In her book Twelve Steps Towards a Compassionate Life, Karen Armstrong identifies the key historical and philosophical axis that provides the context for her powerful, simple and persuasive thesis:
The reference to Jaspers descends from his often overlooked Way to Wisdom, published in 1951:
We have enormous respect for Karen Armstrong, not only for her lucid navigations through world religions, but also for her most beautiful idea of all: the Charter for Compassion:
Such a Charter, intended as a practical guide and inspiration for hundreds of independent initiatives around the world, sounds almost shockingly naive during a time when the axis of compassion seems broken beyond repair. It would be easy to hide out in some darkly poetic obscurantism, or simply withdrawal into radical misanthropy.
Here at DP, as we examine the raw and festering global woundscape, we struggle with both temptations every day. Yet Armstrong’s brilliant Charter, arrived at through extensive interfaith dialogues, offers a different path, one that bypasses both church and state (where cycles of hatred and violence appear to have acquired unstoppable momentum) to appeal directly to individuals and communities.
In reading the Charter while surrounded (suffocated) by evidence of degradation and atrocity, we are reminded of the stunning passage (often misquoted) from Vassily Grossman’s Life and Fate. Following hundreds of pages that grimly document all the woeful modulations of savagery, he writes:
We are also reminded of that haunting dialogue between man and boy along Cormac McCarthy’s sunless road: