Managing the Spiritual Neighborhood

Summary and synopsis.


Summary


  1. 1. Getting a handle on morality:  What are the primitives?
  2. 2. Where does spirituality fit in? How does enlightenment, individual and collective, manifest in community administration?
  3. 3. Government that relies on forced compliance: Can a new paradigm be achieved?
  4. 4. Identifying the flaws in top-down administration. Contrast centralized control with more intimate government that emerges from the grass roots.
  5. 5. Our pronounced bias towards a reactive—vs. preventive—posture in law and government: Is it possible to strike a balance?
  6. 6. The profound distinction between code and culture: How does culture manifest? Is code even necessary in the presence of authentic culture?
  7. 7. Can societies recover their lost indigenousness? Can the march toward an urbanized, globalized, homogenized world be reversed?
  8. 8. Are we inextricably wed to the model of limitless growth? Can economic equilibrium be achieved, at least at the local level?


Synopsis


The book's first chapter develops the primary thesis, first defining "quality of life" and then discussing awareness. The perspective is that of a homeowner and resident of a modern development of single family homes. The discussion yields a logical handle on the incidence of crime in the author's own neighborhood, a close-in suburb of Washington, DC. The affluence of the community makes it possible to eliminate the usual factors and instead focus on behaviors related to spiritual development, ultimately showing their emergence from refined awareness.

Once the obvious factors are removed from consideration, three core quality-of-life factors remain: (1) safety, (2) respect for the garden zone and (3) courtesy, where "garden zone" is defined as the intermediate region of the environment between the remote wilderness and the interior of our homes. A distinction is made between the reactionary philosophy typical of government, and a new mind-set oriented toward prevention. Applying the preventive mind-set to the quality-of-life array, we see priorities reversed: Courtesy takes precedence over respect for the garden zone, and both take precedence over safety.

The author attempts to define awareness, even while acknowledging that logic fails in this regard. The key take-away point is that an awareness of something is quite different from awareness on its own. It is argued that courtesy emerges from refined awareness, and hence, awareness should receive an even higher priority in the quality-of-life hierarchy. We learn that this arrangement—awareness, courtesy, respect for the garden zone and safety—is more than just a prioritization, but that it represents the layered structure of reality.

Chapters 2 and 3 present an anecdotal sketch illustrating the decline in the quality of life in the author's neighborhood, both at the gross level and in terms of finer values. There are numerous examples of street crime, ranging from petty theft to homicide. The focus is on juvenile crime, but the discussion broadens to other issues, including the health of the garden zone, and homelessness, with all of these problems tied to the prevailing weakness in collective awareness.

Chapter 4 examines two premises: First, responsibility for crime lies with the community, and second, a clear experience of the "inner realm" is central to an understanding of life and existence. This is followed by a deeper look at the behavior of juveniles, leading into a discussion of character development. Finally, a quasi definition of spiritual growth is put forth, comprised of four related elements: (1) adopting a preventive mind-set, (2) refinement of awareness, (3) distinguishing the inner realm, and (4) growth of character. We see that the quality of life ultimately depends not on laws or administrative adjustments, but on adjustments that take place within the individual.

Chapter 5 outlines a ten-point plan for achieving a new paradigm in community administration. A key aspect of the program is to establish an intelligent presence in the neighborhood garden zone, enabling cooperation among residents who would normally remain isolated. The author's own attempt to implement such a program in his 550-home subdivision is documented. The plan envisions one or more "garden zone managers" who are committed as life-long residents, and committed also to community service. That service includes the establishment of a neighborhood watch and community patrol. Managers are mediators and advisors, and as such offer a non-coercive alternative to conventional reactionary government. They will have ideally attained some degree of enlightenment, and would be recruited from the ranks of local clergy, among other sources. It is argued that we should endeavor to find common ground among competing theologies in order to entice clergymen into participation..

A new profession would take shape—garden zone management—for which young people could be groomed. Eventually, the program would develop into something broader; it would serve as the foundation for establishing "natural communities," which are defined as having a strong measure of geography, shared interest and shared spirit (that is, collective awareness). The structure would, in effect, serve as a new kind of administration. The term "spiritual neighborhood" describes the sum of the inner aspects of individual residents.

The author suggests that spirituality is generally misunderstood because people don't have the requisite experience. He cites the Transcendental Meditation (TM) program, whose source lies in the Vedic tradition of India, as an effective exercise for providing that experience. The success of garden zone management depends on there being enough community members who have embarked on the spiritual path.

The final chapter discusses a long-term vision, concluding that small communities and neighborhood clusters could move toward self-sufficiency at least in terms of self-government, eventually rendering remote, top-down administration unnecessary.

......

The principles derived from the author's experience in a high-crime urban environs are shown in the Addendum to be equally valid in small-town America. Although crime in the author's new home of Fairfield Iowa is negligible compared to Camp Springs Maryland, he argues that the same shortcomings are evident. A dialog between the narrator and a nameless interlocutor examines the general ignorance of the age, particularly as reflected in the behavior of administration. A contrast is drawn between the monolithic "big G" Government and a bottom-up alternative based in prevention. Since Fairfield is home to Maharishi University of Management (MUM) and also home to many TM practitioners (including the narrator), it provides an opportunity to observe how a large presence of people on the spiritual path manifests in the quality of community life. It turns out that the legal/judicial framework in Fairfield is just as cold and reactionary as every other municipality. Numerous examples are cited illustrating the heartless character of punitive administration. The fact that everyone is basically family in this rural enclave, but that administrators still rely on gun-toting cops, lock-ups and letter-of-the-law jurists shows how deeply vested we are in the coercive model.

There is a discussion of a "Global Country of World Peace," founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi—how it promotes natural law and reflects the "constitution of the universe" as embodied in the ancient Vedic literature of India. Much is made of the fact that the Global Country does not use force in administration. A lengthy dialog follows, in which the narrator argues passionately that every sort of criminal, from run-of-the-mill thugs to international terrorists are created by us. The narrator argues that radicalization, so-called, is subordinate to a much more powerful conversion: globalization.

The dialog branches to bring Vedic science into focus, exploring the connection between principles of Maharishi's teaching and the mundane affairs of life in the neighborhoods. How, for example, are chores like pulling weeds, shoveling snow and piano moving supported by MUM and its permanent group of TM sidhas—advanced meditators on the "Invincible America" assembly—or by the collection of specially trained Maharishi pandits (indigenous masters of the Vedic tradition) in nearby Maharishi Vedic City. The routine of the pandits includes regular performances of ancient rituals—yagyas—that purportedly have the power to bring about peace. There are, in addition, many other cultural aspects of the Veda, ranging from home-building ("vastu" construction), to astrology, to recitation of Vedic texts brought out by Maharishi which on the surface appear unrelated to the TM practice. The narrator challenges us to make a connection between these purely external manifestations of Vedic science and the purely internal technique that yields an experience of unboundedness, and, moreover, between embarking on the spiritual path (e.g., through TM) and becoming a responsible neighbor.

We learn that the infinite manifests in a variety of ways. In objective science it shows up as mathematical "points of singularity"—black holes. The entire universe is described by certain theories to have emerged from a point of singularity. The infinite is also found in the "gap" between syllables of the Vedic literature, as explained by Maharishi. And, most importantly, individuals can experience the infinite directly using the TM technique. In this manner, we see that we are each, ourselves a manifestation of the universe.

In contrast, other aspects of Maharishi Vedic science deal with externals. Home construction, astrology, the Vedic calendar, yagyas and so on operate on the grossest levels of life and reality. The narrator questions how these external practices relate to the silent, inward experience of transcendence and why TMers, who have theoretically developed clearer thinking, are so receptive to logic-defying claims; e.g., a yagya can prevent misfortune; the position of planets can predict your future, and so on. On the other hand, the narrator points out that equally mind-bending phenomena are found in modern science; e.g., crazy wave-particle duality, the probabilistic nature of physical reality, the fact that time had a beginning, etc. There is an implicit suggestion that the same subjective element present in Vedic science is also found in modern science. This relates back to the previous argument that every individual is, in fact, a universe unto himself. Everything that we perceive to be separate and outer, is also inner.

The Addendum concludes by ripping once again into the character of modern government, in particular that of Fairfield Iowa. The narrator offers numerous examples that illustrate the flaws of an intellectual approach to administration. Again it's implied that the lack of a subjective ingredient in individual life produces problems on a grander scale.

The book itself concludes with an action plan that follows through on its secondary thesis: to inaugurate a new age in law, justice and administration. Included is a provision to establish "Community Conscience Advocates" (CCAs)—an occupation akin to the Garden Zone Manager, but with additional responsibilities that require interaction with the legal/judicial establishment. The aim is to inject some long-absent humanity into law and justice. In this regard, ten principles of Community Law are enumerated which collectively turn the existing paradigm on its head. Though it's not stated explicitly, these principles precipitate from a philosophy based in enlightenment, as opposed to the current system which is based in ignorance. As with the Garden Zone Manager, a Community Conscience Advocate is committed to life-long residence and life-long service in a particular region or neighborhood. For this reason, he or she must be selective about where to put down roots, in that there exist areas so unlivable that the best advice for people there is to leave. Six livability criteria are put forth as a baseline in this regard: spirituality, crime, industry, urbanization, environment and resources. The ten Community Law principles are: spirituality, intimacy, uniqueness, community, money, character, free expression, consensus, force and sovereignty.

The Community Conscience Advocate must, in addition, exhibit some degree of spiritual advancement, including an ability to assess, and, more importantly, influence the character of friends, neighbors and fellow citizens. The CCA's influence is exerted not through sermonizing, but through neighborly interaction. Influencing the legal establishment, on the other hand, requires a sharper line; he or she must educate punitive administrators about the fundamental flaws in their thinking, and, moreover, assert himself as a superior spiritual authority. This may not be as difficult as it seems given the pronounced poverty of spirit exhibited by modern government.

Apart from the Community Law program, the most significant element of the action plan is that communities within a particular geographic region (e.g., Southeast Iowa) endeavor to become economically self-sufficient. To this end, the author suggests they formulate a 300-year plan for managing resources and maintaining stewardship of their particular spot on the planet. A "pavement-free" development plan for Fairfield is envisioned, including a network of "green space" corridors. Local stewardship implies that all real estate, residential, commercial and agricultural, must be owned by people who reside within the region. It is also proposed that there be an upper limit on how much land and real property one individual can own. It is argued that communities and municipalities move away from the open-ended growth model, and instead work toward economic equilibrium, where the cost of living remains constant year after year. The author acknowledges that perfect self-sufficiency in a world that's grown dependent on high-tech is not practical, but that communities should at least identify the minimum technology they require and focus on sustaining that level.

Regarding social structure, the author proposes the creation of "neo-indigenous" enclaves with a spiritual tradition that will carry forward into succeeding generations. While acknowledging that there will be differing opinions about specific behaviors and moral parameters, the author lays out an "intentional community" structure based on his own personal preferences. A distinction is made between questions of culture and questions of code, where the author argues that culture cannot be coerced; that lawyers and legislators dictating laws should never be mistaken for a valid source of culture in human society. What sets this community model apart is that there is an expressed intent to challenge the established legal/judicial order.


© 2016 Alexander Gabis