The Tao of Liberation: Exploring the Ecology of Transformation

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By Mark Hathaway and Leonardo Boff
Orbis Books, 2009, Paperback, 448pp. $26.92     9781570758417
Reviewed by Arthur Bloome
March/April 2011

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Transformation of human collective behaviour is critical to the continued viability of life that makes up our planet. Our personal transformation is a prerequisite for collective transformation. New wine goes into new wine skins.

The Tao of Liberation begins with an explanation of the Chinese character for crisis, a combination of two symbols: the symbol for danger and the symbol for opportunity. In order to see the opportunity we have to see the danger. Hathaway and Boff try to unpack the danger posed by the current trajectory of human behaviour by exploring the cosmological mindset that propels our species to continue down the dangerous path leading to the incremental destruction of Earth. The opportunity is presented as a different cosmology one that invites us to be open to the ancient wisdom presented in our spiritual traditions. It is an opportunity to become fully alive and creatively conscious; an opportunity for spiritual transformation.

The danger we face is from a global economic system that seems to compound deficiencies and paradoxes to make our history appear totally out of our control. The Tao of Liberation provides a very comprehensive summary of the dysfunction of corporate capitalism on the world stage. In this system all knowledge is put to the service of planetary destruction as individuals and groups race to incrementally consume the resources of the planet. There is an ever increasing gap between the rich and the poor. The diversity of our cultural heritage is being lost as traditional cultures get absorbed into the dominant culture. The same processes are at work diminishing our biodiversity. We are changing our climate, destroying our fresh water. The book systematically presents the seemingly overwhelming crisis of our time.

Cosmology is the story of the origin and destination of the universe and our meaningful purpose within this story. The predominant cosmology changes from generation to generation incorporating the discoveries of science and the reflections of philosophers about life in the universe. Corporate capitalism continues to dominate human col-lective behaviour largely because of the cosmology adopted by a critical mass of humanity. Hathaway and Boff call this story of capitalism the cosmology of domination.

There are a number of presuppositions in this cosmology of domination that distort the original message by enhancing the significance of certain elements of the ancient story while neglecting other elements. The cosmology of domination portrays humanity in a struggle to overcome nature. It is about the survival of the fittest where the "best" rises to the top of the food chain in business and nature. Modernist philosophy has enhanced the separation of humanity from nature to a perspective that champions individualism, competition, and the valuing of nature only for its utility to humanity. Elements of traditional cosmologies pertaining to right relationships and collaboration within a nature that includes humanity are neglected.

The new cosmology

The "new cosmology" refers to the story of humanity's relationship to the universe, informed by the latest science describing the forces of cosmic evolution. The new understanding that comes from the latest scientific research reaffirms ancient intuitions about human relationship and collaboration with nature. Most of all, this new cosmology has facilitated us to recognize the dangerous consequences to our planet posed by the cosmology of domination.

Whereas the cosmology of domination promises us a material paradise, it is actually disrupting the harmony of our existence with nature and pummelling creation into ruin. On the other hand, the new cosmology helps us understand our humanity more fully. This understanding not only reveals to us the danger of the situation we find ourselves in, but also reveals the creative potential of our species and the opportunity that exists to transform human collective behaviour. Traditional spiritual practices that transform the human spirit are complemented with scientific understanding to make personal transformation more accessible.

A book about hope

The Tao of Liberation is ultimately a book about hope. Hathaway and Boff courageously confront the monumental challenge of healing our planet by focusing on the spiritual capacity of our species to transform itself. Leonardo Boff is one of the principal authors of the final draft of The Earth Charter which is in turn featured in The Tao of Liberation. Sometimes called the Charter of Interdependence, the Earth

Charter is an ethical statement about right relationship in the community of life. I am very excited to learn about the Earth Charter as a starting point for bringing about the transformation of our collective behaviour as a species. The Tao of Liberation for me is a handbook for implementing the Earth Charter. It provides the analysis and describes transformative spiritual practice that supports the ethos proposed in the Earth Charter. As such The Tao of Liberation is an important tool for transforming the collective behaviour of our species. The ideas in the book are new to many of us which sometimes makes it a difficult read. It is a book worthy of group study to learn the new cosmology and the spiritual practice that will inspire an alternative trajectory of conscious evolution.

Arthur Blomme is engaged in integrating personal and social transformation in a spiritual practice that he has synthesized from many faith traditions and modern philosophy. He is a former Scarboro lay missioner who served in Peru. He continues to practice his Catholic faith acting for social justice and engaging non-dualist thought through Taoist/Chi Gong meditation.

Matthew's Beautitudes

Adapted from the Aramaic Translations of Neil Douglas-Klotz in Prayers of the Cosmos(1990)

Blessed are those who find their home in the breath and who devotedly hold fast to it as though it were all that was left; they shall be empowered with the "I can" of the One.

Fruitful and ripe are those who are weak and confused, who wander and grieve as they weep for their frustrated desire; they shall feel their inner flow of strength return and see the face of fulfilment in a new form.

Blessed are those who have softened what is rigid within; they shall receive the physical vigour and strength of the Earth.

Fruitful and ripe are those who wait up at night, weakened and dried out inside by the unnatural, unjust state of the Earth, thirsting for all to come together around the same table; they shall be encircled by the birth of a new world.

Blessed are those who, from their inner wombs, birth mercy and compassion; they shall feel its warm arms embrace them and be surrounded by cosmic ardour.

Fruitful and ripe are those who are energized by a deep and abiding purpose, whose hearts are filled with passion; they shall witness the power of the One who moves all and who manifests herself in all things.

Blessed are those who plant peace each season; they shall become channels of life who embody divine communion.

Fruitful and ripe are those who are dislocated and shattered for trying to right the imbalance of our world; to them belongs the ruling principles of the cosmos, the hidden potentiality of God immanent in the very fabric of the universe.

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