Heart-Centered Rationality and the Peaceable Kingdom

IN FOCUS, 13 Jul 2020

Stefan Schindler – TRANSCEND Media Service

8 Jul 2020 – In his 1844 Manuscripts, Karl Marx is an existential humanist.  He engages in Socratic questioning and provocation.  He echoes Buddha’s critique of ignorance, oppression, alienation.  He foreshadows Sartre and Camus – their protest against the absurdity of our social condition.  And as part of his egalitarian, holistic, humanistic vision, Marx was early and perpetually a vigorous environmentalist.

As Marx’s thinking and writing evolved toward The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital, he was

  1. developing his pioneering notion of species consciousness, currently resurrected as morphic resonance in the work of Rupert Sheldrake;
  2. working out an egalitarian social program aiming toward peace and prosperity, based on ecology and holistic thinking; and
  3. calling for what Nietzsche would soon term a “transvaluation of values.”

The value inversion at the heart of the paradigm shift: Put peace first.

The war and suffering endemic in the current world structure puts prosperity first (read: the wealth of the mega-rich), with peace (and the appearance of peace, like shadows on the wall in Plato’s cave) flickering off and on as befits economic apartheid and its cycles of boom and bust.

Socrates says wisdom is pursuit of wisdom; virtue is pursuit of virtue.  This parallels Parsifal’s quest for the Holy Grail of enlightenment.

It mirrors the Buddhist path of awakening – detachment fused with a passion for compassion.  It embodies the Taoist art of being in the world but not of it.

To be is to interbe.  Interbeing points to universal brother-sisterhood.  The Buddhist sangha – commune – exhibits the spirit of The Peaceable Kingdom.  Peace and awakening go together.

“The demand to put an end to illusions about our condition is a demand to put an end to the conditions which require illusion.”

Marx articulates here the heart of Plato’s cave parable.  He also echoes Buddha’s second and third Noble Truths – suffering is caused primarily by ignorance, and freedom from ignorance and suffering is possible, and clearly preferable.

Marx saw a classless society as the only viable way to actualize, if you’ll forgive the Schindlerian paraphrase, Buddha’s word-teaching mission to universally end so much unnecessary suffering.  Which, of course, means ending both poverty and war.

An enlightened society secures the economic security of the many for the sake of the well-being of the whole.  This holistic, social sangha ideal is pragmatic, democratic, utilitarian, realistic.  It secures leisure time for family and group interaction, travel, and education; i.e., personal and social evolution.  It applies equally to what Marshall McLuhan called “the global village.”

There is a planetary groundswell of awakening, a resurgence of the spirit of The Renaissance and The Enlightenment, urging what Kant called “human dignity,” what John Stuart Mill called “the greater good,” Martin Buber named “I-Thou” interbeing, and it is fiercely opposed by what Freud called “the furies of private interest,” manifest as greed, prejudice, and violence.

Rousseau: “Man is born free, but he is everywhere in chains.”

H. G. Wells: “History is more and more a race between education and catastrophe.”

Immanuel Kant: “We live in an age of enlightenment, but we do not yet live in an enlightened age.”

Voltaire: “It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong.”

Gandhi: “Western civilization?  I think it would be a good idea.”

Humanity’s survival now depends on a long overdue and necessary inversion of values.  The new equation reads: peace and prosperity.  Peace first.  And peace includes redistribution of the world’s wealth.  Peace is egalitarian, where cooperation takes precedence over competition.

Helen Keller was a socialist, and blind though she was, she saw more than America has yet to see.  The Dalai Lama calls himself a socialist because Awakening is both personal and global, ontologically entwined, and, as Eckhart said:

“Compassion is where peace and justice kiss.”

When each person, each family, has economic security, peace is possible, and certainly more probable.

Buddha, Eckhart, Rousseau, Marx, Mother Jones, Mark Twain, Helen Keller, Tenzin Gyatso – all urge us to Realize that “peace and prosperity” is kinetic, creative, challenging.

It’s a formula that nourishes, and it needs nourishing.  It’s a razor’s edge.  A middle way.  Every day: challenge and response; being-in-the-world-with-others.

Freedom entails work.  Buckminster Fuller:

“There are no passengers on spaceship earth; we are all members of the crew.”

Awakening is where personal prosperity is conjoined to a life of learning, service, and voluntary simplicity.  The social gestalt exhibits global cooperation to care for and sustain a healthy biosphere, bequeathing to all children, now and henceforth, the world of peace and beauty they deserve.

Peace and prosperity, as a paradigm of virtue, embodies an attitude of gratitude for the miracle of life, and a dedication to the art of education.  If you will: nirvana in samsara.  The Peaceable Kingdom on earth.

Where schools are gardens of learning, adventures in self-discovery, palaces of creativity.

Where lifelong educational opportunity is guaranteed.

Where street fairs and festivals are a weekly, perhaps nightly, occurrence.


Stefan Schindler taught philosophy, psychology, education, and religion for 40 years at institutions of higher learning, including The University of Pennsylvania, La Salle University, Berkley College of Music, The Boston Conservatory of Music, Dance and Theater, and the Boston and Brookline Centers for Adult Education.  Co-founder of The National Registry for Conscientious Objection, a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, a recipient of The Boston Baha’i Peace Award, and a Trustee of The Life Experience School and Peace Abbey, Dr. Schindler received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from Boston College (on Freud, Sartre, Hegel, and Jung). He wrote The Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Awards for Howard Zinn and John Lennon.  His books include The Tao of Socrates and America’s Indochina Holocaust.  His forthcoming book is titled Buddha’s Political Philosophy.

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 13 Jul 2020.

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