Introduction Preface

Synthesis and the Intuitive Mind

The pandemic has shaken us up in ways that few would have expected. All of us will have experienced friends and acquaintances who have been thrown seriously off kilter by what has happened and is happening. And while this seems true of individuals, it is equally true for group identities like nations. After all, no matter how separate we think we are, we live within communities of thought. 

Artwork | Votan Henriquez |

The enforced isolation and social distancing produced by the pandemic is one powerful element in the mix of the current environment of thought. Other features affecting our thinking are the divisions over how we respond to vaccinations and how we understand community health and what we might consider to be be an appropriate response to the pandemic. En masse, human beings have been exposed to the recognition that death may be closer than we think – and community conversations are saturated with the shock and trauma that comes with the death of loved ones. All these elements of this time have pushed many into an introspective, reflective space; and for some they are a source of profound disturbance.

But there is more to the spiritual intensity of these times than the pandemic. For we are living through a period of pronounced ethical crisis – the deepest part of our nature is being challenged by what is an increasingly raw conflict between the human experience of separation and the equally human intellectual and spiritual understanding of the wholeness of life. Nowhere is this conflict more present than in the hazards that arise from climate change, food nutrition, racial injustice, and the ever-widening economic gap. For young people the apparent inability of our systems of governance to respond to these hazards with any measure of appropriate urgency creates a particularly intense crisis – reflected in, among other things, widespread depression and startlingly high youth suicide rates alongside all the heady energies of social activism and a deepening interest in finding an authentic spiritual path. 

The turning inwards that is a part of the crisis brings questions: ‘Who am I?’; ‘Who am I in relation to the social and cultural crises of my time?’; ‘Who am I in relation to others, to humanity and to the ‘other’ species in the world?’;  ‘Who am I in relation to the dull, absence of delight which permeates modern culture?’.

What makes these questions so powerful, and so hopeful, despite the pain that often accompanies them, is that they lead us to gateways into the spiritual commons. As I understand it these commons are universally, freely available. They offer a space where the high stimulation of community concerns and emotions as they are reflected in the self can be observed with detached calm, so that purpose and meaning can be revealed. 

In one sense the spiritual commons can be thought of as the accumulated wisdom of the ages – a universal body of teaching about the worlds of soul and spirit that are more available to intelligent seekers today, than at any previous time. This reservoir of lighted insight and understanding takes form as that archive of literature or music or art, from every known tradition of thought, that fires the imagination with the vistas of interdependence, wholeness, and oneness. It provides all the tools necessary to help us learn the necessary skills of discernment as we search for a pathway into ever increasing wholeness. The widespread accessibility of the spiritual commons today is significant because it prepares us for revelation and sets us on a path towards new understandings of synthesis, and a new awareness of the relation between part and whole; self and other; local national and global. The Yoga for our time has been called the Yoga of Synthesis, with exercises and practices to foster a synthesis of spirit, mind and body; an inclusive, intuitive relationship between self and community; an ability to see anew the spirit of goodness, beauty and truth as it expresses itself in all manner of social and institutional forms.

In another sense the spiritual commons can be thought of as the shared space where deep reflective thought about meaning, and purpose; principle and ethics occurs. It is where we are thinking together as a species in response to both the hazards and crisis of our time but also in response to the great mysteries of Presence. It is in this shared space that we think together about Life itself and who we are as human beings. In the process, it is the space where we encounter liberating ideas and principles that carry the Presence of the mind and spirit of enlightened ancestors; where we become open to impression from the great Lights who live in our time as much as they have ever lived – the Christ and the Buddha, Confucius, Krishna and so on. 

Chakra Tree of Life | Baruška A. Michalčíková,

From this perspective the spiritual commons are a force of light in the consciousness of our time. Vast, abundant energies are being invoked by the depth of the ethical choices facing us as we navigate our way through all the hazards of living in an interdependent age while we remain entrenched in the dominant mind-set of separation. The well-known Great Invocation from the Alice Bailey writings includes a call to ‘Let Light descend on Earth’ and the comment is made that in making this appeal for light, we are “invoking something which humanity will have to learn to handle… All planetary developments are attended by risks, and none more so than that of the absorption of light – on a world-wide scale – by humanity” [Alice A. Bailey, Discipleship in the New Age, Vol. II, p. 327].

This recognition that the soul is shining its light into the human, stirring things up, and bringing its own hazards, seems to me to be an important and necessary shift in the way we look at the world and social/political/cultural crises we are living with. It turns the imagination upside down. We are understandably so centered in the worlds of time and space and the reasoning mind, that we have forgotten that there is another realm of intuitive mind. We can begin to think from the perspective of the spiritual commons – acknowledging the psychic role these commons are playing in all the ethical crises of the age. 

Mark Vernon writes: “Imagination, relationship, knowledge, delight. Wisdom and time, truth and love, the implicit and the felt. The meaning of suffering and the purpose of struggle. Life has been organized around spiritual commons before.” He goes on to ask: “Might training ourselves to become conscious of their abundance again help us to do so once more?” I believe that this is happening in ways that we often don’t recognize. More are becoming conscious in an intelligent and thoughtful way of the abundance of these commons than ever before in human history. The multitude of groups, writers and thinkers bringing traditions of universal spirituality into the realm of social commentary are reasonably well known and easily accessible. But there are many who use the language of the secular to bring imagination, spirit and wisdom into this engagement with, and invocation of the spiritual commons that we may often not recognize.

These secular voices challenge us to free ourselves from the political slogans and sound bites of so much of today’s commentary on the crises of the age so that we can reach into the principles and ethics at the core of the issue. One, perhaps unexpected example of this is to be found in the thinking at the heart of UNESCO’s ‘Futures of Education: Learning to Become Initiative’ that is discussed in the 2021#2 issue of the World Goodwill Newsletter.

Gert Biesta of Maynooth University in Ireland, an influential participant in the UNESCO focus, draws attention to the critical role that schools, and universities can play in helping young people become aware of the worlds of desire and the way in which these worlds create and are a part of response to climate change, race relations and so on. The ‘educative power of the arts’ he suggests, are to be found in the “exploration and transformation of our desires so that they can become a positive force for the ways in which we seek to exist in the world in grown-up ways”. Schools and teachers can best prepare their students for the modern world by ‘interrupting’ their sense of their needs and desires, helping them understand the consequence of their choices and actions so that they can freely choose how they will live in the world. Teachers who take seriously the task of preparing their students for the future, need to introduce “the question whether what we desire is actually desirable, both for ourselves and for the life we live, with what and who is other.” 

Every profession has its communities of thought that approach the crises of the age through a similar depth of enquiry. And its important to acknowledge that each offers a portal or a gateway into the spiritual commons. Whether the presence of the Great Potencies of the Christ, the Buddha and the Enlightened Ancestors of all traditions are acknowledged or not, spiritual traditions suggest that these Potencies are the source of Light that is pouring ideas of wholeness and oneness into the mind and heart of the human at this time. They, and the Commons where The Great Ones reside, are both a source of deep disturbance and of transformation in the way in which we think about all of the ethical issues of our age – from pandemic to climate change to human rights and freedoms in an interdependent world.

About Steve Nation

Steve Nation has been involved in service work inspired by the Alice Bailey teachings for many years. He currently directs the New York office of World Goodwill and Lucis Trust. He is co-founder of Intuition in Service and the United Nations Days & Years Meditation Initiative and serves on the Council of the Spiritual Caucus at the United Nations.

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