Genghis Khan

On my first visit to Mongolia, the National Legal Institute gave me a small leather scroll, a painted icon of Genghis Khan. I take it with me when I travel–initially because a Russian friend told me that if I traveled with an icon, I would be spared misfortune. So, the gift from the National Legal Institute of Mongolia (a sober and secular institution) has afforded me spiritual protection. When not travelling, I hang the icon on the wall at eye level in the room where I practice singing. Genghis Khan’s image keeps me focused, always striving to improve.

This icon has become rather important to me. There is a gold disc on his chest which I focus on while doing certain breathing exercises during which my mind might have a tendency to wander. I imagine that this gold disc connects Genghis Khan to powerful universal forces.  I remember Genghis Khan’s famous revelation that he had achieved his empire through no power of his own. When I first read this, I was astounded and shaken. The world’s greatest leader never lost touch with his essential vulnerability.  He was never deluded and knew very well his exact place between heaven and earth. His greatest achievement was a product of facing brutal odds with ingenuity, emotional honesty, devotion to his fellow beings and concern for the Earth. His understanding of universal principles assured that he would never try to assert his own will over and above these principles. Indeed, he had been successful in meeting his obligations by adhering to these principles and by appealing to the cosmic capacity to create outcomes according to those principles.

He was not one to abandon principle. Cosmic law had given him strength. He never considered himself more than ordinary. And this insight into his character, when it occurred, gave me tremendous relief. I recall that I even began to physically breathe easier. This small revelation of Genghis Khan’s ordinariness seemed to free my mind and expand my horizons. But it activated also a deep sense of vulnerability,  which I can only call realism. Genghis Khan had no “greatness” to protect him. He had only his ability to take responsibility. This ability was bestowed by the Sky and Earth. And the forces that acted through him came through his devotion and self-sacrifice. In the end, he was simply a human being, a cosmic traveller, a brother. He only ever did his best and even acknowledged his failings.

Learning about Genghis Khan has connected me to something profoundly mortal: there is This and only This. When we act balancing our passions with higher principles, when we organize rationally with one another and in harmony with our environment,  we can construct for ourselves an effacious moment in time, one in which cosmic hopes are born out and life can be celebrated, cherished.  If attended to thoughtfully, and if providence is not unkind, we can extend this efficacious moment forward in time, perhaps seven generations. Equally, we can extend ourselves psychically backward in time to acknowledge the sacrifices and insights of our ancestors.

We draw strength from both directions. We draw from inner reserves and shared resources.  We share of ourselves and we receive gratefully from others. It is really that simple. Genghis Khan embodies this. Embodying this, he has no use for “greatness”.  It is as though for him, “greatness” was mere folly.  He never needed false assurances. When in a crisis, there is only the seeking of solutions. When necessary, one goes to Burkhan Khaldun to find psychic access to ideas and solutions that perhaps lie presently just beyond one’s reach. As Einstein famously noted, we cannot solve problems at the same level they were created. Sometimes we must go the mountain.  It is all we can do. There are many paintings of Nicholas Roerich that depict spiritual personages engaging in exertions of a spiritual nature, seeking and connecting in a catalytic manner with the infinite, the cosmic cooperative.  He depicts them usually in natural environments, where their duties have drawn them to connect to higher principles. They are seen in postures of invocation, enveloped in light or magnetism, and always guided by a purpose, a purpose greater than themselves. 

One knows of Genghis Khan’s important visits to Burkhan Khaldun. One senses in the “environmental revelations” that Genghis Khan encoded in law a fastidious and deeply observant student of nature. The total symbiotic potential of his relationship with Burkhan Khaldun is probably incalculable. But it can’t be doubted that the great Khan understood his role as a steward of the Earth and that this role was the very basis of his leadership.  He had no power of his own.  It wasn’t that he saw the virtue of being ordinary. It was that he saw clearly the dangers in being anything else.  Superfluities become liabilities. Titles and conceits wither in an instant. What is necessary is adherence to universal principles which are inherent in all nature. We must attune to them. We must study and invite them into our thoughts. We must embody them. Where, then, is there any room for “greatness”? Genghis Khan was a servant of his people–through no power of his own! 

There is some debate concerning how much of traditional Mongolian environmental law was the direct creation of Genghis Khan.  It is undoubtedly true that Genghis Khan was informed by knowledge that had existed for many millenia. In the creation of his sacred state, it was necessary to codify and formally enshrine these ancient principles. But these principles derive from the living science of Mongolian nomadism.

Nomadism IS environmentalism.  It is the applied science of best environmental practices. And in the example of Genghis Khan we glimpse something we can call perhaps “principled development”–not merely sustainable, but development that is concerned with the human being and with the recognition of universal law that undergirds all life and which, when observed, brings evolutionary results. Principled development cuts no corners, allows neither starvation nor ignorance. While it follows principles born out in best practices, it is itself living and changing. It is not a dead formula played out for convenience. It requires the constant and adept attentions of all. As musicians must tune to one another, this vigilance brings melodic freedom. We can soar when we feel ourselves in alignment with harmonic principles. It is the same with nomadism, with environmentalism.  In an era when “sustainability” has been coopted to cover for practices that remain inadvisable, we should urge the human project toward principled development–a development that leaves no one behind, that wastes nothing and engages the human spirit.

We know with certainty that obscene profits conceal terrible crimes. We know that justice delayed is justice denied. We understand intuitively that our human rights emerge from deeper levels of order inherent in all life. On a good day, we know what it is to feel One with everything. We know what it is to want to share that sense of oneness. In that state of oneness, growth for the sake of growth seems insane.  Genghis Khan was a genius at organizing the human project in harmony with the energies of Father Sky and Mother Earth. His adherence to principles grounded his considerable genius for improvisation and innovation.  It is my great hope that in my capacity as Secretary-General of the Roerich-Bira Foundation,  I can begin to bring the principles of Mongolian nomadic environmentalism to general consciousness, that they might refuel and invigorate the development of international environmental law.  In my view, the Indigenous perspective gives the human family access to the awareness of the principles that have given us life. There is no more viable global voice than the Indigenous voice. We may have to quiet ourselves somewhat in order to listen carefully to its message. But the soft and gentle power of its admonitions will provide us with the fearless and indomitable spirit we will require to set the human project back on the right path. The great and gentle spirits that Genghis Khan sought at Burkhan Khaldun are still there. In his exertions, he aligned his purposes with sacred harmonies.

The True World Order

One hears much discourse, increasing of late, surrounding the emergence of a “New World Order”.  Skeptics tend to dismiss such talk as conspiracy theory. And yet, it is difficult to dig deeper and find not refutation but confirmation. Confronted with evidence, the sceptic rarely counters with evidence to the contrary, instead preferring to retreat to a customary state of apathy or complacency, most skeptics are not true skeptics. They merely adopt a skeptical stance to avoid: a) looking foolish, or  b) taking action. Most are simply cowards. The appalling abrogations of human rights norms and international law more broadly in Ukraine and Israel and the accompanying failure of the international community to respond certainly indicate a malevolent will to power that is both organized and utterly determined.  The scope of this fascist program is truly staggering. The average person capable of appreciating the impending stranglehold on life and liberty can do little more than express vague fears of “world government” and “world police”. 

It strikes me as interesting that one almost never expresses fear of “world law”.  (Except within the State Department and the White House.)  The average person senses that the aggregated power of the fascist project has nothing to do with law.  It is, in fact, antithetical to law, seeks to obviate justice at all costs in service to its own need to function completely outside it. International law is the antidote to this “New World Order”.  And so we see almost unbelievably outlandish attacks on the central and most sacred tenets of higher law. Human rights are the enemies of the fascist agenda. And one sees in American exceptionalism, Zionism and fascism more generally tremendous efforts being made to scrub international law from the collective consciousness. One sees echoes of this perverse trend in corporatism that seeks to undo labor standards and environmental protections. These also constitute deadly assaults on human security–as lethal and anarchic as the unbridled belligerence of the IDF, Blackwater or NATO. And it is difficult to see these disturbing manifestations as unrelated or uncoordinated.

And yet, it would be a mistake to abandon all hope. Indeed, it is the common fault of many who perceive the threatening dimensions of this “New World Order” to announce its accession as inevitable. It is as though the ability to predict such catastrophe gives one power over it.  This is folly and amounts to no more than the cowering resignation of the ersatz skeptic. I, for one, do not believe that this “New World Order” with its army and its “government” is inevitable at all.  I believe that the project is very likely to fail.  The three reasons I submit to support my optimism are: international law, social media and Vladimir Putin. The development of international law represents the fruition of human conscience and if such a thing cannot overpower the designs of a few it will  only be because the many have failed to organize behind the clearly articulated principles that derive from higher law.  I do not believe that the many will fail to organize.

The fascists project, as planned since before the first world war, could not not have foreseen the emergence of social media. If it had been able to anticipate this development, it would have changed its course or abandoned all hope. Social media will focus and direct the collective awareness to which international law has lent form and substance. This combination will overwhelm the garish violence that serves the fear-based fascist agenda. But the linchpin in this equation is the leadership of Vladimir Putin, who is the first world leader capable of upholding the principles of international law in the face of the threat posed by the US military and corporate power. Putin knows international law better than anyone. He understands that adherence to the established principles that safeguard the international public order is the winning position. This, combined with his faith that the world will ultimately join with him in upholding higher law and the tremendous deterrent of Russian might, will ultimately bring about the “True World Order” that will toss the fascist project onto the scrap heap of history.

What we are indeed facing in the “New World Order” can be likened to Nazism on steroids. But the weakness of steroidal strength is its heart. Its hatred for human society renders it weak, brittle and unfit for an enduring development. Putin is putting this premise to the test and he is bearing the brunt of the psychological burden of this existential exercise. His leadership demonstrates something remarkable: that the best interests of a powerful state are best served by adherence to universal principles of justice. The road ahead is thorny. If the US makes a grab for Crimea in an effort to provoke war, it will be very difficult for Putin to avoid confrontation. And yet, history has not produced someone more equal to the task than V.V. Putin.

Yet, the world is watching.  The world is informed to a degree that the framers of the fascist agenda could not have anticipated. And the economic and philosophical might of China is another factor unforeseen. Finally, the global 99% has at hand the most formidable lever of all: international law. With this lever, confusion is tamed and differences are perhaps not erased but they become workable. And the chorus of humankind can begin to produce the music of a new era as the principles of harmony are made broadly known and put into practice. International law and the strength and wisdom of Vladimir Putin are indeed godsends. And I cannot believe that we will miss the historic opportunity to defeat the psychopathic project that now torments human progress. The True World Order will prevail. But it will not be an easy fight. And for many, the fight must begin within: against apathy, defeatism, racism, personal exceptionalism. In this battle, everyone matters. We must take care not to demonize one another. We must invite the forces of darkness to submit. We must give them the opportunity to reform, to see the light. Truly, there is no virtue in being superior to our fellows. We must only be superior to our former selves. And we must each learn to love a little more each day. International law gives us the perspective and the breathing room to do this. So we must not hesitate to know of it, to celebrate it. My dream is that my country the US will correct its course of exceptionalism and adopt policies of collaboration. After all, as Churchill once said, “Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing–after they have tried every other alternative.”


A cool, bright morning in Vienna. Dr. Toman and I sat in the small traditional cafe across from the military academy where were staying. We stayed at the academy to save money. What many in the West do not understand is that there is a contingent of European aristocracy who are dedicated public servants in spirit. Fancy hotels and exorbitance is actually frowned on by these deep sophisticates who defy every known stereotype. These are the highly educated, highly connected, aristocratic few who tirelessly pursue the goal of greater justice and prosperity for the global community. They eschew luxury. They despise the outward show. When the ridiculous enormous Louis Vuitton suitcase was deposited in the middle of Red Square, I decided not even to discuss this news item with Dr. Toman. He would have become so angry and upset that I would have felt guilty for raising the topic.

This morning was bittersweet. I was packed and ready to fly to Ulanbaatar. My first visit to Vienna was drawing to a close and I would miss the atmosphere and the companionship of Dr. Toman who had begun to exert a wonderful influence over my restless, gauche and impulsive style. Dr. Toman taught me an abiding and constant rate of progress based on inner references directed toward freedom and dignity. Ironically, Dr. Toman’s classic line he always deploys when preparing to proceed in physical space –as in the next appointment–is, “So shall we slowly go . . . .” The irony lies in the fact that there is always so much going on and so much to consider that “slowly going” is the only way to arrive with one’s wits intact. Rushing is anathema! There is always too much at stake for precipitousness. So shall it always be so! Dr. Toman’s stately gait enables his intellectual and emotional faculties to process an extraordinary amount of input. It is a lesson I must remember daily.

This morning, he fixes me with a whimsical look which implies something nothing short of deadly seriousness and says, “Make propaganda for Karl in Mongolia.” His eyes are twinkling like a child’s. But this child is Dr. Toman. A lion of UNESCO. A servant of the planet. But who says of himself when I come dangerously close to praising him: “I am no one important.”

Make propaganda for Karl. Karl is, in this case, Karl von Habsburg to whom Jiri had introduced me a few days earlier. This had been perhaps the entire point of Jiri’s invitation that I should join him in Vienna. Dr. Toman and I had been corresponding concerning my Mongolian project. We had engaged in fruitful intellectual collaboration. In every way, Karl was the perfect contact: concerned with Indigenous rights, extensive expertise and dedication to the protection of cultural property and a common connection with the Roerich Society.

My first impression upon meeting Karl was one of heightened alertness. Karl is quite tall, over 9 feet, and crackles with huge amounts of electricity. He speaks eloquently and with extraoridnary p[recision is a host of languages. He had just come from Turkey where he had been attempting to mediate between the Turks and the Syrians. Arriving at the lecture hall where he was to introduce the very great Dr. Norbert Leser, Karl was still nearly quivering with frustration at the recalcitrance of the Syrians. All the same, I found him utterly captivating and follow-able. Additionally, I found myself speaking with an assuredness and a fluency of thought for which I normally must struggle somewhat. Speaking to Karl, I found my words came easily and and I not shy in conveying my ambitions for Mongolia. He was attentive and very supportive. Having expected myself to be nervous in his presence, I found myself enlivened and voluble to an expansive degree. I felt very comfortable and “relevant” in his presence. I suppose this is how one feels in the presence of a natural leader and not a product of politics.

After the lecture, Dr. Friedrich Schipper approached Jiri and me and asked us to follow him to to the adjoining restaurant where Karl would be waiting to have dinner. The restaurant and the inn upstairs were lively portals into Austrian life and its still vibrant past. Beethoven had stayed there when he was writing his 3rd Symphony. It was dark and cozy and nothing ostentatious. It was perfect. And to have dinner with my colleague and Dr. Schipper and Karl was a kind of epiphany in itself. Karl was by turns warm and informative, brisk and and a careful listener. He talked of the tragedy of Chechniya and of the lives lost. Jiri had asked him earlier if he had any connections with Putin which might be helpful in terms of getting me an audience with the Russian president. Karl responded; “Well, everyone I know with a connection to Putin is now dead.” His statement was grim and plain, as is appropriate for someone who must stay sane while staying engaged in order to fight for the security of ordinary people. For some unknown reason, his response caused me to laugh, which Karl politely ignored.

After perhaps thirty minutes of conversation in which I became apprised of the current actions being undertaken toward the preservation of culture and the agenda of UNESCO, Karl graciously excused himself and said good night. He had to go pick up his daughter who was finishing up at some event. Karl’s sudden departure was neither brusque not hurried. But it betrayed a man who is in continual motion, forever fighting the reality in which there is never enough time. Dr. Schipper informed me that Karl travels twenty days out of the month. There is always so much to do. True leaders can not tire or fade. The duties are, unfortunately, overwhelming. Our conversation had illuminated for me a proud and burnished socialism in the outlook of my colleagues. Earlier in the evening, as I sat in the lecture hall talking with Dr. Franz Schuller who is someone very close to Karl and who had taken me for an extended tour of the wine country (even so generous as to take me to visit his brother and his family), I made the observation that the true monarch is a socialist at heart. Dr. Schuller nodded in assent and we bonded politically at this. Karl is a true servant of the people. He is so by nature. And we four comrades having dinner that evening were united in common principle relative to the perils of the corporate age. There are good aristocrats in Europe. They serve instinctively and tirelessly. They are brilliant and sensitive. They are the friends of all that is sincere, dignified and good.

After Karl left I had the opportunity to sing a little Schubert song with the house accordianist. This accordianist was someone Friedrich remembered from childhood. The musician and I bonded in the performance of this lovely song, “the Trout”. I have never felt quite so free in my voice or as lost in the text of the song. Singing for this informal audience was a moment of genuine relaxation. To know that Herr Beethoven had worked and slaved away just upstairs!

At any rate, now it was time to proceed to Mongolia. Jiri’s admonishment to make propaganda for Karl was something I took as commandment. I assured Jiri that I would do my best. And I think I have not done so teribbly badly at that. Once in Ulanbaatar, I went to see, of course, the famous Dr. Shagdarjen Bira who is the great spiritual scholar of Mongolia. He and I conspired to bring Karl back to Mongolia in the near future.

Just last night, I finished a letter of invitation that Dr. Bira asked me to write in his behalf to Karl. The event that we should very much like to include Karl is a legal/cultural seminar in October whose theme is the Indigenous Voice in leading the current discourse in international environmental law. Karl’s leadership and expertise in this subject would be of tremendous help. And I believe it will be impossible for Karl to resist our entreaty. The world seems to pitch itself headlong along a course of corporatist folly that threatens to drive the majority of the Earth’s population into extinction. We earnestly believe that our plan must succeed. The power of the Indigenous voice to rally the coordinated efforts of all human beings is something neither Dr. Bira or I contest. Indeed, we seek to hasten it. The Indigenous Voice sounds the bass note in the global chorus. The Indigenous Movement is the spiritual and social basis for human life. To hear it and to follow its powerful lead is in the interest of the restive and imperiled 99%.

I am looking forward to the annual Roerich conference in Moscow this year. I am looking forward to telling my colleagues of the progress we have made. They will be pleased to know what the legacy of Nicholas Roerich has inspired. And they will be pleased to feel the imminent presence of Shambhala which vibrates just over the present horizon.

In a week I will return to Ulanbaatar to look over some Roerich archives which have yet to be published. Perhaps it is a propitious time for UNESCO to consider the task. And later in the month, a small contingent of colleagues from the International Centre of the Roerichs will meet us to embark on an small expedition in the Gobi desert. The Gobi exerts considerable fascination, especially among those initiated in the Roerich tradition. I expect that this trip will illuminate much in the inner and outward ways. What is “transcendent” exactly? Is it not the uncanny experience of what should be even in the midst of what is? The duty then is to draw the community forward. And to keep singing the long song!

To Be a Follower


I can’t remember exactly when I became aware of Nicholas Roerich. His paintings have haunted me since childhood. His spiritually charged landscapes and depictions of metaphysical events and wandering prophets engaged in exertions of the spirit–these productions have long been food for my soul. I have always likened him to Carl Jung–each seems to delve with the subtle assuredness of a skilled archeologist into psychic spaces that connect directly to the original creative fire.

Probably the earliest and most basic association I have with Roerich is his use of color. His colors seem to speak an ancient language, seem to live in a space not purely material. These are colors that speak on intimate terms with the soul. I am told that Roerich decoded secrets of paint mixing–secrets of craft that allowed these almost alchemical powers. His colors and forms do not “carry one away”. They carry us within, brining us closer to a vibrating essence that connect us to the living moment. All this will sound, perhaps, hopelessly metaphysical to those who have not yet looked at the painting of Nicholas Roerich. Reward yourselves by getting acquainted with his work. His work is life changing.

I do not remember seeing my first Roerich painting. I do not remember first hearing his name. His influence seems to have attended me since early childhood. His spiritual teachings seem to have made sparks in my mind also from a very early age. My childhood violin teacher was connected to the Roerich movement. Mr. Saphir’s gentle, nuanced and spiritually charged pacifism had a huge effect on me. (And the private concert he gave in our living room one evening of unaccompanied Bach partitas is one of the highlights of my youth.)

The simplest musical tasks he imbued with great dignity. The message was clear: culture demands safekeeping. And, in return, culture gives us back to ourselves in a more evolved and expansive state. Through chance and happenstance, the message and art of Nicholas Roerich was phased into my life over many years.

Although the past year has allowed me little time for music, I have been singing fairly regularly with the Russian Chamber Chorus of New York. (I encourage everyone to visit their marvelous website: It is a great resource for Russian culture.) Perhaps five or six times per year, we rehearse at the Nicholas Roerich Museum on W107th Street in Manhattan. It is a rich experience indeed to work on the great works of Russian choral music in this amazing space. The collection of paintings is truly phenomenal. Periodically, I will visit the museum simply to experience the impact of the collection. It is a tour through the caves, mountain tops, deserts and forest regions of the heart. In revisiting his images, Roerich continues to coax, challenge and re-invigorate. He provides clues, clarity, insight and therapy. Leaving the museum, my footsteps are more secure and lighter. My breathing is deeper and fuller.

I came to to know of his world-transforming activities. As my interest in international law developed I loked more deeply into the Roerich Pact, a truly unique and revelatory document that connects the potential of humankind with universal wisdom. It does so by affirming the value and power of culture–indeed, the absolute necessity of culture–and fusing it with Law. His work in the area of cultural preservation sparked a global movement. Roerich Societies promulgate everywhere. And his resonant message seems to be gaining in urgency and relevance with each passing year. Facing the dehumanizing effects of corporatism, seeing the spiritual and intellectual bedrock of international law attacked by the mechanized chisel of the profit motive, feeling powerless to prevent the erosion of our natural economic options by over-financialization and sickened by the mistreatment of our environment we instinctively draw closer to the fire and wisdom of culture. Individually and collectively, the Soul is at stake. As we look to access values deep enough to provide the energy and insight to combat these dark trends, we inevitably arrive at the universal temple fashioned from the immutable treasures of culture. Strengthened by this we increasingly resist the trivializing effect of consumerism. We are wise to do so. We see that it is a matter of survival.

A year and a half ago, I was having dinner with my dear friend and colleague Dr. Jiri Toman. Jiri’s book “The Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict” is a classic and at that time he was very busy making revisions at the behest of UNESCO for a reprinting. The schedule for doing so was rather tight and I recall that Jiri excused himself early that evening. But we had plenty of time for a quite wonderful and substantive conversation that continues to inspire my efforts in Mongolia. We spoke of the need for a world culture/belief-system/ethos/religion–something capable of incorporating all the venerable traditions into a formidable and dignified whole, one that could serve as a basis for true unity. We spoke quite naturally of Roerich and his dream of world unity, acknowledging the power of culture to generate unity. We spoke of this as a necessity and acknowledged the sense of personal imperative. It a conversation that changed everything for me.

Jiri invited me soon after to join him the following May in Vienna. There we continued our discussions and I was introduced to brilliant colleagues each one deeply committed to the affirmation of culture and the evolution of of the human family. Dr. Franz Schuller, Secretary-General of the Austrian Society for the Protection of Cultural Property, was particularly generous with his time, taking me on a tour of the wine region and talking at length on his experience in the field of culture preservation. Dr. Schuller introduced me to Leylya Strobl, President of the Austrian Roerich Society. The three of us had dinner in Eisenstadt and Leylya offered to request an invitation for me to attend the annual Roerich conference in Moscow at the International Centre of the Roerichs. I was very excited at such a prospect because I felt that my project in Mongolia would be of great interest to the Roerich Society.

In October I found myself in Moscow. My request for an invitation via Leylya had been accepted on the basis of my project in Mongolia: the proposal being that Ulanbaatar become the new center for international law. The Hague, I argued, is too Western and polarizing. A new Mecca of Law is needed. With its proud history of enlightened legal governance under Genghis Khan, democratic culture and geopolitical centrality, Mongolia is the obvious choice. The attraction of such a project to the Roerich Society is very natural. Roerich’s interest in Mongolia and his sense of a mission there is, in many ways, father to my own. My belief that a legal regime, manifesting and embodying the most venerable legal traditions of the world and taking root in Mongolia harmonizes quite naturally with the aims Roerich Society–especially with regard to service to humanity. My position is that law is a sacred cultural phenomenon that corresponds with universal principles, and that if the world organizes an affirmation of these principles we might ignite a new era. This new era will see the defense of the environment and of human dignity. It will see the reform of institutions. It will see an end to the wanton disregard of institutions for the rule of law. But most importantly, it will see a tremendous surge in innovation and in understanding.
I see figured in the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples something quite remarkable: the right to a sacred relationship to the Earth. This profound assertion is one that is certainly not philosophically limited to indigenous peoples. And in a larger sense, we are all indigenous anyway. Take a step back. See Earth from space. It turns like a tumbleweed, a great statement of both unfathomable strength and astonishing fragility.

The Future of International Law

When I talk of international law, I am talking about something that is in the process of becoming, as something existing in the sphere of the inevitable, feeling it to exist almost palpably in its pure potential form.  I sense a impending convergence of traditions and a popular effort to reconcile and synthesize the various strains of justice. To me, this is what will salvage the post-modern era from dissolution and collapse. Clearly, we have a long way to go.

We must disabuse ourselves of the notion that international law is a western construct. Indeed, every major culture has within it a vision of universal harmony. Every major culture inevitably invokes the divine and seeks to “tune” human activities accordingly. Law–as stemming from a divine source and addressing the here-and-now–is Universal and the Universe seems to speak through Law. The institutions are overwhelmingly western. But that is merely situational, de facto, ad hoc. International law is in fact a universal constant on the psychic level. It manifests in some form everywhere. I am calling for a development of international law so that it reflects its universal origins.  I do not advocate a rejection of the West, but an enfolding of the West into a global  totality.  What is vital will remain after the hegemons are deflated.  The spirit of the Human Rights Movement will guarantee it.

There is some discomfort, especially in the West, around placing too much emphasis on the sacred sources of law. Our minds tend to rattle back and forth within the secular/sacred dichotomy. We are so absolutely committed to upholding this imagined duality that it is difficult for many of us to imagine a cultural outlook in which the sacred and secular interpenetrate, merge, become one. But an unwillingness to do so could stymie the convergence that is so badly needed. Excessively positivist thinking is certainly not limited to the West. But as we grope toward to a universal apprehension of legal harmony, we must consider that we are, to my mind, on a direct collision course with the Indigenous perspective–one that is fundamentally rooted in the sacred. It will be impossible in a few years to address issues of environmental law without invoking the divine, the sacred, the great spirit in the actual courtroom.  This is not the concept of the sacred as it exists in opposition to the secular.  This is the bedrock of all phenomena.

Those uncomfortable with this will simply have to hang in there. They may find their lives immeasurably improved in the process–although they themselves may not be able fully to account for this in “rational” terms. Even if cynicism only gives way to grudging respect for these “new old ways”, this will be an invaluable process for all. It will literally save the planet. It will enjoin all in harmonies that are universal, cosmic.  I am aware that all this has a very ethereal ring to it. But I believe the methods and consequences propagated by such an outlook will be undeniably concrete.  Developments in environmental law are already bearing this out.

One need only look at the role of the Indigenous perspective in administering the Arctic Council to see a powerful sign of things to come. Or the forward-thinking embrace of crypto-currencies by American Indian groups.   I encourage everyone to read the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This is a revolutionary document. Not only is it a direct link between Human Rights and the Indigenous Movement, but it amplifies many of the concerns and profound wishes of the 99% Movement.  It could almost serve as a manifesto for the global Occupy Movement!

It is difficult to imagine a more potent alliance than one linking the Indigenous Movement and the 99% Movement.  Hover a little ways back from the Earth, say, at the level of a high-flying satellite and it is a simple matter to see that we are all Indigenous. The Indigenous Movement has been trying to call our attention to this for many years. And as the Human Rights Movement connects with the right to preserve a sacred relationship with the Earth, secularists are going to undergo internal metamorphoses. This will be for the better.  In the 2007 UN Declaration, I believe that all of us can see the image of something deeply wished for.

My mentor, Prof. Yutaka Tajima said something to me in Tokyo last summer that has haunted me and guided subsequent efforts: “The essence of law is unspoken.” It was this beautifully empty statement that freed me, I believe, to entertain the idea that beneath the disparate forms of jurisprudence, we ultimately come together in tacit understanding.  I relate it to the Islamic saying that “Mercy is a higher virtue than justice.”  I relate it to the Confucian admonition to cultivate “li” (the underlying principles of justice) and to eschew “fa” (litigation) where possible.  I relate it to all that is precious and unspoken in the exchange between my sensei and myself.

Just as I am grateful to have seen the living, dynamic effects of justice in California’s central valley, I feel most fortunate to have cultivated somewhat my inchoate understanding in Japan. Sensei has taken me to visit shrines, to hike the Japanese wilderness, to meetings at the Japanese Bar Association, to great eel lunches. Woven through these activities has been an ongoing discussion. Essentially, the problem is: how to bring the world together?

The Indigenous Movement presently offers us an opportunity to reconnect with our own psychic origins and, concurrently, with the origin of life itself. Its momentum is irresistible. Its voice is kind and yet absolute, like the voice of my mentor. It calls for sustainable development. And it insists on language which many will find uncomfortable at first. And yet, international environmental law is predestined to receive its imprint. This much is certain.

The discomfort will be temporary. The human mind has a way of coming around.
* * *
When I speak of international law, I am speaking of the product of an awakening. I speak of it this way because this is the best way, I believe, to actualize it. I speak of it this way because no matter where I am–in Tokyo, Brooklyn, Ulanbaatar, Vienna or Moscow–I hear the Shaman’s drum.