DECLARATION OF HUMANITY
If we wish to sustain humanity and advance our civilization, it is required that we enter into a new way to understand and relate to reality. Our window of opportunity to accomplish this necessary and monumental shift is small compared to the large obstacles within our current belief systems that must be dissolved. Yet, we must do this if we and all the life forms that share this jewel of a planet are to survive. We simply do not have time or resources to continue to treat each other as adversaries or to further exploit and destroy our environment.
ARCHITECTURE OF LIFE
From my seventeen-month, nonstop political campaign, I developed a keen understanding of the world of politics. The answers to our problems, I learned, would never come from that battleground of adversarial self-interest groups. Larger issues and realities must first be understood and resolved in order for the political process to serve the common good. The “simple truths” in this book address those larger problems.
These problems are complex, severe, and compounded by the fact that we add almost 1,500,000 people to our population weekly. When we see and experience great injustice, suffering, inequity, and violence daily, we want desperately to solve such problems. But how? How can we reduce ignorance and suffering and expand knowledge and justice? Where do we begin?
AN ARDUOUS JOURNEY
In my travels and experiences, I was aware of my motion but not my destination. The latter I knew to be distant. It would reveal itself only after an arduous journey, just as a great mountain yields its summit only after one conquers its lesser peaks. Victories and defeats nourished and thrashed me. I forged on in search of the common but elusive thread that weaves through and binds all relationships. I immersed myself in rich learning experiences in a broad range of seemingly unrelated fields. I feel as if I have lived numerous lifetimes.
Drawing on my life’s experiences, and study and still more experiences as an older student at Harvard and Yale Divinity Schools, I finally found what I was after. It is a way of relating that is not arbitrary but imperative. It addresses the reality that everything in our world is related and that the proper manner of these relationships must be understood and practiced if we are to survive and advance as a civilization. This manner of relating is characterized by qualities that nourish and sustain the relationships of life, as opposed to those that damage and destroy them. It may be that which Lao Tzu refers to in the Tao Te Ching (The Way of Life) written twenty-six hundred years ago. The answers are simple, elegant really, but elusive. They have to do with what I refer to as the foundational relationships of life, “sacred” relationships. Out of and within these, all relationships and endeavors follow. As you read on, you will understand.
MEANS WITHOUT GOALS
Many of us are troubled by much of what we observe and experience in life. Increasing numbers of us seek meaning and purpose in an often impersonal, materialistic, and adversarial world. We share a growing conviction that reconciliation among people, nations, races, and diverse political, economic, and religious ideologies is unattainable and maybe even impossible. It is perplexing and disturbing.
In a world dominated by fear and greed, we exploit each other and ravage our environment. In our passion to consume and accumulate, we are increasingly competitive, confrontational, and self-centered. We take our pleasures but do not replenish. We deplete and exhaust the land, abuse our bodies, and violate our spirit. We create unsustainable imbalances.
PROFIT, POWER, AND PROGRESS
What can be said of profit, power, and progress in the interrelated and interdependent reality in which we exist? What kind of people are we who allow grotesque disparities to exist between the affluent and the impoverished? How is it we allow nearly half of our human family to be doomed to a hopeless and unremitting battle for survival, while others of us are over-clothed, over-housed, and so over-fed that we have to go on special diets to lose weight?
This unequal distribution of opportunity and wealth is not accidental. Fueled by ignorance and its byproduct, greed, it results from economies organized to benefit the insatiable appetites of the opportunistic. Most individuals and institutions are reluctant to cede self-interest for the common good. Most countries are unwilling to think beyond sovereignty and national interests. Instead, shackled with destructive habits and short on vision, they violate relationships with each other and the environment. In doing so, they court disaster.
A prominent United States senator said that the influence of money in political campaign financing “. . . is nothing less than an influence-peddling scheme in which both parties compete to stay in office by selling the country to the highest bidder.” In her book, The Corruption of American Politics, veteran Washington journalist Elizabeth Drew wrote that money is drowning out decency and threatening the underpinnings of democracy itself.
This is obvious and ominous. Democracy is more than a form of government. It is a way of life, a formula for just relationships. The word “democracy” means rule by the people. Abraham Lincoln described this form of self-government as “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” not government of some people, by some people, for some people. Democracy supports individual freedom and the fundamental dignity and equality of all persons.
Democracy, theoretically, is a form of government in which political power rests with all the people. It recognizes the intrinsic value of widespread and broad-based input. It invites the richness of diversity. Democracy says do not look only to yourself and like-minded people for answers; avail yourself of that which others have to offer, for life is diverse. Democracy says do not be rigid or inflexible; be open and adaptable, for life is dynamic and ever changing. Democracy says do not make participation exclusive; make it inclusive, for life is all encompassing. Democracy says do not gravitate to extremes; seek moderation, for life requires balance. Democracy says do not represent only those who have influence; represent all, for life demands justice. Finally, Democracy says do not tamper with this process, for it is your only hope of survival.
We live at a time when it is necessary to evaluate our beliefs. Such an exercise is always healthy and should be ongoing. That which is antiquated and dysfunctional must be discarded. As we mature, our knowledge, beliefs, and priorities evolve. That is normal and healthy.
At one time our planet seemed like an immense and limitless place. Huge territories were unexplored and undiscovered. There was true separation between continents and peoples. Activities and consequences were confined within definable boundaries. As we grew and evolved, we began moving beyond self-defined limits, reached out, explored, connected, and interacted. We continued doing this as we became increasingly sophisticated in our abilities to travel, communicate, and trade. Today, we are, indeed, a global community. It is evident that the fate of all living things is interconnected. We have become responsible for that fate. We are guardians of life itself.
We live at a pivotal time. We stand to either learn and benefit from our experiences and knowledge or ignore both and suffer. It is essential that we embrace a new way of relating. Whereas the first lesson of evolution was one of conflict, today’s is one of kinship. We need to evolve into something more than we’ve been. We are called upon to make a crucial decision and choose either a world divided against itself—engaged in power struggles between its parts—or one whose richly diverse elements work together for their mutual benefit. The choice is obvious.
Is there a need for a “religion,” i.e., a belief system, in all of this? The answer is a qualified “yes.” We require a set of beliefs to guide us as we navigate through life. More specifically, we need a vision relevant to the complex and increasingly sophisticated age in which we live, a vision that defines what is sacred here and now in this life, not “out there” somewhere in some afterlife. A definition so clear that it changes forever our understanding of profit, power, and progress, a vision that enlightens the worlds of commerce, politics, and…religion itself.
Such a belief system would play a central role in our lives. It would expand knowledge and justice, and reduce ignorance and suffering. It would embody inclusiveness in the broadest sense. It would diffuse historical rivalries and contemporary adversaries engaged in ruinous relationships. It would draw us together. It would change the way we care for each other, our environment, and ourselves. It would do what most of us want a belief system to do. It would help us achieve a healthier, more peaceful, and just world.
There is no spiritual cohesion. There never has been a common spiritual ground. Up until now, there never could have been. Diverse peoples have never been linked as we are today with our increasingly sophisticated information technologies. While there has been no universal spirituality, there have been pockets of primitive beliefs and belief systems that emerged on different parts of our planet at different times in our history. We have referred to these belief systems as religions. We have had and continue to have many religions. The effect of these unique creeds has not been to bring us together but to permanently separate us.
Often they begin as cults. As each belief system grows, it gains power and inclusiveness. At the core of each is typically a creation story, often a variation of an earlier story. Mystery and supernatural events such as divine revelation and miracles are central to each belief system. Each religion has its sacred places and rituals. All of it is contrived out of ideas that were popular at a particular time or built upon the evolution of former ideas. Stories grew from fiction to fact, developed into “religions” and declared themselves sacred. This development was precisely backwards; only out of an understanding first of what is truly sacred can a belief system follow and grow. Given the origins of religions it is not surprising that there is fierce competition between them that often results in horrendous bloodshed. Fortunately, with the passage of time, the validity of these belief systems is coming under ever-greater scrutiny.
From cosmology, we know that every hour we travel in excess of an incredible 1,665,000 miles. How do we do that? It is as though we are on a spacecraft within a spacecraft within a spacecraft—at least. The first spacecraft on which we are passengers is our planet as it orbits the star we call our sun at a speed of 65,000 miles an hour. Our solar system is the second spacecraft. We are passengers on it as it orbits our galaxy, the Milky Way, at 600,000 miles per hour. The Milky Way, the third spacecraft on which we are traveling, is speeding along among other galaxies with the expansion of the universe in excess of 1,000,000 miles per hour. This gives us a total in excess of 1,665,000 miles traveled every hour of our lives. For all we know, we may be on a fourth spacecraft, our universe, as it travels among other universes in a “multiverse.”
From radiometric dating—the rate of radioactive decay is constant over time—we know Earth has existed for about 4.56 billion years. Our galaxy has existed for 13.2 billion years in a universe 13.75 billion years old. According to the fossil record, life in the form of primitive single-cell microorganisms began on Earth about 3.8 billion years ago. It took more than 3 billion years before the first multi-cellular plants and animals appeared. That was about 670 million years ago.
About 525 million years ago in the Paleozoic Era, the Age of Invertebrates and Vertebrates began. This age yielded insects and the beginning of fish and reptiles. About 245 million years ago in the Mesozoic Era, the Age of Reptiles began, the time of the dinosaurs. About 65 million years ago began the Cenozoic Era sometimes called the Age of the Mammals although mammals first appeared more than 200 million years ago. Mammals are a hairy species that feed their young from mammary glands. Mammals range in size from shrews that weigh 1/14 ounce (2 g) to whales that weigh 140 tons (127,000 kg). The Age of Mammals is the age in which we live. We are but one of about 5,500 species of mammals.
Something very significant happened with the arrival of mammals, the beginning of nurturing behavior.
SCIENCE AND RELIGION
To explain life, we have turned to two disciplines that are almost diametrically opposed, science and religion. Science is very formal and rigid in the determination of its principles and theories. A scientific theory must survive a regimen of objective testing and re-testing by any observers and testers at any place and produce identical results time after time before it is accepted as fact. Science is almost perverse in its methodology of testing in attempts to get its theories to break. Yet, science is a very open process that welcomes and celebrates change when new discoveries are made.
Religion, on the other hand, is an untested collection of dogmatic principles. It is derived typically from supernatural sources and that which is referred to as “divine revelation.” Unlike science, it need not concern itself with objective reality. Verification is dependent upon faith. It’s a phenomenon that was born when “priests” and ‘priestesses” invented themselves, which they continue to do today. Religion does not like challenges or changes to its dogma. The alteration of a few words of so-called “revealed religion” can unravel and splinter religions into smaller groups. These in turn unravel and splinter into even smaller groups.
WE ADVANCE TECHNOLOGICALLY BUT NOT
SOCIALLY, POLITICALLY, OR INTELLECTUALLY
We advance technologically with relative ease but not so socially, politically, or intellectually. There continues to be enormous inequities and extraordinary amounts of violence in our world. We war with each other in every way conceivable. We destroy our environment and deplete our resources. Why is that?
We don’t drive around in vehicles that are thousands of years old. We don’t see chariots being driven down our streets. Yet, we cling to belief systems that are thousands of years old. These beliefs are products of the infancy of our intelligence.
As a consequence, many of us exist in a world of fiction and fantasy. We do not understand our reality and the behavioral demands of our reality. We do not recognize the security and joy that can be found in the oneness in which we exist—the unity in our diversity—instead, we create all kinds of divisions…all kinds of tribes. We have nation-state tribes, political-party tribes, religious tribes, corporate tribes, ad infinitum. And we war with each other.
As a consequence, we exist not more secure but less secure. We have created a destructive and unsustainable momentum that must be arrested and reversed if we are going to improve the quality of our lives, sustain humanity, and advance our civilization. We need a new understanding of the way our world works and what is truly sacred and cannot, at our peril, be dishonored and violated.
INFANCY OF OUR INTELLIGENCE
Later in life, I studied at two of the world’s most renowned divinity schools—Yale and Harvard. At the latter, as noted earlier, I earned a master of divinity degree. I went to these schools to study ethics, issues associated with global environmental problems, and world religious belief systems. I went to continue on the learning track I had been on all my life. I was fifty years old the year I graduated from Harvard. As an older student, I remained objective in my study and analysis of world religions.
I studied all the major world religions. While they are all interesting and rich in history and rituals, one finds that they remain human constructs formed thousands of years ago in the infancy of our intelligence by people like you and me. The historical context and ancient mindsets that produced these belief systems are abundantly evident. Clearly they are all a part of our very early efforts to understand and cope with the withering and unrelenting demands of life. As such, they should be treated like all other institutions that we have created. Now, ancient and antiquated, these religions should be studied as history not adopted as belief systems.
Many of us say we do not like organized religion but that we are “spiritual.” There is something about the word that feels right to us. But what does spiritual really mean? Our world has taken enormous liberties with this word. Religious groups engage in “holy wars” (a play on words that gives new meaning to the word oxymoron) where acts of terrorism are committed. A busload, café, or office building full of innocent people, to include children, is firebombed and those responsible claim to be spiritually motivated. If each person in a group were asked to define the word “spiritual,” each, and understandably so, would have a different definition. What does this word mean?
Spiritual may be defined as having to do with sacred matters or sacred things. We have arrived at the word “sacred.” It sounds wonderful. But what—in a religious sense—does it mean? Sacred may be defined as that which is associated with gods or that which is associated with religion. When we say that sacred is that which is associated with gods, the question arises immediately, “What and whose god or goddess are we talking about?” Most everyone seems to have different ideas about the concept of a god or gods. Seldom, and understandably so, is there agreement. If there is agreement on anything, it might be that life has its mysteries.
When we attempt to define or worship these mysteries, particularly as gods, we create religious problems. Definitions are divisive and invite conflicts. Historically, we have had and to this day continue to have conflicts. Worship of these gods is diversionary and distracting. Our attention gets focused out there somewhere, worshipping something we have been programmed to believe exists, is sacred, and by which we are going to be “saved.” We are going to be saved even though we live horribly unhealthy lives, go to war with our neighbors literally and figuratively, and destroy our environment and deplete our resources. Yet, we are going to be saved. It doesn’t make sense which is common in the world of religion.
Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer observed that all truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as self-evident. Such a truth has emerged in our lifetime. It informs us that we exist as a tiny fragment of an immensely larger interlocking whole in which all of the parts are interconnected and dependent upon each other for survival. Allow me to repeat that. A truth has emerged that informs us that we exist as a tiny fragment of an immensely larger interlocking whole in which all of the parts are interconnected and dependent upon each other for survival. Simply put, everything is connected to everything else. We exist, not separately, but in communion with all living things. Life is an interrelated, interdependent phenomenon. Everything is in relationship. That is the nature of the universe. That is the nature of life.
“Everything is in relationship. So what,” one might respond, and ask, “What is the practical value of that understanding?” It’s a good question. The practical value lies in the realization that there are several relationships that are foundational. These are the foundational relationships of our lives. These are three relationships out of which all other relationships follow. The first is our relationship with our self. The second is our relationship with others, and the third is our relationship with our environment. If we chose one word to summarize each of these relationships, our relationship with our self is about health, in all of its dimensions. Our relationship with others is about kindness. Our relationship with our environment is about respect.
CRITICAL MIND SHIFT
In his book, Religions of the World, Houston Smith writes of the two issues on which most religions agree. They all advise adherence to some version of the Golden Rule and avoidance of self-centeredness. Generally, we do neither one. Self-centered and shameless, we too often do to others and our environment whatever we can get away with. We get by with this behavior in the short term. In time, however, we find that we are victims of our own exploitation. For the way of life, the architecture of life, reveals an exquisite intimacy among all phenomena.
Life also broadcasts a riveting truth from which there is no escape. I refer to it as the reverse side of the Golden Rule. Whereas the Golden Rule commands that we do to others as we would have others do to us, the reverse side of the Golden Rule does not command anything but warns that what we do to others we do to ourselves.
In an interconnected world, all exploitation and oppression inevitably returns to its source. This is a reality that we must understand, and from this understanding make the critical mind shift required of us if we are to sustain humanity and advance our civilization. This mind shift is to understand clearly, unequivocally, that what we do to others we do to ourselves. What does this mean? The answer is evident in our foundational relationships. In each there exists a dynamic between self and other.
THREE SIMPLE RULES
Many of us are familiar with the Ten Commandments that appear in Exodus, the second book of the Bible, written some thirty-three hundred years ago. What do these commandments say? The first four have to do with a god and the Sabbath. The remaining six are about behavior. We are told to honor our parents and to not murder, steal, lie, commit adultery, or covet.
We would all agree that we have learned a few things in the last thirty-three hundred years. It may be that instead of the Ten Commandments, we require just three simple rules for living that say and do more than these ten. If we followed these three simple rules—seven words—we would eliminate the majority of problems and suffering in our world, problems that the Ten Commandments don’t address. None of these three rules appear in the Ten Commandments.
THE LAW OF ONE
Many of us are ready for a belief system that actually promotes harmony. It is apparent that we live in a world where we are destructive to ourselves, each other, and the environment that enable us to exist. The belief system I describe emerges from the awareness and comprehension of the oneness in which we exist and the sacredness of the relationships by which it is sustained. The unwritten Law of One informs us that all that exists is a part of and is affected by everything else that exists.
This “law” acknowledges and honors the dynamic equilibrium among all life forms. It recognizes the existence of universal principles: oneness, diversity, interrelatedness, individuality, and interdependence.
RELATIONSHIP WITH SELF
In a word, our relationship with our self is about health—physical and mental. We are each a cell of the body we call humanity, the health and vitality of which can be neither more nor less than the sum total of us taken together. Our civilization hinges on the state of our personal and collective health.
Each of us is responsible for our own health. We can choose to live a healthy lifestyle. Conversely, we can abuse our health in whatever manner we like until finally we succumb to the ravages of an unhealthy lifestyle. Each of us is the person over which we have the most control. When the errors of our ways shout at us, it is absurd for us to repeat them. We can change our own lifestyle. Rarely can we change another person’s lifestyle.
Life cannot be violated beyond a critical point before its systems begin to disintegrate and fail. That applies to our personal health as well as to the health of our planet. It’s unfortunate when, due to circumstances beyond our control, we are unable to be fully healthy. It is, however, a tragedy for us to not be healthy, body and mind, when we have a choice.
RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHERS
There are billions of us on planet Earth. We add about 75 million people to our population each year—nearly a million and a half a week. Our relationships with each other, as individuals and nation states, have always been and continue to be problematical. Why? Likely because of inherited fearful and aggressive behavior derived from our ancient short-term survival instincts. These responses still frame how our minds work today. Getting past this genetic programming may be humanity’s greatest challenge if we are to sustain our existence and advance our civilization.
Too often, we act only in our perceived self-interest. We feel that if we do not look out for ourselves, who will? In today’s intimately interrelated world, we are obliged to look beyond ourselves. In the Talmud, Rabbi Hillel wrote, “If I am not for myself who will be? But if I am for myself only, what am I?” In our interdependent existence, we ignore and mistreat others at our peril. We are like links in a chain. The fate of each link, directly and indirectly, affects all the others.
RELATIONSHIP WITH OUR ENVIRONMENT
In a word, our relationship with our environment is about respect. We live on a planet soaring through space. We call this spacecraft Earth. It is a spacecraft (Earth) within a spacecraft (solar system) within a spacecraft (Milky Way galaxy) possibly within yet another spacecraft (our universe within multiple universes).
“Humanity did not descend as angelic beings into this world. Nor are we aliens who colonized Earth. We evolved here, one among many species, across millions of years, and exist as an organic miracle linked to others.
The natural environment we treat with such un-necessary ignorance and recklessness was our cradle and nursery, our school, and remains our one and only home.
To its special conditions we are intimately adapted in every one of the bodily fibers and bio-chemical transactions that gives us life.” – Edward O. Wilson
The rate and range of global environmental deterioration is unprecedented. It is driven by the relentless needs of a global population that have grown out of control. Parasite-like and swarming, we are destroying our environment. With astonishing speed, we are attacking our ecosystems like businesses in liquidation. We have upset an extraordinary array of life that took billions of years and endless experiments to produce.
Environmental problems cross the boundaries of nation states, academic disciplines, political and cultural ideologies, and religious theologies. They affect the affluent and the impoverished, developed and developing nations, individuals and whole societies.
OUR COMPETING SETS OF SURVIVAL INSTINCTS
Be healthy. Be kind. Respect the environment. Seven words. Sounds simple enough. Why don’t we do it? We don’t do it because we have competing sets of survival instincts. These account for our fundamentally different and opposing worldviews with infinite variations. These opposing views generate disagreement and the epic and unrelenting struggle for the evolution and survival of humanity. Curiously, both these sets of survival instincts are the products of evolution.
Our first set of survival instincts is perfectly normal, natural, organic, and . . . disastrous. These are our short-term survival instincts. Like all creatures, we are programmed, genetically predisposed, “hardwired,” to make it to tomorrow, i.e., to survive and reproduce. These short-term survival instincts generate behavior that is characterized by fear, greed, power, control, immediate gratification, self-centeredness, authoritarian-ism, denial of inequalities, and the like.
This is a set of survival instincts—essential in primitive times to survive—that now is retarding our evolution.
Evolution has also given us another set of survival instincts. These occur as a result of our large and evolved brains. Unique among all species, we are able to reflect on our behavior and project to where our behavior is taking us. It’s not a pretty picture. We are like an airplane flying overhead with someone out on the wing popping rivets until the plane crashes.
GROUNDED IN REALITY
We have an opportunity and a responsibility to correct errors that began thousands of years ago in the infancy of our intelligence. We did not then understand what is truly sacred. Instead of recognizing the sacredness in life all around us, we created and worshipped mythological gods. Many of us, albeit less and less, still do.
We created these fictional supernatural beings to explain the mysteries of life and to provide us with the courage to face life’s challenges and tragedies. Over time, we transformed fiction into “fact” and forfeited our power to these deities. We then wove a web of deceit to respond to every logical challenge to our own contrived stories. This deceit and delusion continues today.
With the knowledge we have, it is long past time to let go of these ancient stories. It’s time to get grounded in reality and honor that which is clearly sacred here and now. There are no saviors that will come to our rescue. It’s just us. Only we can save ourselves.