Evolving the Spirit

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Uniting for Peace Conference Address on Total Love

Posted by A Russell on March 31, 2014 at 10:25 AM

Below is the transcript of the address given at the Uniting for Peace Conference on Syria on 29th March 2014 by Anthony Russell.  It sets out the context for the launch of the campaign totallove.org.

Vijay Mehta is an inspiration to me. I am grateful not just for his remarkable commitment to peace and his understanding of nonviolence but for the generosity that has given me this opportunity to address you today.

Actually you are the very first to hear of an exciting new development, which though taking a personal - you might say spiritual - approach, has global ambitions and more to the point, everything to do with how we should best approach the crisis in Syria. With the help of ‘Friends for Peace’, a group of like-minded peace organizations including my own, the Chandos Foundation, I here invite you to endorse a challenging concept. The Secret of Life? – well, if life has an ultimate secret, then what I’m about to describe is undoubtedly it.

The spirit of ‘unconditional love’ has been the single thread of truth running through all the great religions and wise through history, spanning all cultures and ages and amounts to a very simple truth. That truth recognises real love, not just greed or cravings, as a force coming from beyond us. And while there are many names for that ‘beyond’ in different cultures and through the ages, it is an energy not unlike that of the sun itself to which it may well be related, in that it shines on all alike without judgment or prejudice. It is therefore not our own and because it is given freely to us we are called to pass it on without measure.

But today, like everything else, love is confusingly treated as a commodity, which is exactly what it isn’t. For with real love, the more you give the more you have to give and the richer you become. To put conditions on such an all-powerful force is nonsensical, for love needs to be limitless. The significance of this realisation is that we needn’t judge others; situations yes, but without being judgmental. In fact this is what we have achieved in some working sense nationally. We agree a set of basic laws to which we will adhere and then allow an independent judiciary to make the judgment on our behalf. That frees us totally from the need to judge others. Think of it! By implication, if you are not judgmental, condemnation and retribution also go out the window and with them violence. In fact even anger, though at times very understandable, is without justification and ultimately unhelpful (ask the Buddhists). Realising this is not only truly liberating but the real foundation for lasting peace. And that, by the assessment of all the truly wise through history is the secret of life!

Yes it is revolutionary, that I admit but we would not call it idealistic. It is an ideal, but has society ever had a greater need for that very simple truth, an ideal under which all people across the globe can subscribe and rally beneath? However, there is a huge problem here. Society now lives in a culture of denial: Denial that we come from nature and in nature there is no retribution; denial that humanity is in fact becoming more civilized, if you take the long perspective and consider increased population, this has been scientifically proven; denial that understanding, cooperation and compromise - yes ‘compromise’ - are always better than reciprocal violence, which inevitably leads to war and denial that we are born knowing the true nature of love but are subsequently corrupted by poor example and seldom guided by true maturity.

This all produces a profound confusion in the individual that in the ‘perfect storm’ of post World War mythologies has turned into a global schizoid culture, damaging to our psyche, our relationships and inevitably our environment. Why has this happened? This is where the wisdom of Uniting for Peace is so important. The nearly 70 years since the end of the Second World War has seen the development of a ‘perfect storm’ combining the mythologies of the two World Wars and their fabricated justifications and the high winds of market intervention, to create a vortex in the form of the largest industry on the planet; the arms trade and its subsidiaries. This is because, despite the unimaginable human suffering of those great wars and the almost equally immeasurable cultural and economic cost, the greatest loss - as the first casualty of any war - has been the truth. We have not gained it back because too many forces exist without the urge to claim it back. We live in an age when (present company excepted), nearly every form of public communication, from our media and the propaganda of advertising to Hollywood and the propaganda of our nation states, perpetuates the belief in the necessity of greed, violence, anger and retribution.

While these forces are almost all-powerful, our only hope is in the civil society touched upon by Dr. Gene Sharp as the “intangible factors” in his book Dictatorship to Democracy. In democracies, we can so easily take these for granted but they work sometimes to support the establishment but more often for the benefit of the people. The dangers of power-hungry statecraft were so well understood by Tony Benn, whose legacy we remember today. The only hope is through individuals acting to cut across the negative forces that hold so much power and by now pledging to unconditional love’s staggering implications. For it has always been individuals prepared to stand up and unite that have changed society for the better.

So while celebrating our individuality, our different cultures, languages and organizations, why can’t we come together in this one truth as never before in history? You really are the first to hear of this ongoing campaign, ‘totallove.org’, so feel free to join us at its conception. Appreciating that peace must start from ourselves is surely the very best way to help Syrians. By looking to ourselves and our own cultures, we can ensure we play our part in upholding international rule of law to achieve global cooperation and foster a lasting culture of peace.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


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Reply Roger Wisdom
3:33 AM on April 3, 2014 
I've now found time to read the speech carefully. Whilst I don't disagree with the conclusion, I do take issue with several of the statements made on the way to reaching the conclusion!

Firstly I find to arrogant to use the word "truth" in paragraph two for what is an unproven assertion. Also I personally have never seen any evidence for anything "out there, beyond us". So for me ? as an atheist ? the paragraph would need to be re-written as:

"The spirit of ?unconditional love? has been the single thread running through all the great religions and wise teachings (I think this word is missing) through history, spanning all cultures and ages and amounts to a very simple belief. This belief recognises real love, not just greed or cravings, as a force coming from within us all. And while there are many names for this phenomenon in different cultures and through the ages, it is an energy not unlike that of the sun itself (to which it may well be related), in that it shines on all alike without judgment or prejudice. Love is therefore not our own and because it is given freely to us we are called to pass it on without measure.

You then offer no reason why "love needs to be limitless".

And, but not for discussion here, I wonder of love is a continuum which can be negative as well as positive? Certainly I think there are degrees of love. One probably loves one's family more than a total stranger about whom one knows nothing?

I don't see how you can state that individuals need not be judgemental, when you accept the existence of laws ? which are merely the collective judgement of people. You may be right that in general an "independent" judiciary is better than personal judgements. But "basic laws" agreed by people can be wrong (think holocaust) and then individuals surely have the right ? even duty ? to make their own personal judgments/conclusions about the actions of others?

And, as we know, democracy ? if it becomes the will of the majority prevailing ?can lead to bad collective judgements (think apartheid).

I can think of no basis for your assertion that "in nature there is no retribution". If its young are attacked, a wild animal may attack back ? surely this may be retribution as well as defence?

And in this paragraph I would accept "we are born able to know the true nature of love", but to state we are "born knowing" seems to me to be unjustifiably arrogant.

The phrase "fabricated justifications" implies countries have set out to have wars. A war for its own sake (and for the annihilation of people) is rarely the objective. Seizure of land, resources, power, etc is usually the objective and war is the outcome when those who currently have whatever it is that is being taken, resist.

At the end of this paragraph you identify only negative attributes of western "propaganda". This is unfair, surely? Progress and aspiring to have things you don't have isn't necessarily bad: if you don't have access to clean running water, is it wrong to desire it?

You assert that "democracies...work ... for the benefit of the people". But this avoids the question: what do we mean by "the people". How do you balance the beliefs and wishes of minorities when they conflict with the majority?

Finally you assert we should play our role in upholding "International rule of law"; which avoids asking where these rules originate. And you seem to suggest that the "rule of law" is an unchanging and unchangeable absolute. All rules/laws ? be they religious or civil ? come from men and women (I don't believe in tablets of stone!) and the judgements these persons or people have made, which may or may not be good. Let me remind you that the 'rule of law' used to permit slavery (and in a few places still does?) until individuals came to the judgement that the rule should be changed. Judgements about homosexuality is another example where the rule of law differs dramatically from place to place and has changed through time.

Another example of a law that seems odd (although was agreed by people as "right" at the time) is the prohibition on chemical weapons ? a rule which implicitly implies it's OK to blow you up, but not to poison you!

Hope all these comments are helpful!

Reply Roger Wisdom
3:42 AM on April 3, 2014 
I see a typographic issue. I typed dashes in many places, but the software has changed my dashes into ? which rather changes the meaning! Only the ? at the end of sentences were put there by me.

AI good example of the maxim: what one says (or believes on has said) and what another person hears can differ without anyone deliberately muddying the water.