Gandhi on the Internal Forces that Can Destroy a Society

In a “Time of Reckoning” with a painful past and a dangerous future, it may be useful to invoke the following teaching from Mahatma Gandhi. He warns about the “seven social sins” that can destroy a society.

Statue of Gandhi marching. Photo by Baatcheet Films on Unsplash.

They are as follows:

–politics without principle.

–wealth without work.

–commerce without morality.

–pleasure without conscience.

–education without character.

–science without humanity.

–worship without sacrifice.

One does not have to turn one’s back entirely on the past, but to learn discernment about what we leave behind and what we carry with us—and what we choose to give birth to…together.  What are our values?  How do we get from here to there?

Architect Charles Jencks, who has written deeply about postmodernism, tells us that part of postmodernism is a practice of “double-coding.”  He defines double-coding this way: It is the strategy “of affirming and denying the existing power structures at the same time.” 

It seems to me that the long and devoted lines of people waiting 16 hours in line to pay respects to Queen Elizabeth’s life and work is a sincere affirmation and statement of gratitude for her and her work. An affirmation of her but not necessarily the power structure she represents.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Confessions: The Making of a Post-denominational Priest, p. 283.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: Close up of a life-like statue of Mahatma Gandhi, Sabarmati Ashram, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India [Photo: August 2021] Photo by Brijender Dua on Unsplash

Queries for Contemplation

Take each of Gandhi’s 7 warnings and meditate on them.  How applicable are they to today’s societal crises?  What do they say to the values we choose to commit ourselves to at this time in history?

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8 thoughts on “Gandhi on the Internal Forces that Can Destroy a Society”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, Today you tell us about Mahatma Gandhi’s “seven social sins” that can destroy a society. They are: politics without principle, wealth without work, commerce without morality, pleasure without conscience, education without character, science without humanity and worship without sacrifice. You ask us, “How applicable are they to today’s societal crises?” I believe they are still applicable, but when you ask, ” What are our values?” For me they would be most of the Christian virtues; some of which are called, “the Fruit of the Spirit,” such as: love, joy, peace, patience, self-control, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and gentleness (Galatians 5:22-23). And this is all in spite of the values the world of finance and politics fosters among themselves, such as: adultery, promiscuity, materialism, pharmaceuticals (translated “witchcraft” here but the actual word in Greek is “pharmakia), wrath, strife, sedition, envy, murder, drunkenness (Galatians 5:19-21). And what that means for us is will we live out our vices or live according to virtue ???

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    I have felt that the response to Queen Elizabeth’s death is sort of an epiphany for the British people and others as well to see and admit what a quiet, gentle, sincere, but also kind leader, with an uplifting sense of humor, she has been. An inspirational mother figure for her nation and the world at large. It is hard to lose such a positive mother figure, but coming together to honor and pay tribute to her has been a deeply spiritual experience for the people that has made them feel their increased sense of being part of a large family that this loss has given them, helped them see what a blessing she has been to all, in her gentle and quietly loving way.

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    Thank you, Mathew for bringing clear attention to us, by contrasting the social sins. In my opinion, in social collective consciousness, we have been denying, for a long time, what I call, a massive attention deficit disorder. Denial consumes all of the psyche’s energy and narrows perception of what we sense, hence the non sense that we see going on. If we open our eyes, instead of being preoccupied with our “I’s” we can face and embrace what we are doing to one another and the planet, Mother Earth/Gaia who host us. Gandhi’s focus throughout his life was always as he was shot and as he was dying was Shree ram jay ram jay jay ram. When the ego expresses its illusions in its many types of “I’s”it closes our eyes to the power of love… Greed is a dam that stops the flow of life itself. The invitation to be attuned to our spirit within, is always there to remove the blockage and restore the flow…Each of our perceptions contains the lessons achieved, those lessons yet to be learned, and the order of those lessons to come..

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    I appreciate the powerful revelatory statement in today’s DM, “One does not have to turn one’s back entirely on the past, but to LEARN DISCERNMENT, about what we leave behind and what we carry with us, and what we choose to give birth to, together… founded on values and virtues, that give meaning and purpose to life.” This gives us insight as to the internal source, of the Holy Spirit available and accessible to each one, in actually learning of this gift of discernment… acknowledging this reality through listening to our conscience, reflecting, meditating and contemplating on the consequences of our past choice of actions or inactions, honestly and vulnerably facing all that we carry within… both the dark vices of our humanity and the wounding and suffering this has caused, and the light of the virtues of our divinity that are the original blessings we also carry within, awaiting to be nurtured, cultivated and manifested. We are offered an opportunity to choose differently in any given moment, and learning to discern this, is part of our co-creative responsibility… which is our ability to respond to that internal source of Spirit that offers to comfort, console and wisely counsel us throughout this process of consciously seeing that which is unfolding, evolving and emerging from within both our human and divine nature, which is in the birthing process of becoming and being integrated into wholeness and oneness.

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    In a way, all seven societal sins past and present are rooted in humanity’s, personally and socially, historical uprootedness or separation from the Sacredness/Divine Source Creator in our inner and outer lives with one another and Sacred Mother Nature. This imbalance/separation became significantly strong and ‘progressively’ worse in human history, as you mentioned Matthew, about 6500 years ago with the growth of patriarchy/patriarchal values with its destructive effects and suffering on humanity. This “Time of Reckoning” as you have intelligently described and summarized the last two DMs, has been the destruction of Sacred Planet Earth/Mother Nature with all of our sources of Life for all species, including ourselves. Modern Western ‘civilization’ has even historically destroyed the lives and cultures of Indigenous peoples around the world who for thousands of years knew how to live sustainably and Sacredly with Mother Earth. This spiritual wisdom of how to live spiritually with Mother Nature has still been maintained by several surviving Indigenous tribes around the world. We can still learn from this spiritual wisdom if we’re going to help save our Mother Earth and All Her remaining sacred creatures, including our selves. I recommend the following book – “We Are the Middle of Forever: Indigenous Voices from Turtle Island on the Changing Earth” (2022), Edited by Dahr Jamail and Stan Rushworth (Native American).

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    We must continuously be examining both our thoughts and our actions if we expect to hold great suffering in and with Greater LOVE.

    In the case of QEII, many look only upon her good works and words, while ignoring her accession to patriarchy and wealth, including the oppression intentionally meted out upon the monarchy’s own masses, not to mention the devastation and genocide of its colonialism.

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    Gandhi’s principles should be emblazoned on the walls of Congress. If they were and if they were followed by our elected officials and all of us, we would be on our way toward bringing God’s kingdom to Earth. In a review of the book Damian mentions above, this quote encourages me: “So how should we comport ourselves as we navigate the rapidly changing world around us? Perhaps we should talk less of our individual rights and more about our obligations. Stan Rushworth’s father offered him wise council in the final pages of The End of Ice [a previous book] ‘We have to do our best every day. Even if it all goes down, it’s a matter of personal dignity to do everything we can to turn it around.’ This theme persists in We are the Middle of Forever. Doing the right thing without expectation of outcome. Surely a mantra for our times.”

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