Integral World: Exploring Therories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
John White is co-founder of the Institute of Noetic Science and author of numerous books on spiritual transformation. A former literary agent for Ken Wilber's books, he managed to get Wilber's first book "The Spectrum of Consciousness" published back in 1977, after 33 rejections. For an interview with White, see What is Enlightenment?, issue 19.
Freedom and America
An Open Letter to Americans
about Integral Patriotism
Part I WHY IT IS RIGHT TO PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO AMERICA
What do we mean by the Revolution? The War? That was no part of the Revolution. It was only an effect and consequence of it. The Revolution was in the minds of the people, and this was effected, from 1760 to 1775, in the course of fifteen years before a drop of blood was drawn at Lexington. -- John Adams in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, 1815
There is nothing more common than to confound the terms of American Revolution with those of the late American war. The American war is over, but this is far from the case with the American Revolution. On the contrary, nothing but the first act of the great drama is closed. -- Benjamin Rush, Signer of the Declaration of Independence, 1787
The War for Independence which founded our nation is over, but the American Revolution goes on because it is a spiritual revolution of global dimensions. Our revolution is unique in history: the proclamation of liberty, individual sovereignty, self-determination, inalienable rights, equality of opportunity, justice under the rule of law and human dignity for all, derived from God and guaranteed through constitutional republican government of the people, by the people and for the people--all for the purpose of enabling us to find individual and collective happiness. Implementing that revolution is called the American Spirit.
The call of that revolution speaks powerfully and positively to the full range of our human nature. It draws from us that which is latent, waiting to be unfolded. It urges us to strive for something better for ourselves, our families, our communities, our nation, our world. It expresses itself physically, mentally, politically, socially and spiritually--in all aspects of our lives. It taps our capacity for growth in a way which contributes to the good of everyone. It brings us to the realization of our own highest potential as individuals and as a society, and it urges us toward actualization of that potential. In short, it promises a better world of peace, prosperity and fulfillment for all.
Thus, in the course of two centuries, the American Spirit has blossomed across our land. Today, the United States of America has ascended to preeminence among the nations of the world. Economically, technologically, commercially, politically, militarily, culturally and in so many other ways, the American Spirit has produced enormous changes for the better in civilization around the globe. No nation in history has done so much for the common person as America. No nation in history has been such a force for good. Emma Lazarus's beloved sonnet about the Statue of Liberty rightly proclaims:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
It's been said that immigration is the sincerest form of flattery. If so, people all over the earth have voted with their feet on the question of which is the best nation of all.
There were missteps in the revolution, of course. There were failures to live up to our ideals, our principles, our values. There were bad choices in governmental and social policy and practice. There were shameful wrongs, such as slavery and segregation, the suppression of women and the mistreatment of Native Americans. Those wrongs were not unique to America, but they were wrong nevertheless.
However, the American Spirit strives toward wholeness and health in the body politic, toward "a more perfect union," as the Preamble to the Constitution puts it, with liberty and justice for all, as the Pledge of Allegiance puts it. Thus, the American Revolution is self-correcting of missteps, failures, bad choices and wrongs by Americans who had not--and perhaps have not yet--fully awakened to the nature of our revolution.
For example, slavery is a millennia-old worldwide institution, but America eliminated it through a great civil war which established abolition as right for all the world. Since 1865 the evilness of that institution has been sealed upon the conscience of humanity by America. Racial prejudice and discrimination still exist here to some extent, but in America today, people of color have full equality under the rule of law. While we have not yet achieved full integration as a society--because that is a matter of mental attitude and cannot be legislated--we certainly have complete desegregation throughout the nation and equal opportunity for all.
For another example, the entitlement to vote was originally limited to white male landowners who were 21 or older. Over time, however, America has extended the vote to the propertyless, to people of color, to women and to citizens as young as 18.
As for Native Americans, they, too, now have equal rights under the law. They may live anywhere in mainstream American society or reside on reservations where tribal law and culture reign. Although poverty and poor health are problems sadly afflicting some Native Americans, that condition is not exclusively theirs, nor is it due to governmental action. Moreover, the prosperity brought to some tribes by their entrepreneurial ventures into tourism, gaming casinos and other businesses has generated the means to proudly showcase their ancient ways of life for non-Native understanding.
Why has all this "course-correction" to the course of human events occurred? The answer is simple. We are a society based on the highest and most universal value: freedom. Our government's primary purpose is to assure our freedom as individuals and to protect us from those who would abuse or abolish it. All other government functions are secondary to that. That is why the allegorical female figure atop our nation's Capitol is named "Freedom" and is a symbol of hope to people everywhere. That is also why our national bird is the eagle. It appears on the Great Seal of the United States and on our coins because the eagle is the freest, the mightiest, the most able to soar heavenward. And that is why our nation's highest civilian award, like the Medal of Honor for the armed forces, is the Medal of Freedom.
Freedom is central and fundamental to the American way of life. It is our essence, our raison d'etre. As President Ronald Reagan put it, "Freedom is the deepest and noblest aspiration of the human spirit." Freedom serves the interests of everyone; it transforms lives and revitalizes societies. Freedom releases creative energy; it is the engine of all progress--technological, intellectual, cultural and spiritual. Freedom moves the hearts and minds of the American people. It is the key to unlocking our human potential, individually and collectively.
The Liberty Bell is inscribed with the words of Leviticus 25:10: "Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof." The American Spirit proclaims liberty and its blessings throughout all the world unto its inhabitants. Millions upon millions have heard that proclamation and come to our shores to embrace it. The political experiment called America, begun in 1776 when we declared our independence from British rule, is Earth's greatest opportunity for every human being to use his or her talents, effort and resources to pursue happiness, to build a satisfying life in a context of freedom--responsible freedom which encourages creative individuality, caring and stable family life, civic involvement, social and environmental concern for the well-being of others, and spiritual unity.
What Is Freedom?
Freedom, Mr. Webster tells us, means the absence of necessity, coercion or constraint in one's choice or action. The essence of freedom is having a choice. It is having--to quote Mr. Webster again--the power to do as you please or not being subject to another's will. A person is free to the extent that he or she can exercise choice. The opposite of freedom is coercion, subjugation, involuntary servitude, bondage, imprisonment, slavery.
In America, freedom of choice is regarded as our fundamental condition and inalienable right. We Americans speak of the right to live our lives as we choose--the right to self-determination, the right to create our own destiny. The American way of life means freedom from arbitrary or despotic control; it also means the exercise of social, political and economic rights and privileges. It means the unhampered right to pursue the opportunities of life.
However, rights always carry responsibilities; otherwise, liberty becomes libertinism, which is the abuse of rights. Rights exercised without regard for responsibilities become wrongs. Choices must be responsible choices, ethical choices, moral choices so that their consequences do not harm others--that is, they do not violate the rights of others. For example, someone may drink to the point of intoxication, but if that person then gets behind the steering wheel and drives on the highway, that is choosing irresponsibly, as Mothers Against Drunk Driving and others who have lost loved ones in DUI accidents can attest. Likewise, someone may perform activities which generate toxic waste, but if that person then disposes of the waste improperly, that is choosing irresponsibly, as former residents of the Love Canal, New York area can attest. As yet another example, a person may have sexual relations, but if he or she doesn't use means of birth control and an unwanted pregnancy results, that is choosing irresponsibly, as unwed mothers, welfare workers and family planning centers can attest. Freedom and responsibility are therefore inseparable. Think of the connection as one person put it: freesponsibility. Freedom without responsibility is lawlessness; responsibility without freedom is slavery. (See Sidebar 1.)
Freedom is never license to do as we please, but only to do as we ought. (I explain the meaning of "ought" and its implications for human happiness below.) Moreover, freedom is indivisible. It embraces every aspect of our humanity. It applies to our physical, mental, social and spiritual dimensions because we have the capacity--the free will--to choose what we do and how we behave in all those dimensions of life. If freedom is reduced in one aspect, that bears on all others. And since freedom is indivisible, so is responsibility. We have the freedom to choose in all aspects of our lives, but we also have the responsibility to choose wisely, morally, well.
Human history is a story of increasing freedom for us. The story has two themes: freedom from and freedom to. We have increasing freedom from the harsh constraints imposed on us by nature and by people who seek to control us through force and subjugation. We also have increasing freedom to act as we wish, for better or for worse, for good or evil.
Physical freedom means freedom from the elements and other dangers of the natural world, and from hunger, thirst and other physical needs. It also means freedom to move about and travel, to associate with others, to change jobs, to marry whom we want, to live where we want and as we want. The development of agriculture, for example, provided surplus food and thereby freed us from the necessity of roaming the land as hunter-gatherers. The domestication of animals freed us from the burdens of traveling by foot and carrying heavy loads. Medicine freed us from many diseases and debilitating conditions. Aviation and spacecraft freed us from the limitations of gravity. All that gave us more time and freedom to create, to produce, to travel, to increase our knowledge and raise our standard of living.
Mental freedom means the absence of fear or coercion in our thinking and our emotions; it also means unfettered access to information, as in freedom of education and freedom of the press. Together with physical freedom, it allows us to advance civilization, to build a higher culture.
Social freedom takes the physical and mental freedom of individuals and extends it to members of a community or society, so that the institutions of that community or society are likewise structured to remove obstacles or barriers--both physical and mental--to exercising choice and self-determination. Some societies do not extend freedom to all its members; slavery and suppression of women, minorities and underclasses are sad examples of social unfreedom. Children, of course, naturally have less freedom in the family and the community than adults because they're not capable of handling freedom maturely, but as they grow up, as they learn to exercise self-control and as they become educated into the ways of society, their sphere of thought and action--their physical, mental and social freedom--increases.
Although liberty is often used as a synonym for freedom, strictly speaking it is not. Liberty (from the Latin liber, meaning free rather than slave) is the sociopolitical aspect of freedom. A person may be captive, enslaved or in prison and thus not enjoying liberty (sociopolitical freedom), but he or she may nevertheless be free from hatred of his or her captors, slave masters or prison staff, as saints and holy people have demonstrated. Likewise, a person may be oppressed yet bear no ill will toward his oppressors. Mahatma Gandhi's struggle for India's political independence is exemplary of that; so is the equally great struggle by the Dalai Lama, spiritual-political head of Tibet, against Chinese Communist invasion and occupation. (Significantly, his autobiography is entitled Freedom in Exile.) Conversely, a person may have social and political liberty, but nevertheless be captive, enslaved or imprisoned in his or her own fears or vices and self-destructive desires, and thus not enjoy that liberty, not know happiness.
Spiritual Freedom--the Highest Aspect
This brings us to the highest aspect of freedom: spiritual freedom. In the entire spectrum of human knowledge, exploration and aspiration to unlock the mystery of existence and find enduring happiness, there is only one key, one answer: spiritual freedom. It was stated clearly by Jesus Christ when he said to his disciples, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). Similarly, Gautama Buddha, with his dying words, said to his followers, " those who shall be a lamp unto themselves, shall betake themselves to no external refuge, but holding fast to the Truth as their lamp, and holding fast to the Truth as their refuge, shall not look for refuge to anyone beside themselves--it is they who shall reach the very topmost height" of spiritual freedom.
In other religions and sacred traditions, there is a similar understanding of spiritual freedom as freedom from self-ignorance and self-delusion, from vices and character flaws, from negative emotions, destructive compulsions and anything else which generates human unhappiness and prevents us from living God-centered lives of love and service to humanity. That perspective, which is the collective highest wisdom known to humanity, is called the Perennial Philosophy. It is also called the Timeless Wisdom and the Primordial Tradition.
Spiritual freedom is what life is all about. Spiritual freedom based on understanding the absolute truth about the nature of reality: that is the goal which all major world religions and sacred traditions have for humanity. It is their common doctrine, their transcendent point of unity. They are in concord when they say that our Creator, our Divine Source wants us to remove from ourselves all the spiritual blindness, self-centered thought and immoral behavior which separates us from the realization that we are one with the Divine Creator because that realization can transform the world into what it should be--heaven on earth.
Just as the world's religions and sacred traditions have many names for God, so too they have various names for the spiritual truth which makes us free. The most common term in English is enlightenment. Synonyms for it are liberation, God-realization, unity consciousness and nondual consciousness.
The Declaration of Independence states the theory of freedom governing America, and it is based on the spiritual truth which sets us free. The Founders of America held two intimately related principles which they expressed in our founding document. First, God is the mighty author of our being and the ultimate moral authority for our laws and government. Therefore we have a duty to reverently acknowledge God in our lives. Second, we are made in the image and likeness of our Creator. Therefore, by virtue of our spiritual nature, human beings are sacred, sovereign and inviolable. All else in our free society flows from that: our liberty, our rights, our justice, our human dignity and the primacy of the individual over the state. As James Madison put it, "before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the governour of the Universe."
From the American perspective, freedom is given to us by God, the source of freedom. It is given to be used responsibly to show forth God in our lives--that is, to glorify God, who is also the source of morality and law. God is the supreme lawgiver; the purpose of human life is to reflect the law of God and thereby glorify God. We have the free will to use our freedom irresponsibly and to break God's law of moral, righteous living, but the divine purpose of freedom is to realize the presence of God in every aspect of our existence and to ever-deepen our capacity for expressing that realization. Therein alone can we find unalloyed happiness and ultimate certitude about the human condition. That is the highest metaphysical wisdom of our nation. That is the spiritual truth on which America is founded.
All which follows from that philosophy of freedom is therefore based on the idea that we are primarily spiritual beings with a divine purpose and destiny. We are born free and morally equal, and are endowed by our Creator (not by people or any systems they devise) with rights which are inherent and inalienable. Government's purpose, from the American perspective, is primarily to guarantee that freedom and those rights for all. Beyond that, since freedom and rights carry responsibilities, we must be responsible for ourselves. As a self-governing society, we must govern ourselves personally and use our freedom properly--that is, morally--as God intends. Please note this well: The American political experiment in self-rule begins with everyone ruling himself. The moral superiority of freedom to all other approaches to government can only be demonstrated by righteous people living in a godly society. We must "walk the talk."
Our primary identity as Americans is as sons and daughters of God. Our nation and our citizenship in it are predicated on being subject to the rule of God, whose principles of operation for humanity and the world are expressed in the Declaration of Independence and are codified in the U.S. Constitution. Together they provide the theory and practice of enlightened government. That theory and practice addresses all levels of our being. (See "A Vision for Americans" below for an elaboration of this point.)
God is the foundational and overarching reality of the cosmos, and America is a deliberately constructed reflection of that. When we recognize that God is the reason we exist and that we are always in the presence of God, it requires us to recognize that for others as well. We are all children of God the Father. At the soul level of our existence, we are all brothers and sisters in the family of Man. The Declaration of Independence states it with eloquent simplicity:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable 6 rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Rev. Martin Luther King echoed this with equal eloquence in his famous "I Have a Dream" speech, which was about more than just sociopolitical liberty:
I have a dream that one day the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together." When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last!"
The Government of God
The system of government devised for America matches the principles of the universe's operating system more closely than any other form of political organization does, and therefore it most closely reflects what has sometimes been called "the government of God"--that is, the laws governing creation, the structure and process of the cosmos, the way reality works. In one of his numerous prayers written for the Continental Army, George Washington pointed to "the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained." That set of rules--that heavenly government--is true, even though some of our Founders' lives were not completely in keeping with the perfection of the principles set forth in the document they wrote. For example, Washington and Jefferson owned slaves, but if they had behavioral flaws or inconsistencies, that doesn't make the principles any less true. Even Thomas Paine, a self-declared religious skeptic and non-Christian, said amid the dark days of the War for Independence that he was not so much of an infidel as to suppose that God "has relinquished the government of the world, and given us up to the care of devils " (Paine was a Deist who rejected institutional religion.)
The thrust of all human experience is toward the discovery of God--not the anthropomorphic image of God held by a child's limited understanding, but the God whose ultimate form cannot be known because it is beyond all words, images, concepts and thoughts. In contemporary language, that discovery is the direct realization of Spirit, Godhead, the Ground of Being, the Great Mystery; in more traditional language, it is awakening in the depths of our being to the Divine Creator or the Source of Existence. In that discovery of the nature of ultimate reality is a second, correlated discovery: spiritual freedom--the greatest human value, the goal of human life.
The Founders of America understood that perspective to a significant degree. They were products of the Age of Enlightenment, and although that term actually refers to an era characterized by the employment of philosophic, scientific and religious reasoning rather than the transcendent, nondual consciousness of the enlightened sage, their unique and unprecedented political experiment called the United States of America embodies their understanding--and does that well. The foundation of America is a spiritual vision congruent with the Perennial Philosophy/Timeless Wisdom/Primordial Tradition. The historical outworking of that has profound importance for the development of global governance and a worldwide wisdom culture, as I will show below.
The Attainment of Spiritual Freedom
The attainment of spiritual freedom transforms a person. Since God is the innermost aspect of all creation, and since God is righteous and moral, it follows that the innermost nature of all creation, including us humans, is righteous and moral. Whatever sin or evil proceeds from us is secondary and a result of ignorance of our true self who is God, the Self or the Supreme Identity of all creation. As we come to know God better, as we become more God-centered, we become less self-centered, less concerned about our own will and more concerned about God's will. The goodness which is the "godness" at the center of our lives shines ever more brightly.
Sin, strictly defined, means "missing the mark," as in the process of aiming at a target. The "target" is God, and our deepest urge, the thrust of all our experience (including our sins and mistakes, which eventually teach us to redirect ourselves toward the target), is to turn away from self-centeredness and become centered in God. Spiritual freedom is being centered in God. The enlightened person can be said to have hit the mark, to have attained a bullseye, to have realized his or her true nature. He or she rests easily in God; there is no moral, emotional, intellectual or spiritual unease or dis-ease in the person. There is only the ongoing, abiding sense of the presence of God. There is only the ongoing, abiding sense of his or her unity with all creation. There is only the ongoing, abiding sense of the "fruits of the Spirit."
That presence, that unity, that Holy Spirit guides the liberated person, speaking to him or her through consciousness and conscience, constantly reminding the person--and likewise us, if we listen--that the cosmos has a moral foundation, a code of righteousness built into it reflecting the moral nature of God, who is the "withinness" of the cosmos. Conscience is "the still, small voice of God" which constantly whispers to us in the center of our being about that code, about that which is true and good, eternal and immutable. When we begin to pay attention to the center of our being through prayer, meditation, contemplative practices and humble self-observation and self-reflection, we discover that we are one with the Source of all being and that we have a built-in "operating manual" for how to live a godly, righteous life. The holy scriptures of the world's religions and sacred traditions have expressed in their various cultural forms the essence of that operating manual for attaining a condition of existence which is permanently God-centered or enlightened, with all its inherent reward: spiritual freedom, enduring peace, unconditional love and universal wisdom.
From that attainment flows a behavioral expression of freedom in all aspects of the person's existence. It powerfully affects those around the enlightened person and aims to do so for the entire society in which he or she lives. Its ultimate aim is transformation of the world to a condition which recognizes and expresses the presence and glory of the Divine Source in everything.
Reflecting Heaven on Earth
There are many terms for such a utopian society. They are drawn from the world's religions and sacred traditions, and reflect their understanding of the divine nature of reality and the transcendent metaphysical realms which seek to guide our development here on earth. Christianity and Judaism speak of the kingdom of heaven, but other traditions likewise name the ideal society. In Tibetan Buddhism, it is Shambhala. In Taoism it is the World of the Immortals. Islam has its Garden of Paradise. Native Americans speak of the Happy Hunting Ground. The highest lokas (heavens or celestial realms) of Hinduism and Indian Buddhism are similar images of a perfected condition, as is Plato's World of Ideas and the shaman's imaginal world. Although the imagery may differ from tradition to tradition due to cultural overlays, the underlying unity of understanding about human destiny is unmistakable.
Thus is it no accident that our Founders saw in America the potential for human perfection and therefore sometimes spoke of our country as the New Israel and the New Jerusalem. 9 By that they did not mean a Jewish nation but rather a God-centered society whose collective will was to reflect heaven on earth. (Heaven, by the way, simply means unbroken communion with God and is not necessarily limited to a postmortem condition. God-realization, liberation, unity/nondual consciousness, spiritual freedom, enlightenment: these are terms for unbroken communion with God while still alive in human form.)
Therefore America, for all its shortcomings and unrealized promises, is a magnificent experiment in human living which has never before been made in the history of this planet. It is an experiment based on the idea of expanding individual freedom in a context of community relationship, social and environmental responsibility, and religio-moral guidance to create a society which reflects heaven on earth. Our Founders were quite conscious of that. The symbols which they created for America, such as the flag and the Great Seal, embody that (as I'll discuss later). However, it is an unfinished experiment and will not be completed until the entire human race enjoys the blessings of liberty we Americans now have. Patriots seek to benignly extend the best of the American way of life to all the world in the name of God and our common humanity.
That brings us to the question: What is patriotism and its relationship to America?
The word "patriotism" is derived from the Latin word pater, meaning father, and it is commonly understood as "love of country" or "devotion or loyalty to one's fatherland." However, patriotism is not simply an emotion. Patriotism is a sentiment, and sentiment, Mr. Webster tells us, means "thoughtful emotion" or "refined judgment prompted by feeling." Patriotism, therefore, is thoughtful and refined love of country. It is feeling grounded in judgment, and that judgment arises from a moral basis which recognizes absolute values and right vs. wrong which have been revealed by God throughout history in all times and places. In short, patriotism is informed, intelligent love of country.
Patriotism results from a process which, over time, unites head, hand and heart into a clear vision of what a nation is all about. In other words, patriotism is not inborn; it is learned by speech and by example. It is learned from parents, teachers, public figures and others in positions of authority and influence who demonstrate patriotism in their words and their lives. It is absorbed from the culture, directly and indirectly, in the process of becoming responsible, mature citizens. Native-born children learn it growing up; immigrants learn it by assimilating into the cultural mainstream of the country in which they take citizenship.
Without a clear understanding of the nature of patriotism, America will not endure, nor true world community grow. Properly understood, however, the essence of America is the future of the world. (I will show that at the conclusion of this open letter.) If America succeeds in fulfilling its potential, all the world will benefit; if America fails to attain its promise, all the world will be the worse for it. The future of America is the future of freedom, and the future of freedom is the future of the world. In that regard, it is profoundly significant that the true name for the Statue of Liberty is "Liberty Enlightening the World." As the song "America the Beautiful" says, the torch Miss Liberty holds aloft at the gateway to our nation sheds "freedom's holy light." The ultimate form of that holy light--the ultimate form of freedom--is enlightenment.
Patriotism Is Not Nationalism
First, let's distinguish patriotism from nationalism. In America, they are not the same thing, as I will explain below. I am advocating national pride, not nationalism. Patriotism is different from nationalism, which seeks to elevate one nation above all others. (Hitler's motto Deutschland Über alles--"Germany over all others"--is an example.) Nationalism is contrary to the attitude of our Founders, who had a "live and let live" attitude and advised people to walk modestly before God. The Declaration of Independence speaks to the world about America assuming a "separate and equal station" among the powers of the earth, not a loftier station. George Washington said in a prayer which he wrote for the nation in 1783 at the end of our War for Independence, "Almighty God, dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religious and, without a humble imitation of Whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy nation."
Americans have great reason to feel proud, but the self-evident superiority of America to all other nations need not--indeed, should not--be proclaimed boastfully. Our good deeds speak louder than any words can. Because of those deeds, all the world recognizes America as the land of greatest freedom and opportunity. True love of America is the opposite of what British intellectual H. G. Wells, during World War II, called "the crazy combative patriotism that plainly threatens to destroy civilization." World War II brought America into conflict with an alliance of aggressor nations--the Axis powers--trying to assert through military might that they were culturally superior to all others. That's nationalism. Americans rejected the proposition that might makes right, and we continue to do so. It is patriotically proper to defend one's nation against aggression; it is quite another thing--and morally wrong--to try advancing one's nation by making war upon others. Our nation's emphasis is on military prowess for defense, not militarism.
Patriotism Is Not Chauvinism or Jingoism
Let's also distinguish patriotism from chauvinism or jingoism. Patriotism does not support the notion of "my country, right or wrong." That is ignorant and irrational love of country--blind devotion or misplaced loyalty which doesn't recognize the moral foundation and political theory of America. John Quincey Adams wrote in 1847, "And say not thou 'My country right or wrong'/Nor shed thy blood for an unhallowed cause." Abraham Lincoln put it this way: "I must stand with anybody [who] stands right, stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong." In a similar vein, Theodore Roosevelt agreed: "Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the President or any other public official save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is unpatriotic not to tell the truth--whether about the President or anyone else."
If a public policy or governmental action is clearly wrong or immoral, it should not be supported, no matter how loudly an advocate proclaims that "it is best for America." It should be opposed and denounced. Although someone in a position of authority may "wrap the flag around himself" as he or she pursues that which is bad for America or contrary to American ideals, principles and values, patriots should declare it is not in the best interest of the American people nor in accord with the Constitution, which is the supreme law of our land and a clear reflection of God's law for Creation. They should oppose it through the soap box, the ballot box and, if necessary, the jury box. 11 As the 18th century writer Samuel Johnson said about exposing wrongdoing in high places, "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." The Framers of the Constitution, who expected virtue, morality and good character in public officials of the new nation, nevertheless recognized the potential for wrongdoing by them and wisely provided the means for correcting it--impeachment.
Patriotism Is Not Isolationism
Last of all, let's distinguish patriotism from isolationism. Patriotism does not mean cutting all ties with the world, raising the drawbridge and turning completely inward. That would be totally contrary to the intent of our Founders, who understood that America had to be involved with the rest of civilization. Trade, diplomatic relations, mail, immigration--all these aspects of our national life were regarded by them as important and were therefore considered in the Constitution.
Today, with transportation, communications, finance and commerce so rapid and so global, America cannot isolate itself. Nor should it even try. Those who advocate a hard-line American isolation from global affairs are neither realistic about America's history nor cognizant of America's destiny. On the other hand, we Americans should not give up our national sovereignty to unelected international bureaucrats who rewrite our laws, regulate our internal affairs, redistribute our wealth and override our process of representative government. It is not isolationism to stem the flow of illegal immigrants across our borders. It is not isolationism to protect American jobs and the balance of trade from unfair foreign practices. It is simply good sense: putting America first for reasons of national security against forces hostile to our sovereignty and our economic, social and political freedom. Independence is not the same as isolation.
Patriotism and the Family
If patriotism is not nationalism, chauvinism, jingoism or isolationism, then what is it?
Patriotism is broadly defined as love of country and I've further defined it as informed, intelligent love of country. Even more precisely, however, patriotism is the national form of love of family.
Love is first expressed within one's family. Patriotism is simply an extension of the inborn impulse which humans have to love their parents, siblings and others who nurture them. That love becomes the basis of their self-identity. As children grow up, the natural love which they express for their family, the fundamental social unit, extends to larger and larger social units (unless the child is taught to be prejudiced and intolerant).
Patriotic love of country is no different in kind from love of one's neighborhood, town or city, and state. It is simply familial love expanding to ever larger social units. That is why countries are called fatherlands and motherlands, meaning "parent-like nurturing social contexts defined by a nation's territorial boundaries." By a completely natural process, children come to love their nation and to identify with it. Thus, in every country of the world, patriotism is nationalism.
Except for America. The difference is why this blessed land of ours is unique and why, finally, there can be a true world community enjoying all the blessings of liberty which we Americans enjoy. I'll discuss that more fully below. For the moment, consider this:
If patriotism is the national form of love of family, why should that love end at the borders of a country? Why arbitrarily limit the expression of lovingness? Patriotism, as a manifestation of the God-given impulse to love and value others, has room in it for the ultimate social unit, the human family. Patriotism does not conflict with a concern for world community; patriots can legitimately "pledge allegiance" in spirit to Earth and its inhabitants. That is practical as well as philosophical because, obviously, no country stands alone in isolation. Each country is involved in world affairs, and in today's global society, many conditions and situations require regional, hemispheric and even planetwide efforts to handle them safely, efficiently and effectively.
To understand what is different--and better--about America, we must ask: Since all countries display patriotism, what distinguishes American patriotism and why should we prefer it?
The answer is simple but profound. American patriotism is rooted not in love of territory or a common ancestral group; it is rooted in love of freedom and the source of freedom, God. It is focused on the territory within our national borders, but it is grounded in recognition that our freedom comes from God, not government or any other human source. The foundation of America is spiritual, not material, celestial, not terrestrial. Freedom is, as Thomas Paine said, a "celestial article" made valuable by heaven. In the words of the Declaration of Independence (which has four distinct references to deity), the foundation of America is "Nature's God," "Creator," "Supreme Judge of the World" and "divine Providence." Understanding that expands the meaning of patriotism to universal proportions.
In the American theory of government, God is the source of our liberty, our sovereignty, our rights, our justice and our human dignity. God is the mighty author of our being and the moral authority for our laws. As John Adams wrote, our rights are "antecedent to all earthly government" and are derived from "the great legislator of the universe." Another of his terms for God was "the Spirit of Liberty."
Thus, American identity is not national, but spiritual, and American patriotism is love of the Spirit of Liberty expressed in thought, word and deed. America is founded on a transcendent vision of the divine unity of creation under the governance of the Creator. American patriotism recognizes timeless spiritual ideals, principles and values at the base of our existence as God acts in the world and in human affairs. It honors the presence of God in the life of each individual. So, American patriotism is not bound to a place but is essentially a state of mind, a deepening of spiritual vision, a growth in human consciousness of God's presence and God's action in the world to have us fulfill our destiny. Our national motto says it well: "In God we trust."
If patriotism is essentially extension of our God-given impulse to love and value people, there is no reason for it to stop at a national border. It can, and should, encompass the world. Properly understood, therefore, American patriotism--love of the American family--can be extended to embrace the entire human family and all creation. It also can provide the global ethic of respect for the planet which would terminate the rape and plunder of Mother Earth. That is because American patriotism is fundamentally grounded in God, whose primary quality, all the world's sacred traditions say, is love. As God's love is reflected in us, it spreads outward, embracing all humanity, all life, all the cosmos. It is inclusive, not exclusive. It recognizes the dignity inherent in all life and treats it with respect.
As such, America is an experiment in human living based on the idea of expanding personal freedom in a context of family life, community relationship and social-environmental responsibility to create the ideal society--a heaven on earth under the spiritual direction of God, whose laws are written in our hearts. However--to repeat--the experiment is unfinished and will not be completed until all humanity enjoys the blessings of liberty we Americans now have.
Happily, that is possible. The territory of America has expanded greatly since the original thirteen colonies banded together, but the essence of America--the American Spirit--has remained unaltered. American patriots are loyal not simply nor even primarily to our territory, but to the animating force behind America--the Spirit of Liberty, or God--and to the recognition that the animating force, the hand of God, moves among humanity, calling us to realize its presence, calling us to God-realization, to liberation, to unity/nondual consciousness, to spiritual freedom, to enlightenment. The key to that is not territorial conquest but self-conquest.
American patriotism proclaims liberty and its blessings throughout all the world unto the inhabitants thereof. It seeks to extend the best of the American way of life--the best of the American family--to all people through peaceful means such as education, fair trade and commerce, humanitarian aid, charitable works, people-to-people exchanges, moral suasion and compelling example, rather than through exploitive business and financial practices, colonialism and manipulative foreign policy serving special interests and elite power groups. Our national foundations are spiritual faith in God and moral insight into the nature of reality and the design of creation. Our foundation documents--the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution--express that in the absolute values of God-given liberty, personal sovereignty, inalienable individual rights, and equality and justice under the rule of law.
This can be summed up in a simple formula: American patriotism = faith + family + freedom. (Of course, the terms of the formula must be understood in all their depth, not simplistically or superficially.) In the American experience, faith, family and freedom are intimately blended in a process which requires everyone to be responsible for themselves and the liberty they enjoy while respecting the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of all others. Living that understanding is the key to making America work for all.
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
American patriotism recognizes that our national identity consists of the ideals, principles and values which flow (as the Eye of Providence on the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States depicts) from the metaphysical to the physical, from the transcendent to the mundane, from God to the nation, where they are embodied in the institutions, customs, laws and practices of our civil and political life. That is what unites us--a geographically, racially, ethnically and religiously diverse people--into one nation. That is our common culture. That is our credo.
American patriotism is therefore appreciation and respect of our country's spiritual foundations and her past, present and future. It is best shown by responsible citizenship to preserve freedom and the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity. Through a direct and unadulterated extension of our political heritage, American patriots can fashion a society which builds world unity while honoring diversity, exactly as the words E pluribus unum on the Great Seal indicate, and which removes institutional forms of bondage and barriers to freedom, justice and equality of opportunity. However, without that citizen involvement, without "walking the talk," our ideals, principles and values will fade away like the colors of a weather-worn flag.
In short, American patriotism is an understanding of this nation as a means whereby God is building His kingdom on earth. By offering to all nations the privilege of joining the Union, a United States of the World would develop around the earth. Humanity could, at long last, pledge allegiance to "one Nation under God" in a magnificent act of planetary patriotism, global governance, and liberty and justice for all. I will enlarge upon that in Part II. For now, think of the Pledge of Allegiance as a guide to our heritage--and our potential--as Americans. The Pledge is a vital expression of why it is right to affirm our loyalty to this nation. It is also a reminder of our solemn duty as Americans to preserve that precious heritage for all citizens.
Part II WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL
The cause of America is in great measure the cause of all mankind. -- Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1775
Where liberty dwells, there is my country. -- Benjamin Franklin
And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you: Ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: Ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man. -- John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address, 1961
We are the heirs of the great American Revolution. As this millennium draws to a close and the 21st century approaches, let us pause to honor the very idea of America. America mirrors the world's diversity, yet it remains united in the struggle to uphold fundamental freedom. We believe our nation's happiness still evolves from liberty, from opportunity and from the vision of equality set forth by our country's Declaration of Independence. And today our nation stands as a symbol of freedom and inspiration to people all over the world. There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be corrected by what is right with America. And there is nothing wrong with the world that cannot be cured by the ideals America represents. Those principles have no borders, and we look forward to a day when those principles, extended beyond our borders, will have circled the globe. The quest for democracy must continue until all of the people of the world enjoy the freedom we must always fight to preserve. The spirit of America is as bright and hopeful today as it was in July of 1776. And we are ready to carry our great national experiment forward into the next millennium. -- William J. Clinton, in his recorded speech in the Hall of Presidents at Liberty Square, Walt Disney World, Florida
Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world; it is God's gift to humanity. -- President George W. Bush, in his 2003 State of the Union Address
It is not coincidence that the deity is mentioned four times in the Declaration of Independence. Our Founders saw clearly that God is the almighty Author of our very being and the source of our freedom, our sovereignty, our rights, our justice and our human dignity. The Declaration was a brilliant, innovative political document, but its essence is actually a restatement of a universal wisdom tradition about deity going back thousands of years.
As I noted in Part I, that tradition has been called the Perennial Philosophy, the Timeless Wisdom and the Primordial Tradition. It is the collective highest understanding of humanity about our nature and our destiny. The sum of it is this:
There is a meaning, purpose and direction to life. It is to express God, the source of our existence, evermore fully, thus glorifying God. For us humans, the purpose of life is to consciously realize God and then manifest that realization in every aspect of our lives, thereby glorifying God in the highest manner possible. To put it another way, it is seeing God in all things and all things in God, and then living in accordance with that understanding of divine nature. That is God-realization or, as it has also been called, liberation, unity consciousness, nondual consciousness, spiritual freedom, enlightenment.
Enlightenment is the goal of human history, for the individual and for the race. The wonderful thing about enlightenment is that it is democratically available to everyone. We are evolving toward enlightenment, individually and collectively. God is drawing us all to His kingdom through a vast process involving all time and space.
How can that transcendent wisdom, that visionary insight of the Perennial Philosophy/Timeless Wisdom/Primordial Tradition be put to work effectively? How can it be made practical around the world? How can the One who created us all and embraces us all be recognized as the basis for worldwide sister-and-brotherhood? How can human society be changed from its traditional divisions and divisiveness to a unified and universal community? How can patriotism--the national form of love of family--be extended to the entire family of Man? How can we develop a politics of enlightenment or God-realization for all humanity?
The answer is simple: America. The spiritual foundations of America are wholly congruent with the Perennial Philosophy/Timeless Wisdom/Primordial Tradition. They are eternal and immutable because they reflect aspects of God. If they articulate that toward which humanity is evolving--enlightenment--then America, in its ideal form, represents the best political means devised so far to create societal conditions for nurturing, and even hastening, human evolution to enlightenment.
The Perennial Philosophy/Timeless Wisdom/Primordial Tradition declares that enlightenment is for everyone, awaiting us as the fulfillment of our human potential. Consider what that means for societal transformation and world peace. A simple syllogism expresses it:
- Enlightenment is the goal of human history.
- The essence of America is enlightenment.
- Therefore, the essence of America is the goal of human history.
American patriotism differs from that of all other nations because it is based on love of God--love of the Spirit of Liberty--and reflected in society through the people and institutions comprising the American experience. American patriotism recognizes that our national identity consists not of territory or ancestral origins but--to repeat what I said in the first part--consists of the ideals, principles and values which flow (as the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States depicts) from the metaphysical to the physical, from the transcendent to the material, from God to the nation, where they are embodied in the laws, customs and practices of our civic and political life.
Thus, American patriotism is an understanding of this nation as a means whereby God is building his kingdom on Earth. By offering to all nations the privilege of joining the Union (with appropriate preconditions for preparing them to become responsible American citizens--see below), a United States of the World would envelop the planet. Through a direct and unadulterated extension of our political heritage, American patriots can fashion a society which--again, to repeat from Part I--builds world unity while honoring global diversity, exactly as the words E pluribus unum indicate, and which removes institutional forms of bondage and barriers to freedom and equality of opportunity. On that basis, I'll now offer a proposal for advancing freedom and attaining world peace.
My advocacy of the American political tradition is based on recognizing the human potential for growth to God-realization. America is the most advanced political system thus far along the evolutionary path to an enlightened society. What I propose is not a mere expansion of American hegemony but rather is, I maintain, a transcendent and truly cosmopolitan vision of what can become the basis for a genuine global union which honors all cultures, preserving them while refining and advancing them on the basis of free choice by the members of those cultures.
The United States of the World
The century just passed has been called The American Century because of our nation's supreme importance in global affairs. Now, as the world begins a new millennium, I urge all Americans to take action to turn The American Century into The American Millennium. I believe it is humanity's only hope for a truly free and peaceful world. Here's how I think that can be accomplished.
If another country or territory were to join the Union, the citizens of that new state would then begin, or continue, the educational process of inculcating American patriotism. Since American patriotism can encompass the whole of humanity, all nations, theoretically speaking, could change their status and join these united States. (The authority for that is Article 4, Section 3 of the Constitution.) America could embrace humankind through the benign extension of our political heritage to become The United States of the World.
What would develop from that? The result would be a true world community with responsible self-governance. The result would be a planet at peace rather than in pieces. The result would be America writ large upon the face of Earth--not arrogantly as a superstate, imperium or American Empire but humbly as a God-realized Pax Americana. America would wage peace upon the world--the peace of God which passes all understanding. Our Constitution and its amendments, especially the Bill of Rights, would establish a global society in which war ends, freedom flourishes and prosperity abounds, as spiritual unity is promoted while cultural, racial, religious and ethnic diversity is honored. People everywhere could continue to love the lands of their birth as geographical locations; that would not conflict with loving America as their country of choice because those lands would be included in the territory of America. All sense of national identity which now so divides people into warring factions would be transformed into a sense of American identity. Honoring America as a global democratic republic would be synonymous with honoring Earth and creation itself while simultaneously honoring one's previous national identity preserved as a sovereign state of the Union.
As I pointed out above, since patriotism is the national form of love of family, love of America would be identical with love of the entire human family. Love of America would also provide the global ethic which many spiritual groups are seeking in their concern for a better world based on love for humanity and the planet. There would be no need for the United Nations because the world would be united as one nation. There would be planetwide freedom of speech, worship, assembly, the press, education, travel and trade.
There would be no more NAFTAs, GATTs and WTOs. If there are no nations to set tariffs, duties, trade barriers and trade balances against one another, why would we need all those treaties and agreements? Do the 50 states of America operate that way? Obviously, no. The need for military forces and armaments would be virtually eliminated. There would be no more NATOs and SEATOs. If there are no nations to make war on one another, what is the need for soldiers, tanks and bombs? Do the 50 states of America settle differences that way? Obviously, no.
The United States of the World would provide the ultimate national security and military defense strategy for America. It would eliminate all our enemies by the peaceful and benign process of their conversion to Americanism. It would also eliminate the internal strife of tribal genocide, killing fields and brutal military dictatorships which oppress people in so many other countries.
The English language and the American dollar, which already are the de facto standard for international business, would become officially so. Just as we Americans now move freely throughout our land without Customs inspections, bureaucratic regulations and the need to exchange currency when we cross the border from one state into another, so would the entire population of Earth. Just as we Americans now enjoy a common heritage and identity which embraces many cultures, so would the entire population of Earth. America's best would become the world's best. American sovereignty and the American way of life would be preserved from shadowy international forces now seeking to destroy it. In fact, the very word international would become obsolete. America would embrace the world and Americans everywhere would literally pledge allegiance to Earth as "one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." It would accomplish what John Philip Sousa proudly proclaimed as "The Stars and Stripes Forever," which is the national march of the United States. It would fulfill Thomas Paine's description of global patriotism in Rights of Man: "The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion." It would crown America's good with sister-and-brotherhood, across the Seven Seas, through the creation of a global nation and a world without borders.
A Vision for Americans
I pray that happens. It is my vision, my American dream. The barriers to it are many and mighty. There are vast linguistic, religious, political, economic, legal, educational and cultural differences standing in the way of developing responsible citizenship in those potential new Americans. Other obstacles are brutal and corrupt governments, international criminal and terrorist organizations, vested financial interests and longstanding hatreds among diverse peoples. There is the absence of democratic traditions and citizen empowerment in many nations, and there is simple ignorance and complacence. There is also--let us think about it in practical terms--the challenge of conducting a Congress enlarged by representatives of Earth's nearly 200 nations which would become new states. And what about redesigning our flag to add a new star for every one of those new nation-states? As I said, there are many and mighty obstacles. However, I believe all those obstacles are surmountable and the goal is infinitely preferable to all other political possibilities for world government because they are antithetical to freedom.
The thrust of human history is toward ever-greater unity on all levels of our being, including the political, reflecting the unifying spirit of God. The Preamble to the Constitution puts it thus: " to form a more perfect union." However, the way world affairs are going at present, we have nation warring against nation and faction fighting against faction, and the organization which is supposed to be a forum for the peaceful settlement of differences among belligerents--the United Nations--is, first of all, badly ineffective in performing that job and, second, has gotten "mission creep" and is attempting to become a world government to absorb all other governments into it. The 1994 UN publication United Nation's Report on Human Development states unequivocally, "Mankind's problems can no longer be solved by national governments. What is needed is a World Government" (p. 88). Now, guess who that world government will be.
An article by Herbert W. Titus (contained on the web site of Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas) explains why the UN threatens American sovereignty and that of other countries:
It is commonly assumed that the Charter of the United Nations is a treaty. It is not. Instead, the Charter of the United Nations is a constitution. As such, it is illegitimate, having created a supranational government, deriving its powers not from the consent of the governed (the people of the United States of America and peoples of other member nations) but from the consent of the peoples' government officials who have no authority to bind either the American people nor any other nation's people to any terms of the Charter of the United Nations. Our individual sovereignty is certainly threatened when we can be bound to a contract without our express consent.
Rep. Paul himself has said the United Nations is not a government body, it has no legal right to create laws, and it has no legal right to enforce criminal prosecution of anyone. I agree.
Moreover, the UN is neither democratic nor representative. The citizens of the world do not vote for their representatives to the UN in free elections, nor do the citizens of the world have the power to impeach unfit or undesirable representatives. They have no right of direct appeal or and no right of direct redress of grievances or wrongs. Every step the UN takes to assert its control over the planet, its resources and its people is not open to debate except within the legislatures of member nations, and when a certain minimum of them vote in favor of something--no matter how small an amount of territory or how few people the minimum collectively represents--the UN arrogantly says that step becomes binding on all other nations, regardless of their nonacceptance or rejection of it. The UN regards itself as the ultimate world authority and is answerable to no one! That is not "the consent of the governed." That is naked dictatorship and tyranny.
In addition, the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights is hopelessly flawed. There is no transcendent basis recognized in it on which our liberty, our sovereignty, our rights, our justice and our human dignity are established. Rather, it is predicated on the idea that the UN controls everything, including the definition of rights, and no one can oppose that. There is no recognition of God as the source of our existence and the goodness toward which humanity strives to build a peaceful world. 13 In the UN's view, government, not God, is the source of all authority--specifically, the UN itself as a world government. Article 29 states: "These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations." Article 30 states: "Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein."
Compare that with the Declaration of Independence: " to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness." The UN way won't work. When government bestows rights, government can abolish those rights because they are not inherent and inalienable. That, to repeat, is why our Founders created a federal government with minimal delegated authority and firmly constrained by the principles and practices of liberty. Throughout history, government has been the principal enemy of freedom. A world government which bestows rights would therefore be the world's principal enemy of freedom. The UN way is the way to global tyranny. That's the way freedom will perish from the earth. 14 Only a direct and unadulterated extension of the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of the United States of America can bring a truly free, peaceful and unified world. Of all political documents in history, only those two make the Perennial Philosophy/Timeless Wisdom/Primordial Tradition workable by offering a theory and practice of enlightened government. Collectively, they address all levels of our being.
First and foremost, they recognize God, the Spirit of Liberty, as the source of all life, all liberty, all rights and all good. Next, in the Declaration of Independence, they enunciate the basic principles of liberty descending from God to be applied in the body politic. Then, in the Constitution, they articulate the architecture of liberty, which describes how our federal government is constructed, and the Bill of Rights, which enumerates the inalienable rights of each individual citizen, no matter what any government body or group of people may want to do otherwise. These make secure the blessings of liberty as they establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare. Last of all, they demand and encourage elected officials and civil servants of integrity, calling on them to enact and enforce laws, policies and practices of liberty which honor the sovereignty of the individual citizen. At every level of human activity, from the physical through the mental and the social to the spiritual, from the individual through local, state and national government to the global human family, they declare God as the divine basis of our existence. Collectively, they make conditions for God-realization politically workable through the freedoms we enjoy to worship, speak, publish, assemble, travel and so forth.
God is the Founding Spirit of America, operating through the Founders. That is the truth which can set us free on all levels of our existence. It is universal and all-embracing truth, encompassing the entire cosmos. No other nation on Earth has such a basis.
Implementing the Dream
U.S. citizenship confers responsibilities as well as rights, and those responsibilities must be recognized and accepted by potential new citizens. If nations or territories are to vote for statehood, Congress should set up strict conditions by which they would become qualified for admission to the Union. The voting of nations or territories should be by plebiscite which genuinely expresses the opinion of the common people and is populist, not elitist. The majority of a nation--of say, England, France, Germany or Japan, which are relatively wealthy and free--might prefer their present status and not want admission to the Union, even though special interests in the government or business community might favor it and attempt to manipulate their legislative bodies to vote for admission. On the other hand, dictators presently holding power might try to derail a nation's popular wish to join the Union. So only a truly democratic vote should be the basis for statehood. There must be free, informed and voluntary assent to become Americans; anything less than that would violate the American Spirit.
There are major obstacles to responsible citizenship which should be overcome before the status of "American" is conferred on any foreign populace. English is our national language; it should be learned by all because our national unity depends upon a common tongue. Their public and private school curricula should have mandatory courses on American history, civics and political theory, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and the responsibilities of citizens to vote, serve on juries, pay taxes and otherwise participate in the processes of our political and civic life.
What about showing respect for the American flag and displaying it properly in public? What about learning our national anthem and showing respect for the music when it is played in public? What about learning the Pledge of Allegiance, the national motto and other guiding inscriptions and symbols--and their meaning? What about observing national holidays such as Independence Day, Memorial Day and Veterans Day? What about learning of our nation's military structure--the branches of the armed forces, the chain of command from the President to the lowest rank of enlistees, the Medal of Honor and the Purple Heart, and the oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States? And, in general, what about inculcating the sentiment of patriotism for America?
Being a patriotic American means showing informed, intelligent love of country. It means honoring our country's past, present and future. It means understanding and appreciating the fundamental principles, ideals, values, events, traditions, goals and dreams which have built our nation. True patriotism is best shown by responsible citizenship to preserve and extend America's freedom.
All that can't be learned in an instant. Yet without it, citizenship is meaningless and even destructive of America. It's just a highway to the welfare trough. Therefore, in the event of statehood for another nation or territory, I think a twenty-year program of gradual integration to the Union would be appropriate to ensure that those people are properly prepared for citizenship and the American way of life. That means earning the privilege of citizenship by demonstrating they are ready, willing and able to assume its responsibilities and obligations. That means no mass migration to America to feed at the welfare trough, but rather an education in the basics of American citizenship--i.e., understanding the sacred and indivisible nature of freedom and the connection of its personal, economic and political aspects--so that our nation is enlarged by responsible, knowledgeable citizens, not grasping parasites incapable of self-reliance and self-government.
My vision of The United States of the World has this additional benefit: introduction of the American way of life into a potential new state would raise its standard of living so that the material benefits of American society are realized there and the likelihood of mass migration of new citizens is eliminated. The reason people emigrate to America is to obtain the personal freedom and economic opportunity offered here. However, if "here" becomes "there," emigration is unnecessary. I propose to extend our freedom and opportunity to other lands. Statehood would confer both those conditions on any potential new state; a twenty-year probationary period would allow those conditions to bear fruit and equalize the new state's socioeconomic status with that of heartland America or at least approximate it. Our rule of law and our military strength would establish internal safety and external security for that new state. Our free market economy would elevate the level of goods and services--the standard of living--available in that nation to heartland America standards or nearly so. Our political structure would eliminate concern about the balance of trade with that former country because all trade would be internal between states.
With freedom from political fear and economic want--two of Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms"--established in those provisional territories, heartland American citizens would not be faced with the nightmare of housing and feeding millions of poor, uneducated, unskilled migrant citizens who cannot communicate in English. Thus, the residents of, say, Vietnam, Haiti, Somalia or Bosnia would have no urgent need to leave their homelands to seek political asylum or to get on the public dole. Travel to heartland America would be changed from a desperate desire to escape oppression into a sociable wish to visit friends and relatives or take a vacation. In a world without war and want, in a world which proclaims and protects freedom and individual rights, people would be content to reside in their native lands, honoring and preserving their culture while enjoying the blessings of liberty which we Americans now have in abundance. Their racial, ethnic, religious and cultural diversity would remain--but modified to American norms of liberty, equality and justice--just as generations of immigrants from those nations have already done in pursuing happiness and "the good life" for themselves and their posterity.
By implementing this vision, by drawing down the dream, we Americans can ignite a political movement which extends the American Spirit to the entire world. As a nation, we can so shine our light into the darkness of oppression, poverty, ignorance and fear that freedom is proclaimed throughout the world and the blessings of liberty are extended to all people. Then we would truly have a planet at peace and a world without need for armies. That is the age-old dream of humanity. It is also the promise of America.
America as a Form of God-Realization
Before the founding of America, governments were predicated on limiting the liberty and rights of people by a supreme ruler or ruling body to whose government the populace was subservient; they were subjects, not citizens. That remains the case for large parts of Earth even today. America, however, is predicated on a revolutionary political idea which had never before been tried: expanding the freedom of individual citizens while keeping governmental power to a necessary minimum and government employees as servants of we the people. Before the founding of America, the "divine right of kings" governed society. The king was sovereign, subject to no one, and the government existed to support him, apart from the people. America radically transformed that. In America, everyone is a king. The individual citizen is sovereign, titles of nobility are prohibited, and the government is subject to us and exists to serve us in our pursuit of happiness.
American patriotism differs from the patriotism of all other nations by that which distinguishes America itself from all other nations: namely, freedom, inalienable rights, justice and dignity for each citizen, derived from God--not from any human institution--and implemented in a self-governing society through democratically elected representatives serving in a constitutional republic characterized by a three-part division of federal power. The power of the federal government is strictly limited in its scope; it is constrained by the Constitution through the deliberately narrow definition of its authority and enumerated powers, and through a system of checks and balances to prevent or correct any attempts to overreach its authority.
In America, there are equal rights for all but special rights for none. There is no involuntary servitude, no monarchy or aristocracy or hereditary titles, and no arbitrary rule of despots. No one is above the law; everyone has equal protection under the law but no judicial privileges. Following elections, there is peaceful transfer of governmental power rather than military coup, thus assuring civic continuity rather than social disruption. Thanks to the wisdom, courage and sacrifice of the Signers of the Declaration and the Framers of the Constitution, America, the fortress of freedom, has contributed more to the betterment of the common people than any other political body in history. As Abraham Lincoln put it, "Freedom is the last best hope of earth."
That meaningful liberty is why, as the Statue of Liberty symbolizes, America is a beacon of hope and opportunity for the oppressed of humanity. The political experiment called America begun more than two centuries ago is Earth's greatest opportunity for every human being to use his or her talents, effort and property, in the pursuit of happiness, to build a satisfying life in a context which encourages civic responsibility, social justice and spiritual unity. I can think of nothing more desirable short of enlightenment for all humanity, which would be the full manifestation of the kingdom of heaven on Earth.
American patriotism is an understanding of this nation as a political form of God-realization. Our nation is an evolutionarily advanced political means of expressing God in our lives, and in its ideal form is wholly in line with what the Perennial Philosophy/Timeless Wisdom/Primordial Tradition prescribes for peace on Earth. That tradition guides society toward God-realization, the goal of life. That is the Spirit of Liberty in action--not just political liberty but absolute truth and ultimate freedom itself. Of all the nations on Earth, the foundational ideals, principles and values of America are most aligned with the Perennial Philosophy/Timeless Wisdom/Primordial Tradition and thus--to repeat--America represents the best political means devised so far to create societal conditions for supporting human growth to enlightenment. Therefore, the essence of America is the future of the world, the goal of history. However, the Perennial Philosophy/Timeless Wisdom/Primordial Tradition does not proselytize; it informs and educates in a benign manner, never forcing or coercing, but only trying to persuade and convince on the basis of reason, realization and direct experience. It operates by attraction, not promotion. That is why so many people have come to America. They are attracted by the freedom and opportunity to find happiness and a better future for themselves, their families and their descendants. Although they may understand that attraction only in material and social terms, the potential is there for understanding and attaining the highest aspect of America: spiritual freedom, God-realization, unity/nondual consciousness, liberation, enlightenment.
American patriots carry forward humanity's sacred love of freedom and the hard-won wisdom of our national experience which preserves our sovereignty and independence against tyrants--of both the classes and the masses--so that, some day, all the inhabitants of Earth may enjoy the blessings of liberty--and liberation. To truly understand America--its metaphysical foundation and its holy ideals, principles and values--is to stand at the threshold of enlightenment. To truly implement America--its potential for developing a United States of the World--could, at long last, bring a pledge of allegiance to "one nation under God" in a magnificent act of planetary patriotism and global governance, with liberty, equality, justice and prosperity for all.
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!
I'm grateful to be American! I'm proud to salute the flag and to pledge allegiance! May God continue to bless America, this wonderful land I love! And for the good and the God all humanity, I humbly but heartily say: May the American Spirit embrace the world!
1 Thomas Jefferson strongly condemned slavery in his draft of the Declaration of Independence. Previously, his first act in political office, as a young member of the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1769, was to introduce a bill allowing slave owners to free their slaves; however, the bill did not pass. He raised the issue again when he went to Philadelphia as a member of the Second Continental Congress and wrote the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson's draft of the Declaration was about one-fourth longer than the final, published version. It stated numerous reasons for America's severance of ties with England, including the immorality of slavery. The Congress deleted that and much else. Here are Jefferson's words charging the King of England with yet another crime in his "long train of abuses" against his American subjects since, Jefferson said, the slave trade was ultimately sanctioned and subject to regulation by the Crown, which chartered trading companies.
"He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people [Africans] who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of INFIDEL powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce."
(Thomas Jefferson: Writings, edited by Merrill D. Peterson, Literary Classics of the United States, Inc., New York,1984.)
This language was removed at the objection of two colonies--Georgia and South Carolina--who threatened to leave the Congress and the struggle for independence if slavery were abolished. In responding to the objection, the collective sense of the Congress was that America could not fight two wars at once--the external war against England and the internal war against slavery. Unity was necessary to face the external danger, they felt, so the issue of slavery was put aside until the War for Independence was concluded.
At the Constitutional Convention in 1787, the issue was revived, resulting in the compromise to ban the importation of slaves after 1808. In 1806, when Jefferson was President, he reminded Congress that the time was near when it could prohibit the slave trade, and urged that it be done. Congress then outlawed the trade as of January 1, 1808, and Jefferson signed the bill into law.
Although Jefferson may be described as a racialist, because he thought the black race had certain biological traits which were inferior to those of the white race, he was in no sense a racist. His idea that all people have inherent and equal moral value transcending biological traits extended to blacks in the most fair-minded way. He once wrote, "The spirit of the master is abating, that of the slave rising from the dust, his condition mollifying, the way I hope preparing under the auspices of heaven, for a total emancipation, and that this is disposed, in the order of events, to be with the consents of the masters, rather than by their extirpation."
George Washington was, like Jefferson, a slave owner but no hypocrite. As a young man, he had been acquisitive, increasing his slaves from the dozen he inherited from his father to 135 in 1774. But, Terence P. Jeffrey states (Human Events, 11 February 2002, p. 7) , leading the American forces in the Revolution worked a change in Washington's heart. The fight for independence forced him to confront his personal attitude, and the nation's, toward traffic in human flesh. In 1786 he wrote to Robert Morris, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, "There is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do to see a plan adopted for the abolition of slavery." He reiterated that position in writing to others, not only because of its moral rightness, but also because he clearly foresaw the social, political and economic turmoil which slavery's continuance would bring. In his will he ordered all his slaves to be freed upon his wife's death, as did Jefferson. "In his last act," Jeffrey notes, "the Father of Our Country sent an unmistakable message: Freedom is for all Americans, and all men, regardless of race. In this he bucked the trend of his time and the customs of his state."
2 The 19-foot bronze statue by Thomas Crawford, commissioned in 1856, was placed atop the Capitol on December 2, 1863, during the Civil War. It was raised in sections as a huge crowd watched. President Lincoln, however, did not see the event; he was in bed with a fever. Upon completion of the task, a 35-gun salute was sounded from the 12 surrounding forts which then protected Washington, D.C. Placing the statue signaled completion of the construction of the Capitol after 70 years of work on it by architects, artists and craftsmen.
"Freedom" wears a helmet surmounted by an eagle's head and feathers, and encircled with stars. Originally, Crawford had given "Freedom" a liberty cap inspired by antique classical models and associated with freedom from slavery. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis objected to the symbolism from the Southern point of view, declaring that such a depiction would only further inflame pro- and anti-slavery passions which were sweeping the country. He was right, but the change of headdress was insufficient to avoid the Great Debate.
3 Although the foundation of America involved a most extraordinary collection of men of wisdom, they were not all saints or sages, and the disputes among them over various issues along the way from the War for Independence to the creation of the Constitution--amd even afterward--are legendary. George Washington and George Mason, once good friends, fell out over the Constitution. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson likewise became estranged for years (but resumed their friendship in the twilight of their lives). One dispute involved our national emblem, the eagle, and lasted for six years. Benjamin Franklin called the eagle a bird of "bad moral character" because it stole food from other birds. Moreover, he argued, other countries were already using the golden eagle as their symbol, so why adopt something so commonly used? He proposed the turkey instead. He was overruled, but when Congress decided in 1782 to adopt the Great Seal of the United States, it was the bald eagle, unique to North America, not the golden eagle, which appeared on the obverse (front) of the seal.
4 The name "perennial philosophy" comes from philosophia perennis, a Latin term coined by the 17th century German philosopher Leibniz. The Perennial Philosophy is also the title of a book about this global wisdom-tradition which Aldous Huxley published in 1944, adapting Leibniz's phrase. It was the first book on the topic to get wide public notice. It deserved such notice because it is a magnificent work about the human condition and our potential to change it for the better.
In the midst of World War II, Huxley wrote The Perennial Philosophy to offer a solution to the problem of man's inhumanity to man. To put it simply, he said there will never be a better world until there are better people in it, and the place to begin building better people is with ourselves, through spiritual practices which bring our lives more and more into awareness of the unity of the human family under the parentage of God.
Yet the world's religions, from which most spiritual practices are derived, seemed as divided from one another as the world's nations. Their potential as a force for universal good will and spiritual brotherhood was unrealized. Earth's political bodies and religious bodies alike were in deep division and struggle. What might end the warfare and unite the human race?, Huxley wondered.
The only solution, he said, lay in seeing the essential unity of the world's major religions and sacred traditions. What is that unseen unity? In a single word: enlightenment. Enlightenment, he said, is the core truth of the world's major religions and sacred traditions, no matter of what era, no matter from what civilization or culture. It is the "highest common factor"--not the lowest--among the world's spiritual traditions, religions and sacred lifeways. The Perennial Philosophy was intended to show the universality of that core truth behind the multitude of names and forms which the religious impulse--humanity's search for God--has taken throughout history. The rudiments of the Perennial Philosophy, Huxley wrote,
may be found in every region of the world, and in its fully developed forms it has a place in every one of the higher religions. A version of this Highest Common Factor in all preceding and subsequent theologies was first committed to writing more than twenty-five centuries ago, and since that time the inexhaustible theme has been treated again and again, from the standpoint of every religious tradition and in all the principal languages of Asia and Europe (p. vii).
There are three aspects to this timeless collective wisdom, Huxley explained. First is a metaphysic, namely, the fundamental idea that Reality--with a capital R--is a divine substance; all things, he said, including lives and minds, are forms of that divine Reality, traditionally called God. Second is a psychology which says that the soul of each individual is identical with divine Reality; in other words, the ultimate identity of everyone is that divine Reality, traditionally called God. Third is an ethic which says that Man's final end--that is, the goal toward which all human life is striving--is vital awareness and understanding of that divine Reality, of the immanent and transcendent Ground of all being, traditionally called God.
To put it more simply, God or divine Reality is the source of all creation and we human beings are one with the source at the soul-level of our being. The purpose of human life is to consciously realize that divine source within us and then align our lives to express it throughout all our activities. We must let the Ground of our being become the basis of our doing.
That is God-realization, liberation, unity consciousness, nondual consciousness, spiritual freedom, enlightenment. That is the core truth of the world's major religions and sacred traditions. That is the final solution to the problem of man's age-old inhumanity to man--a spiritual solution. Huxley's research demonstrated that convincingly in his book and it has been confirmed many times over since then by scholars and spiritual teachers alike around the world.
5 The term "Timeless Wisdom" was coined in the last century by American philosopher Manley P. Hall, founder of the Philosophic Research Foundation in Los Angeles. The term "Primordial Tradition" was coined by American professor of philosophy and scholar of religion Huston Smith, author of the classic bestseller The Religions of Man (now retitled The World's Religions).
6 Jefferson wrote "inalienable" in his draft of the Declaration of Independence. After the Continental Congress approved it and ordered it to be disseminated, a printer's error changed "inalienable" to "unalienable" and that is how the official text of the Declaration now reads, although "inalienable" is the better usage.
7 For the century-plus of Americans who were educated from McGuffey's Reader grade school textbooks, God was defined quite simply as "the great moral Governor of the universe." McGuffey was echoing James Madison (quoted above) and others such as John Adams who described God as " the governour of the Universe." All told, McGuffey's Reader sold more than 100 million copies. The understanding that God is the governor of the universe was widespread in that era and therefore was simply "common sense"--that is, a commonly held and commonly understood belief about the nature of reality. It is therefore correct in that regard to say that as America drifts from its religious, moral and philosophic moorings, America is losing its common sense.
8 The process of attaining spiritual freedom is the subject of many books, courses and teaching organizations. There are far too many to mention here. I will simply refer readers to my own books, The Meeting of Science and Spirit (Paragon House: St. Paul, MN, 1990), What Is Enlightenment? (Paragon House: St. Paul, MN, 1995) and my forthcoming Enlightenment 101: A Guide to God-Realization and Higher Human Development. Note that the process of attaining spiritual freedom is alluded to in the quotation by John Adams at the head of Part I. Adams reiterated this key idea in a second statement: "The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people" This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments and affections of the people was the real American Revolution."
9 A portrait of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea was proposed by Benjamin Franklin for the Great Seal of the United States.
10 With regard to our nation's policies, however, Americans should not automatically assume that God is on our side. Rather, our position should be what Abraham Lincoln said in response to someone who asked, during the Civil War, whether God was on the Union side. He replied, "The question, sir, is not whether God is on our side but whether we are on God's side."
11 With regard to the possibility of widespread oppression by government itself, not just wrongdoing by an individual, some people maintain we should add "the cartridge box" to this list, meaning a final resort to arms if all prescribed, lawful and nonviolent efforts fail to correct the wrongdoing. The authority they cite for that is the intent of the Second Amendment to the Constitution and the statement in the Declaration of Independence arising from our War for Independence: " to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
12 The Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., has the statement "Equal justice under law" inscribed across the front, below a sculpture of seated female figure named Liberty. The artist, Robert I. Aitken, described his work as a "sculptural story" with these words: "Liberty enthroned--looking confidently into the Future--across her lap the Scales of Justice--She is surrounded by two Guardian figures. On her right Order On her left Authority Then to the right and left two figures each represent Council. Then to the right and left two figures represent Research Past and Present."
13 According to a personal communication from historian Charlotte Waterlow, author of The Hinge of History (One World Trust: London, England, 1995), when the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights was being drafted, Eleanor Roosevelt, who was a delegate to the Commission which wrote the United Nations Charter, personally intervened to block all references to God in order to make the Declaration acceptable to Communist nations.
14 In my judgment, the United Nations is the greatest threat to world freedom, bar none. Although it has no authority to function as a government, it is nevertheless attempting to perform governmental functions such as:
- direct taxation of the citizens of the world (it has proposed a tax on all computer mail, phone calls, airline tickets and various other schemes),
- creating a permanent standing army (being formed through the NATO Alliance, including U.S. soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen who will serve under foreign officers and wear UN uniforms),
- consolidating all international agencies under its direct authority,
- regulating all transnational corporations and financial institutions,
- requiring global registration of all arms,
- confiscating land and resources from nations via the Law of the Sea Treaty, its concept of "global commons" and its international Biosphere Reserves program (which involves huge tracts of U.S. land stretching from Alabama to Virginia),
- establishing a Marxist plan for global redistribution of wealth,
- and numerous other activities aimed at seizing control of the entire planet, its people, institutions and resources.
It already has its own judicial system, the International Criminal Court (ICC), in which the rights and protections we Americans have under the Constitution are undermined and even eliminated. Among our rights and protections are: to be considered innocent until proven guilty, to confront our accuser, to have a speedy trial by jury in the state and district where the alleged crime was committed, to be released on bail, to avoid self-incrimination, to appeal the verdict to a higher court and so forth. The ICC eliminates all that. It claims jurisdiction over everyone on Earth. It claims the right to arrest anyone anywhere and try them in the Netherlands before foreign judges on vaguely defined charges such as "crimes against humanity." In short, the ICC acts as prosecutor, judge and jury. That's not justice; that's a kangaroo court.
The current Secretary General of the UN, Kofi Annan, has proclaimed the UN's worldwide jurisdiction over "human rights and fundamental freedoms." Its Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Annan said, "must and will take precedence over concerns of State sovereignty." However, many of its committees are a farce because nations such as China, Cuba and Libya, which are gross abusers of human rights, rotate into the chairmanship of the Commission on Human Rights, and Iraq heads up the UN Commission on Disarmament. Its treaties and proclamations on topics such as the rights of children and families undermine fundamental principles of American society; they elevate socialism to positions of authority, making the state the head of the family and children wards of the state. The Charter of the United Nations unconstitutionally usurps power reserved to the states by the Tenth Amendment.
The UN Charter broadly asserts its authority for armed intervention in the domestic turmoil of nations; that was its basis for sending troops into Haiti and Somalia, which were "nation-building" disasters. It ordered Iraq to disarm itself of weapons of mass destruction, yet for 12 years nothing was accomplished. Its inaction on situations such as the Hutu-Tutsi tribal warfare in Rwanda, which resulted in the death of an estimated 600,000 Africans in the mid-1990s, and in the killing fields of Cambodia where an estimated 3,000,000 were killed by Khmer Rouge, is indicative not only of the UN's political ineffectiveness but also of its moral indifference. Moreover, the UN supports brutal regimes around the world.
Last of all, the United States contributes far more than any other nation to the UN in so-called "dues" and in international foreign aid (such as food, clothing, shelter, medicine and manpower) administered through the UN, while the UN itself provides for us only a platform for terrorist-harboring nations to issue their anti-American diatribes. In other words, we underwrite their name-calling, their false charges and their hatred of us.
Altogether, the United Nations is an institution whose end-game, although clothed in noble-sounding rhetoric about democracy and human rights, is in reality a totalitarian world government in the making. It would be in the best interests of America and the world to get the U.S. out of the UN and the UN out of the U.S. Recently Rep. Ron Paul introduced a bill in Congress, H.R. 1146 - The American Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003, to end U.S. membership in the UN. Iit was put to a vote in July 2003, but lost, 350-74. Nevertheless, that is a sizeable number of congresspeople who are waking up to the fact that the UN is hostile to American sovereignty and American society. If Rep. Paul introduces his bill again, I urge your support of it.