Spirit of Humanity Session II: Scilla Elworthy Notes
The gathering in Iceland proves to be a fascinating melting pot of great ideas and a high quality of heart-opening. I would say that an energetic field has been created - that quantum physicists would recognise clearly. My contribution was to suggest how some centuries-old but now out-dated vales can be replaced with more energetic current ones that young people resonate with.
1. Why are we interested in love and compassion in governance now?
Our world faces multiple crises, and attempts to address them are not working.
Einstein said that no problem can be solved from the consciousness that created it. So what is the current shift in consciousness that is required to enable us to resolve global problems?
Authentic leadership – the kind so deeply needed on the planet now – begins in the radical mastery of one’s inner being. Brilliance, charisma, eloquence, vision – these are wonderful gifts that a leader can possess – but these gifts gain ultimate effect and coherence only when fuelled and sustained by inner power. Inner power is the diamond formed by years of honing self awareness, practising selflessness and observing and controlling the ego. It results from developing the essential skill of empathy, even for those who oppose you – and the humble commitment to keep learning the skills of deep listening and mediation.
What I’m expressing here has been known in all the great spiritual traditions, but needs to be reclaimed for a secular world in crisis, and in language that all can understand. Without leaders of this kind in every sphere and institution of our world, our chances of survival are grim. With such leaders, you and I can build a world that our grandchildren will be proud of.
We live in a world that is miserable and frightening for most of its inhabitants. Many of the rich are not happy, while the rich/poor gap gets wider. The richest 300 people in the world now have more wealth than the poorest 3,000,000,000 – that’s nearly half of humanity. And we are ruining our planet at such a rate that - sooner than most people can imagine - large parts of it will become uninhabitable. Soils and forests are disappearing, oceans are literally being vacuumed of fish, disastrous crises lurch through unstable financial markets, the disenfranchised vent their anger at oppressive governments, an economic system rewards the most greedy and amoral among us, and more than a billion people - no longer able to support themselves in rural areas - are swarming towards cities where there is no work for them.
The world is in crisis. Yet this crisis is a vast opportunity.
2. How can these core values play a key role in shifting our society's overall culture?
I am certain that a different future for all of humanity is possible, if humans wake up. Waking up starts with you and me. It means increasing our knowledge of ourselves, using reflection, mindfulness and inner work. These tools in turn enable us to become more alert to others and their needs, to move from our own concerns to compassion for the world - and give us the strength and the skill to know what we need to do, and how we need to do it.
In half a century of work in the world, the most important lesson I learned from Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and from The Elders is that inner work is a pre-requisite for outer effectiveness – that the quality of our awareness directly affects the quality of results produced.
Reflection, mindfulness and inner work are now seen as an essential tool in many leading companies, extensively featured in the sober Financial Times of London and making the cover of Time Magazine.
I’d like to present you with 10 values or norms that have governed our (western) actions for centuries, and which have contributed to the state of the planet today,
and then propose what we can replace each one with - the kind of values that could enable better decisions – decisions that could get us out of the mess we’re in….(in one brief sentence each!):
1. (old value) “Humans have the right to do as we like with the earth” replace with “Humans become responsible stewards of the earth, in order to preserve its beauty and diversity”.
2. (old value) “Science and the rational mind are what matter most” replace with “the human body, mind, feelings and soul are all one, interacting constantly, and the entire package is consciousness”.
3. (stale value) “Continuing economic growth is essential” is replaced with “growth in consciousness is now more urgent”.
4. ‘Survival of the fittest” – so dated - becomes “It’s more efficient to replace competition with co-operation for the greater good” now evident all over the planet.
5. ‘Good fences make good neighbours’ becomes “building trust is a more effective and less costly form of security” – & masses of examples you will hear about today.
6. ‘Might makes right’ is replaced with “common security is safer and cheaper than an international system based on weapons and superior power”.
7. ‘Short-termism is fine’ becomes “our decisions now take account of future generations, as the oldest indigenous traditions have told us for centuries”.
8. ‘The technical fix will always be invented in time to resolve serious problems’ gives way to “the greater intelligence is not only available to us here and now, but is infinitely more powerful than human intelligence”.
9. ‘Women are too emotional to deal with the real issues of business and world affairs’ fades away, because “the capacities of the deep feminine and the deep masculine – in both men and women – are now seen as vital for human survival on the planet”.
10. ‘Consuming is our right’ (and our addiction!) gives way to the realisation that “what we really desire is to satisfy the human need for meaning and beauty”.