A Talk by Shaikh Kabir Helminski at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C., October 8th, 2016
Why are we here today? We are here to “chant for change.” We are here today because we know that spiritual consciousness is an effective power.
We are not the first generation to face massive injustice and coercion, senseless wars, and human heedlessness on a mass scale. For ages a small minority of people have been awake. When Catholic Missions enslaved native populations throughout the Americas, there were awake people within the Church who recognized the madness and tried to change it. During the period when Africans were enslaved in the South only a few miles from here, there were people who saw the madness of the institution of slavery. As Hitler’s Reich was building up its power, a small number of awakened people saw clearly what was happening. In Israel today a small number of awakened people have the moral conscience to oppose the brutal occupation of Palestine. And, of course, in those Muslim lands that have allowed religion to become an oppressive force, there are awakened Muslims
I’ve been aware of the injustice and hypocrisy of my own beloved country since at least the Viet Nam War, but I’ve never felt as big a gap between “official reality” and actual reality as I see now. My own observations and research over the last 15 years convinces me more everyday that we are in a crisis of truth. In almost every area that matters, the official reality is disconnected from actual reality: the bogus war on terror that only increases terror, the war on drugs that has made drug dealing very profitable, especially for the major suppliers; the surveillance state which is a mega-business; and, finally, the debt-based monetary system of private central banks, whose incalculable harm to humanity goes more or less unrecognized, especially by liberals. Henry Ford’s quote from early in the 20th century is even more true today than it was almost a hundred years ago: “It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.”
The more we know, the more we understand, the more outrage we feel. I am outraged by the meticulously maintained facade of unreality that passes for normality and respectability. I find myself asking the question again and again: How do we balance outrage with Love:
Outrage at the dumbing down of American society.
Outrage at a media totally subservient to government.
Outrage at perpetual war and war-profiteers.
Outrage at a rigged, corrupt, and lawless economic system.
Outrage at the deep state that operates with impunity.
I’ve struggled to find words that tell the truth yet offer hope, words from the heart that challenge the political platitudes and the trivialities we allow to distract us.
If you think that Mainstream media today has betrayed journalism and become mindless entertainment; no, it is worse. Mainstream media and the official reality it promotes distracts us from the fact that we are being robbed blind by a corrupt financial system and led sleepwalking from one war to another. Mainstream Media is almost entirely an instrument of propaganda and mind control, leading us away from the virtues we need to awaken, the questions we need to be asking, leading us toward a sordid, anything goes, amoral culture. If you listen you may hear a great sucking sound – that is the sound of the substance of our attention, the precious energy of our hearts being drained.
Since the mysterious day of 9/11, the events of which have never been officially subjected to a criminal investigation, America has been waging perpetual war. The result is that most of the Middle East is in a state of anarchy, chaos, and lawlessness. Lies from “official sources” made this possible. Instead of investigative journalism we are spoon fed an official reality in 1984 fashion with phrases like “official sources” say this, and “official sources” say that.
Didn’t we learn something from Viet Nam? Haven’t we learned from Afghanistan and Iraq? Haven’t we learned from meddling in Libya and Syria? Now we’re hearing belligerent rumblings about Russia and China?
We are learning to recognize the lies from official sources. Wars are too often started with official lies and false flags. Societies have historically been controlled by naming scapegoats and by manufacturing terrorist threats.
We would do well to break the trance of the corporate media. There’s little truth there. Look around: more and more people are waking up, but many are still walking around in that trance.
On the other hand there are people like you who care about this country and understand that a spiritual revolution is needed. You are the soul that can move the body of the world. You are the soul that can remind the body that it cannot live without a heart. Is it possible to be spiritual today without being an activist? Faith tells me the extraordinary challenges we face right now are a blessing, an opportunity to awaken qualities of the soul that would otherwise remain latent or dormant.
You who are relatively conscious, relatively compassionate human beings have an awesome responsibility. Whether you believe in God or not, whether you believe in an eternal soul or not, whether you are totally secular, religious, or spiritual, there must be something you hold sacred, something before which you feel humble, something you want to serve or honor. You may call it wisdom or truth, you may call it God’s law, you may call it enlightenment. Whatever it is, align yourself with that truth, with that presence, with that higher consciousness. It is in that presence that we will find the clarity, guidance, and courage we need. Ask for the guidance and inspiration that can be found deep in the human heart, and when we have found that, each of us must also become effective, committed activists working for justice and truth, putting our lives on the line.
Instead of trillions of dollars being spent on senseless, unwinnable wars, we could work toward a foreign policy based on magnanimity and compassion. We could create a global Marshal Plan and put the resources of war toward bringing clean water to the planet, toward ending hunger, toward increasing the bonds of friendship with other nations instead of threatening them.
Sacred activism is the bridge between the invisible and visible worlds, between the world of possibilities and the everyday world we live in. If we are going to bridge these two, we need to connect through our own deepest being, through our inner presence, our spiritual heart. We can do that right now, fulfilling the purpose of our being here together today.
Exercise of Presence
We can sound a beautiful note for consciousness and peace by uniting and harmonizing our breath and our voices. I want to invite us all into that presence with a quintessential Sufi chant, the Divine Name known as Hu, which is a name for the totality of Conscious Being.
You can understand Hu as the who of who you are, a divine pronoun, the consciousness at the heart of existence. The living presence within the conscious heart is the soul of the world and can move the body of the world in a positive direction.
We must hold the vision of the possible human being above the tantrums and arguments in the world today. The conscious, spiritually mature human being is the ripened fruit of the tree of life. There is no greater work than the work of becoming fully human, fully conscious and compassionate human beings. And part of becoming fully human is the sacred work of justice and truth.
Today I would like to quote from one of America’s greatest voices, Walt Whitman:
Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people … read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body…
Perhaps this has a beautiful, familiar ring to your soul. It does for me. I’m standing before you as a Sufi, a tradition which has been at the heart of Islamic civilization for 14 centuries, and I want to say very clearly: Muslims are not the enemy; you do not need to fear Islam. There is so much misinformation in the world today, and perhaps even an agenda to create a clash of civilizations.
In fact, the vast majority of Muslims make excellent partners in the project of furthering social justice, human dignity, and environmental awareness. History testifies to this. The city of Jerusalem has been ruled by Muslims for most of the last 14 centuries, and the sacred sites and religious communities of Christianity and Judaism have been preserved and protected. Recently I learned that 100 Muslim leaders have gone to support the Souix Nation protesting the Dakota pipeline. This is the kind of solidarity we need if the soul of the world is going to move the body of the world.
We are here to collectively awaken consciousness, to bring light to human hearts. Human prejudice, sectarianism, injustice, violence, and tyranny, though often given religious or nationalistic justifications, are really the effects of human egoism. The true enemy is the false reality that has been created to serve a hidden agenda. Increasingly wealth, power, and control are being concentrated, centralized. By stoking imaginary fears, we are recruited for perpetual war. By manufacturing insatiable desires we are enslaved to an unsustainable economy. And if we allow ourselves to be distracted by a popular culture that too often degrades our humanness with sordid spectacles of promiscuity and violence, we may find ourselves living in an increasingly dystopian, road warrior, Mad Max environment. Consciousness and Love must break through the false reality that corrupts our very humanness and now perpetuates endless war. Mantras and meditation are part of the solution, but it will also take intelligence, organization, and effective action to bring about a change of consciousness and compassionate governmental policies.
What is the greatest power we have? Is there a force that can counter the darkness we face? A Great Sufi, a world peace worker, once asked me, “What is the ecological function of the human being?”
At that moment I had no answer.”Love,” he answered.
Can we say that love is part of the ecology? Do we imagine that this whole universe is a meaningless accident? Or do our hearts know that all of this was created by Love, with the purpose of making Love known. Perhaps the ecological function of the human being is to be able to love consciously, to love beyond self-interest, to serve love, and to courageously solve our problems with love.
Rumi has said, “The greatest love is love that has no object.” It is then that a human being becomes love itself, and radiates love into the world. This is a love that gives all it has to establish justice and to reveal truth.
Let us make no more enemies, let us challenge the lies that are intended to manipulate us, let us dissolve the hatreds that separate humanity. Let us awaken a consciousness above the arguments and tantrums of an immature humanity. But let us also not underestimate the evil we are facing, the powers that have been responsible for the deaths of millions of innocent people. They thrive on negative energy, on fear and hatred. This is an evil which can only be dispelled by the altruism, generosity, courage, consciousness, light, and love in conscious human beings. And in this process we also need the protection and support of our prophets, masters, and saints, the holy men and women of all the ages. Abraham, Moses, Krishna, Buddha, Jesus, Mary, Muhammad, bless them all.
And to remind us of the great dignity of being a spiritual human being, my wife Camille will read this ghazel from Rumi:
You, Yourself, Are The Melody
Don’t turn to another beggar,
you are the inheritor of something awesome.
Don’t sell yourself short, you are priceless.
Divide the Sea with your staff,
you are the Moses of the time,
Tear the robe of the moon in half,
you are the light of Muhammad.
Sweep the beautiful wine bottles off the shelf;
you are the handsome Joseph,
or Queen Sheba, the most beautiful.
Bestow a life-giving breath,
the same as the one Christ breathed.
Take back the Seal from the demon,
you are the Solomon of the soul.
Shatter the army of stars,
as only sunshine can do.
Walk into the fire, like Abraham, purified and cheerful.
Drink of the Water of Eternal Life,
like Khidr Elias, who lives forever.
Walk away from the corrupt!
Be free of senseless attractions!
Your origin is noble, your nature awesome.
Invulnerable in spirit; your beauty comes from within,
You belong to the Majestic; a ray from the light of God.
What have you seen of your own still concealed beauty?
One of these days at dawn,
you will rise from within yourself like a Sun.
You’ve been so hidden,
like a moon under a cloud.
Clear the corporeal clouds!
Reveal the face of the moon.
No mine has such a brilliant ruby;
the world has no other soul like yours.
In this world everything diminishes,
but you are soul-enhancing soul!
You are like a tethered falcon;
your body just a wooden shackle.
With your own claws
undo the fetters from your feet.
How happy is the pure gold
when it enters the fire,
as it may practice its artistry
and show its real value in the fire.
Don’t run away, sister, brother, from the flames.
What will happen should you be put to the test?
By God, it will not burn you;
child of ancient Abraham,
it will only brighten your golden face.
Raise your head out of the soil,
grow into a tall-standing tree.
Circle the highest peak,
a noble bird in the Paradise of Proximity.
Be unsheathed, like a sharpened sword.
Come out of your hidden mine of gold,
circulate yourself like the truest coin.
If sugar could speak
what sweet words it would utter!
Play the flute of felicity!
You, yourself, are the melody.
Roses, Roses, Roses
I dreamt I came to a great city whose palace was nothing but roses.
The crown and the throne of its Sultan,
his garden and chambers were roses, roses.
Here they buy and sell nothing but roses,
and the scales they used to weigh are roses, roses.
Weighing roses with more roses, the market and the bazaar, all roses.
The white rose and the red rose were coupled in the garden.
Both their faces turn toward the thorn.
Both the thorn and the petals are roses, roses.
The soil is the rose; stone is the rose;
withered is the rose; fresh is the rose.
In the Lord’s private gardens the slender cypress and the maple are roses.
Roses are turning the water wheel; roses ground in the mill.
As the wheel turns round and the water flows,
its power and its stillness are the rose, the rose.
And from the rose a tent appears
filled with every kind of offering. Its gatekeepers are the Prophets.
The bread they make, the wine they pour are the rose, the rose.
O Ummi Sinan, heed the mystery
of the nightingale’s sorrow and the Rose.
Every song of the longing nightingale is for the Rose, the Rose.
[Ummi Sinan (16th century, Istanbul), trans. by Latif Bolat and Kabir Helminski]