There are many ways to describe the divide in America — political, racial, economic. But most descriptions do not lead to solutions. I propose a way of looking at the divide that might help us come together again.
I suggest that the most important divide in America is the divide about sovereignty. Many still wish to be ruled by someone or something else, but more and more of us believe we have an absolute right to choose for ourselves. Personal sovereignty is important and healing. It’s the “absolute right” part that is causing problems.
This is part of a larger picture. There is a nearly universal consensus among people doing soul-related work: We are in a time of great change. The basic structure of our world will soon be different and humans need to change if they want to continue to exist. I agree with this.
There is far less agreement about how the world will change and what humans need to do to keep up. Most of the ideas I hear look at physical aspects like climate change, species extinctions, overpopulation, and other ecological disasters. Others ideas look at changes in belief systems and relations between groups. These are important changes, but I think the problems these changes hope to solve are only symptoms. The problems won’t be fixed until we understand the underlying cause. Changing views about personal sovereignty might lead to an effective solution.
If we look at the path of human history, I think we can see a clear movement toward individual sovereignty. In the largest arc of human history we have moved from the belief that rulers were descended from the gods to the idea that each person has individual rights, sometimes described as God-given rights.
It’s easy to just do what someone tells us to do or to do what is expected because of our place in society. But we continue to discover that it can also be uncomfortable when we think about our own beliefs of what might be the highest and best good. We have been working toward taking responsibility. We have been moving away from blindly following a leader.
There have been great successes, including the revolutions starting in the late 1700s. I believe the early 2000s had the largest percentage of people ever living in countries with democratically chosen leaders — one important aspect of sovereignty.
Being sovereign is uncomfortable, though, because then we have to take responsibility for what we choose. One person’s sovereign choice may take away another person’s sovereignty. So there are lots of times when we have taken a step forward toward sovereignty and then taken a half step back. This seems to have happened recently in the United States.
In regard to the divide in America, problems with sovereignty appear in every part of the political spectrum. Let’s look at a few American groups. Similar groups are found in the rest of the world, too.
One group is made up of people who still want to be told what to believe, what to say, and what to do. Some of these people listen to the right-wing echo chamber and believe that a strongman president will lead them to a better place. When that strongman chooses to worship others who seem even stronger, it gets messy. Other people listen to the left-wing echo chamber, which totally discounts the issues 40% of Americans are raising. For example, forcing a Christian baker to make a wedding cake for a gay couple is a clear violation of the baker’s sovereignty. I’m not saying how the issue should be resolved. I’m just pointing out that neither echo chamber hears all sides of the issues clearly.
Another group believes that shining enough light on the problems will make them all go away. They believe that there are solutions that bring joy to all and harm to none. Many spiritual communities support the point of view that we should shine white light on everything whether the light is wanted or not. If the sovereign beings involved don’t want light shining on them, that light is a violation of their sovereignty. Beyond that, in this physical world there are seldom choices that are clearly best for every being.
Others are still not seeing the need for being sovereign. They believe that there are great advisors in the soul world who can tell us how to solve our problems. All we need to do is listen to them and all will be well. Those who look to holy books or channeled masters or Ouija boards or divine revelations all share this view — even though they totally disagree with one another’s style of revelation. Another set of these people worship the god of science and choose to follow the siren call of Reason.
I don’t believe we can move forward to the next phase of the great change until most humans choose to be sovereign and know how to do it. So there are many challenges.
I want to propose a solution for one of them — the divide in America.
I’ve read many places that everything can be solved by listening to one another. Some places have been successful with this. Others have failed.
I don’t think that, by itself, listening is the solution. I think the first step is to ask the question. “What do you think?” We are asking one individual to share his or her thoughts about a situation.
If we are talking to a person who chooses to follow a leader, we will first hear the leader’s thoughts. The key is to get beyond those and ask the person to think for himself or herself, too. We have to accept the possible validity of what the leader is saying. That can be difficult. But it’s necessary because nobody thinks for themselves while they are defending a leader’s position. After our acceptance, we can ask, “Do you agree with all of that?” (Emphasis on the “all.”) That’s where sovereignty comes in. Accepting most of what a chosen leader says is all right, as long as we leave room for our personal differences.
The next step is to realize that we can’t all have everything we want. We need to act in a sovereign fashion. We need to respect the sovereignty of all others. But absolute sovereignty is not possible in the physical world. So we need to make sovereign choices about the compromises we are willing to make.
Everyone will be uncomfortable about some of the decisions. But that’s just how it is in the physical world. Finding the highest and best good for every being all the time isn’t possible. As part of the great change we will recognize that we have chosen — in our sovereignty — to be here. And learning how to be sovereign and to make compromises is part of what we have chosen to do.