Is America Going Through A “Spiritual Blackout”?

Beyond all the partisan labels that separate us, there is a hidden wholeness, a deeper oneness that unites us all. But where is this consciousness when we need it most?

Six days prior to the election, the esteemed philosopher Cornel West wrote in the Boston Globe of the relative collapse of integrity, honesty, and decency – “an undeniable spiritual blackout of grand proportions” – in present-day America. He said the sad spectacle of the presidential election – on both sides – is no surprise, rather predictable symbols of such a spiritual blackout.

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How did we get to this point, having started out with the loftiest of principles and ideals? Is our current predicament inherent to such a vision? To illustrate the potential extremes to which democracy can be taken, West draws upon two other well-known philosophers, Plato and John Dewey, to give us some perspective. West says Plato foresaw this scenario in that the freedoms of democracy can lead to such qualities as greed, corruption, and secrecy. A safeguard today is that we are so much more aware of anything that goes beyond the bounds of moderation.

On the other hand, West sees a positive take on the potentials of democracy in John Dewey’s view that the premium must be put on “democratic statecraft” (public accountability, protection of rights and liberties, and personal responsibility through a fair rule of law) and, especially, on “democratic soulcraft” (integrity, empathy, and a mature sense of history).

Democracies aren’t destined to collapse due to the misuse of rights, but can be kept on course by courageous exemplars who act on moral compassion and historical humility, Dewey says.

This is the moment in history we find ourselves in today. With a mature sense of history, it is easier to recognize the turning of a social or political cycle, just as we see in the natural world, as one cycle plays out another follows. In this case, now, we are also witnessing the acceleration of a grand socio-political and spiritual transformation that will continue to progress toward its necessary, intended, and inevitable resolution.

To complete this next cycle, our democracy needs, now more than ever, such exemplars, coming from all strata of society, every day citizens to the highest level politicians, who will promote the spiritual principles of equality for all, racial harmony, and unity in diversity. It is only the implementation of such principles that will take us out of our spiritual blackout and fully into a spiritual springtime.

As Cornel West concludes his essay, “we need a democratic soulcraft of wisdom, justice, and peace.” These virtues represent the deep-seated dreams that could remain buried unless we keep our focus on living the principles of a democratic soulcraft that benefit all citizens.

Unity is the need of our time, the rallying cry of every action every one of us needs to take from this day forward, and the foundation of any and all soulcrafting that can be done. As the Baha’i writings affirm, “A world growing to maturity must recognize the oneness and wholeness of human relationships… The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established.” It is up to all of us to be the “spreaders of peace and reconciliation,” longing for the realization of the oneness of humanity. We have to give unity a chance.


Dr. Robert Atkinson’s forthcoming book The Story of Our Time: from Duality to Interconnectedness to Oneness will be available at Sacred Stories Publishing February 2017.


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