Our nation was not created to be a pure democracy, but it did have a structure that would allow it to become one, if we, the people, wanted it to become one, if we wanted to create it. Our nation was an experiment, in that the history of democracy in the world has always been short-lived. It is an experiment because so far, human nature has not been able to create it and keep it alive.
There is an inherent struggle in a democracy. This is not caused by the nature of democracy itself, but is inherent in any social system, although often not consciously recognized… which it must become if we are to work towards it.
This struggle, however, is a good one, an important one, for all of us, because it must begin in each of us… first. The nature of the inherent difficulty can be explained very well using astrological language. It can be described as being the tension between the archetypal forces called Uranus and Neptune.
Uranus is the movement towards individualism and uniqueness, which includes the importance of individual rights, including the right to self-determination. In the child, it is the urge to declare that “I want this” or “I need this.” In the adult, it is the urge to become one own’s authority and to truly be free to cultivate in oneself the movement towards becoming a unique being, different from all others.
Neptune, its polar opposite, is the archetypal force that leads us to experiencing the utter connectedness each of us has with all others and with the world itself. Neptune’s process is often thought of as dissolving the “ego,” so that something much greater and more expansive can be born in us. This side of the set urges the individual to consider the existence of a “social contract,” but more deeply, to know that we are better together than when we are separate.
These two forces co-exist in each of us and cannot be separated because they are inherent in both our nature and in the nature of our world. But, clearly, there is great tension between these two forces, pressuring each person to choose one side over the other, thereby creating imbalance with its resulting conflicts. While this tension is inherent, how it is handled is up to each of us. Tension is either avoided, creating deep polarities, and even forces of destruction… or it can be used to become a source of immense creativity. Which of these is the better option?
Much is required of the person who attempts to hold the tension of these opposites, because it must be done with conscious awareness of this on a constant basis. But, though it is difficult, it is extremely valuable and necessary for there to be an optimal personal and social life. It is the foundation for creative solutions to life problems.
Democracy requires something from each of its individuals and its collective that no other form of government does. This is why democracy is so short-lived. Further, to persist for generations or more, it must be constantly created. It has to breathe anew and never be allowed to go stale. The pressures of life provide constant challenges for us personally and for the collective, and these can only be met in an optimal way when we are living in this tension, keeping both sides if this existential set acutely alive, active, and conscious. This is absolutely necessary for it to be handled, and it must be done by us individually and collectively.
On a personal level, this ability is wonderfully described by the Jungian term “individuation.” Note that this term is not the same as “individualization.” Jung’s term is considered to be a process that leads the individual to become whole or complete. It is not static at all, but a dynamic, pulsating way of living. It is ever changing and alive.
If enough of the individuals in our society begin to understand and live this, it can extend into the society at large and demonstrate the necessity of creating an awareness of the social contract that also honors the individual. We are social beings, and do not live on an island, but in a world of others who are both similar to and different from each other. They desire to have the same rights as you do. This must be acknowledged, and thus we come back again to needing to become aware of the inherent tension between the self’s needs and the needs of others.
It is easy to fall back into the emphasis of the smaller self, of me, and to deny the importance of the other. To fail to do this is to be the 5-year old that is selfish, immature and small.
It is easy to fall back into authoritarianism, where a King or dictator decides, or to powerful technocrats, such as in China. This is the easy way because it is the way of human history.
To keep the tension conscious and alive in us is hard. And, it is never perfect. It is very much like being the tightrope walker who is never steady, fixed, or in perfect balance. It is in pulsating flux, ever-changing, which is the nature of life. Is this not hard? Is this a worthy goal for both each of us individually and for the collective?
We have no chance to get close to this if we don’t live it as consciously as possible, but it must be within ourselves first. Might we ponder this? Must we recognize that in order to accept others as part of our social contract, we must look at our own biases, prejudices, and tendencies to only love those in our own smaller world or tribe? This is living small, insular, and most importantly, in fear. Fear itself makes us smaller, terrified of change, defensive, and paradoxically, arrogant. But is not arrogance really just fear on steroids? It is compensatory; therefore, it is a lie…a dangerous and destructive lie.
Yes, to live with this tension is hard, to constantly ask ourselves if we are free from bias, fear and those emotions that lead to hate. Religion itself must do this as well…to become aware of this tension and how it must be handled. The guidepost for our success is actually quite simple. It is the Neptunian force that leads us to a state of Love. This Love is inclusive. It unifies self and other, because it sees all of us through the lens of Love. This is what has been referred to as “Divine Love,” or mystical Love, that we all seek deeply in our hearts. It is possible for us all, and the pursuit of democracy requires that we activate this as much as possible in each moment.
This is why democracy is hard, why it has been an “ideal.” But, it is possible. Why? Because if it exists in just one person, then it can exist in each of us, because that is the nature of our reality.
We must learn to hold the tension between valuing our own individuality, the same individuality potentially existing in all others, and in doing so we would find ourselves moving in the kind of Love that has no opposites, where hate and separation cannot exist. This is why we must fight for democracy and more importantly, why we must value it. To do this is to value oneself and others, so thoroughly that we will hardly be able to tell the difference.
Then, we must commit to working on ourselves as much as possible, and hold the tensions within us as a sacred, spiritual act, for ourselves and for all of us.
More than ever, this nation, we the people, are being challenged to move to a new understanding of why democracy is important, valuable, and worth fighting for. But, to accomplish this challenge and face the forces that threaten it, we must discover and affirm how each of us must participate, in one’s own unique way, in this transformation. For it is a transformation. For to truly value democracy, we must transform, individually. If we do not, we will fall back into authoritarianism, which historically has been the human default position.
The purpose of the United States, why it is potentially exceptional, is that it is our responsibility to meet these challenges and exemplify this optimal form of individual importance in concert with a vibrant and alive valuing of others and our social contract.
If we transform, perhaps the world will follow.