America—the physical, actual America that we see and live in—this America needs to be understood not as in itself sacred, but as a privileged, temporary corner of “the world,” where
men and women are granted the liberty to search for truth and the life
within. Behind all the political and economic machinations of the
Founders of this country, there existed in their minds and
hearts the passion to create “an American place” in the midst of the
world, where the Good can be sought and lived. They believed there
existed the Good—some called it God, others called it Reason—and that
the Good could enter human life. Of course, political freedom exists now
in many countries of the world, often due to the influence of American
ideas, but we will never ‘ know what we have here’ if we do not
understand that the founding basis of this country was not land or
tribe, but the call for people to assemble
together and work together for the Good. Perhaps America’s people no
longer come together for this purpose; perhaps political liberty and the
great rule of law serve now only to protect the cravings for
meaningless comfort and meaningless power; perhaps the nation’s physical
strength seduces us into imagining that physical strength is true
strength; that physical safety is true safety, that external freedom is
true freedom, external democracy the true equality of people. If
so, if we believe that the outer America is the real America, we are
deceived by ourselves and, as the prophets of Israel warned, we are
certain to perish– first inwardly and then outwardly.
The laws of America, the political structure of American government, the respect for the Constitution, the rituals and symbols of the American republic—all of this external America bears traces, some brilliant and others faint and shadowy, but traces of a great vision of truth and wisdom that has
nourished the soul of mankind throughout history.
We need to find our way back to the other America, the inner America, which is to say that the modern world itself needs to find its way back to the fundamental reality of the inner world, what
the ancients called “the world of the soul.” Set aside the
usual associations with the word “soul”—associations which for many of
us have made of it something superstitious or something dull and
ordinary. Set aside the religious and philosophical clichés surrounding
the word and recognize that what it refers to is a deep, hidden
power of consciousness and moral power within every human being, a
force, an intensity of feeling and knowing that lies at the essence of
our nature, that defines us as human beings, that defines our place in
nature, on earth and with each other.
The teachings of wisdom bring to us the idea that it is through this inner power of intelligence and conscience that the Good can enter the world of man and, through mankind, the world of the earth. Wisdom teaches that the world has
become what it has become, human life has become what it
has become because man has lost contact with this consciousness and
power of understanding within himself. What is sometimes called God, so
the teachings tell us, acts in the world to help the world—yes, but not
as some fairy-tale father-figure with a white beard moving the chess pieces of history, but through the authentic consciousness of man. It is that
consciousness—mortally asleep in us though it be—through which the
helping powers operate. Through us, and into the earth, and from the
earth back to the Source as man’s genuine help for the Creator. The
Founders of America were passionately oriented to teachings that in some
distinct and significant measure reflected these ideas.
Excerpt from The American Soul, pp 332 – 334
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