Satish Kumar's Serene Spirituality

The editor of Resurgence magazine lives—and teaches—spiritual consciousness


| January-February 1999



I am clambering up a hillside in the rain, green expanse of English countryside to my left and rugged coastline to my right, trying to keep up with Satish Kumar, a former monk who once walked halfway around the world to promote disarmament, when a giant boom pierces the air. It sounds as though the worst thunderstorm imaginable is headed straight for us. I stop dead in my muddy tracks. So does Satish, ahead of me, and his wife, June Mitchell, right behind.

"What is that?" I yell, searching the gray skies for lightning. "The Concorde," they say in unison. "It often enters England right here on its flight from New York to London," June explains. I look up at Satish, who's frowning in the direction of the plane. His lifelong mission has been to help the world realize that there is more to life than being rich, fast, worldly, and technologically advanced; this must pose a sharp reminder of what he's up against. I watch as he shifts his attention from the sky to the splashing sea and picks up the thread of our interrupted conversation. "Wandering and drifting in nature is one of the things that replenish me," he says, striding again toward the peak of the hill. "It fills me with energy to keep doing the things I want to do."

Satish, who is counted among Britain's leading spiritual thinkers, needs a considerable amount of energy. He has set out to do nothing less than make the modern world more aware of the beauty, mystery, and connectedness of all things, and less fixated on hierarchy, competition, and bigness. For 25 years he and June have edited Resurgence magazine, which England's Guardian newspaper calls "the artistic and spiritual flagship of the Green movement," out of a postcard-perfect stone farmhouse bedecked with ivy and surrounded by gardens.

And he helps direct a college devoted to holistic principles of learning, an alternative school in his local village, and a publishing house—all of which he founded. He lectures all over the world on assorted topics, and will be touring the United States in February and March to promote the new American edition of his autobiography, Path Without Destination (Eagle Brook/William Morrow). Among his fans is Prince Charles, whose Prince of Wales Institute for Architecture has invited him to lecture on spirituality and architecture four times.

Unlike many crusaders for worthy causes, Satish and June actually live the simple life they celebrate. She receives a modest salary from the magazine; he receives one from the college, and lectures for whatever someone is willing to offer above the price of a train or plane ticket. The mortgage on their house and two acres of land is held by a trust of Resurgence benefactors. By almost any economic standard of the modern world they are poor, yet it's almost impossible not to envy their life. Meals usually come straight from the garden. The centuries-old cottage lacks central heat but is as comfortable as any home I've set foot in; it's outfitted with furnishings, kitchenware, and art that embody the rustic elegance that Martha Stewart Living magazine and the Pottery Barn catalog strive for. The long table in the middle of the wood-beamed kitchen, where friends and family gather over Satish's Indian dinners and June's desserts, drinking local cider and talking for hours, feels like the center of the universe.

While most of the magazine's work goes on in a converted stone barn a few steps from the front door, the cottage's living room doubles as Satish's office. He sits at the big wood desk while we talk. "My major idea is that we need to change consciousness," Satish says. He is a small man, wiry and dapperly dressed, with a gray goatee and intense brown eyes. "We live under the power of modern consciousness, which means that we are obsessed with progress. Wherever you are is not good enough. We always want to achieve something, rather than experience something. The opposite of this is spiritual consciousness. By that I mean you find enchantment in every action you do, rather than just in the results of your action.