I sat in a room at a university campus, listening to a panel of peace activists talk to students about their work. The panelists each described their organizations, their missions, their accomplishments. A couple of them had been arrested in various peace marches or demonstrations. They wore their battle scars proudly.
They were there to encourage the university students to get involved and to make a difference by passionately engaging in a worthwhile cause. In general, I understood what they were trying to do. But as they proudly recounted their efforts to rail against injustice, it occurred to me to wonder: Did you remember to love those “greedy” corporate leaders you were protesting against? Did you remember to love the officers who arrested you?
When I say “love,” I’m talking about love in its loftiest form. The unconditional, compassionate, love-for-all-creation kind of love.
Gandhi said that love was the key ingredient to how he trained his followers in the way of non-violence. He told them that it wasn’t enough to stand and resist as the British soldiers faced off against you. You had to look upon them with genuine love and compassion in your heart. He said without this crucial aspect, the practice of non-violence couldn’t be truly effective. He often equated love and nonviolence (what he called “ahimsa”), saying they were part of the same force.
Martin Luther King urged his followers not to hate the white man, but rather to rise above the situation and see that everyone was trapped in a system of prejudice and injustice that needed to change. Essentially, he said they were going to have to “love their way out” of the problem.’ In a 1957 radio broadcast entitled “Loving Your Enemies,” he talked about three kinds of love: romantic love, brotherly love, and the more transcendent love the Greeks called “agape,” which he defined in part as “the love of God working in the lives of men.”
Unfortunately, I didn’t hear any of the peace activists on that panel talking about loving anyone. In fact, without seeming to be aware of it, they were girding their loins and gearing up to engage in battle. And while not exactly advocating it, they talked matter-of-factly of things like tearing down fences, destroying property, and doing other “in-your-face” things that seemed to stretch the very notion of what is meant by non-violent action. Essentially, they seemed to be saying that, at least in some cases, the ends justified the means and you had to be ready to “fight fire with fire.”
I don’t think that will work. In fact, Albert Einstein said no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it. So if we try to stand up nonviolently to injustice – yet our hearts are full of hate or anger or intolerance – then we’re just feeding into the problem.
To me, it boils down to an energy pattern. The vibrational frequency of pure love is the highest form of energy we can generate on this planet. When we imbue our own beings with that vibration, we lift ourselves up above the more negative energies. We elevate. We transcend. We see things more clearly. And when we change our vibration, there is a corresponding reaction (law of physics) in those around us. It’s not instant, and there may be – in fact, there usually is – resistance. But if enough of us can join together, and we can sustain that higher vibration over time, there will be an inevitable shift.
King was inspired by Jesus’s emphasis on love. But he learned some of the science of it from Gandhi’s teachings on the energetic force of love and nonviolence. All of the early civil rights marches started with prayer and singing so that the participants’ energy was high and their hearts were free from hate.
Throughout his life, Gandhi was trying to experiment with and understand this energy force, this “law of love,” that he compared to the law of gravity and other laws of nature. Near the end of his life, he said:
“The law of love will work, just as the law of gravitation will work, whether we accept it or not. Just as a scientist will work wonders out of various applications of the law of nature, even so a man who applies the law of love with scientific precision can work greater wonders. For the force of nonviolence is infinitely more wonderful and subtle than the material forces of nature, like, for instance, electricity. The men who discovered for us the law of love were greater scientists than any of our modern scientists. Only our explorations have not gone far enough and so it is not possible for everyone to see all its workings. … The more I work at this law the more I feel the delight in life, the delight in the scheme of this universe. It gives me a peace and a meaning of the mysteries of nature that I have no power to describe.”
Both Gandhi and King understood that we still have a lot to learn about using this energy force. They knew that people have to be trained. Projecting love as a way to deal with conflict isn’t something that comes naturally to us in this world we grew up in. Our conditioning and our very instincts have been programmed for thousands of years to think only in terms of “fight or flight.”
But there is a “third way” out there – a vital energy source we can tap. It’s tantalizingly within our reach, just waiting for us to discover and unlock its true and powerful nature.