Best-selling author and personal transformation pioneer Marianne Williamson returns to Fairfield to offer new insights into the connection between spirituality and politics in her presentation “The Spirit of Democracy,” on Sunday, September 16, at 7:30 p.m. at the Sondheim Center. The event is free and open to the public.
Producer Michael Sternfeld interviewed Ms. Williamson in advance of her Fairfield appearance.
You embarked on a Love America Tour earlier this year. What inspired this idea and what was it about?
Like millions of Americans, I have been deeply concerned watching hatred and bigotry turned into a political force, and I want to see the decency and love inside us turned into a political force. We need a politics aligned with who we deeply are, not in conflict with who we are. At a time in America when the conversation has been brought so low, I want to use whatever platform and expertise I have to help lift it up.
You’re coming back to Fairfield again to deliver another illluminating talk at the Sondheim. Why do you love coming back here?
I’m a meditator, so that’s one reason I’m attracted to Fairfield . . . and I have friends there. But I’m talking there this week about the political situation in America today. Iowa reminds me of the lyric in the musical Hamilton, when he talks about the “room where it happens.” Given that Iowa is the first primary state, its citizens here have a powerful role in determining the conversations that dominate the presidential campaign. I want to be in the room where it happens.
You’re known as an expert in personal transformation, your focus for many years. And you once said, “I believe the same principles that apply to personal transformation apply to societal transformation.” What are some of those core principles?
At the deepest level, there are many problems in life but only one solution—a state of consciousness. So on a certain level it’s irrelevant whether our challenges are personal or collective. The same psychological principles that apply to the journey of one person apply to the journey of a nation. Our world is simply a projection of our collective thoughts and only by realigning our consciousness with something higher will the larger picture correct itself. The place where we need to address those issues is inside ourselves.
Your most famous book, Return to Love, captures the essence of the message that you’re giving here right now. You’re asking for a return to love, instead of being dominated by fear. What is the most essential aspect of this message that the country needs to hear right now?
Love is the purpose of our existence—not just the purpose of our individual lives, but also the purpose of life on earth, period. And it’s not just people who are called to be good; nations are called to be good.
When we’re separated from our love, when we see it as neither our true identity nor our true purpose, then we’re separated from the true ground of our being. America’s political and economic paradigms today are so lacking in love as to be dangerous. In the absence of love there is fear, just as when there’s an absence of light there is darkness. Love brings about harmony and creativity, and fear brings about chaos and destruction. Our political situation today is chaotic for that very reason. Many spiritual seekers have experienced in their own lives how a wider embrace of love transforms personal relationships. Now we need to remember what Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. said, that love transforms political relationships as well.
How does your impulse for social activism fit into your larger mission—your Dharma on the planet—or the way you choose to serve the evolution and progress of our culture?
A nation as much as an individual has a spirit and a spiritual mission. And for a nation as much an individual, there is an infinite field of corrective possibility.
I’m not talking about anything different than I’ve been talking about for 35 years: how to close the gap between the truth of who we are and our actions when they might have caused suffering to ourselves and others. Many of us have become adept at trying to navigate our own spiritual journeys; now it’s time to address our country’s journey, because obviously we’re in a crisis now. I’ve felt frustrated at times with the political disengagement of so many contemporary spiritual seekers. We’re the last ones who should be standing on the sidelines, because if you know how to change one heart then you’re the one who knows how to change the world. I think we should be the biggest grown-ups in the room.
How do you feel America has moved off track, and what would you do to reset or realign our country with the most progressive and evolutionary ideals?
In A Course in Miracles, it says there is no such thing as a neutral thought—that all thought creates form on some level. Everything we think and do leads to either love or to fear. In the United States, we’ve gradually lost our sense that a higher, ethical purpose should infuse our national existence. We stopped asking whether we are a good society and now only ask whether or not we are a rich society. We’ve been lured into an outlook that financializes everything, an idolatrous mentality that sees everything in economic rather than humanitarian terms. And it has led to great chaos. We’re on the earth to create the good, the true, and the beautiful, and that should apply to our sense of national purpose as much as to our personal lives. As a country, we shouldn’t be organized according to economic principles; we should be organized according to humanitarian principles. We should not be run like a business; we should be run like a family. All of us know all of those things in our hearts. And it’s time to say them.
Is there anything you’d like to close with here, describing what your vision is for our country, or the planet?
My vision for our culture, country, and planet is the same as that of all people of good will. I want the angels of our better nature to ascend, that we might create on earth a magnificent expression of who we really are and who we might be together. There are two extreme poles of possibility, always: the fear that creates injustice, oppression, and all manner of collective evil and heartbreak. Or the love that creates justice, freedom, and all manner of collective love and happiness. We’re all responsible for helping our nation to decide.