Friday, February 20, 2015

Love and Mystery Flanking War in the Night Sky

Moon, Mars and Venus in Conjunction
Tonight, the Moon and the planets, Mars and Venus, are hunkering down together in the dark sky. The ancient Neo-Platonists personified the heavenly bodies, ascribing human characteristics to the moon and the planets. Although I know little of astrology,  I can resonate with this celestial event and, like viewing a Rorschach figure, I can see the poetic imagery of the goddesses, Selene and Aphrodite, and the god, Ares, seated together, emotionally conjoined, in triadic reconciliation. How would war and violence and disruption respond to the embraces of love, as imagined through Venus, the harmonizing bond of the universe, and the Moon, the source of nocturnal cycles and mystery?

Current event are rife with violence and disruption. Not only the news cycle of Middle Eastern terrorism and police profiling in America, but also the disjunctive effects of inculcating competitive and self-promoting values within many societies, globally. Where is love and what happened to mystery as antidotes to and containers of martial narcissism?

Let us pause in the sable night, under the gleam of a crescent moon, to consider  the cyclic, the rhythmic returning of life experience, the ebb and flow of relationships, beyond individual achievement and aggression.

Let us celebrate lunar mystery in receptive openness, harnessing Ares toward the aims of peace, love and reconciliation across our communities, across the earth.

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Simplicity and Humility of the One: Religion without Walls

Trinidad Bay CA
While hiking along the bluffs of College Cove near Trinidad CA, a bold idea struck me. What if the notion of God's simplicity, oneness and all-powerfulness were non-starters, just human ways to recreate living metaphors of kingship, fatherhood or hierarchy. What if oneness were more akin to the sea or the wind--the humblest and least structured of the elements. Maybe, the aim of worship is just to relax and dissolve, to loosen the grip of everyday fears and anxieties on us, kind of like being in the shavasana or corpse posture that seals and concludes many Western yoga classes. Why extol the powerful and transcendent when a unifying breath or a dissolving immersion into the sea sends us into a healthier and more harmonious state?

Perhaps the Shabbat of Judaism is a mirror of and a pathway to this state of simple unity and restoration. Complexity and structure may surf on the wind and water, emerging from the primordial and fluid oneness. We, created in the image of the Divine, might alter our lifetime goals, if being like God were similar to merging with the breath or the ocean or taking Shabbat or lying in shavasana.

After experiencing this inverted intuition about the Divine, I returned to the hiking trail. I met a couple seated in rickety portable chairs right next to a verdant grove of Sitka Spruce. We talked about how these bluffs were like a church or synagogue or mosque without walls. One of the two said that he had written a poem entitled, "Holy Communion" about this very spot where they were sitting.

A religion without walls is a turning inward toward simple peace and a humble turning outward toward community--a community of rocks, spruce and other fellow wayfarers.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Are you an Animist or a Pantheist or Both?

Hidden Villa Park CA

Nature abounds in individuality and Nature stirs up a feeling of oneness in the soul. This paradox leads to two alternative spiritual perspectives: animism, in which every creature, rock, fungus or stream is imbued with personhood, an individual soul embedded in a community of souls or spirits, and pantheism, a reverence for and an experience of the underlying unity of Nature. I often shift between the two views. Sometimes, while hiking in the woods, I am filled with respect and awareness of each natural being I encounter. I am aflush with love for the individual unique spirit. At other moments, my focused vision fades a bit and I become conscious of the wind, the deep greenness, and my soul blending into one whole experience.
Is there a way we can reconcile both points of view? Here, metaphors--those unconfined assemblages of words, images and feelings--may aid us in integrating a sense of oneness with particularity. Our bodies are whole and we experience them such, yet when we do yoga or when we feel localized pain, we concentrate on a particular muscle or internal organ. In some ways, our hamstrings seem independent of us when they are sore or when we stretch them in a yoga posture. We are simultaneously unified in consciousness and aware of a particular part of our bodies. We are both one and multiple. Likewise perhaps, Nature is akin to a body, structurally similar to our bodies, an organic unity in variety. Yet each cell contains a potential blueprint, its DNA, that maps onto every other cells DNA. We are homogeneous and differentiated at the same time.
Maybe, just maybe, unified Nature shines through each being, refracted into an individual pattern, condensed into a unique soul. Let's get personal with each natural being and let us be reverent in Nature.