Leading By Example
We have a brave visionary at the heart of our national life, writes Rupert Sheldrake. Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our World by HRH The Prince of Wales, Tony Juniper and Ian Skelly. HarperCollins, 2010. ISBN: 9780007348039
This is a wonderful book: a remarkable synthesis of holistic thinking and traditional ideas about the interconnectedness of humanity, Nature and God. It is written in the Prince of Wales’ own voice and is both prophetic and passionate. It highlights the major problems that face us in the modern world, and points towards solutions, some of which the Prince has himself modelled through his initiatives and foundations.
The Prince’s co-authors, Tony Juniper, formerly head of Friends of the Earth, and Ian Skelly, a presenter on BBC Radio 3, are both very well informed and have played an important role in writing the book through their research and discussions with the Prince. The book deals with deep ideas, is factually informative and shows an inside knowledge of the processes of government and international decision-making. It is beautifully produced and lavishly illustrated.
This book most reminds me of Resurgence itself. Many of the themes it discusses are familiar to readers of this magazine; the Prince himself is a regular contributor, as are Juniper and Skelly.
The central theme of Harmony is that the fundamental problems of the modern world, such as the environmental and financial crises, are consequences of a crisis of perception: “It is the way we see the world that is ultimately at fault. If we simply concentrate on fixing the outward problems without paying attention to the central, inner problem, then the deeper problem remains, and we will carry on casting around in the wilderness for the right path without a proper sense of where we took the wrong turning.”
Harmony starts with a brief exposition of the philosophical and geometrical principles that inspired the builders of the great masterpieces of sacred architecture, which at the same time reflect how the natural world operates in a healthy state of balance. The Prince stresses that much ancient wisdom came to humanity through revelation, which “comes about when a person practises great humility and achieves a mastery over the ego so that the ‘the knower and the known’ effectively become one”. He quotes an eminent Islamic scholar who described humanity as being given “spiritual insights so that we should understand Nature, know God through his wondrous signs and experience the sublime joy of being in harmony with the infinite”.
Throughout the book, the Prince emphasises the need for connection with Nature, mystical insight and tradition. The overall aim is to live in harmony. By contrast, our present course of action is almost the opposite. “It is as if we are sailing on a giant tanker and heading straight for a hurricane. I know well from my time in the Royal Navy that if it were simply a big storm we would be able to sail through it – not a pleasant experience but possible. But at sea you do not sail into hurricanes. You go round them, respecting their immense power to destroy.”
The final chapter, Relationship, sums up many of the themes in the book by contrasting knowledge and relationship. In the modern world we are not short of knowledge: we have more than ever before. The missing element is our relationship with Nature, and it is here that we can learn from the remaining First Nation peoples. “The land lives and, as humanity is a part of the land, so the land inhabits man. We are in Earth as we are in Heaven.”
The Prince of Wales is not only a deep thinker and a visionary but a man of action too. I have always admired his bravery, but I was unaware of how many excellent activities he encourages until I read David Lorimer’s book Radical Prince: The Practical Vision of the Prince of Wales (2004), the first integrated account of the philosophy behind those activities. Now, in the Prince’s own words, we can see how all these projects hang together. Indeed you can (literally) hear it all in his own voice in the audio version of Harmony.
We are extraordinarily fortunate to have Prince Charles at the heart of our national life. I can think of no other public figure who so inspiringly embodies the hopes and values that we need today. He leads by example, campaigning tirelessly and unselfishly for the causes he believes in – which are the causes I believe in myself.
I gave this book to friends and to members of my family for Christmas, and it was much appreciated. I strongly recommend Harmony to readers of Resurgence, not only for themselves but also as a way of passing on to their own friends and family a source of so much insight and inspiration.