Holistic Health Newsletter!
About Share Guide
Holistic Health Articles
Dennis Hughes: In your inspiring book The
Healing Of America, you mention that a "sea change" is needed in
education. Can you comment on that?
Marianne Williamson: You have to After World War
II, our public education system seemingly made a tacit agreement with
the business sector. We were to use the public school system to produce
workers who would best grease the machinery of the American economy. We
have always had a market based economy, something which few of us would
criticize. But what began to happen in the last half of the 20th
century was that we developed a marketplace world view. Education then
became more of a support system for the economy than what I believe it
rightfully should be. It should be a support system for democracy
itself by fostering citizens with the liveliest, most vital hearts and
minds. The economy at that time did not demand free thinkers. In fact,
free thinkers were a distraction. Democracy however, depends upon free
Dennis: So that is how the
degeneration of the school system started?
Marianne: Yes. Public school should not
be some place where people are trained to do what they are told, to
think within certain boxes.
Dennis: I think I realized in fifth
or sixth grade that the bell that rang at school was similar to the
bell that rang at work for adults.
Marianne:: Absolutely. We have now
moved from the similarity between schools and the workplace to the
similarity between schools and prisons.
Dennis: What changes do you think are
needed in education now?
Marianne: First of all, I think that
many, many people are already at work in changing education. A friend
was talking to me the other day about how education should be an alpha
wave phenomenon: it should come from play and wonder. Instead, our
education system tends to be a beta wave phenomenon: hierarchical,
patriarchal, nationalistic. It produces people who can stay within the
box and even think within it (sometimes brilliantly), but it doesn't
feed the soul--or in the highest sense, feed the future.
Dennis: I agree with you. So to go
further, it is my thinking that since we all want to transform society
and make a better world, one of the very root places where that starts
is in education, which leads to how we live our daily lives. Your new
book Imagine really excited me. Just the concept, "Imagine What America
Can Be In The 21st Century" is inspiring.
Marianne: I think that we are in the
midst of a huge cultural revolution in this country. It remains unnamed
and therefore pretty much invisible to the old order. It moves beneath
the radar line of the status quo, but it is clearly there. People
across the board in every institution, in every geographical and
attitudinal sector of our society are struggling every day to move
beyond mechanistic, top down, overly externalized, overly secularized
patterns of thought and behavior. In countless ways day in and day out,
people make subtle and not so subtle changes in the way they think, the
way they live, the way they work, the way they play. These changes
accumulate and are driving this huge ship called American Civilization
in a new direction. In The Course In Miracles it says that exploring a
spiritual path does not involve learning so much as unlearning. The
highest issue of education in my mind does not just apply to children.
Education applies to all of us, in order to succeed in the deepest
sense of the word, and by that I mean defining success as living happy,
vital, creative and actualized lives. All of us need to lose many of
the constructs built up over the past century. These are mental, social
and emotional concepts, which were a product of the 20th century and of
the Industrial Revolution. They did not then, and do not now resonate
deeply with who we are as human beings, deep in our hearts. The highest
education to me is a kind of surrender--a letting go of an old world
view. And the re-education process goes way beyond just the institution
of education itself.
Dennis: So we need to make a shift on
Marianne: Right. If you think about it,
the educational system is a product of the world view, as much as the
cultural world view is a product of the that system. Education became a
servant to that world view, and then what happens, of course, in turn,
is that education is used to promote the world view further. So that at
a certain point people don't even know what came first. What is
dangerous about this is that people no longer discern that it is simply
a choice rather than any kind of natural order.
Dennis: Right, it is all kind of
blurred together now.
Marianne: Yes. There is an entire
generation that doesn't remember a time when economics was not the
organizing principle in American society.
Dennis: The book Imagine is full of
visions of the future by different specialists in different areas. I
liked that thinking: Aha! Imagine what the world would be like if we
made these changes.
Marianne: There is something going on
today which is both surprising and sad. America itself is a huge idea.
We were a nation born from a radical thought--a repudiation of
thousands of years of an ancient regime where power was concentrated in
the hands of a monarch and a very small aristocracy. Our country was
founded in a blazing testament to the human yearning to turn that
formula upside down, to place power in the hands of the common people.
Power was only to be lent to the government, not given, by the way. The
government was to work for the people and not the other way around. So
we were born out of audacity. Audacity is in our cultural DNA, and yet
what concerns me is what little audacity we seem to have left. We pour
the vast majority of our incredible talent and ingenuity into the
private sector. We create amazing new gadgets, new computers, wild new
dress designs, new kitchen utensils. All of that, it seems to me, is a
distraction from the fact that we are becoming less and less creative
and less audacious in the places where we need to be--mainly in the
Dennis: The monarchies have been
replaced by the corporations and we are now following their agenda.
Marianne: Yes, that's true. My book
Healing The Soul Of America talks about how corporations have become
the new American aristocracy. Once again, the most dangerous fact here
is not that this has occurred, but that we have so many people now that
just don't even see it. And if they do see it, they don't really see
anything wrong with it. And that's basically because of such an
appalling lack of American history being taught to our young people.
All too often, our young people have not studied civics or history or
anything to inform them not only of the facts, but of the meaning
behind the American Revolution, and how against the democratic grain
corporate dominance really goes.
Dennis: Revolutionary thought is tied
to the New Age, or Cultural Creatives, or the Holistic Health Movement.
You can trace free thinking back through the hippies, the beatniks and
the bohemians. Most in our parent's generation weren't bigger dreamers,
but we have to recapture the vision of the founding fathers.
Marianne: Right. I talk about all of
that being the soul of America, from the Quakers to the
Dennis: There is a quote by Peter
Drucker who wrote The New Society which is, "The best way to predict
the future is to create it."
Marianne: Ah! That is beautiful.
Dennis: Because my readers tend to be
college age and beyond, I have often focused on higher education rather
than lower education. But I want to acknowledge that a shift needs to
happen in the lower education sector, and we really do need to teach
kids the heart of American history so they can put the present into
Marianne: I think early education is
probably the most important thing.
Dennis: Yes, because it comes first.
If you don't start there then it is hard to change people later. For
instance, all the kids who are growing up with recycling now, it is
just their way of life, it is what they learned from the beginning. And
children have innate feelings sometimes that can get quashed by the
Marianne: That is why I believe we need
more of an education system that protects children's natural sense of
wonder, because out of that a hunger for learning naturally emerges.
That is why I am a fan of things like the Waldorf education system.
Dennis: Yes, and Montessori as well.
Marianne: Yes, my daughter went to both.
Dennis: How old is your daughter now?
Marianne: My daughter is ten now and in
a public school, but through the second grade she was in Montessori and
Dennis: Well, somehow we got here
anyway, you and I, even without that. I was the first person of any
generation on either side of my family who went to college. I made good
grades, got financial aid and went to Sonoma State University. But then
I didn't know what to do with it; I changed majors a whole lot.
Marianne: So what did you do?
Dennis: I wound up in the Hutchins
School of Independent Studies at Sonoma State University, where I
studied Comparative Religion. This led me to living in ashrams around
the nation. Then I eventually went into the natural foods movement,
never getting a college degree because my own business took off while I
was still in college. I became an entrepreneur and worked in the
holistic health movement. After a decade of this work, I sold my
business and went into journalism. I started Share Guide with my wife
Janice and it is now 12 years old. We started it because we were
disappointed with the regular media. Our daily newspaper had been
purchased by the New York Times. Yet I was reading so many positive
stories in New Age Journal and Yoga Journal and so forth that were not
reported in the mainstream. I got angry and decided I could do better,
even though I never had any journalism classes. We have built this
magazine up just one day at a time. Right now my vision is to offer
what I do with holistic health themes and interviews and so forth to
local media around the nation and try and create more of a network for
this kind of material.
Marianne: Do you think that a national
newspaper with those kinds of stories would make it in America?
Dennis: Certainly a section therein
at least, and the television channels could incorporate these positive
stories in their newscasts. It will happen eventually. The question is
whether it will happen in our time. There are over 100 free regional
magazines like Share Guide around the nation now. And there are quite a
few national paid magazines like Utne Reader and Yes Journal. These are
publications that are monthly or bi-monthly. But there is definitely
enough news to fill a daily newspaper. Whether or not there is enough
ad revenue to cover that yet, I don't know, but it is certainly coming.
As you know, everyone needs food; not everyone needs counseling or
bodywork, or they don't think they do. Therefore, the natural foods
movement is larger than any other aspect of the movement. Whole Foods
is the chain that has bought all the little stores, so now they are my
back cover, and if anyone sees Share Guide from coast to coast, they
usually know about Whole Foods. I think that is related to the whole
big picture. We are thinking about the future in a big way.
Marianne: That's excellent.
Dennis: Going back to education: In
the future, what do you think should be the focus of the modern
Marianne: Education should not so much
teach our children what to think but how to think. Any system, whether
it is a family, an organization or a nation, that doesn't prepare its
young to rebel constructively is preparing itself to die.
Dennis: Right, because the youth need
to be adaptable.
Marianne: When I was young we kept
saying that our education wasn't relevant. We didn't see the point of
studying Aristotle. Today I see it so differently! I can't think of
anything more relevant to the cultivation of a fully actualized
awareness than a broad experience and exposure to artistic and
philosophical as well as technical subjects. Real preparation for a
creative and prosperous life today has less to do with knowing a
specific set of facts and more to do with the elasticity of one's mind
Dennis: How do we keep people from
dropping out of high school?
Marianne: Maybe what we need to do is
think less in terms of keeping people from dropping out and more about
why they are dropping out. We need to set about the creation of a more
exciting environment so that they will want to stay. That would include
more technical training, I think, for people who would prefer some type
Dennis: Like wood shop, metal shop,
that kind of thing?
Dennis: I am glad that I sampled
those things as well as algebra and so forth or I wouldn't have a
woodshop in my garage today.
Marianne: Exactly. I was telling my
mother that I wouldn't know where I would be today if she hadn't made
me learn how to type.
Dennis: Yes. That's true. I wonder
how much technology is going to change things over the next 50 years.
Marianne: I think we are so reckless.
We don't know what effect it is having on our children's brains to be
exposed to computers so often, so early.
Dennis: What about the affordability
of advanced education? How are we going to deal with that?
Marianne: Once again, we are living in
a society that has made short-term corporate gain our bottom line,
rather than serious long-term investment in our people and our future.
We are a nation that is climbing towards 300 billion dollars a year in
our defense budget.
Dennis: But despite that, there is a
major surge of people who care, and want to do something different.
Marianne: Yes, this is such a
phenomenal moment! Millions of us are involved.
Dennis: There are books such as The
Cultural Creatives by Paul Ray and Sherry Anderson, which says that
perhaps a quarter of the population is thinking differently already.
Seven out of the top ten best sellers on the New York Times Bestseller
List in any given year are spiritual or consciousness related. So there
is certainly a lot of interest in change. Not everyone is walking lock
step into the future just being a clone of the corporation.
Marianne: Yes, I couldn't agree with
you more. I think that is why this such a critical moment. We are
having a revolution here, but it is unnamed. The old order thinks
"Well, if we don't name it, or if we will give it a silly name like New
Age, then it doesn't really exist and it can't really harm us."
Dennis: There is another great book
I've read called The Global Brain Awakens: Our Next Evolutionary Step
by Peter Russell.
Marianne: I know Peter.
Dennis: His book talks about how we
are coming into this Consciousness Age because there is so much
interest in it, and that's what is eventually going to replace the
Information Age. Meanwhile the status quo just wants to use the
information to expand the world economy.
Marianne: The marketplace--that is all
the old monster really relates to. I call it a monster because it is a
system that is not driven by heart, or conscience, or ethics.
Dennis: I totally agree. There was an
album called "Monster" by Steppenwolf back in the 1960's. That is what
they were talking about.
Marianne: Rock-n-roll is such a perfect
example of something that started out as an instrument of revolution
and now it's been totally co-opted and become the monster's pet.
Dennis: Yes, now you can hear your
favorite old songs on car commercials!
Marianne: That's sad.
Dennis: I'd like to ask you a couple
of questions suggested by Janice, my wife and partner. What do you
think are the key elements of the structure of the US educational
system which help perpetuate the status quo and prevent people from
taking responsibility for destructive habits?
Marianne: I would like to see an
educational environment such as those cultivated by both Waldorf and
Montessori systems, where the natural excitement of children is seen as
a prerequisite to their learning, rather than the loss of this being
the price we pay in order to learn. I don't think education should
limit children's creativity by an over concentration on left-brain,
rationalistic, technological functioning. I'd like to see education be
more relational, more playful, more joyful, and more sacred.
Dennis: Robert Thurman has said that
everyone needs a "B.E.: a Bachelor's of Enlightenment" prior to getting
a practical skill so that once they learn how to have power in the
world they don't abuse it. And we can start with alternative useful
models like Waldorf and Montessori.
Marianne: My daughter has taken classes
in forgiveness and compassion and comparative religions.
Dennis: These should be taught to the
youth, definitely, as a basic foundation.
Marianne: If you look at how many wars
are fought on the planet today between and among religions, nothing
could be more important than our children being trained to have a deep
cultural understanding of religions other than their own.
Dennis: You are right. There is so
much divisiveness and thinking "My God is better than your God."
Marianne: We judge what we are ignorant
Dennis: That's right. Here is another
of Janice's comments: How we spend our money impacts industry and
society, but if we educate ourselves for a conscious career, we can
benefit society with right livelihood as well as conscious spending.
Marianne: She's right.
Dennis: A lot of people are now
donating money. People who have cubicles in corporations have
Greenpeace calendars and belong to the Sierra Club. But if they are
working in their daily lives to build the monster, then they are just
kind of giving the crumbs back.
Marianne: I think many people
understand that. On the other hand, most of the people that you are
talking about would say, "Gee, I need this job." There are at least
couple of ways of looking at it. Number one, some of the people who
"feed the monster" genuinely don't know where else they could work.
Number two, there are people within those systems seeking to
Dennis: To transmute the monster?
Marianne: Absolutely. From my vantage
point, this is not an anti-corporate message--it is a message of
Dennis: And there can be socially
Marianne: Absolutely, and I think there
are some very socially conscious people working within the corporate
sector, such as Paul Hawken.
Dennis: Some corporations are
contacting the conscious speakers from venues like Whole Life Expo and
the Bioneers Conference and bringing them in to conduct trainings. Even
my Buddhist lama teacher gets invited to speak at corporations.
Marianne: But there's a problem with
that as well.
Dennis: Which is?
Marianne: The problem of being
co-opted. Unless they are willing for us to come in there and point out
the destructiveness of the global corporate order!
Dennis: So can we illuminate the
corporations from within?
Marianne: Well, the corporations are
made of people after all. Look at someone like Bill Ford. I live in
Detroit, and he says some pretty hip things.
Dennis: Isn't he the one aiming for
cars that can do 100 miles per gallon?
Marianne: Yes. He's clearly trying.
Dennis: In Imagine, toward the end,
there is some talk about "Spaceship Earth" and too many of us feeling
like we are just passengers…
Marianne: Rather than drivers…
Dennis: Exactly. We aren't passengers
on Spaceship Earth, we're the crew. We aren't residents on this planet,
we're citizens. The difference in both cases is responsibility.
Marianne: Well, I think that thinking
is exacerbated by the fact that we have it so good in this society. Our
young people too often fail to realize the struggles, the human
suffering involved in creating so many of the freedoms and
opportunities we now take for granted.
Dennis: Yes, some of us are lazy and
Marianne: I heard a woman speak
yesterday at a conference for women in San Francisco. She is the lawyer
who argued Roe vs. Wade in front of the Supreme Court. What's clear is
that women of a certain generation realize what a dramatic and
significant moment Roe vs. Wade represented. Too many younger women
take their right to choose for granted. So they're not politically
active. Their eyes are not necessarily open to the gradual whittling
away of Roe vs. Wade that is the current strategy among the Right and
our new administration. They don't seem to have any sense that this
right could disappear. Because they weren't around for the struggle and
they weren't educated about it.
Dennis: It is not a real thing to
them; it is just part of history.
Marianne: Right, and that is what has
happened to education in America in general. It has become like
processed food; it has no chi.
Dennis: Here's another Janice
question: What do you think of the idea of mandatory community service,
and/or repaying of college financial aid partially through community
Marianne: I love the concept; I just
have a problem with the word mandatory.
Dennis: "Mandatory conscription"
would be similar to what some countries have for their army. You don't
think the environment is that bad yet?
Marianne: I think that there are enough
people who would joyfully and willingly do community service if they
knew where to go and what to do--in a way that could really make a
Dennis: What if you could defray part
of your financial aid for school by community service?
Marianne: Yes, that would be great!
Dennis: Like the Peace Corps or
something…The Earth Corps.
Marianne: I think that would be
fantastic, and I think that is the direction Clinton was trying to take
Dennis: I have a thought about
conscious careers. I had a quote that I stuck up above my desk at home
while in college. It said, "Find a need and fill it." I eventually
found the natural foods movement as a way to plug in, because I was
looking for things that needed to be done. I recommend that people seek
careers and training for work that will serve this growing cultural
Marianne: That is a very powerful
Dennis: I have worked for 25 years
now doing conscious work and I haven't always made great money, but I
could always feel good about what I was doing.
Marianne: I have as well, and a couple
of times it did make money, but not because I was trying. First of all,
I think that money should not be your primary motivation. When money is
not your primary motivation, anything can happen--including money.
Dennis: That's right. My finances are
definitely better than they were years ago, through my slow and steady
efforts at right livelihood. Whatever I get, however, goes into good
places. A great quote I have in my office says, "The truth is that
loving service will save us and the earth."
Marianne: That's beautiful.
Dennis: Let's close by discussing the
Global Renaissance Alliance--both how it started and where it's headed.
Marianne: The Global Renaissance
Alliance is a network of small circles of people, usually 12 or fewer,
who will one day form a kind of mystical bridge surrounding the planet.
Through prayer, meditation and deep sharing from the heart, we seek to
create a field of prayerful meditative energy to uplift the
thoughtforms of the planet. The problems of the world are based in
dense material reality and they saturate our reality. Traditional
political activism simply does not contain enough spiritual fuel or
spiritual power to fundamentally turn human civilization in a new
direction. The Global Renaissance Alliance uses meditation, prayer and
sacred sharing to compliment and purify the more traditional efforts to
heal the world. It is a place where we process through our cynicism,
our fear, our anger, and our hopelessness and move into spiritual
invocation of the paradise this world could be.
Dennis: You've gotten a number of
known authors who participate in this organization. What are your
intentions or goals with the GRA?
Marianne: My hope is that one day small
circles of sacred sharing will encircle the planet the way rings circle
Dennis: Excellent! And you do
meetings and conferences periodically?
Marianne: Yes, they are listed on the
website. There is also a handbook available if people want to start
their own circle.
For more information about Marianne Williamson and the
Global Renaissance Alliance, please visit www.RenaissanceAlliance.org
you liked this interview,
you'll love The Share Guide's
Home Health Directory Articles Index Interviews Index
Reviews Links About Share Guide Contact us