“The Dragonfly and the Hummingbird,” “Mystcism and Science” and “The Dark Winter Afternoons in Portland”
Several years ago we made a new friend. Pir Zia Inayat-Khan had been reading the writings of William Irwin Thompson, the oracular cultural historian, and invited him to visit. This was in 2007, at the very beginning of Seven Pillars’ life, and it quickly became evident that our work descends from a long lineage of individuals and groups dedicated to the realization of a new planetary culture.
When I was living in Toronto in the late sixties and early seventies, I had the good fortune to go to the University of Toronto’s Coach House where Marshall McLuhan performed for one evening a week. I say “performed” because McLuhan was a brilliant aphorist and artistic master of what he called “probes”—a kind of blast-off into outer space that most academics could not manage, and one that gave us a new look back at life on Earth.
With the advent of modern science, the spiritual side of the pre-modern paradigm was cast aside. The cosmology of the great chain of being, our heritage of 5000 years from the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, was broken. The main advantage of the great chain is its vision of the interconnection of all things in the universe, and the intelligence manifest in the evolution and animation of all beings on the great stage of life.
Cross-cultural trade is as old as the hills. In Neolithic Chatalhoyuk in ancient Anatolia, we find cowrie shells from Jericho, and in Jericho we find obsidian from Anatolia. A by-product of such trade in objects is an exchange of words, ideas, animals, even humans, both male and female. Human intelligence grows as the gene pool grows larger, as the complex system of human culture moves from band to tribe to clan to town to city.
Today we are going to continue our Remarkable Minds series with a spiritual ecologist, an earth pilgrim, a vegetarian who led a civil disobedience movement in efforts to restore humanity’s sense of community. He is Satish Kumar and he is one of the few individuals who fully embraces the principles of Mahatma Gandhi, to promote a spirituality opposed to war and ecological destruction.
We have this notion today, that is supported by the media, that we should place our faith in the brightest and most experienced people who are running the show of finance and politics. These people are educated and knowledgeable, yes, but are they leaders with wisdom?
Review of Letters to a Spiritual Seeker by Henry David Thoreau, edited by Bradley P. Dean, New York: W.W. Norton, 2004, 192 pp. In this essay, Coleman Barks, today’s leading ‘Voice of Rumi’ in the ‘West’, writes eloquently about Thoreau, as a great American mystic of the 19th century who is, sadly, often a mere historical footnote in a high school or college undergraduate course. More than a meditative man watching the intricacies of life of Walden’s frogs and ducks, more than a fierce proponent of civil disobedience, more than the occasional harborer of runaway slaves, as his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson put it:“ He [Thoreau] had a great contempt for those who made no effort to gauge accurately their own powers and weaknesses, and by no means spared himself, of whom he said that a man gathers materials to erect a palace, and finally concludes to build a shantee [shanty] with them.”*