GCGI Journal Fall 2013 Paris Conference
The Fall 2013 GCGI Journal consists of papers presented at the 11th Annual International Conference of the GCGI held at Cite Universite in Paris, France in late August 2013
A Note of Thanks from Kamran Mofid
“He that seeks the good of the many seeks in consequence his own good”- St Thomas Aquinas
“God loves a cheerful giver”– St. Paul
“A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity”- The Buddha
“l’amour triomphe de tout“-Virgile
Annie and I got back home yesterday. We stayed for the post-conference tour and had a great time seeing many historical and cultural places and sharing joy and laughter with all those who had stayed for the tour also.
We live in difficult and troubling times, facing unprecedented global challenges. It is precisely in times like these – unstable and confusing though they may be – that people everywhere need to keep their eyes on the better side of human nature, the side of love and compassion, rather than hatred and injustice; the side of the common good, rather than selfishness, individualism and greed.
And I am delighted and honoured that this was indeed what we did and achieved at our GCGI Paris Conference. We truly showed what it means to be of and for the common good, unleashing the power of passion and purpose. We lived together and pursued the common good.
Soon I will send you a more comprehensive report, outlining in more details the work of our Paris Conference. For now, we, who came from around 20 countries, alongside our French colleagues and friends, all came together in Paris, young and old, students and teachers, observers and story-tellers, experienced and newcomers, and formed a community of committed and passionate gardeners, sowing seeds of sustainability, peace, justice and global friendship for the common good. In the wonderful and wise words of Rumi:
Tender words we spoke
to one another
in the secret vaults of heaven.
One day like rain,
they will fall to earth
and grow green
all over the world.
I thank you and wish you all well.
A Report and Reflection: Steve Szeghi, Professor of Economics, Wilmington College, Ohio, USA, GCGIJ Co-Editor, GCGI Senior Ambassador, Board of Advisers, and Participant
From the 25th of August until the 28th of August 2013, participants from over 20 countries, numbering about 100 people gathered at the Cite University in Paris not only to examine the crises of our times, but also to lay out a vision and a dream for the future. Participants joined with the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr, to embrace dreams of Peace, Social Justice, and Ecological Harmony. Combining the realism of the crises we face, with the idealism of vision we aspired for a better world while being fully cognoscente of the difficulties and barriers in making that dream a reality.
The same evening the conference ended, I strolled along the Seine to reflect upon the many talks and conversations of the prior few days. Both overwhelmed and rejuvenated by the intellectual intensity and diversity of the conference I was in desperate need to believe that somehow it is possible to translate dreams into reality. And there on the banks of the Seine reality invaded. I waded through thongs of people as I strolled into the last flickers of light in the evening. Huddled in mostly groups of 4 or 6, although at times 2 or even one, the people were sitting around cloth spread upon the ground drinking bottles of wine from wine glasses while nibbling upon fruits, crackers, and cheese.
A sea of humanity clustered in little groups, in carefree, hushed, almost noiseless conversation, seemed a mosaic of diversity, African, American, French, Italian, Muslim, Christian, Agnostic, Atheist, Gay, and Straight. The list of the traits of all the individuals in that sea of humanity along the Seine would be almost endless. Yet, all of these people, in that moment when the sun was setting, were enjoying life and doing no harm to the others who sat in close proximity. It was a glimpse of the fulfillment of Dr. King’s dream and the dream of the GCGI.
As exemplified by so many speakers and reflected in so many conversations throughout the conference, the need for sharing, for greater equality, sustainability, and ecological harmony is manifest. Much of the world has come to a greater respect for diversity, diversity of faith, of ethnicity and nationality in the five decades since Martin Luther Kings, “I have a dream” speech. Yet a lack of tolerance based upon religion and ethnic group still remains even as the dream has evolved to include diversity of sexual identity and gender roles. The dream has also evolved to become ever more inclusive of future generations and the entire web of life. And so the question emerges, how to unlock the dream more fully.
At least one of the keys to unlocking the dream more fully is in understanding more precisely and utilizing more completely the concept of the common good. Numerous speakers throughout the conference attempted to give definition to the concept while allowing for process and evolution to reshape and remold it over time. One speaker demonstrated that the common good is essentially available to all at little or no marginal cost once it is provided to one, and that it would be extremely difficult to exclude anyone form any element of the common good. Standard economics argues in effect that therefore the common good will not be provided for by the market alone, that it takes collective action to secure and maintain.
The roles of government, along with the role of the social entrepreneur were examined by numerous speakers throughout the conference. The Youth Time Movement guided us in a thought provoking interactive exercise to reflect upon what is needed to encourage and grow social entrepreneurship. Other speakers focused on the role of young people in fomenting change and the need for society to better invest in youth particularly in their education. Numerous speakers took a penetrating look at social entrepreneurship and its relation to the common good.
Some of the speakers came from various religious faiths while others evoked a non-religious form of spirituality. All had in common their love for humanity, and a desire to make this world a better place for the current generation, future generations, as well as for other species who share this earth with us. Sharing between individuals, nations, generations, and species, was cited as another key ingredient in reshaping the global economic system in building institutions, structures, and civil society organizations which reflect the spiritual values of justice and ecology.
Also responsible for my new eyes for Paris, and with many thanks and sincere gratitude for the amazing and delightful dinner cruise, on Monday the 26th of August, along the Seine, is Platforme de Paris. We were able to enjoy a delicious meal while basking in the cultural glow of Paris at twilight. The Eiffel tower was glowing in a simultaneous display of it’s own light while reflecting the light of the setting sun. It was breathtakingly beautiful. Again, many thanks to Platforme de Paris.
Kamran Mofid, founder of the Globalization for the Common Good Initiative awarded to the School of Economic Science and Ian Mason (Principal of the School of Economic Science) the second GCGI Award for Public Service in the Interest of the Common Good. A number of speakers from the School of Economic Science also served on various panels throughout the conference. Kamran Mofid is indeed a master at bringing together a wonderful and eclectic mix of individuals who somehow blend together sharing many aspects of a common dream. As intense as this conference usually is, it is nonetheless always a bit sad when the conference is over and the time comes to say goodbye. Yet we left reinvigorated, refocused, and hopeful of the task which awaits us to accomplish. Each of us is playing a part in making the dream a reality, in our thoughts, aspirations, and in our actions, even as we search for better ways to come together in actualizing our common dreams of peace, justice, equality, and ecology for all.
Kamran Mofid, For the Common Good: Unleashing the Power of Passion and Purpose, Living the Dream: Pursuing the Common Good
Those familiar with my writings and also with the GCGI will easily know that in my view nothing is more urgent and important in our world today than striving for the common good. I have written extensively on this topic. However, as my contribution to our ongoing conversation on the Common Good at our GCGI Paris Conference, below I have provided a short summary of and the links to a selection of my writings on the common good.
My perspective comes from two broad sources: (1) from over sixty years of living in globalised, diversified communities, in different countries and continents, in the midst of a diverse group of people, from various cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds; and (2) from thinkers- past and present- who were/are open, fresh and responsive to the human spirit, reflecting deeply on the individual, society, community and the common good. It is fair to say that, their impact on me has been profound. Their wisdom has nourished and nurtured my personal and professional development. For that I am forever grateful.
Given my life journey, I have discovered that, it is in our own best interest as human beings to recognize that our individual and societal wellbeing depends on the wellbeing of everyone else on the planet. We should also rediscover our deepest truth: that we recognize the goodness, love and generosity of the Universe at its current stage of evolutionary development. We should work to foster a spirit of caring and love for others because it is ethically and spiritually right to do so, as well as the only sane policy for saving the planet and saving the human race. Our primary goal must be for being for the global common good, through our Strategy of Generosity, Kindness and Service.
In this regard, we just may be in luck. Many around the world are discovering that, we, the people, are capable of dazzlingly complex thought. Moreover, more and more are realizing that, we are not individuals; we are a species, at our best when we work together for the common good. Our collective intelligence is both extraordinary and infinite. We must unite; have dialogue of ideas, peoples, civilisations, philosophies and initiatives, if we truly wish to change the world for the better.
Steve Szeghi, Breaking the Boundaries of Rational Calculation for the sake of the Common Good: Equality, Ecology, and Sustainability require more than the frame of Utilitarianism
Standard economic theory is quite able to accommodate concern for equality, ecology, and sustainability. All can be considered to be public goods from which individuals derive utility. Standard economic theory combined with empirical evidence can show that individuals do indeed prefer greater equality, healthier ecosystems and stronger sustainability for the sake of future generations. Standard theory can also show that markets are incapable of providing these public goods in ample amounts and quality. This paper will make the case for equality, ecology, and sustainability using the conventional framework.
Standard theory has not as yet made the case that the good of the whole exceeds the sum of the good that accrues to individuals, that society and community are real indeed. This paper will make such a case. The common good exceeds the sum of the parts. In addition the good of the whole as well as the good to individuals involves more than utilitarian calculation. Justice and fairness and ethical behavior all have intrinsic value just because, because they are right. Caring for the earth, other species, future generations, and economic justice demand that we break the boundaries of utilitarian constraints.
Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh, Imagining a Better World: An Intergenerational dialogue for the common good to inspire creative leadership – a Sikh Perspective
In our current times of immense change and challenge, we have a great need for creative leadership which encompasses a selfless concern for the common good. Dialogue across the generations brings light to the timeless characteristics of good leadership by sharing stories and perspectives from a life that is lived rather than simply theorised. The natural occurrence of such dialogue has diminished to a great extent and to revive it requires strategies. Its starting points are the qualities of mutual respect and genuine regard for the dignity of both young and old. Through my own evolution, as a faith practitioner and leader of a community-based organisation, I have found the teachings of faith to be a touchstone for the most valuable learning from intergenerational dialogue, for it digs deep into our shared human frailty and our remarkable human potential, and points to the broader, overarching contexts of our existence. As I will explore in this paper, faith illuminates in many ways what matters most in our human conversations from one stage of a life to another, shaping the spirit in which we move forward, as experiences, scenarios and people of the past give way to the new.
This continuity is echoed for me in a fond childhood memory. Although born in Africa, I spent a short spell as a child in India. One day, as we sat together up on a rooftop, my grandmother asked me to think hard and choose an answer to her question. Between the blazing sun and the little oil lamp or deeva, who did I think would get top marks for achievement? After a lively and reflective conversation, she helped me to conclude that it was in fact the humble oil lamp. Unlike the giant sun, beaming away in its own glory, only the lamp, with its little flame, was able to light another lamp. In a warm and humorous way, she taught me that what counts is not the status we gain but the difference we make. The learning from this small event has never left me.
Jamshid Damooei, Investing in Our Children is Wise and Will Bring High Returns on Investment: A Close Look Into the Socioeconomic Status of Children in California
The phrase “children are our future” is not a mere political slogan. It is a reality. This study looks at the status of children in California with an emphasis on children under five years of age (First Five). It shows that a majority of children in California enter their childhood with the clear disadvantage of being under the poverty line or living in a family with an even lower income (below 200% of the federal government’s defined poverty level). It argues that socioeconomic disadvantages and disparity in the early part of children’s lives may lead to unbridgeable gaps in their ability to learn and become successful in their adulthood. It shows that investing in children has the highest rate of return. The return on investment (ROI) comes in multiple cost savings such as the cost to criminal justice system, the cost to victims of crimes, welfare payments, higher tax revenues, greater lifetime earnings, etc. It is simple; when children have better childhoods, they earn more, pay more taxes, do not need government help, commit less crime, and raise successful families. The paper argues that unlike business investments, a society cannot postpone its investment in youth. Lack of investing in youth should be considered a disinvestment with high social and economic costs.
Peter Holland, Family, Education, and Fulfillment
This talk is my personal view, and not that of the School of Economic Science. Never-the- less I am a member of said school, and much of this talk is the result of study and discussions inspired by and due to my membership. The school’s charter as an educational charity is” To promote the study of natural laws governing the relations between men in society and all studies related thereto and to promote the study of the laws, customs and practices by which communities are governed and all studies related thereto” .
Our attempt to understand natural law has involved the study of many sources from multiple disciplines, faiths, nationalities and eras. One of the principle sources is a series of conversations between the school leaders, Mr MacLaren and Mr Donald Lambie with successive Shankaracharias of the North in India, and I shall refer to these a number of times.
I personally have found that testing these teachings in practice has invariably had a positive outcome, though sometimes it has taken a while for the penny to drop, so the quotes and directions in this paper are included with faith and confidence.
Francine Mestrum, The Social Commons, Social Protection in the Age of Sharing
In preparation for the 2015 MDG deadline, several international organizations are now proposing a ‘social protection’ program. This sounds very interesting and it could be the beginning of policies that break with the Washington Consensus and tackle not only poverty, but also inequality and the labor market.
The question is, however, what does this ‘social protection’ mean and will these new proposals really go beyond poverty reduction? We should not forget how poverty reduction came about and was presented in the past.
In 1990, poverty reduction consisted of providing opportunities, that is, the creation of human capital and increasing the capacity of the poor to take advantage of these opportunities, i.e. making use of acquired human capital. For the World Bank, ‘providing opportunities’ meant encouraging economic growth that makes use of the labour force of the poor, while ‘increasing the capacity of the poor’ consists of providing basic social services such as education, health care and family planning. The UNDP saw things the other way round. Human development was making available basic social services in order to empower individuals to increase their human capital for productive, social and political gains within a context of economic growth. In addition to this dual approach, targeted social programmes were required to help those who could not participate in the market. A safety net was needed to protect those who were exposed to shocks and to take care of the victims of the competitive struggle.
Derek McAuley, Religious Freedom and the Challenges to Human Rights for All: the advocacy for same sex marriage,
When I first became aware of the work of the Common Good Forum I was intrigued. I liked the words used; “reconsider”, “empower”, “re-think”, “shape” – all action-orientated towards change with, of course, an emphasis on the common good. To be Bridge-Builders and to promote cross-cultural understanding and cooperation among local and global communities is certainly to be valued along with the concept of trialogue between seniors, the young, and those in middle years. These principles certainly found an echo in my Unitarian values and heritage. Unitarians have been at the forefront of religious, social and indeed political changes in all the countries where we have managed establish a presence. We have faced persecution and challenge from dominant religious and political forces defending power and privilege. The purpose of this paper is to look at how British Unitarians have engaged with the controversial issue of same sex marriage in the context of our commitments to “civil and religious liberty” and human rights. Same sex marriage in England and Wales was approved when the Marriage (Same sex couples) Act was given Royal Assent on 17 July 2013.
The importance of religious freedom
Unitarians in Great Britain in July 2013 marked the 200th anniversary of the passing of what is known as the Unitarian Relief or Toleration Act. It was only in preparing a worship pack (1.) on these events for the General Assembly that the significance of the long-standing Unitarian commitment to religious freedom and opposition to laws on blasphemy became clear to me. The legal penalties against those holding Unitarian views were grounded in the Blasphemy laws. The Blasphemy Act of 1698 explicitly held the denial of the Holy Trinity by someone who had made profession of the Christian religion as a crime. This was repealed by the 1813 Unitarian Relief Act.
William Smith MP, the great Dissenting leader who promoted the legislative change said that the Act enabled every denomination of Christian to preach their respective tenets without let or hindrance, “none, legally daring to make them afraid” (2). He publicly acknowledged that his religion did not need the protection of blasphemy legislation; “let Truth stand or fall as she is able to support herself”.
Nina Meyerhof, Spiritual Activism
The purpose of this paper is to support our next generation’s role of integrating spirituality in our lives. Increasingly, people are including spirituality as part of daily conversation. Books on the subject of spirituality and leadership are emerging in the fields of organizational development and business. Meetings held around the world are calling for inner reflection and are seeking information for living a life filled with more meaning and joy. Self-help books support people in their inner discovery of who they are and how to build better relationships. But, alas, the future generation, the inheritors of all our actions, is rarely given the tools to prepare for this life journey. Spirituality is not to be associated with religion but rather as a guide for conscious living as a species inhabiting our planet. We are interconnected and interdependent as realized now and must behave accordingly. If only we could help these young people now rather than later. Imagine if you did not have to reconstruct your past and peel away your life experiences. Imagine if we had been told, “just be yourself” and be loyal to your inner voice. Imagine if we had been given the tools to learn how to make and keep positive relationships with your friends and fellow human beings. What a wonderful world we would live in!
Humera Javed, The Sacred Between Us, The Value of Collective Learning in Spiritual Growth
This presentation will explore a model, “Mindful Listening,” that the Spiritual Heritage Education Network (SHEN) uses in all its learning groups including the annual conference on Education to Globalize the Human Mind. There are four critical processes to Mindful Listening: 1) Deep breathing, 2) Meditation, 3) Individual reflection, 4) Group reflection. By examining this process in, the presentation will allow participants to see how the practice of deep breathing calms the nerves, enables the perception of the mundane personal good, and opens up space for deep individual and spiritual engagement. The recognition of the good within self is then externalized and projected onto others, making it possible to imagine the common good. Specifically, my presentation seeks to address the main research question: how does dialogic learning in an interfaith context facilitate the individual and collective spiritual development of its participants? Supplementary research questions that I ask are: what conditions are necessary for such dialogic learning to happen and for it to be transformative? How does the learning community make the shift from dialogue to praxis? What are the possibilities and limitations that are unique to a spiritually oriented learning community? To find answers to these questions, I will examine the model of “Mindful Listening,” that the Spiritual Heritage Education Network (SHEN) uses in all its learning groups including its annual conference on Education to Globalize the Human Mind. I chose this case-study because this group sharing process is strategically designed by SHEN to create a micro learning community that creates multiples spaces throughout the conference for participants to centre their thoughts, share them with their co-learners in the conference, and reflect on the collective knowledge emerging from everyone’s experiences. By analyzing the individual responses to the group sharing process collected over three years (through three conferences), I will demonstrate via the findings that spiritual learning is transformative when it is dialogic and relationally experienced and that the relationship between individual and collective spiritual development is deeply and intricately linked. It is my hypothesis that not only collective learning can lead to a more engaged and reflexive spirituality, but it also creates more engaged members of the larger community – communities that come together to seek
knowledge together simultaneously build their own capacity to take collective social action and mobilize around a mutual cause, or in solidarity with each other.
Mar Peter-Raoul, Occupy Academe, In a Time of Extremity Equipping All Students to Make and Occupy a Better World
With today’s seemingly intractable problems, and given the power, resources, and potential of thousands of colleges and universities, Occupy Academe, a movement for radical public praxis, engages students in socio-economic, political, and transformative work. Urging institutions of higher learning to reorient the academy to prioritize such transformative work, Occupy Academe connects the institution with real-world conditions, and, when possible, with those on society’s lowest rungs, many whose lives are bound in debilitating poverty, pervasive injustice, humiliating violations, and among the very poorest, lacking any means by which to alter their condition, a consequence of being born into a world not of their making, without any possibility or resources to better their lives.
Occupy Academe offers students the opportunity of profound learning, preparing them to tackle some of today’s most egregious problems. Students bring what they learn in the classroom to the public square, and each term participate in a social project that tackles some situation of social disadvantage, from ecological disaster, to economic structures of inequality, to barriers of poverty, addiction, unemployment, to situations of excruciating loss, and together with other students, with those bearing the circumstances themselves, and with the larger community, collaborate in finding remedies and possibilities for bettering a hard reality, making with one project at a time, a better world.
Uli Spalthoff, The Spirit of Ubuntu and the Common Good
The philosophy of Ubuntu, underlying many African indigenous knowledge systems, enjoys growing popularity in the northern hemisphere. As Yusufu Turaki summarized its essence, “People are not individuals, living in a state of independence, but part of a community, living in relationships and interdependence.” Thus it is in stark contrast to Adam Smith and his followers, who emphasized the individual and its egoism as driver of economics.
In this presentation I explore in which way Ubuntu might provide a guideline for economic concepts overcoming the well-known shortcomings of our current systems. Ubuntu philosophy primarily relates to personal and community development emphasizing spirituality. It relates to economy as it attaches great ethical value to sharing and generosity. I will address how these ethical values are transferred to practice, and ask how they might help to further develop thinking about economy.
Ian Mason, The Science of Economics: Economics with Justice for the Common Good
Calls for a more just and fair approach to economics are nothing new. In his book, The Science of Economics, Raymond Makewell brings up to date the thought of Leon MacLaren, one of the most penetrating of thinkers to address this need in the twentieth century. MacLaren’s thinking remains completely relevant to the present time offering vigorous challenges to contemporary thought and insights into the realities of modern economics while demonstrating the exciting possibilities that economics based on justice can offer in the best interests of humanity and the common good.
For far too long economics has been the private preserve of vested interests who direct its purposes to private ends and neglect the common good. The results are all around us and the symptoms all too well known: great wealth alongside terrible poverty; social tension and unrest; wars over oil reserves; forests decimated; pollution and degradation; and more deeply a dulling of the human spirit. All this can be laid at the door of poor economics applied in the interests of a few regardless of the common good.
Audrey Kitagawa, Global Engagement, Creating Cooperation and Friendship Through Culture and Track II Diplomacy
Cultural exchanges between countries are positive entry points to develop friendly relationships that manifest respect and appreciation for the diversity and uniqueness that exists among peoples and how they live, worship, and express themselves, whether through food, drink, the fine or performing arts, architectural designs, and the defining characteristics of their rituals and routines of everyday living.
Culture also manifests the values which people treasure, whether in the intricate Buddhist drawings in the Magao Caves in China situated near the Silk Road, or the massive Inca stone structures and terraces built high in the mountains of Machu Pichu, Peru, with temples to the sun, water, and natural elements; all examples of the ingenuity of the human potential to create unspeakable beauty that invoke wonderment and amazement throughout the ages.
Dan McKanan, Magical Traditions and the Common Good
My presentation will explore the ways that esoteric or magical spiritual traditions can contribute to economic justice, ecological sustainability, and the common good. Focusing especially on the community-building, biodynamic agriculture, and social investing initiatives of the Anthroposophical movement, as well as on similar initiatives rooted in New Thought, New Age, and Neopagan spiritualities, I argue that magic can be a vital part of the repertoire of social change activists.
Magic, as I understand it, is the attempt to achieve worldly ends by gaining subjective insight into the deep structures of the cosmos. Magical traditions have often been opposed by monotheistic religions (which emphasize the passive acceptance of grace) and by modern science (which seeks objective, rather than subjective insights). Yet people seeking to change society have repeatedly turned to such magical practices as alchemy, astrology, and homeopathy as sources of strength or as models for their activism. Indeed, in a broad sense the practice of consciousness-raising can be seen as a form of magic, which is why newly class-conscious workers of the nineteenth century sometimes found inspiration in the Rosicrucian ideal, and feminists of the 1970s often turned to the magic of the Goddess. Magic is both a source of power for persons excluded from institutional power, and a method for building a new world without losing one’s self in the process.
Rajesh Makwana, An Introduction to Economic Sharing
In response to some of the world’s most pressing crises, there is an emerging discourse on the need to implement innovative policies, mechanisms and practices that embody the principle of sharing. Currently this discussion is broad ranging, spanning issues as diverse as strengthening local communities and reducing personal consumption to implementing a fair global solution to climate change. In light of the growing interest in the concept of sharing, this paper provides a brief overview of what sharing could mean in economic terms and how, in theory, global economic sharing could be applied as a solution to poverty and inequality, the environmental crises and the ongoing conflict over increasingly scarce natural resources.
Sharing is a familiar process that people in diverse countries practice on a daily basis within their homes, families and communities. But a closer examination of the term ‘sharing’ reveals that it can be interpreted in a number of different ways. For example, sharing can refer to ‘giving’ and is often associated with forms of philanthropy and charity, and we can talk about sharing in terms of reciprocity where there is an additional obligation to repay a gift or favour received. In relation to goods and resources, the concept of sharing as giving and receiving implies some degree of ownership, since we cannot give something away unless it belongs to us in the first place. Alternatively, when it is used in relation to the concept of the commons, sharing can also mean ‘to use jointly’ which implies that a shared resource is not necessarily owned, given or received but can be collectively managed and is freely accessible to all stakeholders.
Adam Parsons, Sharing the World’s Wealth, Power, and Resources
What does it mean to talk about the simple practice of sharing in economic and political terms? By way of a basic definition, we could say that economic sharing means to act cooperatively as a global community of nations; it means recognising the environmental limits that we have to work within according to the principle of equity; and it therefore means transforming the structures and institutions that perpetuate the multiple crises we face.
But if our human understanding of sharing is to mean anything at all in a world of plenty, it must surely mean an end to all instances of life-threatening deprivation and poverty-related deaths as a foremost global priority. Every day we fail to act, an additional 40,000 preventable deaths will occur from a lack of access to adequate food, clean water and essential healthcare. At the same time, ecological turmoil is triggering natural disasters that are already devastating communities and escalating poverty, displacement and deprivation. According to some estimates, climate change is now contributing to the avoidable deaths of around 400,000 people every year. And these figures don’t even include the harsh impacts of austerity policies and the effects of the financial crisis, which as we know are widening inequalities and causing profound hardship for millions of people across the world.
Richard Boeke, The Temple Above the Clouds
The name, “Temple above the Clouds” comes from American Missionaries to Western China, Dryden and Margaret Phelps, who gave that name to their retirement retreat at Big Sur, 1200 feet above the Pacific Ocean. Dryden and Margaret Phelps felt the term equally fitted the new Unitarian Church on the East Bay Hills. Many mornings, both looked over the “Marine Layer” clouds from the Pacific.
From 1891 to 1961, the Unitarian Church was next to the University of California, and linked to what is now the Starr King School for the Ministry. The church became a safety value for the “steaming unrest” on campus. Speakers from Albert Einstein to Timothy Leary came to preach their gospel. As the McCarthy period began, California passed the “Levering Act” (1950) which required public employees to declare that “I do not advocate, nor am I a member of any party or organization, political or otherwise, that now advocates the overthrow of the Government of the United States or of the State of California by force or violence or other unlawful means…”
An amendment to the California Constitution was passed by popular vote in 1952 to require churches to do much the same.. Religious institutions had until March of 1954 to decide whether or not they would comply. The Berkeley Unitarian Committee refused to sign. Just as 35 U.C. professors refused to sign, including psychotherapist Erik Eri kson. At the church meeting a committee member said, “To support my family, I felt the need to sign. But I would be proud if my church refused to sign.” In 1958, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the Levering oath applied to churches was an unconstitutional violation of First Amendment, Taxes paid were refunded to the four churches which took the case to court (3 Unitarian & 1 Methodist).