prayer”. Praying for something to happen without taking any actions to shift the world in that direction or to take any opportunities that Creator places before us is in effect not taking any actions to help ourselves out of our collective societal and human conditions.

Spirituality is also about building our world from within. We explore and build up our inner world so that our outer physical reality will shift to reflect our move towards and eventual placement in our “ideal self”. This might change our world in an individualistic sense. However, we still have to remember where we come from. I remember my family, my ancestors and my community that have done so much to set me up to be in the place I am today, and even in this very moment. Giving back to the communities that boosted us to where we are is vital. The true power to change our collective condition is to get collective with our actions.

The drive to affect as many lives as possible during one’s lifetime is a desire reflective of industrialist, egocentric mentality that thinks in terms of numbers. I would put forth that it is about changing our lives and our world together.

Participation in politics is but a means to an end. Get in and get out. Support other people in their efforts as you feel the need. We can postulate that radical politics and mobilization is all that’s worth our time and attention, but at the end of the day, the bread & butter issues matter. Health care, reproductive health & freedom, living wages and equal rights for undocumented immigrants – the list could go on. Believing that taking part in politics is good in and of itself is folly, and ultimately lends oneself to the political machine that drives any true movement of the people into the ground. That is what the political system does, and that is what the political system is for. The Tea Party was hijacked by mainstream conservatives and mainstream liberals tried to do the same to Occupy. Some might argue the liberals succeeded. That’s a different discussion.

Dr. King warned us that “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.” He was, in part, alluding to the great disconnect in humanity today. A cognitive dissonance where we know the way we feel the world should be, yet we overwhelmingly accept and even defend the unjust order that snuffed out the light inside that told us how unfair the world is. It’s what allows someone from an industrialized society like the US to donate to a kid in a foreign country where the US had a hand in overthrowing and destabilizing their society for decades to come. Instead of working to stop the crushing destroyer that is the US and its military industrial complex, complacent comfort is found in charity.

I demand and expect more of people, just as I demand and expect more of myself. All we can ever do is try our best, and be as zen as possible about things that happen beyond our best conscious efforts. And also, there’s no reason to assume the next paradigm shifting movement is going to look like a Million Man March. Open mind, open heart.


Out of Unity you arise
The return to Unity is your Destiny
The Mind discovers the path of return
While the Heart provides the key to each stage along the way

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