Sacred Activism and the Lighting of the Third Fire



“Sacred activism is the fusion of the mystic’s passion for God with the activist’s passion for justice — creating a third fire, which is the burning sacred heart that longs to help, preserve, and nurture every living thing.” –Andrew Harvey

In a world of unholy wars dubbed holy wars and media claptrap passed as truth, there has never been a more important time to rise above the hogwash of the status quo. We are everywhere surrounded by fraudulence. We are immersed in the pink goop of the Matrix to such an extent that we can’t even see the forest for the trees. What’s needed is a self-inflicted rude awakening. What’s needed is a wake-up call of the first order. What’s needed is a tapping of the cornerstone of the human condition itself. And the music resonating from such a tapping is a song of freedom, and sacred activism is its magnificent dance.

As it stands, we need to relearn how to dance this particular unpopular dance lest the music stop forever. Sacred activism is unpopular because it’s uncomfortable. It’s unpopular because it takes courage. It’s unpopular because it requires us getting off our butts and questioning everyone and everything, especially so-called “fixed” laws and “entrenched” power structures. That which is deep-rooted must be un-rooted in order for healthy roots to grow. That which is well-established must be reestablished in order for healthy establishment to occur. That which is preconditioned must be reconditioned in order that healthy conditions may arise.

This requires activism. This requires insurgency. This requires rebellion. Like Rainer Maria Rilke said, “Everywhere transience is plunging into the depths of being… It is our task to imprint this temporary, perishable earth into ourselves so deeply, so painfully and passionately, that its essence can rise again, “invisibly,” inside us. We are the bees of the invisible. We wildly collect the honey of the visible, to store it in the great golden hive of the invisible.”


I often tell people, “I’m a force of nature first, a man second.” And they scratch their heads wondering what on earth I could mean by such a strange statement. I mean exactly what Rainer Maria Rilke said in his quote. The essence of the earth has indeed risen again. It has risen inside me. It has the potential to rise inside you, as it resides within us all. And it must be unleashed, “painfully and passionately” lest things – bees; oceans; monarch butterflies; us – collapse into an unhealthy state of existence.

This is the essence of sacred activism. This is the lighting of the third fire: each of us realizing that we are a force of nature first and a person second. Once we get the “cart in front of the horse” then we can begin the difficult task of figuring out who we are as a person and what our unique (as unique as our fingerprint) contribution to nature really is. Like David Spangler said, “The spirituality of the earth is more than a slogan. It is an invitation to initiation, to the death of what we have been and the birth of something new.”


But, figuring out who we truly are is no walk in the park. It requires practicing self-interrogation. It requires a particular flavor of ruthlessness toward ideals that most people fear. The more we question ourselves, the more we discover exactly how limiting our worldview is. But once we’re able to question ourselves to the nth degree, then we liberate ourselves from our own self-stagnation and we then free ourselves to question the world.

Like Rob Brezsny wrote in his book Pronoia, “The revolution begins at home. If you overthrow yourself again and again, you might earn the right to overthrow the rest of us.” As such, we need to get in each other’s faces (just be sincere). We need to stir any and all unstirred pots. For every ointment we come across without a fly in it, we need to BE that fly –a gadfly, perhaps.

Whatever our medium may be –writing, acting, directing, painting, sculpting, comedy, or just plain activism– we need to get in the face of entrenched power structures, growling and snarling, and show them that the third fire has indeed been lit. Like George Santayana said, “A man is morally free when he judges the world, and judges other men, with uncompromising sincerity.” And this should not just be an aim, but an obligation to truth and justice the world over.

Authentic sincerity does not imply seriousness. In order to be genuine we need to be sincere rather than serious with each other. This requires elegance in the handling of our fragile human condition, but also an understanding of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s antifragility and how many things in life benefit from disorder, volatility, and turmoil. From the deepest wounds can arise the greatest wisdom. Through our mistakes we can become wise, but first we have to learn from them. We only learn from our mistakes by keeping each other accountable, and for that we need sincerity through activism, otherwise we doom ourselves to repeating the mistakes of our forefathers. Like Mark Twain said, “History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”


The lighting of the third fire is the awakening of our own sacred activism. It is a switch inside us all. It’s a potential bonfire inside every heart. A few of us have already collected the kindling necessary for this sacred fire to burn, but many of us have not. It is the duty of those who already have the capacity to light fires, to light the fire of others.

That’s what Albert Camus meant when he said, “I rebel; therefore we exist.” Each and every act of sacred activism is a lighting of another fire. We’re all candles in the wind. Most of us aren’t strong enough to keep our fires lit in the current maelstrom. Some of us are. And those of us who are should be blocking the wind at least long enough for others to light their fire and to keep it lit, because the wind is only going to get stronger. It is my conceit that this article is just such a windbreaker. Like the immortal Tolstoy brilliantly opined, “Just as one candle lights another and can light thousands of other candles, so one heart illuminates another and can illuminate thousands of other hearts.” Apocaloptimists everywhere, may your heart forever be illuminated.

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  • Gary 'Z' McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide awake view of the modern world.

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