The Weakening of Institutions in the United States and the Return to Transcendence

GurujiMa  | 

It is the light-filled ideal of government that was part of the founding of this country that remains as the basis for hope, and it is the return of sacred office and sacred institutions that will bring about a reversal of existing conditions.

In the background of awareness, and reinforced by the teachings of every school-aged child, are certain assumptions about the reality in which we live. We have taken for granted, for example, that there are three branches of government that operate with relative independence, each with its own unique jurisdiction, and yet each with an area of overlap with the other two branches. We have taken this to be the solid structure of reality established at the founding of this country, and for many, have assumed an implicit virtue in the way these institutions functioned, and in the way they provided moral oversight for each other. This is the nature of what we have assumed to be ‘checks and balances’ among branches of government.

This picture of an external structure that runs itself, that maintains itself, that can correct for internal errors, and that we are part of, but only at a distance, is one that for many Americans has been maintained for over two hundred years, with a belief in their credibility and a pride in their accomplishment as a template of democracy. Such an ideal picture has been maintained for many, despite grievous flaws in the functioning of government, and despite a growing sense of distance of ourselves from those who govern. This idealism, held since the founding of this country, still remains as part of the ethos of what America is and is meant to be, yet has been accompanied by a progressive disillusionment as behavior of governing bodies seemed to depart more and more from the deeply cherished ideals that we have held. We have held these ideals to be part of our country’s heritage, much as we hold its flag, or as we hold the Statue of Liberty.

Disappointment and discouragement are a natural outgrowth of idealism, as the gap between the ideal and the real widens in practice, and as the branches of government, instead of providing an example of what democracy should be at its best, become vulnerable to the political marketplace, and as power, self-interest, and the need for electability gain strength in relation to the desire to serve the good of all. That this disillusionment has become widespread is a fact of life at this time, with a sense of helplessness in the hearts of many as to how to correct the situation. What has been called ‘partisan politics’ has become a way of life and a normative expectation not only for electoral politics in which two parties compete for votes, but within the executive, legislative, and judicial branches themselves. This situation not only dissolves the shining ideal of a moral template of democracy that many have held in their hearts, but weakens the institutions of government themselves. As we see each branch of government influenced by party ideology and by the desire for re-electability, we come to view government not as a servant of the people, but as a vehicle for lesser motives. The heart cries out for a return to something that it can hardly name, something that would restore the ideal or institute it for the first time, namely, the capacity for transcendence that would allow each server within government to be capable of responding to the higher motives of the ideals that live within them.

The separation of the sacred from the practical has a long history, the history of no longer feeling or believing that one is part of something larger than oneself.

Widespread sadness and disillusionment are the result of the perception that we can no longer take for granted moral integrity and accountability in those who serve, who may start out as true servants of the people, yet who fall prey to the common ethos of governance that expects less of them than their highest standards of what is right. For many who serve in public office, as well as for the public as a whole, there has been a loss of hope in the capacity for transcendence that brought to each inhabitant of the White House, each member of Congress, and each Justice appointed to the Supreme Court, a sense that they were entering something larger than themselves, a sacred office that held history, sanctity, and that asked of those who occupied these offices to rise to a higher standard within themselves in order to conform to the higher standard of the office itself.

This higher standard exists within each of us`, however, today it becomes easily covered over by the cultural norm operating now, that holds that the practical is the only real, and the sacred, something that one realizes solely in the privacy of one’s home. The deeper heart does not believe this nor think this, but this deeper heart is being covered over, at present, by emotional and energetic influences that cloud its moral center, and that prevent thought and action from remaining faithful to the purposes of love.

The separation of the sacred from the practical has a long history, the history of no longer feeling or believing that one is part of something larger than oneself. It is this sense that allows one to rise above one’s smaller concerns into a broader vista, where the view of noble service to the common good becomes visible. Such a view has become progressively diminished in recent decades, and in its place comes a secularism and pragmatism that has more to do with disillusionment than it has to do with hope. As a result of this shift, there has been a downgrading of expectations regarding moral purity in many who serve within government, and a downgrading of behavior in conformity with this downgrading of expectations.

This is a great loss to us as Americans. It is the loss of the representations of our ideals, and it is a loss in our sense of stability. Such a loss does not apply to every single individual in office, for some strive mightily against the tide in order to retain their idealism, and in order to retain the basis for purity and integrity. But for many, disillusionment and a downgrading of expectations and of the capacity to seek the good of the Whole — this has been the price paid as a result of the loss of the sacred and transcendent.

Nevertheless, the light-filled ideal of government that was part of the founding of this country remains as the basis for hope, and it is the return of sacred office and sacred institutions that will bring about a reversal of existing conditions. It is the return of the sense of the sacred that would allow one to rise above the lower impulses which still adhere as a legacy of the past, into a sense of a fusion of public life and the spiritual life of humanity.

For there is a public life that represents the spiritual life of humanity. It is not partisan. It is not bound to a particular religion or creed. It is not culturally or ethnically restricted. And it serves the good of all, not just a select group. The spiritual life of humanity rests on the deep knowing of the unity of all life, based on the knowing that the Divine is real, and thus there is no aspect of human life that is ever separate from it. Remembering this, those who serve in public office would remember that they were, in each moment, serving the Divine within the human.

In relation to the United States, there is an image of government that needs to come into being that is an ideal formation with three parts. The image is similar to that of a tree.

The roots of the tree are in the will of the people, infused by divine will which is the source of the collective human will. This represents a change in society so that the separation between divine will and human will becomes a thing of the past. This new fusion of two wills may be called ‘enlightened will.’

This will rise up as a life-force into the legislative branch of government that is the trunk of the tree which interprets this will as laws and policies. These are the ideas behind action , defining the directions in which action shall move, but they are not the action itself

The branches are the action, and they are the executive branch of government, extending idea and intention, and bringing it into manifested form in service to the wellbeing of all. The executive manifests what comes from the roots and is translated through the legislative. It moves idea into action, and determines how divine will shall manifest.

The leaves of the tree are the judicial branch. Their role is to take in sunlight as spiritual wisdom and light, and, through the process of photosynthesis, to nourish the tree. The judicial insures that all parts of the tree remain in balance so that the trunk, branches, and leaves reflect the will of the people and are in right relationship to each other. It does this through ruling on issues that represent disharmony.

This ideal government is not based on human will but on human will infused by the Divine. Here, loss of hope in the capacity for transcendence is replaced by the restoration of the sense of divine reality, and the end to the separation between ‘above’ and ‘below,’ where ‘above refers to the concerns of heaven or the exclusively spiritual, and ‘below’ concerns the Earth and the exclusively physical. The end of this separation is the beginning of transcendence of public life into union with the spiritual life-force that lives at its core.

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