Professor Alastair McIntosh's course on 'Religious Intelligence'
École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr
Coëtquidan, 22 - 24
toute la classe. Je m'appele Alastair McIntosh, un professeur,
activiste et écrivain Ecossais, et je suis votre professeur pendant
les jours Mardi 22 a Vendredi 24 Novembre. Je suis invité
d’enseigner un cours court au sujet : « Religious Intelligence ». Le
plupart de mon travail est avec les questions de l’écologie, la
justice social, la guerre et le spiritualité, selon mon site web,
Suivant un introduction au
course, et un list des ressourcés pour ajouter pendant le course,
commençant avec un article j’ai écrit pour l’Académie du Décence du
UK. S’il possible, voulez vous lisez cette article avant le
commencement de notre classe.
Malheureusement, mon français est très, très
mauvais, même si ma femme est français. Heureusement, Thomas Flichy m’a dit que vous parlez l’anglais tres bien. En
conséquence, je peut continuer en anglais.
My intention is to teach through
a combination of lectures, small group discussions and plenary discussions. I
shall encourage you to reflect deeply on your own experience. My approach will be to put greater emphasis on
developing your thinking and feeling skills than teaching facts, as you can get
those by reading. Please be aware that I am a
Quaker, which is a
small Christian denomination. Most Quakers are committed to nonviolence as their
approach to peace and true security. I have been clear to the staff who have
invited me that this is both the basis and the "bias" from which I will be teaching, but you are
encouraged to make up your own mind on such questions. This course outline is
not confidential and may be openly shared, not least because I have to be
accountable back to my own colleagues within the peace movement.
I am informed that I am to give
each of you a "mark" at the end of the class, and as our time together is very
short, I would appreciate if you would give some thought as to the best and
fairest way that I can do this. During our 14 hours together, I hope to touch on
the following themes, though not necessarily in this order and the content may
change according to the interests the class expresses.
To commence with finding out your expectations of our time together, and
what you would like me to address (within my capabilities).
Definitions of religion, theology and spirituality. What is meant by "God"
or concepts like "Buddha nature"? Brief outlines of major
world faith systems – the 3 Abrahamic faiths, Hindu-Buddhism,
Taoist-Confucianism and animisms/shamanisms.
Exploration of what you think religion is and is not, drawing both on your own experience as well as
touching on theological, philosophical and sociological positions such as
William James, Paul Tillich, Durkheim and Weber. Mapping out distinctions
between faith, agnosticism, atheism, theocracy and in France, laïcité.
To examine how the major world faiths are used both to support war, or to
reject it, in lending legitimacy to either violence or nonviolence. What
nonviolence looks like in practice. Its successes and failures. It's power
and legitimacy in contrast with the use of and utility of force.
To understand how religion, resourced by a living spirituality, can offer a
framework for understanding human life, consciousness, meaning and ethics,
with case study examples from my work in social and environmental activism
for change in Scotland.
To examine the role of religion in politics, with a case study of Donald Trump and his evangelical
support base in America. Is this religion, or its perversion to the idolatry
of a "prosperity gospel"? This case study will draw on insights and
the history of the island where I grew up - the Isle of Lewis in Scotland -
which was the home of Donald Trump's mother.
Continuing, through the lens of Donald Trump, examining the relationship between colonisation,
militarisation, displacement from the land and how theological
narratives have been created to legitimise these things. How religion has
been used to give expression to such doctrines as
feudalism in medieval Roman Catholicism, and in some white British and
American Protestantism, to ideologies such as Chosen People narratives, American Exceptionalism and Manifest Destiny.
The psychological parallels with other authoritarian approaches to religion,
such as Wahhabism
To consider how war affects the mind, especially the minds of children,
thereby feeding the "spiral of violence". How a
living spirituality can arguably bring healing to that damage. The work of
re-humanisation, of recovery of the heart. This will touch on the work of psychotherapist Alice Miller, and
the social psychologists, Stanley Milgram and Philip Zimbardo, if they are not already covered elsewhere
in your officer training course).
To examine personal spiritual grounding as a basis for moral leadership
within the "military covenant". To examine military "values and standards"
in a way that looks beyond "rules of engagement", and arguably, beyond war.
To undertake this by reflecting on the kind of moral challenges, and "moral
hazard" that you might face when in a leadership position that confronts you
with the shock of extreme
Finally, to re-examine your own attitudes towards the spiritual life. What
does it mean to live out a "vocation", as distinct from a mere "career"? You
have chosen a military path, one that is a different approach than mine to
seeking peace. But might there be meeting points? Might it be that to study
nonviolence is at least as important as to study violence if we are
committed to taking away the causes that lead to war? If we seek a world
where, "Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train
for war anymore" (Isaiah 2:4)? The motto of St Cyr is: "Ils s'instruisent pour vaincre" - "They study to
vanquish." And so, the final question: to vanquish - what? What
is it, in each of us, that sows the seeds of war? Can we overcome those
forces? By the end of this course, might we see deeper ways of understanding
the motto of St Cyr?
1. My paper, A Nonviolent Challenge to Conflict,
that is part of the standard UK Defence Academy textbook on military ethics. It
is based on my guest lectures over the past 20 years on the Advanced Command &
Staff Course, and sometimes other courses including the Higher Command & Staff
Course, the Irish Senior Command & Staff Course, and NATO's Partnership for
Peace Programme. Download the 25 page pdf from:
2. My writings and interviews in French translation and
3. Day 1 Resources: When we discussed what you
especially want to study during our time together, several of you indicated
specialist areas in the above course outline. Note that my bibliography is
limited to Anglophone, not Francophone, so you will probably find books by
French authors that cover similar topics.
3.1. One of you expressed particular interest in
different religions and their views on war and peace. The textbook that I
recommend on this is Reichberg, G.M. & Syse, H. (editors),
Religion, War and Ethics: a Sourcebook of Textual Traditions,
Cambridge University Press, 2014. At 750 pages, this is a huge textbook,
entering into great historical depth. If you want to keep it simple, just
Google keywords like "war, nonviolence, Buddhism".
3.2. Another was interested in how war affects the
minds of children. I'd recommend two books here. Robben A.C.G.N &
Suarez-Orozco M.M. (editors),
Cultures Under Seige: Collective Violence and Truama, Cambridge
University Press, 2008. And Alice Miller,
C'est pour ton bien : Racines de la violence dans l'éducation de l'enfant
(It's For Your Own Good: The Origins of Violence in Childhood), Flammarion,
3.3. Another was interested in Donald Trump and the
religious background of both he and his supporters. I have just written
about the psychology and theology of Trump's support base amongst American
See here. An earlier article, about Trump
and loss of empathy may be found
here. My work sets Trump into his mother's home context of the Scottish
island that I come from. There are numerous wider articles on the web, for
3.4. Lastly, one of you was interested in the Quakers.
This evening, I chanced to hit upon this short video where two Friends (as
Quakers call themselves) discuss their attitudes to politics and oppression
4. Day 2 Resources: I have emailed 2 Powerpoints to
Jean-Baptiste for sharing with the class. These are:
4.1. Today's presentation, based on what I used in
recent guest lectures on the Advanced Command & Staff Course at the UK
Defence Academy: The Nonviolent Challenge to Conflict.
4.2. I had a discussion with the Peruvian student about
the peace process in Columbia, and told him about the Columbian brigadier
and colleagues I had met at a conference of the
International Society of Military Ethics. The brigadier spoke about how
elements of the Columbian military had become concerned about corruption and
human rights abuses. They had therefore started a programme of military
ethics, which was succeeding so well that they hoped to encourage its spread
regionally and beyond. He gave me his powerpoint and gave me permission to
share it. I hope it will interest you as an example of some of what we have
been talking about, coming from an unexpected part of the world.
5. Day 3 Resources: I hope at the end of the day, if
we have time, to tell you the Rainmaker story. The great Swiss psychotherapist
told this about his friend, the German sinologist, translator and theologian,
Richard Wilhelm. Two versions of the story are given from Jung's writings in the
anthology compiled by Meredith Sabini,
The Earth Has a Soul: C.G. Jung on Nature, Technology and Modern Life,
North Atlantic Books, 2002. I know that this book is currently being translated
into French with help from a private Swiss foundation, but it is currently only
available in English. Meanwhile, one of Jung's versions of the story can be
at this link.
If we do not have time to use the story in class, I invite
you to read it privately, and reflect on what it might say about leadership in
relation to values and standards. What does it say about connection to the inner
spiritual life? What does it imply about one's comportment, bearing or presence
when when surrounded by mayhem? It is, of course, a magical story. Wilhelm told
it to Jung as a true story, but its importance is metaphorical more than
literal. Do you think it teaches something about leadership? Is there a sense in
which we all need to understand the art of rainmaking? If so, what influence
might that have on the gradient of leadership that runs from seeking to resolve
conflict by the use of force, to seeking to resolve it nonviolently?
6. Donald Trump poetry:
this link. CNN video (7.42 mins) of Donald Trump's mother's background on
the Isle of Lewis -
here. (It's the top picture. If your internet is slow, give it time until
the white play arrow appears).
7. That's been a great 3 days together. Thank you for
listening to me and for all the robust debates, especially in our discussions
about the spectrum that runs from "realism" to "just war theory" to
"nonviolence". Tonight I have emailed out further optional reading material to
Jean-Baptiste, asking him to forward it to the class. Go well, everyone.
Tel (mob): +44
07444 580 380
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