Detail of The School of Athens by Raffaello Sanzio, 1509, showing Plato (left) and Aristotle (right).
“(W)e must look into it further, since the argument concerns no ordinary topic but the way we ought to live.” — Socrates in Plato’s Republic (Grube, Trans. 1992, 352d, p. 29).
Plato’s Republic is a timeless treasure.
If you’re not familiar with the work, it is not written like a heavy academic treatise. It is written in narrative form, as a series of conversations where Plato brings together a number of voices of his time, with Socrates playing a central role. They gather together to explore what seems like a straightforward question: What is justice?
The question is posed by two young people on the verge of stepping into adulthood, but they could be anyone, any time, any place. They are seeking guidance about how to live their lives. What should lead? The ways of the world, or the ways of philosophy? They feel a tug toward a Spirit-led life, and they also feel pulled by the drumbeats of ancient Athenian society (reputation! wealth! power!).
Socrates and company quickly find the question is much more involved than they thought. The conversations travel far and wide, and move from micro to macro (justice in society, justice in the soul). The exchanges are lively, with humor, irony, and at times hot tempers. Through it all, Socrates treats everyone with equanimity and respect. Even when one of the characters attacks Socrates personally, while he shakes a bit, he responds with the same openness and willingness to listen as he does with anyone else. Socrates operated in good faith, and treated other people as if they were, too, even when their expression suggested otherwise.
In the end, Socrates surrenders the effort to find a single, catch-all definition for justice. He shares, beautifully, an awareness that justice happens as a natural by-product of a way of being. Justice happens when we take good care with ourselves, and then naturally, by extension, we are led to serve and take good care with others, situation by situation, always new and next, next, next.
The Republic echoes the Traveler’s teachings through John-Roger in many ways (Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness, 2018). It also connects with contemporary research from people who are practicing Spirit-led living (even if they might call it something else). Social work researcher Brené Brown has dedicated herself to exploring vulnerability (Brown, 2012), and systems scientist Peter Senge speaks eloquently about presence in organizations (Senge, Scharmer, Jaworski & Flowers, 2005). Socrates would likely agree that both of those qualities promote justice.
As ministers we are called to go forward into the world. All of the PTS programs support that in different ways. One unique aspect of the Transcendent Leadership program is a specific focus on making connections with other traditions and contemporary educators, leaders, artists, researchers, etc. This not only makes the Traveler’s teachings available, it also keeps us engaged in the process of learning, loving, caring, and sharing. We enter into conversations with many others — just like Socrates did. Like justice, transcendent leadership flows naturally from our loving ways of being.
As the world’s population increases and technology makes it easier for us to connect with people from many cultures and traditions, the more valuable it becomes to cultivate our capacity to have conversations. We are so well served when we connect with what we have in common, rejoice in our shared, universal spiritual heritage, and learn, together, how to make living love real in the ways we relate with each other, stand in line at the supermarket, lead corporations, improve student learning, raise a family, provide medical care, support people through difficult times, and grow in compassion and unconditional loving.
If you are still thinking about the Transcendent Leader program, maybe this gives you another hug, another nudge. The three courses launching the program in August are practical and exquisite: Awareness, Attunement, and Alignment; Loving: The Master Key to Transcendent Leaders; and Multi-Dimensional Consciousness. You can probably make connections with them and the content of this article, your life and work, and whatever you have been experiencing while reading.
This article is also an example of something that could be written for a course assignment (take a book that you love, and connect it with two other authors or traditions). There is an academic quality to it with technical things like references, and it is also written with much loving, joy, and gratitude.
If you would like to have a one-on-one conversation about the Transcendent Leader program, please feel free to e-mail me. We can set up a way to talk directly and enjoy a lovely conversation. Also feel free to reach out to any faculty member — we are all happy to support you in discovering what’s true for you. You can find us and information about the program right here: transcendentleader.org
Brown, Brené. (2012). Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. New York, NY: Penguin Group LLC.
Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness (MSIA). (2018). Key Teachings of Soul Transcendence: Guidelines (as shared by John-Roger). Retrieved from https://www.msia.org/key-teachings
Plato. (1992). Republic (G.M.A. Grube and C.D.C. Reeve, Trans.). Indianapolis, Indiana: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. (Original work thought to be written ca. 380 B.C.).
Senge, Peter, Scharmer, C. Otto, Jaworski, Joseph & Flowers, Betty Sue. (2005) Presence: An Exploration of Profound Change in People, Organizations, and Society. New York, NY: Random House LLC.