I’ll sing you one, O / Green grow the rushes, O / What is your one, O
One is one and all alone and evermore shall be so.
Traditional English/American folk song
The answer came to me in a dream. I had agreed to write an article on the connection between spirituality and activism. Seemed like a good idea. I was grappling with it more and more. Why not write about it? Easier said than done.
It was not a spectacular dream. There were no sound effects. There were simply four words: integer, integrity, integrate, and integral. The key word is integer. Its origin is Latin, meaning untouched or entire. In mathematics it refers to whole numbers. It was all about wholeness. Integrity is being one with oneself. To integrate is to become an active participant in becoming whole. And the definition of integral is “essential to completeness.”
The spiritual person and activist have remained in their separate cubbyholes within me. I have constituted my own version of Kipling’s “east is east and west is west and never the twain shall meet.” My “west” was my activism. My “east” was my spirituality.
For the first 25 years of my adult life I had been a dedicated Marxist. For the last 24 years I have been a disciple of Osho Rajneesh, formerly known as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.
As a radical activist in the 1960s I was fired with a passion to correct injustice. And there was plenty of it. The United States government pursued a war against the population of Vietnam while utilizing all of the high tech instruments of destruction and mutilation at its disposal. Congress still mandated a committee to determine just who was American and who was “un-American”. The police commissioner of Birmingham, Alabama, let loose dogs upon black children while white men blew up other black children in church.
It was a time of hope. Bob Dylan, Country Joe and the Fish, and Joan Baez gave us a musical voice. Together with my comrades we built a movement. I honor this time. We were honest. We were courageous. We were a small minority. For example, the media almost unanimously supported the war in Vietnam even as a growing number of American troops opposed it. There was a community among us. And there was such passion and certainty that our numbers did not tell the whole story.
But the times they were a-changing. Many of us radicals finished our studies and went on to careers in higher education. Others went into the business world. Police gassed, bludgeoned, and arrested demonstrators at the 1968 Democratic presidential nominating convention. The mayor of Chicago called the senator from Connecticut, Abraham Ribicoff, a “filthy Jew” for objecting. Richard Nixon swept into office. The war in Vietnam ended.
I found myself a respectable Marxist. Our numbers were legion in the universities and colleges of the country. I had moved from dedicated student radical to tenured professor in a matter of a few years. All of the sudden I was fighting the good fight with guaranteed job security, health plan, retirement, and the freedom to teach just about anything I wanted. Nothing wrong with that. It’s just that I was smoking like a chimney, drinking like a fish, constantly anxious about my teaching, and generally neurotic. The fact that I had, indeed, read two volumes of Capital didn’t help me one bit. The external answers were not enough. Been there. Done that.
For many of us the next phase of struggle was with our wives, husbands, girlfriends, and boyfriends. The bridge between the activist and the personal was inspired by women. Many activist women mobilized under the slogan that “political is personal.” For me this became a bridge between the activist and the spiritual. My wife joined a woman’s group and we fought over the political nature of who drove the car and who did the dishes. Pretty soon I was digging up Marxist arguments for feminism from the third volume of Marx’s Capital. But something wasn’t right.
There was something quite new about the feminist movement. It brought the focus down to the personal, particularly among activists. Men, white men, dominated the radical movement, just as black men dominated the emerging radical black movement. A new group of women, primarily white, demanded parity in the radical movement.
You don’t have to be Carl Jung to notice that male energy is generally outward. We males are taught to do, to be out there, to see the world outside of ourselves. Female energy is receptive, inner, and interior. Of course we all have some of both or else we all would be totally lopsided.