Posts tagged ‘science’

July 23, 2011

What Makes it Earthy?

Usually when I say “earth religions” I am talking about traditions that have developed out of Europe, although you could make an argument for others around the globe. But I cannot speak for everyone, only from what I know. If you are reading this, you are most likely familiar with all these ideas, but just for a strong foundation…

Obvious part: earth religions focus on nature, even call it divine.

It is not that God is in nature, because that would imply separation. “God” is nature. And it is not as if I put a pebble up on an altar and worship it; one, because I am a nomad with no altar to speak of, and two, because to worship a piece of the whole would miss the entire point. “Nature” can be thought of as living matter, or that plus the rocks/planet/etc., or all matter and energy. Well, matter and energy are technically interchangeable, but that’s not the point. Yet.

All religions are invested in the planet: maybe simply because human beings live there, or because practitioners are working to release attachments to the material world. Nature is at the center of earth religions, but it is more than that – it’s the whole donut.

There is more to earthly experience than pure mechanics. I am taught that stars explode and re-form, that the universe is expanding at an accelerated pace, that our sun is in the medium size category. Being earth religious is not limited to an intellectual recognition of the complexities of the world. In looking at the night sky, I think of the science; but there is also that awe, the realization of the whole, our simple part in it — there in the experience, which makes all the difference. And when that awe extends to all things, when the sacred expands to include the universe, you touch on being earth religious. Then it turns back on itself, asking for ethical engagement. This is religion because it can be a body of thought, lead to a series of practices, and/or a lifestyle.

In practice, being outside is the easiest access point to the universal energies that can be felt if you are aware. Our manufactured products are like processed food; the computer I am writing on is still a part of nature, just indirectly. It may not be true for everyone, but my body feels best when I am eating raw, unprocessed fruits and vegetables. So, spiritually, being out in the land is a salad, and being in downtown L.A. is American cheese.

My experience of Wicca, and my own practice, is marked by nature symbolism. From holidays and moon rituals to guided meditation and workings, nature is drawn from and celebrated. Ultimately, practice is not meant to appease a deity, but to remember what we already know — that me, you, we are all part of nature. That although our contemporary lifestyles attempt to deny it with fluorescent lighting, air conditioning, and imported produce, every day is not the same. There are seasons in the year, and in life. To put nature at the center of religion is an attempt to engage the entirety of being, to truly live and feel.

July 10, 2011

One World, One Body

In my experience of the earthy path, we toss around some ideas all the time — words about the interconnectedness of things and the cycles that tie us all together (see my section on trees). When I was studying the connections between astrobiology and Communitarianism, I read What is Life? by Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan. Among many ideas suggested by the authors, one struck me as particularly relevant to earth spirituality: the concept that the biosphere itself can be considered an organism.

Backing up… the smallest form of life is a cell, complete with a barrier that distinguishes it from the rest of the world. Inside, organelles work together, fueling processes and facilitating its reproduction as a whole. Margulis and Sagan point out that current mitochondria (a particular organelle in a cell), originally independent, were absorbed long ago and now cannot exist outside the cell. Now think of your body as an organism. Your skin, like the cell membrane, delineates what counts as “you” — yet you are composed of many, many cells. In modern Western life, we have been taught to view ourselves as separate beings, our minds obediently in step with the Liberalism of Descartes and Rousseau. My professor, H.P. Steeves, wrote on these ideas, and suggests that perhaps Communitarianism (where we are constituted by our roles and relationships), could better explain the origin of life. This extends to the nature of life as manifested on Earth.

Communitarianism relates to some core earth religious ideas. It is not simply that other people are nice to have around – our interactions with those around us are the core of our identity, our being. Part of being earth religious, as I experience it, is recognizing our connection to the Earth, to the world around us. We are a part of Nature, whether we live in downtown L.A. or rural Indiana. This recognition winds its way through every concept, from spirals to holidays.

When Margulis and Sagan explain that, scientifically, the biosphere of the earth is considered an organism, this concept is realized. Like the mitochondria, they argue, each of us is a piece of a greater whole; lines, like a cell membrane, mark a separation of sorts, but not the boundaries that we have materialized through Liberalism. The atmosphere is our skin, the rocks our bones, and, like lungs, we cycle the air with plants.

We are one body.

With this information, perhaps we can fully embrace our identity as a communal being. Yes, like a cell, we can find a point of separation. But if we let these thoughts seep into our actions, into our minds and hearts, the social impact could shift us globally towards peace. We Liberal folks are bent on self-destruction through war, pollution, greed and cruelty. Every act against the Other is an act against ourselves. Those who shunt environmentalism aside as a fad or only for the granola, wage war while calling themselves “pro-life,” and/or feel  free to poison produce with pesticides, do not work to see the whole.

Since we fail our own particular bodies — make them swell with junk food and harmful chemicals, fail to suppress those awful, vindictive thoughts that eventually creep in before the mirror, push ourselves to exhaustion for work,  only propped up by caffeine –  are we even capable?

Sometimes, one of my greatest challenges is to not see humanity as a cancer upon this earth.

%d bloggers like this: