As a philosopher, a lover of wisdom, I base my philosophy on a spiritual awareness of life that affirms the value of love, freedom, justice, peace, and other spiritual qualities which I call “divine principles.” In my book LIFE AS A WHOLE: Principles of Education based on a Spiritual Philosophy of Love I describe the following 27 divine principles: Goodness, Truth, Beauty, Reality, Awareness, Joy, Love, Wisdom, Power, Life, Growth, Fruition, Will, Freedom, Responsibility, Creativity, Balance, Harmony, Courage, Faith, Patience, Law, Justice, Peace, Wholeness, Health, and Perfection.
In laying a foundation for the humane actions we need to take during this crisis of our civilization I will be explaining from a spiritual perspective why and how the radical solutions I am proposing are necessary and can solve the immense problems we face in ways that will benefit people and aid us all in the pursuit of happiness.
In presenting a spiritual philosophy some people might be concerned that these ideas may seem to conflict with their views on religion or philosophy while others may not. I affirm freedom of religious expression as well as freedom from religion; both are protected in the famous First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Many of the colonists who came to America were motivated by the opportunity to find a new life in which they could determine their own religion without interference by the state or government. This classic “separation of church and state” allows freedom of religion while protecting people from those who would try to impose their religious convictions on others with human laws.
I believe there are universal principles that everyone can understand which are found in the major religions and philosophies in various forms. In the previous two millennia the Piscean Age symbolized a time of religious belief during which the usual form of government was monarchy. Now in the Aquarian Age, which will also last about two thousand years, science and knowledge are more important than belief; instead of monarchy this is an era of the common person and democracy. Founded in Athens before the Piscean Age, in the past few centuries democracy has been reborn. Now most nations in the world are democracies or at least claim to be so, and in the remaining monarchies most people would prefer democratic governments. About 160 countries are governed by constitutional authority.
During globalization humanity can work toward unification and international cooperation to solve the transnational problems we as humans all share. This requires respect for the diversity of human traditions that include religion, language, culture, and politics. If we can respect each other as human beings who have equal rights and responsibilities, then we can tolerate differences that do not violate our rights and work together for the good of all.
Before we consider what we need to do, let us first examine who and what we are as human beings. Perhaps the most basic metaphysical question we can ask is, “What is real?” Scientists, who study the physical nature of the world in objective ways, recognize the reality of the physical environment we all share. Certainly we can all agree that this world exists and that we need to understand it if we are going to interact with it and each other successfully. Yet sometimes people neglect to realize that there is a more fundamental reality which enables us to perceive physical things and understand them. That basic reality is consciousness or awareness. Without being conscious we cannot be aware of the physical world or anything. From the spiritual perspective this awareness transcends the physical world because there is a subject who can choose to attend to and focus on various parts of the physical world as well as interact with other subjective human beings. This spiritual subject is the source of human consciousness and can be called the soul or spirit. Unlike most physical things, it is invisible and not perceived by any of the senses. Yet the soul is at the center of who we actually are because from this essence we exercise our freedom of choice in directing our awareness.
Those with a religious perspective often identify the soul or spirit as part of God or a universal Spirit. Others may reject this viewpoint, but nonetheless they are still conscious beings. Some, like myself, may believe that the soul is closely connected to God (or is a part of God). God is often identified as the Creator of this physical universe and as an eternal being. If one considers the soul an individualized form of God, then it is eternal also. Others who have experienced the imperfections of religion may have no use for such beliefs, and that is their right. Everyone forms their own beliefs.
What is more important than the previous discussion of metaphysics is ethics, which is a system for determining what is good and how human beings should act in relation to each other. Most religious people identify God with goodness; but what is more important is realizing that everyone can understand that human consciousness functions in such a way that it is motivated by what each person believes is good. Aristotle explained that the ultimate good which is not a means to any other good is happiness. I think most people would agree that everyone would like to be happy.
Where people tend to differ in regard to ethics is whether one should act only for one’s own personal good or to what extent people should take into consideration what is good for others. Some people would extend their motives for good to their family and close personal relationships. Others identify with various groups such as their companies, organizations, communities, political parties, nations, or religions.
I am suggesting that the best ethic is the one that takes into consideration everyone and all of life. Moses taught that one should love God completely and one’s neighbor as oneself. Jesus the Christ extended this beyond an ethnic group to all people. Lao-zi, Confucius, Gautama the Buddha, Socrates and many other philosophers have also taught this universal love.
I believe the time has come for humanity to begin practicing this love for all. Until we learn to live together in peace with mutual respect for everyone’s rights, human conflicts will bring about much misery and a diminished civilization.
If we want freedom for ourselves, we need to respect the liberty of others. Otherwise people will find that interfering with the rights of others in order to maximize their own desires will eventually bring about repercussions. Many philosophies teach that we reap what we sow, that “what goes around comes around,” and that everyone is responsible for the consequences of one’s actions. In Asian religions this is called “karma,” which means the measure of the action or cause and effect. If the soul is eternal, that means it lives forever. Humans are creative beings, and the law of karma is that one must eventually be responsible for whatever one creates. Martin Luther King in 1965 said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
I believe that because we are eternal and infinite, every action or vibration we create that goes out into the universe will eventually come back to us. This is because the soul as a divine being is perfect and endeavors to balance all actions. In many ancient religions, including that of the ancient Greeks and some early Christians as well as Asians, the doctrine of karma also implies the reincarnation of souls. In other words, not all the actions sown in one lifetime will be reaped in that lifetime. This theory helps to explain the temporary injustices of life. One may not perceive how some people are reaping previous causes because the effects of one’s actions are not immediate and may be experienced in future lifetimes. This also explains what souls have been doing prior to physical incarnation and that spiritual evolution may require many human lifetimes to achieve the liberation which enables one to go on to more advanced experiences.
Groups and nations also are responsible for their actions, but they are not limited by human lifetimes. However, civilizations and nations which are irresponsible may corrupt, decay, and be transformed into other social and political entities. Lack of fresh water and natural resources has caused the collapse of civilizations such as the ancient Akkadians, Harappans, and Mayans. Others have declined and fallen because of corruption, economic exploitation, and militaristic imperialism.
The human species evolved over millions of years as those individuals most capable of adapting to their environment passed on their genes to future generations. In The Origin of Species Charles Darwin noted that adaptability is more important for survival than intelligence or strength. All species have evolved in different ways through passing on the genetic codes of those which have survived and reproduced.
Humans are unique in having progressed from the use of tools to advanced technology. We also utilize language to teach younger generations the lessons mankind has gained through conscious experiences. By practicing education during the past five thousand years humans have entered a new stage of evolution which may be called evolution of consciousness or spiritual evolution. Civilization with writing and other technologies has accelerated this evolution which advances much more quickly than the gradual process of genetic evolution. Physical evolution occurs primarily by various accidents and genetic mutations over millions of years. At our advanced stage of evolution the human genome is less likely to improve by random changes. Mutations caused by radiation or other means are more likely to make an individual worse rather than better.
The evolution of consciousness based on what past humans have learned from conscious experiences advances much more quickly and can spread to unlimited numbers of individuals through education and cultural transmission. Also with the understanding of the genome the possibility of making “corrections” or improvements becomes possible through genetic engineering. I am not advocating this, though some hereditary diseases may be avoided this way. I am recommending that we use our wisdom which has been gained over generations from the lessons we have learned through our process of civilization. I especially recommend that we apply the precepts of the wisest humans who have taught spiritual ethics that recognize what is good for all people and the progress of modern science.
Science means knowledge, and the purpose of science is to discover and explain the nature of reality as objectively as possible. Science explains the world in terms of physical matter and energy functioning in the space-time continuum. These are events or facts which can be studied and analyzed, but they are past and cannot be changed. Scientists may attempt to predict what will happen in the future based on past patterns, and by experimenting they attempt to get repeatable results. By this process they learn how the world works. Science helps us understand our world, but in its purest form it does not advise us what we should do. Science describes what has been done and what is, not what should be done. Ethics aims to guide human behavior by understanding what is good to do, and this evaluation is decided by subjective or spiritual consciousness rather than by objective science alone. In understanding human decisions on how to act, subjective and spiritual values are not considered objective science, but rather they are ideals or abstract principles of philosophy or more specifically ethics.
Through spiritual consciousness we can understand and realize that we are one with all life and are essentially the same or at least similar to all other human beings. This awareness has been recognized in modern politics as equal rights before the laws of society. Those societies that violate this principle of equality by favoring some people over others cause problems and conflicts that often result in violence with the worst outcomes being the massive violence of destructive wars. I believe that this tendency to value oneself or one’s group more than others, which allows one to exploit and mistreat others, is at the root of our social problems. The economist John Kenneth Galbraith in a 2002 interview said, “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”
The essence of love is caring about another person as much as we care about ourselves. Love, in my opinion, is the greatest of the divine principles, and to extend love to all people is the greatest spiritual challenge that brings about the most rewarding results. Certainly this is what Jesus the Christ and many other great spiritual teachers have recommended, but unfortunately most of the followers of these religions and teachers do not live up to this lofty ideal. Thus far this philosophy has only been put into practice thoroughly in isolated cases and by a few small groups. Naturally there is a continuum of how well people live up to this ideal. I am suggesting that if we can live by this and inspire more people to move toward this goal, then we can solve the problems of this megacrisis and create something closer to a paradise on Earth. If we do not improve our ways, then conditions will get worse until we learn.
I believe that the spiritual values we need to apply most are love, goodness, life, freedom, awareness, truth, wisdom, health, responsibility, justice, and peace. In actions guided by these spiritual principles they interact. For example, love is based on the wisdom of seeking the good of all with awareness of the truth and respect for life and freedom while taking responsibility for the promotion of health, justice, and peace. In action love is nonviolent because life and freedom are respected. Using force against people is obviously a violation of their freedom. Yet leaders of nations continue to threaten and use military force against other people with the usual result that those people fight back, making the entire situation much worse rather than better. Trusting other people requires courage, faith, and patience. Those who violate humane laws can be brought to justice in order to prevent further violations. Rather than attacking groups of people or punishing them, individuals can be held responsible for their actions through a process of justice and reconciliation.
In developing a code of ethics or guiding principles for our behavior and collective actions it is helpful to analyze and choose which values are to be given priority. If we consider human life the most basic value, then we can consider our first priority making sure that our actions are guided by the principle that human lives are to be respected. Our actions then should promote and enhance human survival and avoid killing people or doing things that cause more human deaths. If we wish to love all humanity and respect the equal rights of all people, then we need to guide our actions in ways that will further this goal. The Golden Rule which has been taught in all the major religions and philosophies is to do to others as you would have them do to you. The Silver Rule stated in the negative is the admonition not to do to others what you would not have them do to you.
What then do humans most need to survive? Most essential to life is breathing fresh air because without air humans will die within a few minutes. A related value to life is health. If we want to protect and nurture the health of all people, then we would want to avoid the breathing of polluted air which damages health by causing diseases.
The next most essential necessity for human life and health is fresh water without which humans will die within a few days. If humans lack access to clean water, then their health and even their lives are endangered. The third necessity of life is nutrition, and it also depends on fresh water to grow food. Fresh water is also valuable for preparing food and for cleaning food, one’s body, clothes, and other things. Without food humans die within a few weeks.
Thus if we are to love all humanity and aim to treat everyone as an equal member of the human family, then our first priorities by this ethics should be to do our part to make sure that everyone has clean air, fresh water, and adequate food.
In order to help everyone to develop more wisdom the next best investment we can make is education. Good education helps children develop their abilities and prepares them for a better life than their parents may have had. Education is the process that advances spiritual evolution by passing on knowledge of the advances civilization is making. Teaching and learning enable individuals to fulfill their potentials as their bodies and minds are maturing. Societies that promote education will have wiser citizens, more capable workers, richer culture, and better political leaders. Education is the best long-term investment which continues to bear fruit and inspire success. Although individuals vary in ability, each person’s progress can be nurtured and developed.
Universal education will help all people to discover their own unique abilities and socialize them for living in community with others. By teaching students the basic skills of language in reading and writing as well as mathematics and scientific thinking people will have a foundation for learning and thinking for themselves. Society benefits when individuals are encouraged to develop skills in their chosen fields of endeavor. A good education introduces the young to various subjects including physical and social sciences, literature, history, the arts, and physical training and athletics. Older students may choose to pursue higher education in universities or vocational training in their chosen fields. Societies which use taxes from wealthier adults and property-owners to provide free public education will find that each generation may improve on the one before which paid for their education.
The value of freedom is enhanced when adults are allowed to choose their fields of endeavor to contribute to society. Those professions and jobs that need more workers can increase salaries in order to attract the employees that are needed. Technological advances which create more efficient machines to make products means that these products require less human labor and may cost less. As the basic necessities of life are produced more efficiently, the amount of human work needed decreases. This means that people can work fewer hours in these fields. By shortening the work week more people may be employed to do that work. This gives people more free time and vacations to pursue happiness in their own ways. This also enables more people to go into teaching and the creative arts.
Certainly a good society will provide health care as a human right for all people. Advanced nations have been discovering that the most efficient and humane way of providing health care for all is for the national government to pay for all of it from its tax revenues. The United States is the only advanced nation that still allows private insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and other health care providers to make excessive profits. This greatly increases the cost of health care while making it difficult for everyone to be covered. Also research funded by the government without taking profits from the results also tends to be more efficient at making new discoveries available to all.
The value of justice needs to be applied in order to prevent the excessive inequality that currently exists and is getting worse because the wealthy use their financial power to manipulate politicians in order to increase their wealth even more. As a result the vast majority of people are being deprived of a fair share of the very benefits their work is producing. Those who claim they have “earned” their millions or billions must admit that they could not have done this by themselves, that the benefits of education, workers, and others have enabled them to get into a position where they can exploit the economy so that they receive an excessive share of the wealth. A few donate large amounts to charities, but others do not. Many billionaire owners of large corporations pay workers as little as possible while they “make” hundreds of times as much for doing very little work. I believe that making the rich pay back a fair share of their accumulated wealth to help others also benefits spiritually those who do so. In a democracy the people have the right to pass laws to correct this unfairness for the good of the entire society.
Applying the values of love, freedom, justice, and peace means that wars must not be allowed. Murders are not permitted and are prosecuted as crimes. Why should we allow mass murdering when they too could be deterred and prevented by judicial processes by prosecuting any individuals attempting to perpetrate them? The insane social habit of war must be broken for good by not allowing any leaders or followers to perpetrate these atrocities anymore. This is probably the greatest challenge and the most needed reform in human history. Albert Einstein in 1946 said, “The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and thus we drift towards unparalleled catastrophe.”
If we do not act quickly to stop and reverse the process of global warming, the social consequences of the resulting misery will increase the danger of massive human conflicts. Now is the time for humanity to join together and stop the folly of war. Only a mad person would authorize the use of nuclear weapons, but in a desperate crisis some people could go crazy. The people of the world must decide to unite our efforts to prevent the scourge of war from destroying our civilization. Nuclear weapons are the worst and should be the first weapons that are dismantled. How we can achieve disarmament of the weapons of war will be discussed in other chapters. Abolishing war will not only prevent premature human deaths and massive destruction, it will also stop the wasting of human, financial, and natural resources. To approve, perpetrate, or allow the mass murder of war is the worst violation of the principles of life, love, freedom, etc.