Friends of Dag Hammarskjöld: A Spiritual Renaissance* to Restore Faith in Leadership

In 2001, Virginia Swain was at the United Nations in New York City during the World Trade Center attacks. That night, she had a dream of a Phoenix rises from the ashes of 9/11 and Ground Zero. The dream challenged her to consider, over the years, ways to knit peoples’ hearts and minds together in a very divided world. In partnership with the Phoenix, her leadership and development models are especially designed to work with others to heal this divided world.

Drawing on her 30 year commitment to the United Nations, her friendship with author Barbara Wheeler, the late Dr. Elise Boulding, Hopi Elder Thomas Banyanca, the wisdom and leadership code gained from the life of UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, Virginia saw the inspiration of her dream of the Phoenix as a way to enact the Hopi Prophecy and to work with other Reconciliation Leaders to build a spiritual renaissance that embraces a shared moral and spiritual vision for America and our world.

We invite emerging and seasoned leaders to join us for coaching and training to re-examine your mission and learn new skills and perspectives for a Reconciliation Leadership approach to a spiritual renaissance in a COVID19 world. You will also learn to be in a 200-year present, to learn a new approach to leadership and development as well as a broad systems-thinking worldview, In a crossroads moment of institutional, social, ecological and economic global history, we’ve been restoring faith in leadership at the United Nations since 1991 for the Global Problématique and a world in need of leadership.

Former United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld changed the definition of peace and global security from outside ourselves to within each of us. It is the first step of United Nations reform and a reminder of Hammarskjöld’s legacy from 1953 until his untimely murder while on official UN business in Africa in September 1961.

Listen to the words of Hammarskjöld, written outside the meditation room he installed in the UN Visitor’s Lobby, and sung as a plainsong chant by Quaker Paulette Meier:

We all have within us a center of stillness surrounded by silence. This house, dedicated to work and debate in the service of peace, should have one room dedicated to silence in the outward sense and stillness in the inner sense. It has been the aim to create in this small room a place where the doors may be open to the infinite lands of thought and prayer.

The spiritual renaissance begins in every person’s heart, their own Room of Silence. By inviting everyone on this planet to find their center of stillness surrounded by silence, we look to Hammarskjöld‘s prayer substituting our own special word for our Creator.

“Not I, but God in me.”

From this place within each of us known by many names, we invite you to consider:

  • Is my center of stillness an alien thing or oddly familiar though perhaps untried?
  • Is this approach possible for me?
  • Does it imply a personal discipline of mind and heart that I already practice, or that I could practice if I could learn it?
  • What is my center of stillness and how can I access and live from it like Hammarskjöld did?
  • Are you feeling inner nudges and promptings but are not sure you can trust them and know what to do with your life?

Hammarskjöld wrote the following during his mission to the Middle East–the occasion for the first exercise of shuttle diplomacy–to reduce or eliminate border conflicts:

“Understand—through the stillness. Act—out of the stillness. Prevail—in the stillness” (Markings, 1955, p. 127).

When Hammarskjöld changed the definition of peace and global security to within each of us, we call this ‘leadership from the inside out.’ Listen to Dr. Sarah Sayeed speak of her Muslim faith from her heart. Sarah is a Reconciliation Leader with a strong belief in leadership from the inside out.

Barbara Wheeler, co-author of Divine Encouragement: Living with the Presence of Hope (Xlibris 2003), supports leadership that comes from opening our innermost sacred door:

There is a quiet place within every human soul, a quiet place which beckons me–come, listen, discover and learn. I find this place by opening my innermost sacred door. No key is needed; I only heed the desire to be in the presence of and connected with the divinity of my own humanness.

Dag Hammarskjöld on the Art of Ethical Leadership

We invite emerging and seasoned leaders to join us to find your center of stillness surrounded by silence, open your innermost sacred door, re-examine your mission, learn new skills, and develop a broad worldview for a Reconciliation Leadership approach to leadership including a Code of Ethics as written in Politics and Conscience and Hammarskjöld’s leadership needed for our times.

The Code of Ethics that Hammarskjold lived by, and that we incorporate in Reconciliation Leadership training, provides an ethical template for leadership for our times. Included in the Code is the Way of a Statesperson which shows one’s spiritual/religious quest and understanding in relation to one’s public role; self-knowledge, perseverance, patience, courage, maturity of mind among others.

Through the Institute for Global Leadership she founded after 9/11, Virginia Swain is a partner with Global Ethics Day of the Carnegie Council for International Ethics by hosting educational events.  See an interview with author Dr.Roger Lipsey about Dag Hammarskjöld. For more interviews she conducted, here. 

Equally important is the special music composed by fellow Swede, Anders Widmark, composed from words from Hammarskjold’s personal journal, Markings. Listen

Virginia’s memoir, above, tells the story of a Phoenix coming to her in a dream during the World Trade Center attack on 9/11/01 while she was in New York at the UN attending a meeting. The Phoenix, identified itself as our global soul with a spiritual and moral essence that the world had failed to cultivate and nourish. Virginia’s dream of the Phoenix inspired her to develop a mandate to work with others to build a global ethic to restore faith in leadership.

After meditating with the Phoenix for 17 years, Virginia was prompted to begin with America’s Soul Community in 2017, to take America beyond individual and group egoism—a renaissance that would help the USA overcome the fear and mistrust that keep us so separate and isolated from each other and from the rest of the world. Virginia addresses the problematic role of the United States in the UN, with dialogues about America transforming itself into being an equal global partner on the world stage.  Through the Phoenix, we transform the current moral and spiritual leadership in America, to bring love, forgiveness, and compassion to the world. 

A full view of the mural. 1/Aug/1985. UN Photo/Lois Conner.

The Phoenix brings a spiritual renaissance with forgiveness of human frailties.

It symbolizes love as a hearth that the faithful may gather around.

Enmity must pass from humanity.

Generosity and compassion mark the enlightened man and woman.

Our hearts will recognized other enlightened people.

A common Creator recognizes everyone as brother and sister.

Humanity can conquer fear and loneliness and experience a perpetual birth of daily love, adoration and joy.

The Phoenix asks us to look for the dawning in one another.

(Excerpted from My Soul’s Journey to Redefine Leadership: A New Phoenix Rises from the Ashes of 9/11, page 137)

In the Phoenix context of a shared moral and spiritual vision for the world, the Institute supports the call from UN Secretary-General António Guterres to restore the United Nations mandate by re-launching his Covid19 Global Ceasefire on UN Day, October 24, 2020. In a June 24, 2020 presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Academic Council for the United Nations, the Institute supported this initiative by offering a strategy called Image and Action for Peacebuilding.

The Phoenix, given as a vision of peace after the end of World War II and the founding of the United Nations, is pictured above in a mural, painted by the Norwegian artist Per Krogh in the colors and style reminiscent of a tapestry, was donated in 1952 by Norway to the United Nations. It decorates the Security Council Chamber. The mural symbolizes the changes which the world will undergo because of the efforts of the UN, and of mankind in general, to achieve peace, equality, and freedom. There have been more than 350 wars since then.  Humanity has failed keeping the peace since the founding of the United Nations.

In their book Images of the Future, Drs. Elise and Kenneth Boulding developed an important tool to motivate behavior in the present by using images of the future, drawing on the theory that people cannot create something they have not envisioned from their imagination. After imaging a positive future, one can work back into present time to realize a positive present with a timeline and concrete action steps. The Institute has used the imagining process successfully over the years to empower adults and children to live their dreams. Listen to Dr. Sayeed with Virginia Swain, speak of imaging here and Virginia on “Visionary Leadership” on United Nations Day in 2011.  Participants in Virginia Swain’s classes at the United create solutions unimagined

Below, see how a composite image done by a creative group of people over six months in 2020 imaging an awakening with the Phoenix. The group named the image A Global Awakening: New Earth in Wellness, Light and Love.

“I have found the following words to be especially relevant and comforting during this time of challenge and transition.” Virginia Swain

If you wonder how to live in these times, rejoice in the ordinary,

embrace the simple

For in these things the Spirit remains indelible. 

Be at peace with your brothers and sisters, the Earth.

Devise ways of praise which are genuinely from your heart and celebrated by your spirits.

Rejoice in your humanness, your maleness, your femaleness.

Look for the Spirit in all things and

You will see blessings flow in abundance.

Recognize the Light in the least of things.

If you would seek majesty, look to the smallest fleck of sand

For it contains the essence of All Knowing and All Love

For it, like you,

Is a substance energized by Love.

(from Meditation #8 Divine Encouragement: Living with the Presence of Hope by Michael E. Collins and Barbara V. Wheeler ©Xlibris 2003)

Join Us

We invite you to join us to re-examine your mission, learn new skills and develop a broad worldview in this crossroad moment of institutional, social, ecological, and economic global history. We have been restoring faith in leadership in the United Nations since 1991.

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*Hammarskjold is widely attributed to calling for a spiritual renaissance even though his latest biographer Roger Lipsey, said he never said it. We follow his spiritual leadership example by reading his journal, Markings, published posthumously and invite others to follow his example by living out their lives from the inside out. Lipsey’s memoir, Hammarskjöld: A Life, gives a splendid and engrossing history of Hammarskjöld as UN Secretary-General. Hammarskjöld’s use of the masculine has been updated to include women.