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Essential Shifts Interview: Andrew Harvey

Essential Shifts Interview: Andrew Harvey

Visionary: Andrew Harvey

In this interview, scholar and mystic Andrew Harvey blazes a path straight into the sacred heart, shying away from none of the horror of the world’s situation while calling us into our most naked and vulnerable core. He especially honors the sacred feminine in his impassioned call for us to heal our dissociations, live a life of prayer and focused action, and lean into heart-break to find our place of greatest service. As we open to the essence of all the mystical traditions and embrace the radical transfiguration now required, we start to become sacred activists. To do so requires deep shadow work, though, seeing through our "coca-coma" illusions about ourselves, our seeking, and even our high-minded political actions. The terrifying death we are passing through is also a great birth into a love that can shift humanity into embodying its full divinity.

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Institute of Noetic Sciences: I want to welcome everyone to the program today. I’m very excited to have Andrew Harvey joining us who’s long been a hero of mine, and he’s somebody who’s had a foot in both the academic world as well as the practical mystical activist world. He’s written probably two dozen books at this point, Andrew?, and has written and edited books ranging from Rumi, to Hidden Journey, The Essential Mystics, Son of Man, and most recently, he’s working on a book called Sacred Activism. So, extraordinary person, and very fortunate to have you on the show. So welcome Andrew.

Andrew Harvey: Thank you so much.

IONS: So what we’re doing with folks is asking the same kind of basic core questions to help provide some guidance and orientation for folks about the times that we’re in. So we’re starting with the big picture lens, and that question that we’re starting with is: How do you see our current global situation?

AH: I see that we are in what I can only describe as an apocalyptic situation. It is a situation in which the whole of humanity and the whole of nature are threatened and it’s a situation in which every form of life is threatened and menaced. But that’s not all that is happening. I see very clearly, and increasingly clearly, that this terrifying situation, which I call the great death, is also the condition for a great birth. And that in the middle of this nightmare, in the middle of this chaos, there is an extraordinary birth taking place: the birth of an embodied, divine humanity that, if enough of us gets born into this state, can co-create with the divine a wholly new world. So on the one hand, we have an escalating crisis which is going at a terrifying rate, and which really threatens everything—and on the other hand, we have the first and luminous signs of a birth taking place in and through the crisis that could be the way through for a wholly new creation on earth.

IONS: Beautiful. May it be so.

AH: It will have to be so. It’s the only choice left.

IONS: So in that context, what are some of the essential shifts that are going to be required for us to participate and co-create that birth?

AH: Well, everything will have to change. A wholly new and profound way of being will have to be adopted by millions of people, to be able to be the foundation of a new way of acting. And I call this fundamental shift sacred activism. As more and more people wake up to the absolute nightmare and horror of what is happening, and to the glory of the potential birth, more and more people will be called, in the core of their lives, to fuse together very deep spiritual awareness and practice and passion and stamina and peace with clear, wise, radical, focused action in the world. And the fundamental shift that will have to take place in everybody’s being is the following: Everyone will need to go deeper into their divine identity and everyone will need to go deeper into dedicating all of their resources – financial, spiritual, emotional, all their thoughts, and all their actions – to real action in the world. So the fundamental shift will be first of all taking absolutely seriously and full in the heart the depth of pain and agony and menace and horror of the crisis, and secondly realizing that there is a way through, a God-given way through which could birth a new humanity, but which will mean much deeper spiritual commitment and much more radical action fused together.

IONS: That first step you mention about really opening to the horrors and really feeling into that is a place where most people get hung up, is that they want to dissociate or divorce or shield or wall off somehow from what’s really happening and so that second step becomes ...

AH: Well, we are living in what I call the “coca-coma,” a very structured coma which is structured to keep people stupefied, a media that stupefies people on triviality and trash and violence and pornography and all those values that are destroying and ravishing the planet. And everyone is scared out of their minds, I think, by the extent of the crisis. But the truth is that unless we can find a way to register the depths of the crisis, to become what the Sufis call “open in heartbreak,” then we won’t be able to galvanize all the energies that we’re going to need to solve it. So my belief is that the only way to be able to open to the horror and the heartbreak of the crisis is to go very deep into one’s divine identity and to use this peace and spaciousness and serenity and depth that you find there as a foundation for the act of courage that opening to what is really happening is. And if you do that, then you are reposing in the depths of your divine truth at the very moment when you are opening to the agony of what’s really happening. And that prevents lunacy and craziness and despair.

IONS: There’s a man named Gordon Davidson who said to me that, “You can only stomach or face as much shadow as you have light within you to bear it.”

AH: That’s a brilliant remark and my advice to people is not to face the heartbreak alone. It is to combine a deep spiritual practice which is going to unveil more and more of the divine identity within with a turning to the heartbreak without illusion, and without denial. They must go together because if people start trying to deal with the depths of this crisis without inner practice, without deep peace being installed in some way in their nature, then the results could be catastrophic – terrible despair, terrible meaninglessness, a turning to false solutions which would siphon off vital sacred energy. Am I making sense?

IONS: Yeah, you’re making total sense! And I would be interested to hear you also connect to some of the themes you’ve worked with a lot over the years, having to do with reclaiming the sacred feminine, the divine feminine, and speaking to just how does that play into this?

AH: Well, the crisis that we have manifested as a human race out of our greed and crazy dissociation from nature and desire to exploit all things and dominate all things is in its deepest aspect a crisis of the feminine and results from our total denigration of and dissociation from the sacred feminine that is something that’s been evolving over 2,500 years and which is now manifesting in a crisis that threatens the body of the earth, our own bodies, the bodies of the animals, all of manifested reality which could be said to be “the Mother.” So unless we really return to the feminine wisdom and marry the profound feminine knowledge and wisdom and passion and concern for all forms of life with what you might call the masculine gifts of precision and order and clarity and brilliant intellect and real focused action in the world, we’re simply not going to survive. We cannot go on as the human race without asking the help of the Mother, opening to the Mother, asking to be initiated by the Mother, both into the sacredness of reality and the heartbreak of what is threatening reality. And really learning in the depths of our souls what only the Mother side of God can teach us which is how to relate to all living things as sacred, how to see, know, and feel the whole of reality as a manifestation of God, and how, most importantly, to embody the divine energies in sacred activism, so that through the embodiment of the divine energies a wholly new force of divine love and action can enter the world to transfigure it.

IONS: So, a lot of the spiritual paths and sort of new paradigm things tend to still remain in sort of aloofness, you can say, ...

AH: No, the new paradigm thinking is largely a rehash of the old paradigm thinking because most of it is saturated with what I call an addiction to transcendence.

IONS: Right.

AH: And a subtly patriarchal devaluing of the body, of the feminine, of nature, of the world, and of the shadow and the role of darkness and chaos and agony in the transformation. Marianne Williamson said a brilliant thing to me once in conversation. She said “the shadow of the new age is that it has no shadow,” and therefore can’t deal with the real world and this terrifying and appalling explosion. This has to stop. We have to have an authentic return to the authentic feminine. And the authentic feminine has 2 main aspects. It has the aspect of revelation of interdependence and glory and bliss and the whole dance of bliss consciousness in and as everything and that is of course an enormous revelation that is hugely healing and transfiguring on every level. But its only the first initiation. The second initiation is into the other aspect of the feminine which you could call the “dark feminine” or the black Madonna or Kali aspect of the feminine which confronts you with what is really going on in this massacre of the Mother that’s taking place, and this huge universal matricide that’s taking place which confronts you with the screams of the wounded and broken and tortured Mother in the vanishing species, in the polluted seas, in the 2 billion people living on less than $1 a day, in the horrible mutilation of the psyche, through the meaninglessness of pornography and violence being imposed on the human race by a mass media that is governed by great, corrupt moguls. All of this, and that second initiation is the one that nobody wants. Everybody’s scared of being embodied. And unless we do take the journey into being embodied, in being on this “great boat of meat” as Jung called it; unless we really risk embodiment and really risk confronting the dark side of God, the dark side of the feminine, the dark side of our own shadow and really coming to terms with that and moving out of a heartbroken understanding of that into a passion for reconstructing the world in the name of compassion and justice, we’re not going to survive. So the great challenge of our time isn’t simply a return to the feminine, it’s also an embrace and a worship of the dark feminine of everything that patriarchal society and patriarchal religion and patriarchal mystical systems have been in radical denial of because it’s only through confrontation with that dark feminine force that we will be able to embody in splendor and heartbreak the divine energies.

IONS: What have you found that’s been particularly effective in inspiring people to make that leap. It’s sort of like standing on the precipice of this vast scary realm, and people just balking and turning back from the edge, but...

AH: Well, nobody can blame anybody for balking... I don’t think anybody can be blamed for denial at a time like this. I think we’re all in denial for a lot of the time, even those of us who spend our whole lives meditating on what’s happening have to reel back from it because it is so huge. Secondly, I think that the great advantage of waking up in a time like this is that it does impose a very tremendous challenge on you - to become one with the divine in all of its aspects because that’s the only way anything can be done really. And then to enact that oneness in sacred action. And what has inspired me is, I imagine, what would inspire everybody else. I think it’s a double inspiration. On the one hand, the growing initiation into my own divine nature, into my own divine truth and to the bliss and power that comes from that and the intiation into radical heartbreak, into a tremendous grief and real, real sorrow at what is happening and what we have done and what we have become and what we have let ourselves become. And I think those 2 have to go together and they have to be fused together, and if they are, then out of the fusion of those 2 is born the sacred passion of sacred activism. A hunger, at the deepest level, to be of use and a knowledge that being of use in a time like this will mean a wholly new level of spiritual awareness in radical action. And that challenge to incarnate that is the challenge of humanity, a challenge that humanity has created for itself and also potentially a challenge that could birth a wholly new kind of humanity, a humbled, wise, tender humanity living in co-creative bliss with the Father-Mother able from that awareness to create a new world. This is our challenge.

Am I making sense to you?

IONS: Absolute, perfect sense. You speak so poetically that I’m sort of at a loss for words right after you speak.

AH: I’m trying to speak out of the depths of this awareness because it’s not just concepts we need. It’s feelings. I think what the feminine brings back is the real full-bodied, full-hearted, full-souled feeling of what it means to be a divine human being. Of what it means to be in connection with all living things, of what it means to feel the suffering of the poor and the suffering of the vanishing species; of what it means to be alive in a situation that is simultaneously a great death and a great birth. And without the return of the fullness of the heart’s feelings, there can’t be a truly deep, motivated, illumined, source of action. So the Mother is crucial, and the role of the sacred heart is crucial in this greater opening.

IONS: And when you speak of the sacred heart, it also makes me think of you’ve done a lot of work on reclaiming the sacred core of the Christian lineage as well.

AH: Yes, well I have been... My whole life, in a sense, has been a meditation on the Christ. And I don’t call myself a Christian and I don’t believe in any of the Christian churches, because for me they have all betrayed the sacred intense radical urgency of Jesus’ desire to see the whole world transfigured in the love and justice of God. They’ve all betrayed it because they’ve all become bourgeoisie, they’ve all become exclusive and they’ve all become obsessed with private emotion at the expense of social, political and economic justice. But, nevertheless, in the core of the Christian mystical tradition and in the core of a true understanding of Jesus’ life and in the core of a profound inner experience of the Christ-force, I, myself, find that I have been given tremendous clues as to how this embodied, radiant, love and knowledge force could act in the world to transfigure reality. I believe that Jesus came in not to announce a new religion, and not to claim to be the savior of the world, and not to be a guru. All of those things have been done before and it’s the old psychosis repeating itself. I believe that what he came in to do was to manifest a new divine human power of passionate compassion in action that showed us how reality could be transfigured. He was the first and greatest and most complete sacred activist, if you like, and the Christ-force and Christ-consciousness in its largest and most all embracing definition is that consciousness that we are trying to embody now.

IONS: I really resonate with what you are saying and I’ve been aware in my own life how hard, for some reason, it’s been to come back around and open my heart fully to Jesus as a teacher, even though I sense it, I know it, and there’s something... It’s that same initiatory fire that you were talking about before that it’s very scary to even go into that.

AH: There’s nobody more scary than Jesus. My God, Jesus took his own vision seriously and he ran onto the spear of love repeatedly and repeatedly and he was crucified like a dog. It’s the most terrifying imaginable life. We’re all terrified of it. And I think it’s very scary to face the urgency and intensity of divine love and that wild sacrificial passion that is at the core of divine love which he exemplified and exemplifies with a greater intelligence and intensity and integrity and authenticity than any other teacher. He is the scariest of all teachers, because what he’s offering is not an image of serene omnipotence, but an image of absolute suffering leading to absolute transfiguration. And that is the authentic path, I think, beyond religion, it’s the path of divine love. It’s the path through which love is embodied and incarnated, but it’s a path that we are all scared of because embodiment is a crucifixion. It’s a crucifixion of our fantasies and our illusions and our agendas. It’s a crucifixion by love. And everybody is trying to avoid the crucifixion by love, trying to take refuge in knowledge, or in some kind of power. But what Jesus is showing us, and it’s not Christianity, this is a path beyond Christianity, it’s the core path, which is showing us that true power and true knowledge only come through a total gift of oneself to love come what may and a burning to life and death in the fires of love.

IONS: Wow. It’s both inspiring and terrifying.

AH: Well, it’s like our time, isn’t it? It’s as if the logic of our nature and the logic of history, and the logic of our obsessions has taken us to a moment in which we either become the Hitler or the Christ within. We either go on on this massive, self-destructive orgy of greed and power, which is based in all kinds of fear and in all kinds of grief and in all kinds of dissociation, or we take the plunge into an authentic mystical path of sacred activism which will involve a stripping and a burning and a searing, but will also show us, if we really embrace the wisdom of the great systems of the burning, how to incarnate the divine on earth. And that is it – those are the choices – death or death. But one death leads to the incineration of the planet and the other death leads to the birth of the divine human.

IONS: It strikes me that a lot of the new paradigm folks have been so inspired and drawn to Eastern mystical practices and so there’s often been an avoiding of the kind of initiatory, purifying, divine fire that you are talking about.

AH: Well, they’ve been drawn to those superficial visions often in Eastern practices – one that stresses the world as an illusion and all that, and they unfortunately have been part of the problem. I think that a lot of the people who call themselves Hindus or Buddhists are actually using a watered down version of Hinduism and Buddhism as the most rarified form of heroin, as the final drug to stupefy themselves within the middle of this crisis and unfortunately this is very widespread. It’s another form of the “coca-coma.” It’s the phosphorescence of decay and not a radical heart and knowledge answer to the desperation we’re facing. I think the Eastern... I was born in S. India and I’ve had deep initiations in Hinduism and Buddhism, and for me, there is no incompatibility between the Christ consciousness and the deepest revelations of the Bodhisattva and the deepest revelations of Hinduism because the Christ-consciousness fuses together the profoundest sense of divine identity, which is what the Eastern traditions have kept alive so marvelously, with the greatest imaginable passion for life and for others, and compassion for all being. So the Eastern religions have a vital role in helping us into the calm and glowing spaciousness of divine identity, but the Sufi revelation and the Christian revelation and the revelations of the Native American Indians and the indigenous people have a vital role in awakening that sacred passion for life and that sacred compassion for all life without which we are not going to survive. So if you fuse the 2, then you have what I call sacred activism. You have the peace and spaciousness and great sense of infinite unfolding that the Eastern religions are so amazing at preserving with the radical and passionate focus of the divine love-power on reality. And that’s the fusion that I have been working on in my own life, in my own work, and that is the fusion that underlies my vision of sacred activism and that is the fusion, I think, that the global heart-mind is now going towards as the solution. And when you think about it, if that fusion was ever to take place, and it must now take place because without it there will be no world, then what will take place is a marriage, a sacred marriage, between heart and mind, body and soul, politics and prayer, action and deep, deep contemplation, and that that marriage on all of those levels and of all those seeming opposites will in turn engender a new kind of divine human being with new powers to enact the divine will in reality.

IONS: So you’ve sort of ended up answering our third question fairly extensively already, which is, How does your current work and passion fit with this larger shift? And maybe if you could say a bit more about the book, Sacred Activism.

AH: Well, I’d like to say, I’ve been talking in a sort of grand way really. I’d like to say something really down home and practical. For me, sacred activism isn’t ... I’m talking about it a grand mystical way, and it is a very grand mystical truth, but the reality of our situation is that unless everybody becomes sacred activists, we’re going to die out. How do you become a sacred activist? I think you combine five very rich forms of service in the core of your life: [1] the service to God through thanksgiving and praise and adoration, so you can be penetrated and permeated by the divine presence increasingly; [2] the service to yourself. I don’t mean the Sonoma County “me-me” kind of way, but the service to yourself as an instrument of the divine, keeping yourself healthy, keeping yourself inspired, keeping yourself as peaceful and as open as possible so that the energies of the divine can flow in you so you can serve, so that you can be steady and stable in crisis; [3] the service to all living beings around you - from all the people you meet in the course of your life, to all animals – everything - the recognition of the divine in everything and the saluting of the divine in everything, and the commitment to do whatever you can with all your thoughts and emotions and deeds in the course of the day to create a space for compassion and for vision and for love. [4] The fourth kind of service is a service to your local community. I believe very passionately now in thinking globally but acting locally. There are a lot of people who have all kinds of wonderful visions but aren’t doing anything in terms of their own communities. And this shows I think a radical dissociation which will not be helpful, in fact, will be increasingly unhelpful. People come to me and say, “What can I do? There are so many problems. I can’t solve them all.” Well, nobody’s called upon to solve all the problems. We’re not trying to be Errol Flynn single-handedly rescuing Burma in the middle of the night, you know, in those action films. But if everybody took on seriously a cause they felt deeply about and gave real time to it, then amazing progress would happen very fast. So what I say to people isn’t “follow your bliss,” but “follow your heartbreak.” Wake up at 3 o’clock in the morning one day and just out of all the problems in the world, decide which one really, really makes your heart bleed uncontrollably. Because that’s the one that you’ll always find passion available to serve. I have two causes: I’m very concerned about gay rights, I’m very concerned about the rights of women, I’m very concerned about the feminine, I’m very concerned about all these things – everything, really. But the two things that radically, radically hurt me and cause me great, sacred grief are the destruction of the environment and the horrific conditions that we have placed animals in through our complete dissociation from their sacredness, the concentration camp that we’ve made of the world for the animals, in which we torture them and annihilate whole species of them. These two things are connected, of course, but they are to me intolerable. So when I go out and speak, I constantly bring my whole energy to try and be advocates to them. And when I write, I do the same thing, because I’m trying to live my own philosophy - following the heartbreak. What I’ve found is that through that constant immersion in what I can’t stand I have tremendous energy to go on fighting peacefully for the transformation of the conditions that causes this misery. [5] And the fifth form of service is really making a commitment to be a global citizen and that means stopping pretending that spirituality isn’t political, and stopping pretending that prayer on its own is enough. Those are the vital foundations, but there must be action. And stopping pretending that because you are so called spiritual, you do not need to be informed about what’s really happening to the environment, about what’s really happening in the corporations in their systemic destruction of the environment and creation of appalling policy through globalization and other policies. In really getting to understand why and how American foreign policy is now being governed by a fanatical right-wing vision of the rapture - by really getting clear. And then, from that clarity, which is very, very difficult and wounding and tough and adult, making absolutely congruent decisions in all aspects of one’s life from the car you buy to the person you vote for, to the way in which you invest your money, to how you recycle and how you treat everybody and what projects you undertake with your energies and passions and visions. So, for me, this fusion of heart and mind and politics and prayer, this fusion of Eastern and Western mysticism, in the fusion of divine knowledge with divine love in a body leads down and up, if you like, to those five very practical and simple ways of being in the world. And if more and more people, whatever their religion, whatever their race, whatever their sexuality, whatever their background, really plunged deeply into those five forms of service and united them in the core of their lives and made their whole lives a prayer, if you like, of those 5 forms of service, the revolution of the Mother/Father, the revolution of the birth of the divine human in the middle of this apocalypse would be immeasurably strengthened and deepened.

IONS: Beautiful. I think that those five principles are really so potent to guide the process.

AH: I feel they are because they’re sane and down home and they have, for me, the ring of the mother’s practicality. I think we can’t go anywhere without worshipping the transcendent beyond time and space because it’s from that transcendent that all this is manifested. We can’t go anywhere without loving the embodiment of that transcendent ourselves and really honoring it as an instrument. We can’t go further without seeing the whole of reality and every being in it as a manifestation of the Father/Mother and worshipping inwardly through compassion and a deep commitment to justice every being that we meet, knowing that every being that we meet is God in disguise – sometimes in rather distressing disguise as Mother Teresa said. And we can’t go anywhere without putting our love and passion and pain and grief into real action and real causes and real situations in our real environment, because the crisis is going to get so deep and so awful that unless we are already leading meaningful lives, we are going to be threatened by immense despair and meaninglessness. It’s really going to come down to, for all of us, at the end of the day saying, “What did I do for this birth? How did I help today to midwife the birth of the new human in the middle of this nightmare? And it’s absolutely essential that that fifth form of service of being a world citizen, realizing that all of our actions go far beyond our tribal boundaries, all of our thoughts have global repercussions, perhaps repercussions through all the universe. Finally accepting that and finally accepting the practical responsibilities of that responsibility. There are an awful lot of people, for example, who think good thoughts and think that’s enough; who pray for the peace of the world and think that’s enough, who go to organic foodshops and then hop into their SUV. Right? And I’m not blaming those people, I’m not judging those people but I’m just trying to point out that this kind of hypocrisy or dissociation is part of why we are here. And it’s part of why the new age in many ways has not served people. It’s not served people by having a totally inadequate theology, and a totally watered down mysticism. It’s not served people by not having a realistic or profound understanding of what it means to be transfigured into the divine human. And it’s not served people by not helping them understand that the whole point of being on this planet is to embody love in real practical action. And that that practical action has to be grounded in the minutest details of daily life and in the minutest choices of daily life.

IONS: Amen to that. So...

AH: So what we’ve got ahead of us a big task. But we have a very great help, which is we have the apocalypse as a help. [laughs] I think more and more people are going to just simply get it. I mean, of course, this can be very dangerous because so many people will wake up and realize that the existing structures – religious, political, economic, social, cultural – are simply not equipped. And that will cause tremendous pain and horror and meaninglessness. And it could cause, you know, a turn to fascism – all kinds of things could happen, but I actually believe that some of that will happen, but also many, many people will awaken to the simple truth of being divine in a body in a divine world gifted with divine love and knowledge, and passionate to work with that divine knowledge in sacred, practical ways in the world. So I have a very great hope that this vision of sacred activism can be born. It really does go to the heart of the truth of all the mystical traditions. It goes to the heart of the truth of life and it goes to the heart of the possibility of the enormous crisis that we are in. Because as I said at the beginning, this crisis is a crisis of extinction and a crisis of birth. And the two are happening simultaneously. And one of the great advantages of studying the authentic mystical traditions, not the sort of marzipan mysticism that we had given to us in the last 15 years of the new age by all kinds of teachers who’ve become very rich off of it, is the advantage of studying the great mystical traditions – the shamanic traditions, the authentic Vajrayana tradition, the tradition of the Christian mystics, the Sufi mystics. What they all have is what I call, the wisdom of the dark night. They all know something that any farmer who sows corn will tell you – that birth comes out of death and that there is on the path a huge and terrible stripping and burning process which leads to an unimaginable empowerment of divine energy and divine love. This is the testimony of Ramakrishna, of Rumi, of Teresa of Avila, of all of those who have taken the real journey from the human into the divine human. And what’s wonderful about this core knowledge of the dark night is the secret wisdom that it enshrines, and the secret wisdom is that the total destruction and stripping and horrible pain and apocalyptic annihilation and death are not the end potentially, but are the birth canal of the wholly new reality. Rumi said, “The king never thrashes you without offering you a throne.” And this thrashing of the whole human experiment is a thrashing in which humanity is also being offered a throne, but not the throne of its ego which is what’s destroying everything, but the tender and soft and kind and loving throne of the soul. And the embodied soul. And that throne is being held out by the great visionaries of our time and the great sacred activists of our time, the amazing people who are working in the world like Jane Goodall, like the Dalai Lama, like Julia Butterfly Hill, like the great ecological thinkers and activists. And this throne is being prepared for humanity, but humanity will have to be humble enough, and in pain enough, and in love enough to see how sacred it is and then to occupy it and then to be inspired enough sitting on it, inspired by God to change everything.

IONS: Wow – that is an extraordinarily potent vision that you are conveying there, so thank you.

AH: It’s not my vision I don’t think. I increasingly don’t think it is a personal vision.

IONS: Wherever it’s coming from, it’s touching deeply into my heart and I thank you for that.

AH: Thank you. I find it very difficult to live to it. I think sometimes people think that when people can articulate a vision, that means that they’ve got it down. This vision is a huge challenge to anyone who comes anywhere near it. Because it’s really saying to all of us, and it’s saying to me, first of all, “Are you really plunged into the divine? Do you really have sacred wisdom and sacred peace behind all of your actions and behind all of your thoughts? Do you really know the divine self or are you just talking about it, have you just had glimpses of it and have you just extrapolated what you know from that? And are you really putting your deepest pain and love and knowledge into real action? And what is that action? What do you really believe can help? Are you really prepared to give your whole life? Are you really, really prepared? Not just to talk about it and not just to inspire people and not just to offer solutions, but to go into the glorious nightmare of becoming a sign of the new possibility and offering your entire being – every thought, every emotion, every action- to this birth? And those questions are very severe ones. They’re not games.


AH: No. And I have to ask them of myself every hour. And I think all sacred activists have to. And that brings me to something I think is very, very important and very difficult, but then this is a very difficult time, but very possible. One of the tremendous limitations of most forms of mysticism that we are seeing around is that they don’t help us, as we’ve already discussed, deal with the shadow – either the shadow in reality or the shadow in God or the shadow in what we’re doing or the shadow even in mysticism and spirituality. And there’s no hope in heaven of sacred activism being the kind of solution that it could be, the kind of radical new path of love and action that it could be unless sacred activists deal with their shadows. And actually a sacred activist has two major shadows to deal with. It has the shadow of the seeker, the person who believes secretly that he or she is superior to every other being because they’ve had these life experiences and they’re on the path and that makes them different from the grocer and the candle maker and the drunk lesbian acrobat simply because they’re so sacred. They’ve had these experiences, which is a total fantasy, right? Part of the whole vanity of the seeker and you see it all around us, so many people pretending they have attainted total enlightenment when they’ve seen the odd flash of light, and using their awareness, the spiritual awareness, as forms of superiority and ..... And I’ve done it myself, and every seeker does it. It’s part of the lunacy of the path and you can get stuck in it unless you really examine it, unless God hits you on the head a thousand times to get you out of it. And the seeker has his shadow, her shadow, but the activist also has his or her shadow because the activist has the shadow of believing that it’s through their actions alone that things will be changed and that they have to be totally, totally responsible at all moments because it’s only they who will turn the situation around. And they also have, and I think a lot of my activist friends are now seeing this and dealing with this, the shadow of condemnation, of rage, of sometimes even answering hatred with hatred, of answering evil with evil, a shadow which is not going to help because sacred activism is going to require of the seeker and the activist combined that the shadow of the seeker and the activist are both dealt with and both purified and both illumined. Because if either of those vanities and illusions and fantasies and agendas are there, then the purity of the love force can’t come through. So this is a great, deep work. And it really does require a sobriety and a depth of psychological self-knowledge. The great need, I think, both for mystics and for activists now is sobering, profound psychological awareness of how the shadow operates in reality. And I want to take just one example because I think this is an important example. George Bush. You know, I am so saddened by the demonization of the Republicans, and George Bush, and the CEOs and the ... I’ve done it myself and I know exactly where it comes from. It comes from tremendous fear.

IONS: A fear that they are far more powerful than we are so therefore...

AH: Yes, and a fear that evil is far more powerful than good. It goes even deeper than that. And fear that we will be marginalized for who we are and then shoved off into concentration camps or whatever – the fantasy is fairly paranoid I think at deep levels, don’t you? And, what I’ve discovered is that cannot be the way forward. It’s never been the way forward of the enlightened ones. And somehow all of us have to come to the place where we realize that what George Bush is acting out and what the Republicans are acting out and what the CEOs are acting out are things that are very, very vivid in us. And that you and I are George Bush and you and I are the heads of the major corporations and you and I are... And that does not mean that we justify their actions in that way or that we don’t fight peacefully against those actions or don’t critique those actions. What it does mean is that we do two things: We do not join the orgy of hatred and division that is destroying the planet and we do not stop looking at our own responsibility for this crisis by projecting out of fear and rage that responsibility onto other people who are obviously in more dramatic ways contributing to this crisis. Only from a place in which we have really done the work on our shadow and continue to do it can we find radical compassion and radical wisdom. And that working on one’s own shadow. I find very few people in the world at the moment who are really doing that. And that’s what I want to try to encourage both by doing it myself in public and acknowledging all the ways in which I have succumbed to rage and denunciation and all of that and also trying to analyze my own shadow as a seeker and as an activist because it’s very important for the birth of divine humanity. Divine humanity will not be born by passions and visions alone. It won’t be born even by action. It will be born by beings who have made themselves the channel of divine love and have allowed themselves to go through the different deaths that lead to being the instrument of divine love. Perhaps the deepest of those deaths is the death of our illusions about ourselves. And our illusions about ourselves and our shadows are very deeply combined. And until we have the psychological awareness that can give us that deep understanding of our shadow we will not be able to be the complete channels of divine power and love that we must be for this great revolution of the birth to take place.

IONS: I completely resonate with that. And in some ways having Bush and a lot of the folks be in a more dramatic form of some of the things we’re vilifying or projecting is actually a tremendous opportunity to work on that own clearing in ourselves.

AH: Well, exactly. It’s a tremendous opportunity but it does require giving up of our own vanity and our own obsession of self-righteousness. One of the deepest shadow practices I know is to sit down when you have registered real rage at someone and real pain at what they are doing. Sit down, and instead of just allowing that rage and that pain to spiral, simply say to yourself: “I am that person.” “I am.” Sit and embody that person and then allow what I call “owing that resonance with that person” to start telling you appalling things about yourself. I mean I rage at consumerism but I am a consumerist. I rage at the exploitation of the environment, but I’m not always conscious of the ways in which I am hurting the environment around me. I rage at dissociation, but in that rage there is already a dissociation. It goes on and on. And if you sit in that very deep discomfort of total identification with the very people that you find most uncomfortable, then you learn that everything that you’re condemning in them is resonating in you. And that you own that resonance and that makes you 2 things: It makes you far, far more compassionate to them because you realize that they’re trapped in something that you through grace are getting less trapped in and secondly, it gives you a far deeper effectiveness when you come to work with people who are still trapped in those paradigms and mindsets because you realize how much you still are at some levels and you also, by owning that resonance, have understood why you are. And so therefore you can speak without lacerating judgment, without condemnation. And the only tone that can really pierce the heart of the rich and the powerful and the drugged and the asleep is the tone of illumined love. People, whatever their state, nearly always hear that tone because it’s the rarest tone of all and it comes out of a purified heart and a purified soul that has simply accepted its embrace of all things and all beings. It’s the soul of the Christ and the Bodhisattva, isn’t it? And we can’t get there if we are in rage or cruelty. It has to come from radical forgiveness and it has to come from a radical, clear understanding of our own implication in everything and that doesn’t lead to despair at all. It leads to a form of radical action in love and love in action which rests on wisdom and not on reaction.

IONS: Wow. Well you are definitely piercing through the tone of ... Illumined love is piercing through this conversation, so I really appreciate it, Andrew.

AH: Well, I appreciate you Steve. I remember you well. And I’m so glad we’re friends. I think this tone is the only ... I’ve struggled very hard for this tone. It’s not something that came easily to me. I don’t think it comes easily to anybody. I think you’ve had to been worn down in many battles and had your heart broken a lot and come to see yourself in growing disillusion and realism before you can have this tone, even begin to have it. But that’s the challenge.

IONS: Well, I think we should probably wrap it up. But I think it’s a perfect place to end, with the tone of the illumined love, which is what we all are really hungry for.

AH: Well, I would love to end with a statement that my great and beloved teacher gave me, my greatest friend in this life, Father Bede Griffith, who I met the year before he died. We were making a film about his life and on the last day, we were waiting for the crew and he just leaned forward and said, “Andrew, you must remember that this is the hour of God.” And I asked him, you know being an Oxford scholar, I asked him exactly what he meant. And he said, “Well it’s the hour of God because it’s the hour in which humanity will have to choose its vision of its true identity: Is it just human condemned to the dark of desire, and greed and illusion? Or is it secretly divine, as all the mystics know?” And then he said, “The whole human race has come to the moment when everything is at stake and a vast shift of consciousness will have to take place on a massive scale in all societies and religions for the world to survive. Unless human life becomes centered on the awareness of a transcendent reality that embraces all humanity and the whole universe, and at the same time always transcends whatever level of consciousness we are in, there is little hope for us.“ And that’s ...

IONS: That is the core of it; that is absolutely the core of it right there.

IONS: Well, thank you so much for joining us for this interview.

AH: Thank you so much for your wonderful work, and bless IONS for their work, and bless everybody for this opportunity to speak to people. May all beings who listen to this; may all beings who listen to my voice and to this message; may all beings come to see the devastation of this apocalyptic crisis and know that there is a way through now which is being offered to us by the divine Mother – the way through of sacred activism, the fusion of the deepest spiritual knowledge and passion with the most clear and wise and focused radical action. This way through is being born in the middle of the nightmare and it is the birth canal of a new divine humanity. And it’s up to all of us not just to believe that, but to incarnate that so it can become real.

IONS: So be it.

AH: So be it.

Related Sets
"The Essential Shifts" Interview Series

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Publication Date:
May 15, 2006
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