A Conversation with Andrew Harvey
Author and Sacred Activist
In The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism, author, scholar and mystic Andrew Harvey inspires us to participate in radically transforming the world by becoming sacred activists. Awakened to our divine purpose, we become effective, practical agents of change for peace and sustainability.
What is the difference between sacred activism and activism?
It is my experience that a large majority of activists are fueled by an honorable outrage and desire to do good. The sacred activist, rather, lives from the depths of divine consciousness and acts from the depths of divine wisdom and compassion, because he or she is committed to a deep spiritual practice.
Sacred activists understand that the deepest service rises out of their deepest compassion, which is born out of their deepest heartache. They are committed to being, in the face of growing chaos, suffering and violence, what Robert Kennedy called, “a tiny ripple of hope,” and a “center of energy and daring.”
Why is a deep spiritual practice important to the sacred activist?
The Jungian analyst Marion Woodman once said to me, “Continuing to do pioneering sacred work in a world as crazy and painful as ours without constantly grounding yourself in sacred practice would be like running into a forest fire, dressed only in a paper tutu.” Like Marion, I believe that extreme situations, like those we are in now, require extreme solutions that are born from another dimension of truth and compassion. Our present world crisis is spiritual and mystical; therefore, only spirit and mystical consciousness will give us the passion, energy and peace that provide the kind of solutions that have any real chance of being effective.
What differentiates the outcomes advocated by the sacred activist and the activist?
The sacred activist is aware that the temptation and excitement of projecting their own unacknowledged darkness onto others keeps them from seeing just how implicated they are in the problem. Such an enlightened thinker also understands that advocating for any cause in the spirit of condemnation only reinforces the behavior it is trying to end, and virtually ensures that any efforts increase resistance, rather than healing.
The radical psychological self-work on their own shadow, or dark aspects, as well as incessant prayer by the sacred activist, opens the doors to a sense of humility which views opponents not as an “other,” but rather through the eyes of kindness and respect. The most effective negotiators in situations of extreme danger or conflict are those who experience their own continuing inner conflicts, which keeps them humble. While it would be sentimental to claim that this approach always succeeds, we can say that the active spiritual path shows us the way to the only solutions that can succeed in the long run.
What qualities do all sacred activists have in common?
The embrace of unconditional love and forgiveness is essential to the success of all major activist adventures in our world, not just to saints and Buddhists. Until you try this, you will never explore your own capacity to love and forgive. Sacred activists understand that service is the only road to profound and lasting joy, and that the deepest service rises out of their deepest compassion, which is born out of their deepest heartbreak.
How do we know our sacred cause when we meet it?
Sacred activism asks two related things of those who serve: to remain open, without illusion, to the danger that the world is in and to ask, “What is my deepest heartbreak?” If you can open your heart to the horror of what is happening and at the same time identify your deepest heartbreak, the answer will marry a profound urgency with a focused and passionate commitment to your primary cause.
What has kept you going for more than 20 years as an activist?
The things that keep me going—a sense of urgency about the dangers we face; a tremendous love for human beings, animals and nature; and an energy that rises out of the depths of profound and direct realization from the divine—are available at any moment, to anyone who has a deep hunger for them.
For more information about Andrew Harvey and the Institute for Sacred Activism, visit.