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More than any other human being in the modern age, playwright, human-rights activist and former president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel was a Leader-Sage. A Leader-Sage leads not merely from the fragmented ego state, but is able to tap into a greater, transcendent intelligence, an Integrated Intelligence.
Havel epitomised three vital aspects of the human archetype: conscience, courage and compassion. These are three qualities that are badly needed in today’s world, in today’s leaders.
Vaclan Havel spent five years in jail under the Communist regime in his home country. As a playwright, his plays were not only banned, he was forbidden to leave the country. His ideas and ideals played a key role in the collapse of Communism in Europe. He received more honours and awards than I could possibly mention here, mostly associated with his work related to human rights. He was once nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Vaclav Havel is revered also by the small clique of dissidents and democracy activists in China today. He nominated jailed Chinese human rights campaigner and democracy activist Liu Xiaobo for the Nobel Prize, which he subsequently won. For this reason, Beijing was not Havel’s greatest fan. Notable was the contrasting reaction by Beijing at the recent deaths of two world leaders. They expressed deep sadness at the passing of North Koreas’ Kim Jong Il, calling him “a great leader”. They were utterly silent at the passing of Havel.
My admiration for Havel, however, is not merely in relation to his political and social work. It was his deep understanding of this unique moment in history that stands out above all, in my mind. He understood well that the modernist (scientific) and postmodern (relativistic) visions of world and cosmos are both flawed and impoverished. They do not address the true depth of human experience. This is best stated by Havel himself, in a talk he gave in 1995, and which was published in the Futurist, the World Future Society’s magazine.
What makes the Anthropic Principle and the Gaia Hypothesis so inspiring? One simple thing: Both remind us, in modern language, of what we have long suspected, of what we have long projected into our forgotten myths and what perhaps has always lain dormant within us as archetypes. That is, the awareness of our being anchored in the earth and the universe, the awareness that we are not here alone nor for ourselves alone, but that we are an integral part of higher, mysterious entities against whom it is not advisable to blaspheme. This forgotten awareness is encoded in all religions. All cultures anticipate it in various forms. It is one of the things that form the basis of man's understanding of himself, of his place in the world, and ultimately of the world as such.
A modern philosopher once said: "Only a God can save us now."
Yes, the only real hope of people today is probably a renewal of our certainty that we are rooted in the earth and, at the same time, the cosmos. This awareness endows us with the capacity for self-transcendence. Politicians at international forums may reiterate a thousand times that the basis of the new world order must be universal respect for human rights, but it will mean nothing as long as this imperative does not derive from the respect of the miracle of Being, the miracle of the universe, the miracle of nature, the miracle of our own existence. Only someone who submits to the authority of the universal order and of creation, who values the right to be a part of it and a participant in it, can genuinely value himself and his neighbours, and thus honor their rights as well.
It logically follows that, in today's Is multicultural world, the truly reliable path to coexistence, to peaceful coexistence and creative cooperation, must start from what is at the root of all cultures and what lies infinitely deeper in human hearts and minds than political opinion, convictions, antipathies, or sympathies--it must be rooted in self-transcendence:
Transcendence as a hand reached out to those close to us, to foreigners, to the human community, to all living creatures, to nature, to the universe.
The man within
But what about the man within the man? My intuitive reading of Vaclav Havel’s psyche confirms that he was a man of idealism and deep conscience. If there is one phrase that sums up his consciousness as an individual it is, “I’ve got to do the right thing.”
Perhaps I should begin by stating that my knowledge of Havel is not extensive, and I have read almost nothing of his personal biography. So the following is almost exclusively drawn from my intuitive sense of the man. I do welcome any feedback about what I write. Intuition is a ‘fuzzy’ intelligence, and I make no claims to have perfect insight.
I do not know whether Havel was a Christian, but his psyche was intimately shaped by the energy of the Christian tradition, including its more sombre elements. It is inevitable that we inherit the ‘energy’ of our ancestors when we are born into this world. This is passed onto us, unconsciously, by our parents. In this way we all energetically carry the religious and cultural legacy of the family, the race, the nation, and ultimately the Collective Human Oversoul.
One notable feature of Havel’s psyche is a pronounced sense of shame and guilt, in part stemming from the religious energy mentioned above, and in part the projections of his parents. This led to a certain level of self-denial. “I am not worthy of this” is a theme that plays out. There is also an element of self-flagellation: “I am bad”. There is an uncomfortable relationship with his physicality here. He was never quite fully present in his own body. The energy that comes through most in this respect is that of his mother. She had strong issues with males, and projected this onto Havel. She is telling him to sit down and to shut up. There is a sense that the male sexual energy is ‘dirty’. This meant that Havel never quite fully integrated the male energy into his being.
The father’s energy is distant, as if he was busy working. My sense is that he had little time for the young Havel. But his father’s psyche was very strong, and there was a definite bullying element to it. The essence of it is: “Sit down, shut up and do what your mother says, or I will beat you”. This is in part where Havel’s sense of injustice comes from. He was too timid to stand up to his father, but in later life this was projected onto the macroscale in his fight against the Communist bullies. That this had a healthy manifestation indicates that one’s Soul Issues can be expressed in healthy and ultimately loving ways, ways that can serve the greater good of the world.
Despite these ‘negatives’, it seems that that Havel’s parents encouraged in him an ethic of hard work and self-discipline. But again, there was a kind of Christian self-denial in this. Yet he was well provided for, which for many parents of his day was seen as the greatest responsibility of being good caregivers.
What stands out also in Vaclav Havel’s psyche is his being in a constant state of prayer with God, with the cosmos. He had a deep humility. At a certain level he knew that he could not do it alone, so he was constantly asking God for help. He developed a strong sense of nature, and of the importance of beauty and love. There seems to have been quite a bit of time spent alone as a child, where he wandered outside admiring nature and classic architecture. This is where he developed his strong aesthetic and spiritual sense.
Vaclav had a bloody-minded determination. He was absolutely unwilling to compromise on what he felt was right, what was for the highest good. As he famously stated, “Truth and love must triumph over lies and hate”. There was anger in him, anger towards those who persecuted and judged him (including his parents). But it never overcame him. His anger was well integrated into his psyche. His message was one of non-violence. He did have some issues with women, stemming from his childhood relationship with his mother - but then who amongst we men does not?
I sense that in the end Vaclav Havel regretted that he could not do more. This is often the fate of those with a deep conscience. In many ways he was like Jung, who felt he had filed in his quest to awaken humanity from its materialist slumber.
Ultimately Vaclav Havel was a man who radiated nobility and courage. Each life, no matter what its expression, is a perfect expression of God’s ‘will’. Perhaps if there is any ‘negative’ polarity here that we can learn from, it is that self-denial does not have to be a part of humility and self-service. Havel’s remarkable humility allowed him to go beyond the self-interest of the ego. He felt his calling was to serve. Yet there was suffering in that he believed in self-sacrifice; that he had to carry the burden of others; that he should be consumed for the greater good. For this reason he never actually transcended the ego in total. Self-denial, guilt, and shame tend to lock one into the small “i”. Thus joyfulness was not his greatest quality. Is it possible to be Leader-Sage and allow the light of God to fully shine through us, to laugh, to dance and sing with abandon?
Havel has left the world a better place. His message that humanity must transcend the split between reason and spirituality is of the greatest importance. Vaclav Havel was a man of peace, love and integrity. He was a true Leader-Sage. What more could a man hope to be?