• Years ago I told myself not to worry about a devil… that it’s all in my mind. Then I realized that’s the worst place it could possibly be.
I don’t think there’s an external devil stalking the planet for men’s souls, but I do believe there’s a point of consciousness in all of us – whether we call it shadow, dark side, devil, or whatever – that is not a beautiful thing. When this aspect is allowed to drive our thoughts and behaviour – whether as an individual or as a group – it isn’t just neurotic. It is beastly.
We can pretend all we want that this doesn’t exist. We can insist that reason, civilized behaviour, international law and civic institutions have the upper hand; we can be grateful for the fact that any group psychosis is over there somewhere and surely can’t affect our daily lives. We can believe those things, but more and more now we know they aren’t true. Today, the beast is stalking the planet and it’s way too close to the barricades.
Yet how do we fight a collective psychosis, spreading like cancer and beginning to attack the major organs of our civilization? Whether it’s ISIS in the Middle East, lone crazy people taking up the cause, foreign fighters or domestic jihadists… the question on everyone’s mind is “What do we do now?”
Americans are very good with a to-do list. Just tell us what to do and our national character is such that we can usually do it. We can liken the Nazis as well as the Japanese Imperial Army during WW2 to operable tumours that were brilliantly and surgically removed by Allied forces. But today’s terrorist threat is not an operable tumour; it’s more like a cancer that’s already metastasized. It is wrapped around and hiding behind vital organs, constantly multiplying its hideous malformations. Invasive measures and surgical removal are not enough to handle this one. We’re going to have to boost our immune system; we need to deal with cause and not just effects and it would be a very good idea to pray for a miracle.
A holistic model of healing does not just apply to a physical body; it applies to a social body as well. Right now, our primary mode of fighting terrorism is allopathic, focused on suppressing and eradicating external symptoms. Clearly, those symptoms are deadly and the most powerful allopathic treatment is called for.
But the holistic paradigm emphasizes mind and spirit as healing modalities too. Internal powers should not be seen as the weaker stepsister of brute force. In fact, at this point, the use of brute force in fighting terrorism is doing as much to create enemies we don’t have yet as to kill the ones we do. No one knows this better than those who are applying the brute force yet we’re caught in the inescapable bind of having to apply it nevertheless. So, what are the internal powers that need to be identified? How do we harness them? What strategies best put them to use?
In seeking to answer these questions, we’re confronted by challenges more difficult than you might imagine. On an external level, our problems involve politics, police and military. On an internal level, our problems are no less difficult – not because they’re complicated, so much as because they challenge the very notion of what it means to be a civilized society in the 21st century. We need to ask deeper questions than, “What should we do?” We need to ask, “Who should we be?” And even more importantly, “Who should we be to each other?
A rally of two million people on the streets of Paris is a beautiful show of solidarity, ultimately even more so if it becomes a template for how we live our lives each day. We need to join as brothers and sisters now, not just as a reaction to tragedies, but as a way of preventing tragedies. Every decent man, woman and child at that rally in Paris felt like they belonged to something, felt they were part of something, felt they were standing for something meaningful that day – and that is the answer. What could be a more horrific irony than that jihadists say they feel a sense of community? Only one thing is more powerful than a brotherhood based on hate and that is a brotherhood based on love.
Humanity needs to understand this: it won’t be enough to only express our love for each other after a horrific event has occurred. We are challenged to change the very bones of our civilization – to shift from an economic to a humanitarian model – if we’re to even come close to diminishing the presence and decreasing the rise of monsters in our midst.
That is the only way we will adequately counter not just acts of terror, but, even more importantly, the radical, hate-filled philosophy that inspires them. As any expert will tell you, there is no way to track down and stop everyone who has ever been radicalized by a hateful cleric. A dark consciousness is the root of the problem and our biggest difficulty in addressing it is our refusal to give consciousness any credence at all. That is why a purely materialist perspective is inadequate to the task of formulating an effective strategy to combat terrorism. We will not create an effective way to win this contest until we are willing to acknowledge the ground on which it’s being played. And to play back on that level.
When it comes to terrorism – and when it comes to defeating it – feelings do matter, clerics do matter and philosophy does matter. This battle is being waged on deep subconscious levels. The force now tapping into the darkest corners of the human psyche will only be defeated from the most light-filled corners of the human heart. Terrorism is hatred turned into a political force and the only thing powerful enough to fundamentally override it is to turn love into a political force. But – that we will not be able to do until we are willing to make love more important than money and others more important than ourselves.
First, let’s look at money and then let’s look at us. Money runs politics in America today, which means financial interests determine the allocation of resources to everything from military to education to humanitarian expenditures. On a geo-political level, this is devastating in its effects, at home and abroad, because it leaves untended such dangerously high levels of human despair. Large groups of desperate people anywhere in the world should be considered a national security risk because desperate people are far more vulnerable to ideological capture by genuinely psychotic forces. Until America deals with the fundamental issue of the corporate takeover of the US government, there is no reason to think that the driving force in our foreign policy will ever be a true desire for peace. When our leaders talk about protecting “America’s vital national interests” around the world, they’re more likely to mean protection of Halliburton, Shell, Monsanto and Exxon, than protection of the 17,000 children who starve each day or the billion human beings on the planet who live on less than $1.25 a day. There is so much unnecessary desperation, poverty, alienation and hopelessness that the Western world has allowed to fester, and so many points of hypocrisy in our own international actions for which we owe atonement and amends. At this point, America’s problem is not just that some people hate us; it’s that a lot of people who don’t actually hate us, don’t like us either. Those who don’t actually hate us have become more and more easy to radicalize by people who genuinely do.
Actually, though, the problem today is not radicalism but a lack of radicalism. We lack the radicalism of love. By this I mean the deliberate, intentional, spiritual, transcendent, devoted, courageous, committed, proactive love of people who have awakened to the absolute necessity – if we are to survive as a species – of seeing every hungry child in the world as a child we must feed; each transgression against the earth as a limiting of our grandchildren’s chances to survive on the planet; every uneducated child as a security risk; and every thought or action of love as a contribution to the field of energy that alone has the power to drive the monstrous scourge of terrorism back to the nothingness from whence it came.
Some people seem more willing to die than to change their minds, and that is the question before us today: are we really willing to die rather than evolve beyond the obsolete, unsustainable principles that currently organize our civilization? This is the revolution now to be waged: a revolution of consciousness, as we change our thoughts and thus our behaviour and thus our institutions and thus our voting patterns and thus our government and thus find in time that we have changed ourselves.
Any conversation less radical than that simply plays into the hands of those who despise us. Terrorism is a manifestation of the accumulated moments when humanity has chosen not to love; but we still have the opportunity to choose again. We have the power to override the heinous efforts of those who terrorize, to overrule them and nullify their malevolence. First, however, we have to override our resistance to doing so. We must overrule our ego-based reticence about surrendering to love and making our lives its instrument. That is the contest, which matters the most. Are we willing to rally to that cause, not just one day in Paris, but to the best of our ability every hour of every day of every year, not only when it’s easy but also when it’s difficult? Any moment when we don’t, is an inch of ground we cede to the terrorists. Any moment when we do, is a moment when we gain the upper hand, turn on the light that casts out darkness, and do the work of transforming- our civilization into the sustainable, beautiful, and wondrous thing it is meant to be.
Guns alone can’t do it. Bombs alone can’t do it. Surveillance alone can’t do it. But with God’s help, we can.