The Parable of Religious Convergence, -2- Human and Spiritual Leadership
(Since the original long read text was very long, I initially decided to split the essay in two parts titled: “-1- Paradise Lost and Religious Returns” & “-2- Human and Spiritual Leadership”, after publishing these two parts, I realized that an important social scenario was missing, which I later added as part three titled: “-3- The Path of Non-Violent Resistance”.)
Once upon a time there was, or will, or could be, a place without suffering, without death, without survival of the fittest, without fear; a place full of spiritual harmony, enlightenment and absolute oneness: a true paradise.
Any such paradise is ruled by omnipresent and omnibenevolent forces named God(s), regardless of which religious tradition one follows.
This essay is about a fictive parable comparison between religions, travelling away or coming closer to spiritual harmony, and about the various options one encounters on the way. It starts from a point of disruption of harmony and the religious paths to travel back to the oneness one lost (Part -1-). It describes primarily a narrative of expansion and contraction of the human presence or footprint; it is about balancing the ecosystem. The article does not represent any absolute truth or a single choice; it is about what all religions may have in common, hopefully offering some food for thought.
However, mankind can also travel so far away from paradise that people start considering themselves to be capable of reaching omniscience and become able to replace or are allowed to disrespect “God”. This is a kind of point of no return; meaning that when this phase is entered, first the human species’ influence will have to be moderated to ecologically balanced proportions before the religious paths become universally or fully accessible again.
I have to make a strong disclaimer here. I look solely from a cultural communication model perspective at the differences between spiritual traditions. However, my knowledge is extremely limited; one can easily study the smallest grain of almost any single religion for more than a lifetime; the subject is thus limitless and beyond human comprehension.
Still, in my experience, spiritual traditions are in practice a blend of individual, social/emotional and religious aspects. I therefore fully treat religions and their spiritual messages as black boxes here. Limiting myself to trying to find their cultural connections and model or stereotype them, I exclusively look at communication differences, and try to systematically encourage the growing together or convergence component of such interactions.
Because the total article became very long to read and digest at once, I decided to split it in independent parts, which can be read separately. Part one, titled “The Parable of Religious Convergence, -1- Paradise Lost and Religious Returns” can be found here
Human Control, Fear as a Complement of Trust, Expansion of Mankind’s Influence
At the time most religions arose, some thousands of years ago, there was not much technology available and the human impact on nature was, relatively seen, still limited. In my opinion, spiritual narratives actually all contain a kind of warning to protect us from expanding too much and to retain a balance by remaining focused on our target of reaching Spiritual Unity or to say it otherwise: “to respect God and/or the creation of God”.
Nevertheless, the availability of technology and, as a result, the opportunity to establish more advanced forms of civilization, brought humanity to a second stage (beyond the fully naturally balanced ecosystem); a stage where divergence was being used to expand mankind’s territory or influence. New, expansive, knowledge-based mechanisms were introduced; they removed the limits or restrictions of the earlier natural growth or balance. From now on, humanity could and did expand beyond its “natural share” limits. The trust based natural harmony became replaced by an outward looking and comparison (fear-) based human order.
However, the new divergence was not immediately fully replacing the old convergence, it remained an additional process. A balance between the fresh divergent model and the old convergent model was being established. People were using both, contracting their influence when needed and expanding wherever suitable. However, over time, the resulting balanced outcome shifted fundamentally and, as a result, mankind structurally expanded. In the end human convergence came under pressure. Still, although there was a decline in its importance, religion or spirituality remained playing an important and major, compensating, counter-role in the global society.
The newly enabled divergent potential in this second stage will be described now; starting by changing the polarity for both positions of the individual (II and IU) from an inward to an outward orientation (from convergence to divergence). This is followed by describing the effects this newly outward looking perspective has on developing (autocratic) leadership and other human control opportunities.
What does it mean to change one’s (II) personality angle? The answer is that one’s attitude changes from an inner strength and “trust-based” orientation (in which one’s integrity automatically weighs the interests of all others against one’s own), to an outer “fear-based” competition approach in which “egocentric individuality” and “material aggregation” enable people to decide if one does or does not want to interact; the result being a society of self-focused egos.
Such unrestricted personal freedom can easily lead to material inequality between rich and poor, causing a shift at the deprived side (IU) from a trust-based inner reciprocal “live-and-let-live” approach to a fear-based resilient “struggle to survive” one. Individuality (-II) can also become ground for maximizing one’s personal power and influence, although this always will be coming at the cost of others (who are no longer considered to be important). Again, there are eight processes to be found.
-1- From -II to -EI, Segregation, (Forced) Loyalty
The first cultural process leads from individuality (-II) to rivalry (-EI). The attitude to join a group as an individual is no longer based on (inner) fondness but becomes one of (outward looking) segregation and exclusivity. The group is no longer empathy based, but uses formal identification with its rules and goals in order to allow access to the benefits of its membership. This excludes all non-members, which forms the basis of rivalry (-EI) towards other groups and their participants. There is fear for others created. However, fear can be a good ground to expand and protect one’s group domain.
-2- From -II to -EU, Chauvinism, Compliance
The second process leads from Individuality (-II) to Patriotism (-EU). Solidarity (+EU) is becoming replaced by Patriotism (-EU) or nationalism. Like in the first process, people start to comply with rules or social norms, but the rules now apply to the whole society instead of to a smaller group. If people do not observe the rules, they are at risk of becoming excluded, something people fear. Compliance is thus at the same time a good basis for ruling others outside of one’s society, sanctioned by exclusion.
-3- From -IU to -EI, Gangsterism, Bonding
The third process leads from Resilience (-IU) to Rivalry (-EI). If there is no longer a foundation of reciprocity, poor people have no other (rational) option left than to be Resilient (-IU) and struggle. If people want to connect to an exclusive group this is no longer a question of qualification in order to be accepted, it becomes one of becoming respected for resilience and to bond with the emotional identity on the basis of specific qualities, of which force or violence often are the ones that are feared most by others.
-4- From -IU to -EU, Intifada, Anger
The fourth process leads from Resilience (-IU) to Patriotism (-EU). This process is again struggle based; excluded people start to be angry about their deprivation and try to conquer or become entitled to a renewed and improved position in the society at large. Their primary demand is full membership (including the membership rights) of the nation (-EU).
Four Divergent Roads to Expansion, Application of Superiority (-SI)
Having now described four divergent roads from individuality to grouping (-II to -EI, -II to -EU, -IU to -EI and -IU to -EU), it is time to describe the potential role of human leadership built on the two individual (-II and -IU) and the two group based positions (-EI and -EU) in order to create “controlled expansion of civilization”. The following processes describe the application of such human leadership or Superiority (-SI) starting from the four base positions now established. What is new, is the introduction of a divergent type of leadership based on an attitude of human arrogance or disrespect of God and his/her creation or omnipresence.
-5- From -II to -SI, Imperialism, Authority
The fifth process leads from Individuality (-II) to Superiority (-SI), it represents an imperialist model in which a hierarchy of individuals controls and expands a society based on their personal authority or their (delegated) assumption of power. The top of the pyramid is an emperor type of ruler, who is not elected by the population. He/she rules autocratically, mostly reigning through decrees.
-6- From -II to -SI, Jihadism, Fanaticism
The sixth process leads from Resilience (-IU) to Superiority (-SI). In this scenario the (deprived) population rebels, and starts fanatically following/representing an ideal or inspiration source. They often do so without any own controlling leadership or formally being reigned. However, they are fanatically and unconditionally supporting their outside “inspirator” or role-model.
-7- From -EI to -SI, Fascism, Pride
The seventh process leads from Rivalry (-EI) to Superiority (-SI). In this case there are rivaling groups competing. Leadership is based on defending the pride in the group identity and on an assumption of superiority of such identity. Leaders are mostly autocratic and promote their group as the winner.
-8- From -EU to -SI, Colonialism, Constraint
The eighth, last, process leads from Patriotism (-EU) to Superiority (-SI). Here there is in principle a striving for homogeneity, people are expected to blend in the system and take or accept their position following the rules of the society, constraining themselves. This type of culture expands by imposing their values on other societies. Its territory is mostly ruled by a king or queen or, in case of a party system, by an autocratic chairman type of leadership.
Historical Development, Outcome
Over the centuries the balance between religious and human control has changed. Whereas spirituality remained dominant also during the first stages of human cultural and territory expansion, it became reduced in importance when science and technology came in. Divergence took overhand during the enlightenment era. From now on divergence remained dominant until it recently reached the level of a third stage in which convergence is almost absent and where people are fully ruled by or dependent on other humans. This stage causes severe problems and will be described now.
The Dangers of Human Dominance, a Lack of Trust, Divergence Resulting in Global Issues
Things have gotten out of hand; we are entering a stage of full divergence but at the same time are we no longer able to regulate society in a “human-controlled” manner. Our dominant reliance on science and technology and our resulting assumption of unlimited economic growth without any self-regulation, causes global issues such as climate change, forced migration and inequality.
However, mankind is currently not able to control or solve such issues, we are too divided (= divergent). For example: our use of fossil fuels seems to lead to global warming, but our green revolution or answer is compromised by personal interests. Using an electric vehicle instead of a fossil fuel powered one, may sound nice marketing-wise and may be less polluting, but like many of the current environmental examples it is actually “greenwashing” because, for now, the total impact on nature is insufficiently reduced and driving an electric car thus can’t possibly be called sustainable. Still, we continue driving them.
Further, if we introduce a “human” solution for a problem, such as for example birth control against further population growth, its side effects, like graying of a population, are often as serious as the original problem. Another example, progress frequently includes the use of chemicals of which we do not know the long-term risks, such as for example with the simple use of non-stick cooking ware.
Still, we are unable to limit ourselves and are meanwhile more and more looking at our personal interest and driven by fear, growing apart, instead of trust, growing together. This also causes violent conflicts, but durable peace can only be based on convergence.
Finally, the introduction of social media has additionally undermined genuine emotional trust in each other, and the upcoming AI and VR revolution is expected to possibly even further reinforce this process.
All this together, threatens our very existence as a species and if we continue on the path that we are following right now, we will likely become extinct soon. The question is if this can be avoided and how.
Way Out, the Return to Balanced Convergence
Unfortunately, there is likely no longer a simple direct return path to spirituality available. A strong contraction of our influence or dominance would be required before we could access it. This is very difficult to politically accomplish or to become voluntarily accepted. Also, increased human suffering must be avoided; this requires general consensus, which is fully absent. But, even if we likely cannot totally avoid or control further degradation, mankind could try at least to minimize the negative and maximize the positive effects on society by attempting a transition towards improving our convergence versus divergence balance.
Other than the previously described direct balancing of religion (Part -1-) (the lower convergent part of the model) with the divergence-based expansion (the upper divergent part of the model) there is another potential option available to (re)establish equilibrium between convergence and divergence. Theoretically, we can namely use the mechanisms of convergent leadership (the upper convergent part of the model) to manage our global issues better.
(The fourth part of the map, the lower divergent part of the model is omitted in this article; it shows the scenarios for manmade contraction and population reduction (Nazism, Persecution, Ethnic Cleansing and Stalinism). These are, due to the human suffering they cause, irrelevant or inacceptable as an option for this essay.)
Whereas in a cultural context like the one of thousands of years ago (at the rise of religions) convergent worldly leadership (unavailable or too weak at that time) would likely have prevented the expansion of mankind and blocked innovation; convergent worldly leadership can currently theoretically address the unbalance and substantially improve our stressed relation with nature.
A return to more convergence and trust also implies reinforcing growing together and enhanced cooperation. However, whether this all will be enough to avoid forced contraction of human influence, or even becoming extinct as a species, remains to be seen. Time is running out fast, it is technically (climate change) and socially (complete lack of trust) already very late to act.
What is convergent leadership and how to get there? Spirituality has been dominant over human control for a long time, and while the human position in the ecosystem grew, it still remained able to generate serious counterweight. This was partially achieved by formalizing spiritual traditions into religions, and organizing them in a trust manner, so that more people would be attracted (or remain attracted) by them. (Unfortunately, there is also a shadow side where many religions adapted to use fear-based mechanisms to force people to stay, adapting to worldly divergent control mechanisms).
However, true spiritual leaders have always been pointing people to paradise, they showed the way. Although we are currently far removed from the natural harmony of that time, still, I personally think that, similarly, this type of leadership approach may get us out of the trouble we are currently in. It at least has the potential to offer the improvement we need to win some time and to get the chance to fundamentally change our attitude towards our natural and social environment.
This vision represents a top-down approach, in which is being expected that participation will also automatically change the emotional and personal convergence levels as a result. There is a connection assumed, one could start at any level, but targeting to replace one leader may be faster than to change the mindset of a thousand people. Since we have no time left, speed is crucial.
Notwithstanding, it is a cultural transition in which, in order to be successful, all cultural replacements must be made simultaneously. This implies more integrity and less individuality, more empathy and less rivalry, more solidarity and less patriotism, more excellence (wisdom rather than knowledge based) and less superiority and finally it means more consensus and less discipline. Any convergent change helps here to rebalance fear and trust, regardless of how such change is achieved.
For the example of convergent leadership this means that the previously mentioned four indirect roads to “the two group-based (-EI and -EU) positions of expansion” are envisioned to consequently reverse as an indirect result of such trust-based leadership (individuality to integrity, resilience to reciprocity, rivalry to empathy and patriotism to solidarity). Following this methodology, there remain four paths of convergent leadership to be described and established.
-1- From +II to +SI, the Path of the Prophet
The first convergent leadership road leads from Integrity (+II) to Excellence (+SI). The convergent leader is a mentor to his/her individual followers and governance becomes based on vision and wisdom (convergent) instead of authority (divergent). As soon as people start to have trust in such a leader’s vision, they will become less individualistic and start weighing the interests of others in their worldview and personal decision-making process, regaining their Integrity (+II).
Further, science, knowledge and technology will no longer be seen as private (to be exploited) property, but as belonging to mankind and having the sole purpose of human progress. AI would this way become much less dangerous in disrupting the worldwide society, and would instead become a very useful tool to assist mankind in finding genuinely sustainable solutions for our global problems. It could become a key factor in finding a way out of the life threatening situation we are currently in.
However, it will be difficult to find people with the required leadership skills. In religious terms this first approach is the path of the Prophet. Nevertheless, as long as a wisdom based leader remains convergent, even not being perfect, progress will be made or improvement will be achieved (in comparison with today’s authoritarian or political interest representation approach) in our relation with nature.
-2- From +IU to +SI, the Path of the Disciple
The second convergent leadership road leads from Reciprocity (+IU) to Excellence (+SI). It is the road of unconditional devotion in return for supervision by a visionary, wise, leader. It means support for and the inclusion of the deprived, poor or dispossessed in society. This road strongly addresses inequality. The approach is comparable with the religious path of the Disciple.
-3- From +EI to +SI, the Path of the Guru
The third convergent leadership road leads from Empathy (+EI) to Excellence (+SI). Other than in the first scenario, the convergent leader is directing an “exclusive” group and advocating the interests of the group in relation to others in a convergent manner. It means that groups are starting to grow together instead of growing apart. The group becomes inwardly oriented and starts to contribute to others instead of defending its interests. This is comparable with the religious path of the Guru.
-4- From +EU to +SI, the Path of the Pope
The fourth, last, convergent leadership road leads from Solidarity (+EU) to Excellence (+SI). In this case the leader represents all members of a society and guides them in a collective manner. This type of leader has the mission to widen his/her audience in order to spread convergence and stimulate the global population to grow together. This is comparable with the religious path of the Pope.
Installing human leadership with the sole goal to wisely improve global convergence instead of the current fragmented personal- or group-based interest representation, can hopefully give us the chance to fundamentally change our attitude and find a way back to harmony instead of disharmony. In principle, the convergent leaders are democratically selected, but there is a strong focus on inclusion, meaning that instead of the principle that the majority rules with absoluteness, the minorities’ (convergent) interests are fully respected. The dilemma remains that there is always a risk of selecting false prophets, but on the other hand we can very well predict what will happen if we continue on the dead-end street we are currently on. We have one last chance: a fundamental change of our attitude towards each other and our environment.
Looking at the worldwide population and our ever growing human footprint, we have clearly reached our limits and are, as mankind, no longer in control of our living conditions. Meanwhile, we are plagued by climate change and economic inequality, leading to ever growing forced migration and human suffering. A further, related, issue is that we live in a permanent state of conflict and war.
Although we, in principle, could address the root causes of these issues, we seem to be unwilling to do so at the moment. This is a systematic flaw in our attitude, which has meanwhile become exclusively defensive and outward looking, leading to structural divergence or growing apart.
In order to tackle the global problems we face, we will need cooperation and to look inward to see the similarities or compatibility instead of the differences with others. This will automatically stimulate more inclusion and less exclusion. As a result, we will be able to grow together again and establish convergence.
Traditionally, this is the role of spiritual traditions, either in absolute or in a relative “balancing” sense. Religions show or teach us the formalized paths to spiritual oneness. However, meanwhile we have entered a stage of human development in which humanity, in general, has mostly lost the capability to gain direct access to the inner-self or collective-self and the oneness paths starting from there.
Although we may have lost our direct personal ability to enter the oneness path (Part -1-), we have not lost our capacity to choose wise guides or leaders who are able to teach us how to turn back and change. Yet, time is running out very fast to address the global issues mentioned. Fortunately, we still have this leadership alternative available in order to change ourselves and return to another balance of our attitude towards others and nature.
This is what this essay proposes; it envisions a top-down approach of convergent leadership replacing the current, personal or group interest maximizing, divergent leadership. Mankind has to become guided by wisdom instead of ruled by power or authority. Doing so will enable trust on all levels, which in turn will enable us to address the root causes of our problems and create a prosperous future for everyone.
If you are interested in this approach and want to cooperate in finding ways to implement religious convergence, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org