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  • Writer's pictureRobertson Work

Four Faces of War and Peace

The piece below is excerpted from my speech to the Creative Peacemaking Symposium in 2014 at Oklahoma City University. It makes use of Ken Wilber's integral quadrants of mindsets, behaviors, cultures, and systems. Above photo is of a recent peace demonstration for Ukraine held in Asheville, North Carolina, USA, where I live.

May all people everywhere, including you and me, realize peace, happiness, understanding, and compassion.

A Cherokee prayer: “O Great Spirit, help me always to speak the truth quietly, to listen with an open mind when others speak, and to remember the peace that may be found in silence.”

We are so busy, rushing about here and there. Let’s begin by relaxing our body and bringing our mind to stillness and quiet. Please relax your body. Become aware of your body, breath, and mind. Take five minutes…

What did you notice or experience?

I grew up in Oklahoma and went to Oklahoma State University. I am proud that our state logo has two symbols of peace covering an Osage shield: the calumet, or peace pipe, representing Native Americans, and the olive branch, representing European Americans.

As you know, the UN is dedicated to peace and development. It is often said that there can be no peace without development and no development without peace. I have spent my life working on the development side so that we may have a lasting peace. Thus, I am a development expert, not a peace expert.

We live in a world at war. Peacemaking is the life-and-death vocation of our time. How are you called to use your creativity and energy?

Who is most concerned about climate chaos? Gender inequality? Socioeconomic injustice? Dysfunctional governance? Cultural intolerance?

Mind, Behavior, Culture, and Systems

War involves acts of violence and harm, whereas peace includes dialogue and justice. Ken Wilber’s integral map can help us see the four faces of war and peace.

Take a few minutes and think about what is going on in each quadrant, both what you think is contributing to violence and harm or war in that particular dimension and what can promote dialogue and justice or peace. Share your ideas with someone. Below are a few of my thoughts about these four faces of war and peace, for your consideration:

Mind of Warmongering: A violent, harmful mind emerges as negative emotions arise from our confusion about our true nature of compassion and wisdom. When we separate ourselves from others, negative emotions of fear, anger, hatred, greed, and pride take root. These negative emotions can control our mind and then find expression in our behavior.

Mind of Peacemaking: We can cultivate a mind of peacemaking through meditating; empathizing; practicing ethics, compassion, and wisdom; moving beyond ego; experiencing unity; and manifesting generosity, equanimity, and trust. Exemplars of the mind of peacemaking include His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. He says, “Many people today agree that we need to reduce violence in our society. If we are truly serious about this, we must deal with the roots of violence, particularly those that exist within each of us. We need to embrace ‘inner disarmament,’ reducing our own emotions of suspicion, hatred, and hostility toward our brothers and sisters.” Methods of fostering a mind of peacemaking include meditation and ethical practice. But this is never easy. Where do you struggle with letting go of negative emotions?

Behavior of Warmongering: Violent, harmful behaviors include acts of superiority or hatred toward other races, women, or different sexual and gender orientations, as well as greed, consumerism, corruption, meat-eating, being part of a throwaway society, and carrying a gun.

Behavior of Peacemaking: We can cultivate the behavior of peacemaking through practicing happiness, nonviolence, facilitative leadership, collaboration, compassionate action, reconciliation, mediation, and vegetarianism; promoting diversity; and caring for environmental sustainability. Exemplars of the behavior of peacemaking include Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and Peace Pilgrim, who walked across America for twenty-eight years. Malala has said, “I would not shoot someone threatening me.” Methods of behavioral peacemaking include nonviolent resistance and group facilitation. But this is never easy. How do you struggle to manage your harmful behavior?

Culture of Warmongering: Violent, harmful cultures emerge from stories, symbols, and rituals of racism, sexism, intolerance, nationalism, classism, ageism, and homophobia.

Culture of Peacemaking: We can catalyze a culture of peacemaking by living by principles of sustainability, justice, equality, participation, and tolerance. We can create new stories, songs, symbols, and rites that embody these principles. This year (2014) on March 1, a Climate March began to traverse the United States, which included my colleague David Zahrt along with many others. But it is never easy to manifest new cultural forms such as this high ritual. Where do you struggle to do this?

Systems of Warmongering: Violent, harmful systems are manifestations of collective greed, fear, anger, hatred, or pride, including practicing exorbitant wealth accumulation, militarism, and armed conflict; maintaining armed forces, the armaments industry, nuclear proliferation, and capital punishment; extracting, selling, and burning fossil fuels; honoring plutocracy; and allowing systemic poverty, injustice, and inequality.

Systems of Peacemaking: We can cultivate new systems of peacemaking by creating policies and institutions that promote environmental sustainability, renewable energy, socioeconomic justice, gender equality, participatory governance, cultural tolerance, nuclear disarmament, an end to capital punishment, delegitimized war, and universal education and health care. Exemplars of creating systems of peacemaking include Nelson Mandela and Bill McKibben of But none of this is easy. Where do you struggle to challenge the present corrupt systems and catalyze new systems of justice?

Creative peacemaking can begin in any of the four quadrants. We can teach meditation, practice nonviolent networking, or advocate new stories or new policies. Wherever we begin, we can affect the other quadrants. We can also design projects that activate all four quadrants.

Most of us can agree with these faces of peacemaking. But what is blocking us? What is keeping this from happening? What do we need to do in order to do this? I struggle to do these things. What are your struggles? We need a balance between patience and consideration and between urgency and boldness. How can we do this? It isn’t easy. It is very challenging. It can be boring. It is hard work. Its outcome is uncertain. It won’t make us rich or popular. How do we move forward day after day?

Who is drawn to help nurture the mind of peacemaking? The behavior of peacemaking? The culture of peacemaking? Systems and policies of peacemaking? All four dimensions?

Strategies, Partnerships, and Projects

We can design creative initiatives and projects of education, networking, and advocacy.

Education: We can design educational projects to promote creative peacemaking. These can involve teaching meditation or ethics and providing relevant information. They can teach nonviolent resistance, facilitation, mediation, new stories of dialogue and justice, and new policy messages.

Networking: We can design networking projects that promote collaboration and group facilitation. We can promote networking among diverse communities to nurture understanding, among facilitators and mediators, among new exemplars of peacemaking, and among policy makers.

Advocacy: We can also design projects that advocate for new mind-sets, individual behaviors, new cultural expressions, or new policies and institutions of peacemaking. These can involve speaking out, writing, blogging, creating art forms, and engaging in politics.

We can invent creative new pathways to peace: new language, new methods, new partnerships, new projects, new ideas, new rituals, and new policies.

My challenge to you is to push for breakthrough-thinking toward radical being and doing. Speak your truth. Listen to each other’s truth. Risk bold proposals. Manifest your ground of values. Dare to be the change that the world needs. These are the times. And we are the people!

May all people everywhere, including you and me, realize peace, happiness, understanding, and compassion.

. . . . . .

The above excerpt is from my book A Compassionate Civilization: The Urgency of Sustainable Development and Mindful Activism - Reflections and Recommendations, pages 105 - 111. The book is available online and from local bookshops.

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