We stand before the threshold of a different humanity and what will guide us? If we approach this question from the highest spiritual vantage point, the most important question may be how to be an instrument of God’s Mercy and Mystery.
~Shaikh Kabir Helminski

Complete background notes for Kabir’s speeches at Princeton’s Commemoration of the 75th anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights and at the R20 International Summit of Religious Authorities (ISORA): Religion’s Role in Addressing Middle East Violence and Threats to a Rules-based International Order in Jakarta, Indonesia: Let Us Unite to Abolish the Primordial Cycle of Hatred, Tyranny, and Violence that Plagues Humanity. In the gracious presence of Indonesia President H.E Joko Widodo, Chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama, Yahya Cholil Staquf, Global Faith leaders, Spiritual elders, Ambassadors, Religious Authorities.

Preserving Our Souls in The Face of Soullessness

Shaikh Kabir Helminski

Many of us must be wondering about where humanity is going, whether humanity has the wisdom to handle the extraordinary powers it has developed, whether humanness itself will survive. How shall we address the violence, inhumanity, and lawlessness on an international scale that we are witnessing? We view humanity’s situation not just in terms of the injustices, foolishness, and tragedy of political conflicts, we feel compassion and sorrow for the suffering of all.

Dehumanization, the War Against Human Dignity

We are acutely aware of the need to protect human beings from the physical violence rooted in the primordial tendency to pursue self-interest at the expense of others. The first step in justifying such violence is the dehumanization of the other. It is this dehumanization that licenses grave injustice and cruelty: Apartheid. Genocide. Ethnic-cleansing. The collectivism that subjects the individual to ideology. All forms of enslavement, restricting the freedom that our consciousness naturally seeks.

The Nadhlatul Ulema has been bringing forth this dimension of human dignity under the banner of “Humanitarian Islam.” The humanitarian ideal arises out of an awareness of human dignity sourced in Divine Mystery. This humanitarian ideal is not the exclusive possession of any one religion or philosophy.

What is Human Dignity?

In identifying civilizational values, the place of “Human Dignity” must have precedence. But in what does human dignity consist? Is it merely a sentimental ideal, a lullaby that brings us comfort?

Human dignity is expressed in the capacity to govern our selfish impulses and strategies, our irrational hatred and prejudice. We can recognize the reality of human dignity in those essential human capacities that include free will, voluntary awareness, conscience, and all beneficent behaviors and virtues. These are the qualities that define our humanity and must be protected if human existence is to remain meaningful.

We recognize human dignity in our ability to perceive a dimension of value, to sacrifice, to yearn, to aspire, to be in relationship with the sacred Mystery. This is because the human being is the threshold between the five-sense physical universe and the invisible dimension of consciousness, the heart, the dimension of the sacred.

When we analyze political decisions only quantitatively, only in terms of economics, and especially in terms of our own national interests, we are partially blind, missing the most valuable dimension. We may have more money, but less happiness. More power, but less virtue. We may have more medicine, but less health. We may have more education, but less wisdom. More weapons, but less peace.

Reality is more than the five-sense, quantitative world; reality also includes spiritual laws. To the extent that these laws are violated it will have a negative effect on the human soul. As the human soul is drained of virtue, it is also drained of consciousness and free will. The selfish soul lacks freedom because it is driven and compelled by selfish interests, fears, and projections. As with individuals, so, too, with human institutions and governments.

Religious communities must defend human beings from forces that target the qualities of the soul, that violate and degrade human dignity. We must not only unite to protect physical lives, but in this era we must unite to defend the dignity of humanness itself.

The Dimension of the Sacred, of Human Dignity, of the Heart.

We stand before a civilizational choice: to bring the sacred dimension of human dignity as a guiding principle into all programs and policies. One of the challenges of the era is to bring forth a language capable of communicating the reality and value of this dimension of the sacred, a dimension perceivable to the human heart.

We, as religious leaders, are people conscious of a transcendent dimension of human life, a sacred dimension that can be experienced here and now. This sacred, transcendent dimension is what gives meaning and beauty to life. All that we truly value, all human virtues, all the richness of the heart, is sourced in something invisible. All that we do as “religious” people stems from this “invisible” sacred domain.

Awareness of this sacred dimension may be what distinguishes us from those who make decisions based primarily on quantitative economic factors and who pursue their own personal or national interests.

Increasingly we are seeing a confrontation between two mentalities, one that is sourced in human dignity and one that is blind to it. It is the encounter between the humanitarian ideal and supremacist ideologies, an encounter between a conception of the human being as an evolving soul and human beings as a mere resource to be exploited.

And this encounter is also revealed in two opposing mentalities: Organic vs. synthetic. Natural vs. artificial. Values oriented vs. quantitatively oriented. Holistic vs. technocratic. Humanitarian vs. transhumanist. Transcendence embracing vs. transcendence excluding.

When we include the dimension of sacred dignity, our sense of reality can dramatically shift as if from black and white to full color.

Covert Violence of Mind Control

Technologies change the nature of war, the field of conflict. The human mind is today’s invisible battlefield. Many of us may be acutely aware of imminent dangers and threats, of immense powers in the wrong hands, easily abused or misused.

The fruits of all our exponentially expanding knowledge could contribute to the flourishing of life and humanness itself, but this expanding knowledge can unfortunately be used instead to control, debase, and even enslave us.

Some are advocating the enhancement of human beings through a bio-technical convergence. Alterations of human DNA, technological augmentation of human faculties, linking individual human consciousness with the Cloud, blurring the distinction between individual consciousness and an “official reality” created, governed by a technocratic elite.

The conflict today is no longer between left and right, but between the powers of technocratic centralized control and a healthy, decentralized flourishing of human values—freedom, diversity, creativity, spiritual aspiration. The technocratic mentality proposes exclusively technological solutions to all human problems. The offspring of this technocratic, values-deficient mindset include industrial agriculture, genetically modified food, industrial medicine, synthetic realities. We are more and more alienated from the natural world, occupied with artificial entertainments and virtual relationships; we could be increasingly distant from our own souls.

Just as our lives are threatened by our own heedless creations out of joint with spiritual reality, our language is corrupted by doublespeak, foreseen long ago in George Orwell’s 1984:

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible… Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness… the great enemy of clear language is insincerity. Where there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms…

Modern technologies have resulted in an increased ability to lie and get away with it, to suppress alternative narratives. But at the same time developments in communication technologies, the democratization of media, is leading to an upsurge of truth-telling.

Mind control is potentially as much a crime as physical coercion. Tyranny could arrive today dressed as fashionable technologies and conveniences. Human beings can literally be turned into antennae for a controlling narrative that leaves little possibility for conscious reflection and conscience.

We stand before the threshold of a different humanity and what will guide us? If we approach this question from the highest spiritual vantage point, the most important question may be how to be an instrument of God’s Mercy and Mystery.

Where there is evil, our responsibility is to direct that back to its Source. Our responsibility regarding Evil, the Shadow, or Satan is to direct that back to its true Source, return it all to the Divine Mercy.