Archive for the ‘fundamentalism’ Tag

Refounding Our Fundamentals   2 comments

First, a quotation from Dion Fortune, who flourished in the 30s and 40s of the last century, and did much to launch contemporary understandings of spiritual wholeness, vitality and magic:

“When, in order to concentrate exclusively on God, we cut ourselves off from nature, we destroy our own roots. There must be in us a circuit between heaven and earth, not a one-way flow depriving us of all vitality … it is not enough for our mental health and spiritual development that we draw down the Divine Light, we must also draw up the earth forces. Only too often mental health is sacrificed to spiritual development through ignorance of, or denial of, this fact. Nature is God made manifest, and we blaspheme Her at our peril.” — Dion Fortune, Applied Magic.

While several monotheisms exist which offer training in drawing down the divine light, where in the world do we learn how to draw up the earth forces?

Some of us learn precisely here — in the world. Exploring nature as a child can often go far toward linking us with currents which can help sustain us all life long, if we don’t break the circuit ourselves. We find that secret place away from adults — a tree, stone, grove, meadow, pool in a stream. Maybe we share it with a few others our age, or maybe not. Many who feel drawn to Druidry as adults once enjoyed that contact, and come to realize it includes part of what’s missing after they’ve been alive for a few decades and felt the loss keenly.

[Some forms of Christianity have much to teach concerning honoring the earth and drawing on the telluric or earth forces. The current interest in Celtic spirituality, admittedly sometimes a romanticizing of the realities of its ascetic strain, mirrors such an instinctive search for the rebalancing of the telluric and solar forces. And among other contemporary Druid teachers, J M Greer addresses this in his The Druidry Handbook:

“It’s no wonder so many modern people are deluded into thinking of nature as an unnecessary luxury, and fail to notice their glittering artificial world depends, moment by moment, on vast inputs of materials and energy wrenched from their places in the cycles of the living earth …

Psychologists have shown that many kinds of mental illness have a central factor in common. Despite the stereotype, mentally ill people don’t lose the ability to think clearly; psychotic delusions are often masterpieces of internally consistent deductive logic. The trouble comes because this elegant reasoning loses touch with anything outside itself. Deductions become delusions when they stop being tested against the way the world actually works” (pg. 144).

That wordless communion a child enjoys, which it may not be able to verbalize to adults, begins to be restored to us when we again spend time outdoors. While our headspace is fuller and noisier than when we were children, the “green yoga” of opening our senses, listening, and letting thoughts subside, is a vital practice — quite literally: one that grants vitality. A backyard altar, as simple as a low-hanging tree branch or flowerpot or corner of the fenceline, which I visit each day and where I rededicate myself, becomes a source, a well, a font of sanctity.

Those who struggle to blend approaches, who have — for instance — remained devoted to Jesus, even if church has become a trial and even a hindrance, and who long to honor the holiness they also sense in the natural world, might ponder this reflection from Steve Shelton, who has commented here and elsewhere, and whose path as Christian and Druid lets each enrich the other:

“Let the Christian and Druid talk with each other — they seem to have a way of working this out, usually while we are doing something else.”

And Denise comments:

“Nothing new under the sun, as Ecclesiastes says. We can only do what the ancestors did — keep trying. As long as we’re still human we won’t quite get it right, none of us. Some days — most days — the biggest challenge is to remember that I’m as bad as ‘them’ in my own way and do my best not to cause harm”.

Here is humility, a quality often missing from fundamentalism, which too often speaks from an arrogant certainty that closes off possibilities of growth and discovery. We can also flip the words at need: “I’m as good as them in my own way, and do my best to cause good”.

The etymology of humility tells us much — earthed, grounded, in touch with the humus, the dirt which nourishes us through the other bodies we consume, whether plants or animals, and which our own bodies will nourish in their turn.

The Dao De Jing (Ch. 14/Winter Bynner trans.) observes (adjust the gender to present-day standards):

One who knows his lot to be the lot of all other men
Is a safe man to guide them,
One who recognizes all men as members of his own body
Is a sound man to guard them.

And again, in Ch. 27, pointing us towards one of the results of practice — our ability to salvage in each other what we may think we’ve lost:

A sound man is good at salvage,
At seeing that nothing is lost.
Having what is called insight,
A good man, before he can help a bad man,
Finds in himself the matter with the bad man.
And whichever teacher
Discounts the lesson
Is as far off the road as the other,
Whatever else he may know.
That is the heart of it.

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Where else does fundamentalism take root? The plant metaphor is an apt one. It finds fertile soil in our human capacity to navigate through a deluge of complex sensory and mental inputs, filter and sort them, and then to generalize, schematize, summarize, simplify and transmit them to others.

Blessings to the ancestors for passing along to us many rules of thumb. Some concern the natural world. They may be simple, and some even rhyme: “leaves of three, let them be” for identifying poison ivy. Others we seem to pick up from the air around us. It’s no surprise we’re comfortable around PLU, Jane Austen’s name for and means of poking fun at our clannish and tribal tendencies. “People Like Us” reassure us we fit, we belong to a place. Yes, they say, there’s a soft, warm niche among us with your name on it. And anything that threatens that can draw up deep reserves of fear of the Other. Let that threat come from among a member of the tribe, and that member will eventually be ostracized as surely as a complete foreigner and outsider will be.

Part of the vigor of the fundamentalist tendency in all of us rests in our solidarity with a tribe whose members are all “looking in the same direction”.

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Two keys for dealing with the fundamentalist tendency find echoes in the common law of almost every society we know. In simplest form, they’re the promise and the practice of respect. At root, they form the core of common law, of contract and tort law.

In his remarkable book Whatever Happened to Justice (2004), Richard Maybury lays them out like this: “Do all you have agreed to do, and do not encroach on other persons or their property”. If we’re searching for a clear-headed diagnosis of the times, we might consider how well we’ve been applying these in the United States over the last few decades.

Extend the first principle just a little, and we begin to see a spiritual obligation we often lose sight of. What have we agreed to do? The Western version most of us have inherited has been pared down and simplified until it resembles “Do what makes you happy”; “Follow your bliss”, “March to the beat of your own drummer”.

We’ve lost a more comprehensive vision that connects us to every other being and level of existence. The “mass fundamentalisms” of the West have swept us all up, whatever our private beliefs. They have deified the self of the apparent world (the one that Druidry gently tries to draw us beyond from time to time, so we can recover a vision of the greater self), while also delivering us to a point where we don’t know that we’ve agreed to anything else (we often deny that there is anything else to agree to), or that we are also selves beyond the apparent world, so that we can’t see the terms of our agreement coming due, we’ve “blasphemed Nature at our peril”, and we’ve forgotten how to get back on a good track again.

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Fortunately the tools we need are at hand, and a little exploration and experimentation shows us which ones will serve us best in our own unique circumstances and situations.

Despite what you read in the headlines, the most important fixes are never big ones. They begin small, in the self, in each self, where all real change occurs, and then flow outward into the world from there. When a “big fix” occurs, it can only occur because enough selves have “gotten on board”. The group consciousness has to change first, and that’s where it’s most productive and effective to focus.

I make of myself a culture in the biological sense, and I then infect those around me. That is, I cultivate a set of attitudes, perspectives and abilities which will spread and flower and propagate because I have brought them into manifestation in myself. This may sound mysterious or bizarre or even frightening, until we realize we’re all doing this all the time already. The sole difference is whether I do it as consciously and intentionally as possible, or whether I tend to drift and sway in and with the living currents others send out toward me.

Will I be cause, or effect? Will I at least choose?

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