Spiritual Politics

Suza for Ojai (political activism for a sustainable Ojai)

Transforming politics – a new paradigm
Editorial by former Ojai Mayor Suza Francina
(written in 1999)

Politics is really the art of governance, a science that synthesizes opposing views into a higher level of understanding. Spiritual politics responds not just to competing interests and demands for rights, but, rather focuses on the next evolutionary step in growth for each individual and group.

—from the book, Spiritual Politics, Changing the World from the Inside Out by Corinne McLaughlin and Gordon Davidson

Elected officials, myself included, have been known to use the disclaimer, “I’m not a politician,” as if being a politician is a greedy, corrupt and dishonorable occupation. What many of us mean when we say “politics” is “partisan power struggle” or “pursuit of power,” and this has given politics a bum rap.

But politics is really the art of governance, a science that synthesizes opposing views into a higher level of understanding. Politics is usually the last frontier in the process of cultural transformation. The concepts of “spiritual politics,” “transformational politics,” and “green politics” are gradually making their way into the mainstream.

These emerging paradigms promotes a more wholistic approach to the art of governance, which then promote a symbiosis between personal and social change.The new paradigms recognize the sacred interconnection of all life. New paradigms in politics, like the new paradigms in medicine, recognize the link between body, mind and spirit. In fact, many of the new ways of thinking about personal health apply to the health of society and the planet, as well. Transformational politics recognizes that changing the world comes from the inside out, and that personal health and planetary health are intimately connected. The process of healing the self and healing the planet is profoundly linked.

This new political paradigm is being developed by a wide range of people, including well-known political figures such as the Dalai Lama, Tom Hayden, Jerry Brown, and writers Corinne McLaughlin and Gordon Davidson, authors of the book “Spiritual Politics – Changing the World from the Inside Out.” A key principle of the new spiritual, transformational paradigm is that “the personal is political and the political is personal.” This involves a philosophy of moral accountability, where private lives must be lived in accordance with publicly stated principles. It begins with the simple, but difficult, recognition that if we want to transform the world into a kinder, more harmonious place, we must transform ourselves.

This perspective holds that everything we think, say and do has political implications-from making green, cruelty-free, less polluting consumer choices to our occupational and lifestyle choices. California State Senator Tom Hayden summed it up nicely when he said, “I stand with Henry David Thoreau, who said that if you are going to vote, you should vote not with a mere strip of paper, but with your whole life – in my own experience, one’s soul is no safer from oppression or corruption than one’s lungs are safe from pollution and exploitation.” The old political paradigms were based on the concept of economic growth, in which societies were thought to be doing well if they were at peace and growing economically. But the new political paradigm is a post-materialistic one, based on the image of healthy human growth.

A successful society is one that places the physical, social and spiritual health of the people above all else. This is reflected in the ancient philosophy of the Chinese, whose word for “governing” was actually the same as for “healing.” A good politician is a healer of collective ills. Those creating the concept of spiritual, transformational politics are exploring the deeper causes behind problems with the hope of finding solutions that are long-term and sustainable, not just “quick fixes” that may have a high price tomorrow.

Here are some of the key principles on which this new political paradigm is based:

· Respecting the interconnection of all life
· Creating a synthesis out of adversarial positions
· Transcending old definitions of “left” and “right”
· Matching rights with responsibilities
· Promoting government initiatives to develop self-reliance
· Searching for common ground for the good of the whole
· Thinking in whole systems
· Creating nonviolent, win/win solutions to problems
· Building cooperative relationships that respect the highest in each person
· Learning to truly listen to other points of view
· Examining the psychological roots of problems
· Enhancing self-esteem
· Using intuition and “attunement” in decision making
· Shifting from a mechanistic toward a spiritual, value-oriented perspective.

New paradigms require a profound change in consciousness, involving a shift of our deepest assumptions of what it means to be a human being. Spiritual, transformational politics requires a similar shift in our consciousness.

Former Ojai Mayor Suza Francina is a writer and national spokesperson on health and environmental issues. © 1999 The Ojai Valley News