Reconciliation of Love & Power
J. Manuel Herrera @ 2005
statement by Barbara Marx Hubbard, Author and Futurist)
the land there is a palpable yearning among people for a new consciousness
to overtake and transform the world of politics. We hunger for something
real and true to emerge in the arena of politics; not a politics
that dishonors and degrades us, but a politics that mirrors our
goodness and our highest possibilities.
recently was speaking with a bright, articulate young woman, a spiritual
seeker attuned to the world and current events. She told me that
she’s not drawn to running for public office because it seems
so incongruent with her values. She believes in the political process,
in democracy, but she also believes that in order to be in politics
you have to sell out and compromise on issues that you deeply believe
in. Playing the political game, she said, is so far removed from
her ideals that she simply refuses to do it.
contrast, all my life I have been drawn to the political arena and
in the past 25 years have lived my life deeply in the two domains
of politics and spiritual practice. I have been a legislative aide
on Capitol Hill and in the California State Legislature. I have
served as a county Democratic Party official in Silicon Valley,
and on the executive board of the California State Democratic Party.
As of December 2005, I am beginning my 16th year as an elected official
in San Jose/Silicon Valley, as a trustee for a major school district,
the East Side Union High School District.
From two profound life paths of politics and spiritual practice,
I have come to know that the personal and the political are one.
There is no separation between the two seemingly disparate paths
of politics and spiritual practice. To wit: Politicians can be real
in the presence of harmony, approval, abundance, and clarity. You
and I will err and lapse into unconscious, regressive behaviors
when compressed in the crucibles of life’s challenges and
conundrums. The truth is, when baptized in the archetypal fires
of Life, we are all spiritual beings and we are all politicians.
has a high purpose. It is the handmaiden to democracy, just as democracy
is the handmaiden to the human quest for freedom and the soul’s
yearning for liberation. Stunningly, what politics offers at its
core is what life offers at its essence—connection, communication,
conflict, discovery, and growth. Politics, at depth, is a generative
force. It propels us into contact with our human family and illuminates
the diversity of worldviews in our midst. The massive convergence
of energy in the public process, representing a spectrum of constituencies
and beliefs, is combustive and alchemical. The stuff of politics—how
we communicate, how we reach agreements, how we are with each other—is
the very stuff of life.
There is a pathology in politics that is undeniable, but it is magnified
to a degree that obscures the affirmative essence of politics, which
is just as real. Politics is permeated with opportunism, unethical
dealings, and lack of authenticity. It is distorted by special interest
money and toxic campaigns. Yet, there is a vast faithfulness, decency,
and appropriate functioning that is just as evident in the public
process. Today we are mixing and confusing these two elements, the
pathology of politics and its life-affirming essence.
massive shift in consciousness is needed, not just in politicians,
but among the people too.
In the late 20th century we witnessed the beginning of a journey
to wholeness in our culture, encompassing an integration of rationality
with heart and spirit. Millions of “cultural creatives”
emerged in our communities, people committed to universal spiritual
principles and a more wholistic life path. The zeitgeist of the
21st century will take us further, toward an integration of heart
and spirit with power. In the original Sanskrit, “sacred”
and “spirit” derive from the same roots as “power.”
We can rightly say that to be in the Sacred and in Spirit, is to
be aligned with Power.
spiritual seekers the embrace of power is like eating of a mythical
forbidden fruit. Just as the ego is discomforted by paradox and
spiritual practice, the spiritually awakening soul is discomforted
by the practice of power in the real world. With that, we fall short
as stewards and co-creators of a new world. Love is the essence
of creation, but it is incomplete in the manifest world without
our active participation as co-creators. Literally we are not able
to be stewards of the earth, until we are stewards of the energy
we call Power, until that is real in our person and our lives, personally
and communally. The combined energy of Love and Power is a different
consciousness, a new creative force. Expressed authentically from
the Self, it is transformational, alchemical, mysterious, and divine;
it transcends and transmutes seeming realities, facts, and circumstances.
does it mean to partake of that mythic, alchemical apple from the
forbidden Tree of Life? Fundamentally, it signifies a loss of innocence.
Love without Power revels in innocence; it lacks a fully formed
spiritual and emotional body capable of greater co-creation in the
world. Power without love is self-serving and fundamentally in opposition
to the evolutionary spirit moving us toward surrender, radical awareness,
liberation, and transcendence. Lovelessness and powerlessness are
at the root of much suffering in the manifest world. It is crucial,
then, that we come home to a realization and integration of both
love and power in our lives.
Needed: A New Cultural Story about Politics
We have a cultural story that says that being a politician is about
manipulating others and eroding one’s ideals. We have a cultural
story that equates power with corruption, often summed up in the
quote: “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Lastly, we have a cultural story that says one must not compromise
one’s principles, and that is what is required to be successful
These themes comprise a simplistic and destructive cultural story
that is literally blocking transformational manifestations in the
world by dissuading conscious, talented people from public leadership.
We urgently need a new cultural understanding and a new mythos of
political leadership, and even more so regarding the elemental energy
of “politics” that manifests in all fields of human
There is something quite beautiful about authentic political practice;
it is enlivening, connecting and a basis for genuine growth. It
operates on honorable principles of “Visibility,” “Mutual
Regard,” and “Transactions with the Other” that
stem from a healthy self-interest and interdependence (more on this
below). This practice doesn’t seek perfection or a utopian
world. Rather it calls us to live from authenticity and wholeness
in relationship with the Other, in the face of ongoing challenges
and even escalating tensions. Increased participation with the Other
brings challenges that are opportunities for personal and collective
growth, for authentic communication, for the birth of mutual respect
and partnership, and for genuine community. Provocative topics become
windows to deeper insights, pathways to truth and wholeness, and
a journey that unites both heart and mind.
A New Mythos of Political Participation
I propose the concept of the "sanctity" of politics based
on a deeper meaning of participation. At depth, participation in
the public process is about encountering the self and engaging the
other in the context of Life Itself. When we meet each other in
the public square, it is in the context of our soul’s journey
in the labyrinth of life. At depth we are souls-spirits, yes—and
we are ego personalities as well, enmeshed in psychological patterns,
defenses, and shadow energies, consciously or unconsciously seeking
wholeness and atonement (atOnement).
As we engage one another, we project archetypal energies and psychological
dynamics into the domain of the Other, energies that are combustive
and alchemical in nature. No matter how conscious people are, friction
arises in group dynamics (more so with increasing scale and complexity),
just as it does in personal relationships. When we fully grasp the
reality of these archetypal energies and psychological dynamics,
and their expression within us and in relationship with the Other,
we will realize that we are exactly the same as politicians and
politicians are exactly the same as us. We have universal human
responses when confronted with tension, looming conflict, vulnerabilities,
challenges, and conundrums. We have universal human responses when
we are in the presence of approval, support, clarity, abundance,
safety, and love.
A new mythos of political participation calls us to live from an
orienting spiritual precept, the innocence of our souls. Even when
we lapse into unconscious behaviors and relate from fear and deep-seated
psychological patterns, we’re still ultimately innocent and
worthy of acceptance and love. Everything in relationships is expressing
love or a cry for love, no matter what behavior is manifesting in
the moment. Our archetypal and psychological energies will come
into play at all levels of engagement with the Other—whether
as partner, friend, or family member; or in more complex, public
institutional spaces and societal arenas. These inner forces are
activated because they have an evolutionary purpose.
This purpose is expressed in the second spiritual precept of a new
mythos of political participation: politics is an alchemical cauldron
of relationships that serves our soul’s journey of awakening
to our deepest nature, our truest Self. Something intrinsic in us
and in the design of Life wants to engage us, befuddle us, break
us and defeat us, for a high and noble purpose. Life’s radical
and loving purpose is to awaken us through ordeal to a mysterious,
universal essence and power within us. We cannot know this if we
are "in charge," if our personal will and power is what
prevails on our life path. Seen in this light, the intensity of
challenges and conundrums inherent in politics offers an unparalleled
field for personal and collective transformation when engaged consciously.
As we venture outward beyond ourselves, we will encounter greater
levels of complexity, tension, challenge and conflict. Our ego-mind
will reflexively want to use it all to judge and separate, to defend
and protect its position, and to fancy itself as right and superior.
Yet, at the level of Spirit and universal consciousness everything
is unfolding in the realm of grace. Spirit seeks to use everything
for our awakening, for a journey of ego death and spiritual rebirth,
and ultimately for the emergence of the true Self within us.
What is missing in many visionary approaches to politics is a grounding
in Life Itself, where conflict, power, and compromise are seminal,
transformative forces. The reality is that the political, public
policy arena is filled with difficult, intractable problems for
which there is insufficient public consensus. The public process
is constantly bringing people to the table on issues about which
they have reasonable and passionate disagreements.
Ultimately, participation with the Other is about taking a radical
stance of love-in-action, which is the third spiritual precept of
a new mythos of political participation. An authentic politics makes
love real and personal; it is an ongoing challenge of relationship
and communication in an arena where you have to truly love people
as they are. In turn, we are gifted with generative experiences
as we allow the Other to truly touch us with their truth, their
life experience, their humanity, and their essence, and as we respond
New Civic Literacy
Democracy is more than a system of government and more than politics.
Democracy is about the emancipation of the human spirit, the culmination
of centuries of the evolution of human consciousness. It calls for
a higher, more authentic form of political practice arising from
greater literacy about the arts of political leadership.
In the modern public square we relate with one another from a distance,
rarely knowing each other directly and personally. Rather, we are
known to one another through the reality-distortion fields of the
media. We end up with caricatures of ourselves and rarely truly
know who the Other is. A new civic literacy is needed based on invoking
communities of mutual regard that connect the leaders of community
constituencies at a much deeper level of relationship.
An authentic politics is based on three core practices in the public
process: 1) Visibility, 2) Mutual Regard,
and 3) Transactions with the Other.
People who are not visible to others in an arena of action, who
do not extend regard to others or receive regard from them, and
who do not transact with others, are simply irrelevant in the exchange
and accumulation of local goodwill (political capital), and in the
exercise of community influence and political leadership. Self-evidently,
it is not unethical to be visible, to extend regard and receive
it from others, and to transact with them. A community fabric is
woven through these practices, and a web of relationship and life
is established and sustained.
The principle of “Visibility” says that in every area
of the public process there is a civic village of public process
practitioners, a discernable, human-scale community where you can
deeply know others and be intimately known by them, providing alchemical
possibilities for partnership and change.
The principle of “Mutual Regard” says that we are ALL
worthy of recognition and respect, even those with whom we passionately
disagree. This does not support self-righteousness or demonizing
The principle of “Transactions with the Other” says
that life is about a constant give-and-take. Robert Bly, in Iron
John, quotes Jung: “Jung remarked that all successful
requests to the psyche involve deals. The psyche likes to make deals.”
Transactions, agreements, and “deals” yield community
goodwill and generate political capital, which is the coin of effective
If truly the path of salvation in our time encompasses public policy
and politics, then a contingent of conscious servant-leaders needs
to embrace the disciplines of this path, persevere over time, acquire
genuine regard and influence within the community of political practitioners,
and ultimately leverage their positions on behalf of a higher order
of public policy and political leadership. It would signify our
transition from advocacy to governance, from petitioners to policymakers,
and from simple visionaries to leaders and co-creators.
an authentic political practice needs to be integrated with the
truest expression of Power, the power of the innate within us, revealed
as Spirit essence arising to meet the moments and circumstances
of our personal and public lives. This would herald the rebirth
of Spirit in the public square and the full emergence of Love and
Power as a creative force for the transformation and stewardship
of planet Earth.
J. Manuel Herrera’s forthcoming book, The Reconciliation
of Love & Power.
Statement by BARBARA
MARX HUBBARD, Author and Futurist
and then someone appears who embodies the next step of potential
in a critical field. That field now is politics. And that man is
J. Manuel Herrera. He holds the pattern of how to transcend the
current polarities, how to bring people together to cooperate, and
even more important, he expresses by his very being a sense of what
is emergent, what is creative and innovative. His capacity for evolutionary
vision is the seed of a new Evolutionary Politics.”
Statement by JOHN
ROBBINS, Author of Diet for a New America, and OCEAN
ROBBINS, Founder of Youth
for Environmental Sanity (YES!): “Manuel
is a visionary who brings spirit and politics together in a unique
and utterly profound way.”