Culture

How is the Authority of The Universe Rediscovered?

TOWARDS A HOLISTIC  CULTURE
Five Perspectives on Reconstructing A Holistic Culture Informed By Moral Imagination

Moving from an unconscious culture to a conscious one is a challenge for us all. The task of any society with aspirations towards Interdependence is surely to align the power of the intellect and the power of the physical with the power of the heart so that the interests of the whole – of the human family and of nature – are nurtured and protected by the gestures of the authentic feminine and the authentic masculine. We offer here five perspectives that might contribute towards this vision and these values.

1. Chivalry & Remembrance – Recreating A Culture of Personal Honour

Pir Zia, the president of the Sufi Order International teaches about the value of Chivalry and personal challenge and has suggested that a defining aspect of chivalry is to have no enemies and respect for all others.

He speaks about the four sets of “Rules” of spiritual chivalry given by Pir-o-Murshid Murshid Inayat Khan in the Gayan.

The Sufi rules of spiritual chivalry help to cultivate moral culture and instill awareness in our relationships with all beings. (i)

They belong to the tradition of spiritual chivalry, called Futuwwa, which is essential to the Sufi path, the way of the knight. In our view it is unfortunate that the archetype of the Knight is too often confused with that of the Warrior. The Sufi Rules seem self-evident and obvious, but on closer scrutiny, open up into a wide field of inquiry and awareness.  It was Shaykh Abd al-Qad’r Jilani who brought the Sufis together in the first-ever Sufi order, the Qadir’yya, and he did so on the basis of a chivalric institution of knighthood called fityan.

Each Rule begins with the words, “My conscientious self, consider your responsibility sacred” as the reader addresses himself or herself, because the Rule is not coming from an outside authority figure. It is coming from ones own conscience, speaking to itself and recommitting itself to the principles that you know to be your own purpose.

We cannot do justice here to the Sufi path of spiritual chivalry by offering anything other than the simplest summary as a signpost towards creating a conscious holistic culture which attempts to answer the question posed by Richard Tarnas (ii),  “How is the authority of the Universe rediscovered?”. There are contemporary versions of a secular moral code that have been proposed by western writers such as Adrian Bishop ( iii). Though these are well intentioned, for us, these tend to be legalistic or prescriptive and in comparison lack the poetry and free will of the Sufi way.

The attractiveness of the Sufi path of spiritual chivalry is that it can be translated into a western cultural context as a personal moral compass consistent with all the main faiths and with a secular humanist moral code.

The very first Rule of Spiritual Chivalry is to accept and be accountable to the archetype of humanity within the divine –  for what we uniquely are responsible for – by aspiring to be an exemplar of the truly human. The second rule asks us to develop a context and manner that promotes politeness and respect towards others which is seen as a virtue of great significance in the Sufi way.

The third rule asks us to do nothing which will make our conscience feel guilty and the fourth rule asks we extend our help willingly to those in need. There are forty such rules in total.

There are ten Copper, ten Iron, as well as Silver and Gold rules. All the rules are encouragements to behave with integrity, dignity, respect and honour. To see all the Sufi rules of spiritual chivalry go to http://www.sufiorder.org/Rules.html

Each of the rules exists for the purpose of what the Sufis call “remembrance” in the sense of affirming Unity.

 

2. Gestures of De-dramatization
The Significance of Maternal Reverie & Paternal Constancy in a Culture of Anxiety

Much of warrior capitalism’s cultural output is focused around violence and fear which, cloaked as entertainment, create a powerful backdrop of unconscious taken for granted values in contemporary media that it is easy to silently absorb. Science fiction films such as “Independence Day”, “Predator” and “Cowboys and Aliens” for example have as their premise that “evil aliens” are out there who want to exploit our planet and our species even more voraciously than we have done ourselves.

But we have to remember that the evil aliens are really us!

In reality it was the cowboys who were the technologically advanced explorer warrior invaders plundering the land and ethnically cleansing the more culturally and spiritually sophisticated Native Americans.

The solution offered by such warped imaginations to their own projected imaginary fears is usually more violence and aggression unmediated by the feminine or by spirit.

The real solution to this – to being afraid of the dark within ourselves – is surely not more Hollywood blockbusters exploiting the themes of fear, violence and aggression or even worse the projection of our inner darkness onto other humans to justify yet more wars or more separatist heroes firing from both barrels.

Whilst there are times and stories when noble warrior heroes have had to overcome evil despite the odds in extreme circumstances…

The myth that the warrior has the answer to every eventuality through self interest and brute force serves the interests only of those who are wedded to separatism.

When we are willing to take responsibility for our own darkness, to become an inner warrior, to take the time to reflect and communicate fully, only then can our common humanity and the interests of the whole prevail. This means letting go of real or imagined dramas that come out of our anxiety and fear. Increasing fear and anxiety do not serve humanity or the Universe.

Culturally, a gesture of de- dramatizing moves us away from being fearful victims who have to use our rage to survive. De-dramatizing gestures move us towards a place of hope, abundance and security without the need to compete or exploit

The concept of Maternal Reverie was developed by Wifred Bion and others who followed Melanie Klein in the Object Relations school of Psychotherapy. For example the mother, rather than being alarmed, upset and over concerned that the child is distressed, simply states the facts of the matter and re-affirms that everything will be fine. A little bit like the actor manager character in the film “Shakespeare in Love” who professes he doesn’t know how but it will all work out well in the end, the mother says something to the effect, “Oh you are cold let me wrap you in my shawl and you will be fine”. It is a gesture of de-dramatising that gives the infant a sense of security in themselves and the world. It is mirrored in a similar de-dramatizing gesture by the constancy of the father – simply by being present and supportive of the mother. ( In ancient Taoist terms perhaps this is what might be called the mother within the father)

Maternal reverie – a maternal gesture that relieves the anxiety of the fearful infant – can have an equivalent at a societal and cultural level.

Developing a culture of de-dramatization is surely a path worth exploring.

3. Resisting The Two Streams of Darkness Within Ourselves

Rudolf Steiner suggested that there are two forces of imbalance and manipulation that we all have the potential to be corrupted by.

One uses cleverness to charm and seduce others and sometimes ourselves with fantasy and illusion through articulate communications which have the appearance of light. The other uses the force of material power and prejudice to control others and situations in an oppressive way. They both lose touch with the heart and potentially give us power in the world to dominate others.

If we allow it, these two inner energies or potentials can always insinuate themselves – even into our good intentions –  and so corrupt our thinking, our feelings and our actions.

Steiner called them the Luciferic and the Ahrimanic – after the fallen angel Lucifer who tempts us with heaven and the principle of evil in Persian mythology which tempts us to deny our link with the divine and to live entirely on the material plane.

Whether we believe in these literally or metaphorically does not matter, but they provide us with a conceptual framework for self examination of our thoughts, feelings and actions and they allow us the free will to choose to become a force for Love or its opposite in the world.

Michaela Glockler has written about leadership styles and of how both these forces can create imbalance…

“The French revolutionary politician Robespierre stands as a historic example of thinking that, in pursuance of the ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity, lost touch with the heart. Where this occurs, guiding pictures and ideals turn into an ideology in which many become emotionally subordinate and dependent on one charismatic personality — in spiritual terms on inspirations emanating from Lucifer.

This ideological orientation is compounded by the enforcing of will – through Ahrimanic inspiration – and an external imposition of power and authority. In such a way various types of totalitarian systems and authoritarian styles of leadership can  arise that are characterized by the use of both ideological, material or practical power, including the use of financial scarcity to achieve certain goals.

Common to both Luciferically and Ahrimanically inspired social cultures is the restriction of individual freedom to think, hold opinions and act, along with heartless and inhumane elements in relations and agreements.

It is the role of the inner warrior to protect against such imbalances without becoming an imbalance in itself. We can protect ourselves against the fascination of the Luciferic through love for the reality and practicality of life rather than illusion, seduction and charm in whatever form. We can protect ourselves against the dangers of the Ahrimanic by respecting each person’s individual freedom rather than surrendering to the temptations of prejudice and power.”

These distinctions pose the question, “What is Principled leadership”? and “What is real maturity”?

Conscious awareness of our shadows and the pitfalls of self delusion or manipulation can only come with a commitment to mindfulness and maturity. Due to the natural stages through which any individual needs to grow  to reach maturity, Rudolf Steiner is reputed to have suggested that it would be unwise to speak in public before the age of fifty seven. This puts into question the wisdom of the increasing youthfulness of our leaders. In folk myth there is always a difference between a Prince and a King. Princes who rule without maturity often end in  either justifying or regretting their wilfulness.

A conscious culture that both encourages and contains youth and enthusiasm with guidance that deflects the excesses of the Luciferic and the Ahrimanic is a difficult balance to attain – especially in a culture of liberalism that is over indulgent as a reaction to its opposite of over repression.  Each generation needs to express its creativity and its freedom but often in reaching for them exposes itself and others to these two streams of darkness. There is a legitimate role for elders and for  mature authority that exposes and warns against the extremes of the  Luciferic and Ahrimanic by asking whether as individuals and as a community we are thinking, feeling and acting out of ‘Love’.

4. Balance Within Nature & Balance Within Culture

Both empiricism and unity can be undermined by the Luciferic and Ahrimanic impulses.

Purity in science or faith, in their need for certainty, are always susceptible to becoming the opposite of the truth they seek.

In forms that become fundamentalist this is almost inevitably the case, so for us Richard Dawkins and Osama Ben Laden are part of the same phenomenon – self- righteous imbalance created by self seduction and power – a seeking of truth that has become imbued with luciferic or ahrimanic egoism.

Balance is a sacred state and not easily achieved. If we look,at the innumerable states of balance within systems that are required for the human body alone to function properly we start to see how fine tuning that has developed by creative adaptation over millennia have come to give us each the chance of life. Perhaps reverence for such balance within us and within the diverse eco-systems that support us is an appropriate starting point for seeking balance within the human world – within culture. Once we start to appreciate the ‘miracle’ of balance perhaps reverence is an appropriate response. What would a culture of balanced reverence look like?

5. Honouring The Two Energy Streams Within Nature

Indigenous peoples who lived as part of Nature for thousands of years observed that there are two powerful and distinct natural energy streams within the world – the Feminine and the Masculine. Their response to this clear aspect of creation was that if Nature required both to be equally present then they too should require the same within their Councils. But so called civilized societies took no heed of such a balance within the natural world.

Consequently in western society, the Masculine and Feminine have become imbalanced in favour of one particular aspect of the Masculine – the warrior. But the warrior is not synonymous with the authentic Masculine

Outside of war, ‘materialist warrior’ values put autonomy above unity, self before others and make power rather than Love the guiding principle.  The Authority of Love that ensures the survival of the children and which respects nature cannot be provided for by the warrior or the oppressive patriarch both of which exclude the authentic masculine as well as dominating and subjugating the feminine.

If we take the archetypes of the Mother, the Warrior and the Father, of the three the Father is perhaps the weakest, but the energy of the Father is perhaps most significant in respect of maintaining balance. Both the Warrior and the Mother are recognized for who they are without reference to any other. The Father needs the Mother as his raison d’etre.

Whilst the Mother is at the centre of life, if we value balance we have to value the energy of the Father as his is not a biologically determined role but a choice to serve the interest of the Feminine and the whole.

At an archetypal level the Father’s gesture to protect, provide, and create appropriate boundaries is always a fine line in creating balance – between serving the Feminine and the whole rather than trying to control – which reverts from Father to a warrior mode.

Bert Hellinger has written interestingly about balance in relation to parental authority. In his book ‘Love’s Hidden Symmetry’, he relates an incident in the school in which he was teaching in which his students broke agreements that had been clearly agreed.

By not insisting on the full punishment that he was entitled to demand as the class teacher  (based on prior agreements with his class) – the complete withdrawal of privileges from pupils in a situation where they broke agreed rules – he brought the pupils and himself closer together. By being both generous and proportionate ( the gift of self restraint) he brought the pupils to a point where they could see that personal responsibility was a virtue that served the whole. At the same time Hellinger had respected the agreed boundaries that had been in place to support everyone. By making concessions that the pupils could see he did not have to concede, he kept to the spirit of the agreement and at the same time elicited a response of acceptance of his authority and of the rules. The concessions were given freely out of compassion as well as a stance of astute negotiation that does not require one’s opposition to surrender completely but to concede on key points that allow a compromise that enables higher principles to remain intact .

This integrative gesture of justice and love speaks of the concept of the “Constancy of the Father” which is largely missing in our society.

Hellinger speaks of  natural authority in terms of who came first and therefore who has to be acknowledged in any system or constellation  of subjects. He suggests there are orders of Love and it is only through the recognition of what has gone before that the new can establish a grounded and legitimate authority. If we look who has gone before us we need to respect our ancestors, our elders, Nature and the Universe.

The authentic masculine asks – what can I do to make the life of my family and my community richer, stronger but especially more loving. In this respect alongside the energy of the Mother, the energy of the Father is a crucial element in maintaining balance and thereby rediscovering ‘the Authority of the Universe”.

Any society that does not allow for the mediation of the warrior by the Feminine not only loses the authentic feminine it will also lack the energy of the Father and so will create an unbalanced culture which will not be able to protect children or nature.

Conservative world views which have tended to exclude and subjugate the Feminine have tended to revert to cultures based on separatist, autonomous, power based ‘warrior’ values and consequently lost the element of the authentic masculine.

Contemporary liberalism on the other hand seems unable to conceive of the authentic Masculine as part of the Authority of Love. But the archetype of the father has within in it an aspect of nurture. It is only through the alliance of mother and father energy that the authentic masculine can be maintained. By devaluing and excluding the Masculine, liberalism loses the energy of the father and thereby balance.

Because the purpose of the Feminine is clear in relation to nurturing and the purpose of the warrior is clear in times of conflict or danger, the authentic masculine that provides the energy of the Father is the weak social force that is fundamental to maintaining balance. Consequently neither liberalism nor conservatism alone can provide a solution.

(i) Pir Zia Inayat-Khan, ‘Chivalry’

(ii) Richard Tarnas, ‘Cosmos & Psyche’

(iii) Adrian Bishop, ‘ The Moral Compass’

(iv) Rudolf Steiner ‘Philosophy and Anthroposophy’

(v) Michaela Glockler ‘Goetheanum Research Bulletin’ Spring 2011 edition

(vi) Bert Hellinger ‘Love’s Hidden Symmetry’

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