“Perhaps the relevant stage is not the real world at all – but rather the world of fantasy, of art, of stories, of myth – myth is the best way to express it – this is the world of the spirit – of magical life.
“The “real” world, meaning the physical world – is not real at all – it is going, going, gone – on the way out – it is dead – a stream of images — and only the ethereal world of meanings and relevance is actually real or relevant. It continues.”
As the wise William Shakespeare wrote, in MacBeth:
Sometimes one must pray for rain for days and even years.
God Is not limited by our time frame. He/She does not abhor death – beyond death there is peace and even joy.
God exists within, around, and beyond the universe. A small part of God is the universe. The spiritual exists – it is unseen because it is not a material thing. It is spiritual. The physical world comes into being – but unfortunately, the physical world then sometimes runs amuck in all directions all by itself – and hence there is pain and evil – because of the separation and alienation from the spiritual.
The physical universe comes into being when a division takes place. Suddenly, there is more than one. There are two. This second entity may not really be real because only the One is real (think of the Hindu concept of maya). Yet physical reality has appearances – Newton’s apple falls to the ground — in the sunlight, it is red; it is heavy, and it falls; one can watch it fall and hear it hit the ground. To us, it is solid and real, one can even taste it. It manifests as physical. Yet it is missing something; it is not spirit, though spirit may be within it and may dwell within it – and may even be trapped within it – according to the concepts of the gnostics.
Because there is division – there arises incompleteness – a lack of wholeness. If you divide the train from the engine, something important is missing. Some essential things have been left out. From this lack arise the deficiencies of the physical universe – pain, suffering, harm, death, illness, and evil. These arise from and are the consequence of the separation – the division that has taken place in order to bring about the universe – the separation (leading to alienation) between the spiritual and the physical. The wildflower is very beautiful, but after summer is done, there is no ongoing source of life and nourishment, and the flower dies. The life within it has gone. It cannot exist apart from the source of life which sustains it. (I do not mean that dead flowers are not beautiful; certainly they are, but theirs is a different beauty.)
When the physical universe – especially as the world of nature – is still inhabited by spirit – still in touch with its essence and its soul – it has profound beauty – the flowers, the majestic rocks, the ocean waves in their endless patterns, the grace of animals and plants. (The ocean and the rocks are also alive.)
The living beings of nature are subject to pain because of the separation that brought them into existence as separate beings – no longer entirely whole – apart from the original unity – which is God. The farther removed one is from the spiritual – the greater the chasm – the more prone is the physical world to suffering and disaster.
With the arising of the mental plane (which can be useful, but which is mostly an agent of disruption), there is further separation and further evil – such as we see in the modern human world. – war, chaos, hatred, injustice, disease, tyranny, and cruelty – and an irrepressible drive to rise above and dominate the earth. But, one may say, these things have always existed. But think for a moment – that is not so. Think of the innocence of deer, of flowers, of the rolling hills – who all existed before human beings. The natural world can be dramatic, even destructive, but it is not cruel. Even tigers are not cruel; they kill only when they are hungry or to feed their young, out of fear or defence sometimes, but never out of malice. The tiger is as innocent as the deer.
Only human beings have the capacity for intentional cruelty, and cruelty is intentional – the word itself implies intent. As human beings, it is our task to leave behind the tyranny we exert over the natural world – and instead to bring about a re-unification of the physical with the spiritual – in union – to re-unite that which has drifted – or exploded — apart. We must learn to perceive once again the true reality of the natural world – it is inhabited by spirit. Nature is an expression of God.
The mistaken assertion, espoused in the Old Testament that “man was made in the image of God” is a false teaching and goes along with much of the rest of the Old Testament that portrays God as a tyrannical being. If you don’t think so, you may not have read it lately. Parts of the Old Testament are soaringly beautiful – such as some of the psalms and parts of Isaiah – these express the true wisdom of these people, but the rest was written by somebody else. It all contrasts sharply with the portrayal in the New Testament of Jesus as a teacher of love and kindness. The Old Testament prophets spent quite a lot of time persecuting the Canaanites who followed the old religion and were always going up into the hills to worship trees — as if worshipping trees were a horrible thing to do. Unfortunately, much of the underpinning philosophy of our culture derives in part from the dominance expressed in the Old Testament. We have lost sight of this, but it is so.
Worshipping trees, who are sacred beings, is actually quite a good thing to do.
Nature is a part of God, and when we are able to become ourselves a part of this truth – truly able to perceive it – then we perceive the original peace of the unity of the two halves that seemed to have been split apart (though this was always an illusion). The physical and the spiritual will be brought together again – will be one. This is the mystical truth. It can be glimpsed distantly – intellectually. It can only truly be seen mystically.
This is the truth of mystics the world over. We can discover this by looking to the ancient worldviews – the knowledge in the traditions of the ancient land of India, the cosmic understanding of indigenous and tribal peoples all over the earth. They hold the remnants of truth that our modern world has left behind and destroyed. We must once again look to them for the truth – and salvation.
The genocide of the earth’s native peoples – like the war against nature (it is the same war) — has been a scourge attempting to kill truth and beauty in order to make way for a force, alien to nature, that seeks only dominance.
It has run its course. Many of those who might once have perpetrated the lies supporting this war have now turned against it.
For those ancient peoples of the earth who have guarded fundamental truths over so many eons – for them, along with their brothers and sisters of the natural world, and the earth itself, there will come again the brightness of the light and the dawn ahead.
You can do a rain dance. Sing to the rain. Write a poem about rain. Read poems about rain. Visualize rain. Remember rain.
One of the best ways to pray for rain is simply to pray for rain. Ask God or Buddha or Jesus or the rain spirits or the Great Spirit – or whoever you pray to or talk with – to send rain. It can also be your grandmother who has passed on, your guardian angel, your animal spirit guide, or the rain itself, the clouds, or the sky.
One way to do this is to talk with the land itself. Here in the west, it may be the land and the rock cliffs that we see on the horizon. Ask the land and the cliffs to call the rain. Clearly, some communication has broken down somewhere, so it would be good if they get back on speaking terms again.
If you live in the eastern U.S. or elsewhere in the world where there is an abundance of rain, probably the last thing you would wish to do is pray for more rain. One can pray for sunshine too!
In the case of the western U.S., many living beings need rain — insects, baby birds, the wildflowers that have not bloomed at all, and the trees that have grown brown patches. Trillions and trillions of beings all over the western states are profoundly in need of rain. In some regions, this is the worst drought ever recorded.
(If you find prayers to be nonsensical – please just take it easy! Billions of people have already said at least one prayer already today. This has been happening for hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of years. It’s okay for people to have differing points of view.)
So – to continue – when praying for rain or anything else, some ways of going about this really help and others are a hindrance.
For example, listening to a negative inner voice that repeats endlessly “This isn’t working. See, there’s no rain.” “This is very silly.” Or imagining what things will be like in five years or even next year without rain. Or dwelling on suffering.
Our mind is not always our friend. Often our mind is a chatterbox, filled with negative gossip and irrelevant, even harmful thoughts. This is just a fact. Our mind announces to us that it is a superior being and that it knows best. It takes us away down very negative paths where we do not wish to go, all the while insisting that it is being “reasonable” and “rational” – “more intelligent” than you are and vastly superior. The human mind has its uses, when working out technical problems and other mental tasks, but it is not actually the essence of our being. The mind is not our truest reality or our innermost spirit. We can see this for ourselves just by watching where the human mind so often takes us. If we are not watching carefully, our minds take over the intuitive part of our being, and the mind issues proclamations which tend to be negative – fears, doubts, ridicule, depression, and derision. Unfortunately, this is compounded by our modern worldview which tends to discount any sense of the sacred that comes from our innermost being – and instead elevates the human mind.
Our Innermost being is often more perceptive than our mind. Fortunately, many people do know this, and with practice, we can learn to be in control and use the mind as a tool, while not falling prey to its compulsive tendency to babble negativity. Be vigilant. Remind yourself that there is no obligation to listen to your mind’s negative chatter. This chatter is not the truth. The truth lies within the higher, truer realms of your being, is intuitive and tends to be more perceptive, more peaceful, and more observant of the reality that lies in the present moment – not the past or the future, neither of which are really here now.
Our innermost being is open to great knowledge and clarity when we do not let the cobwebs of the mind get in the way. This doesn’t mean that we should forget the intellect and try to be stupid. Not at all, our intellect can be enormously enlightening. The intellect is not the same level as the mind, which can be just negative, and we can notice this distinction very easily once we get the hang of it.
So, when praying for rain – or anything – instead of allowing our mind to try to keep tabs on “Is this working.?” “Why hasn’t it rained yet?” just remind yourself that you are under no obligation to listen this voice. Prayers can take time. Communication with the beings of nature doesn’t always go according to our desired time frame. Our mental demands are not helpful; only our love and reverence for the sacred spirits of the universe and nature — and God — are beneficial and helpful.
When we are on the path of walking within the mystical reality of being, of being in touch with the leaves of the trees, the mist in the mountains, and the creatures of the earth, we just need to keep walking, resolutely and unwaveringly. If we have been slowed down somehow or even stopped, or if we find we have fallen off the path and ended up in the brush down a ravine somewhere, then we need to get up, get back on the path, and walk on – not turning aside, and never, ever, giving up.
God (in whatever way we may see Her or Him) always answers prayers. It’s not our job to figure out how or when – only to be in alignment with the beauty of the universe – to stay on the path, in reverence, trusting in grace, grateful for the Presence that walks with us.
Wishing everyone a happy and stress-free day! May we take a moment to be grateful and count the blessings in our lives! May we remember to be kind and to focus our thoughts on light and blessings for the earth and for all her creatures. May all the animals be blessed with peace and well-being, as well as all the plants, the trees, and all the features of the earth – the rivers, the oceans, the forests, the deserts, the rocks, the mountains, and the clouds in the sky. All are expressions of the life of the universe — not inanimate objects, but expressions of cosmic awareness and transcendent beauty, which we too are a part of.
Well, I can hear you thinking – What a silly question, of course, wildlife are important! They are sentient beings, beautiful animals that have feelings. Of course, they are important.
Most kind people who care about animals would reply this way. As for those who genuinely do not care, we lost them when they saw the title. So, this is for those who do care.
But let’s pause for a moment. Many of us, especially at the moment, are quite overwhelmed. If we are fortunate enough to have a relatively secure situation in life – if we have a job, if we are not lining up for a food bank, if we are not in a state of crisis – we may still either be afraid for the future or in a state of distress at the suffering of our fellow human beings. To some extent this is not new – it is worse now, but it is not new. Life has always had difficult times – for those who have a sick child, or elderly parents, or who are sick themselves – or who are struggling in any of many, many ways. And yes, absolutely, if we have a sick child, the child must come first, and we need to care for the child – or whoever else we may need to care for.
Even in the best of times, many of us are just busy – really busy. We rush here. We rush there, and if we stop rushing, things fall behind and do not get done. So to stay on top of our situation, we need to take care of those immediate, insistent things that require our attention. No one is saying that we shouldn’t do this.
Some of us, perhaps most of us though, do have a little bit of leeway – there are the couple of hours in the evening we spend in front of the TV. There is some time here and some time there. There are days, weeks, months when there is no crisis – when we do have some time.
And what are our priorities? In the past few years, statistically speaking, our priorities have been health care, national security, the economy, maybe climate change, social and racial justice – or stability, depending on how we look at the world. If we are asked if we care about wildlife, we say, yes, of course. But really, that’s not at the top of our list. Overwhelmingly, our concerns are human concerns. We care about ourselves and other people. Now, there’s nothing wrong with caring about other people. It’s a wonderful quality to have. It is essential. There is really in our country a state of vast social and racial injustice, and it is fundamentally important – and this moment in time is, we trust, a profound turning point for change.
But, then where are we with wildlife? We care about dogs, cats – sometimes we care about horses, or even elephants and tigers. Somewhere, somehow, the little songbirds, the dragonflies, the coyotes, the squirrels, and the bobcats just do not quite register in our consciousness. And their habitat – without which they cannot survive – even less.
Let me give a couple of examples based on real, factual situations. When there is a water shortage due to lack of rain, and there is a stream – a little stream – and a coal company wants to pollute the waters of the stream just a little bit more than it already does – first, when it appears that this might affect the town’s drinking water, there is huge concern – then, when it is understood, that, no, nobody is talking about drinking water, this would only affect the water way upstream, and any tiny bit of pollution would just be washed away naturally by the rain (forgetting conveniently that there is no rain), without affecting the water downstream (which doesn’t make sense, but nevermind), then, amazingly all concern vanishes – and the same people who were alarmed about their own drinking water, somehow can no long find the time to be interested in this situation. What about the deer, the ring-tailed cats, the badgers, the songbirds who also need to drink? Somehow, they are just not anywhere near the top of our list. They may take our attention for a moment, just a moment – then they are gone from our thoughts.
And what about climate change? For many of us this means our own clean air, our own clean water – it means kids not having asthma (which is absolutely important) – it means developing clean energy so that, whatever the future may bring, we will be able to drive our cars, heat and cool our homes, and live decent, comfortable lives. Yes, these things are important. We’re used to them and we would get frazzled (myself included!) if it were freezing in the winter and boiling hot in the summer. Really, are we giving a single thought to the plight of the birds for whom breathing adequately is even more necessary than it is for us? Have we noticed species after species of songbirds greatly diminished in numbers or gone altogether? Have we noticed that, without rain, there are no butterflies at all? And so few insects that insect-eating birds have nothing to eat? The answer is – no, we haven’t noticed. It’s not because we don’t care. If someone told us, we would care. We just literally haven’t noticed. For the vast majority of us, we simply do not see wildlife. Wildlife just do not appear on our radar screen.
So why does this matter? What difference does it make? And, yes, we don’t want to see wildlife suffer, but really we can’t spend our whole lives worrying about bobcats, let alone butterflies.
Why are wildlife important?
But there is one extremely relevant reason why wildlife are important – not just for their own sake, but for our sake as well – and this is the reason: Wildlife are the children of the earth. They are part of the earth. They may be invisible to us, but they are an essential part of the universe. As children of the earth, they, in a truly meaningful way, are life itself. Yes, we are all children of the earth – but to us as humans this is mostly an abstraction – a truth to be remembered only occasionally, if at all. But a wild being – a deer, a wolf, an eagle – is the earth – is part of the fabric of life. And when we deny life, deny nature, deny existence, and deny the universe, then we will soon be in trouble, just as we are now. When we alienate ourselves from the natural world – to the extreme extent that we no longer even think about the natural world, not even in passing, then we have climbed to the end of the tree branch, and we are about to saw off the branch on which we are sitting, thereby sending ourselves plummeting down to injury and death – and that is precisely where we are now. We have alienated ourselves from life.
The consequence of we, as the human race, alienating ourselves from life is this: We have become parasites – unthinking, unconscious parasites who are destroying life, and nature – maybe not intentionally, but sometimes just accidentally – unaware, unconcerned. And the only solution that will make the slightest difference, ultimately, is not the Paris climate accords, or the Clean Air Act or clean energy or any number of government meetings and agreements (which are not happening much, but even if they were, they would not reach the root of the problem). The root of the problem is our disassociation, our alienation from nature. This concept is woven into the fabric of western civilization – which is a topic for another time. But this is killing us. Alienation from nature is killing the source of our lives – the earth herself – who we, without even paying attention, have thoughtlessly and unconsciously – abandoned, neglected, ignored, and then slaughtered and destroyed. When we kill the earth, we kill ourselves.
The first thing we can do – is un-alienate ourselves. This may not save the planet. It is quite late for that and, until we can engage others, we are, by ourselves, just one person. Yet still we must start somewhere. We must shine a small light into the darkness. Not by feeling bad – feeling bad accomplishes nothing, but instead by re-connecting with nature. Just simply doing that.
Take a walk in the woods. If there are no woods because you are in a city, then go to a park, sit by a tree. No trees? Then go to a flower shop and smell the flowers. If nothing else, then watch the clouds overhead – watch the sunlight or the rain. Watch a pigeon fly through the air. Be thankful, be grateful, and acknowledge the reality that you and I are not superior beings at all. We are at one with the natural world, with the earth – and this will be a step. The first thing this will do is put us in touch, just a little bit, with the peace of the universe. And the second thing it will do, is create a little wave in the ether – a little life-giving wave that will help someone somewhere – another being – a fish in a river, a tree in a park, another human being – and by becoming part of the resurrection of life – we will have played some small part in renewing the earth – if not in this age, then in the age that is to come – building a bit of a bridge to a world of light.
I know this seems simplistic, and it is not a remedy meant for everyone – if it were, we would all already be doing this, and there would be no problem. But if we are to some extent, in touch with real reality, then this will not be incomprehensible to us. We will remember sometime in our life when we felt in contact with the earth, with a tree or a bird or a sunset, and we will understand that this is the point where we must begin – to be at one, once again, with the web of life that is the earth – that is our life and the life of the universe.
On a practical note – and unrelated to the thoughts below: I am no longer able (for purely technical reasons) to post reblogs on this site – either temporarily or maybe for quite a while. I’m quite sorry about this since many of them were beautiful glimpses of nature and very much worth reblogging. Thank you to all those who created them. In any case, I shall have to do a bit more writing myself in order to have something to post.
Today, the sad passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has left us as a nation teetering on a brink that we may not get past.
This compounds the sense of danger and a sense of impending doom that we may feel creeping here and there, through the shadows, that menaces our country and our future.
This morning I noticed that an acquaintance of mine had discontinued his blog. The other day, a friend mentioned that probably, this was all just a “blip in time” and that we would soon get past it – a thought that sounded optimistic, but that revealed an underlying sense of fear.
A black patch?
Some of us, for better or for worse, have learned to become quite good at escaping black patches of reality – at just skating away into a dreamland – but as one looks around it would be hard not to notice that others seem to be sinking fast into a certain black patch. So here are a couple of reflections that might help — a few tips just in case a black patch might be looming ahead.
There can be a growing sense of futility if we begin to wonder how it is possible to do anything positive in our own lives – when justice, at this moment in time, does not seem to prevail.
A conversation long ago
I have been recalling a lot lately a conversation that I had ten or twelve years ago with a friend who has done a great deal in his own life, especially in east Asia, but also in the rest of the world, for the cause of animals. He had gone on a solitary retreat to try to sort out his purpose in life. In a state of profound despair, he felt that the suffering of animals was so immense and overwhelming that nothing could help. After three days spent alone – I think on the top of a mountain – he came to the awareness that he would spend the rest of his life just helping when and where he could. He would never be able to help all animals. But he could alleviate the suffering of just one dog here and one cat there – just a few in one city — a few hundred in another city — and maybe also a squirrel or a bird in distress, along the way — and that this was worth doing and would be his purpose in life. He has done this since, and after that insight, he felt some clarity and peace.
A bridge to the future
To go back for a moment to Ruth Bader Ginsberg, a woman of extraordinary brilliance and accomplishments who has even bent the trajectory of history, she wrote many dissenting options for the Supreme Court. Interestingly, she said that she was, in some ways, most proud of her dissenting opinions. She did not regard these dissenting opinions as losses or defeats. Instead, she viewed them as possibilities for the future — as views whose time had not yet come, but that might pave the way for a changed and more just future, when others might come to agree and more enlightened action might be possible — in short, as a bridge to the future. Life is not static — there are highs and lows – positives and negatives – cycles. When we focus on windows for change – no matter how tiny these little windows may be, there can be momentum and ultimately, transformation.
Focusing on the immediate
It is good for us to value the work that we can do right now to help one animal, or one human being, or to plant one tree that may grow up in the sunlight. This is enough. It is enough because it is a beginning. Do not focus on the grand outcome. That is the responsibility of the universe. It is not your responsibility and not my responsibility. The universe will do what it does.
According to The Hindu faith, there are four ages that cycle on, one after another. After the last age, the terrible time known as the Kali Yuga – then there will arise another age – the beginning one – of great vision and great insight, of love and compassion, of new life and energy. What we do now, even when it may be unseen or unacknowledged, can help build a bridge to that new age.
There is a great cycle of many yugas, following each other.
Let us focus, in the meantime (in this time of transitions and endings), on the good that we each can do — imparting peace to the earth, wherever and whenever we can – not wasting time on fear for the future or on regrets about the past — or, even worse – on blame and anger. Let us spend our days living in peace and imparting peace and reassurance to others — not just humans, but to animals and to trees and to the land of the earth as well.
One step, then another
Not all of us may be able to do much at his moment because truly there is a potential for very great catastrophe, and some may see that more clearly than others. If you find yourself caught in a moment of despair — just try to do one very small thing — extend a hand of kindness to someone — then later on to another and then to another — that will be a beginning. Water a flower or call a friend, or a stranger, or say a prayer.
Remember the Great Light of the Universe who enters the world and who makes the world out of Her (or His) own being – who takes on the mantle of time — who lives and dies and rises again, who is the heart of all faiths. (Yes, there is profound truth, even in Christianity. ) (There, now I have offended everyone – Christians, atheists, Moslems, everyone — oh, well, so be it.)
Let us carry a light each day — a beacon — big or small — a gift that comes to us from that Great Light from which all arises and to which – and to whom – all returns.
The earth is not just a physical thing. The same is true of the trees, the flowers, the clouds in the sky, the mountains, the rivers, the valleys, the oceans. And, of course, all the animals.
The other day I listened to a spokesperson for a major environmental organization explaining on national television the reasons why it’s not a good idea to log the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. I’m not going to give his name because I’m about to criticize him – even though he spoke well and gave good, rational arguments. But I felt there was an essential element missing. I don’t honestly remember all the points that he made, but they may have gone something like this. The Tongass National Forest puts a significant percentage of the earth’s oxygen into the air. It is the largest temperate forest in the world. It is a treasure for many people who visit it. It protects many wild species by providing their habitat.
During the interview, footage was shown of this incredibly spectacular land – tall cliffs covered in green forests rising up out of clear lakes.
I do absolutely completely understand that in trying to defend old growth forests from logging and other destruction, it is useful to appeal to concerns that are meaningful to most people. It is helpful to stress the importance that the forest has for human health – replenishing the earth’s oxygen – it is also much loved and enjoyed by visitors. It is the essential habitat for so many animals, and wild animals – really all of them – are quite endangered. The forest is useful, it is loved, it is rare now on the planet, and it is important to take care of it. Absolutely!
A missing element
But there is a missing element, which is a very key element. The forest – quite apart from its value to humans and other animal species – also has an intrinsic value all its own. Its value does not lie solely in its usefulness to human beings or in its beauty as perceived by humans. The forest is not just a thing. It is not an object – and this is true of the entire earth. The trees, the rivers, the cliffs, the lakes, the sagebrush, the moon and the sun overhead, the clouds, the birds – these are not just physical things. They have a spirit.
So, what is the point of actually saying this – of making sure that we mention it often, whenever possible? Of speaking up, without being intimidated or being afraid of being ridiculed? After all, it wouldn’t be the first or the last time that people laugh. As long as we do not mention what we see as the truth, then we are ceding the most important point to the side that wishes to objectify the world of nature. We are tacitly agreeing that the natural world really only has value if it is beneficial to us as humans – or has value only by preserving habitat for wild animals so that we may go and visit them or at least watch them on film.
But ceding this point is not right. It is not correct.
Protecting the earth isn’t all about us as humans.
It is the objectification of the natural world by human beings – especially in modern times, and especially in the west (where this worldview originated) — that is the root cause and the justification for the destruction of the earth which is taking place all around us. It is our collective alienation from the natural world that gives some the excuse basically to kill nature. We’re not just talking about climate change – though it is that as well – it is also the very direct, immediate destruction through industrialization and pollution – drowning the earth and the sea in chemicals – and removing the sand that holds water that prevents drought.
A great many people, myself among them, feel that all the beings of the earth have a spirit and a spiritual dimension – not only the animals, but also all the trees and the plants, and even the rocks, the cliffs, and the oceans. They are not just physical things. This is not as odd a concept as it might seem. Virtually all tribal peoples and all ancient peoples saw the earth this way. It is only the modern world that differs from this age-old, traditional view. It is the modern world that is the outlier – and perhaps not coincidentally, it is the modern world that is dismantling all the life of the planet more rapidly than any society that has gone before us. So, are we modern people as wise as we think we are? Perhaps we are simply more decadent, and farther removed from the basic truths of existence.
An older, wiser view
It is well-known that Native Americans viewed all of nature as alive and as having a spirit. Among some of these stories and legends, known and not-so-well-known – the Abenaki nation of Maine see the drum as the heartbeat of Mother Earth. The Munsee of Delaware tell of great thunderbirds that cause storms and lightning. The Shoshone people of western states tell stories about the trickster coyote, and his elder brother, the wolf, who is a creator hero. The north wind, known as Winter or Biboon, is the spirit of winter for the northeast woodland tribes, like the Iroquois. The Paiutes of Utah have a story about a mountain sheep who became a star. In other words, all of creation is seen as alive and sentient. There is no sharp distinction between animals and rocks or lakes or other geological features – all are considered living beings. This appears to be true of all tribal people everywhere – from the Americas to the Pacific islands to the native peoples of Australia.
Furthermore, it is not only tribal people who see the world in this way – virtually every early civilization and every civilization which still has some connection with its roots also recognize a spiritual dimension as belonging to the earth and to every aspect of nature – from the ancient Egyptian, and on into modern times – to the Chinese and Japanese, just to mention a few.
The most striking example is the complex, intricate beliefs of Hinduism, which go back perhaps 10,000 years and which, even today are as alive as ever. The moon, the sun, and the wind are among the millions of gods. Every major Hindu god has an animal vahana or vehicle. The rivers are goddesses and the mountains, generally, are gods. All things have life. And, as is stated in the earliest writings, all the gods and all that exists are ultimately part of one God, Brahman. A deep reverence for nature is intertwined with the Hindu worldview.
In March of 2017, The Guardian reported that a court in the north Indian state of Uttarakhand had accorded the Ganges and Yamuna Rivers the status of personhood, citing as precedent the declaration by the New Zealand government of the Whanganui River, long revered by the Maori people, as a living entity. This modern legal recognition of the personhood of rivers is in accordance with the perception of many people all over the world, today, as always in the past.
It is exclusively a modern, western viewpoint to assume that the world of nature is composed of objects or things – that rocks, rivers, mountains have no spiritual nature, and even in the western world, this may be a minority view. Many everyday people acknowledge the spiritual nature of the living world around us. Sadly, it is those who seek to exploit the natural world that talk about it as inanimate, lifeless, insentient – and existing only as “natural resources” to be gobbled up by mining, oil and gas, fracking, and every form of destruction and desecration.
For those of us for whom the earth and all the beings of the earth, have an intrinsic value, a profound beauty in and of themselves – the more we say this clearly, the more accessible that view will be to more people – and the more we all will be able to see plainly that the Tongass Forest, for example, is far from being just a resource to be devoured by humans. It is a living entity filled with spirits and presences, and astonishing beauty, which as humans we can only begin to see and appreciate.
Among environmentalists, all perspectives that value the earth are very much needed – scientific facts, legal arguments, and also views that take into account the benefits to humanity. Our lives and happiness do indeed depend on the natural world.
Still, the many millions, billions, of us across the planet, who see the natural world and the earth as spirit, as well as physical, should not be afraid to say so. As is so often quoted, “We belong to the earth; the earth does not belong to us.” The earth is Mother Earth and is a living being – far older, greater, and more worthy of reverence than the human race could ever be.
Standing up for the essential life-essence of the earth is a missing key in the fight to protect and preserve our fast-vanishing planet. We who see the earth, and all of nature, as spectacularly alive with an intrinsic beauty and validity must speak up and not be silent.
It is our alienation, as humans, from the natural world that leads to its destruction, and it is our re-connection with the earth that can hold the prospect of some help for all the myriads of beautiful, majestic, innocent beings with whom we share the planet. So, we must see clearly, and speak bravely.