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Effective Leadership: Vision, Values and a Spiritual Perspective

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Three Temples of the Future

While a spiritual perspective in formulating a vision of the future provides the guidance needed to formulate and sustain this vision, it also opens the door to a greater appreciation of the distinctive differences to be found in many spiritual traditions regarding the fundamental nature of a future—however it is being conceived. Essentially, there are three templates that can be applied in formulating this vision of the future. These templates, in turn, are based on three different assumptions regarding the fundamental nature of time itself.

Linear Time: This was the template being used in the narratives of the Torah—as well as in the perspective offered by Fred Polak and most “futurists.” This template assumes that time is moving forward. Ideally, societies are moving upward. There is such a thing as progress and the achievement of goals. The shining city on the hill is being built. All lines have a beginning and an end. Communities are created and progress to a more “advanced” and humane level: however, there can’t be external progress. We all will eventually die, as will any community or society. A linear template inevitably requires an image of the Eschaton (the end of time). We find this image in the final chapter of the Christian New Testament.  There, in the Book of Revelations, we are confronted with the horrifying narrative of death, destruction and retribution. The “End” is never pretty. As we have already noted, when everything is coming to an end (as in the Mad Max movies) there is little need for the nurturing of a child—unless (as in McCarthy’s The Road) there is some lingering transcendent concern for human welfare.

Cyclical Time: This second template assumes that time is coming back around on itself. Societies remain the same while they are changing. We might envision traveling on a Möbius strip. After moving on the strip for a short while, we find ourselves on the opposite side of the strip. Change and transformation have taken place. However, as we continue our journey, this change and progress seems to have receded into the background. Eventually, we find ourselves back to where we began on our Möbius journey. We come to realize that “progress” is just an illusion.

The cyclical template is to be found in most natural religions—for they are based on and aligned with the cyclical seasons of nature. There is a Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter that repeatedly appear throughout the life of those creatures dwelling in a European forest or on a Russian steppe. The Baalites of the fertile plain in the Mideast were worshippers of a natural religion. Their sacrifice of animals was part of their ritualized recognition that birth, life, and death are repeated over and over again among all living beings. Moses’ clash with the worshippers of Baal represented confrontation between one spiritual tradition that is based on a linear template and another tradition that is based on a cyclical template.

It is fully understandable that those who worshipped Baal would fully absorb a cyclical version of time, for the rivers that they lived near (Tigris and Euphrates) flooded every year. They depended on this flooding to provide the crops and the grains for their own consumption and that of their herds. Mythically, the battle never ends between Marduk and Tiamat—this never-ending battle is represented in the yearly flooding and subsequent receding of these two rivers of the Fertile Crescent. There is an eternal struggle between order (Marduk) and chaos (Tiamat). This is a fundamental dynamic of mythic (and real) life.

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