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This text is available in the book, Healing Nationhood
Land, Power and National Identity
Modern Russia and the Spirituality of Nationhood
- a View from Scotland
a theological reflection commissioned from Alastair McIntosh
of the Centre for Human Ecology, Edinburgh, Scotland,
by Dr Dmitry Lvov, Academician-Secretary of the
Department of Economics,
Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow
I know no Russian and you know no Scots
We cannot tell our voices from the wind
The snow is seeking everywhere: our hearts
At last like roofless hearths that it has found,
And gathers there in drift on endless drift,
Our broken hearts that it can never fill.
- Hugh MacDiarmid, Farewell to Dostoevski
in A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle.
2.1 Russia: “I glimpse again in you that mightier power”
2.2 The Spiritual Basis of Power and Nationhood
2.3 Saint Andrew - National Identity in Russian-Scots Mythology
3.1 Spirituality and Russia - a New Body of Political Knowledge?
3.2 Taproot versus Grassroot Politics
3.3 Religion and Statecraft: the Challenge to Modern Leadership
3.4 The Problem of the Status of “God”
3.5 The Liberation of Theology
4.1 Land and Productivity in Contemporary Russia
4.2 God’s Passion for Land Economics
4.3 Some Objections to a Liberation Theology of Land
5.1 Medieval European Origins of Feudal Tenure
5.2 Landed Power and Highland Clearance
5.3 The Modern Scottish Land Reform Movement
5.4 The New Scottish Parliament’s Legislative Proposals
6.1 The Isle of Eigg Trust - Developing Vision
6.2 The Harris “Superquarry” Inquiry - Reverence for Nature
6.3 The GalGael Trust - Community Building
6.4 People & Parliament - Discerning the Vocation of Nationhood
7.1 Honouring yet Freeing Spiritual Traditions
7.2 Bringing Mir Down to Earth
7.3 The Profit of the Earth for All
About the Author
Notes & Translator's annotations
I am honoured to be able to respond to the invitation of Dr Dmitry Lvov, Academician-Secretary of the Economics Department of the Russian Academy of Sciences, to write this reflection on the relevance of Biblical insight to the question of land economics, power and the national renewal of cultural identity in Russia today.
This opportunity has come about through Fred Harrison of the Centre for Land Policy Studies. He was aware of my involvement with land reform on the Isle of Eigg and elsewhere in Scotland. Here, after 900 years, we are finally taking steps to abolish the feudal system. The legislative programme for our newly re-established Scots Parliament is committed to making it easier for land to be transferred from unaccountable private ownership to democratic community trusts[A1] where this is the will of local people. The Scottish Parliament’s first White Paper[A2], published in July 1999, is therefore on land reform. It pledges rights of access[A3] to the land and “sustainable development of [the] community as its primary objects.” Like the Russian mirs, and in a manner that resonates with the principles of land value taxation, these community land trusts, of which there are now about ten in Scotland even before the legislation takes effect, use rents for the benefit of the local people. Residents become, in effect, their own secure tenants. No longer can such communities be controlled by the dictates of those whose sole qualification to own land is the possession of disproportionate wealth. No longer is part of a peasant family’s earnings applied to finance the idle lifestyles of a rich landlord whose primary interest is to secure a return on capital whilst exploiting the resource, wherever possible, as a vehicle for tax avoidance by calling it a “business.”
During the last decade of the twentieth century, the main political parties in Scotland have come to recognise that a people’s relationship to the land is of central importance to creating the conditions necessary for community cohesion and ecologically sustainable development. We Scots have come to understand that land is not just of economic importance. It is also vital to our cultural, psychological and spiritual wellbeing. Land is the primary contributor to our sense of belonging as a peoples[A4]. From a sense of belonging we derive our identity - our sense of who we are. National identity carries values - the guiding principles of a people or peoples. Only when equipped with these can citizens be expected to develop responsibility for both the community and ecology of where they live. Accordingly, any programme aimed at sustainable national development - any attempt to recover national identity, pride and values - must address very carefully the potential to create integrity[A5] in people’s relationship to the land. As a Scots folksinger, Dougie MacLean, puts it, “You can’t own the land; the land owns you.”
Looking beyond Scotland, privatisation and collectivisation are two polar-opposite approaches towards relationship with land. This text, based on recent Scottish experience, proposes community ownership as a third way, galvanised around bioregionally[A6]-defined geographical areas. However, in the absence of a robust intellectual framework, the principle of community ownership could be seen as merely backward-looking parochialism by political leaders whose scale of remit must address national issues at a global level and within a wide plurality of sub-cultures. I therefore want to suggest that a pattern of land tenure that builds upwards from the local in the manner of subsidiarity[A7], provided it is not exclusive of the wider national concerns, is the very opposite of “backward.” Furthermore, I want to suggest that there are psychological and spiritual reasons for believing that if a people’s identity can be firmly grounded in a place with which they have a sense of belonging, the characteristics of that place will contribute to the strengths necessary to cohere also as a nation. But for this to rise beyond petty ethnic rivalry it is necessary to have a vision and understanding of nationhood that affirms core human values. It must do this whilst simultaneously accommodating diverse sub-cultural streams.
It is my experience in community empowerment[A8] work that certain principles in Biblical theology - whether we believe in “God” or not - are powerful in offering the constellating[A9] vision to achieve necessary integration between land economics, political power and national identity. Scotland has already learned much from Russia through her poets and political thinkers. As we Scots, like Russians, find ourselves rethinking national identity, perhaps there is also something to be offered back. In making a modest attempt at this I shall address the following structure.
1. Provide outline ... as follows, by text section number:
2. Explore with respect to Russia and Scotland the ancient but little-understood idea that nations, like people, have “soul,” and that cultural renewal proceeds from distinguishing the higher spiritual vocation[A10] of nationhood from its degraded “fallen” state.
3. Discuss the intellectual validity of using spirituality - the inner ground of being from which our profoundest concerns arise - as a basis for understanding national vocation.
4. Consider what the Biblical understanding of these principles has to offer in the modern world, looking not to those oppressive forms of religion that have been “opium of the people,” but rather, to a “liberation theology” that has emerged partly from the confluence of Christianity and Marxism in countries of the South.
5. Review land tenure in Scotland today as a critique of European feudalism and therefore, as a warning of the dangers of neo-feudalism.
6. Offer four case studies of the application of spiritual methodologies to cultural renewal. These are community land ownership on Eigg (pronounced “egg”), environmental protection with the Isle of Harris superquarry public inquiry, urban community building with Glasgow’s GalGael Trust, and People & Parliament - a process by which some 450 community groups in Scotland carried out a values discernment exercise with which to inform the new Parliament of national aspirations.
7. Conclude by recognising that whilst different needs will apply in Russia than is the case in Scotland, spiritually informed community empowerment may nonetheless strengthen people in their relationship both to the soil of local place and to the mountainside of nationhood. If God is kept out of politics the nation will fail. If God is informally at least allowed in, politics will be difficult but, arguably, sustained by hidden wellsprings of life that nourish the deepest roots of our common humanity.
Today Russia stands at a cultural turning point. The constellating energy that has crystallised national identity in the past has weakened. The wisdom of centralised collectivism has been called into question. The West’s proffered alternative of advanced capitalism is suspected of being at worst a Trojan horse for resource colonialism; at best, a stimulus to marketing-manufactured greed that would socially stratify society by replacing the ethic of co-operation with divisive competition. The option of a “fair trade” economy has been left unexplored, trust has broken down and vision, without which the people perish, is blurred. The result is a society that has become compromised in its capacity to know life’s joy. Life grinds on, but for too many citizens it falls short of being “life abundant.”
There is a sickness in the soul of the nation. The soul is too weak to engender the depth of responsibility necessary to build social cohesion and environmental sustainability. The soul is being preyed upon by external interests, internal mafias and numbing apathy. The soul is heavy, old and tired. We all know that this is true - Russians and non-Russians alike know it.
I speak here of “soul,” and we can even accept, can we not, that it is somehow meaningful to talk of issues of national despair in such terms? Indeed, what other vocabulary grips the heart deeply enough? What other way is there to understand the present crisis but as a crisis of spirit, aye[A11], of the very spirituality of nationhood?
And so, let us cradle [A12]the soul and consider Russia. Let me consider it from the standpoint of a Scottish nation that knows how much your people love our greatest of early-modern national poets, Robert Burns. Let me consider it from the standpoint of a nation that, for 300 years, has had its national aspirations suppressed and colonised through collusion with an imperial project - the British Empire - but which, as I write these words, is restoring its own Parliament and redefining its sense of national vocation.
Allow me, then, to accept your invitation to look east to Russia. And as I look through and beyond all the pain of present times - all the pollution, corruption and meaninglessness - let me say and know that I would be saying it for many of my fellow Scots - “I glimpse again in you that mightier power.” Not, please note, “mighty power,” as in the military or imperialistic sense; but “mightier power,” which is something else. This quotation is not my own. These, rather, were the words with which Scotland’s greatest and best-loved modern poet, Hugh MacDiarmid, chose to address the Russian soul. I would like to say a little about MacDiarmid if I may? His work better than any represents the depth of common insight that perhaps resides between our two countries.
MacDiarmid clearly saw a relationship between the Russian and the Scottish national psyche that reached to metaphysical depths. Our countries’ mutual love of poetry embodies this. In his poem, First Hymn to Lenin, from which my just-quoted line and the title of this section of text is drawn, MacDiarmid makes an astonishing but revelatory assertion. He says that “the flower and iron of the truth” that Lenin stood for was nothing less than spiritual. It was “The work of Christ that’s taken over-long to bring.”
It is not for me to judge here whether MacDiarmid’s appraisal of Lenin was wisdom or folly. Indeed, MacDiarmid’s diffidence about facing up to and distancing himself from some of the excesses of old-style communism lost him many friends, and rightly so in my opinion. What does concern me here is this archetypally Scots poet’s profound understanding of the spirituality of nationhood - what he called “a mystical sense/ Of the high destiny of a nation.” This capacity causes him to be quoted almost daily in public life in contemporary Scotland just now as we rethink nationhood with our new Parliament that has substantial powers devolved from Westminster. To Scots, it is unsurprising that a poet should have such a place in politics. Poetry has always been vital to our affairs of state. It lubricates the connections between power, people and the soil. “A Scottish poet,” MacDiarmid once wrote, “must assume/ The burden of his people’s doom,/ And dare to break their living tomb.” In other words, the poet must intercede with those forces that would bring death to a nation. She or he must free the wellsprings of life. Like all true “bards” or poets who speak to the soul of a nation, MacDiarmid knew that only spiritual renewal could refresh that weariness born from the historic burdens of fortune. He saw this task as requiring what he called, “The poetry of one the Russians call ‘a broad nature’/ And the Japanese call ‘flower heart’/ And we, in Scottish Gaeldom, ‘ionraic.’” In his Second Hymn to Lenin, MacDiarmid asserted that, “Poetry like politics must cut/ the cackle[A13] and pursue real ends,/ Unerringly as Lenin.” And he addresses Lenin directly. He urges Lenin to make his politics one of a poet’s depth of engagement with soul: “Ah, Lenin, politics is childs’ play/ To what this must be.”
In using poetics to actualise the spirituality of nationhood, MacDiarmid saw that the power of a nation was vested in the very nature of its land. He poured vituperation upon those who, “Cannot see Scotland/ Cannot see the Infinite/ And Scotland in true scale to it.” With a refreshingly honest diffidence about his spiritual subject-matter he said, “Let men find the faith that builds mountains,/ Before they seek the faith that moves them ... These stones [in the wilderness that he, like Christ, wandered upon] go through Man, straight to God, if there is one.” And he related national identity to an understanding of wild nature that in its totemism reveals the bard as tribal shaman:
I cried: Here is the real Scotland,
The Scotland of the leaping salmon,
The soaring eagle, the unstalked stag,
And the leaping mountain hare.
In his evident passion for the Russian soul, MacDiarmid went far beyond his controversial membership of the Communist Party of Great Britain. He referred to the “Celtic Union of Soviet Republics” and reached out, I think it would be fair to say, to the very core of what been called, “Holy Russia.” MacDiarmid’s vision for the Scottish limits of his Celtic Union was to “unite Man and the Infinite.” “I shone within my thoughts,” he said, “As God within us shines.” His First Hymn to Lenin faces unflinchingly all the suffering of the world - the “agonies in the cosmos still.” And yet, he says, the gift of never fully yielding to despair is, “your secret, O Lenin, - yours and ours.”
The snow may build in drift upon drift upon the hearths of embers chilled. But to MacDiarmid it will not freeze “our broken hearts that it can never fill.” Joy will resurge. His is a theology of insistence. The hearth’s fire will rekindle. The soul itself, as his Fist Hymn to Lenin concludes, “is the power in which we exult,” for -
Every fool has folly enough for sadness
But at last we are wise and with laughter tear
The veil of being, and are face to face
With the human race.
To understand the spiritual dynamics of nationhood such as bards like MacDiarmid seem to be in touch with, it is necessary to explore the spirituality of power. For the past three years I have been invited to lecture on this to 400 senior military officers from many different countries on the Advanced Staff and Command course at the Joint Services Command & Staff College in England. Allow me to use my lecture material here, noting that these are personal views and not those of the college. My specific remit there is to explain to army, air force and naval officers how it is that pressure groups like the land reform or anti-nuclear movements, which renounce the use of violence, nevertheless succeed in exerting considerable influence over the operations of government. My interest in sharing this understanding is to propagate knowledge of the dynamics of nonviolent action. This is important not just for pressure groups, but also for nations. That is why I am willing to share such understanding with those who presume to guard the soul of nationhood - the armed forces of states associated with NATO and equally, through the Russian Academy of Sciences - even though I may differ from both these in my personal objectives and methods. Gandhi urged open-ness in following the principles of nonviolent action. It reduces fear, builds trust, and who knows, possibly wins adversaries over.
Both non-governmental pressure groups (NGOs) and the governments to which armed forces and cultural institutions are accountable are in the business of exercising power to influence the nature of social reality. All would usually claim to be working for peace. In Britain, the supreme commander of the armed forces is Her Majesty the Queen. Central to her title as sovereign is “Defender of the [Christian] Faith.” As such, an oath of military loyalty is, at its deepest level, a spiritual oath; an affirmation of faith.
I find at staff college that most senior officers are thoughtful women and men. Many appreciate the spiritual underpinning of what they understand to be their vocation. They are willing to give considerable attention (and a very warm reception) to considering the spiritual dimensions of power. They are willing to face the spiritual implications of subordination in a command structure to sovereign powers that, rightly or wrongly, may require them to lay down their lives ... or take life.
In presenting my analysis to them I develop the spiritual critique[A14] of political power that is given in the American theologian, Walter Wink’s trilogy, Naming the Powers, Unmasking the Powers and Engaging the Powers. These are now summarised in one excellent short volume, The Powers that Be. Wink argues that power is central to the spiritual expression of life. It constellates or crystallises reality. It might be seen as the will to be. We are familiar with power’s exterior expressions in people, institutions, buildings, nations and natural processes such as the growth of a tree. But it has also, according to Wink, an interior dynamic. This interiority is “spirituality.” Such spirituality underlies the outward manifestation of things. In other words, outward forms of reality are shaped by their inner spirituality. This is certainly not to deny the importance of molecular structures, genetic sequences, and the laws of physics. It is simply to say that spirituality is at the root of all these things. It accounts for certain of the emergent properties that arise from systems that would not have been expected when anticipating only the sum of component parts of a system. Spirituality is, for example, the difference between an aggregation of carbon, water and a few other compounds and a human being.
The following matrix illustrates how power finds expression through reality. Based on Wink’s theology, I suggest that it has an interior, spiritual face and an exterior, physical face. This is shown on the downwards y axis. Through both of these faces power can then be expressed via a dynamic that can be physical, psychological and spiritual. This is shown moving right along the x axis. Peace, I suggest, is a process by which a nation’s expression of power shifts from left to right along this spectrum.
Spectrum of Socially Expressed Power
Level of Power
Psychological Type I
Psychological Type II
Coercion by hard sanction of terror - death, torture, loss, detention, injury, shock.
Persuasion through soft sanction of fear - prison, fines, social conformity, obedience.
Persuasion through convincement leading to empowerment, especially at community level.
Transformation from within being empowerment, satyagraha,
autopoesis. Comes from the soul.
Power over others by use or threat of brute force, usually but not always violent against the person - authoritarian.
Power over others by strength of rules, law, ideology, governance, motivational manipulation - authoritarian to authoritative.
Power with others - solidarity, education as “leading out,” courtesy, trade, governance, advocacy, conscientisation - auto-authoritative.
Power from within - grace of God or Goddess, vocation, self-realisation, a prophetic and liberation theology - spiritual authority.
Armed forces, violent revolution, monkey-wrenching,[A15] saboteur action, actual industrial action such as strikes and boycotts.
Police law & order, tax authorities, institutional discipline, manipulative marketing, sects, threat of industrial action, whistleblowing, social conditioning.
Democratic political processes & open government, schools & universities, industry lobby groups, trade unions, religious & non-governmental organisations.
Touching of hearts, creativity/art, holistic worldview, joy, non-violence, witness, martyrdom, fun - mostly individual but may be collective through community.
Because the idea that a nation or institution might have a spirituality may at first seem strange, let me take the Russian Academy of Sciences as an example. I presume that it is made up of the molecular components of its buildings, the genetic sequences of its staff, and many complex social and natural factors that interact in building a cultural institution. However, an emergent property of all this coming together is that the organisation will have a certain personality, a certain organisational ethos or soul. If the academy is typical of other such institutions, this ethos will be influenced by individuals such as its Secretaries and Academicians, but it will probably go deeper than any one individual or even any one dominant power grouping because the institution will have a certain life of its own. This ethos, presuming that the Academy is genuinely what its title claims it to be, will be rooted in the very essence of what Russia as a country stands for. It will be rooted, in other words, in that terrain of nationhood that, as MacDiarmid saw, is spiritual and therefore requires consideration of “soul.” Inasmuch as the Academy serves the soul of Russian nationhood going from “her” people all the way through natural biodiversity to the soil, waters and atmosphere, then the Academy might be expected to prosper: the institutional “soul” will be in right relationship to its own deepest objectives. The efforts of staff and other stakeholders will thereby attain an organisational focus that brings about goal convergence even of diverse and sometimes contesting efforts. The strategic planning objective of shifting from where the institution is now to where it wants to be in the future will be harmonised by such a constellating common understanding that focuses both energy and visionary direction. Diversity and differences of opinion will be not just tolerated, but valued - provided that, within the wider framework of honouring the spirit of Russia, they pull towards the greater goal. However, if they violate this, then the organisational immune system can be expected to come in to play. A right balance will be restored between what is central to the organisation and what pulls it off-centre. As such, a progressive institution ought to develop in which task and process orientated activities are balanced and academic life thrives.
This does not mean that such an institute will always be free from persecution. On the contrary, it must expect to be persecuted inasmuch as the nation may have forces at work within it destabilising core values. But if the institute holds fast to the “soul” of its “mission” statement, it will at least preserve integrity. It should not be forgotten that in the realm of the psyche,[A16] and we are talking here of organisational psyche, the holding on to integrity is prerequisite to ensuring survival.
Moving away from our example now and towards wider considerations, we must ask whether such an understanding of institutional spirituality makes the institution, or the Party, or the state, into “God”? Is there a danger in this kind of thinking of spiritual totalitarianism? When raised to the level of nationhood, can it open the door to authoritarian theocratic regimes?
The answer is, of course, that it could indeed do so, and this is why the theology of nationhood must be carefully and caringly understood. The danger would lie in failure to distinguish the twisted values of a degraded spirituality from the radiant values of higher vocation. Just as persons are, in terms of Judeo-Christian theology, “fallen,” in the sense that they fall short of their God-given potential, so too the “Powers that Be” (Romans 13:1) that govern the inner spirituality of institutions and nations are “fallen.” They therefore require constant calling back to their God-given potential. Walter Wink consequently distinguishes between the fallen personality of a nation, and its higher vocation or “calling” of nationhood. He says:
In a little-known essay of 1941, [Martin] Buber acknowledges that every nation has a guiding spiritual characteristic, its genius, which it acknowledges as its “prince” or its “god”. The national spirit unfolds, matures, and withers. There is a life cycle for every nation. Every nation makes an idol of its supreme faculties, elevating its own self as absolute, and worshipping its own inner essence or spirit as a god. But to be limited to oneself is to be condemned to die. When the national spirit decays and disintegrates, and the nation turns its face to nothingness instead of participating in the whole, it is on the verge of death... Whenever the state makes itself the highest value, then it is in an objective state of blasphemy. This is the situation of the majority of the nations in the world today, our own included.
What are the implications of this for we who work in a “fallen” world? Based upon a Biblical exegesis of the “Principalities and Powers” that has startling relevance to the modern world, Wink derives the following formula:
The Powers are good.
The Powers are fallen.
The Powers must be redeemed.
We can see the enormous strength of this if, as Wink intends, we substitute for, “The Powers are” etc., the name of a person, institution or nation that we know. Conflict between others and ourselves can then be seen in a framework that makes strife both inevitable but also, mutually redemptory. It can help us to face our enemies without hatred, with love; to search for ways to free their higher God-given vocation whilst, at the same time, allowing them to question ours: and to look into their faces and see in the remnants of a wounded child grown older a wondrous promise - a potential perhaps yet to ripen in the fullness of life. It is at this level that “education” can be understood in the original Latin meaning of the word - “to lead forth.” Here, too, we can see why Plato’s Socrates, whose mother was a midwife, understood philosophy as “miaeutics” - the midwife-like process of fully birthing the soul. To Socrates this was the task of true philosophy - “philo-Sophia” - the “love of the Goddess of Wisdom.” We in turn must consider whether we are prepared to uphold such a philosophy as the vocation of any “academy” worthy of that name - a name for the university first used two-and-a-half millennia ago by Plato, the pupil of Socrates and teacher of Aristotle.
In Wink’s tripartite schema of naming, unmasking and engaging the Powers the first stage - “naming the Powers” - places handles upon psychodynamic processes that are otherwise difficult to get a grip on. In the Bible, these had names like as “Moloch,” “Mammon” and the “Golden Calf.” Wink suggests that such principalities or “gods” remain present in the idolatry of modern life. We don’t notice them because we have been persuaded to think that they belong to a bygone age, yet they dominate many of the structures of our lives. We see them in the worship of such obsessions as war, money, power, drugs, sex and so on.
“Naming the Powers” entails a recognition and therefore the restoration of a visible power dynamic. This is because naming calls into existence - it makes manifest a feature of reality in consciousness. Once that is established, we can proceed with “unmasking the Powers” - that is to say, stripping off the disguises and camouflage to expose the means by which the psychodynamic principles in question cause degradation and corruption. For example, nuclear weapons and their massive cost can be seen as being psychologically similar to the worship of Moloch - that Old Testament fire-filled stone god, into whose arms the children were sacrificed to purchase prosperity. Or to take another example, it can sometimes be useful to personify the spirit of a greed-led economy by using Jesus’ term, Mammon - the worship of which, he said, was incompatible with loving God.
Only after naming and unmasking can we attempt “engaging the Powers.” This aims not to destroy power, which was originally a God-given organising energy, but to redeem it from a “fallen” or degraded state. Wink sees nonviolence as being central to this task. If violence is used to combat what he calls the “domination system” of oppression it will ultimately fail, because the domination system actually feeds on violence. More violence is how violence clones itself. Wink therefore refers to the theory that violence can be redemptive as, “the Myth of Redemptive Violence.” If social transformation is to be effective, he says, it has to avoid being sucked into the very problem that it is trying to address.
For these reasons if peace is to become a long-term condition of society and not merely the temporary absence of war, it is imperative to shift along what I called above the “spectrum of socially expressed power.” It is necessary for nations to learn how to evolve from coercive forms of governance that express “power over” others, through persuasive techniques that express “power with” them, and even into the autopoetic[A17] transformative mode of “empowerment within.” In my military staff college presentation I therefore suggest that this spectral shift is necessary not just to be “nice,” but to have effective consensual governance in the long-run. As it raises the application of power from a physical level of being through psychological ones to the spiritual, it moves towards progressively greater degrees of recalling the world to a higher vocation. In so doing, the exercise of power as a necessary and legitimate function of social organisation can start to shift away from that gaucheness by which its genocidal weaponry threatens the very survival of civilisation. It is in this light that we can view the deepest calling of human governance. We start to realise that effort towards the advancement of human dignity will consistently fall short unless the highest possible vocation of nationhood is aspired. That aspiration is the spiritual transformation of a people.
This is the practical work of redemption, and it is the opposite of destruction. Its core dynamic is creativity, leading to new creation. It operates with an understanding of power that Gandhi called satyagraha or “truth force.” This is the well from which the bardic politics of a MacDiarmid and other similar expressions of the soul of a nation draw their energy. From here comes the deepest and most noble expressions of a people’s national identity. Here politics and destiny converge. This makes trust in God imperative if a people are to hold fast in their courage whilst under enemy fire; and under fire they will most certainly come when caught in the sights of those forces to which spirituality - life as love in action - is a threat. And by the way, Jesus did not say not to have enemies: he simply recommended loving them.
History is, of course, littered with those who have abused religion for destructive ends. It is, after all, quite possible to speak untruthfully or in ways that militate against the dictates of love. Hitler used German folk music to evil ends and made a cult of violence. But according to various traditions of bardic politics from around the world, the consequence of such manipulation of cultural soul is the eventual loss of power and self-destruction. “What goes around comes around” - you get back the spirit that you give out. Adherence to truth and the highest principles of humanity are therefore the hallmark of a spiritual politics of transformation. In contrast to the totalitarian approach of, say, Stalin, the end must not be used to justify the means because, from a spiritual point of view, the means is the end. This is why satyagraha is so uncompromising: truth implies an opening up to God. No more can be asked of us than that. There is nothing bigger. The decision to be truthful or to be not so is one of the few choices that is always in our control, but the most tempting one to compromise. Truth establishes accurate perception of the very fabric of reality. To lie is therefore to distort the path upon which we and others step. To hold fast to truth therefore requires us to acknowledge power and hold it openly and accountably. Power denied is power abused. It is on the battleground of truth that the real war is fought and the foundations of nationhood are tested. This is why the bards of a nation, in that widest sense of practitioners of all the arts, can and must play a vital role underpinning the concerns of state. For as Bloomfield & Dunn say in The Role of the Poet in Early Societies:
[The bardic power of truth] will not work unless it is true... The poet finally makes possible the success of various people and activities. He blesses them as the priest blesses the fishing boats before they set out on their tasks. He brings supernatural powers to the support of the king and the activities of his people. Without his help, success is impossible. Unless the powers of the universe are on the side of the man or the activity, both will fail.
One of the ways in which the spirituality of nationhood manifests is in national symbols. Sometimes these must be discarded because their function is no longer consistent with the vocation of nationhood. Germany, for example, has abandoned the swastika. Other times a symbol itself needs to be redeemed - we need to remind ourselves of the original meaning by which it spoke, and perhaps still can speak, in calling the nation to its God-given vocation.
In the past one expression of such symbolism was through the idea that every nation had its “patron saint.” It so happens that Russia and Scotland share the same patron in Saint Andrew. I have found that Andrew is surrounded by mythology in the Celtic tradition that deeply links Scottish identity with the Black Sea southern reaches of Russia.
The ancient Scots traced their origins to “Greater Scythia” - an area which, going by maps of Old Testament times - ranged from the Caucasus mountains of Georgia through the steppes of Russian Caucasia and into the Ukraine. This origin myth was used in the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath when the leaders of Scotland set out the basis upon which they claimed to be a nation separate from English control.
According to the later Greek versions of the apocryphal but widely influential Acts of Andrew, the apostle Andrew had personally converted the Scythians. The 9th century monk, Epiphanius, claimed that virtually every tribe around the Black Sea appealed to Andrew as the founder of its church. Ivan the Terrible thereby boasted to a papal envoy that the Russians had received their faith from Andrew at the same time as it had reached Rome.
According to ancient Irish-Scots origin myths, the original Scots had left Scythia during the Old Testament era. They retained blood links with the ancestral Caucasian homeland and this would appear to be the basis on which Andrew’s reputed evangelisation of the Scythians imparted a special relationship between him and Scotland.
The Declaration of Arbroath states that the Scots “journeyed from Greater Scythia by way of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Pillars of Hercules, and dwelt for a long course of time in Spain ... thence they came, twelve hundred years after the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea, to their home in the west where they still live today.” The Declaration goes on to state that Christ had “called them, even though settled in the uttermost parts of the earth, almost the first to His most holy faith.” It affirms that, “Nor would He have them confirmed in that faith by merely anyone but by the first of His Apostles by calling - though second or third in rank - the most gentle Saint Andrew, the Blessed Peter’s brother, and desired him to keep them under his protection as their patron for ever.” In other words, Andrew’s reputed evangelisation of Scythia appears to have conferred lasting benefit on those mythological children of the Black Sea diaspora - the Scots - who were given their name after their leader married Scota, the daughter of Pharaoh, whilst residing in Egypt.
Often during the medieval era Andrew was used as a patron
saint of war. However, in reading modern redactions of the Acts of Andrew we find that he actually resisted the military power
of the Roman Empire by teaching nonviolence and respecting the spirituality of
woman. As such, the Saint Andrews Cross flag or Saltire of Scotland, which
symbolises the dessucate[A18]
cross upon which he was crucified according to the Acts of Andrew, can be seen as a symbol of peace between nations.
It rejects the militarism of Empire. I would suggest that this enunciates the
higher vocation of Scotland and, perhaps, Russia too. With a little imagination
- and we are here talking poetry - it might give spiritual meaning to
MacDiarmid’s designation, the “Celtic Union of Soviet Republics.”
To consider the possibility that spirituality might be relevant to politics must at first seem audacious in a paper for the Economics Department of the Academy of Sciences of a nation which, for most of the twentieth century, has been paradigmatically[A19] atheistic. However, earlier we agreed, I think, that the gravity of political questions facing Russia make it meaningful, at least in a poetic sense, to speak of “soul.” I wish now to push that imagery further and test whether it is mere imagery, or something underlain by a tangible reality. I want to suggest that whilst it is true that much of the religion of the past has, as Marx pointed out, been “opium of the people,” the idea of spirituality of nationhood merits review as a body of practical knowledge relevant to governance.
Spirituality differs from religion in that it is pre-political. It is the source of religious inspiration that comes from both the human heart and traditions such as scripture and ritual. Religions develop as the political expressions of spiritual experience - that is to say, they are socially mediated. The purpose of a religion is normally to advance a body of spiritual knowledge. In most cases it is assisted in this by developing a theology - an intellectual construct comprising a body of knowledge about “God” or whatever name might be given to the “supreme being,” “the ground of all being,” or whatever other phrase might be used to describe matters of “ultimate concern” that underwrite reality.
Most theologies are given religious expression as a church, sect or cult. In practice this often becomes more socially significant than the original spiritual inspiration. Thus, in Christianity we frequently observe a compromise of Christ’s teachings through the religious institutions of what might be called “Churchianity,” or strong emphasis on one particular theological interpretation such as that of St Paul, which has been called “Paulianity.” Marx’s famous remark about opium was therefore prompted by the observation that very often religion was used by those in power to sedate the people. This was seen, for instance, when peasants were cleared from the land in eighteenth and nineteenth century Scotland. Clergy of the established Church of Scotland who had been appointed by landlords under the 1712 Patronage Act often told the people that their suffering was due to their sins and so should be silently endured. At the same time, the landlord’s wealth was presented as representing divine “assurance” of providential blessing from God. Such a division of oppressed and oppressor into the categories of “the damned,” who were presumed to be going to Hell, and “the saved,” who hoped they were going on to Heaven after enjoying the fruits of worldly life, shows how twisted and malicious the abuse of religious authority can be.
The inclination of many thoughtful people is therefore to have nothing further to do with religion, theology or spirituality. Those in particular who have had religious instruction forced sometimes cruelly upon them as children often conclude that the whole thing is both dangerous and irrational.
It is my contention that this position, whilst eminently understandable, fails adequately to fit the facts of human experience. On the question of damage or what we might call “spiritual abuse,” it is a fact that all good things in this world become the object of theft. If it is the case that spirituality is actually the deepest source of human power and national identity, then we must expect that every effort will be made to corrupt religious institutions by those who wish to steal and abuse that power. However, just because, say, a work of art is stolen, it does not mean that the art itself becomes bad. Rather, it must be recovered. Similarly, the history of most world religions reveals continuing cycles of degradation and reformation. A period of corruption leads to decline; fresh spiritual inspiration generates renewal, and that generates or regenerates institutions which, if they are wise, must remain on guard against fresh corruption.
If, then, religious insight merits political rehabilitation, it is reasonable to expect that it will not only feel right in our hearts but will also think straight in our heads. It is inconceivable that the ultimate ground of our being - “God” - would provide us with rational facilities to think, and then expect these capabilities to be completely suspended when it comes to divine relationship. Certainly, too much thinking can block the subtler capacity of the heart to feel. It can lead to intellectual aridity. But as the dismal history of religious cults shows, too little rational application inhibits that great spiritual gift - discernment - and thereby paves the way for spiritual abuse. We therefore need to engage both heart and head if we are to attempt to set hand to the plough of spiritual life.
For these reasons I must request the atheistic reader to stay with me whilst I articulate a case for spirituality. Whether that case is valid, and whether its implications for the relationship between people, land and nation are those that I draw from it, you must decide. Meanwhile, I respectfully beg the generosity of a hearing.
To be able to rise to its full power a political debate, particularly in a democracy, must be alive at the “grassroots”[A20] level of the people. However, as every botanist knows, there is a deeper level from which strength and nourishment can be drawn. This is the taproot. In a young oak tree the taproot often extends further beneath the ground than the leading shoot reaches above it. So too with nations, especially those that are young, or have been pruned back, or as in Scotland today, have been repotted for a new beginning.
The grassroots of political dynamics are sufficiently accessible to normal consciousness to be partly understood from the standpoint of psychology and sociology. We see them in such popular cultural pursuits as television, drinking parties, spectator sport, popular music and party politics. Taproot politics, by contrast, demands spirituality to be made visible. This can be observed wherever cultural activity takes place of a nature that, in the English language, might be described by such expressions as “stirring the soul,” “moving to tears” or being “earthshattering.” Spiritual taproots are reflected in art, music and national endeavour that stirs a sense of pride in one’s country or people. This is not necessarily the “great art” or “high culture” of state - indeed, the deepest taproots originate from the folk cultures and shamanistic remnants from which “high culture” often draws its energy and inspiration. We see this, for example, in Tchaicovsky’s and Dvorak’s inspiration from folk music.
Another example of where we see it is in the western world’s love of the Red Army Choir. This is not a love inspired by the fact that this choir are the ambassadors of the military wing of a state of which most western governments have, in the past, disapproved. No. That love comes about because few people endowed of a heart with which to perceive soul can listen to the Red Army Choir for long without being moved to feel that, as MacDiarmid has it, “I glimpse again in you that mightier power.” The Red Army Choir, in other words, is a state-endorsed grassroots expression of the taproot energy of a Russia that is, at this level, sometimes perceptible as “Holy.” It represents a successful integration from taproot all the way up the trunk to the visible blossom of nationhood.[A21]
The taproot of a nation draws on the deepest sources of inspiration and energy that give power. It goes to the heart of a nation’s God - whatever that God might be. In war it is from the taproot of nationhood that people are persuaded to die for their country. Whether this necessarily also entails killing is a matter that I will leave aside for now. To this extent taproot politics is well understood and often exploited by demagogic politicians. These make an idol of their ideology. It is in this sense that nationalism is often discredited. History reveals many examples of such idolatrous use of spiritual power for purely secular ends. One, as we have just noted, was the manner in which feudal lords in Britain used patronage - the right to appoint clergy - to control the church and present their power to the people as God-given. Another example is Islamic extremism where political groupings lay claim to “fundamentalism” to bolster the legitimacy of their own sect. A third is the use made of the fundamentalist Christian right by American presidents - particularly Reagan - in marketing a political ideology that has in the past characterised Russia as an “evil empire” consistent with the demonology of the Bible’s book of Revelation. It was telling to observe how Islamic fundamentalists during the Iranian revolution turned this theology around and projected it back onto America as “the Great Satan.”
In the case of Russia the relationship between church and nation has at times been very strong. Richard Charques’ A Short History of Russia states that:
The degree of unity attained through the power of the grand princes of Kiev could not have been won without the support of the Greek Orthodox Church... With Christianity, which Russia took from Byzantium, there came ... the Byzantine conception of the sanctified state... The doctrine which, even in conditions of Russian disunity, impressed itself most deeply ... proclaimed the divine right of the sovereign ruler... Thus the attempted unification of the Russian lands by the princes of Kiev always had behind it the authority of the Church. Greek Orthodoxy in Russia, from the first a central prop of the state, was in later years the keystone of the arch of imperial autocracy [whereby] the Church recognized in the ruler of Russia God’s supreme representative on earth.
Later, with the Russian Church’s emergence after the fall of Constantinoble, Ivan III refuted the Habsburgh Holy Roman Emperor by proclaiming, “We have been sovereign in our land from our earliest forefathers, and our sovereignty we hold from God.” In all this we see the drawing upon a taproot politics of nationhood grounded in spiritual earth. However, the autocracy that was attached to it draws in an unreconstituted manner upon Romans 13:1-4 where an authoritarian Paul proclaimed:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgement. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer.
We might question whether Paul, unlike Christ who frequently challenged authority, has failed in this particular passage to distinguish between state power as “fallen” and its higher vocation. Walter Wink’s theology suggests a way forward here. His work sets Paul in its wider context of, for example, Ephesians 6:12, where Paul says, “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Power, then, comes from God and so, yes, state power is, in one sense, divinely ordained. But it is also invariably corrupted. The Powers are good but the powers are fallen. The implication, as recognised for example by the sixteenth century German theologian, Thomas Müntzer, is that honour is due to the authorities only insofar as they honour their responsibility to defend the faith. Where they fail in this, the metaphorical sword, said Müntzer, “will be taken from them and will be given to the people who burn with zeal so that the godless can be defeated.”
The place of spirituality in national debate, then, is to call the nation constantly back to its higher vocation. The nation must be engaged with, but nonviolently so in Wink’s view in order to transform rather than destroy the sources of its power. As Paul himself said in the chapter immediately preceding that just quoted and in apparent contradiction to his remark about the legitimacy of bearing the sword, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them ... Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all” (Romans 12:14, 17). Here we see Paul falling into line with a Christ who rebuked Peter’s use of the sword saying, “No more of this,” but a Christ who, nonetheless, was prepared to use non-lethal civil disobedience in turning over the money-changers’ tables for making the temple “a den of robbers” (Luke 22:51, etc.).
At the deepest level, then, national vocation and the identity that derives from it is God-given. This at least is true of the Judeo-Christian tradition in which the nations are clearly understood to be spiritual entities - to have soul - as if partaking of the qualities of a “prince” or “angel.” It was a task of the prophets to engage the “angels of the nations,” by prophesying to their secular power holders and proclaiming a vision of God that which would “bring forth justice to the nations” (Isaiah 42:1). Eschatological[A22] completion[A23] in the Judeo-Christian understanding is to be found in the “healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2). The roots of the “tree of life” from which this healing derives rest in the spiritual waters that flow out from beneath the seat of God. God’s intention for the world is both human and ecological: it is to re-set the seeds of Eden. Jesus sometimes represented this as a future millennial reality; other times as a realised eschatology - an understanding that Heaven was already present on earth in the hearts of those who had eyes to see and ears to hear.
A further point is that in Christ divinity goes beyond gender and thereby incorporates the femininity of God, expressed in the Scriptures as Woman Wisdom or Sophia. Like the Wisdom of Solomon, Proverbs 8:22-36 reveals Sophia as having been mythologically present as God’s delight at the creation of the world. “Whoever finds me finds life,” states Sophia. “But those who miss me injure themselves; all who hate me love death” (Proverbs 8:35-36). In his history of Russia, Charques mentions that the earliest of the Russian churches were “the cathedral of the Holy Wisdom (St Sophia) in Kiev and in Novgorod, both begun in the middle years of the eleventh century.” It might be opportune to consider whether, if the wellspring of national life is to be rediscovered, injury avoided and the politics of death refuted, there is something to be learned from the spiritual roots of Mother Russia that the western tradition lost in the Photian Split between the eastern and western churches.
It can be seen that, according to the theory of power that I have advanced, effective political organisation requires harmonious connection between the archetypal taproots that constellate national vocation and the popular grassroots. Only then can the liaison between identity and ideology be a harmonious one. And only if that sense of national identity rests in something deeper than a human-constructed ideology will the political processes avoid reduction to idolatry.
The majority of a people are likely to understand this no more than they might understand what it is that moves them on listening to a great piece of music. However, at a time of radical social change their leadership must understand it if they are to use power as a service rather than abuse it as their right. National leadership must therefore have some alignment with spiritual vision.
The former US president, Jimmy Carter, understood this very clearly. In his forward to an important work, Religion, the Missing Dimension of Statecraft, he writes:
Historically and currently, we all realise that religious differences have often been a cause or a pretext for war. Less well known is the fact that the actions of many religious persons and communities point in another direction. They demonstrate that religion can be a potent force in encouraging the peaceful resolution of conflict.
Personal experience underlies my conviction that religion can be significant for peacemaking. The negotiations between Menachem Begin, Anwar el-Sadat, and myself at Camp David in 1978 were greatly influenced by our religious backgrounds... If the talks at Camp David engaged statesmen in the search for a political settlement, in the final analysis they also involved religiously committed men. Each of the principals at Camp David recognised peace to be both a gift from God and a pre-eminent human obligation. As mediator of the talks, I am convinced that to have overlooked the importance of religion for both Sadat and Begin would have resulted in a failure to understand these two men. Such a failure could have had a pervasive and incalculable impact...
[Such] cases suggest that the world’s religious communities possess moral and social characteristics that equip them in unique ways to engage in efforts to promote peace... [We] must recognise the growing importance of religious factors for peacemaking and develop ways, both informal and formal, to cooperate with religious leaders and communities in promoting peace with justice.
The great Swiss psychologist, C. G. Jung, saw that the ideologies and symbols of nationhood mediate power from the collective unconscious of a people into political action. In one of his last essays, The Undiscovered Self, he wrote of the danger that, “Where love stops, power begins, and violence, and terror.” “We are living,” he said:
in what the Greeks called Kairos - the right moment - for a “metamorphosis of the gods,” of the fundamental principles and symbols. This peculiarity of our time, which is certainly not of our conscious choosing, is the expression of the unconscious man within us who is changing. Coming generations will have to take account of this momentous transformation if humanity is not to destroy itself through the might of its own technology and science...
So much is at stake and so much depends on the psychological constitution of modern man. Is he capable of resisting the temptation to use his power for the purpose of staging a world conflagration? Is he conscious of the path he is treading, and what the conclusions are that must be drawn from the present world situation and his own psychic situation? Does he know that he is on the point of losing the life-preserving myth of the inner man which Christianity has treasured up for him? Does he realise what lies in store should this catastrophe ever befall him? Is he even capable of realising that this would in fact be a catastrophe? And finally, does the individual know that he is the makeweight that tips the scales?
“The religious person,” Jung continues, who is able to stand apart from the mindless madness of his or her times,
is directly influenced by the reaction of the unconscious. As a rule, he calls this the operation of conscience. [She or he] is accustomed to the thought of not being sole master in his own house. He believes that God, and not he himself, decides in the end...
I am convinced that it is not Christianity, but our conception and interpretation of it, that has become antiquated in face of the present world situation. The Christian symbol is a living thing that carries in itself the seeds of further development. It can go on developing; it depends only on us, whether we can make up our minds to mediate again, and more thoroughly, on the Christian premises... Whereas the man of today can easily think about and understand all the “truths” dished out to him by the State, his understanding of religion is made considerably more difficult owing to the lack of explanations... If, despite this, he has still not discarded all his religious convictions, this is because the religious impulse rests on an instinctive basis and is therefore a specifically human function.
“You can take away a man’s gods,” Jung continues, “but only to give him others in return.” Accordingly, unaware of the depth psychology of their circumstances, “The leaders of the mass State could not help being deified.” Jung is therefore critical of what he saw as being “Marxist education, which seeks, like God himself, to remake man, but in the image of the State.” Whilst his political position was sometimes reactionary, his insight, as he put it elsewhere, that “Where love rules there is no will to power,” was life-giving. That, however, requires opening to an instinctual sense of the presence of God. Jung therefore concludes that:
The individual who is not anchored in God can offer no resistance on his own resources to the physical and moral blandishments of the world. For this he needs the evidence of inner, transcendent experience which alone can protect him from the otherwise inevitable submersion in the mass.
We now have seen the ways in which spirituality is arguably of consequence to statecraft. In this one is reminded of the manner in which Old Testament prophets such as Abraham in Genesis 18 and Moses in Exodus 32 would haggle with God, using their personal spiritual authority to procure a stay of execution where God, who was often depicted by the Bible writers as being filled with a vindictive wrath, planned to bring destruction on a corrupted people. One is reminded, too, that one of the tasks of the prophets was to “gather the remnant[A24]” of the few remaining faithful people of God to maintain a taproot of righteous values from which regenerative shoots might grow - rather in the manner that an ecosystem can regenerate from a “remnant” island of ecologically unspoiled nature. In 1 Kings 19, Elijah pleads with God to die because he thinks he is the only righteous person left in the land, but God tells him he is mistaken - there are another 7,000 good people out there who he has not yet identified. As Jung saw it, here lies the need for the personal integrity of the “individuated” person - the individual who can stand back from the crowd - in politics today.
Even though we might feel that we are the only ones left and the game is nearly up, there’s more hidden support and causes worth fighting for than we might see if, as MacDiarmid had it, we have only “folly enough for sadness.” God therefore councils not giving up hope in any concern so long as the least remnant of integrity remains. “Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem,” he told Jeremiah (5:1). “Look around and take note! Search its squares and see if you can find one person who acts justly and seeks truth - so that I may pardon Jerusalem.” [A25]
Jung suggests that the key to avoidance of such folly is “transcendent experience.” This brings us to the question of whether spiritual insight is compatible with a rational view of the world. Let us touch upon the empirical evidence.
A spiritual perspective presumes that reality is shaped by deeper layers of meaning than materialistic understanding can, on its own, account for. In the world’s religions the underlying ground of reality is variously called by such names as “God,” or variants such as “Allah,” Brahma,” “Tao,” “Goddess” or “the Buddha nature.”
However the idea that there is a spiritual realm of God underlying reality frequently offends the rational mind. If spirituality is to be taken seriously as underpinning nationhood, it must have an accompanying rationale. There are two main directions from which this can be approached. One is that of faith in the revelation of the holy scriptures. For many people faith has powerful persuasive force in constellating their world view. However, it is a problematic basis for objective argument. Faith is not only a very private affair; it is also, within some Judeo-Christian interpretations, a God-given one. It is not us who choose to have faith. Rather, the Holy Spirit imparts faith upon us. It cannot therefore be commanded as a basis for finding national unity.
The other direction from which spirituality might be legitimised is rationality. I wish to focus here particularly on that scientific understanding of rationality that constitutes empirical philosophy. This argument says that if God is central to the nature of reality, it ought to be possible to detect evidence of God’s presence. We experience ordinary reality by empirical means - through our thoughts, feelings and senses. God, if God exists, should be the same.
During the 20th Century and starting especially with William James’ classic study, The Varieties of Religious Experience - this line of reasoning has opened up a specialised field of social research into the question of God’s existence. The research spans statistical parapsychological studies of such ostensible paranormal phenomena as telepathy to research into the nature of normal and altered states of consciousness. Here I wish to address work such as that undertaken at the centre founded by the great English biologist, Professor Sir Alister Hardy. This has shown that typically one third of the population have had some sort of an experience that would traditionally have been called “mystical.” The so-called “Alister Hardy Question,” for example, asks members of the public:
Have you ever been aware of or influenced by a presence of power, whether you call it God or not, which is different from your everyday self?
When such experiences are analysed even across different cultures, surprising common characteristics emerge. One appraisal lists nine characteristics of mystical consciousness as follows:
1. Unity - a sense of undifferentiated unity with all of reality.
2. Objectivity and Reality - a powerful sense that the experience is both real, and gives objective insight into reality at a deeper level than normal.
3. Transcendence of space and time - a sense of being outside normal dimensions, in eternity and infinity.
4. Sense of sacredness - an awe-inspired, reverential response to the reality being experienced.
5. Deeply-felt positive mood - euphoria focused on feelings of joy, love, blessedness and peace.
6. Paradoxicality - paradox in that normal laws of logic seem to be suspended; for example, feeling that one is both everywhere and in one place at the same time.
7. Alleged ineffability - the feeling that the experience cannot be adequately expressed in words.
8. Transiency - the experience is of short duration - usually lasting for seconds, minutes or just a few hours.
9. Positive changes to attitude and/or behaviour - the experience leaves the person changed in their approach towards themselves, others, life in general and in their openness to mystical insight generally. It is here that the seeds of faith are often sewn.
In short, mystical experience can be thought of as being like waking up out of a dream. In a dream one’s dream self will interact with other dream people and realities and feel very real. But when we wake up we see that all this took place in our now-alert greater mind. So it is that mystical experience is like a wakening up to the greater mind through which all our lives are interconnected.
The core principle of spirituality, then, is the interconnection of life. Here I shall use the word, spirituality, to mean that by which our consciousness can know the meanings of life as love in all its passions. Spirituality is about becoming alive to the aliveness of life. Like the fingers on a hand, we are usually only aware of ourselves as separate entities - even just as the nails on each finger. But as we enter into that wrestling-match engagement with love in the company of others we move down the fingers and the psychospiritual distance between us reduces. Ultimately, the perspective of God consciousness is the view from the main body of the hand looking upwards. We can then see that each finger, each life, is part of the whole. We are, as John 15 has it, all branches on the vine of life; “members one of another” in the Body of Christ as Romans 12:5 says; and to be syncretistic ... all parts of the “Body of Islam”; expressions of the “Buddha nature”; offspring of the Goddess or, as the Hindus say, “Tat tvam asi” - “That thou art” - meaning that individual soul (Atman) is ultimately at one with universal soul (Brahma).
Theology is the study of the nature of God. During the 1960’s and especially in Latin America, a revisionist perspective on Christian theology developed amongst activists working with the urban poor and for land reform. As a leading work puts it, “the departure of liberation theology is recognition of the awful fact that millions lead subhuman lives.” This oppresses not only the poor, but also the rich themselves because, “A life cannot be truly human if it ignores relations with other humans and with nature.” Social and ecological justice therefore implies liberation for all sentient beings.
In 1968 at Medellin the Latin American Catholic Bishop’s council endorsed a commitment to a “poor church” that would “bear witness to the evil” that poverty represents. The bishops committed themselves to “solidarity with the poor,” going beyond mere charity to “make ours their problems and their struggles.” This, they concluded, had to be “concretised in criticism of injustice and oppression, in the struggle against the intolerable situation which a poor person often has to tolerate.”
The discovery that God had been misrepresented, and the “good news” that “he,” or “she,” was actually on the side of the poor, lent legitimacy to aspirations for social and ecological justice and legitimacy is central to making the psychological shift from oppression to empowerment. Because secular power sometimes seeks to control a population from the very soul, legitimatisation of a freedom struggle by spiritual affirmation reverses the process. Accordingly, it can release tremendous energy in a people. The Philippines’ largely non-violent revolution against the US-backed dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, is one of a growing number of well-documented examples of this happening.
Because liberation theology is a highly practical approach grounded in the most pressing needs of the poor, it can often be presented in very secular ways such as through education or pedagogy. This has led to confusion with Marxism. Whilst Marx has certainly been drawn upon by liberation theologians, their over-riding concern goes beyond class struggle to the liberation of all human beings through the release of humanity’s deepest values. This is necessary because the oppressor is, his or her self, the consequence of oppression. For example, in his greatly influential Pedagogy of the Oppressed the Brazillian educator, Paulo Freire, addresses the practical importance of redeeming all fallen power. “This is,” he says,
... the great humanistic and historical task of the oppressed: to liberate themselves and their oppressors as well. The oppressors, who oppress, exploit and rape by virtue of their power, cannot find in this power the strength to liberate either the oppressed or themselves. Only power that springs from the weakness of the oppressed will be sufficiently strong to free both [because it] will actually constitute an act of love opposing the lovelessness which lies at the heart of the oppressors’ violence, lovelessness even when clothed in false generosity.
Freire therefore urges “conscientisation” of the people by the people - conscientisation being an awareness of the dynamics of oppression that builds up from combining the perceptual quality of consciousness with the moral perception of conscience. Here in his praxis - the linking of practical action and reflection - lies the power of the poor and the marginalised. Here too, we might speculate, lies the power of a damaged nation to take its rightful place again in the ecology of nations. For this - the power of love - is the only power really worth having. It is the fruit of humanisation in a dehumanised world. Conscientisation, concludes Freire, is therefore the process whereby:
To surmount the situation of oppression, men must first critically recognize its causes, so that through transforming action they can create a new situation - one which makes possible the pursuit of a fuller humanity. But the struggle to be more fully human has already begun in the authentic struggle to transform the situation. Although the situation of oppression is a dehumanized and dehumanizing totality affecting both the oppressors and those whom they oppress, it is the latter who must, from their stifled humanity, wage for both[A26] the struggle for a fuller humanity; the oppressor, who is himself dehumanized because he dehumanizes others, is unable to lead this struggle...
The central problem is this: how can the oppressed, as divided, unauthentic beings, participate in developing the pedagogy of their liberation? Only as they discover themselves to be ‘hosts’ of the oppressor can they contribute to the midwifery of their liberating pedagogy. As long as they live in the duality where to be is to be like, and to be like is to be like the oppressor, this contribution is impossible. The pedagogy of the oppressed is an instrument for their critical[A27] discovery that both they and their oppressors are manifestations of dehumanization. Liberation is thus a childbirth.
Freire’s work may not appear overtly spiritual, but it was developed, partly, whilst working for the World Council of Churches. It is implicitly a liberation theology the spiritual depth of which may be judged by the force of its witness and power of its compassion. Liberation theology characteristically starts with the experience of the poor. Only later does it equate this with scripture as a tool for deepening reflection. In this respect liberation theology functions in reverse from top-down theologies that deliver creeds and dogmas to the poor. It is, as the Peruvian theologian, Gustavo Gutierrez, puts it, theology from “the underside of history.” As such the poor can own it to a depth that is difficult with rigidly institutional churches. Of course, it might be objected that such an approach will inevitably yield examples of spiritual error. That is true, but does God not teach and forgive?
If I were to simplify the scriptural basis of liberation theology down to as few texts as possible, I would point out that Gutierrez defines “to liberate” as being “to give life”. Jesus said we should be living not just any old life, but “life abundant” (John 10:10). This is not some transcendent pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die promise of deferred gratification, but a very practical concern. It starts with such outward necessities as having “daily bread” (Matthew 6:11) in a this-worldly immanent[A28] realm of God that is “all around” or “within” (Luke 17:21), and from there it develops an inner life of living from more than just “bread alone” (Matthew 4:4). But the sequence is important: before preaching Jesus liked to see that the people were fed (Mark 8).
In launching his ministry in the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus placed primary emphasis on social and ecological justice (Luke 4:18-19). He does this by taking a reading from Isaiah 61 and 58, thereby linking Old Testament prophesy to his mission. Consistent with the insight that “God is love” (1 John 4:8) and concerned not with self-interested tribalism, but with the “healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2), Jesus’ reading is intriguingly selective. I find it telling that he proclaims good news for the poor, liberty to captives, healing of the blind, freedom for the oppressed and, rather pleasingly in some versions, succour for the broken hearted: but he misses out what Isaiah also said about enjoying the “wealth of the nations” and having the “sons of the alien” placed in subservient service (Isaiah 61:5-6). That is, he omits the passages that are not consistent with a liberating gospel of love[A29], choosing instead to highlight what liberationists call, “God’s preferential option for the poor” (Luke 7:22; Luke 6; Amos 5).
The ecological, land-rights and economic dimensions of Jesus’ ministry, are incorporated where he concludes his Luke 4 mission statement by proclaiming in verse 19 something called the “acceptable year of the Lord.” This refers to the “Jubilee” cycle of seven years and fifty years of Leviticus 25, which make provision for the periodic returning of the land to a state of nature, redistributing the land so that it is not owned in perpetuity by anyone except God, and the cancellation of debts and economic relationships of bondage.
Liberation theology additionally understands God as being revealed through history. Not only does such an evolutionary understanding of human relationship with God liberate us from the construct of God as expressed in barbaric parts of the Bible (possibly on the basis that even God is learning through the evolution of time, such as Abraham’s haggling with God might suggest); it also affirms the importance of people understanding their place in human history. From this it derives a special concern to “contextualise” biblical material in contemporary people’s everyday lives. Thus the “Mothers of the Disappeared,” whose children were killed by the Argentinean junta, are portrayed in the art of Nobel Peace Prize winner, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, as being the same as the women who were powerless to do anything but bring their powerful presences to the foot of Jesus’ cross. The English physician tortured by the Chilean junta, Sheila Cassidy, has called this the “spirituality of the foot of the cross” - something very pertinent to those who have worked in circumstances of despair. Similarly, images of Egypt and the Exodus have been used in contemporary land rights struggles in Africa and, as I shall later show, in Scotland. And the legend of Noah’s ark has been used in North American schools to aid reflection on the importance of conserving biodiversity by consuming less.
Liberation theology finds further expression in feminist theologies, which as Scotland’s Damphne Hampson suggests, are predicated simply on the presumption of the intrinsic equality of women and men. Genesis 1:27 says that humankind was created both male and female “in the image of God.” This leads an American, Rosemary Radford Reuther, to suggest that any theology that oppresses women should be prophetically denounced because it is blasphemous.
Still another dimension of liberation theology central to the healing of nations is interfaith work. The sympathetic study of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, the Jewish faith and those animistic, shamanistic and pagan practices that are grounded in love call into question previous European presumptions of the imperative to advance Christian hegemony. We must question whether the God of all nations works only through one religion, or even one church within a particular religion. Paul, after all, drew on the authority of pre-Christian “pagan” poets in his preaching to the Athenians (Acts 17:28). John Hick has therefore called for a “complementary pluralism”[A30] whereby the deity in differing traditions can be understood as differing personae or masks of the one underlying spiritual reality. This allows, at the very least, for dialogue between faiths. Going deeper, it invites consideration of mutual respect and even reverence. Islam provides a good example of this because it contains such strong foundations with which to rebuke the intoleration that some Moslems express. For example, according to the Hadith,[A31] the oral tradition of Islam, the Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) allowed visiting Christians to use his mosque for their worship. Surah V:48 of the Koran states that the Koran confirms rather than overturns “whatever Scripture was before it, and is a watcher over it.” Religious diversity was in fact created by God, it continues, because “If Allah had willed he would have made you one nation. But He did not do so, that he may try you in what has come to you. (He hath made you as you are.) So vie one with another in good works.” It is true that, as in most world religions, there is a tension in Islam that seeks to bring all under the “sphere of Islam.” Any monotheistic religion must logically have some such goal. But as Akbar, the great Mogul emperor of India (1542-1605) showed, this can be expressed simply by creating a culture that affirms interfaith toleration, mutual learning and profound respect. As the Scots philosopher, Alasdair MacIntyre, neatly puts it in his discussion of contesting discourses[A32], “Only those whose tradition allows for the possibility of its hegemony being put in question can have rational warrant for asserting such a hegemony.” In other words, only religions that can embrace universal diversity have legitimacy in making universal claims. Since love is clearly a prerequisite for the continuous forgiveness that toleration in practice requires, it implies that only religions that predicate love - such as Hinduism, Islam and Judeo-Christianity at their best - are empowered potentially to underwrite the sovereign basis of pluralist nations.
One example of an attempt at forging common religious bonds to uphold dignified nationhood was in September 1992 when the Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle of Belgrade, the spiritual leader of 12 million Serbian Orthodox Christians worldwide, joined with Cardinal Franjo Kuharic, the Roman Catholic Primate of Croatia, in appealing for an end to violence and ethnic cleansing. They jointly condemned the “blasphemous destruction of all prayer and holy places, Christian and Muslim.” Another example is that in 1991 at an interfaith service of national reconciliation and forgiveness following the Gulf War, the mainstream churches of Scotland permitted Moslem worshippers to conduct their evening prayers in front of the altar of Edinburgh’s St Giles Cathedral whilst Christians in the congregation watched on in respectful silence.
It is true that at a surface level, devoid of mystical insight, such representations as Christ, Allah, Krishna and the Goddess might seem mutually exclusive. This, however, is only the case if we take the blasphemous stand of trying to limit and pin down the characteristics of God. The truth is that God surpasseth human understanding. We should remember that when Moses asked God for identification in front of the burning bush, God replied simply, “I am that I am” (Exodus 3:14). Virtually any spiritual tradition could concur with that, so where is the problem with co-operation if we strip away the idolatrous human will to power?
Liberation theology is not confined only to Christianity. In the Jewish faith Marc Ellis has developed a theology for living with Palestinian neighbours. In Hinduism, liberation finds expression through the work of radical activists like Swami Agnivesh, who campaigns ceaselessly against child bonded labour, and Vandana Shiva, a former nuclear physicist who champions the cause of India’s farmers against technocratic neocolonialism. In Buddhism, an example is Thailand’s or Siam’s[A33] Sulak Sivarasksa. His International Network of Engaged Buddhists campaigns in the cause of “global healing” with tribal peoples and the poor on environmental issues related to “structural violence, social development and spiritual transformation.” It was owing to time spent working in Buddhist Burma that the great English alternative economist, E. F. Schumacher, urged consideration of Buddhist economics in his Small is Beautiful. “The study of Buddhist economics could be recommended even to those who believe that economic growth is more important than any spiritual or religious values,” he wrote. “For it is not a question of choosing between ‘modern growth’ and ‘traditional stagnation’. It is a question of finding the right path of development, the Middle Way between materialist heedlessness and traditionalist immobility, in short, of finding ‘Right Livelihood’.”
Set increasingly in this wider global context whereby people of spirituality reflect on where the history of the world is at, Christian liberation theologians have derived powerful critiques of the “theologies of domination” deriving from colonialism. Gutierrez speaks of history having “been written with a white hand.” It seeks to “to wipe out their victim's memory of the struggle, so as to be able to snatch from them one of their sources of energy and will in history: a source of rebellion.”
In short, the emergence of liberation theology as a prophetic theology is described by Leonardo Boff of Brazil as nothing less than “the rediscovery of theology.” In proclaiming “Jesus as liberator,” he considers that:
The church of the poor has discovered the Holy Spirit as a force of cohesion in the community, as enthusiasm and happiness in work, as courage to face the powerful, as consolation for the many who despair because of poverty, as the intelligence which appears in the commentaries of the people of God on the words of the gospel, extracting new meanings which bring the message of Jesus up to date in the contexts in which they live and suffer.
This has led millions to reconsider their unwitting collusion with Nietzsche’s premature pronouncement of the death of God. “I have set before you life and death, blessings an curses,” said God as revealed to the Hebrew people in Deuteronomy 30:19. “Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.”
Liberation theology is about following that choice. So far
we have been studying its application to people and nationhood. Let us now
address its focus in relationship to land - the very soil upon which nations
rest and by which their peoples are nourished.
Russia’s policy-makers have been challenged by the need to undertake a complex set of changes to both property rights and the structure of the economy itself. Unfortunately, this task has been addressed without sufficient consideration for the cultural consequences: the material economy has been the overriding concern. Not only has this been self-defeating, it has also been unnecessary, for the cultural traditions of Russia could have and might yet strengthen perestroika by helping to identify criteria for redefining property rights, including those processes that would accelerate positive changes in productivity.
For example, President Yeltsin and the Duma - the lower house in parliament - have fought a running battle over the Land Code and the Tax Code for seven years. These two codes have presented policy-makers with the most difficult doctrinal and political challenges. This is not surprising since they are the secular bridges between individuals and society, between the public and private sectors, and between society and its natural habitat. Western economists affirm that, if the objective is to build an efficient market system, the income from land - economic rent - needs to be treated as public revenue. Adam Smith made this explicit in The Wealth of Nations, and the principle was affirmed by Nobel prize economists when they and their colleagues addressed an open letter to Mikhail Gorbachev during perestroika. These economists urged the Soviet President to retain land in public ownership, and to raise government revenue by charging market rents for the use of land. This recommendation was based on the argument for efficiency. The principle was recently endorsed by Russian academicians and their colleagues from the West. But we know from history that the efficiency argument is not sufficient to mobilise democratic support into the kind of critical mass that makes it possible to implement the policy. Even democratic governments have been thwarted. That is what happened when the Liberal government in Britain pushed through the Finance Act in 1910 to begin the process of returning rent to the community. The law was not implemented because of the power of the aristocracy to exercise their influence behind the scenes.
With respect to land rights, the lesson from history is that the best teachings of the social sciences need to be complemented with a wisdom that reaches beyond the particular and the self-interest; an understanding that can pervade the population as part of the vision of what their nation represents. Might we achieve this depth of understanding by retrieving theological traditions? In the light of liberation theologies, do the prophets of the Bible and the teachings of Jesus tell us anything about land economics that is important for Russia today? And can their vision help democratically to mobilise the population?
Quoted in the English journal, Land and Liberty, Dr Dmitry Lvov has said:
The land question is not only a question of how to provide sustainable revenue for the state budget. It is a problem of how to preserve Russia as a sustainable independent geopolitical unit... The solution to this problem will to a considerable extent depend upon whether Russian citizens become aware of their connection with this integral public whole, not only from the state and political point of view but, what is more important, as an integral territorial, economic, cultural, historic and spiritual space.
Of all spiritual spaces the Judeo-Christian tradition is the most deeply rooted in Russia’s past. With occasional reference to Islam as Russia’s second most widely practised religion, let us now explore this.
When, as we have seen, Ivan III in 1486 asserted that “our sovereignty we hold from God,” he was taking a position that may have been politically opportune, but was strictly scriptural. In considering whether that position retains any value 500 years later and in doing so particularly from the viewpoint of economic efficiency, I will subdivide a scriptural overview of the land question as follows: 1) creation, 2) providence, 3) covenant, 4) Fall, and 5) redemption.
The authoritative Anchor Bible Dictionary states, “The land theme is so ubiquitous that it may have greater claim to be the central motif in the Old Testament than any other, including ‘covenant.’”
The Biblical position is that God created the land and promises to sustain its life-support systems “for as long as the Earth endures” (Genesis 8:22). The rainbow is the symbol of that ecological covenant (Genesis 9:12-17). “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).
Sovereignty over the land resides with God. Land provides the gift of “rest” from warfare and wandering. God says that a people “that do err in their heart” because “they have not known my ways” are a people who “should not enter into my rest” (Psalms 95). This refers to the land as both God’s rest and our divinely-appointed resting place. It deeply implies that the human attitude towards the land should be one of profound respect - reverence.
Time and time again in Scripture we see that the gift of land is the reward for justice. As Isaiah puts it, “Whoever takes refuge in me shall possess the land” (57:13). Holding on to the land is therefore contingent upon living in accordance with principles of justice and faithfulness.
In social organisation God is concerned with the “allotment” of land - that is to say, with its division, normally equitable, according to lots (Ezekiel 47:21-23). The land is provided by God as an inalienable “inheritance,” but always this is contingent upon recognising God as the ultimate landowner. “The land shall not be sold for ever,” says God in Leviticus 25:23, “for the land is mine.” The status of all human beings is that of being merely “strangers and sojourners with me.”
The Judeo-Christian religion is an “historical religion” in that God’s revelation, or humankind’s understanding of it, evolves through time. For example, in Exodus 22:29 God appears to require sacrifice of the firstborn child as Abraham offered to do with the infant Isaac (Genesis 22). However, later on, in Jeremiah 7:31, God protests that “to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire [was something] which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind.” Similarly, God’s later objections to animal blood sacrifices are made on the grounds of wanting justice as a sign of faithfulness, and refuting the human arrogance that causes people to think that they can possess the fruits of creation outwith the context that God gives. Thus in Psalms 50:9-11:
I will not accept a bull from your house, or goats from your folds. For every wild animal of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the air, and all that moves in the field is mine.
God’s theocracy, however, does give rights to land users. In Genesis 27:28 the potential abundance of this is signified by reference to the “fatness of the land”. The intimacy of this bond extends to a level that is visceral as indicated, for example, where Isaac remarks that the very “smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the Lord hath blessed” (Genesis 27:27). Humankind is mandated to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28), but there is no mandate to overfill it!
Much has been made of Genesis giving humankind “dominion” over the creatures (1:28). However, this must be balanced or set in context with Genesis 2:15, whereby Adam was put in the garden of Eden “to till it, and to keep[A34] it.” Modern scholarship, according to the Anchor Bible Dictionary, considers that a literal and perhaps better translation of these words would be, “to serve and watch over.” This gives a sense of stewardship: of co-evolution rather than domination.
The anchoring of Old Testament land theology in New Testament Christian ethics is found pre-eminently in Luke 4:19. Here Christ launches his mission statement in the temple after his return from the forty days in the wilderness. His proclamation of compassion and justice for the poor, sick and oppressed ends with his announcing the arrival of “the acceptable year of the Lord.” This refers to the Old Testament’s “Jubilee” land ethic, whereby the soil was rested in every seventh year or “Sabbath of years,” debts within the community were cancelled and bonded labourers and slaves were released - women and men being treated equally - and compensated in recognition of “services worth the wages of hired labourers.” In every fiftieth year (following a sabbath of sabbaths, seven times seven) land that might have been temporarily traded was to be returned to the original inhabitants, thus enforcing the stipulation that it should not be alienated in perpetuity and thereby preventing gross inequalities of wealth distribution (Exodus 23:10, Leviticus 25, Deuteronomy 15:1-18). Northcott points out that:
The Sabbath of the land has ecological value, particularly for the kind of land the Hebrews were farming, which was fragile. Overtilling and overcropping by livestock resulted in soil erosion and eventual desertification, of the kind observed and condemned by the prophets as the consequence of the abuse of land by rich landowners.
God’s wish to see the land respected as if it is a sentient being needing rest is so strongly expressed that desolation of the land is portrayed as the consequence, or “punishment,” for human iniquity. This desolation, however, is ultimately for the good of the land itself. Thus Leviticus 26:32-35:
I will devastate the land, so that your enemies who come to settle in it shall be appalled at it. And you I will scatter among the nations... Then the land shall enjoy its sabbath years as long as it lies desolate... It shall have the rest it did not have on your sabbaths when you were living on it.
The Creation, then, must be upheld. It is sustained by divine grace - the ongoing goodness of God’s being - and by a human attitude of reverence towards all that God has set in place. God has blessed human settlement upon the land (Genesis 12:1-3). But that blessing is conditional upon looking, firstly, to God before any human economic construct in order to satisfy fundamental human needs. Jesus therefore says in Matthew 6:24-29:
You cannot serve God and wealth... Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them... Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.
The economic principle in play here is that material wealth can only allocate resources that human beings have been deemed scarce. God objects to such an economics because God, firstly, sees no scarcity of the basic necessities required to lead the abundance of a spiritual life on earth. And secondly, whilst God wants people to experience these necessities richly - as “fatness” from the land - he is, nonetheless, angered by forms of wealth that distort distribution and so produce the opposite of justice - which is violence. After all, what good is gold in a time of famine? It does not make any extra food. It serves only to redistribute resources away from some and towards others in ways that might not accord with a society’s optimal requirements for health. As Ezekiel 7:19 puts it, “Their silver and gold cannot save them on the day of the wrath of the Lord. They shall not satisfy their hunger or fill their stomachs with it.” Accordingly, “They shall fling their silver into the streets, their gold shall be treated as unclean.”
At the expense of being highly technical in the next few paragraphs, but to bring this discussion within the reference frame of trained economists, it should be noted that these considerations concern the economic principle of the diminishing marginal utility of wealth. This suggests that the more a person has, the more they need to acquire in order to add an incremental unit of wellbeing. An additional gold coin may be very useful if you only have ten, but it might make minimal difference if you already have a hundred. Concentration of wealth therefore makes for inefficient property rights. Efficient property rights, by contrast, redistribute wealth. Each unit of utility removed from the rich adds many additional units of utility to the poor. The loss of $1,000 through taxation of a rich person might only give ten poor people $100 each, but the benefit they each gain might far outweigh the rich person’s pain. We may call this the inverse diminishing marginal utility of wealth. Such a principle is the economics behind the idea of Jubilee. It does not reject the use of capital, entrepreneurship and markets for the purpose of exchange. It does, however, reject forms of capitalism that would idolise capital to make it more important than human relationships, thereby militating against principles of fair trade that are rooted in justice.
God rejects exploitative economics because it violates the economics of providence - nature’s “rate of return” from the creation. That rate of return, incidentally, operates on a basis of simple rather than compound interest. If you do not take the opportunity to pick your apples, you will not harvest a compoundly heavier yield in successive years! Providence operates in the present moment; not through deferred gratification except in so far as adherence to the sacrament of the present moment - planting in its season, harvesting in its season, and so on - secures the assurance of future blessing (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). We can see, then, that providence pertains to an ecological economics which puts the Creation first and money second. A financial economics does things the other way round and therefore is prone to suffering periodic collapses. Nothing illustrates this better than the exponential mathematics of what some economic advisors ludicrously laud as “sustained growth.” Had Judas Iscariot invested his thirty pieces of silver at just a few percentage points compound interest, repayable by weight in silver today, the amount of silver required to honour the debt would be equivalent to the weight of the earth. Periodic crash is therefore intrinsic to exponential growth. As such, any economic system predicated upon it such as the current western advanced capitalist system is intrinsically unstable. Alternatives, particularly Islamic economics, which replaces usury with the shared ownership of profits, merits further attention: had the Islamic approach been used the Third World sovereign debt problem would never have reached the crisis proportions that it did.
Theologically, I see this as part of the reason why most world religions express reservations or injunctions concerning usury. Usury - interest on money in excess of any rate of inflation - implies a discount rate. This is used in the discounted cash flow methods of investment appraisal that are now prevalent in the west, specifically Net Present Value (NPV) and Internal Rate of Return (IRR). However, looked at in terms of intergenerational equity - equity or value that is passed on to future generations - discounting steals the children’s future. It degrades the perceived future value of benefits to society by imposing a worldview predicated on the selfishness of the present generation. It therefore justifies the destruction of nature’s future providential capacity, for example, by accepting permanent biodiversity loss if the present-day pay-off is high enough in relation to a “contingent valuation” spuriously placed by economists on natural capital. It similarly justifies short-term applications of human labour like, for example, in the construction of buildings that last for only a few decades on the basis that their long-term utility discounts down to negligible present value.
Inasmuch as there may be divergences of principle and effect between financial economics and ecological economics, so we see economics revealed in both its “fallen” state and its “higher” God-given vocation. The one - financial economics as advanced capitalism practices it - is the flawed economics of men based, as Adam Smith acknowledged, on the dynamics of self-interest; the other, based on faithfulness expressed through social and ecological justice, is God’s providence. This - God’s provide-ance (Deuteronomy 8) - is expressed through the land and its surroundings of water, atmosphere and universe. The one approach relies upon the “invisible hand” of the marketplace; the other upon the divine hand of God.
The ordinary context within which providence happens is land. This gives it an importance that is both economic and spiritual. At a level that is embodied in the very marrow of our bones, land is the setting in which we become who we most deeply are. As such, a sense of place goes on to engender belonging, identity and values. This happens because, according to Scripture, the creation serves to reveal the majesty of God and thereby sustains us in physical and spiritual life. As Psalms 104:30 has it, “When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground.” God is a presence, the same Psalm maintains, of whom “the wind [is] your messengers, fire and flame your ministers.” The creatures therefore all look to God “to give them their food in due season ... when you open your hand, they are filled with good things” (104:27-28).
Similarly, in the book of Job, God is metaphorically depicted as if a woman from whose body the creation unfolds. This is consistent with Biblical wisdom literature that depicts Woman Wisdom - Sophia - as a presence “that pervades and penetrates all things. For she is a breath of the power of God, and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty” (Wisdom of Solomon, 7:24-25). Thus, it is from God’s “womb” that the sea burst out and ice issues forth (Job 38:8, 29). God set out the foundations of the earth and “laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy” (38:6-7). It is God’s “spreading of the clouds, the thunderings of his pavilion” (36:29), that brings rain to the desert “to make the ground put forth grass” (38:27). It is God who hunts prey for the lions and the ravens (38:39-41). It is God who has “let the wild ass go free” (39:5) and made “the wild ox willing to serve you ... and bring your grain to your threshing floor” (39:9-12).
God, then, is both transcendent - beyond the created world - and, through Wisdom - which is effectively synonymous with the Holy Spirit - immanent or present at its deepest inner core; incarnate in the living Christ (John 1:1-9; Luke 7:35, etc.). As Orthodox Christian worship recognises rather more fully than do western traditions, incarnation implies that the “body of Christ” is at the very core of the creation: it is not peripheral to it or transcendent from it. We must, however, be clear that God is not nature itself - that would be pantheism which would idolatrously limit God by not recognising unmanifest transcendence beyond all manifest reality. As Jeremiah (2:27) says, that would be like those “who say to a tree, ‘You are my father,’ and to a stone, ‘You gave me birth [but] have turned their backs [on God].” Rather, God is panentheistic - which is to say, present in nature as well as beyond it. God is both active in time (and therefore human history) and in the pleroma - the eternal, which is outwith space and time. But the creation, which is to say, the land and all that belongs to and surrounds the land, is the objectively manifest context in which God’s goodness is apparent.
This position is shared by all major world faiths and therefore ought to be a point around which unity can be found in religiously pluralistic nations. For example, the Tao te Ching likens the Tao to the “nameless uncarved granite block,” that contains the potential to be carved into anything but which, in its unworked state, is beyond them all. It is the selfless source of life in freedom for all creatures. “It gives them life yet claims no possession; It benefits them yet exacts no gratitude; It is the steward yet exercises no authority. Such is called the mysterious virtue” (chapters XXXVII & LI). The Koran says that Allah “has appointed the earth to be a cradle for you ... and has sent down water from the sky wherewith [to] bring forth diverse kinds of vegetation. Eat and pasture your cattle; surely in this are signs for men embued with understanding” (XX:53). In the Hindu Bhagavad Gita Lord Krishna says, “Through my nature I bring forth all creation, and this rolls round in the circles of time. But I am not bound by this vast work of creation. I am and I watch the drama of works... But the fools of the world know not me when they see me in my own human body. They know not my Spirit supreme, the infinite God of this all”(9:8-11).
In all these faiths the name of God and the nature of their historical revelation varies, but the underlying spiritual message affirming divine providence is similar: God’s presence sustains what humankind sees, but God’s nature surpasseth[A35] all understanding. It follows from this that if any of the peoples of the earth deprived of full and right relationship with the land, they are also be deprived full and right relationship with God. As such, land rights are of fundamental theological consequence.
It is with this insight that we can understand the enormous psychological energy that is let loose when nationalism, spirituality and land are brought into common focus. As the Scots theologian, Ian Fraser, who is a senior consultant to the World Council of Churches says, “Probably the biggest theological issue in the world is people’s title to land which is theirs. It has to do with their identity and destiny in God’s sight and man’s.” It is such theology that has led the American political right to allege that the Russian Orthodox Church conspired with the Kremlin to infiltrate the World Council of Churches by using liberation theology for “interpreting the Bible selectively to support radicalism.” But as we have seen, Jesus used the Bible selectively to redeem a fallen theology. He did so in accordance with his revolutionary gospel of radical love. That is the “good news” of the gospel (Luke 7:22; 1 John 4:8). Marxism is incidental[A36] though not necessarily irrelevant to this; indeed, it is interesting to consider Marx in the context of his Jewish family background and the influence that a Hebrew prophetic theology of justice might consciously or unconsciously had upon him. That consideration, however, goes beyond the scope of my present purpose.
The word, “covenant,” is used in several different ways in the Bible to express contractual aspects of the human relationship with God. In a less legalistic sense, however, “covenant” means the bonds of friendship with God which comprise the spiritual underpinning of all community. God offers humankind a “covenant of life.” Life itself is the consequence of choosing to live in threefold right relationship - with God, nature and community. Let us take each of these in turn.
Firstly, right relationship with God means having no other “gods” - no other ultimate concerns - before God (Exodus 20:1-7). God wants the people to have neither lesser gods as their idols or to please “him” with sacrifices, because what he seeks is justice and the homecoming of the poor (Isaiah 46, Amos 5:21-24). Idolatry is wrong because it misleads about the nature of God and therefore presents a false understanding of reality. This is not to say that some other concern - nationhood, a sporting team, a political party or money, for example - is unimportant. It simply means that if it is put before God - before the implications of life as love made visible - then it becomes an idol. If that happens, if it happens with, say, money, then the worship of God is replaced by the worship of Mammon - Jesus’ Aramaic word for money personified (Matthew 6:24).
We see an example of money idolatry very clearly in Ezekiel 28. It is a fascinating chapter because it is about the Garden of Eden. However, it conflicts with the Genesis version in ways that clearly invite us to think of the Garden of Eden story as myth. This is exciting because fundamentalists who insist that the Bible must be read literally miss much of its point. Myth, properly understood, is far more powerful than fact because it operates poetically on the soul at the level of spiritual transformation. Ezekiel in this particular passage depicts a Garden of Eden in which humankind was surrounded by ever conceivable form of wealth. But, he says, “in the abundance of your trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God” (28:16). Tellingly, God goes on to explain the precise mechanism of humankind’s Fall in ways that make this theological principle psychologically convincing. He says: “I brought out fire from within you; it consumed you, and I turned you to ashes on the earth” (28:18). In other words, the Fall from grace was self-inflicted. The “fire” was contained within. The wicked burn from their own avarice. This is actually an optimistic situation: it shows that we can influence our own happiness. God makes this very clear in Ezekiel 18:31-32:
Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! ... For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live.
Secondly, right relationship with nature entails recognition that “The earth belongs unto the Lord and all that it contains” (Psalms 24:1). It means understanding God’s providential immanence in the creation and therefore treating it with profound respect, which is to say, reverence. Not only is this implied by God’s ownership, presence in and blessing of the creation, but we also see it in specific contexts such as God expecting shoes to be removed when standing on “holy ground” (Exodus 3:5; Joshua 5:15). Another example is in Exodus 20:22-26 where God objects to the sacred use of gold and silver, and asks that alters be made simply of earth. “But if you make for me an alter of stone,” he adds, “do not build it out of hewn stones; for if you use a chisel upon it you profane it.” In other words, notwithstanding what Solomon later did to build his elaborate temple, there is evidence to suggest that even the natural integrity of stones was to be respected and not profaned with iron.
Mahatma Gandhi captured the spirit of providence in his recognition that “The earth contains enough for everybody’s need, but not for everybody’s greed.” Need graciously acknowledges providence but greed destroys the principles by which it works. As a consequence of the existential fear provoked by not trusting to God, and the greed that this is a symptom of, war, famine and pestilence set in (Jeremiah 27:8), leading to desolation and ecocide[A37]. “O land, land, land, hear the word of the Lord!” cries Jeremiah (22:29), as he bemoans the loss of nature’s biodiversity: “How long will the land mourn, and the grass of every field wither? For the wickedness[A38] of those who live in it/ the animals and the birds are swept away” (12:4). Isaiah similarly warns of ecocide in saying that “The remnant of the trees of his forest will be so few that a child can write them down” (10:19), and later in 24:4-5:
The earth dries up and withers, the whole world withers and grows sick; the earth’s high places sicken, and earth itself is desecrated by the feet of those who live in it, because they have broken the laws, disobeyed the statutes and violated the eternal covenant.
Finally and thirdly, right relationship with human community - society - entails recognition of what Quakers call “that of god in everyone” (cf. John 1:1-10). God’s purpose is that we as individuals should develop spiritually in communities because we are all interconnected. Going it alone is not an option: even the spiritual hermit is connected to the rest of the world by prayer. Jesus said that the nature of reality is like us all being branches on the same vine of life (John 15:1-17). Connected to his divinity in this way we “are gods” (John 10:34; Psalms 82:6); or as 2 Peter 1:4 puts it, we, “may become participants in the divine nature” (the Rev. Prof. Donald Macleod of Edinburgh’s Free Church College remarks on this as “a passage which so astonished John Calvin that he commented, ‘it is, so to speak, a kind of deification’” (Macleod 1998, p. 198).
Waking up to this deeper self, according to spiritual teachers like Anthony de Mello SJ, requires the practice of presence - mindful attention to the full abundance of life’s providential experience. The Buddhist Dhammapada (82) says, “Even as a lake that is pure and peaceful and deep, so becomes the soul of the wise man when he hears the words of Dhamma [God’s way].” Like a lake that reflects everything around it, spiritual presence, then, is about becoming fully aware of the ‘sacrament of the present moment’ as we walk, breath, eat the fruits of nature’s providence; likewise as we share our human nature in community with others and with that community of the Earth with which we comprise a human ecology. Such mindfulness implies much more than any abstract, heady obedience to commands on tablets of stone. It means coming alive to the deeper life of the fact that we are divinely interconnected, like islands appearing above the sea. Like the finger nails on a hand we look as if we are separate; but as we learn to love - as we follow down the fingers towards the hand - our closeness increases. Only from the viewpoint of the hand itself - that is, from within god-consciousness, the bedrock of love - do we truly see what it means to be “children” of God (John 10:31-38). From such a vantage point it becomes obvious that whatever we do to one another we actually do to our deepest selves. As Paul often said, we are “members one of another” (e.g. Ephesians 4:25). He saw this as the meaning of being “the church” in the “body of Christ” (Romans 12:4-5; 1 Corinthians). Understood in this way “church” is not a building or even an institution, but the name given to the community of those who develop mindful awareness. “Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?” asked Isaiah (21:11-12). “The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night: if ye will enquire, enquire ye: return, come.”
What we are in our deepest selves, then, is, by the grace of God, our greatest wealth and our community. Putting it in the other way round as attributed to Jesus in the apocryphal but authoritative Gospel of Thomas (3:13-15), “If you do not Know yourselves then you are in poverty, and you are the poverty.” This makes mutual reverence based upon knowledge of the deep self the foundation rock of community. It makes love the mortar that builds upon it.
At a social level such understanding of covenant as expressing the interconnection of all things urges us to place the spiritual at the centre of concern, motivation and methodology for “development,” whether it is “community development,” “sustainable development,” “world development,” “economic development,” “child development” or any other kind. This may at first seem audacious. But perhaps not so when we look at what the word “development” actually means.
“Development” is an abused word which, in western society, has come to be virtually synonymous with sustained (as distinct from sustainable) economic growth. However, the etymology derives from de- (to undo) and the Old French, “voloper” - to envelop or fold up, as in our English word, “envelope.” To develop is therefore “to unfold, unroll to unfurl.” The biological application, as in “foetal development,” accurately captures correct usage. Here the foetus develops in right relationship with its environment of the womb and the wider world that the parents move in. We can see from this that too little development implies stunted growth - a condition of the poor; development in the wrong place means deformity - inequitable wealth distribution; and development without limits is a cancer that extracts life from the rest of the body or the planet.
Properly used, then, “development” means, as in the dictionary definition, “a gradual unfolding; a fuller working out of the details of anything; growth from within.” Community development should therefore be about enabling a community to become more fully itself. Development ought therefore be spirituality expressed socially. Such is the intent of God’s covenant with humankind. Such is the reason why it is appropriate for a country like Russia to ask whether, in entering into covenants or contracts with the IMF, World Bank or private entrepreneurs, it is in danger of replacing state-espoused atheism with idolatry before Mammon, Moloch or the Golden Calf.
From a theological point of view, much of the answer to that question can be determined by whether or not these bodies show respect the relationship between the Russian people and their land as a source of God’s providence. If contracts are entered into which alienate the common people from such providence, then the spirituality of nationhood will have entered further into a state which, theologically, is known as “Fall” or sinfulness.
When the Russian Orthodox Church uses icons we presume that it is not engaging in idolatry. At its best, which is doubtless not all the time, it understands that inspired art can present spiritual truth to the soul in ways that are more real than words. Likewise, a proper understanding of myth as archetypal story speaks to truths that are deeper than literal interpretation alone can convey. As I have already suggested, it is in this mythological sense that we might best understand the story of Adam and Eve and their “Fall” from Eden, resulting of the displacement of humankind from an ecological paradise into the wasteland (Genesis 3). It is to the theology of Fall that we must look if we are, from a Biblical point of view, to understand the origins of the nations, their relationship to land and ethnicity, and the principles of their governance.
“Fall,” which is alienation from friendship with God, results from an innate condition of all human beings sometimes called “original sin.” We must not allow the sadomasochistic applications that some fundamentalist evangelicals make of this concept allow us to overlook its deep psychological insights into the human condition and its profoundly liberating and optimistic implications. Spiritually, human beings must be free to choose or reject the ways of God - to do good and evil - if their love of God is to be free love. For God to stop atrocities from happening in the world would require constant intervention either in the laws of nature, or in the freedom of the human soul. Whilst the evidence of both parapsychology and of faith suggests that this may sometimes happen, if applied as a normal occurrence in daily life it would arguably inhibit spiritual evolution. Suffering, which was expressed in its fullest form in the crucifixion, is therefore inevitable. Humankind is fallen, but God’s entreaty is that we do not have to remain in that condition unredeemed.
The Fall can be seen in the Bible to have progressively deeper consequences for the triple-unity of God-nature-community. Genesis 10:8 records that Nimrod, who was descended from Noah, “was the first on earth to become a mighty warrior.” The people of his fearsome imperial kingdom, Babel, chose to consolidate their power through urbanisation. They said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4). In breaking up the superpower by dividing their language, God again, according to Genesis 11:9, “scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth,” so that “from these the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood” (Genesis 10:32).
Genesis 47 describes the origins of feudalism, landlessness and hence slavery in the ancient near east where Joseph buys all the land for Pharaoh in exchange for seed during the famine. Later Yahweh, the Israelites’ tribal understanding of God, denounces imperialism, frees the slaves and gives them a home of “promised land,” a “good land” that was “flowing with milk and honey” (Deuteronomy 8:7-10; Numbers 11, etc.). But the people prefer to be ruled over by the militarised patriarchy rather than having God as their king. In Deuteronomy 17:14-20 God therefore reluctantly allows them to have a king, but only with considerable restrictions set in place to prevent him “from exalting himself above other members of the community.” God’s concern was that a human king would seek to acquire disproportionate wealth and send people back to bonded labour or slavery in Egypt in order to buy horses - the prerequisite of military capacity. Again, in 1 Samuel 8, the people reject God as their king in spite of God’s warning that a human king would:
... take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen ... and some to plough his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war ... He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields ... and give them to his courtiers. He will take one tenth of your grain [and other produce] and you shall be his slaves.
Only in the face of such self-destructive faithlessness from a people who insisted that their political organisation should “be like other nations” did God, with the greatest reluctance, tell Samuel: “Listen to their voice and set a king over them” (1 Samuel 8:22). From an Old Testament point of view, then, autocratic and human structures of governance are invariably compromised. It is in this sense that the nations, like individuals, can theologically be understood as “fallen.” Amongst the most prominent signs of this according to the 1 Samuel passage just quoted are warmongering, the degradation of women’s social position to menial service roles and the fashion industry, and the abuse of landed power. These represent the exploitation of men, the exploitation of women, and pivoting them both, exploitation of the land. Let us see how the New Testament reaffirms each of these concerns.
On warmongering, Jesus, the “Prince of Peace,” repudiated the domination system’s violence in ways that run far deeper than are generally realised. Thus Walter Wink surmises of the enigmatic Book of Revelation that, “Never has a more withering political and economic criticism of [the structural violence of] empire been penned. The author sees with clairvoyant exactitude the bestiality of Rome, and behind it to the satanic spirit undergirding it [although] he fails to relate this revelation to other aspects of androcracy[A39].” We might note in passing that a similar apocalyptic vision of Rome, symbolised as an eagle with three subsidiary wings rising to prominence, is given in 3(2) Esdras 11 - a text that is canonical only in the Slavonic Bible.
On women, Jesus both taught and allowed them to touch him, even though this would have rendered him ritually unclean within the social constructs of his time. Luke’s gospel is particularly strong in drawing out Jesus’ relationship to women. In 7:36-50 a woman tenderly kisses his feet, and in 10:38-42 he insists on Mary’s right to receive teaching against Martha’s protestations. It is true, as Daphne Hampson points out, that in the parables of Mark’s gospel all eighteen main characters are men and the other synoptic gospels do little better, but we have to set this in cultural context. It is worth remembering that in the story of the Syrophoenician woman of Mark 7:24-30 we are left with an impression that the woman, through her humour, actually teaches Jesus something about the need to include marginalised groups in his mission.
With regard to land, in Luke 4 the devil places before Jesus three temptations - elemental power - power to distort the laws of nature; landed or social power - the power to exploit people’s lives through the control of place; and spiritual power - the power to abuse the forces of God. In response to the second temptation, Jesus replies, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” That is to say, in the second temptation of Christ, Jesus refused to become a worldly king or landlord. We have already seen how Luke 4:19 endorses the Jubilee land ethic, and in the next section we shall see how Jesus incorporates the principle of holy places.
In addressing those who take for selfish ends the power in the land, both Old and New Testaments are usually totally uncompromising. Justice is the non-negotiable contractual condition of the land covenant, thus God in Amos (8:4) hails the miscreant landlord: “Hear this, O ye that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail.”
“Woe to them,” God continues in Micah 2:1-2:
Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds! When the morning is light, they practice it, because it is in the power of their hand. And they covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage.
The reason for God’s warning of “woe” is clear. As Micah puts it, “Therefore thus saith the Lord; Behold, against this family do I devise an evil, from which ye shall not remove your necks; neither shall ye go haughtily: for this time is evil” (2:3).
Isaiah likewise repeatedly condemns the abuse of landed power. “Ah, you,” he says (5:8), “who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is room for no one but you, and you are left to life alone in the midst of the land!” and he looks towards an era where the poor (65:21-23):
Shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labour in vain.
As for the oppressors, Isaiah warns that (5:9): “The Lord of hosts has sworn in my hearing: Surely many houses shall be desolate, large and beautiful houses, without inhabitant.”
Isaiah (49:8) recognises that a people’s relationship with the land is a right established by divine covenant. It seeks: “to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages.” Repeated in these texts is the warning that points to the gravity with which God views those who thwart this intention: “There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked” (48:22). The end point of the process of Fall is described by Proverbs in terms that reaffirm that the wicked bring doom upon themselves (1:18-19):
... they lie in wait - to kill themselves! and set an ambush - for their own lives! Such is the end of all who are greedy for gain; it takes away the life of its possessors.
Although human suffering is self-inflicted, God constantly comes alive through remnants of the human “stock” or taproot to restore the surface of the earth and heal the nations. As the Scots poet Edwin Muir puts it, “Yet still from Eden springs the root/ As clean as on the starting day.” God’s ultimate concern for humankind is redemption - salvation - a word that in English shares the same etymology as “salve” meaning “to heal.”
The prophets keep on testifying because of God’s insistence that redemption is possible, and as Moses said in Numbers 11:29, “would that all God’s people were prophets.” Life may be a living hell, but it doesn’t have to be like that. Thus, God through Jeremiah (29:11-13) promises, “to give you a future with hope ... if you seek me with all your heart.” “Learn to do good,” counsels Isaiah (1:17): “seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow,” and then (2:4):
They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
There will be a return from diaspora: “I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile,” as Jeremiah puts it (29:10-14). Likewise in Ezekiel 28:25-26: “Then they shall settle on their own soil... and they shall build houses... They shall live in safety, when I execute judgements upon all their neighbours who have treated them with contempt.”
It is noteworthy that Ezekiel’s vision is deeply ecological in very practical ways. God will personally set to work reconstituting the nation that re-establishes right-relationship. Uninhabited towns will be rebuilt and the land, that was once desolate, “will become like the garden of Eden... Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I, the Lord, have rebuilt the ruined places, and replanted that which was desolated: I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will do it” (Ezekiel 36:33-36).
Land use for a redeemed people is contingent upon faithfulness to God. Thus, in Deuteronomy 10 the Israelites were given the “Promised Land” as “chosen people,” but it was on the understanding that they would love and serve God “with all your heart and with all your soul ... for your own wellbeing”; this being a God “who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
Sovereignty, then, is God-given but it must be understood in God’s terms. Thus Jeremiah quotes God as saying (27:4-5): “It is I who by my great power and my outstretched arm have made the earth, with the people and animals that are on the earth, and I give it to whomever I please.” However, the implications for ethnicity are startling. Because, as we have seen in Leviticus 25, we are all no more than tenants unto God, we belong to a place - we find our resting place, our “Promised Land” or “holy land” - only inasmuch as it pleases God. That pleasing is contingent upon worshipping God and the core of such worship is the advancement of social and ecological justice or right-relationship.
There is, however, a difficulty with “Promised Land” theology that is so great as to place the whole ethical value of the Bible in jeopardy. In the early books of the Bible as the Israelites resettled their Promised Land, God is depicted as countenancing ethnic cleansing to a most brutal degree. Many examples are given of what some translations call the “holocaust” or “curse of destruction” being wrought by the Israelites against earlier inhabitants. For example, Joshua commits genocide in the name of the Lord against the inhabitants of Jericho (Joshua 6). In Numbers 31, Moses does likewise against the Midianites. Only thirty-two thousand virgin women were spared. These, God said, the Israelites were permitted to “keep alive for yourselves,” apart from a percentage set apart for “the Lord’s tribute” - a seeming reference to either human sacrifice or temple prostitution. Judges 21 depicts the Israelites putting to the sword all the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead apart from “four hundred young virgins who had never slept with a man,” in order that they might rectify the Benjaminites’ deficit of wives. The theocratic framework by which much of this was permitted is clearly laid down in Deuteronomy 20-25.
How, then, presuming that we are repulsed by such conduct, can we give the Bible any credence? It is here that liberation theology’s insistence that the Bible depicts the historical evolution of revelation becomes vital for liberating theology itself. The late prophets take a very different position from the early ones, and by the time we get to Jesus the ethos is absolutely reversed. Jesus taught opposition to the domination system of what he saw as Satanic power through non-violence; not “just war.” In choosing the cross rather than waging war at the point of Peter’s sword (Luke 22), Jesus chose to die for the sake of love but not to kill for it. He told Peter to put away the sword that had been symbolically brought out to fulfil prophesy, saying “No more of this!” (Luke 22:51). His theology announced a power of love that was greater than the love of power. Here and in many other respects he stood for a revelation of God relative to which that of the earlier prophets had been merely a fragmentary prelude. Perhaps it takes an evolutionary timespan for humankind to learn about God. Perhaps after two thousand years, Christianity is only just beginning.
The Christian understanding of the place of land in redemption goes deeper than any merely territorial considerations. Jesus replaces a static notion of “holy places” or “holy land” with an understanding of incarnation in which concepts of space are incorporated into the “Body of Christ.” We see this very clearly in John, where, for example, it is He, not Jacob’s well, that is the source of life-giving water (4:7-15); He, not the Pool of Bethesda, that offers healing (5:2-9). Subject to God’s election[A40], then, the whole of the creation is thereby rendered holy on account of the synonymy of life and incarnation (John 1:1-9, cf. Proverbs 8:22-36). As Paul saw it, redemption implies a reversal of the Fall. It has profound implications for both the human and non-human world because creation as a whole has suffered under the burden of human sin. Accordingly, he wrote in Romans 8:20-22:
Yet there was this hope: that creation itself would one day be set free from its slavery to decay, and share the glorious freedom of the children of God. For we know that up to the present time all of creation groans with pain like the pain of childbirth.
The conditions for realising this setting-free are an opening of the human heart to providence as the meaning of love in all its passions. Right-relationship with the earth and one-another is a relationship of eros. This must not be restricted to its narrow sexual sense, but be understood afresh as embodied love - a very practical, flesh-and-blood love that flows from and dances with God’s works of providence. This is the implication of “incarnation.” This is what invites an attitude of reverence towards all things. This is what repudiates naked capitalist exploitation such as Marx saw resulting in alienation, and the black American feminist writer, Audre Lorde, saw as pornographic relationship.
“Pornography,” says Lorde, “emphasises sensation without feeling.” It leads to the situation described by the prophet Haggai (1:5-6) where the people eat but are not filled, and drink but do not become merry. Such is consumerism in a world driven by the hollow rattle of a marketing man’s advertising jingles[A41]. But through re-connection with soul in the human heart that starts to feel again, there is an alternative. In using the word erotic to signify the integration of sensation with feeling; body with soul; Lorde concludes:
But when we begin to live from within outward, in touch with the power of the erotic within ourselves, and allowing that power to inform and illuminate our actions upon the world around us, then we begin to be responsible to our selves in the deepest sense. For as we begin to recognize our deepest feelings, we begin to give up, of necessity, being satisfied with suffering and self-negation, and with the numbness which so often seems like their only alternative in our society. Our acts against oppression become integral with self, motivated and empowered from within. In touch with the erotic, I become less willing to accept powerlessness, or those other supplied states of being which are not native to me, such as resignation, despair, self-effacement, depression, self-denial.
And how interesting it is that in her book from which the above is drawn, the first essay is Notes from a Trip to Russia, written in 1976. Here Lorde remarks that even when rushing, the people of Moscow, “lack the desperation of New York. One thing that characterized all of these people was a pleasantness in their faces, a willingness to smile, at least at me, a stranger. It was a strange contrast to the grimness of the weather.”
Redemption means a way of life that has heart. This does not mean that we perpetrate no violence. Rather, it means that the violence we inevitably perpetrate simply by being alive is encased in forgiveness - in deep acceptance of both self and others. As Gandhi pointed out, “All live entails violence; our duty is to minimise the violence we personally exert.” This calls us to live as modestly, mindfully, and so as kindly as we are able to. It calls us to take what we require in a spirit of gratitude and to give similarly. As the English mystic William Blake reminds us, providence does not grudge the necessary inevitable: “The cut worm forgives the plough.”
The New Testament closes by prophesying the “healing of the Nations” (Revelation 22:1-2) that were first torn apart at Nimrod’s Babel. The Book of Revelation portrays this healing as being effected by leaves from the “tree of life” of Ezekiel 47, which in turn derives from Genesis 2. As such, the Book of Revelation, for all that it is a problematic work, neatly brings to a conclusion the human ecology of the Bible. That conclusion has startling and revolutionary implications for the question of ethnicity - the question of who rightly belongs to the land in a world undergoing redemption. In Ezekiel the vision of healing is followed immediately by discussion of the importance of land rights for foreigners. God declares that the second generation of the “strangers” or “alien” “who sojourn among you” should have their full share of land inheritance and thus be treated “as Israelites” (Ezekiel 47:21-23). In other words, God deals with the incomer-versus-insider ethnicity question very simply, in accordance with his own sovereignty over the land. He reminds, in effect, that we are all outsiders. The only rights we have to land are God given, predicated on justice. God therefore wants the land to be shared with all whose intentions of residence run deeper than might be covered by the normal decencies of hospitality - that is, the second generation onwards. Providence will thereby be denied to no-one. Ezekiel and various other prophets therefore refute any racist’s charter. The right to be present on the land is held, pre-eminently, by the poor, the widow, the orphan and the refugee - alongside the right of the great and the good who might have a legal claim to heritage. We are talking here soil and soul; not Nazi “blood and soil.” We are talking about deep understandings of fostership that are captured in such Scottish Gaelic proverbs as, “The bonds of milk (i.e. nurture) are stronger than the bonds of blood (i.e. lineage),” and “Blood counts for twentifold; fostership a hundredfold.”
Here we see specific cultural expression of the Judeo-Christian land ethic. In a world that is divided by ethnic strife, such principles offer to overturn that dismal wasteland where, as the prophet Joel puts it, “joy withers away among the people” (1:12). Here, then, we find a Scottish expression of that higher spiritual vocation to which all nations are called. Such is the spirit symbolised by Saint Andrew. And in this particular instance it comes from a people who, as we have seen, mythologically trace their roots to a Scythian cultural dawn shared with the tribes of southern Russia.
Andelson & Dawsey acknowledge that “liberation theology is not mere theorizing but arises out of actual experience of oppression.” In the course of my own work I have often encountered objections from landlords and sometimes from within the churches. These should be acknowledged.
· I have encountered landowners taking offence at the presumption that “you cannot be rich and be a Christian.” This presumption, however, is an over-simplification. Zacchaeus, who is rich, finds salvation though he offers only half of his possessions to the poor but promises honesty (Luke 19:1-10). Others, who were poor, failed Christ - like nine out of the ten lepers in Luke 17:11-19. When Jesus said that for a rich man to enter Heaven was like a camel passing through the “eye of a needle,” it should be remembered that the “needle” in question was not a sewing needle, but a very narrow type of gate through which it was hard, but not impossible, for a camel to pass (Mark 10:25). Yes, Jesus was concerned about wealth, but he was more concerned about the attitudes that underlay it.
· I have had landowners say that land reform is theft, like Ahab and Jezebel in the case of Naboth’s vineyard (1 Kings 21). However, this story is about the abuse of kingly power. Ahab was a peasant holding on to his God-given share of land heritage, not a rich landowner with many times one family’s heritage. The Bible approvingly shows actual land reform taking place where Nehemiah (5:1-13) successfully demands that the powerful restore to the poor, “this very day, their fields, their vineyards, their olive orchards, and their houses.” Again, Jeremiah (1:18-19) fortifies the common people against “the people of the land” as he calls the rich “country set” of his time. “They will fight against you; but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, says the Lord, to deliver you.”
· I have had a landlord’s lawyer in an eviction case argue against a defence I had helped to prepare under Scots feudal law. He told Stirling Sheriff Court that Jesus’ Parable of the Wicked Tenants demonstrates support for the principle of landlordism (Mark 12:1-12, etc.). However, a parable is a teaching aid intended as metaphor. In this case it is based upon Isaiah 5:1-7. The “landlord” in question is God and the “vineyard,” Israel. As we have seen from the wider scriptural context, one of God’s principal grievance with the “tenants” - the Israelites - was that they used landed power to oppress the poor. It is therefore disingenuous to suggest that Jesus approved of landed power because he used it to tell a story.
I have heard landowners at a conference saying
that land reform is “Sodom and Gomorrah in reverse - God said he would spare Sodom
if Abraham could find just ten righteous men. Land reform threatens to damage
private property rights because of the misdeeds of a handful of bad landlords.”
This overlooks the fact that neither theology nor land reform proposals in
Scotland threaten the person who uses power as a service to the community. In
Genesis 47 Joseph took on the role of a feudal lord to help the people in
desperate need. Similarly, landlords (and there are some) who use their wealth
for the common good, within socially legitimised structures of power, arguably
provide a service. However, if there are ten or more “righteous men,” it is
incumbent upon them to support reforms without which even they must be
discredited. The landlord may speak of his “sacred rights of property” but the
theological position is that property rights are actually sacred only to God.
Scotland provides a case study of land history which is unusual because a system that is legally feudal has survived right to the end of the twentieth century. As Russia could be seen as being in danger of submitting to neo-feudalism, there may be insights to be gained from its situation.
Modern Scotland is a nation that came into union with England and Wales under the provisions firstly, of the 1603 Union of the Crowns and then the 1707 Treaty of Union that created Great Britain. The axis of power thereafter shifted to Westminster in London, leaving the common people feeling that the merchants and landowners who made up the original undemocratic Scottish Parliament had betrayed them. The grip of a feudal land tenure system, first set in place in the 11th century, was consolidated by men of property and native Scots culture and languages were subjected to a process of Anglicisation carried out overtly through such measures as the 1609 Statutes of Iona, the 1616 Education Act and the 1747 Acts of Proscription.
The land tenure system in Scotland at the end of the twentieth century comprises a legal theory that places God at the apex of the pyramid of feudal power. The Crown, feudal superiors, vassals and tenants form a widening triangle underneath. According to Lord Stair, the so-called “Father of Scots Law” in his seminal 1681 Institutions of the Law of Scotland, it is not just in land law but in all Scots law, that Scotland has traditionally looked to the law of Moses as “the prime positive law of God” (1.1.9), albeit modified where, for example, “Christ did expressly abrogate that law” (1.1.9), but in an overall framework which to Stair was such as to “make the absolute sovereign divine law” (1.1.1). It has to be said that efforts by the current writer to test these principles in court have been pushed aside by the judiciary on procedural grounds that have, so far, prevented proper consideration.
An eminent authority, Professor Gretton of Edinburgh University, shows that Scots feudalism has its legal roots in generic European feudal laws, many of which can be traced to the 12th century Lombardy text, The Books of the Feus. Accordingly, in his entry on feudalism in The Laws of Scotland, Gretton surmises:
In feudalism landownership and sovereignty coincided, so that the Crown’s sovereignty over Scotland and its dominium eminens[A42], its ultimate tenurial superiority[A43], were the same thing, were identical concepts... We still have a relic of this [in Scotland] in the rule that the Crown cannot dispone[A44] but only fue[A45], for to dispone would, in the feudal scheme of things, be to alienate not only land but also sovereignty... Freedom of alienation is an anti-feudal conception... The dominium eminens or ultimate superiority of the Crown is allodial [i.e. absolute ownership], because not held of a higher lord, except God... The term “tenure” strictly implies feudality... The Crown has no feudal superior, except God alone... The Crown held Scotland as the vassal of God, and in prayer the act of holding the hands together was adopted from the feudal ceremony of homage, the immixtio manuum, so that the worshipper was binding himself as the vassal of God... Feudalism involves the absolute denial that land can be owned. Indeed, the very concept of a real right can hardly be said to exist under feudalism. Land rights are personal, not real. Land is not owned, but held in tenure, and tenure means a personal relationship with other people, the superior and the oversuperior, with the vassals and tenants. For the same reason land cannot, in the pure feudal conception, be sold or bequeathed. The power of sale and bequest goes close to the heart of ownership, but no one can sell or bequeath what he does not own, and no one could own the land... Only in one country in the world does feudalism survive in any real sense, albeit attenuated to an extreme degree. That country is Scotland.
Whilst feudalism has clearly served as a corrupt mechanism for concentrating land into the hands of a few, two points in its favour should be noted as being worthy of consideration for retention. One is the principle that God ultimately owns the land. In law, this could be seen as inferring implied terms of contract as to how the land should subsequently be used. The second follows from this, namely, that no single person can ultimately “own” the land. A leasehold rather than a freehold basis is therefore predicated. In practice, leases may be and probably should be perpetual, heritable and saleable, thereby giving the tenant security and flexibility, as with Scotland’s crofting agriculture system. However, if some principle of subordination to the common good, or God, is enshrined at least in legal theory then a basis is established whereby excesses of private ownership can legitimately be curbed if the community wishes through its democratic processes.
Research by my co-worker, Andy Wightman, shows that today a mere 1,000 owners hold nearly two-thirds of the land in Scotland. This represents one fiftieth of one percent of the Scottish population. These individuals and corporations comprise a highly concentrated and well-connected constellation of power. Usually they are people from either the business or aristocratic social classes. They have often been to the same elite private schools and operate the levers of commercial and military power in British society. Most are either English or highly Anglicised Scots, though some are American, continental European or Arab. There are no restrictions on the foreign ownership of Scottish land - the market is completely “free.”
Because land is owned by such a small number of landlords, considerable influence is wielded over communities to which they are not democratically accountable. The “free” market in land is, in fact, an oligarchy and a plutocracy. Depending on the nature of legal agreements, owners sometimes can and do evict tenants as a means of social control or to increase property values. Owners may also tax communities through the charging of rent, impose planning approval fees even for minor house alterations, impose without consultation dramatic changes on the local environment such as mining, logging and blanket afforestation of non-native species, control local business activity to eliminate competition, and force public utilities to pay huge sums of money for the laying of cables, roads and pipelines. The situation in England is similar to that of Scotland except that there the legal structures are not technically known by the medieval name of “feudalism.”
Two million hectares of Scottish land representing one third of the privately-owned land is today managed primarily for blood sports such as deer stalking, grouse shooting and salmon fishing. The classic Highland sporting estate comprises some 3,000 - 12,000 hectares. Where recreational killing is a primary land use few people live on the land. Those that do comprise a sycophantic and deeply conservative collection of servants who have usually internally adapted to being in a patron-client relationship with their rich masters. Estates are usually run for tax purposes as “businesses,” meaning that sporting and other recreational entertainment for friends, family and business acquaintances can perhaps be charged as an expense for tax purposes. Under the Conservative government, even local taxation on sporting estates was abolished.
Sir John Stirling-Maxwell, Chairman of the 1919 Departmental Committee on Deer Forests described sporting estates as a form of land use in terms that are still applicable today:
It may be true, I believe it often is, that a deer forest employs more people than the same area under sheep. It certainly brings in a larger rent [and] may therefore claim to be economically sound... It provides a healthy existence for a small group of people, but it produces nothing except a small quantity of venison, for which there is no demand. It causes money to change hands. A pack of cards can do that.
In the Scottish Highlands most sporting estates were created by the “Clearances” of the 18th and 19th centuries. These, echoing the Scottish lowland and English land “enclosure” or privatisation measures that preceded them, involved some half-a-million peasants being cleared off their ancestral land by direct force or economic pressure exerted by pushing up rents. Karl Marx documents this process in his 1853 article, The Duchess of Sutherland and Slavery. A previously self-sufficient indigenous people with a rich artistic and spiritual culture were dispatched into wage-labour in the factories of newly-industrialised cities or onto emigrant ships to the countries of North America and Australasia. There they displaced other native peoples. The oppressed thereby became oppressor. Ethnic cleansing in one part of the world perpetuated itself in another. Its cause, as with so much ethnic strife today, was abuse of the power in the land. As Marx said, the Clearances were a “real usurpation” enacted by “the forcible transformation of clan [community] property into private property ... in a sense hostile to the people.”
The legacy of this history is that both rural and urban Scottish communities are often damaged, disempowered and apathetic. Asked the reason why, many contemporary Scots will reply, “It all goes back to Culloden” - reference to the last battle on mainland British soil in 1746. Here, in the aftermath of the 1707 Treaty of Union, forces of the British state brutally suppressed an uprising by Scottish Highlanders. These attempted to resist the suppression of their traditional culture, language, religious expression and communal patterns of land tenure by subscribing to the ill-conceived 1745 Jacobite uprising ineptly led by Prince Charles Edward Stuart, otherwise known as “Bonnie [A46]Prince Charlie.”
In the poetry of such bards as Robert Burns we see how, after this suppression, the traditional leadership were too psychologically maimed to relate normally to human community and to the beauty of nature. Their men were slaughtered, women raped, houses burned and where they persevered with resistance, their lands were confiscated. Strathallan’s Lament, written by Burns in 1787 depicts a people for whom “Ruin’s wheel has driven over us.” Yes, the imperial opportunities of British Empire and capitalist enterprise were now opened up to them, but as Burns put it, “The wide world is all before us/ But a world without a friend.” The process of alienation of a people from their cultural soul had started, and the starting point was deracination [A47]from the land itself.
Whilst the Scottish people have always voted predominantly for political parties to the left of centre, the political weight of England, which outnumbers Scotland 10:1 in terms of population, imposed upon Scots a long period of right-wing rule commencing with Margaret Thatcher’s 1979 government. The 1997 general elections ended this era. Indeed, the Conservative party in Scotland lost every one of their seats. Under intense pressure from the Scottish National Party the Labour government of Tony Blair then followed through its manifesto pledge to grant devolved power for a restored Scots parliament. Only foreign affairs, defence and macroeconomics were treated as “reserved powers” to be retained at Westminster. It is within this framework that land reform became not just a possibility, but a priority for modern Scotland.
By the late 1980’s analysis of psychohistory[A48] had led some of us in Scotland to believe that land tenure had to be addressed if our culture was to be saved, community spirit restored and the ecology of a landscape that had been reduced to a “wet desert” regenerated through better management. Many of us who sowed the seeds of land reform were people who had worked in countries of the South. We had encountered liberation movements there and been involved in the development of new tools of participative rural appraisal, local democracy, liberation theology and conscientisation pedagogy. We had seen these applied to environmental protection, urban projects and land use conflicts. And we had started to ask questions about our own cultural disempowerment back home in what was supposed to be a “developed” advanced capitalist western country.
Many of us felt that “development” as promoted by western agencies had become a race-track whereby the poor, who cannot run fast enough, are trampled by those coming up from behind. We saw that globalisation’s ethic of competition led to mindless waste of human and natural resources. We saw the rot of meaningless lives manifesting itself in drug abuse, crime, pornographic marketing, habitual alcohol, nicotine and tranquilliser use, corruption and other indicators of ailment in both communities and ecosystems. We heard the international calls for “sustainable development” that found a partial focus in 1992 at Rio, and we resolved to do something, starting with the ground on which we stood.
It was clear to us that worldwide the debate over land tenure has tended to polarise into two extremes.
· Collectivisation presumes that all land belongs to the state, which exerts centralised, planned control over its use. However, this has been seen to fail because it tends to negate the responsibility and entrepreneurship that individual endeavour can bring to the use of resources. It also often lacks the sensitivity necessary to manage land in locally appropriate ways for optimal local and national benefit.
· Privatisation presumes that land is a free-market commodity. This subjects land use to the whims of those whose sole qualification may be nothing more than their wealth. If, as in Scotland, the priority of the rich is recreational killing not for food but for “sport,” vast areas of the national resource can fall into idle hands. Even where efficient economic use is made of the land as with prime farming or forestry terrain, the benefits and power of control are vested in land capitalists whose primary interest is return on their own investment.
It was clear to those of us who studied indigenous peoples’ patterns of land tenure, including our own, that there is also a third way. This presumes that land belongs ultimately neither to state machinery nor to individuals - it belongs to the community that lives or works there.
Amongst indigenous peoples such tenure structure is often usufructural. Usufruct - a word which, tellingly, is hardly known in the west - is a system of land tenure where the community agrees overlapping rights of usage. These might be minimal, like the right of a particular family to fish for a particular species in a particular place, or they might be extensive, like the right of a clan group or village to have the comprehensive use of a particular zone. The critical point in most indigenous systems is that these rights are vested in and controlled by the community. Any rents or tithes deriving from them are, directly or indirectly, fed back to the benefit of the common good. The parasitical class of landowners is thereby cut out although in some systems, other forms of local elites do develop. However, the lessons of cultural anthropology are that human beings can organise in hugely diverse ways, and that some of these can lead to greater common dignity and better ecological practice than others.
In Scotland we call the evolving third-way approach built around principles of sustainable social and ecological development community land ownership. The principle is that land is held in a corporate legal structure known as a “trust” which is non-profitmaking. Trustees are elected periodically by the community. These may include representatives of outside interests, but the trust should not be dominated by them. Residents of the community thereby become tenants (or in some cases, feudal freeholders) unto themselves. Their own trust is their “landlord” - though the use of such a word, of course, becomes inappropriate except as a legal relic. Residents can be given secure leases that are heritable. This allows land to remain within families or to be passed on broadly as families might wish. However, because it is a lease and not a freehold, the democratically accountable trust retains influence particularly over community infrastructure. The trust’s power to allocate tenancies can be used to prevent the consolidation of land in the hands of too few people. If land is being abused or unused for too long, then the trust, at least under Scotland’s present “crofting” agriculture laws can, through a government-mediated tribunal (the Crofters Commission), terminate the tenancy.
The most important feature of community ownership is that all rents from the land are paid to the trust. The level of these are set by the community itself to be sufficient for running the trust, maintaining local infrastructure and paying whatever wider government taxes might fall due to support regional and national infrastructure and democratic structures.
Under this system, rents can therefore be understood as being equivalent to local land-value taxation. The system can readily be designed so that no individual can profit except inasmuch as it is in the interests of the wider community for them to do so. As such, community land ownership potentially combines the best of socialism with enough democratically accountable freedom for individual, family and small-business entrepreneurship to create wealth. It arguably squares the circle[A49] between communism and capitalism. This is why it might be of special interest to a Russia in the process of economic transition.
The evidence in Scotland so far now that there have been about ten community buy-outs of private landowners is that such a system works. Of course, it means that community building skills have to be learned. In particular, skills must be held in cultural empowerment, ecology, agriculture, forestry and fisheries, financial management, business procedure and community dynamics including conflict recognition and management. But these are all skills that people who aspire to being healthy want to acquire and can procure training in. They are life-giving skills. That is the power of community ownership. It allows people to create an authentic human ecology of wholesome relationship between their social and natural environments. By recreating an authentic relationship with place, they stimulate the creative cycle of belonging, identity and values that derive from having roots. The more closely the distribution of community falls along the lines of a natural “bioregion” such as a watershed, mountain range or island, the more readily a community unit and its land can be defined and the more consistently principles of holistic resource management can be practised.
There is a very real sense in which power emanates through community from the land. Indeed, this almost palpable energy, or “manna” as the peoples of the South Pacific might call it, is probably one of the unacknowledged reasons why private owners often feel that without a “seat” in the land psychologically they are nobody. It is my experience that many of those who want to own disproportionate levels of wealth are people who, as children, were not loved for themselves but only for what they had and how well they performed in competition with others. The psychopathologies of this “to have is to be” syndrome as Erich Fromm called it are now well understood. However, the political implications require to be more widely appreciated. The sense of presence of place that land provides, like rent, rightly belongs to the community as a whole. It contributes to the building of civic pride and therefore has ultimate implications for sovereignty. Sovereign power is most legitimately expressed when there is a harmony between place, peoples and political structures. Scotland’s new Parliament with its flagship legislation for land reform and the abolition of feudalism demonstrates this well. To be fair, the Westminster parliament must be acknowledged for yielding up some of its power so gracefully so that these reforms could easily be enacted. Perhaps in such ways that we see Great Britain living up to God-given vocation rather than wallowing in bygone supposed glories of empire.
To date most Scottish communities that have taken control of their land have done so necessarily within market mechanisms. They have had to raise money and in open competition with other bidders buy back what was long ago clan-community land. However, often the fact that a community has become empowered in itself discourages competing bidders. This causes a fall in market value - what we call “market spoiling.” In other cases, however, communities have been outbid and so private ownership continues against their wishes. The land reform legislation before the Scottish Parliament in the 1999 White Paper is modest. It mainly proposes a) rights of responsible access to land and b) for rural communities to register a buy-out interest when land comes on the market and to have pre-emptive rights of purchase through a legally constituted trust within six months at a price set by a government valuer.
Whilst modest, these measures nevertheless represent a shift in the axis of power from a position where the landowner had total autonomy to one where speculative investment can now be seriously compromised by the community. The landlords’ lobby group, the Scottish Landowners’ Federation, protests that it will result in a fall in land values.
The Scottish Executive (the new Parliament’s administration) has promised further legislation. It intends to make transition to community ownership a right that does not have to await the landlord’s intention to sell in designated crofting areas, these being of special ecological and cultural importance. Other work is proceeding to abolish the feudal system thereby preventing landlords from being able to impose “feudal burdens” that can hold tenants to ransom if they wish permission to make changes to property and land use. It is being suggested to the Scottish Executive that in abolishing feudalism, the principle that God ultimately owns the land should be left in place because it has symbolic importance.
Many Scottish land reform campaigners are disappointed that current proposed legislation makes no provision for land value taxation. Pressure will grow for this as a later stage. Not only could it provide a pool of revenue with which to finance community buy-outs within the market system; it would also, when capitalised into land values, reduce land prices, thereby making buy-outs less expensive. This, of course, is why the landed power lobby would oppose it stridently.
So far communities that have exercised buy-outs have been careful to structure their communal business activities separately from the trust that owns the land. This protects the land in the event of business bankruptcy by preventing it from being used as collateral in raising loans. It reflects the Naboth’s Vineyard principle that the land must not be treated as alienable (1 Kings 21).
The government administration’s underlying philosophy on land reform can best be discerned from the January 1999 Green Paper - a discussion document that preceded the firm legislative proposals now in the White Paper. In terms resonant with Agenda 21 of the Rio Summit, this states that:
The objective for land reform is to remove the land-based barriers to the sustainable development of rural communities. Sustainable development is not something that can be readily defined in the abstract; but in practice it will consist of development which is planned with appropriate regard for local communities, local employment and the environment. It therefore needs an integrated approach which takes account of social and economic as well as environmental aspects. To achieve this there needs to be increased diversity in the way land is owned and used ... and increased community involvement ... so that local people are not excluded from decisions which affect their lives and the lives of their communities.
In his introduction to the Green Paper, Lord Sewel, who was minister for Agriculture, the Environment and Fisheries, said:
The Government’s approach to land
reform has been to focus on the future, not the past. We need to sweep away
outdated land laws which have no place in modern society. We need to put in
place new and innovative means of properly securing the public interest in land
use and land ownership. We need to secure greater local involvement and local
accountability... But it is crucial that we regard land reform not as a
once-for-all issue but as an ongoing process. The Parliament will be able to
test how this early legislation works and how it effects change. They will then
have the opportunity to revisit and refine their initial achievement [to]
generate a longer-term agenda for further legislation.
There are many reasons why land reform in Scotland has generated sufficient energy to produce reform proposals in a political climate that does not otherwise favour intervention in market processes. These reasons, as I have indicated, are economic in that they relate to resource use efficiency. They are psychological in that they influence peoples’ sense of belonging, identity and values. But at a deeper level yet, they are spiritual. Spiritual influence is necessarily subtle. Sometimes it works with a public face, such as when the churches have supported calls for land reform. But more often it has effect in the private lives and underlying thought of key individuals, at levels that are both conscious and, doubtless, unconscious. The role played by prayer, for example, is not something that can ever be fully understood or quantified.
In the case studies that follow drawn from personal direct experience, I shall try to hint at the place of spirituality in some practical campaigns that have had an impact upon wider political agendas.
The Isle of Eigg Trust was the first of Scotland’s modern land trusts, though it took as its model the 1924 Stornoway Trust based on landed gifted by Viscount Leverhulme. A small group of us established it with virtually no financial resources, but once registered the trust had a psychological impact in “spoiling” market interest in what the owner himself had described as “a collector’s item.” The 3,000 hectare island was used as a playground by its millionaire proprietor. Residents unhappy with his regime were fearful of speaking out to the media: at one stage, after they had done so, some were issued eviction notices to leave their homes. However, over a period of nearly seven years islanders’ confidence grew. They reconstituted the original trust as the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust in partnership with the local authority, Highland Council, and the Scottish Wildlife Trust. The trust’s presence and increasingly wide network of political and media support showed that it was possible to challenge landed power.
Having refused to sell to the community in order to fulfil a court order to make a divorce settlement, the owner finally sold on to another private individual - a German who, it turned out, had fraudulently presented both his identity and financial position. When he went bankrupt, Eigg was placed back on the market through Farhad Vladi of the international property investment company, Vladi Private Islands. Vladi told the press that “Scottish islands are the Van Goghs on the international island market, masterpieces of mother nature.” “There is a sense of romance in buying islands,” he said candidly. “It is the ultimate purchase you can make, a complete miniature world of which you can be king.”
To the Eigg islanders he was “an oily[A50] character who gave us all the creeps.[A51]” Their resolve to acquire the island for the common good was heightened. Liberation theology played an implicit methodological role. Practical principles drawn from it comprised re-membering the historical constructs that had led to oppression, re-visioning how life could alternatively be with community empowerment, and re-claiming the island by acquiring the necessary skills in fundraising, politics, campaigning and community building.
Particular emphasis was placed by the trust on developing vision. Initially this was all it had because there was no money. Tom Forsyth, a founding trustee of the original trust, often quoted Psalms 127:1: “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.” Liberation theology also played a role of helping to legitimise the process for some of the residents, particularly older indigenous ones, who had perhaps not previously felt comfortable in challenging authority and were uncertain about how far they could trust the trust. For example, parallels were drawn between the Eigg freedom bid and the return from Exodus. People would pray together in their church for “the right thing to happen.” And an indigenous woman who is something of a spiritual anchor on the island has encouraged reflection on such scripture passages as Haggai 1, where God says that unless the requirements of the temple (i.e. the spiritual realm) are put first, the people will continue to be dissatisfied because “the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce.”
In 1997 Eigg was bought by the community after a massive fundraising campaign for £1.6 million. In the first year, members of three indigenous families were able to move back to the island and be given farm land, thereby increasing the indigenous population by 30%. The trust has successfully balanced expenditure with rental incomes. The creation of new infrastructure, such as the building of a visitor centre with shop and restaurant, housing improvements, opening a hostel, fencing wildlife and farming areas, native forest regeneration and rebuilding the pier has created an era of unprecedented full employment. Other communities have now followed the example of Eigg: indeed, that of Assynt achieved its objective before Eigg did and so provided much encouragement and practical advice during the buy-out campaign. Whilst the islanders recognise that they still have much to learn about holding responsibility and working together in accountable, participative ways, there is now a whole new atmosphere of confidence and achievement about the island.
In 1991 a Scottish businessman announced that he had purchased the mineral rights to a mountain on the remote north-west Scottish Isle of Harris. Furthermore, he had struck a deal with Redland Aggregates to turn it into a coastal “superquarry” to provide roadstone to the English and European markets. Initially the local community were favourably persuaded by his plans. Jobs were needed and people were unaware that at ten million tons per annum, the quarry would be fifty times bigger than existing large quarries in Britain. It would change the island’s way of life and destroy the mountain in what is a designated National Scenic Area.
A campaign of environmental and community education was launched. This had many components and contributors, but a spiritual face was shown in the government public inquiry when theological evidence was orchestrated by myself, the Rev. Prof. Donald MacLeod of the Free Church College, and Mi’Kmaq Warrior Chief Sulian Stone Eagle Herney, who was fighting off a similar superquarry proposal on his home territory in Nova Scotia, Canada.
Professor MacLeod said:
Theologically, the primary function of the creation is to serve as a revelation of God. To spoil the creation is to disable it from performing this function... There is an intimate link between man and the soil... Although such facts should not be used to endorse naked territorialism they do raise the consideration that rape of the environment is rape of the community itself... Man’s relationship with his environment has been disrupted by the Fall. One primary symptom of this is that he is always tempted to allow economic considerations to override ecological ones... Capitalism offers to help [the Isle of Harris] in characteristic fashion: it will relieve unemployment provided the people surrender guardianship of the land (thus violating their own deepest instincts).
My testimony suggested that the human relationship towards nature requires reverence:
To be reverent means to be concerned with the integrity of a thing or person; to value it for itself; to work with it symbiotically,[A52] in celebration of its being ... and not with a graceless spirit of mere utility. [This quarry] would be theologically justified only if it can be undertaken reverentially; if it can be felt as part of the movement of love. It would mean enquiring whether government have considered reappraising national transportation policy to minimise the need for further motorway construction... It would mean recycling used rock otherwise dumped in landfill sites. If new quarries really are needed ... reverence would entail assessing whether they are best located in National Scenic Areas, or at sites already despoiled by industrial activity.
Chief Stone Eagle said:
It is my firm belief, that we, of this generation have no hope of solving the environmental deterioration that is ongoing as we speak. However, I also have firm convictions that we of this generation, may be able to slow down the destruction of our Mother Earth enough so that the next generation that will be replacing our leaders will find the solutions and the cure for Mother Earth. If we fail to do so Mother Earth will cleanse herself of the offending organism that is killing her. This is our teachings.
The theological testimony brought massive international media attention to the quarry issue. It caused people to think about the issues at a level that was not just economic, but ontological.[A53] A ballot conducted after the public inquiry showed that local people had turned 68% against the quarry. They are now exploring holistic resource management. The local authority reversed their previous support for the scheme. Redland have now been bought out by Lafarge. They are no longer controlled from within Britain but from France. The report of what was the longest-running public inquiry ever held in Scotland has only just been completed (summer 1999). It speaks of economic benefits at the cost of environmental devastation. The Scottish Parliament is shortly to decide whether or not to allow planning permission to proceed.
Young unemployed people in Glasgow were in despair at the meaninglessness of their lives. Looking at archaeological artefacts where they lived in Govan, they realised that their home area had once been a sacred gathering place and seat of tribal democracy. They started to explore their identity, and found that their ethnic origins were very mixed. However, all felt drawn to recovering certain lost but positive features of the original Gaelic culture of Glasgow.
This posed a problem: how could a recovered indigenous local identity be reconciled with ethnic diversity that, in the case of their group, included members who originated from England, Egypt and even Russia?
Their research revealed that in 9th century Scotland, Viking invasions had caused a massive influx of new blood. In Gaelic the Gaels are the heartland[A54] people, whilst strangers are called the “Gall.” The 9th century people of mixed blood had therefore become known as the “Gall-Gael.” Ironically, the principle Gall-Gael area is now the Outer Hebrides - the island chain that includes Harris - and yet this happens to be the strongest remnant area for the Gaelic language and culture.
How, then, had the Hebrideans managed to reconcile such an impact upon their culture? How had they gone from being perceived as ethnically mixed to becoming the stronghold of Gaelic or Celtic values? Much of the answer lies in geographical remoteness, but an important dimension also rests in the great emphasis that Gaelic culture places on fostership. The “GalGael Trust,” as the Glasgow group called their organisation, therefore based its organising principle around the notion that a person belongs inasmuch as they are willing to cherish, and be cherished, by a place and its peoples. This allows for identity to be advanced in inclusive ways. It equates belonging with taking responsibility for place, interchanging gifts and values with those of place. As such, the problems of relating belonging to racial ethnicity are mitigated. All can share where all are willing to listen, and to share.
The GalGael learn traditional skills working with wood and stone. This builds confidence, competence and cultural awareness. Because many of the greenwood building skills have been lost from Scotland but were originally a British-wide indigenous tradition, they are being imported back from England - a delightful twist at a time when cultural tension exists between Scotland and England. This gives concrete meaning to GalGael principles of cultural sharing.
In January 1999, when a gale blew down many trees in Glasgow, they got military help to gather the trunks and hire a portable sawmill to mill timber. With this and assisted by a retired shipwright and folklorist, John MacAulay from Harris, they have built a traditional longhouse and a 3 metre model traditional Hebridean longship. The hope is next to build a full scale ship. The longhouse is symbolically important to the GalGael. Amongst native American peoples, in Greenland, Iceland, and in parts of Europe including Scotland and England, the longhouse was where tribal peoples gathered to conduct politics and make law. In learning practical cultural skills (which are also potentially marketable), the GalGael are therefore also concerned to encourage participative politics whereby people like them, who have often been marginalised by mainstream political processes, reclaim control of their own destinies. Because this gives life it excites people. Accordingly, after a slow start considerable local political support and funding is starting to come their way. The project’s inspirational leader, Colin MacLeod, has no particular religious affiliation and yet he describes the ideal of rebuilding meaningful community as being about recognising “the unity of work and worship.”
The People & Parliament project started when a small group of citizens came together with common passion to deepen and broaden the debate in Scotland about who we are, what we care about and how we think the new Parliament should work. The project was convened by Canon Kenyon Wright, chair of the executive of the Scottish Constitutional Convention, the body which steered the consensual political process that led to the setting up of Scotland’s new Parliament. Canon Wright maintains that he learned about liberation theology from Indians whilst working in India. Several other members of the steering committee were also theologically informed. One came from a Muslim family background.
The first stage in the process was to circulate a simple leaflet widely across Scotland. Some 30,000 were printed. This encouraged ordinary people to get together in neighbourhoods, schools, workplaces, churches and interest groups. After a warm up question in which each person was invited to share with other group members one experience of what living in Scotland means for them, they were asked, collectively, to complete three paragraphs beginning:
1. WE ARE A PEOPLE WHO...
2. BY THE YEAR 2020 WE WOULD LIKE TO SEE A SCOTLAND IN WHICH...
3. WE THEREFORE EXPECT OUR PARLIAMENT TO WORK WITH THE PEOPLE IN WAYS WHICH...
Relationship with Parliament
Over 450 groups met to discuss these questions. Local conferences were held and attended by Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs). Results were analysed to select indicative statements - ones that made a clear impact. These were sorted according to type. Drawing from both Jesuit and Quaker principles of spiritual discernment, effort was made to search for the taproot of groups’ feelings rather than getting tangled in the mass of grassroots data. Reports were produced and sent to participants and MSPs to help them better understand the values, aspirations and expectations of the nation. There is evidence that this had a direct effect on the nature of national political debate. Many participants remarked that the process helped them understand themselves, Scotland and participative democracy more deeply. There was wonderful diversity in the responses, but key themes which emerged consistently and passionately were:
· Great pride in and a strong sense of identification with the Scottish environment. People called for land reform and sustainable development in both rural areas and cities.
· People expressed a strong sense of belonging, wishing their communities to be inclusive, supportive and nurturing, where “children are celebrated, not ignored,” and “the generation coming behind us has something to look forward to in their old age.”
· There was recognition of shortcomings and a lack of confidence in Scottish people. Many saw the reality of conscious and unconscious racism and called for a Scottishness based on civic, not ethnic identity.
· People disliked trends in modern society that fragment society and break up community, leading to poverty and stigmatisation of those with, for example, mental illness.
· Many were passionate about health services and the education system as a way for individuals to realise their potential and build “a broad economy based on a diversity of skills.”
· People expressed considerable disillusionment with power politics. They wanted accessibility and accountability, with meaningful local ability to engage participatively. A group of primary school children looked towards a Parliament that “does not take away our freedoms, but adds to our lives.” A group of people living in urban poverty urged politicians to remember that “All power is a service.”
Practical ideas for a more effective politics included:
MSPs “listening to us first and foremost” rather than always toeing the party
line, citizenship education, devolution of power to local levels wherever
possible, parliamentary committees meeting in the regions, use of electronic
communications and voting technology, training MSPs in techniques of listening
and participation, and crèche facilities at political gatherings and in the
In this text I have tried to show how sovereign power comes to a nation through the land and its people, from God. The land is God’s own land and should therefore be treated with reverence. The reconstitution of a nation, such as Russia or Scotland, may be assisted by drawing with integrity (but not with manipulative intent) upon spiritual roots. This requires faith in the movement of the Spirit and a willingness to be of service in that work of God.
Experience in Scotland leads people like me to believe that the taproot of spiritual values in a nation is often still alive even where secularism has destroyed surface growth. That taproot is a source of both values and energy onto which new ways forward for a people can be grafted. In this, Scotland’s and Russia’s special connection with St Andrew indicates the special bond such as has made the writing of a text like this a relatively easy matter.
We have seen how community land ownership may represent a third way between the polar opposites of collectivisation and privatisation of the land. In this it represents the principle of proportionality, whereby the essence of right relationship in a human ecology is to balance contesting social potentialities in accordance with what best resonates with a sense of justice. Justice can mean many things to different people, but the overwhelming scriptural understanding is that it means putting first the needs of those in society, and that in nature, where the needs are greatest. Private wealth creation is acceptable, indeed, necessary, but only inasmuch as it serves this over-riding objective that is predicated on love. Large-scale private landownership is therefore to be challenged because it is not proportional to the legitimate needs of others: it militates against God’s providence. I now wish to draw three principal conclusions that follow from this.
The work of spiritual regeneration is not primarily our work; it is the work of God that may be carried out through us. We must not therefore be overly-confident that we always know what we are doing, or that what we are doing is always right. We must give space both to God and other people to find their ways forward. Christianity is a dynamic religion. The Holy Spirit moves as a living force (John 16:4-15), the Sophia-like feminine face of God. Accordingly, we must strive constantly to deepen the spiritual power of discernment by which the taproot of our own and national values might be sifted through to ascertain their highest vocation. Beauty is the touchstone of discernment. Tradition too is important, but it must not be allowed to block the ongoing revelation of the Spirit. We should remember that even in Islam, which considers the Koran to be the final revelation of God, there are signs of a liberation theology that liberates theology from moribund strictures. Let me quote on this the influential Iranian philosopher, Abdolkarim Sorush, because his words can be applied to many of our traditions. Quoted in Le Monde Diplomatique, he says:
We must stop deluding ourselves by claiming that Islam gives us teachings that meet all the needs of a modern society, such as democracy and human rights... The religion of the Prophet lays down the duties of a believer, whereas democracy guarantees the rights of the citizen. It is up to us Third World intellectuals to make them compatible... [It is achieved] quite simply by trying to imagine what stances the Prophet would take if he returned to earth today. He would know how to make the distinction between the fundamental principles of the Koran, which are very few, and the host of individual judgements that related, 14 centuries ago, to a society very different from ours.
I know very little about the Russian Orthodox Church. But I do know that if it is like our churches in the west; if it is like every other institution; it will have both its “fallen” persona to live with and its higher, God-given vocation to live up to. I therefore wish it well. The role it might yet have to play in helping the Russian peoples to discern their personal and national vocations before God could be of very great importance for the whole world. It is not for nothing that in this paper I have emphasised Sophia as the feminine face of the divine. In my experience this is central to spiritual renewal. Perhaps this is a fact of which the Russian Orthodox Church is already well aware. I do hope so.
The Mir space lab has been a high-altitude symbol of co-operation. But on earth too, we need patterns and examples of community with one another and the land. The Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust is one such example. Another is the Russian mir of a bygone era. Of this, Pipes’ Russia under the Old Regime says:
The basic social unit of the ancient Slavs was a tribal community, estimated to have consisted of some fifty or sixty people, all related by blood and working as a team. In time, the communities based on blood relationship dissolved, giving way to a type of communal organization based on joint ownership of arable and meadow, called in Russian MIR or OBSHCHINA...
Economic factors seem also to have affected its evolution to the extent that there exists a demonstrable connection between the availability of land and communal tenure: where land is scarce, the communal form of tenure tends to prevail, but where it is abundant it is replaced by household or even family tenure. Whatever the merits of the case, in the imperial period the vast majority of the Russian peasants held their land communally; in the central provinces the commune was virtually universal. The arable was divided into sections corresponding to the quality of the soil and distance from the village. Each household had the right to claim in every such section one or more strips corresponding to the number of its adult members... The principal purpose of this arrangement was to enable every peasant to pay his share of rents and taxes. Since households grew or diminished over time, every so often (e.g. at nine-, twelve-, or fifteen-year intervals) the commune took its own census, on the basis of which it carried out a ‘back[A55] repartition’ resulting in a re-allotment of the strips. The system was meant to guarantee every peasant an equitable share of the land, and every household enough land to support itself and to meet its responsibilities to the landlord and state.
In other words, here was a system that embodied the Old Testament Jubilee provisions that Christ proclaimed as “the acceptable year of the Lord.” We should note in particular that the means of financing public spending was geofiscal - that is, it was taxation based upon use of the earth.
Community ownership of land can be expected to have a fundamentally different impact on ecology than those forms of ownership that are centralised either around a multinational corporation or state political apparatus. It is a natural aspiration of people in community to want to leave the soil for their children in at least as good heart as they found it. Accordingly, if the social structures of land ownership are structured to express right relationship, ecological aspects of relationship will have a greater chance of being responsibly maintained. Evidence of this is already merging in communities like Eigg, where the conservation of native flora and fauna is given a very high priority. It is seen as a core part of the island’s identity.
Patterns of agriculture, forestry and fisheries management that optimalise economic linkages and multipliers over the long term for community benefit tend also to optimalise the conservation of biodiversity. This is because biodiversity is necessary for the healthy maintenance of ecosystems including, of course, soil quality. Accordingly, forms of land use that work as closely as possible with natural ecosystems, such as organic farming and forestry based upon native species, merit careful consideration. So also does fair trade, both through local trading systems and in international relations that aim to outlaw exploitation. Allan Savory’s work, Holistic Resource Management, is one example of a text that illustrates the integration of economic, social and biological factors. He writes in a Zimbabwean context, but the ideas have widespread relevance elsewhere. The over-arching goal of economic efficiency through holistic resource management is to achieve a high quality of life. This is not necessarily the same as standard of living in the western, money-measured sense. It means much more than that. As His Late Majesty King Jigme Singye Wangchuck of Bhutan expressed his country’s objectives for national development, “Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product.”
Learning to relate to one another and the environment in a holistic way - one that respects the balance or proportionality and the interconnection of all things - requires full integration of the capacities of the head with which to think rationally, the heart with which to feel values, and the hand with which to act and manage efficiently. The educational implications of this are profound, but exciting. For example, in a paper elsewhere about national science policy I have suggested that:
In the curriculum, such holistic science might involve studying, for example, how the biochemistry of an approach like organic farming equates with local biodiversity; how biodiversity equates with the optimal balance of arable and livestock ... with animal welfare ... with micro and possibly macro climatic effects of land use ... with the natural control of pests and diseases in plants and animals ... with ecological restoration, including the computer modelling thereof for differing eco-niches ... with linkages and multipliers in the local economy ... with the inspiration of artistic creativity through the landscape created ... with using all the senses and treasuring their pleasures ... with the spiritual ability to see anew why food and its production is blessed ... and with the strengthening of human community through people moving more into ‘right relationship’ with one another and nature.[A56]
Now let us look further at the economic frameworks that might support this and be supported by it.
Ecclesiastes 5:9 in the Authorised or “King James” English translation of the Bible is rather different from modern translations. It says, “The profit of the earth is for all.” It goes on to maintain that nobody is above depending upon nature’s divinely ordained providence because even, “the king himself is served by the field.”
This expression about the “profit of the earth” was used as the motto of the nineteenth century Highland Land Law Reform Association which campaigned, successfully, for the survival of crofting tenure - Scotland’s closest equivalent to the mir. Because alternative translations of the passage are so disappointingly different there may be a problem in using it as a “scripture proof” for economic systems that share land rental in the community. That, however, is not a problem. In Capital and the Kingdom the English theologian, Timothy Gorringe, points out that the whole context of Biblical economics allows for the deepest radical understanding of wealth distribution. He says:
[In the Old Testament] strictly speaking there is no such thing as charity, the rich helping the poor. The Hebrew word translated “almsgiving” is in fact tsedequah, “justice” (Proverbs 10:2; Deuteronomy 4:24; cf. Matthew 6:1-2). Justice is restoring to the poor what is theirs. But secondly, the Deuteronomists and others who worked on programmes for reconstruction emphasised the need of the Jubilee law, by which alienated property was restored to it original owners, so doing away with poverty altogether.
Andelson & Dawsey in their review of “liberation theology for a post-Marxist world” see the work of the American economist, Henry George, as “updating the Mosaic model.” Professor Andelson surmises:
He was not merely a philosopher and sage; he was a seer, a forerunner, a prophet; a teacher sent from God. And we can say of him as the Scriptures say: “There was a man sent of God whose name was John.” And I believe I mock not those Scriptures when I say: There was a man sent from God whose name was Henry George!
The economics and fiscal implications of George’s geofiscal “land value taxation” are explored for depth in, for example, Tideman’s Land and Taxation, and in a Russian context in Lvov’s, The Road to the 21st Century: Strategic Problems & Prospects of the Russian Economy. The principle is that rent, which should reflect the social value of land given to it by the community, should benefit the common purse. It should be a principal, if not the principal, source of public finance. In the west this rental value is largely squandered on the profligate lifestyles of the idle rich who live off the unearned income of tenants’ labour. But as Lvov says:
In Russia the land has not yet been divided between private owners. It is important to use this unique situation and solve the problem of property rights for land not in the interests of a very small group of people but in the interests of society. We cannot use western countries as an example... [We need] a system of land use which combines economic efficiency with social justice.
As Scotland’s crofting system shows, when leases are granted by a community trust, leasehold rather than freehold systems can be adequate to guarantee secure possession and the ability to transfer usufructual rights, provided that users of the land pay rents to the community for the benefits they receive in occupying and using sites.
Perhaps it is time for Russia to re-invent the mir. Perhaps Russia and Scotland can learn from one another’s experience.
Even the prophets, as I have already suggested, had their flaws before God, and perhaps before their fellow humankind too. Andelson & Dawsey make the following powerful reflection on Moses.
Our last picture of Moses, before he dies in Moab, finds him on Pisgah looking down across the Jordan, seeing - but not being able to enter - the place that he had struggled for so long to reach.
In part, Moses’ exclusion, as already noted, was the consequence of the “evil report of the land” (Numbers 14). But the full reason he was barred from the land relates to his own response to the doubts about God’s promise. Moses, as leader of the community, was held responsible for its lack of faith (Numbers 14:11, 26-38). God’s accusation to Moses was, “You did not believe me, to sanctify me in the eyes of the people of Israel” (Numbers 20:12).
Rooted in this accusation is a relevant question that presses upon civilization at the brink of the twenty-first century, a question that speaks to the rights of all people to land in Latin America and virtually every continent: Do we really believe that the earth is the Lord’s? If so, how are we responsible for making this a sacred principle - for sanctifying God - in the eyes of the people?
Therein lies the challenge to both Russia’s people and leadership today. It applies equally to Scotland, England, and the rest of the world. “Do we really believe?” “How are we responsible?” And can we find the courage to persevere in searching, like Elijah, for that Remnant of 7,000 like-minded souls ... even though we might be convinced that we’re the only one left; even though we think we cannot survive persecution for much longer?
Jesus instructed us not to call one another by servile titles, but to call each other “Friends” (John 15:15). It is for this reason that my own spiritual denomination, the Quakers, are officially called The Religious Society of Friends. I believe that in Russian culture “friend” translates as “comrade.” Well, Comrades, we have seen what happens to both capitalism and communism without spirituality. We have seen how far power of any political colour falls from grace if it loses sight of God-given higher vocation. We have seen how this turns the land to desert; how it steals the smile from the children’s’ faces and leaves them with no future.
How about we refuse to accept this any longer? How about we start the change with ourselves, now, as the sacrament of this present moment? How about we have a revolution?
These are inserted at the end of the text here for convenience, as they have already been posted on the website page that preceded this one. They are included here so that this file alone can preserve the document complete.
Foreword to Land, Power & National Identity
In May 1999 I attended a bizarre hearing in Stirling Sheriff Court to write a report for the journal, Land and Liberty. Alastair McIntosh was helping to defend low-income evicted tenants - the “Carbeth Hutters” – on the grounds that God theoretically owns the land under Scots feudal law, therefore it should be used for community benefit. As a consultant on land reform to the Natural Resources Committee of the Russian parliament - the Duma - and as co-chair of the Duma Parliamentary Hearings on Land
Policy in 1999, I was struck by the relevance of
Alastair’s insights to Russia.
I drew the matter to the attention of Dr Dmitry Lvov, Academician-Secretary of the Department of Economics at the Russian Academy of Sciences. Lvov is one of Russia’s most respected economists. He had come to acknowledge that the integration of land, spirituality and community empowerment was a precondition for re-building national identity. In recognition of this, he was helping to launch a new movement called Science & Religion. He urged me to invite Alastair to prepare a document for discussion by senior academic, religious and political figures.[i][ii]
Within two weeks (to meet a tight translator’s
deadline), Alastair had produced Land,
Power and National Identity – a text which, he says, “is not polished, but
represents ‘doing theology’ in the real world.” In February 2000 I accompanied
him to seminars at Lvov’s office at the Academy of Sciences, in the Holy
Trinity Sergyev Monastery, and at the Duma with Sergei Glasyev, a Deputy who
chairs the powerful parliamentary Economics Committee.
The response was overwhelmingly positive. Dr Sergei
Shirokov, a leading Orthodox theologian, and Professor Eduard Afanaslev, dean
of economics at the Russian Orthodox University both called it “divine
providence.” Dr Mikhail Gelvanovsky, director of the National Institute for
Development, said: “Man alone cannot save this country, but with God's help
maybe we can.”
Dr Tatiana Roskoshnaya, Executive Director of the
Land & Public Welfare
Foundation, St Petersburg, spoke for many in concluding: “This text penetrates deeply into the Biblical economic principle that ‘The profit of the Earth is for all.’ As such, it draws on the wealth of our own spiritual traditions. It suggests a third way between communism and capitalism - one where land ownership and the benefits from rent are vested substantially in the community.”
I can but concur and add my voice in warm commendation.
Centre for Land Policy Studies, London
(The following is adapted as a general introduction for Healing
Nationhood but it was originally drafted for Land, Power & National
is a unique collection of writings on liberation theology and social activism
as applied, broadly, to nation-building. The main piece of work, published here
in English for the first time, was instigated by some of Russia’s most senior
economists and theologians. Other articles range from the address that launched
land reform on the Isle of Eigg to essays in national newspapers and work
commissioned by the United Nations Environment Programme. Common to all is the
question of how we can create a three-way sense of community – with place and
nature, with one another in society, and with those aspects of inner life that
we might relate to in terms of “God.”
As an executive of the World Council of Churches I was
responsible for one of the five programmes decided on at the Uppsala Assembly
in 1968, Participation in Change. I
directed my work to the grassroots, starting in Asia, living, eating, sleeping
in the homes of the poor to find how they were coping with the vast changes of
our century. There I made vivid contact with small Christian communities –
“born from below,” not fashioned “from above.” I concluded that the most
commanding theological issue worldwide concerned the ownership and use of land.
For me, theology is the faith-basis for changing history
in the direction of the Kingdom of God. Scholarship can be done behind desks
and within walls. Not theology. Theology demands engagement, in which
scholarship forms an ingredient.
Theology that underpins the fight for justice has a
compelling quality which abstract theology of the past has lacked. For the
celebration of the first anniversary of the success of the revolution in
Nicaragua, I stayed with Xabier Gorostiaga in the Jesuit centre in Managua.
Fidel Castro had come to participate. He sent a messenger to ask Xabier to
provide a list of theological books he should be reading. Xabier did so. Next
day the messenger was back. Fidel had already read all these. What else should
he be reading?
It is in this kind of company that I would place Alastair McIntosh. He has the qualities of a liberation theologian. He does careful research – his use of the Bible is particularly sensitive. He is engaged where it matters – with rural land use, with the urban poor and in advancing democratic process.
This text is about the “healing of the nations”; this text
is a landmark.
Rev. Dr. Ian M. Fraser
Afterword - a
View from Islam
by Dr Bashir Maan
Dr Bashir Maan is a
distinguished British Muslim of Pakistani origin. He is the Scottish
Representative on the Executive of the Muslim Council of Great Britain and
Spokesperson for the Glasgow Islamic Centre. For 8 years he was Chairman of the
Glasgow Central Mosque Committee. As an elected city councillor, he chairs the
Strathclyde Joint Police Board -
Britain’s second-largest police force. Since 1991 he has worked
informally with Alastair McIntosh on Islam-Christian relations. In this
Afterword he briefly sets land economics in an Islamic context.
It is a cause of both hope and pleasure to me that in presenting a Christian appraisal of “Land, Power and National Identity,” Alastair McIntosh has shown respect for all faiths that understand love to be central to the nature of God.
Christianity and Islam have a lot in common and yet they have been locked in hostility to each other for over a milennium. Indeed, Islam is the continuation of Judaism and Christianity. The Qur’an contains a vast number of events, stories and injunctions from the New and Old Testaments.
To cite just one example to emphasise this close relationship, the Qur’an says, “Say: we believe in God almighty and that which is revealed to us and that which was revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus and to all other Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and to Him we submit (Surah 3:84).
The time has come when these two largest religions of the world should forget the past and join hands to work for the preservation and freedom of practice of their respective faiths and for the good of God’s creation at large, otherwise they are both in danger of being engulfed by the fast-rising tide of secularism and materialism.
The Islamic economic position is very akin to the Biblical one. It puts great emphasis on the distribution of wealth in a way that is fair as well as practical and productive. According to the Qur’an, land and wealth in all its forms is a thing created by Allah and is His property. The right of ownership over something that accrues to a person is delegated to him by Allah.
A person, therefore, has the right to own land and property and to produce more wealth with it, but contrary to the capitalistic and materialistic economic system, Islamic economics requires that this wealth must be shared also by others: that is, by the poor and the needy, the sick and disabled, the orphans and widows, the destitute and all other creatures of this earth.
With such common humane ideals Islam and Christianity can give hope to the impoverished and deprived amongst humanity. I therefore commend this work by Alastair McIntosh. It suggests that the points around which people of faith can unite may be closer to the will of God than those issues which, too often, have been used to divide us.
Dr Bashir Maan
Glasgow Islamic Centre.
About the Author
Alastair McIntosh holds science and management degrees from the universities of Aberdeen and Edinburgh. He has published numerous scholarly papers in journals of finance, anthropology, religion, politics, law, psychology, environment, cultural studies and poetry. He has published books on marketing and public relations, and has recently completed Soil and Soul, a work on community empowerment, land reform and cultural psychotherapy. He lectured in human ecology for nearly seven years at the University of Edinburgh until the university closed down the Centre for Human Ecology in the midst of controversy about his work as a founding trustee of the Isle of Eigg Trust and challenging corporate power. In an editorial defending his work, New Scientist (4-5-96), described the Centre for Human Ecology as upholding “a tradition of fearless inquiry.”
Due to the pioneering efforts of its emeritus director, Dr Ulrich Loening, many of the CHE’s visiting fellows have been from Russia including, for example, Professor Vladimir Kolontai of the Russian Academy of Sciences who came to study the origins and impacts of market economies. Alastair’s teaching now takes place mainly through public lectures to such bodies as the Edinburgh International Festival, the Schumacher Society (of which he is an honorary fellow), the Centre for Human Ecology itself (which has been reconstituted independently with degree-awarding accreditation from the Open University), and the Joint Services Command & Staff College for senior military officers -where he speaks once a year on the political power of non-violence. He has worked for four years in Papua New Guinea in education, micro-hydro electric power and sustainable tropical forestry. A Quaker, Alastair is a trustee of community organisations such as the GalGael Trust, theological adviser to the Carbeth Hutters Trust, and a steering committee member of People & Parliament. He has two children by a first marriage and lives with his partner, Vérène Nicolas, in Kinghorn, Scotland, from where he makes regular visits to his home Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.
Work that has contributed to this paper has been made
possible by generous assistance from the Joseph
Rowntree Charitable Trust, the Christendom
Trust, the Russell Trust and the Konrad Zweig Trust. For diverse inputs
the writer additionally warmly acknowledges Chris Ballance, Tess Darwin,
Christine Davis, Tom Forsyth, Rev. Dr Ian Fraser, Frank Gillingham, Professor
Timothy Gorringe, Samantha Graham, Professor George Gretton, Fred Harrison, Sir
Kenneth Jupp, Professor Vladimir Kolontai, Feja Mira Lesniewska, Dr Steven
Mackie, Vérène Nicolas, Dr Michael Northcott, Professor Richard Roberts, Jane
Rosegrant, Helen Steven, Ninian Crichton Stuart and Andy Wightman.
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McIntosh, Alastair (with MacLeod, D. & Stone Eagle Herney, S) (1995). Public Inquiry on the Proposed Harris Superquarry: Witness on the Theological Considerations Concerning Superquarrying and the Integrity of Creation (including appendix on “The Fallacy of the Presumption of Symmetrical Depreciation in the Substitutionality of Natural and Human-Made Capital”), Journal of Law and Religion, XI:2, Hamline University Law School, USA. 755-791.
McIntosh, Alastair (1996). The Emperor has no Clothes ... Let us Paint our Loincloths Rainbow: A Classical and Feminist Critique of Contemporary Science Policy, Environmental Values, 5:1, 3-30.
McIntosh, Alastair (1997). The GalGael Peoples of Scotland, Cencrastus, 56, Edinburgh, 6-15.
McIntosh, Alastair (1999a). Liberation Theology in Scottish Community Empowerment, in Crowther, Jim, Martin, Ian & Shaw, Mae (eds.), Popular Education and Social Movements in Scotland Today, National Institute of Adult Continuing Education, Leicester, 205-215.
McIntosh, Alastair (1999b). The Case for God: Carbeth Hutters’ Feudal Defence Against Eviction, Ecotheology, at press.
MacIntyre, Alasdair (1988). Whose Justice? Which Rationality? Duckworth, London.
MacKay, James (ed.) (1993). Robert Burns: the Complete Poetical Works, Alloway Publishing, Scotland.
Meeks, W. A. et. al. (eds.) (1993). The HarperCollins Study Bible: New Revised Standard Edition, HarperCollins, London.
Miller, Alice (1987). For Your Own Good: The Roots of Violence in Child-Rearing, Virago, London.
National Environmental Secretariat (Bhutan) (1992). Bhutan: Towards Sustainable Development in a Unique Environment, Thimphu.
Northcott, M. (1996). The Environment and Christian Ethics, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Noyes, Richard (ed.) (1991). Now the Synthesis: Capitalism, Socialism & the New Social Contract, Shepheard-Walwyn, London.
O’Driscoll, R. (ed.) (1982). The Celtic Consciousness, Dolmen/Canongate, Portlaoise/Edinburgh.
Owensby, Walter (1988). Economics for Prophets: a Primer on Concepts, Realities, and Values in our Economic System, Freedmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
People & Parliament (1999). People & Parliament: Reshaping Scotland? The People Speak - the Full Technical Report, Edinburgh (available £4 from Craighead Institute, 25 Rose Street, Glasgow G3).
Pipes, Richard (1974). Russia under the Old Regime, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London.
Plato (1961). The Collected Dialogues, Bollingen, Princeton University Press, New Jersey.
Redfearn, David (1992). Tolstoy: Principles for a New World Order, Shepheard-Walwyn, London.
Rouleau, Éric (1999). Islam Confronts Islam in Iran, Le Monde Diplomatique, English edition, June 1999, London, 1-3.
Ross, Hugh McGregor (1998). Jesus untouched by the Church: His Teachings in the Gospel of Thomas, William Sessions, York.
Ruether, R. R. (1984). Sexism and God-Talk: Toward a Feminist Theology, SCM, London.
Samuels, A. (1993). The Political Psyche, Routledge, London.
Savory, A. (1988). Holistic Resource Management, Island, Washington DC.
Schumacher, E. F. (1974). Small is Beautiful: a Study of Economics as if People Mattered, Abacus, London.
Scottish Executive, Land Reform: Proposals for Legislation, The Stationery Office, Edinburgh.
Sivarasksa, Sulak (1999). Global Healing, Thai Inter-Religious Commission for Development, Bangkok.
Stair, James Dalrymple, Viscount of (1681). Institutions of the Law of Scotland, Edinburgh & Glasgow Universities’ Press (1693 edn., 1981), Scotland.
Smith, A. (1986 (1776)). The Wealth of Nations, Penguin Classics, Harmondsworth.
Storr, Anthony (1983). Jung: Selected Writings, Fontana, London.
Tart, C. T. (ed.) (1969). Altered States of Consciousness, Doubleday Anchor, New York.
Tideman, Nicolaus (ed.) (1994). Land and Taxation, Shepheard-Walwyn, London.
Turnbull, Michael (1997). Saint Andrew: Scotland’s Myth and Identity, Saint Andrew Press, Edinburgh.
Visser, Wayne & McIntosh, Alastair (1998). A Short Review of the Historical Critique of Usury, Accounting, Business & Financial History, 8:2, Routledge, London, 175-189.
Weber, M. (1976). The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, George Allen & Unwin, London.
Wightman, A. (1996). Who Owns Scotland, Canongate, Edinburgh.
Wink, Walter (1986). Unmasking the Powers, Fortress Press, Philadelphia.
Wink, Walter (1992). Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination, Fortress Press, Philadelphia.
Wink, Walter (1998). The Powers that Be, Doubleday, USA/London.
White, Lynn (1967). The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis, Science, 155, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1203-1207.
 Scottish Executive 1999, 6.
 Proverbs 29:18, King James translation.
 John 10:10.
 In Dunn (ed.) 1992, 49-51. I have adapted a number of the following quotations from MacDiarmid from the Scots tongue.
 In Bold 1990, 495.
 A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle lines 2638-40, in Dunn (ed.) 1992.
 In Bold 1990, 420.
 In Bold 1990, 316-7.
 A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle lines 2526-9, in Dunn (ed.) 1992.
 On a Raised Beach in Dunn (ed.) 1992, 61-63, my emphasis.
 Dìreadh II, in Bold 1990, 405.
 In Bold 1990, 442.
 A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle, in Dunn (ed.) 1992, line 482.
 A Moment in Eternity, in Greive 1983, 40; cf. Ephesians 5:14.
 A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle (Farewell to Dostoevski), in Dunn (ed.) 1992, 46.
 First Hymn, in Dunn (ed.) 1992, 49-51.
 1984, 1986 & 1992, Fortress Press, USA.
 Wink 1998.
 1611 King James authorised translation..
 Wink 1986, 95-96 (in his chapter entitled “The Angels of the Nations.”), referring to Buber’s “The Gods of the Nations and God.”
 Wink 1992, 10.
 cf. Plato’s Phaedrus; also Symposium and Phaedo, Plato 1961.
 Bloomfield & Dunn 1989, 7, 20, my emphasis.
 HarperCollins Study Bible, maps 8 & 10.
 MacDonald 1990.
 Turnbull 1997, 78-79.
 MacAlister (ed.) 1938.
 John 1:35-42.
 Declaration of Arbroath, trans. Scottish Record Office, Edinburgh, HMSO.
 Weber 1976; McIntosh 1999a.
 Tom Forsyth, pers. com..
 Eliade 1989.
 Charques 1962, 20-21.
 Charques 1962, 40.
 Cited in Bradstock 1997, 26.
 Daniel 10. See Wink 1986, 1998.
 Ezekiel 47:1-12.
 Ezekiel 36:33-36.
 Matthew 6:10; Luke 17:20-21.
 Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:35; Galatians 3:28.
 This is not canonical in the Latin vulgate Bible but I believe it is in the Slavonic and Greek versions.
 Charques 1962, 23.
 I am given to understand that these issues may be explored in the work of such Russian theologians as Vlidimir Lorsky and Sergi Bulgakov.
 Johnston & Sampson 1994, vii-viii.
 Storr (ed.) 1983, 400.
 Storr (ed.) 1983, 402.
 Storr (ed.) 1983, 403
 Storr (ed.) 1983, 391, 379, 380.
 Storr (ed.) 1983, 380, 383, 360.
 Argyll 1997, 2.
 Pahnke, Walter & Richards, William, Implications of LSD and Experimental Mysticism, in Tart (ed.) 1969, 409-439.
 Andelson & Dawsey 1992, 4-5, cf. Freire 1972.
 Linden 1997, 12-13.
 Wooster, Henry, Faith at the Ramparts: The Philippine Catholic Church and the 1986 Revolution, in Johnston & Samuel 1994, 153-176.
 Freire 1972, 21-22.
 Freire 1972, 24-25.
 Gutierrez 1988, xxxvii.
 King James Version.
 Guttierez 1983, 1988.
 Genesis 18:16-33. See also outstanding discussion concerning God and Job in Jung 1984.
 Cassidy 1988.
 Hampson 1990; also Loades (ed.) 1990, Daly 1973.
 Reuther 1984.
 Hick 1983.
 Dr Bashir Maan of Glasgow Mosque advises me that reference to this is made in Ibn Kathir’s commentary on the Koran on Surah III, Ale Imran.
 For discussion of these points see Cox, Harvey, World Religions and Conflict Resolution in Johnston & Sampson (eds.), 266-282.
 MacIntyre 1988, 388.
 Johnston, Douglas, Looking Ahead: Toward a New Paradigm, in Johnston & Sampson (eds.) 1994, 316-337.
 Sivarasksa 1999.
 Schumacher 1974, 60.
 Gutierrez 1983, 20.
 In Boff & Elizondo (eds.) 139.
 Of the Rent of Land, Smith 1986, 247-367.
 Noyes (ed.) 1991, 225-230. Of the 30 distinguished economists who signed the letter, the three with Nobel prizes were Robert Solow, Franco Modigliani and James Tobin. A fourth signatory, William Vickery, was to be awarded the Nobel prize in 1996.
 See Lvov, Dmitry(ed.) (1999). The Road to the 21st Century: Strategic Problems & Prospects of the Russian Economy, Moscow, reviewed in Barron 1999.
 Harrison 1983, 182; Blundell in Tideman (ed.) 1994, 157-169.
 Ian Barron, summer 1999, 14, my emphasis.
 Janzen 1992.
 A translation used by the World Council of Churches.
 White 1967; cf. Linzey & Cohn-Sherbok 1997.
 Janzen 1992.
 Northcott 1996, 188.
 For discussion of efficiency of property rights in Christian history see Kingston 1992.
 See Choudhury & Malik 1992.
 Visser & McIntosh, 1998.
 For standard treatment see Bromwich 1976; for critiques within ecological economics see Daly & Cobb 1990.
 Loening 1991.
 Appendix to McIntosh 1995 - The Fallacy of the Presumption of Symmetrical Depreciation in the Substitutionality of Natural and Human-Made Capital.
 Note that this book is non-canonical in some traditions. If this is a problem, the reader is referred instead to the universally canonical Proverbs 8.
 Fraser 1992, 103.
 Harriss 1993.
 Scots Paraphrase version.
 de Mello 1992.
 This important text was found in a cave in Egypt in 1945, in Ross 1988, 34 (my emphasis).
 Oxford English Dictionary.
 For penetrating discussion of “vernacular values” in this respect see Illich 1991.
 See Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, London; the Parapsychology Association, USA, etc.
 Wink 1992, 99.
 2 Esdras, as printed in the HarperCollins NRSV apocrypha (Meeks (ed.) 1993), is numbered as 3 Esdras in the Slavonic Bible. I ponder whether 11:25-28 might be the source of a Russian monk having said that three Romes (Reichs) would rise, but a fourth there would never be.
 Hampson 1990, 88.
 One Foot in Eden, in Dunn (ed.) 1992, 29-30.
 Janzen 1992.
 Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power, Lorde 1984, 53-59.
 Lorde 1984, 16-17.
 Blake, William, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: 7.
 Andelson & Dawsey 1992, 62.
 The Carbeth Hutters in Stirling Sheriff Court - McIntosh 1999b.
 McIntosh 1999b.
 Gretton 1992, 60-61, 59, 54, 59.
 Wightman 1996.
 Wightman et al., at press.
 McDiarmid, J. M., 1926, The Deer Forests and How they are Bleeding Scotland White, Scottish Home Rule Association, Glasgow.
 The People’s Paper, No. 45, March 12 1853.
 Strathallan’s Lament in Mackay (ed) 1993, 287.
 See, for example, Hope, Timmel & Hodzi, 1995, from African experience.
 Savory 1988.
 E.g. Miller 1987.
 E.g. Samuels 1993 for Jungian perspective.
 Land Reform Policy Group, 1999.
 McIntosh 1992.
 King James Version.
 McIntosh 1992.
 McIntosh 1995.
 McIntosh 1997.
 People & Parliament 1999.
 Cited by Rouleau 1999.
 Pipes 1974, 17-18.
 Savory 1988.
 National Environmental Secretariat (Bhutan) 1992, 5.
 McIntosh 1996, 23, modified.
 Gorringe 1994, 117.
 Andelson & Dawsey 1992, 88.
 Andelson & Dawsey 1992, 122.
 Tideman (ed.) 1994.
 See Barron 1999.
 Cited in Barron, 1999.
 Andelson & Dawsey 1992, 26.
[A1] Non-profit community-run legal organisations.
[A2] Legislative proposals.
[A3] In the sense of rights to walk over the land.
[A4] Plural allows people to be a multiplicity of ethnic groups.
[A5] In the sense of wholeness, as well as honesty.
[A6] A bioregion is a geographical zone defined by the features that most give it life - such as a watershed area, a mountain, or an island.
[A7] Delegation of power as far as possible to the local level from the national.
[A8] Empowerment is power from within, as distinct from “power over” others.
[A9] As in a constellation of stars - an organising principle that pulls things together into pattern.
[A10] Vocation is from the word, vocal, meaning a calling - usually God-given.
[A12] Hold tenderly like a child.
[A13] Harsh laughing but here in a context of cruel, trivial talk.
[A14] Note that a critique is not a criticism, but a critical appraisal.
[A15] Sabotage by ecological activists.
[A16] I mean here the psyche extended into organisational and national concerns in the manner that Jung used the word.
[A17] Self-organising, emerging from its own properties.
[A18] X shaped.
[A19] Definitively, setting a new standard or paradigm of what it means to be atheistic.
[A20] Grassroots means “at the popular level of the common person,” but it is important, in the context I am using it, to retain the botanical sense of the metaphor to make the contrast with the underlying taproot.
[A21] Please modify sentence and substitute appropriate Russian equivalents as direct translation probably won’t work.
[A22] A theological term meaning that which pertains to the end outcome of all things on earth.
[A24] That which is left over of the original.
[A25] Argue, as in arguing over a price in a marketplace.
[A26] i.e. wage for both of them.
[A27] i.e. reflective, self-critical.
[A28] The presence of God in the world around us - here and now.
[A29] The less acceptable parts.
[A30] Pluralism is the view that different points of view can co-exist; complementariness sees these differences as contributing to a greater whole.
[A31] Oral tradition of Islam.
[A32] Points of view, especially world-views, that conflict and contest for attention.
[A33] Siam is the old name for Thailand, which Sulak considers preferable.
[A34] In the sense that one would “keep” a garden.
[A35] Goes beyond.
[A36] Parallel to in many respects, but not necessarily the same as.
[A37] The death of all things ecological.
[A38] Because of the wickedness.
[A41] tuneful slogans.
[A42] I’m sorry, I don’t know what these Latin phrases in italics mean.
[A43] control over tenure - overlordship.
[A44] To sell freehold.
[A45] Lease within a framework of overlordship.
[A46] Good looking.
[A48] Psychological history.
[A49] combines two things that are normally mutually exclusive.
[A52] In a way that is to mutual advantage.
[A53] To do with the nature of being.
[A54] The true, original.
[A55] Is that right? The email I took this from said “black”, which doesn’t seem right.
[A56] types of ecosystem.