Can the Earth Survive the ‘Reason’ of Modern Myth?

Four-seasons

Joseph Campbell believed that if your way of life and thinking did not link you to the sacred, then it is not myth but ideology. He meant myth in the positive sense of the word, as the worldview within which your way of life and thinking is embedded, or as the belief behind your worldview. Myth as the thing that makes things make sense, puts them in order, keeps us believing in life.

 

Modern society is mythic in the way that it rationalizes endless economic growth – making a goal out of something we know cannot possibly ‘come true,’ a model that cannot be an abiding truth for life. We know from the cycle of civilizations that they grow and die, like everything else that lives. In this sense modern life believes – against reason – in its own form of endlessness, or immortality, or the eternal. I call this modern mythic vision the eternal feast, as it is premised on the abolition of want, the end of the seemingly endless cycle of famine and feast, by a power greater than the natural cycle of things. At the culmination of my PhD thesis on this, I suggested that the eternal feast takes place in the cities of light, which are symbolic of this quest. Modern light – electricity, which is so often supplied with the burning of fossil fuels – thereby represents a symbolic victory over death, which in turn is associated with the darkness of night. This light-filled vision relies too much on ‘daylight’ reason, which it places as the most reliable bringer and checker of truth. We have art to remind us that this can only ever be a partial reality, because it puts to one side the emotional aspect of being human; the intangibles, the experiential, the feelings that we know are every bit as meaningful as belief or reason. Art at least recognizes the shadows to its light.

London from above

So the way we use reason, on behalf of the modern myth of the eternal feast in the cities of light, is ideological. It does not link us to the sacred – which can most simply be defined as whatever is most meaningful to us, what we hold most dear, what we would not see defiled, what we would act to protect. If anything, the type of reason employed on behalf of the eternal feast in the cities of light works against our loyalty to such a realm. All well and good if you are considering a scientific hypothesis or analyzing empirically verified data. But what does this mean when we consider the earth, as our home, as a place we hold dear – and by extension, when the feelings urge us to protect it, as a place that is sacred?

 

What it means is that we must either accept that the earth is simply a place we live, that it is a set of resources at our disposal; or, that there is a conflict between the myth of endless economic growth and our sense that the earth is sacred. Remember this the next time you witness a stock market report. It is an innocuous act of propaganda on behalf of the myth that is killing life on earth. We know we have to stop consuming so many of the ‘resources’ of the earth, stop destroying it and its carrying capacity with our technologies. But as a race, we continue to plunge headlong in this direction.

 

Until we take a stand against continual growth, we will struggle to be aligned with an idea of the earth as sacred. And until we live as if our home is a place that deserves our loving attention – that requires protection from harm – we allow that myth of the eternal feast to continue defiling what we know we love. This will eventually, ironically, lead to great famine and ‘the waste land.’ The cycle of life cannot be overwhelmed by human ingenuity. We can create abundance for some time, in some places, but even then it is at the cost of some other place, which provided the excess consumables.

 

So what to do about this conflict in our hearts and minds? Face the music. Economic privilege has too long been bought with the destruction of the earth. The cycles of nature demand a cease to growth. We must seek ways to live within the limits of the earth and its carrying capacity. If we cannot do this voluntarily, the earth will remind us. And the longer it takes to listen, the more powerful the lesson must become. The sound of us waking up to the life of the world around us is whatever you hear right now. That’s a living system, which lives and dies. Let’s remember that and transform our myth accordingly. To a sacred earth, of more-than-human proportions and dimensions, to which we owe our loyalty and our attention, at least. And our devotion and love, at last.

Advertisements

Ecospirituality – The Hero’s Journey for the 21st Century

In the mid-20th century, Joseph Campbell showed that a Hero’s Journey was available to us all, as an exploration of our own minds and hearts and as a way of regaining our personal power and rightful place in the world. In those days, America still seemed like the land of the free and home of the brave. Campbell’s book The Hero with a Thousand Faces was published in 1949, just years after the US Army had helped the Allies rescue Europe from the clutches of the Nazis. It was an era of optimism, and Campbell’s later TV appearances in The Power of Myth cemented his fame. He inspired George Lucas’s Star Wars, especially in the lead character of Luke Skywalker and his mystical martial arts sect the Jedi, who could tap into ‘the force’ behind the physical world.

 Young-Luke-Skywalker-Flashback-Star-Wars-7Ah Luke. That was nuts about your dad. Talk about nasty Oedipal issues!

 

I love the potential in all of these ideas, but while they still retain a timeless quality to compel, they also need to be updated for the 21st century. The Hero’s Journey in Campbell’s era was still about the individual, who needed to find the power within to overcome their challenges, regardless of the expectations of society. This model remains an excellent guide to anyone’s inner life today. It involves a cycle, from the everyday world to a place of inner depth, after a ‘call to action’ compels us to look within and find the source of our strength.

 

This follows an ancient practice, for instance when Greeks over 2000 years ago went to ‘Mystery Schools’ to immerse themselves in such experiences, participating in rituals where they entered a metaphorical underworld and returned with great gifts of self-empowerment. It’s so inspiring, there is no wonder it has continued to influence writers and film makers such as the Wachowski brothers in The Matrix. As their archetypal modern hero, Neo, found out, the key to accepting the Hero’s Journey is to take the right pill! While the truth may challenge us, it is far more satisfying than accepting the comfort of mundane routines.

 66-6-the-matrixDude, take the red pill! The red one and wake up – it’s worth it, trust me!

 

While this remains a vitally important process for us all, we are now living in a new era, with a changing climate and other challenges that face us on a global scale. It doesn’t seem enough anymore to just evolve as separate individuals; we need to do it together, as a community, in touch with nature and its other beings. The question that has kept jumping out at me over the 20 years since I began working with these materials is: how do we forge links with the power of nature, so that we find healing within ourselves and become better ecological citizens at the same time? The answer came in evolving the Hero’s Journey to a new paradigm of ecospirituality. This is where quantum fields meet nature spirits and we discover that what Carl Jung called the archetypes are similar to what Aboriginal Australians call the ancestor spirits: figures from the otherworld, which lead us to a greater sense of personal power and connection to nature.

images

Any idealised version of the hero becomes, or draws upon, the archetypal spirit of overcoming. Jake Sully from Avatar might have been another example of the white-boy-turns-native-and-rescues-poor-savages cliche, but at least he stood for indigenous rights and listened to their culture …

 

And we can do this right now, here in Melbourne – although maybe not in the comfort of our own homes! Because we do have to get outside our own comfort zones to really get the juices out of this kind of work. It’s exciting and mysterious, like a dream you’ve had that you know is deeply meaningful, but that leaves a tantalizing feeling in its wake as well, so that you want to follow it but you don’t know where it leads. What I want to do is to help people to see that where it leads is a place where Psyche – the soul of the mind – meets Gaia, the spirit of the earth.

images-1

 

This new art brings together quantum physics, which reminds us that everything is connected, and ecology, which teaches us where we fit in the wider web of life and how to work with the laws of nature. The science of ecology teaches us that nature loves biodiversity and all its unique forms of life, but also that it works in cycles. No matter what ‘season’ our lives seem to be in at the moment – the letting go of Autumn or the new growth of spring, for example – it will inevitably come around full circle. The trick to ensuring that we always have a sense of abundance, no matter where we are in the cycle, is to recognize that the physical world is not here to supply our every need and want. Rather, as wisdom traditions constantly remind us (if we listen!), the way to make our dreams of enlightenment real is to carry them within, regardless of external circumstances. It’s kind of ironic, because we learn to love and protect nature better when we get to know our own inner selves better.

 

Four-seasons

Tapping into our inner riches, which is the aim of the Hero’s Journey, supplies more of what we really want – things like self-love and acceptance, spiritual generosity, peace of mind and an openness to true community. This means we rely less on the things that are so often ‘sold’ to us as the answers; like consumer products and the corporate interests that try to convince us we consistently need more of them. And this is where the Hero’s Journey can become an Ecospiritual path for us all. Because it goes beyond better relations with ourselves and others, and puts us back in touch with the healing power of nature!

Paradoxically, as we become more attuned to the song of the earth and to our allies, guides and guardians in nature, we become less focused on ourselves as individuals but we feel more complete. This is the same outcome of many mystical traditions, such as Sufism, Kabbalah, or Zen; in becoming less attached to our everyday experiences of fear, anger and worry, we become more full of a flowing energy, which lives and breathes through everything, including the planet, the trees, the birds and rivers and stars. This life force is beyond our individual self and links us to all the other lives on Gaia, our Mother Earth, and throughout the whole universe. This is the Ecospiritual hero within, speaking loud and clear of the journey we can choose as we evolve and adapt in the 21st century. Join me, and the members of the Hero’s Journey Collective, as we enter into this grand new realm with no fear and an abundance of love, a sense of self-empowerment, and a quest to be the best we can in a world that needs every hero it can find!

 

Geoff Berry, of White Fella Dreaming, will be appearing at The Hero’s Journey Collective event, held on Saturday 8th August at the Speakeasy Bar in South Yarra, Melbourne, Australia. This event raises funds to help the Art2Healing project end sex slavery.

Some tickets still available at: http://www.theherosjourneycollective.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

White People: Dealing with the guilt of colonisation – and responding with generosity

solar eclipse

 

Once upon a time, when I was in the desert of South Australia chasing (and catching) a full solar eclipse, I decided not to join the rave party nearby but instead enjoy a few cold beverages in town with the locals. Amongst these fine new friends was a large, hairy biker. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t mind me describing him thus. I can’t check and don’t even recall his name. It was just another half hour friendship, as that great folk singer Rodrigues sang about back in the 70s. But a funny thing happened that evening and I write about it now as the conversation has arisen again, this time in Broome, Western Australia.

At one point, I blurted out: “I just can’t get over the guilt of what my people have done to your people.” Did I mention my fleeting mate was Aboriginal? I wasn’t really sure how consciously I had thought about this before, but I was certain it had come up for good reason right then. Because somewhere, in the backs of our minds if not at the forefront, we all know we didn’t end up being modern Australians (or Americans, New Zealanders, Canadians, etc) by inheriting some just and fair deal over land rights. We are children of colonisation, with all that entails – the assumptions of entitlement to development, the religious colourings, the massacres and disease and benefits of more highly advanced technologies. Denying this won’t do us any good; the truth may be well hidden, behind vast reams of other stories, but once we know it exists we can never really shake its hold somewhere in our conscience. And if we want to be better people – happier, more comfortable in our bodies, feeling more at home where we live and work and travel, more consciously aware of our patterns and potentials – then lying to ourselves is definitely a barrier. So, out with it; I’m sorry about the way Australia was colonised, I’m not happy about the way I benefit from this with my mostly unspoken white privileges, and I wish it had been done differently, better, with more care, more sharing, more questions and compassion and understanding. For all concerned.

So there was my blurt and here was his deadpan response: “Get over it mate.” Um … OK. No further comment, from either of us. He didn’t feel the need to give more context – it’s the kind of comment that stands alone, that brooks no compromise, that sets the bar and then walks away, hardly even concerned whether I can jump it or not – and I didn’t see what I could add, subtract, hedge my bets against, conjure up or fluff along. I accepted it, in the spirit it was meant – the spirit of moving on, of harsh but real acceptance, of gruff forgiveness, of the recognition that we as individuals are not responsible for what went on decades and even centuries before, that we should be focusing on getting along right now, in the present moment, with its endless opportunities. Then he shared a piece of black glass with me, to watch the solar eclipse through. That’s a cool memory.

 

boab and beach

 

But I digress. Reconciliation. Between the people who lived here when our ancestors got here (the collective ones, the British and other western Europeans in this case) and us, the white fellas and other new Australians (and Americans etc). How do we deal with the painful history we know exists and move on, so that we are not shackled at the feet by guilt and remorse but not living in denial either? I’ve found a semblance of balance in this regard over the years and it’s time to share it. Because here in Broome, the other day, I met someone working in food sovereignty – helping locals in the community create wonderful vegetable gardens, promoting local produce, harvesting wild foods without compromising the carrying capacity of the land – who expressed her profound disquiet about exactly this issue. And it felt great to be able to help, if only in a small, seedlike way.

It goes something like this:

  1. Face it – the dark truths of colonisation, violent dispossession and all
  2. Sit with that for a while – if it doesn’t feel uncomfortable, it’s being repressed (again)
  3. Admit you benefit from it
  4. Position yourself in this life – you did not choose to inherit unfair privilege
  5. Recognise your relative power in this social structure – and your choice as to how you respond
  6. Rebalance, holding the spirit of generosity out in front of you, in your open hands
  7. Forgive your ancestors, and all who have gone before us, so that they can know peace (even if it is only in the depths of our own minds)
  8. Know peace – and spread it.

What this all boils down to can best be described in a kind of martial arts move: maintain your balance, as best you can, while you accept the incoming movement of this energy or force, realising that the knowledge sits all around you, especially behind, while in front of you, in your hands, you retain the capacity to respond with generosity, to know yourself as free, to give compassion and to be … more. Get over your guilt, white people, by facing it and going through it and coming out the other side. Otherwise, we perpetuate the cycle of inequality, of repression, of colonisation and its shame.

Easter Inspiration – Ecological Spirituality beyond Commercialism and Christianity

Lubok_of_Resurrection

Easter is a ceremonial celebration of life. The Resurrection of Jesus signals the soul’s victory over death; we rise to the heavens once we depart this world, the myth tells us, so long as we align our earthly lives with that divine realm while we are here. This is a religious model built on an ancient pattern; in nature, we see life burst forth from death all the time. Spring in the northern hemisphere is a concrete signal of this. Out of the depths of winter, finally the new sun hits the world, warming up the frosty ground, shaking buds to life on what looked last week like withered branches, even calling cute lambs from the wombs of woolly ewes in the fields. The seasonal cycles continue, from birth to growth to death and back again, drawing new life out of the great mystery, the darkness is the womb or matrix of the universe, the life behind life out of which all is born and to which all returns.

You can see why reincarnation is such a popular idea; it is just another version of the same universal paradigm, applied to the human soul. And when we pay attention to who we are within, we do find we are part of a wider nature without, the physical world of all beings, to whom we are related and to whom we owe our loyalty. Deepening our attention to this cycle and to our place in it can help us to get more in touch with our own innate sense of an ecological spirituality; a sense of the sacred in nature and in ourselves.

Easter_Bunny

The idea of Jesus and/or the Easter Bunny is a way of trying to link these mortal lives of ours to that Sacred Mystery, in one way or the other. For Christians, the religious model works to bring the divine into life, using the myth of Jesus to help us see the glory of God, in our hearts and in the world. In the secular world, the Easter Bunny brings magical gifts of abundance from an invisible realm, beyond the rational world. And this brings us to the problem of the sacred in the consumer capitalist world of commercialism. Commercialism consolidates the commitment to materialism that is part of a capitalist society, so that our intuitions of a better world, with higher values and more widespread compassion, are too easily consigned to the shelf of dusty ideas, past their use-by date or too ‘unrealistic’ to take seriously.

DCF 1.0

Ecological spirituality is not against materialism; in fact it is a new kind of materialism; but one that takes our bodies and the physical aspect of life on earth far too seriously to side with the slide into lazy consumption, which is promoted as the good life by the propaganda machine of global corporate marketeers. Ecological spirituality requires taking seriously what goes into our bodies, what ‘resources’ – aka other forms of life – are used to fuel our lifestyles; in other words, how we work with the earth rather than assume a false order of mastery over it and its other peoples and creatures. Without this dimension of care, spirituality is merely another version of escapism. We need to underscore this at times of seasonal celebrations such as Easter because as White Fellas – or those who were not born out of the ancestry of their land, such as in Australia or North America – we have a duty to try and better understand our ‘country’ and its original peoples. In any case, now that ecological crisis is finally becoming apparent to all but the most hardened ideologues, loyalty to the earth must be paramount in our relationship with what we hold sacred. And to hold the earth itself sacred is not only a real aspect of most religious perspectives, it is a vital and living part of the Australian Aboriginal way of life. And this is something we can learn, both from wisdom traditions and from attention to our own inner knowing.

One of the ways to deal with our current set of dilemmas is to be even more inventive with technology; in fact, we already know how to scale fossil fuels out of the equation with renewable energy sources, we just lack the political will and vision. But another way is to recalibrate our relationship with the rest of nature; to reconsider the way we think about the earth, so that it is not merely a resource but a place we hold sacred. One of the keys to making this shift real is to recall our own deep affinity with nature – and one of the best ways to see that this can be a real source of deep satisfaction; of a materialism beyond consumption; of an ecological spirituality – is to consider the Aboriginal inhabitants of this ‘country.’

Indigenous_Australian_Arnhem_Land_cosmogony

Aboriginal Australians consider their ‘country’ to be not only the place with which they identify; it is an enlivened spiritual cosmos, filled with other parts of nature that have just as much right to live and flourish as humanity does. The way to live right with this kind of natural environment is to build relations with it. To consider the river as a really alive, flowing source of replenishment, for people and for life itself; to consider the eagle as brother, the kangaroo as kin, the sky as part of the web of life. And to be responsible for part of this, via a totemic system, so that I may need to protect the Bilby Dreaming of our particular ‘country’ while you may be responsible for the Native Grass Dreaming. The system works by organising everything and everyone into a nested series of cares, where we all share empathy and compassion for all of life, together as parts of the pattern.

So; what can we rediscover about the hope held out by an Easter festival in contemporary terms, when we stand outside of conventional Christianity, on an ancient land, with secular freedoms? We can consider Easter’s iconic imagery of the Resurrection, which is in turn a version of a much more ancient idea; that we can transform who we are in real terms, in the body, with a kind of rebirth out of ritual. When we think of the mythic story of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, we can’t help but recall the Mystery Schools of the Greeks, who likewise spent time in dim caverns, spending their symbolic dark days and nights of the soul being inspired by personal experience that went beyond the limits of the personal, so that they could be transformed in their everyday lives in alignment with a greater vision of what is possible.

Eleusis_(15986825818)

Eleusis, a site of the Greek Mysteries, dedicated to the goddess Demeter; the grains on the left of the carving represent new life out of the earth, a physical and spiritual symbol at the same time.

If ever there was a time we needed to tap back into this deep stream of European and Levantine wisdom, this was it. We can re-find inner riches in ecological spirituality, which also link us to the rest of nature, to the other creatures and even to the landscape itself, all of which now requires protection from the worst ravages of the human race. White Fella Dreaming subscribes to all of this, as a counter-culture to the dominant paradigm and its damages, in the hopes of transforming modern society to a more sustainable set of practices; and we need to do this within ourselves, at the same time as we activate it in everyday life and in the wider community of the planet. And we have inner resources, our own links to early practices like this, and existing wisdom traditions of this land to learn from.

Thanks for reading. And have a regenerating and transformative Easter.

*This is a short version of my Easter Sunday service given at the Unitarian Church in East Melbourne, Australia, April 5th.

Images: 1. “Lubok of Resurrection” by Anonymous – Музей народной графики. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lubok_of_Resurrection.jpg#/media/File:Lubok_of_Resurrection.jpg. 2. “Easter Bunny” by Littlerockphoto – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Easter_Bunny.JPG#/media/File:Easter_Bunny.JPG. 3. “Osterbrunnen-Bieberbach-Details” by User:Franconia – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Osterbrunnen-Bieberbach-Details.jpg#/media/File:Osterbrunnen-Bieberbach-Details.jpg. 4. By Arapaima [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons. Sketch trying to illustrate the Arnhem Land North Coast Indigenous Australians cosmogony, as described by David Gulpilil in the australian movie “Ten canoes” made by Rolf de Heer and Peter Djigirr (sketch derived from a painting by Johnny Bulunbulun, a Ganallingu artist working in Maningrida). 5. By Carole Raddato from FRANKFURT, Germany (Eleusis) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Cosmic Walk

The Cosmic Walk has amazing similarities with my work and the Ancestral Movements of my last post. While all three approaches embody the same philosophy, the Walk is a song, which relates the path and time scales of evolution, and then has each participant walk the spiral of time from the big bang to now.  As each participant walks the entire history of the cosmos, we all chant along the simple chorus:

     “I am as old as the universe, I’ve been here before and I’ll be here again;

      I am a child of the universe, a part of all women and a part of all men.”

Moon Court Brass Spiral

The beautiful brass spiral used for the Cosmic Walk at Moon Court, home to some of the events run by Pagaian Cosmology

The song “Child of the Universe” was written by British singer songwriter Theo Simon in the early 1990s.  It originally had four verses. At some stage John Seed, tireless activist in defence of the earth and developer of the Cosmic Walk concept, heard the song and requested Theo to write an additional two verses to complement the walk as an entire musical experience. The cosmic walk was originally devised by Sister Miriam Therese McGillis of Genesis Farm in New Jersey, a colleague of Thomas Berry (The Great Work) as a symbolic re-enactment that helps us enter personally into the story. Participants walk around a spiral that represents the entire story of the unfolding and gradual differentiation of the Universe and the Earth from the beginning to the present – and to us! 

John saw that with additional material, Theo’s song could extend to the epic it now is, ready to carry the whole story of the universe into a performance that can be enjoyed by groups anywhere. You can see John tell this story and sing the song here, at MoonCourt in the Blue Mountains of Australia, which has a brass spiral inlaid in the floor representing the Unfolding Cosmos for the telling of the Universe Story. John had been facilitating an Earth, Spirit, Action workshop during which that story – our Story – was told. 

The verses of the version sung at Wild Minds were sung by Helena Read, who herself has performed it on stage with Theo’s original band World Without Walls, unbeknownst by the Triple Ecology gang* who asked her to join them. Synchronicity abounds in this work.

The full lyrics can be heard in some renditions of the song, found here. Theo now performs it with his band Seize the Day along with this extensive repertoire of folk music in the British tradition of social and ecological activism. 

You can imagine how the Cosmic Walk is a similar experience to Ancestral Movement, although where that practice literally embodies the animal forms that have been integrated into our physical selves, this one is more in the style of the labyrinth walk. It is an occasion for meditation on the incredible journeys our bodies have undertaken from the bursting forth of the universe to this moment, pregnant with significance. Carried by the crystalline wave of the chant, we walk, sing, hum, and re-place ourselves exactly where we are. Try one as soon as you get, find, or make the chance!

10671326_10153183207403126_1402834628577427924_n

*The Triple Ecology gang (as I have just dubbed them) are holding an event in April (24-26) devoted to sharing the learnings of three frameworks: Sacred, Deep and Healing Ecology.

The Moon in Australian Aboriginal and White Fella Dreaming

shutterstock_42812236-moonphases

 

In many indigenous myths, the moon waxes and wanes because of the greed or selfishness of an ancestor spirit. Whether lusting after an unavailable romantic partner or feeding endlessly on a special foodstuff, often sweet, this character ends up displaced into the night sky, forever to repeat the pattern of unrestrained appetite, to fullness, to the wasting away that is its cosmic recompense. Ultimately, the moon/character is reborn, but this act of seeming divine forgiveness is once again sharpened by the karmic lesson it must teach us mere mortals; endlessly, the greedy one must repeat their transgressions and pay the price. It won’t learn, which should be enough of a reminder to us that we must – unless we also want to repeat destructive patterns forever.

 

We all know traditional cultures, including our own, looked to the night sky and told stories about what was seen there. Can we, as moderns with scientific knowledge, still learn from these stories? Part of what White Fella Dreaming seeks to do is to draw those threads together; to be true to what we know of the world and ourselves, today (as Campbell exhorted), but also to learn from wisdom traditions at the same time. We know the moon waxes and wanes according to its orbits around the earth and the earth’s cycles around the sun. But the old stories mean a great deal, if we are prepared to listen. They can put us back in touch with the laws of nature, both inner, in the human psychic world, and outer, in the environment. How? Check it out.

 
shutterstock_71705395-moon

 

The greedy character acts against others in order to fulfill their desires. The endless loop of their gratification and demise in the sky teaches us to take care of others when we act upon our appetites. This applies whether our tastes run to sweet nectar from the trees or that gorgeous young lady who is already promised to another, or who loves another, or who has the wrong skin name. (Interestingly, in Australian Aboriginal mythologies, the moon is often male.) The moon’s constant demise in the second half of its cycle, from fullness to death, teaches us to curb our desires, to let it go, to recognize that our appetites won’t always be sated. Same goes with the fruits of the land; in the hunter/gatherer world of feast and famine, it doesn’t do to long for more of a crop that is going to be lean this season, or to let others go hungry, or to force them to work for your greedy desires … others must be considered, if we are to act in a civilized, sociable manner. Tighten the belt, accept a measure of suffering, give up on something you thought you had to have, allow your desires to be ‘educated’ (as suggested by utopian theorists Miguel Abensour and Ruth Levitas).

 

We don’t only have something to learn in regards to our inner lives here. We also need to relearn the lessons provided by the long days feast and famine that are coded into our cultural codes; to curb our material appetites, in order to align our human ways with the laws of nature and be true to the earth again. The oil bubble, combined with the industrial revolution, working on top of large-scale agricultural civilizations, has led us to an era of unprecedented plenty. It’s hard to exaggerate how much this means: in the privileged centres of western (and any technologically advanced) societies today, we are gorged on an eternal feast in cities of light. This is an entirely new level of abundance and one that we cannot deny for its power. We are drawn to it like primate moths to a flame. And I am not merely suggesting a move away from abundance, technology, modern life or our highest hopes for al humanity here. But what I am suggesting, as I listen to the moon – exactly at mid-point in its phase tonight over Eltham, a perfect semi-circle lit against the night sky and the ringtail possum walking the tightrope of an electric wire past my front verandah – is that we need to remind ourselves of the cost of this feast. We are the ravenous man now. Modern global civilization is acting as if it can have everything and will not have to ay for its greed and selfishness. And we know, in our hearts, that this is true. I’m just reporting that the wisdom traditions still speak that truth. Go outside at night and listen to the moon. It will tell you; restrain your desires and think of the earth’s others. Or accept the same destiny as befell all of those that have come before you, who were placed in the sky to remind you of the danger. Before it’s too late.

 

 

Images: purchased from one of those megacorporation places. Sometimes i do it.

The Modern Goddess

I’ve been waiting for a powerful dream to contact you with next. Finally, she came last night. I didn’t call her in, or pray for her help, or undertake any of that kind of begging. (Not that I couldn’t be accused of resorting to these tactics at other times, mind you.) She just slipped in, quietly, mysteriously, to watch the human drama unfold. Was she touched? I couldn’t tell. If our sets of agonizing, playful, colourful actions had any effect on her at all, she didn’t show it. But now that I have made contact – or rather, she with me, or better still She with my Dreaming – I’ll be sure to go back and ask. After doing ritual, natch. She deserves respect. I’ll call her the Modern Goddess and ask her what she thinks. What we should be doing. To intervene. In the drama – helping, where we can, like Kwan Yin or Avalokiteshvara, or Sweet Blessed Mother Mary, or any other dispenser of compassion beyond understanding. But also to maintain balance within ourselves, to play our part in being intelligent animals in touch with the sacred, informed by it, trying to walk in it.

 

Red Velvet chair2

 

We were in a large, open auditorium. It was regally plush, with rich, deep green velour wallpaper, accentuated by golden trim. There’s a stage nearby and as there is about to be a performance of some sort, I look for a good seat. Behind the stage is a set of ornate chairs and benches, which seem to face the action. So I head over there and, being first to arrive, choose a fine seat with crimson velvet upholstery. Very nice, I think, until I see another man pass me and head up to much better seats above. He asks me what I am doing down here as he takes up the second best seat in the house; it is a high-backed chair, right next to a magnificent throne, of dark materials so rich they are obviously meant for royalty and no less, which is placed top and centre of the dais upon which we will sit. I am emboldened by the other man and take up the equally regal chair on the other side of the throne.

 

Velvet throne2

The rest of the seats fill up as the lights go down in preparation for the action. Just at this moment a woman enters silently from behind us and takes her place in the throne. It feels exactly right, although there is nothing to indicate what she looks like or why she seems so comfortable in this place of honour. The play begins in small scenes enacted in different places around the auditorium. It’s a piece of theatre with ‘shifting’ sets, a postmodern piece that decentres the point from which the audience views the action, including them in the drama.

 

V0042383 A young woman wearing a veil and black clothing mourning at

 

When my consciousness shifts from the reality of this otherworld to the everyday, waking one, I wonder why she was so silent and so unannounced. Is She humble? Perhaps She is so powerful that She requires no introduction, as they say. Does She care? While I see no evidence of this, I ask myself why She would come at all if she had no interest in our human drama, which also has such a profound effect, now, on the state of the rest of the planet. I hold gently the awareness that I am her left hand man; a subtle contrast to the right hand man of the patriarchal Father, the warrior who carries out His orders regardless of feelings like compassion or pity. From here, I get to feel everything, and serve Her with conscience, finding balance between the God and Goddess powers within and without. She asks not for my unthinking devotion; quite the opposite. I am forced to think for myself, to make decisions based on whatever information I have at hand, to feel for the Earth and to remain loyal to its people, to choose to fight for them. She does not need to see the pendulum swing against the Sacred Masculine, for she is already awaiting us, at the centre, holding His hand, married to the light from her sacred abode in the darkness. She is the silent, unnamed Tao, which does not require defense. And She calls us on to the good fight, which is carried out in our own hearts and minds and souls and bodies first, and then in the world; paradoxically, at the same time. It’s a matter of intent and clarity of action. Blessings Be and welcome to the tribe, She says, and I follow her.

 

 

Images: 1. By Munna (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons. 2. By Jebulon (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons. 3. See page for author [CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. 

How Do We Relate to the Elements? In rock and ritual

GB sevs

What White Fella Dreaming supports is a way of being that allows every facet of every potential there exists in the human framework to be made possible to us right here, in the body, while remaining true to the earth and to its inevitable limits also. This is sometimes known (erm, well at least by me and a handful of other brave or foolhardy souls) as ecospirituality, or embodied spirituality – allowing that we, as individuals, can enjoy our own relationship with what we deem sacred, within ourselves as nature and within the ecosystem of which we are but a small part. To use some religious language, we recognise ourselves as the holy, or the divine, as this force exists in and through us, as we experience it, as it is communicated to us and through us as human beings. To throw off the shackles of received conventions, in the sense that any priestly caste could speak for us, and to realize that relationship for ourselves, in alignment with our own conscience, with intellectual integrity and critical thinking coming along for the ride; as independent, mature thinkers with a full emotional life and deep respect for the body and its innate wisdom as well. And celebrating this in ritual, so that we don’t forget.

 

 Burningman_0078

Rituals of letting go of the old to make way for the new: burning down the house – and the man – at Burning Man

 

But dispensing with traditions we don’t need any longer does not mean turning away from ancient traditions altogether – in fact, far from it. If anything, we need the wisdom of the elders more than ever right now, to remind us how to be human without necessarily relying on technological or other crutches, without getting too caught up in the consumerist materialism of the global marketplace; to bring us back to earth and its inevitable cycles of feast and famine, or at least to the lengthening and diminishing of the light as it arrives here, the filling and emptying of the moon in its lunar cycles, the way that seasons come and ago with regularity but also with change, with multiple sets of co-respondent signals, with differing facets of symbols and meaning depending on our shifting circumstances, needs and relationships.

 

 Clay-ss-2005

The body of the earth, the clay out of which we arise

If we are going to enjoy a truly embodied spirituality we need to align ourselves with the things that make up our selves: the earth that is our bodies, the waters that flow through us, the air we breath in and out, the flame that ignites our warrior spirits. There are plenty of systems that deal with these kinds of relationships, but none better than the one that states it is your right to figure out your own way of weighing up how these elements are allocated to your personality – to the extent that your personality is a stable entity at all. This stuff shifts all the time, so listen to your soul! Wake up to your dreams and to your Dreaming, hear the spirits call your true name from the depths, within and without, and respond in the way you live: true to self, to earth, to fresh air and water, to the quickening of fire on fuel and to the emptiness that is exactly fullness in every moment of your life.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The face of the deep

There are gateways of metaphor everywhere and these lead us beyond metaphor to a deeper experience of reality. Water is our feelings, your tears, the oceans of unforgettable memories; the flames of passion drive us to love and war; the body limits us to plod like clay and also allows us to dance like leaves on the breeze; air is thought, as free as a bird, filling us with life in a lungful of oxygen. This is all to be celebrated, in the danger of great, uncontrolled feelings as in the embrace of all that is, as it supports every part of our being; as it is in this song by punk industrial art rock band The Severins:

 

Oxygen

I wanna be kissed by your fire

I wanna be washed in your tears

Oxygen;

I need another hit.

Grounded;

I’ve gotta feel the clay

Find me, thrill me, lose me, kill me.

I wanna be appeased by the presence of your anarchy.

Repeal the need for torture in your sense of wiccan ecstasy.

I wanna be kissed by your fire;

By your flames, by your uncontrollable passions.

I wanna be washed in your tears;

In your oceans.

Oxygen

I need another hit.

Grounded

I’ve gotta feel the clay … I’ve gotta feel the clay

Youtube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3btmXLQ3Rg

Words and singing by the author (Geoff Berry, albeit in a younger body); music by The Severins: Steve Bruce (drums and a substantial portion of arrangement), Richard Anderson (bass and good looks), John Wilson (guitars and atmosphere).

Images: The Severins, still shot from video, Central Club, Richmond, Melbourne, Australia, by Optus Pay TV. Water (sea): “Nordsee Wellen” by Muns – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nordsee_Wellen.JPG#mediaviewer/File:Nordsee_Wellen.JPG. Fire: “Burningman 0078”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Burningman_0078.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Burningman_0078.jpg. Clay “Clay-ss-2005”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Clay-ss-2005.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Clay-ss-2005.jpg

Sacred Words: Home

shutterstock_60370459-dawn

 

When we finish ritual, or prayer, or any other kind of shared meaning in a circle with others, we often find a closing word or phrase helpful to show we value what has been shared, we care for what has been said, consumed or enacted, we wish to hold it as sacred and embody some aspect of it in our everyday (read: magnificent and meaningful) lives. Having been burnt free of any alignment with Christianity by my childhood experiences, I cannot include the word “Amen” in my repertoire without gagging on it a bit. And as a person who experimented with a wild variety of New Age practices in the ’90s, but who then became educated into the abuses of other cultural practices by the modern western marketplace, I cannot in good conscience utter a Vedic “Om” (or “Aum” if you prefer that spelling) or a Lakota “Ho,” without knowing I am at the same time uttering evidence of my own culture’s spiritual poverty, as well as its voracious appetite to fill that emptiness with the gifts of others – often the others it has colonized, slaughtered, marginalised or otherwise processed into neat, inoffensive packages to be bought and sold. What to do in this postcolonial, secular (post-Christian, for me) void?

 

I have an answer. You may find it helpful also, if you are interested in having a daily practice that aligns you with the sacred in nature (the nature within the self, the body, the mind and heart, the land and sea and air and other creatures and night sky; the nature we are indistinguishable from). At these moments I say “Home.” This practice reminds me of what is most important – look after the place you live in, along with all else that lives in it. This Home is planetary, including all races and cultures, but the word for these purposes also relates directly to our own local conditions and loyalties. It sounds remarkably similar to the other traditional sacred words I have come across – almost combining them, including the Native American with the Vedic and Christian. And it is true to me, to being here, to loving and caring for and beyond the self. I see it as another little marker of what White Fella Dreaming can offer my people, I hope. Now to find out what the local Australian Aboriginal peoples, the Wurunjerri people of the Kulin nation, would have used for such a word! (Report to follow soon.) Home!

 

*NB: The ancient Greeks used the word oikos to mean something like home and this word became the root for both economy and ecology (as well as all our other usages of “eco”). Another pathway along which we might combine the ways we do things, dissolving another dualism along the path to a resacralised world: an economy that truly takes care of its home, the earth, and all of its ecological diversity.

Dealing with Worldly Challenges – Ganesha & Pegasus

Most of us will recognise Ganesha, the Elephant-headed god of the Hindu pantheon. Millions of people in India and beyond pray to him every day, to help them overcome worldly challenges and to maintain peace of mind. As White Fella Dreaming is devoted to generating a spirituality for the 21st century world, especially from a western perspective, it seemed to me important to be able to provide some uniquely modern parallel for this commonly utilised mythic imagery. But first some background, to explain my relationship to the Hindu icon.

Indian_God_Lord_Ganesh

On a trip to Varanasi I met a holy man, or guru, who gave me this mantra, which at the time I had never heard of: “Om Ga Ganapataye Namah.” It seemed a helpful ritual, to chant this once each morning and remind myself of my access to resources helpful in situations requiring conflict resolution, healing, overcoming and other responses to obstacles that arise in everyday life. (Resources that appear within my inner world, which have arisen from my Dreaming, from a place that includes but is also more than the sum of my personal history; from the sacred, transpersonal or archetypal realms beyond …) A good mantra eases access to this realm and its sacred qualities, developing our personal relationship to the more-than-human and keeping it as operational as possible; and it also hones the mind, concentrating energy for the tasks at hand. This is all good and I did not mind accepting a practice from the Indian tradition, not as a matter of simply choosing something exotic from the spiritual supermarket of the new age, but as a way of connecting to something that had come my way along the path of discovery, something relevant at the time of its appearance (synchronicity and serendipity and all that jazz), and anyway something not that distant from my own European traditions (given the ancient links between Indo-European languages and colonising forces – bit that’s another story).

Pegasus_(PSF)

But one day in late 2013 I had a very powerful dream that superceded my relationship with Ganesha and provided me with a new way of meeting the same realm of worldly challenge and spiritual concentration. Standing at the edge of a forest, I saw Pegasus fly over [writing this sentence, lightning flashed across the sky and thunder struck in an unseasonal summer storm over Melbourne; the import of this synchronicity will become apparent by the end of this story]. His milky flanks were enormous, filling half the sky, as he galloped through the air towards the horizon ahead. Shortly after this, he reappeared, flying over our heads again, on the same direct path. However, this time he was higher in the sky and therefore slightly smaller. The third time he appeared, Pegasus was higher and smaller again (although still very large and dominating the scene). By now, he was mouthing bubbles, as if he’d hit the level of ether and was leaving the realm of oxygenated atmosphere behind (some mythic paradigms speak of a watery realm above, where the rain is kept until it is released). Now my friend, standing next to me, nudged me and said: “You believe in him, so why don’t you go to him?” So I did.

Bellerophon_on_Pegasus_-_Tiepolo,_Giovanni_Battista-1746-47

I flew up and met Pegasus at a table, where he sat opposite me as if it were all perfectly natural. By now he was a life-sized horse, white as snow. He began making a series of movements with his hooves and I instinctively attempted to mimic them, but I knew even as I did it that I was destined to forget these ritual forms. Still, I clumsily followed until he stopped and then I noticed the doses of medicine that were spread across the table in rows. He indicated that I should chew on one and swallow it, so I did. It was horrible. The texture was of moist and sandy soil, the colour was a sickly greenish blue, and it tasted exactly how it looked – like wet earth that was hard to swallow. I guess if medicine is supposed to taste bad in order to help heal, then this stuff must be dynamite. Then he gave me his parting words: you will need to initiate through your woman [anima] for around the next 5 or 6 years. Then you will be ready to do it on your own.

 Lightnings_sequence_2_animation

The deep wisdom and sacred nature of this dream has developed in some interesting directions for me in the year or so since then, so I will enter those into this log in a series to continue soon. But for now I just want to end by returning to the theme of this post: that Pegasus can be a portal for dealing with worldly challenge, in some very specific as well as quite general ways; and that he can help us to develop peace of mind under stressful or pressurized circumstances. And the link to the storm that burst open above my head as I wrote this? Pegasus became the bearer of lightning bolts for Zeus, in his aspect as storm god of the Greeks.

Images: 1. Ganesha by Nagaraju raveender (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons. 2. Pegasus line drawing by Pearson Scott Foresman [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. 3. By User:Fsphil (File:Pegasus vector drawing.svg) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons. 4. “Lightnings sequence 2 animation” by original data: Sebastien D’ARCO, animate: Koba-chan – original source is Image:Lightnings sequence 2.jpg, animated by me.. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lightnings_sequence_2_animation.gif#mediaviewer/File:Lightnings_sequence_2_animation.gif