A Word to the Spiritual Seekers
From: Don Murray
Each morning at breakfast we marvel at nature’s unfolding as we watch the tree in front of our deck awaken from the slumbers of winter. At first the buds appear, bravely announcing their presence in the face of the chill winds that remind us that the cold snows have only recently departed. Then, through the month of May, the buds swell and grow until the tiny leaves appear and by June have grown to their fullness.
Since the dawn of consciousness humankind has been awed by the cycle of nature. Deep within our souls we have always known that we are creatures of nature and absolutely dependent upon her fecund vibrancy for our survival and well-being. We have also known that nature could be capricious and violent. Wind and rain could bring immediate death and destruction and diminish or destroy the crops bringing a slower demise through famine and starvation. With tornadoes, floods and fires we are being keenly reminded of the destructive power that is, for us, the dark side of the wondrous creativity that is the aliveness of the earth.
These creative and destructive forces were long worshipped as goddesses and gods. They were honoured, but also placated in order to make sure that the earth would bring forth abundantly.
For good or ill we ceased worshipping the nature divinities. We can blame this on the Judeo/Christian tradition. With the awakening of the idea of one God there was a fierce struggle to push aside the worship of the nature divinities. The wonderfully dramatic and vivid stories around the confrontation between Elijah and Jezebel initiated the contest. The prophets carried it on with a vitriolic viciousness.
There was a good reason for this, which often eludes us when we see the devastating results accompanying the patriarchal takeover; the denigration of women, and the present-day denial of nature. The arrival of Yahweh meant that a new awareness had come into being. Life was now seen as more than the continuous round of the seasons. It is going somewhere. Being human is a work in progress. It is something that we have, hopefully, been learning throughout the ages.
Those prophets did more than attack the nature divinities. They laid down the moral values which are the foundation of civilization: "Do justice, love compassion, walk humbly." And they were the visionaries who saw what life could become: "the desert shall blossom as the rose," "they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and no one will make them afraid."
But they went too far with a good thing. We are now learning that to be really human we must also honour those ancient goddesses and gods, those energies and forces that represent the living reality that is nature. In the last five hundred years we have accepted the idea of progress. Unfortunately we have thought that it meant material progress. We are enamoured with stuff and imagine that more and more of it is the goal of life. We have lost sight of the fact that the progress those prophets of old had in mind was in the quality of our humanity.
Scientific and technological progress has given us marvellous things. No one of us would wish to give up what our modern world has provided. It is easy to overlook the fact that we of the western world have acquired much of our luxurious life on the backs of the have-not world, some of it being in our own midst, and by the squandering and degradation of nature. We have turned the earth into a thing to be used for our benefit.
But the earth is not a thing. She is a living reality, the womb and sustainer of life And we are "of the earth earthy." We are not set apart from the natural world. We are a part of it all. Without the sun shining on those green leaves we could not live, indeed there would be no life on earth.
May the sun shine that the tree in front of our deck may get on with her wondrous work of giving us life.