Toward a Broader Vision

By Ingrid Van Mater

What can we do to change the tide of events in a world where fanaticism, heedless destruction of lives, self-interest, and other divisive expressions seem at times to eclipse the vast dimensions of our humanness? Many are pondering this question as thoughts turn to the coming year with hope of greater understanding and tolerance. Yet so often we forget that we are the world, and how we think and feel makes a significant difference.

To bring about global harmony, we must rise above cultural and religious differences to the level of our common divine heritage. How can this be done? Recently in a radio discussion a rabbi's view provided an insight: "God is everywhere, and within us," he said, adding:

I would like to see us as a people not separated by color, belief, and culture, but rather to treat people as human beings. If we can look at each other as souls, instead of bodies of different color, what a different world this would be. Part of what is coming on at the end of the century is not knowledge alone, but wisdom — our capacity to enact a purpose. Our respective religions are those that inspire us to practice what we believe.

Such thinking universalizes religion into the true religious spirit within every human heart. This brings to mind Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's conception of "the human community as both an organic and spiritual reality."

The inner struggle is and has always been "between the satisfactions that blind and the obligations that awaken," as Norman Cousins expressed it. Deep within we know what these spiritual commitments are, but being consistent in fulfilling them may well be life's greatest challenge. It takes perseverance to avoid settling into comfortable grooves of thought which, if allowed to continue, become more and more ingrained and constricting. Here our efforts as creative interpreters of life are all-important: seeking to understand our real selves, to be true to our deepest intuitions, and contribute to the heart-wisdom of humanity. To the degree that our daily lives embody the wisdom we gain in this search, universal brotherhood will increasingly become a living reality.


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What is imagination? Something latent in the spirit of man takes form. There is, as yet, nothing, or but little, in the external world in harmony with it. But it may be a divine idea in the Platonic sense. It may be as much of destiny as the imagination may lay hold of. It may be that the Divine mind has some far-off divine event to which it would shepherd humanity, and in great national crises, when the whole being is stirred, when the existence of the nation itself is in peril, it summons up all the forces ponderable and imponderable in its being, and the conflict becomes as much spiritual as material. Then the archetypal conception of the nation, all we would have it, all it may become, takes possession of our minds. If we had not grandiose conceptions we would not undertake great labors or make great sacrifices. . . . That imagination, spiritual or national, is the most powerful thing in human affairs. Intangible itself, it moves bodies. Invisible itself, it changes visible civilizations. The temples of old gods become old ruins and desolate when the imagination is withdrawn from them. When imagination withers the world becomes stagnant. — A.E. (George W. Russell)