Letter from Jean Houston

Dear Friends,

We are all New Yorkers. That is the gist of the message that I have been receiving from the thousands of e-mails, countless phone calls and faxes, and communications from people writing or calling me from over 30 countries. The outpouring of love, of service, and even of life itself is the miracle of humanity surpassing itself. All over this country and throughout the world people are affirming their unity with us, and more, the unity of all people. This tragedy brings us together in shadow and in light, for richer and for poor, in sickness and in health for as long as we all shall live. The desecration that occurred is also the announcement of a potential global union.

I have often spoken of how technology and the internet gave us the world mind taking a walk with itself. But in the light of the events of September 11th, we now must speak of the world heart, the world stomach, the world spirit. America is not longer insulated from the pathos of other nations.

Christopher Fry writes, “Thank God, our time is now, when wrong comes up to meet us everywhere, never to leave us till we take the longest stride of soul men ever took.” All oppression rises in our time, all shadows, all terrors, and factors unique in human history also arise around us to compound our folly and confuse our desire. We yearn for meaning and deal with trivia. We are swept in currents over which we have no control. Government has become too big for the small problems of life and too small in spirit for the large problems. The tyranny that threatens to destroy us is not just terrorism; it is the tyranny of the unjust demands we have made of Nature and the tyranny of some nations being kept in economic slavery by other nations.

We are the ones who have the most profound task in human history--the task of deciding whether we grow or die. This will involve helping cultures and organizations to move from dominance by one economic culture or group to circular investedness, sharing and partnership. It will involve putting economics back as a satellite to the soul of culture rather than having the soul of culture as satellite to economics. It will involve deep listening past the arias and the habits of cruelty of crushed and humiliated people. It will involve a stride of soul that will challenge the very canons of our human condition. It will require that we become evolutionary partners with each other.

This is a huge test we find ourselves in. We have newly emerged from a century of war and holocaust. Our hopes for the new century, the new millennium were for a new way of being between nations and people, between the earth and ourselves, between spirit and matter. Those hopes still live, if anything, they have become more powerful, more necessary. For America it will mean a deep shift of our attitudes to other cultures around the world to one of service and support rather than exploitation and dominance. Yes, the perpetrators have to be found and dealt with through therapeutic law and international justice. They are not a nation, they are a cancer, and a cancer is rarely removed through a cycle of violence. Rather, as in holistic medicine, they have to be subdued by the strengthening of the healthy immune system, the envisioning of the pattern of health, and yes, the removal of the cancer wherever it can be excised.

The metaphor is apt. Our health, our security, is built on friendship. Instead of spending so many billions for weapons of destruction (which we manufacture ourselves and sell globally), what if we were to use some of those billions to the feeding of the hungry (one in every three persons), the housing of the homeless, the making of those efforts that can result in the healing of the wounds of nations. Real security demands real friendship, global marriage. As one of my correspondents brilliantly addressed these issues, “The problem is not just terrorism. The problem is generations of beings who experience not having an identity. The question is what made human beings incapable of feeling love, compassion or empathy towards themselves or anyone else, and thereby, becoming destroyers of their own species? What happened that human beings could become so psychologically, emotionally and spiritually distorted that they could believe that Islam, one of the most spiritual paths in the world, could encourage murder and suicide to gain heavenly reward?”

Friends, these are not Muslims. These are marginalized fanatics who have made a travesty of their faith. The issue is how we can join together to create a world in which such pathology will no longer be nurtured.

Many of us are feeling impotent before the enormity of the prospect. Some of you, I know, have experienced “meltdown”, some have seen visions, had dreams. Many have had the portals of their minds blown open to deeper realities, potent reflections. Tragedy has drawn us closer, sent us deeper, and given us the option of preparing for life rather than death.

I have been considering some of the things that you may wish to do in the days and weeks to come that will give expression to your feelings and need to act. What I offer below is drawn primarily from my own reflections as well as others, particularly some prescriptions offered by Yes! magazine.

  1. In these spirit quaking times, align with your own spiritual resources. Take time to meditate, pray, reflect in solitude and in nature. Allow yourself daily time and space to be re-sourced. Consider living daily life as spiritual exercise Watch your finer intuitions and ideas, and share them with others. Commune with your spiritual allies, archetypal friends, quantum partners. In the place of spiritual connection feel strength and compassion and intelligence flow. Become creative in your actions.Plot scenarios of optimal healing and begin wherever you can to put them in place for events as well as people. Practice miracle management.

  2. Give yourself vacations from television. So much of it anyway is infomercials for war.(However the local New York City stations are filled with human stories of compassion and courage.) But do listen occasionally to talk shows and call in with your own opinions and ideas for making a better world. For inspiration and wisdom to deal with challenges of our time listen to New Dimensions Radio on your public radio station or on the internet (newdimensions.org).

    Write that letter to the editor. Write or call your congressman and local government officials. Handwritten faxes seem to be the things that are most likely to get through, followed by phone call. e-mails, alas are the least likely. You can find your U.S. representatives at www.house.gov or for Senators, www.senate.gov. Above all, Let Your Voice Be Heard!

  3. Gather in groups and, if possible in ongoing teaching-learning communities of wisdom and empowerment. But let everyone speak, and do not deny them the authenticity of their feelings even if they diverge widely from your own.

  4. Talk to the kids, your own or other people’s children. Let them express their feelings, tell you what is on their minds. Give them a grasp of the larger issues at hand. Tell them about mercy and compassionate action. If possible engage them in service oriented activities. Let them see the larger story.

  5. Show up at town meetings, or other places where people meet to pray and talk and engage each other. Sign petitions if you are willing and join in other activities that are “sending a big message”. Create vision circles to put forth images of what the world can be. Envision the possible society together. (For ideas, you might want to look at my book, authored with Margaret Rubin, Manual of the Peacemaker, which deals with the Iroquois creation of a better society.)

  6. Get thee to a mosque! Give support and compassion to Arab friends, colleagues, or people you happen to meet of middle eastern origin. Stamp out
    hatred and fear surrounding these people wherever you can. Let them tell their stories, their hopes and dreams. In fact, try and learn as much as you can about the Middle East, the political situations there, as well as the teachings of Islam. For key information on the crisis and well considered information and opinions about the Middle East you may want to go to Alternet.org and commondreams.org.

  7. Give up your own holding patterns on your old self. This is the time to become or at least to enact the possible human. Let your senses take pleasure in the glory of this world. Let your heart celebrate the incredible gift of life. And share this with others.


I live in a double domed house that was the last design of my old friend Buckminster Fuller, completed just before he died. I asked my house what words it would give you and it responded with Bucky’s own. They came out of a time of tremendous personal crisis in his life.

“So I vowed to keep myself alive, but only if I would never use me again for just me - each one of us is born of two, and we really belong to each other. I vowed to do my own thinking, instead of trying to accommodate everyone else’ opinion, credo’s and theories. I vowed to apply my own inventory of experiences to the solving of problems that affect everyone aboard planetEarth.”

Much Love and High Regard,

Jean Houston

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Date created: 2-Feb-04