The Greatest Challenge for The 21st Century

London, UK - 6 August 2007, 14:09 GMT

Dear ATCA Colleagues

[Please note that the views presented by individual contributors are not necessarily representative of the views of ATCA, which is neutral. ATCA conducts collective Socratic dialogue on global opportunities and threats.]

We are grateful to Anthony Whitehouse based in Coppet and Geneva, Switzerland, for his submission to ATCA, "The Greatest Challenge for The 21st Century."

Anthony Whitehouse, based in Switzerland, has substantial experience in trust creation and administration and the management of offshore structures, especially as they relate to the administration of intellectual property. In addition, he has expertise in the business management of high net worth individuals in the entertainment sector. He has recently given up business to enter into the public ministry of his Church. Anthony entered the trust business as a senior manager with the Lausanne-based branch of a Bahamas Trust company in 1978 before leaving to join a major international bank in 1988 as manager of Fiduciary Services Operations in Geneva. Together with Richard Bittiner he set up Bittiner Whitehouse, an accounting and trust administration practice, in 1992. Bittiner Whitehouse was acquired by the Maitland Group in 2003. Anthony qualified as a Chartered Accountant in England in 1968. He obtained his MBA from IMD in 1973 and was one of the founding members of STEP in the French-speaking area of Switzerland. He speaks English and French. He writes:

Dear DK and Colleagues

Re: The Greatest Challenge for The 21st Century

Over the course of the last few months we have seen a large number of submissions -- position papers, think-pieces and articles -- on ATCA about the risks facing humanity, business and the individual. Risks implicitly imply challenges. And I guess since such challenges make demands on our resources and resourcefulness its necessary to scan the horizon, see what's coming and what risks we are facing so we can prepare for them.

Nonetheless (and at the risk of stirring the pot) I would suggest the greatest challenge facing humanity is not really a logistical, environmental or resource problem; it is actually a spiritual and metaphysical challenge. The reason I say this is that the divines who have graced our planet have all demonstrated their dominion over so many challenges which most of us would find totally daunting. They have walked on water, fed multitudes, survived fiery furnaces, poisoning, calmed ravenous wolves and seen off troublesome potentates, blinded whole armies and, on occasion moved Time backwards.

What is odd about these divines is that they rarely considered the risks they were taking. They were more concerned about challenging the material status quo, despite their reticence to do so on some occasions. But having developed their spiritual understanding they were able to cope with those challenges. Ergo: the spiritual understanding was crucial to the resolution of the issues facing them, the challenge itself was irrelevant. It for this reason the development of spiritual understanding obviously has great merit especially in what appears to be today's high risk environment.

The great challenge for the 21st Century must lie in capturing the understanding of the spiritual power these divines possessed so that it is not only intelligible but available to all to demonstrate. Such an achievement would have great consequences for humankind because it would break the fetters of materiality and demonstrate the freedom that does come from such spiritual understanding.

There is also a mantra, in conventional religious circles, which requires all those who, for one reason or another, are caught up in unenlightened behaviour to change their ways before they can find redemption. Which is fine if you have had the benefit of a good religious education and have enough time on your hands to further your religiosity. But how can this requirement really seem reasonable for a child borne of abusive parents, addicted to drugs who can neither read nor write? Based on such conditions it would appear such a person is totally outside any hope of redemption whereas it is obviously manifestly unjust that life exists with certain built-in disadvantages. Unfortunately religion or religious thought has to deal with this uncomfortable dilemma. Can one really formulate the process of spiritual existence and spiritual understanding, the mastery of the affairs temporal and the dominion which it entails, in such a way that not only can the illiterate grasp it but everyone can benefit from it and understand the utility of it? After all the science of mathematics can be appreciated by the unversed even if they cannot aspire to calculus. In this regard, the Holistic Quantum Relativity project is an interesting endeavour.

If I contend for this necessity it is because I am far from convinced that many really see the utility of spirituality at all, which is the crying shame of the 21st century currently bowing before so many material gods -- consumption and production. Great societal and cultural advances have often followed spiritual enlightenment and progress. The epoch of St Francis of Assisi was followed by the Renaissance. In the 1870s another great soul wrote, "There is no life, substance or intelligence in matter. All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation." And although the world knew it not at the time such an enlightened pronouncement must have lifted human thought to a point where Einstein was able to conceive of the theory of relativity and all that went with it. Spirituality is necessary for human progress and inexorably tied up with it.

If Spirituality is ignored it is simply because we are so often mesmerised by the three-dimensional or material elements of a problem. Confronted with the red sea our first reaction is "Where are we ever going to find the boats to cross it?". Our spiritual treasures are so poor that we just could never envisage the sort of solution one divine experienced. Conventional human wisdom just does not give any credence to the notion that if you can deal with the anxiety, fear and foreboding accompanying such events a solution does in fact present itself.

Spiritual ignorance it is not a religious challenge but more of an educational challenge. It is the challenge to make a discipline intelligible and understandable which is essentially the role of an educator. One of the ironies of this challenge is that those best suited to take on this role, ie, those of sufficient spiritual stature to have a good understanding of the didactic process, is that their humility gets in the way. Great spiritual attainments are only attained at the cost of great humility. And great humility naturally makes one reticent to then hold oneself out as an authority on the issue, which of course is exactly what is required. The founder of the Christian religion often emphasized that those he healed should keep quite about it and get on with their lives.

The great divines did not move people just by the spoken or written word. It was their lives which changed people. In so many cases within a few generations of their deaths the perfume of their example had dissipated to the point where their spiritual legacy was lost even though their intellectual legacy remained. Spiritual healing was very much part of the early Christian church's mission for the first three hundred years of its existence but this facet of Christianity dissipated thereafter. It found expression later in the lives of certain saints such as St Francis of Assisi. John Wesley the founder of the Methodist movement also effected healing. And more recently Padre Pio who passed on in 1968 was credited with healing. It was obviously their spiritual understanding which brought about such changes not their scholastic prowess.

The educational process of any discipline requires not only perusing of textbooks but face to face sessions with professors and exponents of the discipline. No divines have left us more than a written testimony of their understanding. There are any number of theologians who will go on record with their scholastic views but unfortunately the intellectual does not necessarily induce the spiritual, otherwise the campuses of our universities would be littered with graduates walking on water rather than rowing on it!

In today's internet age there has to be room for capturing and disseminating the testimony of spiritual understanding in such a way that all have access to its promise and rationale. Such testimony has to be the way to improving spiritual education. It is not just a question of imparting a particular theology but providing the spiritual impetus which gets rid of the fear, anxiety, hatred, misunderstanding, expectation of disaster, prejudice, arrogance, self-righteousness, meanness, poverty, crime and lassitude which affects humanity. Concrete testimony of such dominion is required, not just the written arguments. As far as possible such a space has to be non-denominational and undogmatic otherwise it will exclude rather than include. That is not to say that the testifiers will not be of a particular denomination but the proofs they provide of their understanding will necessarily speak for themselves.

If I make this plea to stay away from a scholastic approach it is because another irony of the divines who have provided so much spiritual impetus to humankind is that they have not been borne of theological seminaries. This was especially the case for St Francis of Assisi. Great scholastic achievement does not translate into spiritual competence. Being able to quote an obscure 14th century Cypriot monk does not necessarily mean you can meet the challenge of approaching a drunk crumpled in the street and demonstrate to him that life is actually worth living.

Hopefully these words will inspire re-examination of our educational and training priorities at all levels.


Anthony Whitehouse


We look forward to your further thoughts, observations and views. Thank you.

Best wishes

For and on behalf of DK Matai, Chairman, Asymmetric Threats Contingency Alliance (ATCA)

ATCA: The Asymmetric Threats Contingency Alliance is a philanthropic expert initiative founded in 2001 to resolve complex global challenges through collective Socratic dialogue and joint executive action to build a wisdom based global economy. Adhering to the doctrine of non-violence, ATCA addresses asymmetric threats and social opportunities arising from climate chaos and the environment; radical poverty and microfinance; geo-politics and energy; organised crime & extremism; advanced technologies -- bio, info, nano, robo & AI; demographic skews and resource shortages; pandemics; financial systems and systemic risk; as well as transhumanism and ethics. Present membership of ATCA is by invitation only and has over 5,000 distinguished members from over 120 countries: including 1,000 Parliamentarians; 1,500 Chairmen and CEOs of corporations; 1,000 Heads of NGOs; 750 Directors at Academic Centres of Excellence; 500 Inventors and Original thinkers; as well as 250 Editors-in-Chief of major media.

The views presented by individual contributors are not necessarily representative of the views of ATCA, which is neutral. Please do not forward or use the material circulated without permission and full attribution.

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