Is World Peace Possible?
Peace may be closer than we think.
Posted December 24, 2020 | Reviewed by Gary Drevitch
Peace is a timeless and universal vision belonging to all, and it has forever been a multidisciplinary interest. The great ideals and perennial values of the world’s religions serve not only as beacons to better times, when all will live together in harmony and good will, but they are also designed, when put into practice and lived by, to represent a promise of what humanity is capable of, maybe even created for.
The Golden Rule can be seen as a foundation for a principle of justice that, when extended from the individual to the global level, becomes the basis for the fulfillment of the promise of peace on earth.
At the end of the 18th century, philosopher Immanuel Kant proposed in his essay Perpetual Peace a program to be implemented by governments that would abolish standing armies, eliminate interference of one state with another, and prevent national funds from being used to create friction with other nations. These steps and more, including the rights of all people, as citizens of the world, to experience universal hospitality, would be the foundation on which to build a lasting peace. This essay influenced not only European thought and political practice but was also well represented in the formation of the United Nations.
The founder of experimental psychology, Wilhelm Wundt, who also founded folk psychology—what became cultural psychology—wrote in 1912 of how the psychological and cultural development of humanity has evolved through stages toward a consciousness of “mankind as a unity,” when national affiliations give way to world-wide humanistic concerns. This evolutionary stage can now be seen as where we are headed, and as a prerequisite to world peace.
World unity seems to be where the evolutionary flow is heading, favoring cooperation over competition. But is world peace a promise to be fulfilled, or one that will never be kept? Is it possible that world peace is an inevitable outcome of our collective evolution?
As Rev. Michael Bernard Beckwith makes clear in his chapter “Is World Peace Possible?” in Our Moment of Choice: Evolutionary Visions and Hope for the Future, “peace isn’t something that only a group of world leaders will achieve, no matter how good their intentions. When peace erupts on Earth, it will come from individuals everywhere who have entered a new state of consciousness.”
He believes peace is inherent in our species, that it is now exerting itself on an increasingly global scale, and that it is the people who know they are facing a daunting task and work at it anyway who are making a significant difference. This is the way it has always been. When faced with a problem that seems intractable, people find a way around it instead of resigning themselves to it. People have always brought about change in this way, whether it was fighting the challenges of seemingly incurable diseases or achieving civil rights. Those who have won against great odds have pioneered paradigm shifts. This is what makes global peace possible.
It helps a great deal to know what peace really means. It’s not just an absence of conflict. Beckwith says, “peace is the dynamic of harmonizing good. It is a quality within us.” This understanding opens up so many options, not only to be a peace-builder, but also to live peace from within in everything one does in life. As an inner quality, peace becomes something others can pick up on, notice on an energy level, and emulate in their own actions. This way, peace becomes contagious.
As Beckwith puts it, being able to really see “something from another’s point of view leads to the birth of compassion. With compassion, there is understanding; from understanding comes dialogue. When dialogue emerges, then a way out of no way emerges. With empathy, compassion, understanding, and dialogue, people can see a solution that wasn’t there before; a shift in consciousness happens to enable a new insight.”
War is part of our dysfunction; it’s not a reflection of who we are in our highest form. There are many encouraging signs of a new paradigm emerging, of green markets, solar markets, holistic medicine markets, and more, leading a transformation toward a peaceful world.
As Beckwith reminds us, “peace is in the journey, with every step we take. We carry it with us, and its impact is felt on a much wider scale. We all have to find our own neighborhood, in our own community, where we’re willing to share our gift. Many people don’t realize that small groups of people around the world doing things with compassion have an impact on the mental and emotional atmosphere of the entire world. By having peace within, we build peace all around us.”
The promise of world peace has been there for millennia; it is up to us—now—to bring it into reality.
Rev. Michael Bernard Beckwith, "Is World Peace Possible?" in Atkinson, R., Johnson, K., and Moldow, D. (eds.) (2020). Our Moment of Choice: Evolutionary Visions and Hope for the Future. New York: Atria Books. 33-38.