George Monbiot talks about rewilding


Below is the link to a seventeen minute, entertaining and captivating talk by ecologist George Monbiot on the concept of rewilding  — using examples from Yellowstone, the oceans, and Europe and painting a vision of what might be possible for the planet.

George Monbiot is a visionary and can perhaps be forgiven for being a little foggy on the details. Some of his suggestions – like putting elephants where they don’t belong – are profoundly mistaken, but the overall concept and the brilliance and optimism with which he presents it are an intriguing vision.

The good part about what he says is that it works best when human beings stop – that is simply stop what they are doing to nature.  One example he gives is the retreat of farming from parts of Europe, allowing nature to resurrect itself when it is left alone.  The parts where humans are doing something, like moving animals around, sound a lot less like a good idea.

Overall, it is a fascinating view of a future that is perhaps possible.  In the war between the earth and human “progress,” might the earth win in the end?

Thanks to Pamela Gale Malhotra of SAI Sanctuary for letting us know about this. Website:

Photo: Mike Cline/Wikimedia Commons / “I, the copyright holder of this work, release this work into the public domain.” / “Lamar Valley Wolf, Yellowstone National Park, August 14, 2011.”


The Bay of Bengal
The Bay of Bengal


The boy who


On the sea swell

Like a rainbow fish on the wave,

Your face,


Radiant as the ancient moon, unseen

Beyond the present cosmos,

Deep blue, the petaled lotus,

Swift, your hurled discus;

Salt tides murmur in the humming strain

Of the conch shell.

You float by on the branch of a green


Your smile an enigma,

Sad, yet ever glad


You drift off to sleep.

Who are you,

Lord of the shadowy sea

And the moon-risen grace?

Who are you

Walking out from the edge of the brave

Woods, dense and deep,

At the dawn

Of all the time-tilled rings?

You sail on the wings

Of the great dark swan,

Or dream on the white coiled train

Of Adi Sesha,

Who will be

The only one to remain.

You carry the key,


To the tall

Stone gate,



You are the singer of the song,


Of all the notes gone


And all

That await

The shining rain-lit moment,

An era yet to be.

© Sharon St Joan, June 12, 2013

Photo: Sharon St Joan

The World of the Vedas




“Vedic Mythology” was written by A.A. Macdonell and first published in German, in Strassburg in 1897. In 2000,  it was republished by Low Price Books in Delhi.



It is an in-depth study of the Rig Veda, the oldest book in the world, and of many other ancient Sanskrit works – a compilation of all that is recorded in early vedic descriptions of all the major gods; celestial gods, terrestrial gods, atmospheric gods, even abstract gods.



All is carefully catalogued, with footnotes giving all the sources, and exact accounts of how many times each deity is referred to with which attributes. It is a remarkable book.



Since the Rig Veda is amazingly poetic, the section of Vedic Mythology, for example, that describes Dawn, whose name is Ushas,  describes her as “the most graceful creation of vedic poetry.”  Ushas is young, though ancient, since she is born anew every day; clothed in light, she shines now and will always shine; she is immortal. Awakening the four-legged animals and causing the birds to fly up into the sky, she removes “the black robe of night” and sends away the darkness. As a resplendent being, her beams of light are like herds of cattle, and she comes to be known as the “mother of cattle.”



Many of the other gods are also living elements, like Agni, the God of fire. He faces in all directions and is said to have a burning head. Possessed of wings, he flies, and is portrayed as a bull, a horse, a divine bird, or the swan Hamsa, and once, as a raging serpent.  Shining like the sun, he destroys darkness and can see through the gloom of the night.  Driving away darkness, he is called the “goblin-slayer.”  There is much, much more about Agni, who is worshipped as one of the most sacred beings and who is invoked in at least 200 hymns of the Rig Veda.



Surya is the sun, represented sometimes as a great eagle or a brilliant horse. He is the eye of the sky and is said to be the Lord of Eyes, the one eye that can see beyond the sky, the waters, and the earth. As an all-seeing being, he casts away illnesses and evil dreams.



Hundreds or Gods are portrayed in the Rig Veda, in some of the world’s most beautiful and inspirational poetry.



The world of the Rig Veda is a living world — the Gods, the elements, the forces of nature are alive, awakened, conscious beings who interact with each other.  It is a cosmos filled with beauty.



One might contrast this with the universe as we are given to see it today, with our modern, “scientific” worldview — where there is a presumption, unfortunately, that nothing that is not organic is alive.  All the stars, the galaxies, the supernovae, the quasars, comets, Oort clouds, dark matter — all that we see out there with our giant telescopes is somehow missing something.  It is gigantic, immeasurable, vast beyond any imagining, and yet there is something not quite all there. We are told that none of these great beings are conscious — nothing is really alive in quite the same way we humans are. Some will concede that animals may have some sort of “lower” consciousness, but the prevailing view is that really it’s pretty much us as humans, who seem to be at the pinnacle of creation, as far as consciousness goes.

Map of Vedic India


There seems to be something radically amiss though with this view of the universe.  It could almost remind one of the pre-Copernican days when Europeans believed that earth was the center of the universe, with the sun and all the other heavenly bodies revolving around it.  Well, here we are again, with humans placed at the center of the universe — not this time at the physical center, but, at a central place in terms of consciousness.  Only we it seems, can look out, over the millions of galaxies and consciously contemplate the universe.  No one else, we are led to believe, can be as aware as we are.



This, however, is a remarkably unsatisfying view of the universe. Except for sizzling hot suns and unexpected super explosions that come about now and then, the universe as we currently view it, is cold, dark, immense and unfathomable — in short, not very friendly.  This seems to bother even scientists, and one wonders if a certain cosmic sense of loneliness is not at the root of the perpetual search for life on Mars — the billions of dollars spent and the amazing engineering feats of sending all the rovers to look for life or water or something that could be evidence of life.  Then there is the search for habitable planets among nearby stars.  Around 600 planets have so far been found, that could, it seems, harbor life, and the majority of scientists now believe that there is little doubt that there is life on other worlds — whether these are ‘higher” life forms is not so certain.



Simply put, we as humans do not wish to be alone.  An unfathomably vast “dead” universe strikes us as somehow not quite right.



In his introduction to “Vedic Mythology,”  A.A. Macdonell writes, “The basis of these myths is the primitive attitude of mind which regards all nature as an aggregate of animated entities.”  A.A. Macdonell, who was born in India of European parents, was an extraordinary scholar who wrote a brilliant and amazing book about the Vedas. Nonetheless, if we step back a moment, we can see the picture of a European gentleman who, while studying a civilization that has existed for at least 5,000 years, and possibly for many, many thousands of years before that, made the observation that the current age (including 1897 as part of “current” time) in which we live is “superior,” while the brilliant, poetic, and immensely wise civilization on the ancient Indian subcontinent was somehow “lower” or “primitive.”



How exactly it was “lower” is quite hard to see.



Perhaps there is something to be said for the concept that the universe is truly an alive, dynamic, amazing place, filled with Gods and great beings, that the stars are divine, that the forces of nature have their own form of consciousness, not in any way “lower” than ours.  Perhaps we have all this while been mistaken about the nature of what we call “progress.”  Perhaps we are not the pinnacle of creation after all.  Perhaps the cyclic view of the ages, believed by virtually every culture other than our own — that first there is a golden age, and that each succeeding age represents a step down on the scale, until we came to the final age, which comes to a close, and then we return to an age of brilliance, kindness, compassion, greatness, and heroism – perhaps this cyclic view is the true view — the Gods are real, the forces of nature are alive and aware, the animals are innocent, magical beings, and the universe is far more wondrous than we have been led to believe. Perhaps that is the real reality.



Top photo:  Wikimedia Commons / Source: / This work is in the public domain in the United States, and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less. / Agni, god of fire, shown riding a goat, in a miniature painting from an 18th century watercolor



Second photo: {{PD-US}} / Source: / “This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.” / Wikimedia Commons / Surya receives worship from the multitudes; Tanjore School miniature painting, 1800’s “A Painting of Surya. India, Tanjore School, 19th Century. The nimbated Sun God depicted upon his chariot surrounded by attendants with smaller figures at left in obeisance.”



Third photo: Wikimedia Commons / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.           

Attribution: Dbachmann / Map of northern India in the late Vedic period.



Fourth photo: Source: / {{PD-Art}}  {{PD-US}} / circa 1820 / Wikimedia Commons / “Painting of Indra on his elephant mount, Airavata. Painted in South India (probably Thanjavur or perhaps Tiruchchirapalli)…”


What if?



As December 21, 2012 approaches, there are a few who await the end of the world, and many more who dismiss such thoughts as being silly, and others who just hope that nothing unexpected or out of the ordinary happens.


Is the end of the world such a bad thing?  And what would it mean?  Certainly, massive cataclysms and terrible destruction would cause immense suffering to people, to animals, and to the earth.  Suffering on any scale is a bad thing, and whether or not any good comes out of it, we all seek to avoid it.


There have been cataclysms both recently and in the past, and one can only suppose that there may be more to come – with or without an end to the world.  Perhaps there will be an intensity of disasters, we have no way to know.


But what if the end of the world also has another meaning?  As we all realize, we live in a world that, at the very least, has many flaws, and at the worst, is a realm of extreme suffering for many beings.


What if the world and all of history, as far as we know it, is like a vast carpet being unrolled and stretched out?  Now we have come to the end of the unrolling, and it is time for it to be rolled back up again – to go back to the beginning?


All the myths of the world tell of ages in the far, remote recesses of time, that were not mundane and prosaic, but that instead were magical, that sparkled with life and positivity.  Of course, being “rational, modern people,” we dismiss these myths as being pre-scientific, irrational, and based on superstition.


The truth is though, only some of us dismiss these myths as mythical. There are those among us who, though we may not always say so publicly, hold a radically different view.  Some of us, though we may not openly acknowledge it, do believe in magic, in miracles, in the mystical, in the visions and dreams of ages long past when the world was not boring, not prosaic, not humdrum, not filled with conflict and degradation – not, in fact, increasingly cruel and distasteful.


What if this great carpet, when it has rolled out to its end, simply begins to roll back up again?


For example, what if, instead of disappearing from the face of the earth, all the great forests begin to grow back?  I understand that the damage has already been done and that it is very severe and irreparable, in any normal, sensible way of seeing things.  We are so used to a world in which human beings are winning the war against nature, where the trees and the plants have no defences at all against the inexorable march of “progress,” though how it can be called “progress” is a great mystery.  How can a world of steel and concrete be “better” in some way than a world of forests?  But what if, by some magic stroke of a great wand, humans were simply no longer able to wreak destruction on the natural world – no longer able to cut down trees or to replace magnificent, ancient forests with shopping malls, parking lots, and garbage dumps?


What if the Amazon filled up again with trees?  And all the forests of North America came back? And all the forests of Europe and Asia too?


Or what if humans no longer had the capacity to pollute the oceans and destroy the lives of the fish, the whales, and the sea creatures?  It would take a while of course for all the pollution that’s already happened to deteriorate and stop causing death and destruction in the oceans, but perhaps some kinds of bacteria and enzymes would evolve to eat up all the plastic junk and horrible toxic substances.  Then the sea creatures could live in peace and freedom again and swim in clear waters among the graceful plants of the seas.


What if all the farm animals; the cows, the chickens, the geese and ducks, the turkeys, the pigs, and the lambs were never killed for dinner?  What if instead they roamed the hills, among the great trees, or swam in blue lakes?  There are a few logistical problems, unfortunately, because modern farm animals are no longer adapted, as their ancestors once were, to living in the wild. So there is not a simple, easily seen solution as to how and where they could live.  But the point is not that we have all the answers, which certainly we don’t.  The point is simply that the way farm animals live currently, mostly on factory farms, is profoundly cruel and that the world should not subject all these billions of innocent animals to such an unkind fate.


A different world is needed – not one that is just a tiny bit better – but a different one altogether – a different situation – one in which the human-ruled world as we have known it, has come to its end, and there is a new world filled with magical animals that fly on the wind and graze on green hillsides – perhaps with dragons too, breathing fire.


An end of persecution is required – an ending of the persecution of all of nature, all animals, and the earth – and along with that end — assuming there are still some people living on the earth — the ending also of the persecution of tribal peoples, of the extinction of their languages and their culture, and ending of the persecution of all those who suffer at the hands of those who seek to subjugate the earth – the ending of wars, of economic injustice, of the persecution of women, of the young, of the old, and the disabled.


An entirely different world is needed, not an improvement of this world, not a updated model of the same thing, but instead a world where the sacred and the spiritual are alive, well, and recognized – a world that is in touch once again with the cosmos – with God and the Gods, with magic, with life and inspiration, with innocence, a world which has broken free of the bonds of slavery and the constraints of the gray misery that this current time has descended into.


Perhaps this may be what is meant by the ending of this cycle and the birth of another – the great rolling back up of the cosmic carpet, back to the beginning.


Despite all apparent evidence to the contrary, we do sometimes have a sense that the rule of tyranny and hatred, which seems so well established, will not endure forever – that, instead, the destruction of all that is innocent and sacred, will be brought to an end, perhaps sooner than we could imagine – and that there are transformative powers, immense currents, and great winds afoot in the cosmos that we cannot see or know, but that are there, all the same, and very real.


Top photo: Author: Wolfgang Sauber / Wikimedia Commons / / National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. Maya mask. Stucco frieze from Placeres, Campeche.


Second photo: Author: Snezana Trifunovic  /  Wikimedia Commons / old growth forest in Montenegro


Third photo: Author: Jon Sullivan / Wikimedia Commons / “This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Jon Sullivan. This applies worldwide.” / Waves on the ocean coast


Author: Lea Maimone  Wikimedia Commons / / Brahman calf

Deepak Chopra: Healing in words and song

Deepak Chopra speaks to the Microsoft PAC on January 13, 2011
Deepak Chopra speaks to the Microsoft PAC on January 13, 2011

By Niamh Fodla

I’ve heard and read of people giving Deepak Chopra a very hard time, and I have to say, I don’t really understand it.  Some critics seem to find it suspect that he’s gotten wealthy from his books and lectures, as though he moved to American to get rich, preaching Hinduism, self-healing and hope.  But the same people don’t seem to object when those preaching western medicine (Doctors and pharmaceutical companies) get very rich in the course of their healing work.  The attitude seems to be that they deserve to live well if they’re helping people – and I would say the same applies here. I definitely don’t agree that his making a nice profit (however much he makes – I’m only basing his being fabulously rich on rumors), that this in any way detracts from his perfectly intelligent and helpful message.

In this lecture, Chopra discusses health and healing.  I found it absolutely fascinating.  Did you know that your body is not an object, but is in constant flux?  That before long, every cell in your body will have been replaced, and there won’t be one single cell left that was in your younger self?  Grasping that is a beginning to understanding how healing is possible.  I love this lecture because it contains a lot of morsels of truth that I sort of already knew, but it was so validating to hear someone smart say them out loud!   Click here

Sunrise over the desert in Morrocco
Sunrise over the desert

In this lecture, a younger Chopra gives what I would call a more controversial speech.  You may love it or hate it. The title, including the word “wizard” may be off-putting to people who are now thinking of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings.  It may make the speech sound like fantasy.  I almost wish he hadn’t used the word for that reason!  But it’s about a different kind of magic – a “natural” magic that you may feel more confident is out there.  The premise is essentially that Darwin’s survival of the fittest – species evolving according to who’s the toughest – is no longer going on.  Now, humans are evolving in a different way entirely …   Click here.  

And finally – music!  During the health lecture, Chopra discusses the fact that we are inseparable from our environments. (After all, we can’t live without oxygen for example, right? So how can we talk about ourselves as being separate organisms, living independently from the world around us?) So if it’s true that what’s around you may be affecting your health as much as what’s inside you, then one thing to note is that music is one of the things in your environment.  And plus, I love music!  Here’s a beautiful song that has a truly healing pulse:     Click here.

Top photo: Author: BankingBum / November 13, 2011 / Deepak Chopra speaks to the Microsoft PAC on January 13, 2011 / / Wikimedia Commons

Second photo:”This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Abovementioned friend of user: Gilgemesh in the Hebrew Wikipedia. This applies worldwide.” / / Wikimedia Commons

Our real debt

Cows grazing in Sichuan Province, China

In the U.S. our debt is owed to the Chinese, the Japanese, the Brits, and our next-door-neighbors.  Our debt is big enough so that if we put dollar bills end to end, they could reach to the moon and back about three thousand times.

This though is not in any way the full extent our debt. As humans, we owe a debt to the planet earth for having harmed the forests, the oceans, the air, the animals, the plants, the mountains, the climate, and then so many of the peoples of the earth, indigenous peoples who are now long gone or, more or less, hanging on by a thread, who once had languages, art, histories, sacred places, and culture.

Our existence on the planet has not been a blessing to everyone else who lives here.

Over the past few months, we have watched escalating turmoil or transformation (depending on one’s perspective) afoot on the four corners of the earth, and this may end well or badly—or both – again, depending on which side of the fence we are on.

The state of our global pocket book is part of this wild ride.

Imagine for a moment that all economic activity has ground to a halt, then after a while, a short time or a long time, there will be no more rings of space debris encircling the earth, no more plastic trash clogging the oceans and the streets, no more slaughterhouses, no more research labs, no more pollution draining into streams and rivers, no more of the black rider of death who gallops across the earth doing away with all in his path.

What will there be then? No one knows. There may be great swathes of burned continents left behind in the wake of this rider of death.  But maybe there will be flowers that emerge to dance in the meadows, striped fish that play among the river rocks, or chickens that once again can spread their wings in the jungle. Maybe.

So, as we watch the stock markets of world teetering across our television screen, if we catch flashes before our eyes of our diminishing lifestyle and the prospect of standing on a street corner, tin cup in hand, there is a reason not to be overcome with fear and doom, but to be joyful.  A reason that we may not instantly welcome —a reason that we may find alarming in the night – but a reason all the same.

Because with the end of this skeletal rider will come release and freedom for the earth—for the cows, the deer, the turtles in the sea, for the eagles that would like to breathe pure air and fly through white clouds, for the dandelions that would like to peek out through the snow, for the moon that would like to shine bright in the clear night sky.  And whether all these events take place on an earth reborn and re-awakened, or whether they happen on different worlds, in other dimensions, or in the landscapes of heaven, somewhere they will happen.

There is one option left yet to try—and that is an economy based on the restoration of the earth, rather than on trampling it under foot.  And whether one wins or loses in this endeavor is not the question; as it says in the Hindu scriptures, one is not to be attached to the fruit of one’s actions.  Walking on the path that gives life, rather than death, is the way to go.

Is it possible that people may play a part in a magical new beginning, may walk by the sea listening to the waves fall on the shore without envisioning recreating Miami Beach or live again in the forests with the birds and the animals, without harming the trees and without taking over more land than is their share?

One way or another, the consciousness that has worshipped the radiance of the tumbling waters, the shining sunlight, and the beings of the heavens will do so again—on one earth or another, on one level or another.  Those who have hands will offer a drink to the thirsty fawn, and those who see the spirit world will give the gifts of peace and beauty and a link to the worlds of the stars.

In the meantime there is the debt that will be paid, the great cosmic ocean that will be churned again, the great unsettling of the world as we have known it, and the dismantling of the armies of iron riders that have plundered the earth.

Photo: Sharon St. Joan

A little history of the earth, starting with bulls

Lascaux painting of aurochs bulls

The paintings in the Lascaux Cave in the south of France, in the department of Dordogne, are believed to date back 17, 300 years.  Inside the cave, in the Hall of the Bulls are many equines; among them paintings of aurochs, a species of cow now extinct, ancestor to the varieties of modern cows.

The painting of one of the bulls is 17 feet long and is the longest cave art animal anywhere. The paintings in the cave, because of the presence of visitors (the visitors’ breath has affected the air) have been damaged by fungi, and in 1983 a different cave was constructed for visitors with replicas of two of the cave halls.

The earliest cave paintings in Europe go back around 35,000 years.

Reverence for bulls was widespread in the ancient world – in Paleolithic times and on into Neolithic times – and up to today as well.

In the book of Exodus, in the Bible, is told the story of the Hebrews returning to the practice of worshiping the Golden Calf while Moses was up on the mountain collecting the ten commandments.  Moses wasn’t pleased to see the image of the Golden Calf when he got back, and he smashed the ten commandments in anger when he saw it.

Still, worship of the bull cropped up again and again, both before and after the time of Moses.

The Babylonian god Marduk is called the Bull of Utu.  In the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata, the heroes are often referred to as “bulls”.

An Indian calf

In Mesopotamian mythology, Gugalanna was the Bull of Heaven.  The word “gu” meant bull and was of the same origin as the Sanskrit word ”go” or “gau” meaning “cow”.  “Cow” comes from these earlier words.  The bull Gugulanna was associated with the constellation Taurus (the Bull), which from 3,200 BC held the place where the Spring Equinox occurred in the northern hemisphere.

The myth tells us that the bull Gugulanna was killed by Gilgamesh (the Sumerian Noah). Gilgamesh was linked to the light of the sun, and when the streams of sunlight rose at the Spring Equinox, they overcame the starlight of the constellation of Gugulanna, which then became invisible, thus “killing” Gugulanna.

The bull, whose horns are shaped like a crescent moon, has been associated with the moon.

Bull-leaping in a Minoan fresco

When I visited the Minoan ruins in Crete in the summer of 1969, I recall looking at a stone block, one of many there with carved bulls’ horns, and noticing for the first time the unique importance of the bull to ancient cultures.  The bulls’ horns were everywhere.

The aurochs, the ancestor of today’s cattle, both western and eastern, became extinct when the last of the aurochs, a female, died in 1627, in the Jaktorow Forest in Poland. Authorities at the Paleontologisk Museum, University of Oslo, believe that the aurocks first appeared in India two million years ago, and from there spread throughout the Middle East, Europe and Asia.

It is thought that South Asian, including Indian, cattle descended from a sub-species of aurochs who lived at the edge of the Thar Desert which lies across Rajasthan and Pakistan.  These Indian cows have a hump and have a very elegant, distinctive look.

Western cows do not have a hump and are known as taurine cattle.  Aurochs were much larger than all modern cows; the males were black, and the females reddish.

A copy of a fifteenth century painting of an aurocks

Aurochs also spread to North Africa, and the cattle of the ancient Egyptians may have descended from them.

Throughout the centuries, the bull has been both worshipped and mistreated.

One might wonder whether the human race has a propensity for killing what it worships – from the sacred bull to the life and death of Jesus.  To be fair, it may not only be humans who behave that way.  Among all mammal species, males engage in battle with each other.  And any male who seems to stand above the others becomes a target—to be feared or to be attacked in order to take his place. (Having the top place seems to be a pretty essential goal, which can supplant any inclination towards reverence or worship.) Females are not immune from an impulse towards violence, and they also attack when they are defending their young.

Throughout the ancient world the bull was worshipped as a divine being, yet today, one finds in various places extremely cruel rituals that seem designed for young men to prove their dominance over the bull.  These ritual “games” seem to have degenerated over time into greater and greater levels of barbarism.

The cruelest of these are festivals put on by the Catholic Church, on feast days of saints, held in Mexico and Spain, in which the bulls are tortured and killed.  There are also, of course, the bullfights in Spain, introduced here and there in other countries in Africa, Europe, and Asia.  In the western U.S. there are rodeos, also cruel, also exported to other countries.  There are attempts taking place now, to introduce rodeos into China.

The slaughter of bulls and cows for food happens all over the world, more in the U.S. than anywhere else, where around 33 million cattle are killed every year.  Brazil and China are fast catching up.  The pursuit of cattle for food is destroying the planet through climate change and destroying vast tracts of land, as well as native animals like the bison and the wild horse, thousands of whom are being killed by the U.S. government to make way for cattle grazing.

Worship of the bull has tended to devolve over time into torment of the bull.

In the Greek legend, the Minotaur, who is half-man, half-bull, dwells in a labyrinth, and is killed by the hero Theseus.

The Egyptian god Apis, (or Hape, which is closer to the original Egyptian word), was worshipped, and the bulls were mummified and interred in great underground complexes.  It is assumed that they were killed.

Bulls and cows are very highly revered in India.  I’ll only mention them briefly for now.  The fascinating book “Sacred Animals of India” by Dr. Nanditha Krishna, has a great deal of information about them.

Nandi at the Brihadeshwara Temple, Tamil Nadu

In India, the bull Nandi is the beloved vehicle and gatekeeper for the God Shiva.  In every Shiva temple throughout south India, there is a figure of the bull Nandi. Nandi is also the leading disciple of Shiva.

At the Brihadeswara Temple, Nandi is immense, majestic, and charming, with a very innocent, rather playful face.  The devotee pays his or her respects to Nandi before going into the temple.  Nandi is a much loved and revered figure, who would never be harmed.

In a strange contrast, however, there is also in south India, in Tamil Nadu, the cruel practice of jallikattu, in which crowds of young men torment and pursue bulls, often leading to injury to the bulls and to themselves in the process.

What begins as honor, worship, and devotion, can degenerate over the centuries into persecution and killing.  Indeed, things tend to take that route.

These observations have taken a gloomy turn, but are not meant to be gloomy.   The same fate is befalling all of nature—as we humans, who once worshipped the forests, the trees, and the divine beings who lived in them, have destroyed nearly the whole earth now to make way for ourselves.  But of course we cannot live without the earth. Going to live in a colony on Mars or the moon doesn’t really seem like the best option—not for us, and certainly not for Mars and the moon.

Enlightening our fellow human beings and encouraging kindness to animals and to the planet is absolutely well worth doing.  It may be the only thing well worth doing, and it will go a long way towards lessoning the immensity of the suffering of many people and many animals.

But as for affecting the fateful course of events and the downward-spiraling destiny of the earth, something else, an approach on a more cosmic scale, seems to be needed to turn the tide or to bring about a new tide—a tide that may go back to the beginning before the origin of cruelty.


Top photo: Prof saxx / Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license / Lascaux painting

Second photo: Lea Maimone / Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license / Indian calf

Third photo: Wikimedia Commons / in the Public Domain in the U.S. /

Minoan fresco from the palace of Knossos / Bull-leaping

Fourth photo: Wikimedia Commons / In the Public Domain / A copy of a painting of an aurochs, the original may have been done in the Fifteenth century.

Fifth photo: Sharon St Joan / Nandi at the Brihadeswarer Temple, Tamil Nadu

Encounter with the cliffs of Zion’s

Towering rock cliffs at Zion's

One cannot travel through Zion’s National Park without the sense that one has entered another world—a world far more ancient than this one, of peace and majesty—where beings dwell in the cliff tops and little creatures scurry through the grass in the canyons along the streams that only run in the spring through the ravines.  The rock cliffs, a thousand feet high, speak a language long forgotten from a time when those who lived before us were not us—were not the human race—but were instead magical beings perhaps of a human form, perhaps not, but certainly not of a consciousness that we would recognize as human.

Wiser than us they were, and more akin to the spirits of nature.  And holding all this universe in the palm of her hand was the great being who created the stars and the worlds—the endless universes of myth and magic that exist still today—though we have lost touch with them—enclosed in our tiny circumference of human thought, imagining that only we are the pinnacle of creation, as an ant surveying his anthill might imagine himself to be the king of eternity, were it not for the fact that ants are so much wiser than we are and so much less subject to self-delusion.

Cliffs fade into the distance

The ancient rock cliffs towering red, brown, and white are shaped like the cities of fairies or the domains of angels. Up and up they go on their jagged climb, reaching from world to world, and that world only is the true world, within which lies the essence of existence, the eternal soul that lives within all things—the same soul in the white petals of the morning primrose and in the echoing call of the red-tailed hawk—the same soul—the soul that travels in the wind through the branches of the tall pine, and along the sun-sparkled pebbles in the creeks.

The world that has grown up around us is a poor reflection of that divine being—a dump heap of cacophony and chaos, bereft of consciousness,  a battlefield of wars and conflict—within the mind and across the planet, which is now strewn with a toxic spell that encompasses all of physical existence, enshrouding the thoughts in turmoil.  In the words of Shakespeare,

“To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,

To the last syllable of recorded time;

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death.

Out, out, brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.”

And yet off-stage, beyond the theatre of the modern world, are the unfathomable mists of timeless being—the tales and the worlds long forgotten, which are the only true worlds, the only true levels of being—dwelling now perhaps only on the highest cliffs, the furthest outposts of the natural world still left on the planet.

Rock patterns worn by wind and rain

As Lord Shiva, known as the cosmic dancer, Nataraja, dances his dance of the end, the Tandava, there is once again a churning of the seas, as before, so long ago, when the gods and other beings took part in this pivotal event.  And so, one may see again the tumult of the seas, the volcanoes spewing fires to the four directions, the mountains falling into the sea, the stars slipping from their places, and many upheavals, as the seas are churned.

After Shiva’s dance, there will be a great stillness, a new sun and a new moon—or perhaps a return from ancient times of the oldest sun and moon, the parents of existence.  In any case, out of the mists that gather in the mountain valleys where snows, and flowers, and new ages are born, there will arise again the peace of all the ages—the return of the eternity of beauty and grace, where the rock cliffs of Zion’s—and all the rock cliffs of the mountains of the world will be born anew into the world of all beginnings, that is their ancient home.

The great gold moon hangs in the sky, standing beyond all the worlds.

Photos: Sharon St Joan