Spiritual Perspectives on America’s Role as Superpower. Ed. by The Editors at Skylight Paths Publishing. Woodstock, Vt.: Skylight Path Publishing, 2003. Paperback, vii + 229 pages.
In the early 1980s, I was commissioned to interview a Persian Sufi master in London. To my astonishment, he chose to ridicule rather than illumine me, because he assumed I was American and deserving of a level of unkindness quite uncharacteristic of a Sufi. Facing such prejudice, I concluded that it would be pointless to continue with the interview and left. A decade earlier, while doing anthropological fieldwork in Arabia, I was met with suspicion and occasionally even scorn until people learned that I was not an American but a German citizen.
Having been born and raised in post-War Germany, I had encountered anti-American attitudes throughout my early years. Even during my years in Great Britain, I now and then would run into the same attitude. These incidents gave me an appreciation of the widespread dislike of the United States. Having lived for over twenty years in California, with largely positive experiences, I shelved whatever misgivings I might have had earlier. This changed with the 9/11 tragedy, which triggered my political nerve. As a writer on spiritual traditions I had managed to avoid addressing political issues; I knew then that this noncommittal phase was over for me. I clearly understood that the terrorist attack was caused by the callous imperialism of the United States.
The present volume is the product of a collaborative effort of no fewer than sixteen contributors—all of them spiritual leaders belonging to various faith traditions. The subject matter could not be more topical and critical. Today, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States is the sole superpower on our planet. Under the Bush regime, the US has assumed this role in a way strongly reminiscent of the Roman Empire—with an ever-expanding sphere of influence maintained by stupendous military might. Many non-Americans and a few Americans are genuinely scared by what they are witnessing.
The voices in this compilation reflect the diversity of thoughtful opinion in America at large. Some contributors express concern about the US’s self-appointed policing function in the world; others would like to see a shift from economics and politics to spirituality and cosmopolitan morality in defining America’s leadership role; yet others see the US naively as God-appointed custodian of the rest of the world.
The juxtaposition of the many views, with distinct spiritual anchorage points, is highly instructive. Together, the sixteen contributions, give the reader a head start in considering America’s position in the world’s political power play. Like the other volumes in this series, the present nicely assembled anthology includes a helpful Discussion Guide.
Copyright ©2006 by Georg Feuerstein. All rights reserved.
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