This article is excerpted from Dr. Bronner’s 2017 All-One Report.
The human experience is too far out to get your head around. Where did we come from? Why are we here? What is the point of it all? Philosophers, scientists, mystics, astronomers, and anthropologists all agree on one mind-blowing fact: we are all children of a living Cosmic Mystery and miraculous Mother Earth. This is our birthright. The cells in our body are one with the earth, made of the same stuff as everything else on our planet. Our atoms were forged in the same cosmic furnace that birthed our sun.
Our earthly nature grounds and roots us and connects us to one another. Our cosmic nature lifts us up and expands us, pointing us to greater and larger horizons. When we incorporate and balance these two awesome and mystical forces inside each of us, we become our full selves and discover meaning and purpose in our lives.
We embrace and honor our earthly selves by acknowledging the unique gift of our individual seed and the soil that nourishes us. We honor our cosmic nature when we love and serve something greater than ourselves. Our earthly body becomes real living food when we live our particular gift in loving service to the world!
My grandfather’s seed came from a family of soapmakers. His ground of being was Heilbronn, Germany. He apprenticed in his family’s business, but his growing cosmic vision, along with his newfangled soapmaking ideas, clashed with his family’s. The tension eventually led him to emigrate to the US where, in the midst of WWII and the tragic murder of his parents in the Holocaust, he began to sow the seeds of a peace plan, urging humanity to unite as one. So impassioned were his street-corer sermons that he was hauled off to an asylum, but he eventually escaped and hitchhiked to Los Angeles where he kept on preaching his All-One sermons in Pershing Square.
In his hotel room he mixed batches of the family liquid soap, which he used to draw people to his sermons. When he noticed that people were coming for the soap and not staying for the sermons, he began printing his All-One vision on the labels. This was the birth of Dr. Bronner’s soap. Emanuel Bronner lived the gifts he was given as a child of soapmakers, but as a child of the Cosmos, he used that gift to serve his broader vision of peace, love, and harmony under one ever-loving, ever-present God.
When I graduated college, working for the family company was the last thing on my mind. I eventually found myself living in Amsterdam, where a series of mind-altering and consciousness-raising trips opened me, in a world full of suffering, to the mystery of the transcendent Love and Light at the center of me and all. These trips shook me to my core and energized my desire to engage in the world in the most meaningful way I could imagine.
I returned to Boston to live with my college sweetheart, and worked as a mental health counselor, even while integrating my own massively ungrounding experiences. Kris and I got married and our daughter Maya was born on March 7, 1997, the same day Dr. Bronner died.
With fresh eyes I came to appreciate my granddad’s visions, and let my dad Jim know I was ready to come back and work for the family company. Tragically, he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer soon after, and I spent a crucial year with him learning the business. I came to realize, gradually, but with increasing clarity, that living the gift I was given as the fifth generation of this soapmaking family was the best way to be of service to the world.
This is a vision we all share at Dr. Bronner’s: our company as an engine to create positive change in the world. The causes we fund and fight for grow every year. We began with a huge gift of land to the Boys and Girls Club of America, then took on hemp & cannabis reform, followed by our fight for rigorous organic & fair trade standards, GMO labeling, drug policy reform and responsible integration of psychedelic medicine, and animal welfare. Last year, we made a huge push into the fair pay/living wage movement.
This year, we’re fixing our focus on regenerative agriculture—a way of farming that enriches the miraculous living soil of Mother Earth rather than depleting it with pesticides and industrial assault. These regenerative principles heal, restore and enrich—and promise to significantly mitigate climate change at a global scale by drawing down excess atmospheric carbon and sequestering it as stable soil organic matter. You can join us in this movement by making mindful food choices—eating organic grains, legumes and veggies, and most importantly, saying no to “bad meat”—animals raised on petrochemical-intensive grain in confined industrial operations that are environmental and ethical disaster zones.
By making the best product we can, treating our employees and suppliers fairly, honoring the earth in our decisions, and dedicating our profits to causes that enrich the world, we try to live up to my grandfather’s All-One vision every day.
This is why we make soap: to live our gifts to the best of our abilities in loving service to ever-widening circles of community. As my granddad put it: “To do my work, to love, to live! To see to it I gain and grow and give and give!” All-One!