The truth of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness
Published by John Hunt Publishing and available from Amazon Books in 2022. CLICK HERE to obtain a copy. A Kindle version is also available.
We live at a time when societies are riven with division and strife. What hope is there for us to heal? Healing Social Divisions provides a radically new, non-ideological and effective consciousness- based approach for transforming our societies. Peer-reviewed research provides evidence that it is possible to neutralise stress in the collective consciousness of a society. This then promotes life, liberty, happiness, heals social divisions and creates the platform for good governance. The research challenges the conventional wisdom that consciousness is only a by-product of brain functioning. Along the route it examines our self-concept, freeing us from the biases of reductionism that impede the development of morality in our public life.
“With about 200 states, 2,000 nations with claims on sacred space and with memories of sacred time and about 20 nation-states, there is a world potential for 1,980 independence wars, pitting status quo-orientated states against change-oriented nations.”
– John Galtung, Searching for Peace
“When asked, in a very revealing survey, if there are parts of neighbouring countries that really belong to them, 67 per cent of Hungarians and 60 per cent of Greeks confirmed their ambitions to add to their existing territory, as did 58 per cent of Turkish citizens. Around half the population of Poland (48 per cent), Slovakia (46 per cent) and Bulgaria (58 per cent) also supported their country’s right to territorial expansion…an equally depressing story can be told of mutual suspicions breeding division and disunity across both Africa and Asia.”
– Gordon Brown, Seven Ways to Change the World.
After Joe Biden won the election to become President of the United States, he said:
“I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide, but to unify; who doesn’t see red and blue states, but a United States…The Bible tells us that to everything there is a season – a time to build, a time to reap, a time to sow, and a time to heal. This is the time to heal in America.”
“I consider Barry Spivack’s work very important.”
– Maeve Cooke, Professor of Philosophy, University College Dublin and author of /Re-Presenting the Good Society/
“For anyone vexed by the problem of conflict and hatred, this book has good news: meditation can heal social divisions even if only a small fraction of people practise it. Analysing the effectiveness of meditation interventions is challenging, but the book does a great job to explain social behaviour.”
– Bernard Reinsberg, Lecturer in International Relations, Glasgow University
“Healing Social Divisions opens our eyes to a welcome and urgently needed new possibility for humankind. It provides a vision both sweepingly grand and immediately practical.”
– Bob Roth, CEO of the David Lynch Foundation and author of the best-selling book Strength in Stillness
“Conflict and hatred have real economic costs in addition to reducing individual and collective well being. In this book, Barry Spivack lays out both the theoretical foundations and empirical evidence for the practice of Transcendental Meditation in healing social divisions and reducing conflict and hatred in society. This is a very timely book and one that should inspire policy makers across the globe.”
– Huw Dixon, Professor of Economics, Cardiff University
“Barry Spivack’s book is well grounded in this work and ventures further, exploring the body of research that suggests groups of meditators can positively affect the wellbeing of societies.”
– Miguel Farias, DPhil, is the co-author of The Buddha Pill: Can Meditation Change You? and the lead editor of the Oxford Handbook of Meditation
We live at a time when people cannot even agree on what is factual, so what hope is there to heal social divisions? I will outline a non-ideological method to heal social and international divides: if it were ideological it would create new divisions. Some may say a non-ideological approach to healing disagreements is impossible and incoherent in principle; I hope to show otherwise.
An implication of Brexit and the 2016 election of Donald Trump as President of the USA is that in both countries there were large numbers of people whose views were not being represented by the established parties. These divides go back decades and the UK and US governments failed to maintain balance between diverse regions and different groups that make up these nations. The two nationalistic campaign slogans, Take back control and Make America great again, resonated with the respective electorates. These types of campaigns have the potential to light the fuse of social conflict. John Galtung is the principal founder of the discipline of peace studies, and the quote above suggests such latent divisions are never too far from tipping into civil unrest.
The aim of Healing Social Divisions is to explain an effective non-coercive method for preventing and resolving these differences before they lead to violence.
Ignoring concerns of a nation’s citizens leads to a distrust of elites. During the 2020 pandemic we have witnessed scepticism towards political and scientific leaders, even though science and technology are the basis of much of what we take for granted in modern life. This has given rise to conspiracy theories and questions about sources of valid knowledge. History has many examples of real conspiracies, so it is not as if conspiracies do not happen. But because tobacco companies hid the fact that they knew about the risk of developing lung cancer as a result of regular smoking, it does not mean that there was never a moon landing. The flagrant abuse of truth during Brexit and the 2016 US presidential election was a motivating factor in writing Healing Social Divisions, and the issue of truth in public life will be touched on near the end.
Chapter 1 explains the key concept of neutralizing stress and increasing coherence in collective consciousness. The following chapter 2 further clarifies this consciousness-based approach to healing social divisions. Taking inspiration from the American Declaration of Independence, chapters 3, 4 and 5 investigate the peer-reviewed evidence that the quality of collective consciousness influences life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Chapter 3 gives ten reasons why decreases in violence and crime and increases in cooperation, which are correlated with greater coherence in collective consciousness, are consistent with a causal hypothesis. Chapter 6 explains why opposite qualities and social attitudes can be harmonized without external compulsion.
Next I look at the relationship between collective consciousness and good governance and the way a government can harmonize conflicting values within a society and between nations. Chapter 7 outlines 12 principles of good governance. Good governance depends on choices, and choices are based on human consciousness. In a globalized world, good governance extends beyond national boundaries and depends on international cooperation, which is influenced by the amount of harmony in collective consciousness. The penultimate chapter 8 explicitly challenges the conventional wisdom that consciousness is only a by-product of the functioning of the brain; rather it encourages a new scientific paradigm of an expanded understanding of human consciousness which is intimately connected with the values of freedom, happiness, harmony and truth. Finally, in chapter 9, I discuss how these proposals reduce narrowness of vision, enlarge our moral circle and may enhance higher standards in public life. An alternative title could be Care of the Self and Political Change as this book’s theme is how progress and social and political cooperation depend on individual development.
How much of what we assume is correct will be laughed at in 200 years’ time? This is especially true when it comes to governing as there is no consensus about the best way to run modern societies. Healing Social Divisions offers a new approach to good governance which may appear to be at odds with conventional forms of politics and political activism, but a closer inspection will show that it adds a new layer of understanding without diminishing existing approaches to improving society.
Barry Spivack studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford University before training as a teacher of Transcendental Meditation. For 25 years he combined working in industry with teaching Transcendental Meditation part time. He currently teaches Transcendental Meditation in Essex, mainly in schools, companies and with patients in the UK National Health Service.
Barry’s first book was co-authored with Dr Patricia Saunders and is called An Antidote to Violence: Evaluating the Evidence. Click here to go to the book’s website.
Preface and acknowledgements
Chapter 1 Neutralizing social tensions
Pulling the arrow back on the bow
Claims of benefits are based on peer-reviewed evidence
The impact of stress on the individual
Chapter 2 Beyond language and ideology
Is it possible to have an experience unmediated by language?
Unfolding human potential
Comparing methods of self-actualization
Fullness and emptiness
Is everything ideological?
What is the difference between collective consciousness and collective intention?
Escaping the iron cage of rationality?
Chapter 3 Collective traumas and glories
From the individual to the group
Increasing cooperation between antagonists in the Middle East
“Seven times gets your attention”
Correlation or causation?
Turning the tap on and off
Chapter 4 Varieties of freedom
Minimal external constraints
Biochemical connectivity and freedom of choice
Freedom from economic deprivation
Two case studies
Chapter 5 The natural tendency of life
The cliché of inner happiness
Chapter 6 Unity and diversity
Harmonizing opposite values
Chapter 7 Coherence in collective consciousness: the ground for good governance
Individual choices add up
Government is governed by collective consciousness
Twelve principles of good governance
General will and the spirit of the people
Variety is the stuff of relative life
Chapter 8 A paradigm of connectivity
Matter and consciousness
Chapter 9 How to love your neighbour and your environment as yourself
Enlarging our moral circle
Appendix Knowledge is different in different states of consciousness
About the author
References and notes
Barry Spivack’s previous publication
An Antidote to Violence: Evaluating the Evidence.
It explains collective consciousness — the togetherness of all the consciousness that make up a society—and the influence of Transcendental Meditation on society as a “field effect of consciousness”. Written for the social scientist and the lay reader alike, the book weaves together psychology, sociology, philosophy, statistics, politics, and physics to provide evidence that governments have the knowledge to reduce all kinds of violence in society simply by creating coherence in collective consciousness and thereby neutralising collective stress.
Published by Changemakers Books in 2020
CLICK HERE to obtain a copy. Kindle and Audiobook versions are also available.
“I was initially skeptical that such a simple solution could be effective. However, after examining the evidence, I changed my mind. An Antidote to Violence is a serious and well-researched book that offers an unconventional but effective peaceful solution to violence and terrorism.”
– Lieutenant General Clarence E. McKnight, Jr. (U.S. Army – Ret) is a former Director of Command, Control and Communications Systems for the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, D.C.