can see how we can begin to create a safe space for spiritual dialogue that isn’t about religiosity. Laloux’s principles relate to noticing a greater interconnected purpose, and one of these principles invites members of an organisation to reclaim their inner wholeness and bring “all of who they are”. This principle welcomes the emotional, intuitive and spiritual elements of intelligence in place of conventional displays of rationality, scientific evaluation and discarding of vulnerability.
XR isn’t afraid of its spiritual work. It isn’t afraid of being a home for people of faith, just as it welcomes atheists, humanists, agnostics and those taking plant medicines. We welcome everyone to be all of themselves and also know that we can pray if we want to and if we so choose we can call for our divine purpose or divine spark to be in service for the highest good.
If science, realism and pragmatism is where you are called to serve from, then this is also perfect, and essential. There is space for all of us to occupy our own truth.
During our October Rebellion, the XR Faith Group pledged to close Lambeth Bridge. On the morning of the first day of rebellion, people of all faiths and none came to close the south side. Something very interesting happened. The police seemed to focus in a way they weren’t doing at our other eleven locations or indeed on the other side of the bridge. They formed a human barricade and refused us access to the bridge. The invocations, songs, poems and prayers that were read that morning created deep collective emotion and power. We were grieving openly and heartfully and it was galvanising courage, with religious leaders visiting the site to speak and honour what was happening. The police officers were visibly moved and seemed disturbed by the energy that was being created. I’m guessing there was a special order to prevent this site from building momentum. The response from the police was much firmer than at other sites. We will never know, but something different happened on Lambeth Bridge that morning, and by midday the police had effectively cleared us off the site – this was the first location to be cleared.
For Shia Muslims (the religion of my childhood), the call for social justice driven through the energy of grief strengthens through the story of Imam Hussain and his sister Zainab, whose family were starved to death because they resisted acceptance of absolute power and authority over them. Hussain rebelled because it was the right thing to do, and his sacrifice is marked as a grief ritual every year for a whole month by Shia Muslims.
As I write, XR hunger strikers are unwell after weeks of starving themselves. Our capacity for giving our strength of life for what we love continues. The experience of mourning so deeply, honestly and visibly is something we have embraced within Extinction Rebellion, and this certainly need not take any spiritual form. It’s a fundamental emotion that resides in all of us, and on the middle weekend of rebellion more than 25,000 people gathered for our XR grief march. Grief and its sisters sorrow and sorry have felt like gateways to energy for the work that we need to do. They give paths to information for right action. What I’ve noticed as someone who was born into a culture that begins each year with a grief ritual is that, in the global north, it’s almost as if our right to grieve has been lost to us. Grief is the natural way love honours what it misses. Its fire offers transmutation. Grief has a sound, a sound that embarrasses the repressed and offends the oppressive; grief is the sound of being alive. In and around Extinction Rebellion and through the work of other movements and organisations like the climate psychology alliance, we are witnessing grief reviving our culture, bringing back to life individuals and communities. Active grief reveals our commitment to life and helps to restore an active hope. It breaks our heart open for love in all its forms and prepares the heart for fierce and courageous love in action.
Grief has a sound, a sound that embarrasses the repressed and offends the oppressive; grief is the sound of being alive
It feels hard to separate now what is emotional and what is spiritual energy – what is sacred and what isn’t, in our act of nonviolent civil disobedience? As we sit between paradigms, as our social and political norms disintegrate and old stories begin to lose their attraction, as we question our cultural identities and our values shift apart and towards each other, there is a space I’m not sure any of us were anticipating. A space where we can start to let go of the dividing lines that separate our thinking and being together – the old explanations of spirit versus science. Heart versus head. Yes, or No.
The most sacred act of rebellion seems to be about making space for an inner and outer reconciliation. Bringing together the different parts of who we are and appreciating that work in the world around us. Allowing for an inner coherence and for an outer coherence. A coherence that might appear and create as fractal science because it has an invisible pattern and a beautiful maths, or as the heart coherence discussed by the HeartMath Institute. And then of course it can be sacred in a sense that we would hold it dear to us as both science and emotion at work. When we think of a caterpillar transforming itself into a butterfly, or a baby growing from an embryo to be born into the world, then we know that these acts of science are also sacred in their emotional felt sense. Rebellion is a precursor for transformation – it is the embryo, and the caterpillar withdrawing from its normal life. Rebellion is a sacred act.
Skeena Rathor is a co-founder of Extinction Rebellion’s Vision Sensing Circle, and a district councillor for Stroud.
22 Resurgence & Ecologist