How does a scholar of spiritual mysticism end up living in Oak Park?

Andrew Harvey is an internationally renowned spiritual teacher and author of over 30 books. Born in south India, he studied at Oxford University and became a fellow of All Soul’s College. He has taught at Oxford, Cornell and now in Oak Park, because he lives here.

“I love living in Oak Park,” Harvey says. “[Best-selling author] Caroline Myss and another best friend live here. Oak Park people are decent and warm. I love being so close to Chicago, but not too close, so I can go to the opera and symphony. I enjoy the liberal tradition here in Oak Park, where there is a great deal of respect, openness, tolerance and diversity. There are so many churches and many of them take sacred activism seriously. It’s where I decided to create the Institute of Sacred Activism. I can’t think of a nicer place to live and work.”

Sacred activism is a practical method to heal a world in massive crisis: never-ending war, poverty, illness, unchained global capitalism and the ongoing mass murder of the environment. The culture, meanwhile, markets mind-numbing distractions while holding up superficial materialism and obsessive self-absorption as the gold standard. These messages and images disable the deep wise mind and the heart’s passion. Powerfully seductive and extremely dangerous, they undermine action.

Speaking at Yoga Trek, 911 S. Lombard, last Wednesday in the second of four talks, Harvey confronted massive social denial and addiction, offering the solution of “sacred activism.” With an awakened heart, he said, we can become inspired, effective and practical agents of institutional and systemic change.

“When the deepest and most grounded spiritual vision is married to a practical and pragmatic drive to transform all existing political, economic and social institutions, a holy force is born. This force I define as sacred activism,” Harvey explained in a passionate style. “Some spiritual seekers use spiritual knowledge as a way to withdraw and disengage from the political process. On the flip side, some social activists burn out because of debilitating and divisive rage, and they don’t have spiritual practices in place to support their grander vision and day-to-day action. Sacred activism is a way to help both groups become compassionate agents of social change.”

Co-creating a new world requires having an open heart transformed through sacred passion, Harvey teaches. This provides the basis for radical, transformative action. He reminds us that the heart longs to see people fed, to savor a healed earth, to honor the feminine, to experience peace, honesty, authenticity, true friendships and deep compassion for all of creation.

Each of us can open our heart consciousness and intelligence by grounding ourselves in body, mind, heart and soul through spiritual practices such as those which he shares in his programs. These mystical techniques are particularly helpful during these times of deep, painful and catastrophic changes to the planet and to social, financial and cultural institutions.

Sacred activists do the inner work while they walk the path of a mystic.

“A mystic has a direct relationship with the divine, beyond dogma and mediation,” he said. “It’s the last closet we have to come out of. The mystic experiences the sacredness of all creation and has a deep knowing that everything is connected.”

Music and poetry can also help support, heal and transform. He suggests listening to some of the great masters such as Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, whom he contends are true mystics of the heart. As a scholar of Jalal-ud-din Rumi, the Islamic mystic from the 13th century, he also recommends Rumi’s profoundly spiritual poetry.

Harvey facilitates programs across the country and around the world. You can explore them at As founding director of the Institute for Sacred Activism, Harvey is currently leading a series on “Compassion in Action with Sacred Activism” at Yoga Trek, 911 S. Lombard in Oak Park, a few doors down from the Buzz Cafe. The first two sessions of the series were “The Realm of the Soul” and “The Realm of the Heart.” You can still register for “The Pathways of Intellect” on June 10 and/or “The Wisdom of the Body” on July 15. The fee is $50 per session and space is limited. Go to or call (708) 660-0868.

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