Updated: May 15, 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.
Gandhi said, "Be the change that you wish to see in the world." In other words, the revolution has to happen inside us first. The first step in social revolution is rooting out the falsehoods within ourselves, and accepting how we have been complicit in creating and perpetuating what Orwell called “the empire of lies.” It involves a fundamental shift in source. It's turning away from the false beliefs, mindsets, narratives and ideologies that have been programmed in our heads through religion and society. In its place we turn toward what lies deeper within us, namely a higher awareness or spiritual dimension that we access in and through what is real in our deep feelings. There are many ways people identify this – spirit, consciousness, higher awareness, intuition, tacit knowledge; Jesus referred to it as the kingdom of heaven within us. In and through that source we know that what is real and true is not separation, fear, hate, scarcity, division, oppression, injustice, bondage and suffering, but love, liberation, harmony, peace, oneness, belonging, and the interrelated nature of all things.
Yes, we must "be the change" but we must also be agents of change. The world is not going to be transformed speparate from our choices and actions. It's not going to fall down from the sky, but be lifted up from the earth. Religion has confused this point by falsely teaching that Jesus is going to one day return to save the world. I address this falsehood at great length in the book, Inner Anarchy. This is not the time to wait on Jesus but to be Jesus. The Christian religion taught us to look up into the sky to find God and Jesus there, while Jesus himself taught people to look within themselves. Jesus often spoke of the necessity of his death, which upset his closest followers. Jesus explained that his death was a necessary step to shift their attachment from the physical Jesus to his Spirit—that higher spiritual presence inside them. Unfortunately, the Christian religion has failed to make this shift; they pay homage and place the focus on the physical Jesus but have not turned toward or manifested that higher spiritual presence within them.
The Anarchist Cookbook states, "For the civilian born in captivity and raised on spectatorship and submission, direct action changes everything. The morning she arises to put a plan into motion, she awakens under a different sun – if she has been able to sleep at all, that is – and in a different body, attuned to every detail of the world around her and possessed of the power to change it. She finds her companions endowed with tremendous courage and resourcefulness, equal to monumental challenges and worthy of passionate love. Together, they enter a foreign land where outcomes are uncertain but anything is possible and every minute counts.”
Coupled with and sourced from the "kingdom of heaven" within us, this is the kind of mindfulness and vigourous engagement we need in our world. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that what must happen is that we root out those false beliefs, mindsets, narratives and ideologies within ourselves, and abolish those systems and structures that perpetuate them.
The current order is largely a violation of our higher awareness and what we know is real and true in our deepest feelings. We cannot turn a blind eye toward this dynamic and incongruity in the world. Jesus’ life was a demonstration of working this out. On the one hand, Jesus opposed, challenged, attacked, confronted, subverted, and undermined the religious and societal systems and structures of his day that operated upon these false religious and worldly ideologies that oppressed his human brothers and sisters, and divided them against each other and against their own spirit. Jesus’ opposition to these false ideologies and systems was not merely some sort of flash-in-the-pan political or activist endeavor, but was being generated from the power and authority of what was within him… and is within us all. It has real teeth to it, a staying power. It’s not just being against the current order but it’s lifting up out of ourselves what is real… a whole new world and way of being and living as a family in harmony with one another and all living things.
Inner anarchy naturally leads to the transformation of society because we find that those systems and structures that oppress humankind and the planet are the antithesis of what our higher awareness tells us to be true. To be in-tune with our higher-awareness is to no longer support and participate in those false mindsets, narratives and ideologies or the systems and structures that operate upon them. Our higher awareness cannot turn a blind eye to them. We challenge, confront, subvert and undermine them, and lift up a new reality in their place.
This is the challenge of inner anarchy. It involves doing your own personal work of turning away from the false beliefs, mindsets, narratives and ideologies that are within you, and turning toward that higher awareness, life, spirit, and consciousness that runs through each of us. It’s listening, trusting, speaking, following and acting from the power and authority that lies within us. There’s a inner/contemplative/centered/spiritual side to this, and a outer/anarchist/engaged side to it. A new world and order is not going to just magically appear, but we can create it together. Like childbirth, it will be vigorous, difficult, intense and distressing. And yet, it is infused with love, affection, devotion and beauty.