A few years ago I came across a speech delivered by Prince Charles and the content blew me away. I knew that Prince Charles was an environmentalist, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn that his spiritual grounding also ran deep. His words filled me with hope for the future of our planet because either he or his son is destined to rule one day, and you know how the saying goes…the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Here is a condensed version of his speech.
“Although it seems to have become deeply unfashionable to talk about the spiritual dimension of our existence, that is what I propose to do. The idea that there is a sacred trust between mankind and our Creator, under which we accept a duty of stewardship for the earth, has been an important feature of most religious and spiritual thought throughout the ages.
I believe that if we are to achieve genuinely sustainable development, we will first have to rediscover a sense of the sacred in our dealings with the natural world and with each other. If nothing is held sacred any more because it is considered synonymous with superstition, what is there to prevent us from treating our entire world as some great laboratory of life, with potentially disastrous long-term consequences?
Fundamentally, an understanding of the sacred helps us to acknowledge that there are bounds of balance, order, and harmony in the natural world which set limits to our ambitions and define the parameters of sustainable development. It seems that when we do have scientific evidence that we are damaging our environment, we aren’t doing enough to put things right. And when we don’t have that evidence, we are prone to do nothing at all, regardless of the risks. Part of the problem is the prevailing approach that seeks to reduce the natural world, including ourselves, to the level of nothing more than a mechanical process.
In this technology-driven age, it is all too easy for us to forget that mankind is a part of nature, and not apart from it. This is why we should seek to work with the grain of nature in everything we do. For the natural world is, as economist Herman Daly puts it, “the envelope that contains, sustains, and provisions the economy” – not the other way round.
We need to rediscover a reverence for the natural world, to become more aware in Philip Sherrard’s words of the “relationship of interdependence, interpenetration and reciprocity between God, Man and Creation.” Above all, we should show greater respect for the genius of nature’s designs—rigorously tested and refined over millions of years. This means being careful to use science to understand how nature works, not to change what nature is with genetic manipulation. In an age when we are told that science has all the answers, what chance is there for working with the grain of nature?
Buried deep within each and every one of us, there is an instinctive, heartfelt awareness that provides the most reliable guide as to whether or not our actions are really in the long-term interests of our planet and all the life it supports. This awareness, this wisdom of the heart, may be no more than a faint memory of a distant harmony rustling like a breeze through the leaves, yet sufficient to remind us that the earth is unique and that we have a duty to care for it.
Wisdom, empathy, and compassion have no place in the empirical world, yet traditional wisdoms ask, “Without them, are we truly human?” I believe that we need to restore the balance between the heartfelt reason of instinctive wisdom and the rational insights of scientific analysis. Only by employing both the intuitive and the rational halves of our own nature—our hearts and our minds—that we will live up to the sacred trust place in us by our Creator.
Our descendants will have scientific and technological expertise beyond our imagining, but will they have the insight or the self-control to use this wisely? They won’t, I believe, unless there are increased efforts to develop an approach to education which balances the rational with the intuitive. Without this, truly sustainable development is doomed. Surely we need a greater balance in the way we educate people so that the practical and intuitive wisdom of the past blend with the appropriate technology of the present to produce practitioners who are acutely aware of both the visible and invisible worlds of the Cosmos.
Above all, I don’t want to see the day when our grandchildren ask accusingly why we didn’t listen more carefully to the wisdom of our hearts as well as to the rational analysis of our minds.”
In support of Prince Charles’ speech, I would add that as enlightened spiritual beings we have a commitment to not only look out for one another, but also to treat Mother Earth with the same reverence. What are your thoughts on this speech…did it change your opinion of Prince Charles? As future King, and/or father of a future King, do you think Charles or his son will one day have a major influence in the world? (Keep in mind that William was also influenced by a very compassionate mother in his formative years.)