DAVID’S DESK #45
David’s Desk is my opportunity to share thoughts and tools for the spiritual journey. These letters are my personal insights and opinions and do not necessarily reflect the sentiments or thoughts of any other person in Lorian or of Lorian as a whole. If you wish to share this letter with others, please feel free to do so; however the material is ©2011 by David Spangler. If you no longer wish to receive these letters please let us know at info@Lorian.org. Previous issues of “David’s Desk” are posted on www.lorian.org.
Watching events unfold in Egypt, I can’t help but remember that I lived through an Arab revolution myself when I was ten years old. I was living in Morocco at the time. Both my parents were working for the U.S. military, my father as an intelligence agent and my mother as a registered nurse. We lived on the U.S. Air Force ba of Nouasseur, about twenty miles from Casablanca.
At the time Morocco was a French protectorate. The king, Mohammed V, had been exiled, and the French ran essentially an apartheid state in which the native Moroccans had virtually no rights whatsoever. In October of 1955, an Arab liberation army, the Jaish al-tahrir, began a revolt. At first we were unaffected. Life on the airbase went on as usual. Then the principal of our grade school was killed by French troops. They had mistaken him for a rebel while he was driving back to Nouasseur with his wife from a party in Casablanca. At t hat point the base went into lockdown. For several weeks, we were not allowed outside the fenced compound. Eventually, though, the French conceded control of the country to the Moroccans, and the king was reinstated.
These events touched my family directly. One of my father’s jobs was to act as a liaison for the U.S. government with the King, the royal family, and his advisors. This sent him into the countryside on a number of clandestine missions on behalf of both the King and the United States. Some of these involved counter-espionage against the Soviets who were also working behind the scenes during this revolution to prevent the Monarchy from being reinstated and promoting a communist take-over instead. When Morocco gained its independence the following year, the King gave my father a proclamation making him an honorary Moroccan citizen. The world had Lawrence of Arabia but in our family, we had Marshall of Morocco!
My father died a number of years ago, but I can’t help thinking of how he would respond to the events happening in the Middle East. He loved the Arabs, and in all the universities in which he worked as a teacher, he was always the faculty advisor for Arab and other Middle Eastern students. But he knew from his own travels how prevalent corruption, oppression, poverty, and the lack of human rights were throughout North Africa and the Middle East. He often commented to me that the situation in these countries was a powder keg that would one day explode. And now it looks like that explosion may have come.
On the surface the driving force behind the protests is largely economic. Chronic poverty and unemployment in many Arab countries coupled with lack of opportunity for advancement has been met in previous years with corruption, indifference or oppression on the part of their governments. No more. The youth of these countries, better educa ted, desiring a freer and more fulfilling life, and united by social media with the rest of the world won’t stand for business as usual any more.
But apart from economic and political concerns, are there other forces at work “under the hood,” so to speak? What subtle forces are active here?
As the protestors took over Tahrir Square in Cairo, I felt I wanted to tune in to see what information might be available from inner colleagues. I was thinking I might communicate with a spiritual being attuned to the Egyptian people but instead I found myself in contact with a Presence that seemed like an “Angel of Humanity.” This Presence said in effect, “What is happening here is part of a process that goes beyond Egypt and its concerns. It is a human occurrence. It is one expression, conditioned by the circumstances of the Middle East, of an unfoldment that all humanity is experiencing, not just Egypt ians or Arabs. This is the most important thing to know.”
I found it interesting that I was asked not to focus only on what was happening in Egypt, as important as it is, but to see it in a larger context. It was a request to appreciate the extent to which all humanity is participating in change and that none of us is exempt from the need to confront old ways of thinking and acting in order to gain the freedom and insights necessary to construct a future that will better serve us and all of life.
It is easy to forget this participatory side of things. I look out my window at a peaceful neighborhood, and the protests in Egypt and elsewhere seem far away, visible only on my computer or television screen. The challenges the Egyptians are facing are not my problems; I am not out marching in the streets to overthrow an oppressive regime that has lasted for thirty years and seemed prepared to extend its rule for more years into the future. One elderly man in Cairo said in an interview that for the first time in his life, he felt he could think for himself, without fear and without others telling him what to think. That brought me to tears, but I don’t personally have that issue in my life. I do not have to rebel against a secret police state that dictates what I can believe and not believe.
Because of this, I can feel distant from what the people in Cairo and Alexandria and Port Said are experiencing. I can sympathize, I can empathize, I can wish to support their efforts, but at the end of the day, their issues are not mine. All that turmoil I see on the television is happening in Egypt, not in the little town where I live. I can feel united with the protestors by our shared human aspirations for freedom, peace and a better life and also by a shared understanding of suffering, but we are separated by the differences in the specific issues that confront us and in t he circumstances those issues create.
What the Angel of Humanity (if that is what it was) was saying, though, is that underneath these surface differences is an activity that goes beyond the commonality of shared aspirations or empathy. Rather than letting the differences in our specific needs and circumstances separate us, we can see more deeply and broadly into what is happening in our time. We can realize that we are all facing and struggling with a need to change and go beyond our current ways of treating each other and our world if we are all going have a livable future, much less realize the fullness of our human potential.
In December of 1963, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a talk at Western Michigan University on the theme of social justice and the emerging new age. In it he said:
“All I’m saying is simply this, that all life is interrelated, that somehow we’re caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”
This thought by Dr. King catches the sense of what this Angel was implying, but there was more to it even than this. It was, I think, an invitation to see ourselves as revolutionaries in the context of seeking to overthrow oppressive and limiting thought forms and ways of thinking.
We, of course, are focused on the physical realm; it is the environment most apparent and immediate to all of us. But our colleagues and helpers in the spiritual realms deal with the invisible environment of subtle energies, thoughts and feelings. This environment can be every bit as oppressive as a tyrant; it can be every bit as harmful as a department of secret police. Certainly it can’t cause us physical pain and suffering, at least not directly, but it’s this environment that in its polluted and negative states gives rise to and energizes such physical phenomena such as tyrants and secret police, torture and terrorism, murder and mayhem. It’s this environment that can hold beliefs and thought forms that limit our conceptions of ourselves, that blind us to the wholeness of the earth, that make us doubt the goodness of the earth and the presence of the Sacred.
It is the oppression of this inner tyranny of ancient and outworn thoughts, emotions, habits, and beliefs that all of us, all of humanity, is now struggling against, like a butterfly trying to break out of a cocoon. We are all being called to make our way to the Tahrir Square of our minds and hearts, there to stand together and demand the old ways step down so a new humanity may emerge.
Th e world and we revolve around this pivot point of history in search of a new and better tomorrow, demanding creative and holistic change. The Revolution is upon us! What inner tyrannies will you overthrow today?