Note: This post was originally presented as “Pacem in Terris” lecture at Cabrini College on April 10, 2013.
by Dan Seeger
It has been common in western thought, from ancient times up until the present, to view reality as divided between an ideal world of spirituality and perfectedness, and a counterpart world of material and practical reality which is fallen and corrupted. This concept began with Plato and was given a theological overlay by Christianity. It invites the idea that truth and beauty are attractive but insubstantial, and that they are impossible of realization, while the demands of practical reality inevitably require various violent and ugly compromises, and radical departures from ideal concepts of purity and goodness.
Quaker spirituality, as well as other minority streams of Christian mysticism, and most eastern spiritualities, reject this dualistic view of reality. They affirm a true understanding of our situation, which is that the mundane and the divine are one. What so many mistakenly see as realms separate and apart are, in truth, so interdependent that one cannot be understood, or even spoken of, without the other. The official mainstream “realism” which ignores the unity of the ethical and practical spheres has given us a world in which the seeds of future strife and conflict are being sown day after day.