Institute for Spiritual Activism


“Spiritual Activism” is the term we have given to the vision of social change presented in this Prospectus—a vision that emphasizes the link between social activism and the creation of authentic, socially and ecologically connected community. Historically, social and environmental activism has emphasized necessary economic or political change, the expansion of legal rights for disenfranchised groups and protective legislation for the planet, spiritual activism emphasizes activism that transforms the consciousness underlying inequality and unsustainability through generating the spirit of community. When people actually experience the sense of presence and connection that comes from true mutual recognition of each other’s humanity and of the Earth, the need for a more egalitarian and sustainable society becomes self-evident, a manifestation of our spiritual oneness as sacred human and natural beings.

Scholarship and Education

Our Institute for Spiritual Activism will generate significant scholarly work in this field of spiritual activism and train participants in forms of social change that transform the external distribution of wealth or the distribution of power in the world as well as the very nature of the relationships and quality of awareness that constitute the world.

As the primary educational activity of The Center, the Institute will have two main objectives:  first, to provide a site for the creation of visionary scholarship developing the theory and practice of spiritual activism and the dissemination of those ideas through print media, video, and the internet; second, to offer an on-site, one-year educational program to train participants in the spiritual activist perspective which they can then take back to work in their respective communities.

Spiritual Activism, Personal and Social Healing

The Institute will also focus on addressing the need for healing the Fear of the Other that we all have internalized in the course of our conditioning within our socially separated world. Those of us coming together to found the Arlene Francis Center have learned from our many years in the social change movements how much these movements themselves are often undermined by factionalism, projection, and fear-saturated group dynamics—indeed, it is arguably just such dynamics that have been the greatest obstacle to human progress in the last hundred years. Therefore, we have decided to incorporate into our own design an activity addressed to both healing the person, and healing the organization.

On the one hand, the Institute will provide contemplative practices of various kinds to assure that the spiritual atmosphere of our own project is positive and hopeful and inducing of vulnerability and joy. These will include a space for meditation and quietude, as well as for yoga and other somatic practices that are proven ways of assisting us to remain in touch with our highest values.

The Institute will offer services and classes for and by psychotherapists and other social healers in how to link the work of personal healing with spiritual activism and social change, to help counter the tendency of these practices to treaty individual unhappiness and trauma as a merely personal matter to be dealt with by the individual in isolation from the community.

In addition to this focus on personal healing, the Institute will seek to also offer services to non-profits and other social change organizations in how to best deal with the inevitable conflicts that will arise in their everyday activities. The aim here will be to offer classes and also consultation in how activist groups can foster compassion for differences and also fears that arise in their own organizations and how to develop and implement mediation and restorative justice practices to turn conflict into an opportunity to build rather than undermine community.

The Institute and Creating a Parallel Universe Social Movement for realizing the “Beloved Community”

Social movements do not just happen. Building one requires a thoughtful, reflective practice. Our goal for this Institute project is, by offering seminars, workshops, trainings, cultural, political and spiritual experiences and events to organizations in all social, environmental and spiritual areas, to help create ways to incorporate the power of our ‘mutual recognition’, parallel-universe vision and strategy into their work and collectively recognize and support the powerful, non-violent, pre-figurative social change movement which “changes the world without seeking power” by “being the world, we want to see” and thus becoming the ‘Beloved Community’ of Martin Luther King’s ‘Dream.’

Institute for Spiritual Activism: The Spirit of the 60’s

The year 2010 begins the 50th anniversary of the decade of the 1960’s. The Arlene Francis Center for Spirit, Art and Politics will be creating a project to examine and reflect upon this important and tumultuous decade from the perspective that this period was both created by an essential revolution in consciousness – rooted in the transformative power of mutual recognition and love — and, born on the strength of its winds, carried this consciousness forward through the remaining decades of the 20th century to the present. This fiftieth anniversary provides an opportunity to renew and strengthen that spirit for the difficult and challenging tasks of this new millennium.

The AFC Spirit of the Sixties Project will begin this Fall 2010 with a brief but important introduction using films about some, though not all, of the history and creation of 60’s reality and consciousness and most importantly accompanied by panel and audience discussion to deepen their meaning and importance. The project will then resume in the Spring with more film and discussion, guest presentations and lectures marking important historical events of the period.

The Institute for Spiritual Activism presents:
“Healing Body, Mind, Soul & Manifesting Moral Presence as Spiritual Activism”~~ Michael McAvoy MA Critical/Activist Medical Anthropology; Crispin Shelley MA, Phd(c)Clinical Psychology

Regular monthly presentations, films, discussion on the need and methods for healing ourselves and others from alienation and fear of the other as well as manifesting the moral presence to be able to create the “Beloved Community” envisioned by Martin Luther King and others.


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