James O'Dea's calm, cool voice stands in contrast to his fiery messages of change. James has been on the front lines of many radical, yet well accepted social movements for human rights. When James gets going, out come words like transformation, catalyst, verge, capstone, but, he doesn't have the flare of a soapbox-speakin' New Age-er. He is a well-seasoned veteran. James served a ten year term as Director at the Washington office of Amnesty International and is former President of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, a research center exploring the frontiers of consciousness. James is joining Living in the Fire of Change Conference speakers in Salt Lake City this weekend. He spoke with City Weekly on Monday.---
You will be speaking at the “Living in the Fire of Change” conference this week. What is your keynote and why?
I'll be talking about the inner dimension of the spiritual impulse and its relationship to outer action in the world, and their alignment. I think where inner transformation and deep spiritual imagination meet we have a possibility of realizing the destiny of humanity, which will be a specific, systemic, structural change.
What is sacred activism?
The transformation of our inner world of beliefs and attitude to serve the highest good of humanity. It is different than old and standard methods of activism, which simply projects, is problem centered, and looks for those as problem-makers. A transformed heart says, "I am implicated. I am part of the problem," and that is good news.
Recount your strangest activity in the act of service?
I was working with Middle East Council of Churches during and after the war. MECC would mostly communicate through Telex, and the power would fail at times. In which case, we would have to operate our system with kerosene. In this particular instance, we had an urgent need to communicate, the power was down, and we were out of kerosene. I got in my little, green Puget to pick up a dozen cans of kerosene. Then, on my way back, the cease-fire was broken...I felt particular vulnerable.
How does your work at IONS interlace with “The Lost Symbol” by Dan Brown?
I haven't completed reading it quite yet. Fundamentally, we know everything manifests in consciousness, as it is the core of our reality. Symbols and beliefs resonate, but they are no longer holding meaning behind them. When this happens, you find yourself in an effected reality.
What will happen in 2012?
Apocalypse means unveiling. Rather than a precise moment, 2012 represents a great seasonal shift for humanity. If not, we go the way of the dinosaurs. This embodies the culmination of a long, evolutionary cycle, ending in our fullest potential. Mayans understood periods of gestation; they had twenty calendars. The Mayans symbolized the period we live in as a pyramid, with the capstone being now.
Living in the Fire of Change: Sacred Action and Social Transformation..A Conference and Community Forum @ Salt Palace Convention Center, 100 W. South Temple, Dec. 11-12, www.livinginthefireofchange.com
There are scholarships available for students. Contact Mali Leach, Conference Director,208-891-4522, www.livinginthefireofchange.com