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THE IMPORTANCE OF SACRED ACTIVISM FOR WISDOM UNIVERSITY

A defining characteristic of Wisdom University involves our commitment to sacred activism, something deeply present in all the wisdom traditions and in the university curriculum. Most schools provide training for degrees but are careful to keep morality a private concern. Either that, or they demand adherence to a particular sectarian belief system. At Wisdom University, we have developed a curriculum that blends immersion in sacred practices with hands-on social activism, enriching both students’ interior journeys and their service in the larger world. This ethos expresses our hope and optimism about what motivated individuals can accomplish.

Sacred Activism takes on specific urgency when we understand that the world is careening into crisis and the prevailing institutions are incapable of effective response. Signs of economic disruption, ecological instability, social alienation, and political incompetence are converging to produce an almost universal sense of unease about the future. Cataclysms can erupt at any moment, virtually anywhere, affecting anyone, as the events of 9/11, the tsunami in 2004, and hurricane Katrina and the Kashmir earthquake in 2005, and the current turbulence over Iran exemplify. People the world over are beginning to recognize that the center is not holding and only a deeper integration of soul and service will suffice to catalyze the solutions we all seek. We seem to be in one of those paradoxical moments when we have more technological capacity than ever before, yet we live without the awareness of how to govern human affairs wisely or manage planetary systems holistically.

In the midst of this there is something each and every one of us can do. We can deepen our spiritual awareness and refine our social commitments in an integrated act of faith and service. In a time of crisis, spirituality without activism is arid intellectualism. Activism without spirituality has effect but little depth or compassion. What is needed is a radical fusion of the two. This is why, in addition to granting degrees, Wisdom University is developing leadership training in sacred activism and is convening Sacred Activism conferences around the United States over the next two years.

Integrated as a single movement of soul and service, sacred activism can transform lives and help shape a better world.


SACRED ACTIVISM IN AMERICA: FINDING A NEW MORAL COMPASS

The conversation concerning sacred activism and a new moral compass is crucial in America in particular. The Bush Administration is imploding as the war in Iraq founders and a cascade of scandals reveals this Administration as corrupt, arrogant, and far more interested in supporting cronies and the oil and military industrial complex than the common good. Universally, the Untied States has lost respect as a result of what we have allowed this Administration to do.

What we are witnessing is the consequences of six years of an Administration led by a president in the grip of a neoconservative ideology and guided by a right wing evangelical theology. The political and religious far right has dominated the agenda because it has managed to convince the electorate that it represents the value system that lies at the core of American culture. It is a value system that purports to be Judeo-Christian and yet is supporting the war in Iraq, an aggressive and militarized foreign policy, the explicit use of torture, ever higher defense budgets, the abrogation of the Kyoto Accord on global warming, domestic policies that erode American civil liberties, social policies that support increased wealth for the rich, and persistent cuts in social programs for the poor and needy. Ironically, the right wing does this in the name of family values.

In the face of this right wing manipulation of values, many in the progressive community articulate secular visions that rely on statistical analyses and technocratic perspectives. For them, the spiritual domain is a private concern, and there is no greater principle to defend than the rigid separation of church and state. They act as if values and the realm of the spirit do not matter because they do not belong in the public domain.

The American public needs to know that the progressive community has a compelling value based social agenda. This agenda can be developed by creatively envisioning what a wisdom civilization would look like, at the core of which are humane values and an integral vision of culture and society. This vision can be informed by both supporting the sources of creativity and innovative change in the culture and by drawing upon the wisdom traditions that have guided the human community for millennia and which can now be reinterpreted in ways that will release new ideas, energies and compassion.

The politics of the future must begin with understanding that people are multi-dimensional. They are spiritual as well as political, emotional as well as rational. They vote their values as often as they vote their pocket books. Because of this, all Americans must be involved in the discussion of church and state, spirit and society. The religious right must no longer be granted the prerogative on the values question. The progressive community not only has as much to draw upon in its articulation of values as does the right, it has a moral responsibility to present to the American people an integral vision and coherent set of values. These values must certainly respect the separation of church and state, but they must also emphasize the imperative for spirituality and activism to mutually inform and reinforce one another. Only if this is done will the American people have a real choice and democracy exercised for the common good.

The goal of our Sacred Activism conferences is thus to galvanize awareness of the critical nature of our times and the imperative for deeper spiritual grounding combined with more effective social action. The conferences are designed to begin a dialogue on the very fundamentals of America’s future by setting forth an integral vision of what a new direction for America might look like, based on an integral view of the future and drawing upon wisdom traditions developed from humanity’s deep past.

What we shall find in the formulation of a politics based on an inclusive spirituality is that far more Americans agree with us than disagree. The central fact of the future is that far more Americans are willing to be mobilized than we might think around an agenda that is neither left nor right but which is spiritually tolerant, supportive of the free market and the use of technology but which also protects the environment and sustains local communities, and which is holistic in its approach to problem solving.

These are the values of the cultural creatives, an emerging cultural group who now significantly outnumber the religious right as well as the classic liberals and who are increasing in numbers with each passing year. All they need is to become self aware and organized for their values to be represented in the political process. Paul Ray, author of The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People are Changing the World, has done the most important work identifying this emerging cultural group and has written a paper called "The New Political Compass" which details the political implications of the values they represent.

At the core of our conferences will be discussions concerning the new moral compass that is emerging in America and how each of us can contribute to shifting the direction of our country toward values that are aligned with a new sense of civic responsibility, that protect the earth, and that would bring our country into a new relationship with the community of nations.

The purpose of our conferences on Sacred Activism, therefore, is to take a stand for progressives values and to galvanize a deeper connection between our spiritual practice and social action. It is to find a new direction for America. Nothing less than the future of our nation and the fate of the earth are at stake.