A Reflection on Our Times

1earthMost commentary on the American presidential election focuses on the qualities of the candidates and recent events in American political history. Pulling back the lens offers a more expansive view.

Hegemonic powers have risen and fallen throughout human history. The declining hegemon abandons the soft power of persuasion for the hard power of armaments. It wastes blood and treasure in foreign adventures.

Financial manipulation and economic chaos predominate as the hegemonic currency goes into decline. Today, slowing growth worldwide, uncontrolled printing of money, negative interest rates for many government bonds, declining oil prices, and manipulated financial markets are all facets of a system at the edge of collapse.

We all know that a growth economy cannot expand without limits. Population growth is a tremendous multiplier of economic activity and resource depletion. The Holocene is the sixth great age of extinctions. Climate change, toxic chemicals, habitat destruction, resource depletion, and many other factors drive the myriad human and ecosystem diseases of our time. The fabric of life itself is unraveling.
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Enneagram: An Archetypal Psychology

I have been studying the Enneagram. Enneagram is an archetypal psychology – “a model of personality which is principally understood and taught as a typology of nine interconnected personality types,” Wikipedia tells us.

Enneagram provides those drawn to it with a tool for understanding ourselves and others in a compassionate way. When we understand the archetypes at work within us, we are less tempted to blame ourselves for how we are in the world or blame others for how they are. Enneagram also provides a tool for those working on inner evolution.

The contemporary uses of Enneagram derive from wisdom teachings rooted in Jewish, Christian, Sufi, and Greek traditions.

One of the best on-line sources is The Enneagram Institute created by Don Riso and Russ Hudson. They offer a concise guide to the enneagram. They also have as a brief free test (and a longer fee-based one) to help you begin to find your type. Riso and Hudson are the authors of the most accessible text – The Wisdom of the Enneagram –The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types. Continue reading

Soul and Polis in Difficult Times

balanced-rocks heroAs a general rule, we don’t cover politics at The New School. That said, we appear to be at a turning point in political discourse both in the United States and in Europe. The approach I take here is not a partisan one, but rather a reflection on how we balance our commitments to soul and polis in turbulent times. Continue reading

ISHI Goes Back to Medical School

Below you will find an important announcement from Rachel Naomi Remen, MD, Director of the Institute for the Study of Health and Illness at Commonweal. We celebrate ISHI’s new partnership with Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine in Dayton, Ohio. The Medical School has made a wonderful commitment to creating an endowment so that ISHI’s work can continue for many years to come.

Rachel speaks for herself and for ISHI below. All I will add is my heartfelt gratitude that we have been able to support Rachel’s work at ISHI for the past 25 years. Rachel is a genius and a national treasure. Our partnership has been a gift to all of us at Commonweal. We are delighted that Rachel will continue to be active at Commonweal as Medical Director of the Commonweal Cancer Help Program—a position she has held for 30 years—and as a senior faculty member for The New School at Commonweal and Healing Circles.

With gratitude to all who have supported and benefited from Rachel’s great work through ISHI,

Michael Lerner
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Francis: The Making of A Radical Pope

pope francis

People see Pope Francis in different ways. For those concerned with climate change, the environment, poverty and justice, he is an astonishing moral force. For those concerned with gay marriage, abortion rights, making women priests, and child-abuse, he is a disappointment. You cannot understand Francis unless you understand his story. That story is best told in Austen Ivereigh’s The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope.

The New York Times called The Great Reformer “the best English-language biography of the pope to date.” Other reviews, including those from the most knowledgeable Catholic reporters, like John Allen at Crux, are equally enthusiastic.

Ivereigh is a British Catholic writer and commentator on religious and political issues. He writes: “This is a story not just of the man but of his three great reforms: of the Argentine Jesuit province, of the Argentine Church, and now of the Universal Church.” Continue reading

Eight Years at The New School

p1362380810-5Dear New School Friends,

Often I write to you about things that interest me — like my last post on whether beauty will save the world. I rarely write to you about New School conversations. But let’s look at seven recent TNS conversations:

  • Actor and Zen teacher Peter Coyote talking with Steve Heilig about his new memoir The Rainman’s Third Cure
  • Food writer Michael Pollan talking about his new research into the healing properties of psychedlics for the dying
  • Poet Jane Hirschfield talking with Eric Karpeles about her new collections of poetry and prose
  • Physician Rachel Naomi Remen talking about the discovery model learning
  • Philosopher Jacob Needleman’s spiritual biopgraphy, of time and the soul
  • Astrologer Caroline Casey’s equinoctial eclipse persian new year comedic eclipse of Mars and Venus tour
  • And film-maker Walter’s Murch’s astonishing rediscovery of Bode’s Law — how new evidence confirms and 18th century conjecture on orbital harmonies.

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Reflections on Eight Years of The New School

Michaels laughing 2

I’ve been looking back on eight years of The New School.

When we started in 2007, I thought we’d mostly tape phone conversations. Then it turned out that people liked to hear the conversations live. At first a dozen or so people would turn up. Over eight years, The New School community has grown…now it is common to have two hundred people or more for one of our larger conversations.

But we don’t judge the quality of the conversation by the size of the audience. Some of our more intellectually challenging events draw small audiences, deeply dedicated people who are intensely interested. Continue reading

Michael Lerner: Whispers Of A Wounded Healer

labyrinth 10.10.13 hero 1

These grassroots efforts are like a global immune system in that they are drawn to the wounded places and they begin to work. –Michael Lerner

From Awakin Call Transcript, February 2015, and published June 2 on Daily Good. Read the transcript here or listen to the podcast of this conversation on the Awakin Call page.

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What Matters Now? Thoughts on Being Mortal

being mortal blog

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
By Atul Gawande, MD

This is a book about the modern experience of mortality— about what it’s like to be  creatures who age and die, how medicine has changed the experience and how it hasn’t. . . . Lacking a coherent view of how people might live successfully all the way to their very end, we have allowed our fates to be controlled by the imperatives of medicine, technology, and strangers. —Atul Gawande, MD

Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal is essential reading. It is essential for all who are entering older age. For all who are who are facing serious illness. And for all who are nearing the end of life. Continue reading