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Nations as expressions of the soul of a people

The nation state is such a fixture in our experience of the world that it is good to try and understand what a nation really is. The goodwill approach views a nation as more than a collection of human beings within a geographical area: it is an ensouled entity in its own right. A nation has the tendency to altruism and the capacity for selfishness just as any individual has. It has its own strengths and weaknesses, and its own unique contribution to make to the world of nations. It faces challenges and tests which are there to bring out the best, but which can also bring disaster if the wrong path is chosen. After all, a test is not a test unless there is both the potential for success and the possibility of failure.

A deep psychological renewal of the nations of the world is arguably the most urgent of all the pressing problems and issues that face us today. The reason is not hard to find. Nation states are still the main decision makers in the world. Without national renewal on a broad scale, we will not have anchored the needed values and motives and soul contact to truly face and resolve the other pressing problems we all face. With psychological renewal a nation can recognise the chains that blindly shackle it to the past and break free from them, can transform selfish personality motives into the desire of the soul to serve, and can become receptive to previously unregistered new ideas and discern new paths forward. It is obvious that without this deep and transforming renewal, involving as it must recognition of and contact with the soul, all efforts at dealing with problems remain superficial, tinkering with effects and not working with causes.

The original meaning of the word psychology is the ‘science or study of the soul’, and one of the important legacies that Alice Bailey has given us is an in-depth study of the soul, its energies and consciousness, in her Treatise on the Seven Rays. These rays are the primary energies that qualify all life within our solar system, and this includes the soul quality as well as the form nature, or personality, of the different nations. Here is a brief outline of the Rays and their effects on individual, group and national consciousness.

The First Ray is the energy of Will, Purpose or Power. Its right expression is strength, courage and steadfastness; its distortion is pride, wilfulness, and the desire to control others.

The Second Ray is the energy of Love-Wisdom. Its right expression is love of truth, patience, tolerance and intuition; its distortion is over-absorption in study, indifference to others, coldness.

The Third Ray is the energy of Active Intelligence. Its right expression is clarity of intellect, wide views on abstract questions, the manipulation of energy in order to reveal beauty and truth; its distortion is intellectual pride, inaccuracy in details and criticism of others.

The Fourth Ray is the energy of Harmony through Conflict, greatly affecting the human family. Its right expression is strong affections, physical courage, generosity, quickness of intellect and perception, the evocation of the intuition; its distortion is self-centredness, lack of moral courage, strong passions, indolence and extravagance.

The Fifth Ray is the energy of Concrete Knowledge or Science. Its right expression is strictly accurate statements, common-sense, uprightness, independence, keen intellect, sensitivity to Deity to light and to wisdom; its distortion is prejudice, harsh criticism, narrowness, arrogance, an unforgiving temper, lack of sympathy and reverence, and intense materialism.

The Sixth Ray is the energy of Devotion or Idealism, producing the current ideologies. Its right expression is single-mindedness, loyalty, reverence, sympathy with the point of view of others; its distortion is sectarianism, fiery anger, fanaticism and the power to see no point of view except one’s own.

The Seventh Ray is the energy of Rhythm and Ritual, producing the new forms of civilisation. Its right expression is, perseverance, courage, courtesy, extreme care in details, right order through right magic; its distortion is formalism, superficial judgements, the wrong use of speech to bring about chosen objectives.

It is fascinating to study the suggestions that Alice Bailey made about which rays govern and condition various nations. And it is obvious that an understanding ability to work with the energies of the rays can enormously facilitate the server’s efforts to help in the process of national renewal. Here are two examples. She describes Germany as having a Fourth Ray soul and a First Ray personality, attributing its music and philosophy to its soul ray, and the cruelties of Nazism in part to a mis-manifestation of its personality ray. France on the other hand has a Fifth Ray soul and Third Ray personality. This nation’s scintillating and brilliant intellect with its scientific bent is accounted for by the interplay of the third Ray of Active Intelligence with the fifth Ray of Scientific Understanding.

She also suggests that national relationships are based upon the governing ray influences. For example, the Sixth Ray of Idealism is potent in Russia, the United States, Italy and Spain; it is the fanatical adherence to an ideal which has been responsible for the potent changes in these countries.

This is an all too brief summary of an immense subject. Nevertheless it raises interesting questions. For example, what are the conditioning rays of the newly emerged nations in Africa? And what are the ray influences of the European Community?

While the Seven Rays can be thought of as the key to inner psychology, Spiral Dynamics is a fascinating development in the field of outer psychology which was devised by the psychologist Clare W. Graves to understand the different levels of human experiences and values and how human beings progress through them. They are not labels for different kinds of human beings. We all move into and out of them, for they co-exist within us. This is why it is better to think of Spiral Dynamics as an emergent sequence rather than as a developmental staircase. It is interesting to recognise that these states or levels do not just apply to individuals, but they are also expressed in social groupings, in nations and of course in humanity as a whole. It is also interesting to note the striking resemblance of the spiral dynamic model to the esoteric perception of the progress of an individual from the most primitive human state to the demonstration of a true world server. Graves mapped eight different levels of human existence.

First Subsistence Level (beige): Man at this level is motivated only by imperative periodic physiological needs. He seeks to stabilize his individual body functions. This level of existence is seldom seen today except in rare instances or in pathological cases.

Second Subsistence Level (purple): At this level, man seeks social (tribal) stability. He strongly defends a life he does not understand. He believes that his tribal ways are inherent in the nature of things, and resolutely holds to them. He lives by totems and taboos.

Third Subsistence Level (red): Raw, self-assertive individualism comes to the fore at this level, and the term ‘Machiavellian’ may be used. This is the level where “might makes right” thinking prevails. There is an aggressive expression of man’s lusts, openly and unabashedly by the ‘haves,’ more covertly and deviously by the ‘have nots’.

Fourth Subsistence Level (blue): At this level, man perceives that living in this world does not bring ultimate pleasure, and also sees that rules are prescribed for each class of people. Obedience to these rules is the price that one must pay for more lasting life. “Blue” people generally subscribe to some dogmatic system, typically a religion.

Fifth Subsistence Level (orange): People at this level want to attain mastery of the world by learning its secrets rather than through brute force (as at the red level). They believe that the man who comes out on top in life fully deserves his good fortune, and those who fail are ordained to submit to the chosen few.

Sixth Subsistence Level (green): Relating self to other human selves and to his inner self is central to man at this level. Unlike “orange” people, “green” individuals care less for material gain or power than for forming caring communities with others. They use reconciliation and consensus to reach decisions. One danger is that they get so wrapped up in the process of community decision-making, seeking to give every viewpoint equal weight, that little work gets done. They are inherently pluralist and accepting of diversity, and resolutely anti-hierarchical. This mind-set is particularly prevalent among certain parts of academia and the media, and hence is quite influential.

Each of the subsistence levels believes that it, and it alone, has the correct approach to reality, and thus disputes between different levels are rarely resolved. However, this changes when we come to the being levels, where suddenly, the whole previous spiral of development comes into focus. Those who reach the being levels are thus able to tailor or tune their response to those existing at each subsistence level, and can work for the good of groups existing at all levels, in other words, for the good of the whole. Because green is the last of the subsistence levels, the transition from green to yellow is a difficult one, and requires, according to Graves a “momentous leap”, where “a chasm of unbelievable depth of meaning is crossed”.

First Being Level (yellow): Here, as man, in his never-ending spiral, turns to focus once again on the external world and his use of power in relation to it, the compulsiveness and anxiousness of the subsistence ways of being are gone. Here man has a basic confidence that he, through a burgeoning intellect freed from the constriction of lower level anxieties, can put the world back together again, if not today, then tomorrow. Here he becomes truly a cooperative individual and ceases being a competitive one.

Second Being Level (turquoise): People operating in a turquoise fashion were rare in Graves’ studies. Almost all of Graves’ subjects who so behaved were in their late fifties and beyond. What typifies them is a ‘peculiar’ paradoxical exploration of their inner world. They treat it as a new toy with which to play. But even though playing with it, they are fully aware that they will never know what their inner selves are all about.

The Spiral Dynamics perspective sees our present humanity attempting to negotiate the most difficult, but at the same time the most exciting, transition it has ever faced. It is not merely a transition to a new level of existence but the start of a new ‘movement’ in the symphony of human history. The future offers us, basically, three possibilities: (1) Most gruesome is the chance that we might fail to stabilize our world and, through successive catastrophes regress far back. (2) Only slightly less frightening is the vision of fixation in the blue/orange/green societal complex. This might resemble George Orwell’s 1984 with its tyrannic, manipulative government, glossed over by a veneer of humanitarian-sounding doublethink and moralistic rationalizations, and is a very real possibility. (3) The last possibility is that we could emerge into the yellow level and proceed toward stabilizing our world so that all life can continue.

So how can psychological renewal of a nation be achieved? The answer must be principally found in invoking the life and energy of the soul. But first it is important to assess the values which govern national decision making. When these are conditioned by selfish goals, an excessive attachment to material things, by policies of national aggrandisement, and by an unwillingness to allow all to share in the nation’s prosperity, then we can be sure that they are overdue for change to more spiritual values. What are these? A love of truth, honesty and goodwill in relationships, a growing focus on giving rather than taking, a desire to arrange for an equitable distribution of resources. These are soul values. We can assess a nation’s ability to manifest the soul by how it applies these values both to its internal life – how it fosters the sense of responsibility and creativity among its citizenry, how it treats its children, its elderly, its mentally ill, and its criminals, and to the quality of its relationships with the world of nations.

For the nation the influence of the soul is always present, though at times tenuously. It is embodied in the lives of those of its citizens who have reached the stage of personal unfoldment when contact with the soul is consciously made. They may often be an ignored minority, but they are there. They are the conscience of the nation and its true visionaries. In times of national distress it is these exponents of soul life who can come to the fore and inspire a new direction in the national life. Examples of this abound all over the world not only in myth, legend and historical events, but, and perhaps especially, in our present time too. It is these true leaders who evoke an enlightened public opinion, which is now so strong a force that, in recent decades, it has reshaped whole countries and moulded the way that we think about the world. So it is clear that the opportunity and responsibility for helping a nation to manifest the soul rests with these people.

Some great statesmen have been notable instances of this. US President Eisenhower, in his 1953 ‘Chance for Peace’ address, outlined the principles which would govern his government’s foreign policy – “No people on earth can be held, as a people, to be an enemy, for all humanity shares the common hunger for peace and fellowship and justice. No nation’s security and well-being can be lastingly achieved in isolation but only in effective cooperation with fellow-nations. Every nation’s right to a form of government and an economic system of its own choosing is inalienable. Any nation’s attempt to dictate to other nations their form of government is indefensible. A nation’s hope of lasting peace cannot be firmly based upon any race in armaments but rather upon just relations and honest understanding with all other nations.”

In a speech in 1994 the then president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel, noted that, “In today’s multicultural world, the truly reliable path to coexistence, to peaceful coexistence and creative cooperation, must start from what is at the root of all cultures and what lies infinitely deeper in human hearts and minds than political opinion, convictions, antipathies, or sympathies – it must be rooted in self-transcendence: transcendence as a hand reached out to those close to us, to foreigners, to the human community, to all living creatures, to nature, to the universe; transcendence as a deeply and joyously experienced need to be in harmony even with what we ourselves are not, what we do not understand, what seems distant from us in time and space, but with which we are nevertheless mysteriously linked because, together with us, all this constitutes a single world; transcendence as the only real alternative to extinction.”

Inspiring oratory like this illumines and lifts the consciousness of the nation and gains the respect of the world. But it is not just in the area of government that these people work; all areas of human interest and activity are fields that offer opportunity for the expression of soul purpose and values. Science and education are obvious areas where the light of the soul is pouring through and illuminating the world. A less obvious example is the military, where, since the 2nd World War and the founding of the United Nations, there has been a growing emphasis on constructive peacemaking and peacekeeping as opposed to aggressive war making.

In the field of law and justice two closely related and creative ideas are finding expression. There is firstly the concept of restorative justice – generally applied to individual cases; and secondly the idea of the “Truth and Reconciliation” commission where restorative justice is applied at the national level.

In the developed world justice has tended to focus on punishment and it is only comparatively recently that moves to redirect justice towards the idea of reform and rehabilitation have gained limited ground. In the indigenous world however it is often a different story. Punishment is not seen as a helpful concept. Paula M. Young, assistant professor at the Appalachian School of Law in Virginia writes: “Many traditional cultures including native Hawaiians, the Maori people of New Zealand, First Nation people in Canada, South African Tswanas tribesmen and the Navajo in the United States use conflict resolution processes designed to promote healing of relationships and peacemaking within communities through dialogue, negotiation and problem-solving between victims and criminal offenders… This approach to crime has gained the name ‘restorative justice’.” Conflict between people is inevitable, but when it occurs, restorative justice can help to restore the balance in a just and fair way. In resolving the harm done it works to prevent it happening again.

It is of course an obvious development to apply restorative justice principles to larger community groupings and national levels in the form of Truth and Reconciliation Commissions. And it is heartening to find that these initiatives are flourishing and pointing the way to an unprecedented group healing and national rehabilitation. To date, more than thirty nations have held such Commissions. The first one to gain the attention and admiration of the world was the one in South Africa chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. In his words, “[t]he Commission was an essential part of our democratic transition from apartheid towards a more just society.”

There are many examples of national transformation through the arts. A wonderful instance is the West-East Divan, an orchestra bringing together young Israeli and Arab musicians and transcending the barriers of hatred that characterise that region. It was founded through the joint effort of Edward Said, the late Palestinian-born writer and professor, and the conductor Daniel Barenboim, who asserts that “Music says everything about unity and harmony. The musicians in the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra work together toward a common goal. That in itself is a revolutionary concept, considering where they come from.” The orchestra is “a musical version of what I think about the Middle East, a vision I can have of the Middle East where everyone is able to contribute and where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.

Another example is the initiatives of ‘Barefoot Artists’ who work with poor communities across the globe helping people heal and thrive through self-expression and action, creating beauty to transform their environment while inspiring self-determination and empowerment. Founded by Lily Yeh in the 1980s, it is based on her 20 years of experience using art for community building, empowerment and economic development in inner city North Philadelphia and in poor communities internationally. In 2005 the team spent three weeks in Gisenyi, Rwanda, working simultaneously on two complementary projects in the Rugerero area in Cyanzarwe District to help with the work of healing community relations after the genocide.

Such is the wonder of the human spirit that these are not unusual deviations from a misperceived pattern of human selfishness. Rather, they are just a tiny fraction of the thousands of initiatives in every country in every part of the world where individuals and groups are consciously anchoring the values and energies of the soul into the life of the nation they belong to, and leading, in Alice Bailey’s words, “to the revelation of divinity through humanity”.