Connecting spirituality and social revolution

Updated: Mar 22, 2019

Social justice has been a significant part of my journey. Years ago it’s what led me to take the helm of an NGO that works with juvenile delinquency, structural injustice, impoverished communities and at-risk families. For a season I traveled abroad with a human rights agency in Washington, D.C., working cases of forced child prostitution, human trafficking, and child slave labor. I was heavily involved in Occupy Nashville, and led an Occupy Religion effort that worked to unify different religious and spiritual groups together as advocates and support systems for those in crisis and need in our communities. In the process I got a very close look at our citywide mental health systems and services, which are grossly inadequate and negligent.

At the same time, I have also been very drawn to the exploration of the inner life. At first this took me down the path of religion. But ultimately I shed this part of me to seek more expansive spiritual vistas beyond the mindsets and mentalities of religion. Over the years I have paid several visits to the nearby Abbey of Gethsemani (Thomas Merton monastery) to send extended periods of time in quiet and solitude.

I am more in-tune these days with a higher spiritual presence or awareness within me, which is a source of deep joy, peace, freedom, harmony, homecoming and well-being. The last few years my inner work has involved turning away from the false religious and worldly beliefs, mindsets, narratives and ideologies that were programmed into my head, and switching to a different source and authority within myself. I have found it to be as simple, effortless and natural as a child at play, but difficult to the extent that this natural place has been greatly assaulted and driven out of us.

The term “inner anarchy” truly fits where I am now. That higher spiritual dimension of my inner life fuels my passion to eradicate the systems, structures, powers and hierarchies of our world that operate upon those false and oppressive mindsets, narratives and ideologies. In its place I want to birth a new reality with others that is an expression of that world of love, harmony, oneness and abundance that is within us.

There is a lot of chatter these days of elaborate spiritual systems, beliefs, concepts and explanations. It lacks credibility in my mind if there is not an outward expression and manifestation of it in terms of active engagement in our world and the affairs of humankind. Otherwise, it starts to feel like Starbucks spirituality - a class-privilege “spirituality” where people sit around all comfy drinking their gourmet coffee and pontificating all their nice-sounding spiritual platitudes and formulas, but never taking any direct action.

Inner anarchy is turning away from the false beliefs, mindsets, narratives and ideologies that have been programmed into our heads, and turning toward, listening, following, speaking and acting from our higher spiritual awareness. Authentic spirituality cannot tolerate those systems and structures in our world that violate the truth of our higher awareness, and perpetuate greed, injustice, oppression, division, fear and scarcity. Jesus lived inner anarchy. For Jesus, following the spirit meant confronting, challenging, subverting and undermining the religious and worldly hierarchies of dominance, control, injustice and oppression. If Jesus came back today, I’m not sure what would anger him more – the lies of false religion, or the bankruptcy of Starbucks spirituality.

This doesn’t have anything to do with one’s personality (introvert vs extrovert) or the “inner” work needing to come before the outward expression. The two should have never been divided, as if they are two different and unrelated things. There is no “process” of spiritual growth that doesn’t involve both… simultaneously… always. This doesn’t mean that one has to run out into the world and single-handedly achieve some great victory or epic change. What it does mean is that we take direct action where we are as an expression of our higher awareness. We do not idly stand by or turn a blind eye to the false mindsets, beliefs, narratives and ideologies at work in our world that cause of human division, injustice, oppression and suffering. We confront, challenge, subvert, and undermine those beliefs, mindsets, narratives and ideologies, and the systems and structures that perpetuate them.

In there place, we lift up the alternative. We build and create new ways of operating in the world based on what we know is real and true in our innermost being. This is going to require some real thinking, effort, and self-organization on our part. Thinking is not the antithesis of spirituality. Action is not the antithesis of spirituality. Effort is not the antithesis of spirituality. Self-organization is not the antithesis of spirituality. Confronting, challenging, subverting, and undermining the status quo is not the antithesis of spirituality. Authentic spirituality is not rainbows, ponies, and nice-sounding spirtiualese, or elaborate/heady and ego-gratifying pontifications. Of course, there is a deep and abiding reflective, contemplative, and inward aspect of our spiritual lives. But authentic spirituality is also powerful, authoritative, robust, vigorous, scrappy, and gritty. I hear people say how revolution has to happen inside a person first. But too often one’s own individual change and revolution never moves beyond me, myself and I. Authentic spirituality involves both inner transformation and skillful participation in the transformation of society.

©  2009 Jim Palmer Author. All Rights Reserved
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