Throughout my life, world leaders with developmentally-challenged minds stuck in toddlerhood, pre-teen, or adolescence have wrought incalculable death and suffering on the people of Earth, and destruction to the planetary body. Western media have mostly cheered for them, repeated their lies as truth, and demonized any who dared to question the cults of violence built by these geopolitical bullies.
The decades following the end of WWII are littered with the lies and depredations of these people, who rose on a campaign of fear; governed on an obsession steeped in greed; and manipulated the media through an utterly transparent vanity. As Carol Anthony wrote, “Of all evils, vanity is the most seductive, therefore the most dangerous.”
Had any of these — Nixon, Reagan, Thatcher, Blair, Bush, Kissinger, Cheney, Clinton, Obama, Trump — not risen as they did to positions of ultimate power and violence, they would have been no particular menace to the world. But they became mighty tyrants within failing empires, and thus their darkness of ignorance, violence, and mindless greed poisoned the Earth.
But looking beyond these evils, we find a single character trait that unites them all. It is mere brattishness; an astonishing lack of maturity in these world leaders and their media mouthpieces. In some of them, it is obvious regression — Nixon amid his paranoid psychotic delusions; Reagan in his deepening dementia; Bush and Trump in their tragicomic class-clown personas. In others such as Obama, it appears as a kind of teenage arrogance and pretense that reveals a personality frozen in the lies and emotional self-indulgence of adolescence.
Maturity: Being Grown-In (Rather than Grown-Up)
The great Jungian psychologist James Hillman complained that there is too much emphasis in Western culture on forcing children to “grow up”. His point was that natural growth is (at least) as much a downward or inward process as upward. Plants with the deepest roots tend to reach the highest.
In a natural setting, maturity happens without much effort, since the distractions and compulsions spawned by vanity and ambition are missing. The pretenses and self-images of youth are gradually discarded. We grow in life more through release than through acquisition. Recognize ignorance within yourself, and then disperse it, and you will have peace. Do not attempt to tame or disguise your violent emotions; but examine them: trace them to their source, and take back the energy that feeds them. Then you will be free from fear. All it takes is self-awareness, a little effort, and trust in the currents of the universal consciousness, and your deep connection with them.
All the spoon-fed rich ideologues of this world have never learned this simple lesson. That is because they were never allowed to. And so they resort to what every unloved and undisciplined child will turn to: a program of shrill fear-mongering fed by greed — the blind lust for both money and image. As the Zen poet of the Rinzai Roku said:
Though gold dust is precious,
When it gets into the eyes
It clouds the vision.
So again: What these underdeveloped fools of Washington lack is not intellect—there are many smart people among them—but maturity. We are being governed by spoiled brats who never learned the lessons of maturity, and thus never grew out of that solipsistic cycle of ignorance, self-indulgence, and violence.
There is a teaching in this, for all of us who survive the depredations of these urchin kings. Our capacity to understand that teaching will help to influence the course of the next generation, and the one after. Think of this the next time you are moved to act aggressively or in hatred, whether at work or among your family. You can torture another with weapons, or whip him with arrogance; it is torture just the same.
This is why some of the more illuminated psychological and spiritual traditions of the world have emphasized maturity. In the Bodhisattva’s Vow, which is repeated thousands of times per day by Buddhists all around the Earth, the closing verse reads as follows:
May we extend
This mind over the whole universe
So that we and all beings together
May attain maturity in Buddha’s Wisdom.
Why, you may ask, do these people not ask for peace or truth or the blessings of a good life? Because they know that maturity means all these other things, and so much more. They know that maturity is the path to freedom and liberation from the round of ignorance and violence; they know that illumination is not a glorified or ideal state achieved only by arhats or gods, but that it is an ordinary state of mind that arises in every mindful thought, word, and act. They know that success is not a vertical but an inward path. They recognize that maturity is the secret of evolution, and that all the renewals and bloodless revolutions of society begin with a transformation within the individual self.
Evolution happens neither through the design of a god nor the theoretical conceptualizations of a biologist. It happens through the choice of each individual who lives his or her life in the open awareness that extends the mind across the universe within the living self, toward the realization of maturity—not in a distant Heaven or Nirvana or Utopia—but in the living presence of every relationship, within every moment. This is the way of true leadership.
The poet-philosopher of ancient China, Lao Tzu, saw this more than two millennia ago:
The best leader is himself led. From diversity, he builds consensus; achieves his aim; and then departs. Force and intimidation are neither his means nor his end. He is inwardly firm, without display. He is inwardly firm, without arrogance. He is inwardly firm, without contempt. He is inwardly firm, without demand. He is inwardly firm, without violence.— Ch. 30, Tao Te Ching (my translation)
Aggrandize yourself or your group, and you have chosen the path of decadence. This is called separation from the Source. To separate from the Source is the way of swift and certain inner death.