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A spiritual perspective: Who speaks for God in Iran?
With the Iranian resistance back in the news, we are observing cracks in the clerical elite and within civil society. In their fascinating experiment integrating a republic and a theocracy, the Iranians are manifesting conflicts among large numbers of people, between groups of people and some of the clerics and among the clerics themselves.
Few of us know the ins and outs of Iranian politics and it would be absurd for us to presume to understand the complexities of the current unrest. But one thing we can see is that the Iranians are grappling with the question: Who speaks for God, The Source?
This is the same question we face in other ways and in different forms. But first let’s look at Iran.
In a society in which religion is of high importance, the clerical elite represents itself as the expert on Islamic law and, therefore, society. In other words, a handful of men believe that they have the correct interpretation of what God said to Mohammed and what Mohammed is saying about the organization of civil life in their nation today. And the supreme leader claims to have the last word.
We are not judging the content of these interpretations. We are observing the struggle between those who believe they know what is so and therefore have a right to rule and those to want to speak for themselves. And we are observing that even among those who are designated to interpret God’s wisdom there are divides.
We are also observing that a fundamentally similar question is faced by us all. Who speaks for The Source? Who represents higher consciousness? Who defines the common good? An elite, which elite or all of us? Isn’t this the underlying question of democracy?
In nation after nation, elites have set themselves up and given themselves the cloak of infallibility about their perception of reality. The Pope in the Catholic world; the Divine Right of kings in monarchies; the Communist Party in China. In our own society, political parties, power brokers and interest groups each promote a world view which we believe to be truth, whether that truth is pro-life or pro-choice. Some of us use the cloak of religion, e.g., the Bible says that homosexuality is sin. Others of us refer to the religion of science or bow to the rule of the Almighty Dollar.
Is it possible that we are all right and all wrong? Is it possible that each of us holds a piece of the truth and that God, the Source, higher consciousness speaks through us all? Aren’t we really afraid to listen to one another, afraid to hear some piece of truth that conflicts with ours and/or our perceived self-interest?
The beauty of democracy is that everyone has a voice, which means in spiritual terms that The Source, God, higher consciousness has many avenues for expression, many ways of speaking to us in the now. The pitfalls of democracy are many. In reality, some voices have more force and power behind them than others, and so democracy isn’t perfect. Some voices are more socially acceptable and are more likely to be heard. Some voices are frightening, because they threaten someone’s insular view of reality and the security of their existence or way of life. And some voices are hateful and completely self-centered, threatening the well-being of others and sometimes threatening democracy itself.
But the biggest pitfall of democracy is the lack of trust we have in one another’s ability to be clear, to be guided by true vision and inspiration and to be caring for one another. How do we become trustworthy?
Perhaps the Supreme Leader of Iran genuinely believes his vision is the rule of God; perhaps he and his allies genuinely fear the rule of those whom they believe to be unconscious or whom they perceive as turning their backs on God, as they see God. Perhaps they genuinely fear opening the door to opinions, short-term thinking and immorality. Perhaps they fear the democratization of the voice of God.
The spiritual challenge of democracy is this: Can we all become reliable? Can we all become voices for divine consciousness, thinking, feeling and speaking for the highest good of all? Can we take infallibility away from the experts, the rulers and the powers-that-be and give to ourselves and one another the power to be part of the co-creative process, with each one of us coming to the table willing to speak not from narrow self-interest, but from the wisdom of The Source?