This is an open letter to Alastair McIntosh who focalised the Spiritual Activism: Leadership as Service workshop at Findhorn Foundation Aug 3-8, 2019.
I am sure that the impressions and impacts of your Spiritual Activism workshop will unfold over many weeks. But I wanted just to record some initial impressions before they are absorbed on the “battlefield of life.”
I will relate the workshop to the intentions that I set to evolve the framework for the keynote that I will be giving at the Ecocity World Summit in Vancouver on October 8, 2019.
My acting title for that session is: From Findhorn Bee Hive to Vancouver Human Hive: How Evo and Eco Evolve Gaia’s Reflective Organ.
The occasion is a first homecoming for me since I emigrated to Scotland in 2018. So, it is certainly a Journey Home.
“Journey Home” was one of the themes that arose early in your workshop – both as a Spiritual Journey and as an Activist Journey. You captured it in many ways – grounding it in the Baghavad Gita on the battlefield of life. As if Spiritual and Active described two positions that battle one another.
I personally feel at peace with both stances in myself – but I notice the Journey Home to Vancouver evokes in my mind the bringing of the Spiritual Message that has strengthened in making my home at Findhorn, into the battlefield of Ecology framings I expect to encounter in Vancouver. I am asking myself; how do I find the language, images and stories to craft a credible and convincing message?
You reminded me (in our 1:1) of the voice of Patrick Geddes. That was a beautiful suggestion as he is iconic in Scotland for his city planning, Outlook Tower and Camera Obscura observatory, initiating the practice of Sociology, studying the beehive and coining the ecological epithet: Think Global Act Local.
Many of your case studies evoked the depth of Acting Locally – from the Land Reform initiative on the Isle of Eigg – setting the precedents with the island owner Schellenberg both in the court of the Spiritual heart (not to vilify him but to remember that he too is human) and the court of the land – where your collective commitment broke new ground in community land ownership. It is amazing and impressive that one of the outcomes of that seemingly small contained battle has translated into the reality that 3% of Scotland is now communally held. So, the Local Act has become a Global Thought (Meme) for other communities in other lands to aspire to shared ownership. And I get the impression that the ownership entails responsibility for the wellbeing of the land so that a tragedy of the commons is not an unintended consequence of community ownership. IMO, you have opened the door to new governance for eco/bioregions.
Another of your case studies – the story of how community activism on the Isle of Harris, (lead by your whole community) prevented the construction firm Redlands – now absorbed into LaFarge, the largest infrastructure construction company in the world – from levelling a mountain to quarry the stone for road building. This story also transcends the “Local Act” into the “Global Thought” – because the argument you won was based not just on a court battle but an ethical position that challenged LaFarge to the core, of living into its avowed position of doing no harm and supporting indigenous communities.
In this story, you effectively elevated that Local Act into a Spiritual argument for defending the land (thereby furthering the earlier victory on Eigg) that belonged to a people who cared deeply for the land that supported them.
In evoking and exploring these two case studies, we workshop participants had the opportunity to discover our own indigeneity – and the traumas that were implicitly and explicitly conjoined with our own cultural histories. We found that our own definitions of what it means to be indigenous, revealed the relevance of our lineages deep into Scottish history and opened up difficult conversations around clearances, colonization, cultures and consciousness. In our circle we had connections from many Scottish mainland clearances, plus the Isle of Iona, to inverness, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Canada, Germany, Scandinavia and a spectrum of the UK from the Lake District to the West Country, London, the Midlands and Yorkshire. In some ways, most of us felt we had been strangers in our own land at some time.
But the impact of our own genetic lineages and their influence on our views of Spirituality and Activism was intensely triggered by a case study you introduced first by a photograph of an attractive young woman with a history of seven traumas in her lifeline and lifetime up to the age of 17 – when she emigrated from your home Isle of Lewis to America. Then came the shock of her identity revealed in the next slide as being Donald Trump’s mother. For me this became a touchstone of how the complexity of our worldviews, psychology, spirituality, motivations and relationships emerges from a constellation of stratified personal, family and cultural developments. This vertical (inherited) “battlefield of life” challenged my (horizontal spirit-informed) assumptions and practices of compassion. The experience activated a deep level of consciousness-awakening that for me was akin to the samadhi of my spiritual awakening 30 years ago. The latter marked my discovery of Oneness and the former reminds me of the mystery of my/our Aliveness – as individuals and collectives (in communities, cities, societies).
We talked of the 3 prongs of “Soil, Soul and Society” that mark your distinctive frame of Spiritual Activism and how these case studies reveal the interconnection and interdependency of these prongs. They mark the quintessence of the Journey Home.
The journey from that (other) Soil to this Soil (and all the Soils we have touched in between). The journey from that young Soul to this older Soul (and all the stages we have experienced in between). The journey from that Social/Cultural lineage that birthed us to this one we now inhabit (and all the Societies/Cultures we have tasted in between). The sum of these journeys I might call (in Integral City terms) the journeys of Placecaring and the journeys of Placemaking. I parse these journeys a little differently than you, but ultimately the co-arising of consciousness and culture with behaviours and systems reveals how deep, wide, clear and high is our Spirituality and our Activism. And these dimensions emerge both in our individual Souls and our Communities of sharing.
When I tell the story of the “Evo” life of Findhorn it will now include the inextricable flavour of Alastair McIntosh’s Spirituality. And when I tell the story of the “Eco” life of Vancouver it will also be filtered through the lineage of Alastair’s Scottish Activism. Certainly, both storylines are shaping my sense of what it means to be Gaia’s Reflective Organ. Because a Spiritual Sensitivity is a necessary quality for any true capacity for Global Thinking and Reflection. And an Active Expression is a prerequisite for an Organ that can Act Locally and serve Gaia’s wellbeing. Perhaps, Spiritual Activism is even a route to recalibrate Geddes’ epithet beyond the global into Jude Currivan’s more recent variation: Think Cosmically, Feel Globally and Act Locally? And with this a reminder that the Journey Home is eternally unfolding?