In this second part of our interview with Andrew Harvey, he talks about how you can discover your own true mission and about what can happen when you bring deep spiritual awareness together with a passionate love of justice.
“You actually create a whole new force that over time can change the most intractable situations.”
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Michael Mountain: You said last time that we’re in a “worldwide global genocide of animals” and you asked:
“Are we just going to sit back and let the horror of extinction unfold? Or are we going to be decent, generous, loving, and try and make the transition, both of the human race and the animal race, which are going to die out through no guilt of their own as smooth, and as tender as possible? This is our last sacred responsibility and it has to be done from love.”
What do you mean when you say we need to do it from love?
Andrew Harvey: Love isn’t something you just feel; it is also something you discipline your whole being to. And the best way of doing that is through deep, simple, consistent spiritual practice.
But if all you do is spiritual practice for your own liberation, for your own awakening, then you are still a narcissist. So the love that you experience in the Beloved needs to drive you and inspire you to put your love into action.
M.M.: It’s easy to become paralyzed when you know what’s going on – from factory farming to mass extinction to the forests and the oceans and everything else.
A.H.: When people ask me “What should I do?”, I say to them: Get up at three o’clock in the morning, surround yourself with the peace and protection of the divine, by whatever name you know the divine, and ask yourself one question: “What of all the causes in the world breaks my heart the most?”
When you can locate your deepest heartbreak and face your deepest heartbreak, then you will be guided to your most profound mission. Your deepest mission is hidden in your deepest heartbreak.
M.M.: What would that be for you personally? When you can locate your deepest heartbreak and face your deepest heartbreak, then you will be guided to your most profound mission.
A.H.: My own deepest heartbreak is what’s happening to animals. I can’t bear the terrifying treatment we mete out to them in slaughterhouses. I can’t bear the wantonness and callousness with which we face the destruction of the elephants and the snow leopards and the lions and the tigers. I find that almost unendurable. Sometimes when I am reading about what is happening, I have to put it down because my whole being is invaded by such anguish and agony.
But if you allow that heartbreak to break in you and shatter your heart open, then it can guide you to really doing something about what breaks your heart so much.
M.M.: You call it sacred activism.
A.H.: Yes. When you bring together deep spiritual awareness with a passionate love of justice, then you actually create a whole new force that over time can change the most intractable situations.
We saw Gandhi work with a force like this and unseat the British Empire. We saw Martin Luther King work with this fusion of deep spirituality and wise radical action and prevent a huge bloodbath and begin the long laborious work to make racial equality possible in this country. We’ve seen it in His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Aung San Suu Kyi and Lech Walesa and Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela. And now, if we are going to have a hope in heaven of really going forward we need a grassroots revolution of love in action – a sacred activism.
There’s also a second definition of sacred activism that is perhaps more esoteric. I had a dream vision where I saw two rivers of flame racing toward the horizon and meeting in a great blaze of rainbow light. I heard a voice, I think it was the voice of my own inner divine and the voice of the Christ for me, whatever you believe in. And the voice said:
“When you fuse together the two noblest passions in the human soul – the passion of the mystic for union with God with the fire of the passion of the activist for justice – when you bring these two fires together and they meet, they create an immense new force that fuses together divine love, divine wisdom and divine passion for justice and helps birth a wholly new level of humanity that embodies divine humanity.”
This is the message of the Christ; this is the message of the Prophet, peace be upon him; this is the message of the great Cabalists; this is the message that burns in the vision of the Bodhisattva and Mahayana Buddhism.
M.M.: A lot of people feel that religion today is responsible for some of the worst wars and atrocities.
A.H.: Fundamentalism is a psychosis. It creates psychotic beings who are willing to kill and destroy and maim and rape and do the most appalling things in the name of a completely invented god. This is absolutely tragic. And don’t let’s just demonize Islam. Hindu fundamentalists kill, there are even Buddhist fundamentalists now, and God knows the Christian and the Jewish fundamentalists are also guilty of all kinds of lunacies.
And let’s face also the responsibility that we have in Western civilization for keeping alive all kinds of crazy fundamentalisms. What about the fundamentalism of science that negates the spiritual dimension of life altogether? What about the fundamentalism of the “bottom line” that enshrines Wall Street criminals as heroes of our society? There are all kinds of competing crazy fundamentalisms in our world that are extremely dangerous.
M.M.: Christianity is largely focused on I, me, myself, my salvation and my prosperity.
A.H.: And New Age religion is like that, too. And Hinduism has degenerated into that. A great many Buddhists are stuck in the search for private liberation rather than honoring the whole vision of the Bodhisattva. The Buddhist fundamentalists are as dangerous as the Islamic fundamentalists. And the New Age is a kind of a worldwide corporately engineered disaster.
The New Age is a kind of a worldwide corporately engineered disaster.The so-called spiritual movement today is so narcissistic and so self-absorbed and consumerist and materialistic. It is not a real spiritual movement until it gets to the point where our tragic situation is summoning us to the biggest adventure of all: the adventure of fusing together the deepest spirituality, the deepest mystical understanding and strength and peace and passion with a radical commitment to acting on behalf of compassion and justice in every realm of the world.
If we can rise to this challenge, then we can be the instruments of a force of love that can possibly transform us, even at this very late moment, and transform the situation itself.
There is no guarantee, but this is an urgent adventure, and I feel that it is the only game in town.
M.M.: How do you advise people who want to begin their own true spiritual journey and want to steer clear of the conventional, man-made religions of today?
There’s a big difference between man-made religion and mystical reality. Find out about some of the great mystics and be inspired by them. And then choose the simple practices that can help you get in connection with what they are in connection with, and you find it will give you peace and strength and joy and hope.
When you get into connection with this Presence, when you realize it is living in you as you, this gives you enormous courage and joy.You can even just do simple forms of mindfulness meditation or saying the name of the divine in whatever way you love the divine, and you will see that this great Presence, which has no name and is beyond all religion, will move toward you and start revealing itself to you in dreams and experiences that will change your understanding of who you are, where you are, and what you can do. When you get into connection with this Presence, when you realize it is living in you as you, this gives you enormous courage and joy. And we need that courage and that joy.
There are all kinds of very humble, extraordinary, ordinary people who really do know that divine love is not only a feeling but also a responsibility. And they are putting it into action in amazing ways. I meet these people all over the world. They come from all kinds of society, all classes, all colors, all sexualities, all trying to put love into it action in the middle of all this madness.
They are not particularly well organized, they are not yet interconnected enough, and there isn’t yet a global movement of love in action that connects them all. Part of my work is dedicated to making that possible.
M.M.: You have a program on your website called Networks of Grace.
A.H.: Yes, and it’s organized in the same way that Al Qaeda and the terrorist groups organize: through cells. Our cells are between 16 and 18 people who meet together, pray together, laugh together, to form sacred friendships, but also to pool their resources and devote their strengths to doing something real in their local communities.
It is astonishing what a group of committed people can accomplish. This is not a time to do it on one’s own. We have to come together in these radical, spiritually based, practical, pragmatic communities and start moving forward. The beauty of what is available to us through the Internet is that networks of grace all over the world can be interconnected to learn from each other’s experience in this very crazy and destructive world.
M.M.: What’s your next trip abroad?
A.H.: I am going to South Africa in May, because one of the causes I support with all my heart is the cause that Linda Tucker serves in Timbavati for the white lions.
In the African Shamanic tradition there is a prophecy that if the white lion disappears, the world will end.
The white lions are mostly now in appalling canned hunt enclosures where for $100,000 you can be met at the airport in Johannesburg by a black car, given a gun, step up to a cage, and kill the most beautiful animal in the world at point blank range.
Linda Tucker has provided a huge acreage for seven or eight lions to be free. It is the only pride in freedom. I take people to be with them and to be with Linda and with the African Shamanic tradition to inspire them to get in touch with the sacredness of the creation and start serving the creation. It is something I care about very much.
I also some great Kashmiri friends in South India, whose homes were destroyed in the appalling floods in September. It was one of the greatest environmental disasters in recent years. So I began a Sacred Activism Kashmir project to raise $50,000 to build four homes and one school in the ocean of that misery.
The next project after that will be to do with animals. It might be to create an animal sanctuary, or help someone who is already creating an animal sanctuary, or it might be devoted to the white lions. But at a time when disasters of all kinds are exploding, sacred activists everywhere need to contribute handsomely and generously to show the love in action that we talk about so much.
M.M.: In the final analysis, what else is there to do with the money we have but to do all the good we possibly can?
A.H.: What astounds me is the fantasy that people are living that somehow they can be protected from this world crisis. How on Earth do they believe that? This crisis is going to hack at everyone. There is no place in the world where you can hide from the extinction of the planet – from this exploding madness. There is even no guarantee that your money, however well you have invested it, will survive the next economic collapse which is coming very soon.
I say to the rich, My God, what are you waiting for? How much more money do you need? How many more houses do you need? Why in God’s name aren’t you participating so much more generously?
There is no guarantee that your money, however well invested, will survive the next economic collapse.Why not take love seriously and start pouring out your resources in a skillful and wise and focused way to help as much as you can while you can, and while we still have the Internet? We don’t know how long we will have the Internet, how long money is going to be here, how long we will still be able to act as the crisis grows. Let us get passionate about giving, and do all that we still can as long as we have the resources and are able to do it. This is what I believe.
M.M.: We are in a crisis situation. And we may not know exactly how it will unfold, but what matters regardless is that we do what we can to help the rest of creation or any part of it that we possibly can.
A.H.: Beyond crisis, isn’t it? Apocalyptic. But that is a source of hope, too, in unknowing. If you can rest in unknowing, there is a door in that discomfort into potentially transformative possibility. We know we are threatened with extinction, but we don’t know how this process will unfold and we can’t know what it means in the deepest sense of what will happen.
What we can know that we are being challenged by this situation to get real about putting love into action. In knowing that, we can connect with the essence of divine reality and be inspired to live meaningful and joyful lives, even if we cannot know the outcome.
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In Part One of this interview, Andrew Harvey talks about how “we are one creature in a whole web of creatures, and our entire survival depends upon that understanding.” He explains that “living a life that embraces all animals and fights peaceably for the transformation of the systems that are killing them is an absolute necessity for our own survival.”
And an earlier article about Andrew Harvey, along with a 30-minute video, is here.