CULTURE | Radical Passion by Andrew Harvey
The following is an excerpt from Andrew Harvey’s latest book, Radical Passion: Sacred Love and Wisdom in Action.
Wherever I travel in the world, people who respond to the message of love in action that I am giving ask me, “When will it happen and how?”
The “it,” of course, is the great catastrophe (or series of catastrophes) that more and more of us are feeling is now inevitable. I point out, as gently as I can, that we are already in an apocalyptic situation—one that is worsening spectacularly, month by month. A global financial elite, drunk on greed and desire for total control, manipulates the banks, markets, media, and all political parties. The gap between the tiny handful of the rich and the billions of destitute or deeply struggling human beings widens daily. Nothing real is being done to address the now lethal menace of global warming. Our food and water are increasingly poisoned. Ninety percent of the sea is polluted. Many of our crucial individual liberties have been so drastically curtailed that the foundations of a global fascist state are now visible to all those with the eyes to see. Hundreds of animal and plant species are vanishing every month, in the largest continuing extinction event since the last ice age. What more evidence should any awake human being need to show that we are in extreme danger and must respond comprehensively and urgently before spreading disaster becomes irreversible extinction?
Perhaps the most alarming, even devastating, aspect of this unprecedented crisis is the denial, apathy, and paralysis of the great majority of the human race. In the time of our greatest danger, we are at our most hapless, distracted, and narcissistic. The promise of the Arab Spring is leaking away into the brutal, toxic swamp of religious and power politics. The Occupy Movement, for all its global courage, is being deeply hobbled by the self-interest of the corporate media. To occupy the future in time, the movement needs knowledge, patience, resilience, and an interminable spiritual persistence if it is to help birth the global, grassroots revolution of love and wisdom in action that is our last and best hope.
As for the various religions, mystical systems, or New Age philosophies, they are mired either in fundamentalism; meaningless brutal repetition of outworn dogma; addiction to transcendence; or the kind of obscene, magical thinking that prompts Ahmadinejad to believe that plunging the world into war will bring the Twelfth Imam and legions of New Agers to expect, on the turning of the Mayan calendar, to be whisked away from our mad, burning world on ships of rainbow light.
The reason I still have hope, as I approach my sixtieth birthday, is not because I believe the human race is going to find a technological, political, or economic solution to this devastation. I do not believe in the potential transformation of the existing corporate nightmare; I do not believe in the magic of technology; I do not believe in the ability of a corrupt and greedy political class to deconstruct its own power. I do not believe in the spiritual depth and sincerity of the great majority of religious and New Age leaders, or in their capacity either to tell the truth about what is happening or to galvanize human beings to react urgently and wisely to it. Our inherited notions of salvation, redemption, and enlightenment are as dissociated and ineffectual in this immense evolutionary storm as our continuing tragic obsession with perpetual growth and technological wizardry. Nothing undertaken from our current level of consciousness will now work. This crisis is the destined graveyard of all human “isms”: all religious, political, and economic agendas, fantasies, and projects. The grandiose mask we have constructed for ourselves out of our demented narcissism is being stripped from our faces to reveal us as we are—terrified, lost, and helpless before a global agony of our own making.
The hope I live for and explore in all my work and teachings has nothing to do, then, with the current smorgasbord of fantasies for sale in the corporate bazaar. My hope is grounded in three interlinked truths, derived from a lifetime of mystical and personal search. These truths are: first, that the human race is now in an unprecedented and destined evolutionary crisis—a global dark night. Second, that this global dark night is potentially the birth canal for a new, embodied divine humanity chastened by tragedy and illumined by grace. Third, that the birthing force of the divine human is the force of the Motherhood of God, expressed not only in a new and radically evolutionary mysticism, but also in sacredly inspired, radical action on every level and in every arena.
It is this vision that I have been working on for three decades. It is this vision that works itself out, fugally, throughout this collection of my introductions and interviews called Radical Passion.
The passion I’m referring to has nothing whatever to do with emotionalism, theatricality, or even conventional and understandable forms of anger and outrage at injustice. It is a divine and sacred passion—a vast, focused love energy—grounded in peace and knowledge of divine identity, increasingly purified of shadow and demonizing judgment and directed like a laser to the radical and urgent transformation of both our inner version of awakening and our outer practice of political and economic reality. As always, Rumi expresses the divine truth of this passion when he writes:
Passion burns down every branch of exhaustion Passion is the supreme elixir and renews all hope Run far away, my friends, from all false solutions
Let Divine passion triumph and rebirth you in yourself.
It is this steady, peaceful, compassionate passion that fuels the work of all those who now, seeing where we are, are prepared to gamble away their lives and resources for the possible creation of a new world.
In its ultimate divine origin, this passion, as you will see in the pages that follow, is nothing less than the power, or Shakti, of the Mother side of God and of Her evolutionary will. Aligned with and inspired by this passion, there is nothing we cannot—even at this late desperate hour—accomplish. Without its radiant, clear, illumining energy, the energy of evolutionary wisdom itself, we will not be able to rise to the challenge of our times, and we will die out, taking a great deal of the already debilitated natural world with us. The word radical derives from the Latin radix, “root.” The passion I am describing and trying to live springs from the root of the Divine itself and focuses its wild, pure energy on the roots of our evolutionary nightmare—our abandonment of the authentically sacred and mystical, our fatal dissociation from the glory and healing of the creation, our addiction to technology and science, our separation—so convenient to the elites who dominate our world—of divine reality and justice from active socioeconomic and political reality. It is “radical” in the deepest and highest sense, because in order to be born in sufficient power, it requires—even demands—the death of the collective false human self, a total inner revolution that expresses itself directly in a rehaul of all current ways of being and doing everything. Millions of years ago, a group of brave, prescient, and desperate fish left the toxic sea that was killing them. They endured whatever they had to in order to be slowly and gruelingly transformed, in a wholly new dimension, into birds. The radical passion that drove them is the one that will have to drive us if we are to transform in time from our current dark and poisoned narcissism into joyful and humble servants of the birth of a new divine humanity.
Such a revolutionary transformation, although ferocious and extremely difficult, is, I believe, still possible, because it is willed by the Divine and supported by torrential divine grace. Whether the human race will choose its rigors and demands remains to be seen and is not by any means certain. We are as likely to choose the destructive shadow of global fascism and die out in a series of manmade and natural disasters as we are to be galvanized by revelation and heartbreak into sacred action. The very worst and the very best, the rivers of blood and the rivers of milk, as Rumi put it, now run side by side. Everything now depends on us, on our willingness to let all the myths of the past die, on our courage in accepting almost unbearable ordeal as the gateway into new life and growth, on our radical passion to put the will of the Divine for a transformed humanity into inner and outer urgent action, on our creativity renewed in and inspired by divine peace, wisdom, and passionate compassion.
Radical Passion is organized in seven chapters: “The Heart of Love,” “The Language of Love,” “The Body of Love,” “The Light of Love,” “The Shadow of Love,” “The Suffering of Love,” and “The Power of Love.” This organization is the heart-child of my brilliant, indefatigable editor, Janet Thomas, without whom I could never have undertaken this project, and whose profound understanding of the themes of my work have greatly inspired and heartened me. I conceive Radical Passion as an immense fugue in which central themes—of the Divine Feminine, mystical empowerment, the dark night, and the birth of divine humanity in and through an inner revolution expressed in sacred action—return again and again in different configurations and intensities to be concentrated in the call to transformative service of the last chapter, “The Power of Love.”
When my great teacher and beloved, Father Bede Griffiths was dying, I asked him, “Do you really believe, with all you now see and know so clearly, that humanity will survive and transform?” He withdrew deeply into himself for one long moment and then said, “Yes, I do. What is to come will be harder than any of us can imagine, but a birth will take place.” Then he smiled. “It will be a great adventure, the greatest adventure of all.”
In this great adventure, whose terrors, rigors, ordeals, and amazing possibilities are now becoming clear to those who dare to understand, radical, divine passion in action will be our fundamental fuel and source of creative wisdom and purpose. Anything we have to go through will be worth it in order to realize its power. Nothing we do, inspired by its fire, will be wasted. Whether you or I survive the coming storm of chaos does not matter as much as the peaceful, clear, and impassioned spirit with which we set about, right now, building in ourselves the divine strength and compassion necessary to go on going on and building in the world the humble and tenacious structures of action that can weather whatever unfolds. On the rock of these truths we can build a house for a new humanity if we are illumined, fearless, and brave enough to risk everything.
Two years ago, when I was visiting the white lions in Timbavati, South Africa, my gall bladder exploded, and I came within an hour or two of dying. My life was saved by a wry, brilliant, half-drunk Afrikaner doctor. When I returned to recover in the camp near the white lions, I was told that Mandla, the king of the white lions, considered by the African shamanic tradition to be the animal avatar of all transforming divine light, had also been through a near fatal encounter with another lion. As soon as I could walk, I went to pay my respects to him in the small fenced enclosure in which he was recovering from his fierce wounds. I stood by the wire fence and waited in silence. Slowly, with a breathtaking poise and majesty, Mandla strode to within six feet of me and sat down, gazing into my eyes with his piercing, incandescent, sky-blue gaze, in which all the purity and grandeur of creation seemed focused with an almost blinding intensity of sacred passion. Then, the King of the Natural Creation blinked once and his entire body shook with a long, vast, infinitely powerful yet gentle roar that penetrated, beyond words or concepts, my mind, heart, soul, and every cell of my body. What this roar thundered to me was, “Abandon all fear and all self-pity. Do not worry about the wounds or sufferings of the past or about what is to come. Claim your inner divine royalty and live out to the end your sacred purpose, whatever happens. Be fierce, tender, humble, and majestic. Give everything, as I am giving everything, for the transformation of the world.”
It is my deepest hope and prayer that this soft, wild roar echoes through this book and inspires you to rise fearlessly to your greatest truth, to enact it in humble splendor, giving up all the fruits of action to the grace of God, not counting the cost or labor or heartbreak, so that you may remain poised in, inflamed by, and drunk on the fiery wine of a divine love that no horror can dissolve and no ordeal can defeat.
This culmination of award-winning author Andrew Harvey’s life’s work bridges the great divide between spiritual resignation and engaged spiritual activism. A manifesto for the transformation of the world through the fusion of deep mystical peace with the clarity of radical wisdom, it is a wake-up call to put love and compassion to urgent, focused action. According to Harvey, we are in a massive global crisis reflected by a mass media addicted to violence and trivialization at a moment when what the world actually needs is profound inspiration, a return to the heart-centered way of the Divine Feminine, the words of the mystics throughout the ages, and the cultivation of the nonviolent philosophies of Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, and the Dalai Lama.
Harvey’s concepts of radical passion and sacred activism fly in the face of restraint, of pessimism, of denial, of all that is inhumane, fusing the mystic’s passion for God with the activist’s passion for justice and for healing the division between heaven and earth, heart and will, body and soul, prayer and action. Sacred activism asks that we engage deeply on a personal, spiritual, and political level so as to become a fully empowered, fully active, and contemplative humanity that can turn tragedy into grace, and desolation into the opportunity to build and co-create a new world.
Unlike many spiritual books, Radical Passion does not veil the dark with artificial hope. It explores the catastrophes of our current times and celebrates the ecstatic hope and divinity that is possible—right now and in the future.
This book is currently available worldwide, in print and ebook wherever books are sold.
Image via Stock Exchange by Khattaway