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Healing our Lives and Shattered Environment: The Practical Vision of HRH the Prince of Wales

by David Lorimer(more info)

listed in people, originally published in issue 94 - November 2003

"As I have grown older I have gradually come to realize that my entire life so far has been motivated by a desire to heal – to heal the dismembered landscape and the poisoned soil; the cruelly shattered townscape, where harmony has been replaced by cacophony; to heal the divisions between intuitive and rational thought, between mind, body and soul, so that the temple of our humanity can once again be lit by a sacred flame; to level the monstrous artificial barrier erected between Tradition and Modernity and, above all, to heal the mortally wounded soul that, alone, can give us warning of the folly of playing God and of believing that knowledge on its own is a substitute for wisdom."
HRH the Prince of Wales

Prince Charles

This statement by the Prince of Wales from a recent article in Temenos gives the fullest expression of his basic motivation and aspiration: that healing the soul and listening to the intuitive voice of wisdom is the prerequisite to a wider healing of the divisions and collateral damage brought about by an exclusively rational and mechanistic understanding of life. While not all readers will fully agree with this diagnosis or agenda, most will acknowledge that modern life has resulted in undesirable imbalances that do require some correction or rebalancing.

Modernism, the Prince argues, has carried out a demolition job on Western culture by literally pulling up our traditional roots. This has affected "the very ground of our being which had been nurtured for so long in the soil of what I can only describe as perennial wisdom. And I think the destruction was utterly comprehensive and deadly in its effect and it has particularly affected the four areas in which I have battled away about for the last 25 years or so – that is agriculture, architecture, medicine and education".

Destruction of the Environment

"As far as agriculture is concerned, I remember when I was a teenager, miles of hedges were uprooted, ancient meadows and woodlands ploughed up and removed in a matter of days. You try putting them back, it takes hundreds of years – I'm trying.

"The land was forcibly drained and laced with chemicals of all descriptions – look at the problems now. Familiar landmarks, as far as architecture is concerned, ancient town centres that escaped Hitler's bombs, entire streets housing cohesive communities, great complexes of finely designed 18th and 19th century cotton mills for instance, were all swept away and comprehensively re-developed.

"In medicine, as in architecture, the doctrine of man as a machine has held sway. God was declared dead – I remember it happening. The soul was declared moribund and redundant. Ancient well-tried therapies and diagnostic techniques were simply abandoned and thrown away. The balance of the rational and the intuitive was destroyed.

"I believe that it has created a profound malaise, a deep dis-ease, a dis-integration and a dis-functioning of the natural harmony in human existence all because modernist ideology demands that all history and all tradition be pulled up by the roots so that we can all start again with what they like to call a tabula rasa, a clean slate."

Balance and Harmony

This predicament brings us to a core theme in the thinking of the Prince of Wales: the need for balance and harmony between head and heart, reason and intuition, outer and inner, action and contemplation. As the Prince put it in his Reflection on the 2000 Reith Lectures:

"I believe that we need to restore the balance between the heartfelt reason of instinctive wisdom and the rational insights of scientific analysis. Neither, I believe, is much use on its own. So it is only by employing both the intuitive and the rational halves of our own nature – our hearts and our minds – that we will live up to the sacred trust that has been placed in us by our Creator – or our 'Sustainer', as ancient wisdom referred to the Creator."

Implicit in the Prince's analysis here is the idea that modern Western culture is currently in a state of imbalance. There is too much emphasis on reason and scientific analysis at the expense of intuition and wisdom. At worst, reason cuts itself off from its roots in a deeper part of the human mind and we feel alienated and fragmented. It is important to stress the Prince's insistence that he is "not suggesting that information gained through scientific investigation is anything other than essential". His scientific critics frequently ignore such carefully worded qualifications and launch into impulsive attacks on his speeches as a 'return to superstition and ignorance', roundly accusing him of being anti-science. Although the Prince himself argues for the importance of intuition and wisdom, he is clearly advocating a both-and approach that values intuition and reason together, rather than privileging one mode of knowing over the other.

This both-and approach is reflected right across the range of his concerns – for instance in sustainable agriculture and integrated health. The Prince calls for a combination of the best of the old or traditional with the best of the new and innovative. He deplores the cult of the new when it means a wholesale repudiation of traditional wisdom and often refers to the danger of throwing the baby of tradition out with the bathwater of superstition.

The Prince is not content simply to bemoan our predicament, but has taken practical steps to compensate for the shortcomings of modernism, which entails healing the landscape, healing the soil and working in harmony with nature rather than against it. He explains this in terms of architecture, medicine and education:

"[In other words] to build in a way that actually respects the sacredness of the land and reconnects man with the organic roots of his being, with the ancient principles of traditional urbanism that reflect our human scale with the healing timelessness of a living tradition, not a dead thing. It's not a dead language, it can be a living tradition, contemporary in each generation. Not a genetically modified disruption to the invisible patterns of our existence.

"To treat the whole individual, not merely one part of us, to restore the soul to its rightful place, to integrate, this is the most important thing, the best of modern medicine with the best of ancient therapeutic wisdom. To reorientate the damaged psyche in terms of stress, trauma and the problems associated with frenetic lifestyles."

The Prince of Wales's current and future constitutional position imposes on him a role of leadership, about which he has reflected long and hard. The question is not whether to lead but how to do so. His starting point is service (the motto of the Prince of Wales is Ich Dien – I Serve) and a real concern for people, their welfare and potential. He could have chosen a quieter life by simply not speaking out on the range of issues that he has addressed, but, as he writes, "there's something somewhere telling me that I can't do that and that I wouldn't be true to myself if I did stay quiet instead of taking the risk and accepting the challenge… Anyway I hope that what I said helps to stir up the debate and raise some people's awareness". In another letter he writes, "In order to put the Great (back into Britain) I have always felt that it is vital to bring people together, and I began to realize that one advantage of my position has over everyone else's is that I can act as a catalyst to help produce a better and more balanced response to various problems. I have no 'political' agenda – only a desire to see people achieve their potential". Reflecting on the overwhelming response to his original speech to the British Medical Association he remarked that "people often remain silent about what they really think… they are terrified of saying something in case 'everyone' should think they are mad".

"I am not interested in returning to the past, and that applies – I might as well tell you – whether I am talking about farming, architecture, education or complementary medicine! What I do believe, passionately, is that we should learn from the past, accept that there are such things as timeless principles, operate on a human scale, look firmly to the long-term, respect local conditions and traditions, and be profoundly sceptical of people who suggest that everything new is automatically better – invariably it turns out to be a short-lived fashionable approach anyway."

It is important to note the Prince's insistence on timeless principles. The timeless is not in the past, it is a perennial source; the so-called ancient wisdom is in fact timeless and perennial – meaning that it is relevant to all times. What we need are new forms appropriate to our time. In the Platonic view, which the Prince upholds, the spiritual essence or principle is unchanging – Love, Wisdom, the Good, the Beautiful, the True – but the forms that it takes will change with the generations.

It is the thesis of my book, Radical Prince, and the contention of the Prince of Wales that the mechanistic and materialistic outlook is limited and outdated, and is being gradually supplanted by systems based on spiritual, holistic and ecological principles. The Prince of Wales is at the forefront of this transition, articulating and embodying an integrated world-view in his philosophy and work that corresponds to a growing movement known as the Cultural Creatives, who are harbingers of a new world system. His overall view corresponds to what evolutionary systems theorist Ervin Laszlo, President of the Club of Budapest, calls a sustainable Holos civilization that goes beyond its purely rational Logos predecessor. While the Prince's critics overwhelmingly tend to advance mechanistic and materialistic arguments, his supporters embrace similar spiritual, holistic and ecological principles. This struggle or 'paradigm war' should not be simplistically reduced to a dichotomy of modern science vs. traditional religion. The transition to a new world-view is occurring in science and medicine as well as in other areas such as psychology and the nature of spirituality itself.

However, the Prince of Wales does more than just talk about his ideas. He puts them into practice right across the board. Albert Schweitzer once said that there were three ways of changing the world: the first is through example; the second is – through example; and the third – well, you've guessed it, through example. The integrity and consistency between the Prince's words and actions – his practical idealism – is truly impressive and inspiring. He has made Highgrove into a famous organic garden and has also converted the Duchy of Cornwall home farm to organic production; he founded Duchy Originals to market the produce and the company now turns over more than £30 million, giving away more than £1 million of its profits to charity; he has worked tirelessly, through the Prince's Trust, to give young people better opportunities to fulfil their potential; he has supported the regeneration of local communities through his Business in the Community schemes and is now applying the same principles to rural life; through the Prince's Foundation he has been responsible by means of the Phoenix Trust and Regeneration through Heritage for the preservation or restoration of many historic buildings; he set up his own Institute of Architecture (now a part of the Prince's Foundation), has inspired the building of Poundbury in Dorset and is Patron of the Temenos Academy to encourage arts and the imagination; at the Prince's Foundation he has also set up a drawing studio and a degree course in Visual Islamic and Traditional Arts; he has established the Prince's Foundation for Integrated Health to encourage research in complementary medicine and forge a coherent future for healthcare as a whole.

There is nothing inherent in the constitutional role of the Prince of Wales that makes any of this work inevitable. As one young person remarked, "he didn't have to do it". But there is an inner drive in the Prince that has inspired him to initiate a multifaceted programme based on his desire to restore the balance between inner and outer, the intuitive and the rational, the traditional and the modern. The Prince himself embodies the kind of balance of qualities about which he speaks and which characterize his work: the practical idealist, the radical traditionalist, the contemplative man of action. He is a man rooted in timeless principles and living traditions, whose actions address the problems of the present and point towards a sustainable human future where we may succeed in living more closely in harmony with nature and with each other.


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About David Lorimer

David Lorimer MA PGCE FRSA is a writer, lecturer and editor who is Programme Director of the Scientific and Medical Network. He is the author and editor of a number of books on science and spirituality. His book about the ideas and work of the Prince of Wales, Radical Prince, was published in November 2003. He is Vice-President of the Swedenborg Society and the Horizon Foundation (The International Association for Near-Death Studies UK). He is Chair of Wrekin Trust, and of the All Hallows House Foundation, concerned with holistic health. David may be contacted via

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