Cooperation, the Active Expression of Unity; and the Principle of Sharing


To cooperate is to operate, or work, together. No single living object in nature is completely independent, and when this principle of interdependence becomes conscious and purposeful, it finds its perfected expression in the principle of cooperation.

Cooperation is essentially a human characteristic and is based on the equal worth of every individual. Yet it is in the human kingdom that this very factor of equality makes cooperation so unacceptable, for few men will admit that their nation, their race, their class or family, is not superior to any other.

In order truly to work together, a recognition of the uniqueness of others and an appreciation of what they have to contribute to the common effort is needed. Every individual is unique and every race and nation has a unique contribution to make in producing the rich variety of humanity. Every man, woman and child suffers, loves, hopes, fears and aspires. We are all capable, whatever our race, nationality, religion, or class, of sacrifice and service, of joy and sadness.

The principle of cooperation should be born, not from condescension or patronage, but from a recognition that in working with others for the common good we benefit mankind and, thereby, ourselves.

The main obstacle to such a recognition and willing cooperation is that, initially, pride and the sense of superiority must be sacrificed. The subconscious fear must be eradicated that in opening one's mind and heart to another, one may have to make an uncomfortable adjustment which may be alien to all one's standards of behaviour, habits and beliefs.

Cooperation exists today on many different levels and for many different motives. In many cases it is based on individual and national self-interest. In war there is the cooperation of allies for victory. In politics there is cooperation between nations, usually for the benefit of each particular nation. In business there is cooperation between multi-national combines for the benefit of those concerned. In science there is the broader objective of the development of some theory for the good of all.

Other examples of cooperation range from space travel to projects of the United Nations and its specialised agencies for abolishing want and disease and improving agriculture, industry and education on an international scale. These and the tens of thousands of philanthropic organisations provide ample evidence against the theory that man is a competitive animal who can only reach his full potential in fighting against and exploiting his fellowman. The World Goodwill blog contains numerous examples of the creative expression of goodwill in many fields.Competition and, worse still, hatred between nations, classes, ideologies and races are products not of human nature but of the distortion and the suppression of human nature. When all men respect their brothers and every man is his brother's keeper, poverty as well as personal wealth will be a thing of the past.

This sense of mutual respect and justice is not, by any means, a new factor in human history, for many so-called “primitive” communities have created just and harmonious societies. Greed and exploitation appear not only when there is a lack of food and possessions, but also when there is an excess of them. For then man's lust for self-indulgence is stimulated and the weak are exploited by the strong. This has never been so evident as today, when the powerful “have” countries are growing richer and the “have-nots” poorer. It is not only that the rich countries do not help the poor countries, but also that the aid is given in such a way that in the end the rich country benefits and the receiving country has to struggle just to maintain its economy, much less improve it. Even at national levels, where one would hope to see the principle of sharing in operation, we often see the steadily widening gulf between the poor and the wealthy.

However, the forces of globalisation are showing nations that the deeper a country falls into poverty, the greater the danger it will be to the world community: for in failing to produce its economic share of the world's goods, it becomes a burden on global resources. Moreover, it is a potential source of instability and violence.

Whether at home or abroad, the principle of cooperation goes hand in hand with the principle of sharing. Sharing of responsibility, as well as sharing physical resources, contributes to the quality of life and is an aspect of cooperation. In industry, for example, we must realise that high quality goods and efficient production are not solely dependent upon capital or management, but principally on the skill, the pride in work, the enthusiasm and the goodwill of the men and women who produce the goods. As one enlightened chairman has said: “The soul of a company lies in the hearts and minds of those employed in it; and these have to be captured first if any results worth having are to be achieved.”

In education we have the same need for sharing and cooperation. To cooperate in the process of world education every individual can be both pupil and teacher. He can be a pupil to whoever possesses the knowledge and skills he needs and a teacher to those who need such knowledge and skills as he possesses. Children can learn from their elders and can, in turn, increase their own knowledge by teaching younger children. The community itself can be a constant source of knowledge to all, as all participate in community life and communal service. And from the community every individual can widen his awareness both outward into the world and inward into his own and his fellow's subjective experience.

Similarly, in government, all can contribute to the common good by exercising the basic tenets of good citizenship – caring for and taking an active interest in the whole of society, pursuing harmony and well-being for all, and respecting cultural and philosophical differences. People in every nation and community can then participate actively and willingly in sharing the responsibility for building a rich, varied and cooperative life for all.

To cooperate is to give with generosity, and also to receive with gratitude. In the coming new era, right human relations and worldwide cooperation for the good of all will be the universal keynote.


One of the major problems facing the planet today is that of the just sharing of Earth's resources. The enormity of the task and humanity's inexperience in dealing with this aspect of global life conspire to virtually overwhelm us when faced with the dire needs in various parts of the world for food, fuel, housing, education and freedom from oppression. It sometimes helps clarify our individual understanding of both needs and solution to look at this task from a higher point than the obvious physical level.

One aspect of the meaning of sharing is to partake of, use, enjoy with others, with no particular implication of ownership – simply mutual use. There is no suggestion of charity or giving something of our own to another, whereby gratitude is implied; rather there is the assumption that whatever is being shared is owned by none or all. No giving and no receiving – merely sharing that which is provided by the planet for the well-being of humanity. This is a particularly tricky concept in view of the habit of ownership which we have so firmly established. The emerging concept of the global commons, meaning all those goods, such as the atmosphere, that cross all state boundaries, and are depletable or pollutable, can help to focus our thinking in this crucial area. When it is understood by men and women of vision all over the world that the goal of right sharing is a major step towards right human relations, this aspect of life will be studied more thoughtfully and seriously.

It is rarely understood that sharing is in essence a manifestation of synthesis and the natural effect of justice in its clearest form. From a global point of view, all resources, all land and all effort belong to humanity. We speak here from a point of justice and realism in an inclusive way. A truly global civilisation will recognise that the produce of the world, the natural resources of the planet and its riches belong to no one nation but should be shared by all. A fair and properly organised distribution of the grain, oil and mineral wealth of the world will be developed, based upon the needs of each nation, upon its own internal resources and the requirements of its people. All this will be worked out in relation to the whole.

As an example, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), a specialised agency of the UN, is responsible for leading international efforts to defeat hunger, and, as part of this task, monitors the production and stocks of important food stuffs, such as cereals. Working with other agencies, it is helping to put the world's computers to the task of a running inventory of the resources available to humanity. Armed with this knowledge, food can be directed to countries in emergency need, and it is surely not too big a step to envision a future in which the nutritional needs of all are equitably met. Similar plans could and should be put in place regarding other essential resources.

Perhaps sharing, as opposed to giving and receiving, might be more clearly understood in the light of an old Sufi saying to the effect that a man possesses only those things which cannot be lost in a shipwreck. That eliminates just about everything! Taking such thinking into account causes one to re-examine the practice and even the idea of ownership. How can the concept of those who have and those who have not be cleansed and purified in a practical manner into a more inclusive, lighted concept of sharing for the benefit of all?

Within the family of nations, the shouldering of responsibility for the one world must be realised as the goal of all national enterprise. This concept does not involve a world state, but instead involves the development of a universal public consciousness which realises the unity of the whole. It involves, for instance, the right management and proper development of every national unit so that it can adequately perform its international duties, and thus form a part of a world brotherhood of nations. When the sense of national security is more properly based on right relations and not on force, it will be possible to face this task with courage and insight.

The old rhythms are so deeply ingrained, so closely aligned with the ancient glamours of greed and fear, the duality of wants versus needs, that an abstract approach is needed to begin to clarify our thinking in a personal way. Ownership attitudes began the first time we were instructed to share our toys with another child. We were told, “Share your toys,” and yet rarely is the child told that the toy is only in his safekeeping to use so long as he needs it. It is not necessary that he give up the toy, only that he give up his claim to ownership, his attachment to the idea that it is his to do with as he wishes – forever. Rarely is a child taught the responsibility of guardianship of things, as opposed to ownership. In educating our children in the need for sharing, for a free circulation of all the essential commodities, we make a real beginning in establishing a new order of values.

It is seldom understood that it is not so much the actual owning of many objects and things which holds us back in our efforts towards inclusiveness, but our mental picture that we do own them. If mentally we give all back into the planetary flow, and yet physically retain guardianship, we will be freed of the weight of ownership at once. It is the idea of “holding and keeping” which is not in line with the natural flow and rhythm. As we begin to examine and readjust our attitude from that of ownership and possession to that of trusteeship and guardianship, we contribute to the clarification of this planetary hindrance. As we realise that all resources belong temporarily to those who have the need at the moment, then the circulatory flow of nature will begin to distribute the riches more evenly among the human family.

From the point of view of the one planet, the one humanity and the one Soul, the justice of sharing the wealth and life-giving resources of Earth is the most practical and reasonable of ideas. As energy follows thought quite naturally, each of us can begin in the task of reorienting humanity's attitude of selfishness, by eliminating these attitudes from our own life. As one man thinking clearly and with goodwill can transform the mental climate of his environment, so thousands of men and women of goodwill thinking in terms of justice, sharing, and right human relations can have the cumulative effect of radiating light and love all around the planet.


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