Synchronized Prayer and Meditation Can Create Measurable Social Change

Posted on in On Our Radar by David Nicol


Spiritual or consciousness-based practices like meditation, prayer, and ritual—in addition to their positive effect on individuals—may play a subtle, yet crucial, role in supporting change in the world. The intentional use of such practices for collective benefit can be understood as a subtle form of activism, or subtle activism. Subtle activism is a creative approach to social engagement that broadens the traditional scope of both activism and spirituality.

On the one hand, subtle activism can be seen as a novel component of an integrative spirituality that aims to extend our spiritual attention to all aspects of our lives, including our participation in the social and political realm. On the other, it can be viewed as part of an integral approach to social change that seeks to address the underlying psychological and spiritual dimensions of sociopolitical transformation alongside outer actions. In straddling the worlds of spirituality and social change, subtle activism represents a bridge between the consciousness movement and the movements for peace, environmental sustainability, and social justice.

I believe that the practice of subtle activism is an especially meaningful response to the contemporary global situation, of mean by subtle activism. Among the many historical and contemporary examples of subtle activism are the following:

» The (admittedly exceptional) claim by Indian sage Sri Aurobindo to have successfully wielded advanced yogic powers in psychic warfare with the Nazis from his bedroom in Pondicherry, India.

» The “Magical Battle of Britain,” a project led by esoteric teacher Dion Fortune to strengthen the will of the British people during World War II through the practice of esoteric visualization techniques by a small London-based focalizing group and a wider national network.

» The series of massive peace meditations organized in Sri Lanka in the 1990s by Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne and his Sarvodaya network to help facilitate a peaceful resolution to the Sri Lankan civil war.

» The WiseUSA initiative, convened by the Gaiafield Project (an organization I helped found), which brought together dozens of socially engaged American spiritual teachers and thousands of participants for a series of online meditation and prayer events intended to support the emergence of wisdom and compassion in the context of the 2008 and 2012 US electoral processes.

» The “Be The Peace” event on September 21, 2014 (the UN-designated International Day of Peace) that linked more than a thousand meditation gatherings in 59 countries in shared intention to support a shift to a planetary culture of peace.

As these examples demonstrate, subtle activism can be practiced by individuals, small groups, and sometimes, in the case of mass or global meditation events, very large groups. It can be applied to all scales of social organization, from local communities to cities to nations to the whole human species or all life on earth. It can be used to address various aspects of collective transformation, such as healing collective traumas from the past, providing support during sociopolitical crises or natural disasters in the present, or holding positive visions of a collective future.

David Nicol, PhD, is the executive director and cofounder of the Gaiafield Project,, and WiseUSA, initiatives that have united tens of thousands of people worldwide for large-scale meditations dedicated to social change. This article is adapted with permission from his book Subtle Activism: The Inner Dimension of Social and Planetary Transformation. •

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