By Charles Frohman/Amar Atma Singh
Spiritual activism does not require giving money and time to political efforts, and doesn’t require collective action. But a good political effort—with others as part of a group—can really fulfill the spirit.
“Healing our World,” as Ruwart’s book on political solutions is titled, starts, as Yogi Bhajan lectured, by practicing Kundalini Yoga until the student is a “lighthouse,” someone not having to reach supporters but rather someone whose inner peace and confidence is such that supporters are attracted by the light.
Whole Foods CEO John Mackey is political, but one path of spiritual activism he pursues does not involve politics: “conscious capitalism.” Through his company and his related nonprofit, www.Flowidealism.org, Mackey encourages companies to add value not only through their pursuit of profit, but also by making their employees, shareholders and customers better people. While correct in his goal, Mackey’s opponents have a point that the profit motive itself can be a spiritual act. That’s because any voluntary exchange of goods or services necessarily benefits all parties involved, each of whom gives up in the transaction something for another thing they value more. In 1776 Adam Smith wrote that society benefits when individuals just focus on their individual dreams.
The individual pursuit of happiness certainly can entail spiritual activism. It’s one of the three natural rights humans have from birth. Folks shouldn’t worry that pursuing happy ends could bode ill if the individual’s idea of happiness has negative consequences for others. Whether an act has a negative result is, of course, a matter of dispute—and only a neutral court respecting due process can identify guilt and required restitution. The economist Mises called all action “logical,” in fact, in that every movement and thought a human tackles by definition is the right thing to do. Meditation, from proof, will improve the quality of this logical action.
Not only are individual acts logical, but also they are entrepreneurial, according to another economist, Hans-Hoppe.
“Whenever we act, we employ some physical means (things valued as goods)—at a minimum our body and its standing room, but in most cases also various other “external” things—so as to divert the “natural” course of events (the course of events we expect to happen if we were to act differently) in order to reach some more highly valued anticipated future state of affairs instead. With every action we aim at substituting a more favorable future state of affairs for a less favorable one that would result if we were to act differently. In this sense, with every action we seek to increase our satisfaction and attain a psychic profit. ‘To make profits is invariably the aim sought by any action,’ as Ludwig von Mises has stated it.” (Mises, 1966, p. 289)
If Smith is right that all that’s needed for society to benefit is for each of us to just pursue our individual goals; and if Mises is right that each of our actions is logical and Hans-Hoppe is correct that each act is an entrepreneurial act; it seems clear that the key to ensuring that each logical act also is spiritual, is to practice Kundalini Yoga.
The studies are out and pretty conclusive about how meditation and yoga (and healthy diets) rid ourselves of the stress that interferes with our productive lives. For us to become lighthouses that attract spiritual opportunity, then, and for our entrepreneurial acts to add that spiritual component, we need to meditate.
If, in our spiritual behavior to improve the quality of our individual acts, we also want to engage in “collective” entrepreneurial action, there’s Mackey’s conscious capitalist movement whose link I shared above. For more orthodox political opportunities to act spiritually and make Earth a more spiritually pleasant place to act as a human, I recommend reading “Healing Our World,” the book by Ruwart mentioned earlier in this article. Once we heal ourselves and make each individual act not only logical but also spiritual—from meditation—we can heal the world with conscious political acts.
And what makes a political act spiritual? I would start with the fundamentals, and search what humanity’s earliest sages recommended. Let’s start with Taoist founder Lao-tsu:
“Get rid of the sage and rule, and the people will be in harmony…the more laws that are passed, the poorer the people become.”
Lao-Tsu recommended something called “Quietism,” or meditation. See a pattern here? Work on one’s self, and don’t rely on rules—usually from government coercion—to spiritually improve the world.
What if we google “liberty and the Vedas,” the ancient texts on which so many yogis rely? We then find: “Live and let live; to oppose tyranny is righteous; liberty is the ideal.” Sounds like Lao-tsu had some friends in India.
Let’s move closer to the West. In the Bible’s chapter, “Samuel,” the people ask God for a king to replace the judges then ruling Israel. “Why?” asks God. “All a king will do is steal your crops in the form of taxes and impress (enslave) your kids in the bureaucracy and army.” The people still wanted one. “Why?” God asks again. “Because everyone else has one.” Not very logical.
In our own West, our classic recipe for a spiritual government—and hence the activism a spiritual person hopefully would engage in—stems from the liberalism of the Enlightenment era. Because, as Hobbes wrote, life is “nasty, brutish and short,” Locke responded that we need government, but one that was limited to protecting our rights which precede government—our rights to live our lives in any way as long as we don’t infringe on the rights of others. For alleged harms of others, that’s what the courts are for—to adjudicate disputes.
What if our individual acts of entrepreneurship affect an entity that can’t sue, like the land or animals of the environment? As Ruwart writes in her classic, there exist many non-governmental examples of ecological improvement. Many rare animals made scarce by habitat destruction and the over-harvesting that comprises the “tragedy of the commons,” have recovered by use of the private property rights inherent in the Enlightenment’s liberal revolution. The black rhino is but one example—google it for more information.
Land, not just animals, has been protected by non-coercive solutions. The Nature Conservancy, for example, bulk purchases land to preserve it from abuse. Courts used to make polluters pay, so empowering the justice system to do a better job in this area could amount to a good spiritual act of collective action.
Don’t think that just because a law has been passed or a bureaucracy erected, that the problems that existed prior to the law and agency will disappear. The Food and Drug Administration, for example, ostensibly protects consumers from unsafe products—but more individuals die from FDA-approved products than almost any other source of mortality.
As with other inspection entities the FDA also has been captured by its regulated pharmaceutical companies. That is, from campaign contributions a giant corporation can influence the politician sitting on the committee overseeing the agency, which responds in a way that merely slaps the hand of the corporation, while colluding with the elite players to go after smaller, newer, less-sophisticated entrepreneurs who either can’t afford the regulatory cost or can’t negotiate its complexity. We’ve all read about the SWAT raids of natural companies and local farmers—who do we think instigates such bullying? Consumers get fewer choices and more expensive options. A spiritual activist may investigate alternatives to the FDA and coercion in general, to create a better world for our spirit.
If we’re going to add value from our acts, and hopefully offer better alternatives in each market for goods and services, we need space from the inspectors to practice our offerings. From our earliest sages we understand the importance of meditation and the dangers of coercion. Meditate and let our individual acts go forth freely.
Charles Frohman is a 25-year political professional in Washington, D.C., who's also been a teacher of Kundalini Yoga since 2001 and of social studies since 2007 (although he's teaching neither now). Currently Frohman, known as Amar Atma with 3HO friends, directs grassroots for www.OurAmericaInitiative.com, an advocacy movement chaired by the former presidential candidate and New Mexico Governor, Gary Johnson, who thanked Yogi Bhajan for teaching him to meditate at the latter's 2004 funeral. Amar Atma consulted for Akal Security and managed the congressional effort to pass a resolution honoring the late Yogi Bhajan. Frohman resides in Williamsburg, VA now and is married with a 2 year old son and a daughter on the way.