It is election time in
What we need most -- now that the climate crisis is crowding over the shoulders of everything we do -- is to have a clear vision of the good. To see that, we must understand soul. When I vote I want to see, and my vote is part of what all souls see as they release divine energy into the body politic. Here is a passage from Book VI of Plato's Republic that illustrates how the soul is like the eye,
The sun is not sight, but the author of sight.
Why, you know, I said, that the eyes, when a person directs them towards objects on which the light of day is no longer shining, but the moon and stars only, see dimly, and are nearly blind; they seem to have no clearness of vision in them?
But when they are directed towards objects on which the sun shines, they see clearly and there is sight in them?
And the soul is like the eye: when resting upon that on which truth and being shine, the soul perceives and understands and is radiant with intelligence; but when turned towards the twilight of becoming and perishing, then she has opinion only, and goes blinking about, and is first of one opinion and then of another, and seems to have no intelligence?
Now, that which imparts truth to the known and the power of knowing to the knower is what I would have you term the idea of good, and this you will deem to be the cause of science, and of truth in so far as the latter becomes the subject of knowledge; beautiful too, as are both truth and knowledge, you will be right in esteeming this other nature as more beautiful than either; and, as in the previous instance, light and sight may be truly said to be like the sun, and yet not to be the sun, so in this other sphere, science and truth may be deemed to be like the good, but not the good; the good has a place of honour yet higher.
What a wonder of beauty that must be, he said, which is the author of science and truth, and yet surpasses them in beauty...
So, when you cast your vote, say the Greatest Name, for this is the Blessed Beauty, the Good that stands above all other worldly goods. This informs truth itself.
Some columnist in the Hamilton Spectator lately came up with a brainstorm for improving democracy. This one you see popping up once in a while, causing loud groans on my part. In sum his argument went like this:
"We can solve all our political problems simply by making lying illegal. If a politician makes us a promise, we should hold him to it. Any leader who breaks a campaign promise, well, we should throw him in jail or fine him. If he does not do what he says he will do, there should be consequences."
This is so obtuse that I cannot even begin to say why it is wrong. Not that I think lying is inevitable, quite the reverse. The folly of outlawing lies lies in the fact that lying is not a disease in itself, it is a symptom. A doctor does not treat symptoms but disease. Once a disease is cured, the symptoms disappear. As voters we must be wise doctors and diagnose the real cause of lies. Once we understand the problem and address it the mendacity goes away of itself.
In this case, the problem exists in our own minds. We have fallacious and unreasonable expectations from those we choose as leaders.
Here is the fundamental political syllogism in a democracy: If potential leaders are telling us lies, that only means that they want something from us. If potential leaders tell us the truth, they still want something from us, but, worse, they are willing to tie their own hands in order to get it. Given a choice between a liar and a robot, give me the liar any day. At least a liar is human and can adapt to changing circumstances. In a false situation liars are always better adapted for survival. Surrounded by lies, a liar is in his element. Same way, no matter how well a human trains for swimming, a fish will always swim better because it has millions of years of adaptation on its side. Only in the clear atmosphere of truth seeking is a truth teller better off than a liar. In that case, it is the truth teller who has evolution on her side.
The fact is, a truly honest person would never allow himself to get into a situation where he has to say what he is going to do. In any given situation anybody who says, "I will do this" is by that very fact ruining their own integrity. I cannot say I am a seeker of truth if I claim to already know the truth, and that humility is the essence of my integrity before God. In this world every situation is different, and conditions and preconditions constantly change, so how can I say what I will do? Nobody can predict the future, we have enough trouble understanding the past and the present. To say what I will do before a deliberation would be surrendering my own integrity, selling my soul to the devil. It would be lying.
If I vote for someone who wants something from leading me, be she liar or truth teller, I am publicly committing suicide. I am putting a gun to my head and announcing, "Who wants to pay the most to hold this gun? Who promises most sincerely not to pull the trigger?" Therefore, if as a voter I choose someone who has sold his soul to the demands of a false situation, I am only picking out which of Satan's delegates I like the most. In a false situation like this, even if you win, you lose.
Our political situation is false by nature because of a basic misunderstanding of what a leader is. The lie is written into the DNA of democracy. Applying the lie has led to a false situation where we are asking for what is bad for everybody, including our leaders. We force them to bribe us. Worse, we force them to bribe others in order to be able to afford to bribe us. That way, even as Aristotle predicted, democracy always slowly slides into oligarchy, rule of the rich. What do the rich want? Do I have to say it? They want more money. And they want it now. In a situation like the present, where we must sacrifice present profit for future protection from climate change, the suicidal nature of the desires of the players in this situation becomes obvious.
All this was clear to Plato and other ancients, who held that we should only choose a reluctant leader, one who sees the job for what it really is on a personal level, an intolerable burden. If they want the job, they are by that very fact disqualified. Baha'u'llah in the Aqdas gave it out as the mark of the maturity of the human race that one day when we offer the crown of kingship, nobody will be found willing to take it. The marketplace will be empty of buyers. In such a mature situation, an election will not be the auction it presently is, it will be more like hunting. Our quarry for leadership will be running away, trying to hide, anything but have to take on the terrible responsibility of leadership. An elector will not sit back and listen to confidence men give their pitches, she will have to go out and nab potential leaders doing their best to escape notice.
So, in an open election where I can vote for anybody, not mere devil's delegates crowding to flatter me, who do I choose? We have already established the kind of personality not to choose, anybody with lust for leadership. But you still want as good a leader as possible. That is why prayer rather than, say, waving placards and partying, is essential to choosing a leader. Prayer helps the immediate technical problem, picking the right person. But mostly prayer clarifies vision, and solidifies the mental foundations on which the whole body politic stands. The story of Moses in the wilderness illustrates this. His people, newly liberated slaves, ate manna, but craved the variety of a normal human diet. As the Qu'ran tells it, God declared:
"And when you said: O Musa! we cannot bear with one food, therefore pray (the) Lord on our behalf to bring forth for us out of what the earth grows, of its herbs and its cucumbers and its garlic and its lentils and its onions. He said: Will you exchange that which is better for that which is worse?" (Q2:61, Shakir)
We see that an election is important, and we want to fill it with the best things, but the best thing is what the Qu'ran says, prayer, or manna. You cannot exchange the best for the worse. That is gun-to-my-head democracy.
Hmm. Coincidentally, (or not) this list of ingredients listed in the Qu'ran is all in my gazpacho soup, which I ingest twice daily. Except the lentils, that is in my bean salad, once daily. So presumably, these are all healthful ingredients that still offer enough pleasure and variety in a physical diet. Yet manna is just one thing, and it nourishes the soul first, then the body. Manna, God told the Israelites, could not be stored; they had to eat it all that day. Same with prayer, it is a bounty that, like a liquid, fills every cup, but it lasts only for that moment. Every morning and evening we must fill our cup again, and in our actions the liquid fills out and floats the grounding of our thought. And the physical part of us balks at the manna and ever complains that it is tedious, it lacks variety. Would it not be so much more fun to have our great leaders coming to us, begging us for favors? Not if we seek an honor higher than science and truth.