Conflict

To this point, I have emphasized the positive and redemptive aspects of spiritual practice. Unfortunately, beneficial outcomes are not a given. For societies largely shielded from the natural tyrannies, human competition is the principle stimulus to progress. Progress implies change, but when social practices are sustained over decades, the development of supporting physical infrastructure (buildings, roads and the like) serves to entrench those practices. Restructuring society then involves not just a conceptual shift, but also a political struggle to reallocated resources from an established bureaucracy to its nascent successor. In intractable cases, we may begin to believe that comprehensive and purposeless destruction may be necessary to establish the context for renewal.

There are people who are very, very effective at this kind of practice. I have anecdotal knowledge of the practice of the military in reorganizing dysfunctional bases: they would bring in a hit squad that would arbitrarily demote, promote and restructure base personnel. Once the system had completely broken down - meaning that nobody knew what the rules were any more - they would bring in a team of crack managers to restore order.

Unfortunately, our recognition as a society that restructuring is necessary to progress has come to be manipulated for personal gain in the private and political arenas. Social predators are no longer allowed untrammeled access to military might, so they have evolved a form of spiritual warfare. Waged largely through the vehicle of an uncritical media, they undermine trust and honesty with sophisticated forms of manipulation. Working through the political, legal and financial systems, they prey upon fear to extract power from us without accepting the responsibility of delivering any specific and measurable value to their "constituents".

Culpability lies in part with those of us who refuse to stand up against that manipulation. There are spiritual mechanisms that can be used to visit sanctions upon predators. All of those involve risk, and in any given context, a leader (parent, manager, executive or statesman) has the obligation to accept that risk along with the benefits of privilege.

Their spiritual imperative is to assure that disorder is successfully channeled. In our discussion of spirituality thus far, I have focused on techniques for diffusing disorder through the network of a supportive community. In considering the legacies of our most important spiritual exemplars, however, I have come to apprehend another possibility. Until we have learned successfully to channel disorder to integrate the dimensionality of our existence, its tendency is to concentrate in chaotic personalities. To control the consequences of that concentration, one conceivable strategy is to accept its focus, gathering it in and shifting it through time to a moment when humanity is better able to manage it.