When Dag Hammarskjöld died in a plane crash in 1961 there were many who believed his death was no accident – including US academic Dr Roger Lipsey who was recently invited to Dublin by Dr Michael O’Sullivan SJ, co-founder of SpIRE, the Spirituality Institute for Research and Education.
Lipsey has just published a in-depth biography of the Swedish United Nations Secretary General who made a major impact on the political landscape of twentieth century Europe. He gave a lecture on Hammarskjöld’s life and spirituality for SpIRE in Gonzaga College SJ, on Saturday 20 February, and he did an interview with Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications.
Hammarskjöld was one of the key people responsible for establishing the UN peacekeeping force. Reverence for life in all its forms was a driving force in him. What is most remarkable about Lipsey’s work is his uncovering of the profoundly spiritual path that Hammarskjöld followed. Using Hammarskjöld’s own spiritual journal Markings as a guide, he explores the spiritual practices that made the man a mystic, a contemplative in action, a prophet for the 21st century.
In his book Dag Hammarskjöld, Lipsey outlines ten characteristics of the path Hammarskjöld chose to follow (Hammarskjöld called it ‘the way’). It included prayer, detachment from outcomes, living in the ‘now’, owning and dealing with personal fear, cultivating serenity, and service of others.
He says that Hammarskjöld constantly converted his personally earned wisdom into public service, using it for the benefit of others on a global scale. In the end, according to Lipsey, Hammarskjöld paid the ultimate price – his life – as he travelled by plane to negotiate a cease-fire during the Congo crisis. Lipsey concludes that Hammarskjöld is a modern-day martyr who has much to teach our world in terms of integrating profound personal spirituality with action for peace and and social justice.