It seems like an age ago, but in the run-up to the recent momentous US Presidential election, a well-known spiritual teacher, Marianne Williamson ran in the primaries for the Democratic nomination, and was able to be seen nationally in the TV debates, gaining wide national recognition and voice. This was groundbreaking for all of us in the varied diverse and loose-knit spiritual communities. We had never heard our point of view so explicitly, as well as plainly and clearly, stated in the mainstream political and social dialogue in America, nor perhaps in any country. The closest to this may actually be the progressive statements and policy actions we have seen recently enacted by the handful of smaller countries now led by women.
Marianne Williamson said the following, directed specifically to we spiritual practitioners and seekers. She enunciated clearly her “politics of conscience, that allows love to prevail.” But she also said in no uncertain terms that this would not simply happen of itself, wished into existence by our profound and good thoughts, deeply felt meditations and prayers, or by our often self-referential thinking, which she has frequently witnessed in our times. She chided us to forgo resisting politics and public engagement, which we may have previously considered demeaning, and to instead become active participants in the process, and thus serious agents of real and desperately needed change.
What calls to us in this seemingly critical moment is not just the need for that which is good—but its very real opposition to so much we are now confronted with that tends towards ill. Deep national and global divisions and animosities, a devastating global pandemic shaking the global economy, long festering unhealed wounds of racial and social inequity, and the enormously looming and potentially existentially disruptive world climate change—are all simultaneously bringing us to our senses, and all but demanding our participation as conscious and aware agents of positive change.
It is not as though we, as Americans, and all of us global citizens have not known of these disturbing currents and possibilities, which are just now surfacing all at once. In fact, nearly 50 years ago, The Whole Earth Catalogue was first published, taking a previously unheard of global perspective. Around the same time, a groundbreaking thinker and inventor, Buckminster Fuller, published An Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, and shortly after, a distinguished international group of scientific, business, and prominent government leaders called the Club of Rome published Limits to Growth. Common to these is a view of the last half century of events that brings focus to what an increasing number of us in our now globally-linked world are fast coming to agree is our current deepening crisis of industrial-technological civilization—social, cultural, racial, political, and ultimately environmental—finally going right to the roots of humanity’s very Earth life support system.
The core of this crisis now hard upon us was just barely in sight to most people 50 years ago; though to nearly all of us, that seemed far too disconnected and unlikely to be considered fully real and truly immanent. The current global pandemic causing the entire Earth to actually stop and look for just one conjoined global moment, allowed us all, if we had eyes to see, to come abruptly to the shared awareness of just how urgent and dire was our true present predicament, centuries long in the making, yet lying just below the surface of our prior grasp and understanding.
On an American political stage, another prominent but unlikely and early such voice was retiring US President Dwight Eisenhower, in his farewell address in 1960. He was probably the most effective, successful, and admired US President since the unprecedented four-terms of FDR, who died in 1945 at the end of WWII. Graduating from West Point as a cavalry officer, Eisenhower actually rode on horseback in the First World War, making him part of a generation of American military officers who saw and participated in the need to modernize, through mechanization, first vital land transportation, and after that, military land, air, and sea power. Rising through the ranks on his abilities, he ultimately served as Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe all during WWII, helping strategize and sharing actual responsibility for managing and finally ending the most terrible and tragic war in human history. Then, as President for two terms from 1952 to 1960, he oversaw and again assisted in strategizing a nuclearization and an unprecedented permanent build-up of American armed forces. This entire résumé probably made him uniquely qualified, as one who had personally seen a more comprehensive view of warfare in all its manifestations and horrors than almost any prior or subsequent living person, to analyze and finally to comment upon the perils of our situation in the late 20th century.
Eisenhower’s Farewell Address was delivered in January 1961, as John Kennedy was preparing to be inaugurated as his presidential successor. Eisenhower, after a half century of service to his country, felt he must now, as a newly private citizen, in good conscience say what he saw as the grave risks to our future and to the future of our democratic government and institutions. He was philosophically a committed conservative, and a Republican politician, but since he delivered this address, virtually no conservative has seen fit to reference it, except in vague terms and inaccurately. What he actually said is presciently contained in the following excerpts:
“We realize that America’s leadership and prestige depend not merely upon our unmatched material progress, riches and military strength, but on how we use our power in the interests of world peace and human betterment. Throughout America’s adventure in free government, our basic purposes have been to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among people and among nations. To strive for less would be unworthy of a free and religious people. Any failure traceable to arrogance, or our lack of comprehension or readiness to sacrifice, would inflict upon us grievous hurt both at home and abroad.
Progress toward these noble goals is persistently threatened by the conflicts engulfing the world. Good judgement seeks balance and steady progress. Until recently, the United States had no armaments industry. But now, as we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense, we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions, and commit millions of men and women to the national defense establishment. We spend more on this than the net income of all US corporations.
While we recognize the imperative need for this development, we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence by the “MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX.” The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.
We should take nothing for granted, remembering that only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together. The prospect of domination of massive Federal project allocations and the power of money is ever present and gravely to be regarded. We must also be alert to the danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite. It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces within the principles of our democratic system—ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.”
I have written a book, No Easy Road to Peace, which is one small window into that particular moment in time when these now intertwined crises and their awareness first began to truly come into clear focus for myself, as well as for increasing segments of our societies. It was bound to have been a tumultuous path, and this small story, like our shared current human story, can be something of a hard one. The lens that clarifies this book’s narrative is possibly the same one that could well provide the best portal to successfully navigate our looming difficult story of mankind — the experience of spiritually awakening to our true nature. We know our time has seen a great quickening of this realization and understanding, mostly created by an expanding spiritual awakening moment for ever greater numbers, the magnitude of which we are uncertain of; though we recognize its widely transformative effect on global human consciousness in luminaries, and ordinary people alike, at this critical moment in human history.
No Easy Road to Peace illustrates in-depth that such an unexpected awakening within one young person turned out not to be a particularly easy road, but an unavoidable and pivotal one. And which enormous numbers of our human family may be confronting as we find that individual awakening experiences are ignited by this seemingly urgent call to effect a global transformation. This is a task that beckons doubly as difficult, unlikely, and formidable for each of us, and more so for our societies, as is portrayed in the book. Yet it is one that must be faced and accomplished in each of our unique small personal ways—Jonathan in the story knew it as “something that we cannot not do”…
I myself have found that I hardly spoke of these events of 50 years ago; in fact generally trying hard to avoid doing so. Consequently, they seemed to belatedly call for me to create a means of integrating the seemingly impossible opposites, and writing this book thus proved exactly the right means to do this, so that I could both move forward on my own inner path, as well as be well-positioned to be prepared to join the global work we all must shortly face. While each of our unique experiences will differ enormously, and will contain both the mundane and dramatic, my hope in writing this story was to provide another of the many openings to understanding spiritual realization and integration, and to possible real actions that may call to us all in this most interesting of moments.
Following is the synopsis of my book, No Easy Road to Peace:
“A coming-of-age tale set against the backdrop of the pivotal American years of 1968 to 1972, a time of great chaotic but creative social and political change. In crisp, evocative prose, with blunt social commentary, No Easy Road to Peace explores the wholly unexpected and life-altering experience of spiritual awakening juxtaposed against societal forces of overwhelming resistance.
Jonathan struggles to understand and integrate his rite of passage: a lightning-bolt experience of expanded awareness and its deeply unsettling impact on his life as a newly enlisted man in the American military. The inevitably bruising conflict plays out in Jonathan’s military flashbacks, interwoven with humorous and mystical adventures on a grand American summer road trip with two boyhood friends. Together, all three discover the remarkable natural, wild and unspoiled lands of the North American continent, and in the bargain, something of their place in it…”
Jonathan Greene February 2021