Time of turning…toward a greater democracy

Time of turning….toward a greater democracy

Recently I heard Duane Elgin speak about this book, The Living Universe. Elgin had researched the question, “how do the spiritual traditions of the world regard the universe?” He discovered that at their depth there is a common understanding. Islam says that, “each moment is an occasion for Allah to create the universe.”  The Gospel of Thomas proclaims, ‘the kingdom of heaven is spread out before them and they do not see it.” Elgin studied similar findings coming from science -  that the Earth is being renewed at every moment but that we are unaware of it. Elgin says that science is now pointing toward the spiritual. Science is finding that the universe is a deeply mysterious, connected living system, most of which is still unseen and undiscovered. For hundreds of years humanity has separated itself from the mystery of the universe. We used nature to increase our own material prosperity. We saw ourselves separate from and superior to nature. Now is the time for ” the great turning”  a time for people everywhere to turn from disconnect with, misuse of and separation from nature – and turn to connecting in mutually cooperative ways and acting with common purpose as part of nature.

So what does this have to do with a greater democracy? A greater democracy is a phrase that can pull us forward.  It helps us see what our role and responsibility as members of the human race is at this time. It conveys an idealism that every person matters, every voice counts, people can decide better ways to live together, and that diverse people will contribute their best to achieve the common good. It is a phrase that can act like a light at the end of a tunnel – enticing us to grow up as a species. A greater democracy contains a promise and a destiny. It identifies us as a humanity bound for mutual respect, cooperation and unity. If we limit our understanding of democracy to a governance system, or a set of values that protects human freedoms but that creates messy politics subject to misuse and manipulation we may not survive as a human race. It is time for humanity to grow up and for democracy to mean something more to us.

A greater democracy acts like a looking glass for us to peer into and imagine the future while still living in the reality of the present. It is not good enough anymore to go about our business unconscious of the power our thoughts and behaviors have on the future. We can impact the future with our intentions in the present. We have a job to do. We can imagine what a greater democracy would be like. We can set the stage for a greater democracy in our mind’s eye. Let us be motivated by visions of ourselves and people everywhere creating a new kind of life of Earth. Wisdom traditions speak of a Golden Age, Heaven on Earth, Enlightenment. An accelerated turning toward this higher potential in concert with the universe has begun. We are needed to imagine it. Believe in it. Act on behalf of it. We can contribute to the future with our intentions, visions and actions. We are needed. Now is the time.


Sally Mahe
Director, Organization Development
United Religions Initiative

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51 Comments

  1. Richard Talbott

    The converging understanding that the universe is a deeply mysterious, connected living system implies that each moment is an original event, unique to the instant, arising without supernatural influence out of the preceding unique instant. Goals, predictions, divine and political purposes exist in our imagination in the present, but these imaginings do not predict the future. We did not arrive here because of a pre-determined strategy, but by a combination of circumstances that occurred sequentially over (at least) 13.7 billion years of creative moments. To paraphrase Zen priest and scholar Stephen Bachelor in a dharma talk, “If an asteroid had not wiped out the dinosaurs, making way for mammals; and if much later, the telephone had rung just before the moment of my conception, I would not be here.”

    Ideas that look like progress at their inception, have unintended consequences. For example, the shift from hunter-gathering to agriculture, significantly reduced the general health of human beings. It succeeded in increasing populations by enabling less robust individuals to live and reproduce, and that must have seemed like a very good idea at the time. Industrial agriculture, combined with sophisticated subliminal marketing, mass transportation and other factors, has escalated the phenomenon, and the results, along with other unforeseen results, have put us at risk with respect to health and over population.

    The point is that democracy may not be enough. Sally suggests “greater democracy” as a process beyond tallying votes. We may need a transformation of public consciousness that we can’t imagine — one that
    takes the democratic process from a tug-of-war between individual and social benefits and responsibilities, to more coherent, synchronistic patterns of human thought that until now have been achieved only by mystics.

    So, how can a transformation of cultural consciousness be achieved? One thing it would require is waking up to old, habitual patterns of language. For example, Aldo Leopold pointed out that thinking of forests, salmon and prairies as “natural resources” implies a need and a right to conquer and exploit the environment. Brian Swimme proposes substituting the word “relative” for “resource”, thereby incorporating the appreciation of the inter-connectivity of all the forms and patterns of biology into our everyday speaking. Vince Lombardi’s proclamation that winning is the only thing, cements the macho notion that competition is the primary lesson from nature, ignoring the myriad examples of success through cooperation. We might want to honor participation and personal improvement in performance along with finishing first, as was once done in the modern Olympic Games.

    Sally’s greater democracy suggests in several instances that there is a destiny to be imagined — an end of the tunnel, a promise, a finite universe to be discovered. We may need instead, to understand existence as
    pure process, with time serving only as an orienting mechanism. Plans, goals, and intentions may serve, as Sally says, to inspire and give direction to the process. But perhaps goals should not be held as attainable omega points to strive for. Instead, we might want to support efforts like Karen Armstrong’s Charter for Compassion to guide and true-up the quality and wholesomeness of the moment-by-moment process of existence. In any case, it seems important that the process is a shared one, learned and taught, not as doctrine but as practice, in a vibrant public conversation.

  2. Спасибо, ушел читать….

    Time of turning….toward a greater democracy
    Recently I heard Duane Elgin …

  3. Важный ответ :)

    Time of turning….toward a greater democracy
    Recently I heard Duane Elgin speak about this book, The Living Universe…..


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