Remembrance & a sacred earth
LLEWELLYN VAUGHAN-LEE mourns the forgetting of our connection with the Earth, inviting us once more to remember, reconnect and rekindle the sacred of that relationship in our lives.
The pandemic has confronted us with a world seemingly out of balance, a health crisis easily becoming an economic crisis. Here in California, a summer of raging wildfires has brought climate crisis to our doorstep, the air dense with smoke, the sun rising red, ash falling. As the world spins more and more out of balance there is a pressing need to stay inwardly aligned, to keep our feet on the ground and our hearts open. We cannot afford to contract into fear or be caught in the miasma of disinformation and distortion, to be swept along by the strange currents of this time. It is essential to have a simple spiritual practice to remain centered, whether watching the breath, a prayer, or just resting in silence.
The remembrance of the heart is one such practice. Through our remembrance, the Divine becomes alive within our heart and comes to meet us in our daily life. We bring a quality of love into our ordinary life, nourishing our environment in hidden ways. But remembrance also implies forgetfulness; we remember what we have forgotten, being with the Divine as a living presence, in friendship, companionship. Initially, for an individual, awakening is always an act of grace, given as a gift to help us begin our journey home. We are given a taste of our pre-existing state of divine oneness, or presence. Spiritual practice is then a simple way to remain awake from the forgetfulness caused by the illusions of the world, and gradually lift the veils that separate us from the light within us and around us.
Because our present culture has lost touch with the knowing of how we are interconnected with the Earth, what the Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh calls “interbeing,” we have forgotten how deeply we affect the Earth as a living being. We are belatedly realizing how our global industrial growth and consumer society are negatively impacting our physical environment, destroying the web of life on an unprecedented scale, pushing the planet’s life support systems to the edge. We do not yet realize how our collective consciousness also impacts the Earth. Earlier cultures lived in harmony with the Earth, recognizing how it was alive spiritually and magically as well as physically. With their prayers and rituals they communed with the Earth and its many inhabitants, keeping the balance between the worlds and never forgetting the Great Spirit present in creation. Their song, dance, drumming infused the Earth with their awareness of its divine nature, their sacred symbols belonging to both the outer and inner worlds. In this way, since the very beginning, they helped the Earth come alive as a magical being, just as our own spiritual practice can help us individually to bring alive our awareness of our divine nature.
The remembrance of the heart is one such practice.
Through our remembrance,
the Divine becomes alive within our heart and
comes to meet us in our daily life.
We bring a quality of love into our ordinary life,
nourishing our environment in hidden ways.
In the first days, when human consciousness awakened on the Earth, maybe two hundred thousand years ago or longer, something changed, shifted within the spiritual body of the Earth. The light of human consciousness, mythically imaged as fire stolen from the gods, communed directly with the light of the Earth; the human soul and the soul of the world, anima mundi, sang together. The Earth awakened in a new way; a different quality of Earth consciousness was born. And as the first peoples danced and sang their stories and creation myths, the magic of the land awoke. This was also the time of the naming, when shamans or wisdom keepers were given the names of creation, which gave them access to their magical power, the healing properties of plants, the wisdom and powers of animals.
In this earlier time there was a knowing that has now become deeply hidden – a knowing of the sacred purpose of creation, of its beauty and wonder. And this knowing was continuously coming alive, speaking to human beings in all the myriad voices of the world around, in the streams and storms, in the cries of the birds and the animals, in the first language of life1. And the awakening Earth was cared for by the first peoples, by their ceremonies and prayers, and later by their sacred art – drawings of bison, horses, deer, and then by stone circles aligned to the midsummer rising sun, or temples whose statues often imaged the fertility of the goddess. In this way, human consciousness and Earth consciousness met in a sacred manner and nurtured each other, the light of the human soul and the light within creation helping both humanity and the Earth to evolve, to sing together.
And so, for millennia, the Earth and humanity evolved together, until we began our journey of separation from the Earth, when God retreated into heaven, the soil stopped being sacred, and we began to forget. Now our creation myth is the Big Bang of science, but where in this story are the salmon swimming upstream, and the bear hibernating in winter? Where are the spirits of the mountains and rivers, felt in the winds and the water? Where are the power and the wonder, the magic that can come alive through our senses, through our direct relationship with the land and its inhabitants? What have we lost? What have we forgotten? And what does this mean to the Earth Herself that our prayers are no longer present?
Sadly, tragically, our forgetfulness of the Earth’s magical nature, and the fact that so few of us practice the rituals that sustain this relationship, have meant that this magical living dimension of the Earth has receded from consciousness. For most people it remains only in myth or children’s stories. Its song is no longer heard; its sacred meaning has been forgotten. And the Earth Herself has suffered, Her light withdrawing.
Now, the Earth is dying physically and spiritually. We cannot return to the dances and stories of our ancestors – they belong to a different time and place. But the simple act of our remembrance of Her sacred nature can help in this moment. And the heart’s remembrance is always love. Love is life’s greatest gift and our greatest gift back to life. And, as the poet Mary Oliver writes so poignantly, “There is only one question: how to love this world.” We can help the world remember what our culture has forgotten – how the soil, the seeds, the rivers and the stars all carry a central message of love. In all its diverse forms, its different ways of being and breathing, the living Earth is a celebration of love. And now it is calling out to us, crying to us to remember its sacred nature.
1 In The Spell of the Sensuous (1996), David Abram describes how “for the Inuit, as for numerous other peoples, humans and animals all originally spoke the same language.” He quotes an Inuit woman:
In the very earliest time
when peoples and animals lived on earth…
All spoke the same language.
That was the time when words were like magic…
Those who are recognized as shamans or medicine persons “most fully remember the primordial language, and are thus able to slip, at will, out of the purely human discourses in order to converse directly with the other powers.”
Adapted from A Handbook for Survivalists: Caring for the Earth, A Series of Meditations. Available as a free PDF at www.goldensufi.org. © 2020, The Golden Sufi Center
Article by LLEWELLYN VAUGHAN-LEE
April 01, 2021
April 01, 2021
April 01, 2021