Politics As A Spiritual Path

A Personal Reflection


Yoga means union. The aim of any form of yoga is union with the Absolute. I use the term the “absolute” to refer to the Divine Ground of all reality – the One from which we come, and to which we return – the Divine that is at work in creation – that which is ultimately beyond both logic and language. We encounter the Absolute within time and space in the forces of evolution that seek to create and intensify values that can only be achieved in duality – love, beauty, adventure, knowledge, creativity and growth. We also encounter the Absolute as that point of ecstatic stillness beyond time and space – as the unmoving, self-sufficient One. A complete or integral yoga will reflect this duality. It will seek the incarnation of the Absolute in ever more satisfactory ways. The person who chooses an integral yoga will seek moments of stillness, in which to know the Absolute in that form. However, based on this experience of Oneness, he or she will not seek to disengage from the world but to transform his or her manner of being in the world. In this way s/he will seek the transformation of the world itself, so that it becomes a more beautiful, loving, place where collectively and individually we can learn, grow and create. Understood this way, then, yoga becomes politics.

The aim of a politics of yoga is to embody the light and to bring it to others. Plants, through photosynthesis, take the light of the sun into themselves and transform it into the living energy that is the foundation for all life on the earth. In a similar manner we can take the light of the absolute into ourselves where it becomes a living energy for creative and loving action.

Light Laughs and Plays

What then is this light
That presents equally as an object,
And as a wave of nothing in particular
—This not this not that
—This limit to our rushing?

In the Raven light is swallowed up.
In his bleached bones on a pebbled beach
It is given again.

A pion dies into two gamma rays.
Shall I too
When I throw off my mass
Spin off effortlessly
Like two skaters racing across the ice
In time to each other and to a larger melody?

To the scientist a problem –
To the artist a mistress –
To the blind an unrequited love.
But what is light to itself?

What can I say, I who am not light?
Only that it laughs on the rippled surface,
And plays in the plumage of birds.

The Incarnation of Light

The embodiment of the light takes place in the social groups around us – in our immediate circle, in society as a whole, and in the ecology of the earth. The person for whom politics is a path is informed and energized by the light he or she encounters from the outside as well as that which comes from within.

The Christian myth tells of a wrongness that has entered into creation. The ultimate cause of this wrongness is unknown. It would seem to have been a collective wrong choice of the human race. We see it manifest in three ways: In the hatred of Eros, in the will to dominate others, and in the will to claim for oneself a disproportionate share of the worlds resources. These are the knots that have entered into creation – the knots that must be unraveled if we are to survive. In the self these knots are created when love goes out into the world and there encounters hostility and rejection. This love then turns back into the self where it creates psychic entanglements that prevent the free flow of love between the self and others. This, for example is what creates what in psychoanalytic terms is called the “sadistic super-ego.” Similar knots are found in society on all levels.

From time to time we find ourselves in a Camelot situation. Things are pulling together with a creative synergy. Our aims dovetail with the aims of others with whom we are connected. Life seems good. Central to the story of Camelot is the idea that the seeds of its destruction are present at it’s inception. Guenevere and Lancelot were attracted to each other from the beginning. Whether something akin to this is always present in real life situations is difficult to say. But for a variety of reasons no created form can last forever. The person who has chosen politics as a path does not seek to establish fixed Utopias; rather he or she attempts to facilitate the continuous creative unfolding of life.

Life processes do not move forward in a simple continuous motion, but through a rhythm – a continuous movement between reflection within the realm of potentiality and action in the world of external reality. Always that which has been encountered, enjoyed, endured or created in the external world of action is taken into the self where it is assimilated. This is followed by a re-emergence into the external world of action where the aims and knowledge of the living organism function in a modified, and ideally, an enlarged, more knowledgeable and more skillful manner. The rhythm can be seen most clearly in the waking and sleeping rhythm that we experience on a daily basis. It also occurs on a minute by minute basis during the day when we do something active on a project, pull back and contemplate what must be done next, and then move out into action again. On a larger scale one sees it in the passing of the generations. The older ones attempt to pass on what they have learned to the younger, who invariably modify it for their own purposes, and carry it forward in a new way. If re-incarnation is in some literal sense true, then we would have a natural extension of this rhythm through many lifetimes. In David Bohm’s terminology, we are constantly moving back and forth between the implicate and the explicate order of things. Death and re-embodiment. This is the central rhythm of all living systems.

The person who choses politics as a path must select his or her task. Often it seems rather like the task comes to the person. In any case our task is found at the interface between what we most love and the needs we encounter in the world around us. Each person is positioned in a unique way where certain possibilities are open to him or her that may not be open to others. Each person is also motivated by loves and interests that are unique, and is enabled by a particular set of skills. The political task is the point around which everything that we are – both in the implicate and the explicate order of things – and everything we encounter in our full range of experience, becomes a unifying process and a loving and creative force in the world.

Politics and the Triple Path

In “The Synthesis of Yoga” Aurobindo speaks of “the triple path of devotion, knowledge and works.” When pursued together in a coherent manner these practices form an “integral” yoga. The yoga of politics is also an integral yoga. It is centered on four practices:

1. Meditation. Through any of a number of practices, the individual attempts to find the unmoving center within him or herself. In doing so one connects with a source of power that is beyond the time/space within which creation is embodied.

2. Action. Finding the unmoving center need not lead to a withdrawal from action in the world. Rather, one finds within the experience of that which is beyond time and space a source of comfort, peace and strength from which to confront the uncertainties and real dangers of the world with concerted and skillful action.

3. Love. The mainspring for a yoga of action is Love. But it is not a love that is composed merely of sentimental feelings about the hungry, the sick and the imprisoned. Nor is authentic love satisfied with mere “charity.” Rather it is a compassion that is motivated to alter those social, economic and political realities that lead to people starving, to unnecessary sickness and to the need for prisons.

4. Understanding. Knowledge is a form of power. If conditions are to be changed for the better, many different forms of knowledge may be needed. Study is an aspect of any political path. Knowledge of many different things may be relevant. Deepened understanding of both the self and the world are crucial. Knowledge of science, literature and spiritual disciplines are all relevant.

End times.

“End times” can mean many different things. We all face the fact of our own death, and for any of a number of reasons this may be an immediate rather than remote prospect. We also experience the loss of relationships, of groups, or of communities to which we belonged. These are all experienced as deaths. Our nation may be faced with destruction or with being transformed into something unbearably ugly and oppressive. At the present time science as well as religion is telling us that these may be the end times for the earth. It is important not to allow ourselves to succumb to a self fulfilling prophesy. It is necessary to do everything within our power to prevent this untimely end of a beautiful and fragile planet. Yet even the prospect that we may fail in this should not lead us to despair. The yoga of politics does not become irrelevant in the end times, regardless what form the end is taking for us. Within the scope of our lifetimes we see the destruction of much that we love and care for, but the Creative Power behind evolution takes up whatever good that has been accomplished, and moves it forward in new embodiments.

Death is a part of the creative process. We encounter it in personal death, in the death of our social forms, and perhaps in the death of the earth itself. The faith of the person who is practicing the yoga of politics is not grounded in the wisdom and power either of the self or of some revered leader or teacher, but in the Absolute. It is the faith that those things which have been truly good will be taken up and will serve as starting points for new creations.