It was Mahatma Gandhi who pointed out that ‘the difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems’. How true that is. It is not so much a matter of capacity, more of deciding to do something. And we might very well begin by embarking on a wholesale reappraisal of all that we actually know, for all that we need to know is already known. The starting point is to see things differently; to shift our perception from the current, dominant world view that fills the spiritual vacuum with yet more material consumption, neglects our responsibilities through the excuse of technology and widens the social cracks with wedges of a selfish individualism. In so many ways, this approach is no longer relevant to the increasingly critical and completely different situation in which we find ourselves – it is no longer fit for purpose.
This is why it is of such profound importance that we understand we are not what we think we are. We are not the masters of creation. No matter how sophisticated our technology has become, the simple fact is that we are not separate from Nature. Just like everything, we are Nature. Recognizing this fundamental fact should help us to adopt a much more coherent approach that may begin to shift our outlook from one that is reductive and mechanistic to one that is more balanced and much more integrated with Nature’s complexity. Such an approach would recognize not just the build-up of financial capital, but the equal importance of what we already have: environmental capital and, crucially, what I have called ‘community capital’.
It is my hope to demonstrate that there is much to be gained from the observance of the natural order and the rhythm in things, whether it be in the lines and shapes of architecture or the processes involved in agriculture, and certainly in the natural world as a whole. Not just because of the aesthetic experience this may bring, but also because it reveals how the same rhythms and patterns underlie all these things. Through the contemplation of the rhythms of life, it is possible to understand the forces that dominate everything we are aware of and to sense and gain from the harmony that exists between all things in their natural state. As all sacred traditions have sought to show, and as Harmony attempts to demonstrate, the closer we dance to the rhythms and patterns that lie within us, the closer we get to acting in what is the right way; closer to the good in life, to what is true and what is beautiful – rather than swirling around without an anchor, lost ‘out there’ in the wilderness of a view shaped solely by four hundred years of emphasis on mechanistic thinking and the output of our industrialized processes.
Studying the properties of harmony and understanding more clearly how it works at all levels of creation reveals a crucial, timeless principle: that no one part can grow well and true without it relating to – and being in accordance with – the well-being of the whole. We need to remind ourselves of this viral ‘eternal law’ again and again, it seems to me, so as to ‘re-mind’ the world, using it as the gauge we apply to all we do.
The voice of intuition
It seems to me that we have to find ways to unite within our modern culture the perennial wisdom we have abandoned – the voice of our intuition that we have increasingly ignored as well as the spiritual essence of our being that now lies buried beneath great mountains of materialism. We need to understand that we are born into a universe that has meaning and purpose. All of the sacred traditions tell us that this ‘purpose’ is for life to know itself – this is the meaning of communion, by which we sense and help maintain life’s essential balance.
This all ultimately depends upon how we perceive the world and our place within it. And this will mean somehow replacing our obsession with pursuing unlimited growth and competition with a quest for well-being and cooperation. It will mean shaping our culture so that its aims are rooted in relationship and focused on fulfilment rather than on ever more consumption. If we can re-balance our perception and restore a sense of proportion to how we relate to the world – and on what basis we value the miracle of its marvels – it seems possible to me that we could create the conditions that ensure human societies thrive indefinitely.
The effective course we can take is to see that we are part of the Natural order rather than isolated from it, and to appreciate Nature as a profoundly beautiful world of complexity. This world operates according to an organic grammar of harmony and is informed by the awareness of its own being, making Nature anchored by consciousness. In this way of understanding, life is seen as an interconnected, interdependent function of creation.
We do have within our societies and within our existing technologies the solutions that will enable us to transcend our current predicament. All we lack is the will to establish a more entire and connected perspective that includes giving space in our culture for the sense of the sacred in life; for reverence and even, dare I say it, for a touch of enlightened deference to Nature. After all, she is our ultimate ‘sustainer’. Without such an integrated spiritual outlook, the many indications are that we will continue to deal with each individual crises in a separate way, never seeing the connections that exist between them and the relationship we have with each element and the whole. And the consequence of that is a collapse of catastrophic proportions. Thus we stand at an historic moment. We face a future where there is a real prospect that if we fail the Earth, we fail humanity.
To avoid such an outcome, which will comprehensively destroy our children’s future or even our own, we must make choices now that carry monumental implications. It is beholden upon each and every one of us to help redress the balance that has been so shaken by re-founding our outlook in a firmer set of values that are framed by a clearer, spiritually intact philosophy of life. Only then can we hope to establish a far more sustainable economic system; only then can we live by more rooted values; and only then might we tread more lightly upon this Earth, the miracle of creation that it our privilege to call ‘home’.
It seems to me that we have no choice but to live in harmony. By taking Nature as our tutor it might be easier than we sometimes think to build a more durable and more pleasant society. And what is the alternative? Carrying on as we are now, we know will court disaster. There is no option but to seek to change, the question is, what kind, and how?
From Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our World, © 2010 by HRH The Prince of Wales, Tony Juniper and Ian Skelly, published by Blue Door, an imprint of HarperCollins.
Pause for thought: We can all become spiritually open, if we so choose. We can all resonate with the people and places that carry spiritual intention like nectar. When and how have you become aware of a deeper level of experience, beyond worldly existence – your spiritual dimension? How would you advise others to know that they, too, are living in the spiritual dimension?