Archive for the ‘Genesis’ Tag

“I’m doing Druidry wrong”   Leave a comment

Have you seen them? The ridiculous (to my mind, anyway) articles, often partial advertisements or product placements, that purport to instruct the reader.  They arrive in a simple format, usually with the same clear lead: “You’re doing X wrong”.

(I strive to avoid yielding my attention, as much as possible, to things that can’t instruct me, however I may initially feel about them. So let’s see what we can gain here, for I would exploit all things that seek to manipulate me, and wring from them something both needful and utile. You know: just to turn them back on themselves, and fulfill my part in manifesting the ancient wisdom that says all thing work together for good for those that love. Because, to exploit another more recent piece of wisdom, “Everything will be all right in the end. If it’s not all right, it is not yet the end”*. We are, after all, actors in a 10 billion-year-old play. Just gotta get through this particular scene. Find your character’s mark, don’t bump into the furniture, deliver your lines with feeling. Ah, there now.)

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Public? private? Is there a difference, if both need clearing?

Now it may be Americans in particular who are susceptible to this form of social insecurity — wanting desperately to fit in, do the right thing (wear and drive and own and think the right things), be hip, be au courant, woke, and all the other necessary adjustments that our national Puritanism tells us are necessary for secular salvation. And so perhaps only Americans are doing our planetary Druidry wrong. Or not.

(Anyone outside the petri dish-circus-nuclear meltdown-barbecue that is America can spot a number of necessary adjustments Americans should be making for our own good and the good of the planet, but which we somehow inexplicably and wilfully ignore, but that’s another matter. We all have our own to-do lists.)

If there was money in it, somebody somewhere would be telling me I’m doing Druidry wrong.

And I am. Because all that means is I’m not doing me precisely like you’re doing you.

The tree-wisdom that is Druidry means living our lives on earth, in these earth-bodies, whatever else may be going on with us, whatever other realms we inhabit. All we can do is go with what we get — through the senses and training and experience, memory and genetics, personality and character, hints and clues and dreams, the nudges and examples of friends who wish us well, inner and outer gods and neighbors, animals and the blessed trees.

Quite a package. When we say we don’t know what to do, how to choose, what matters, how to go on, it’s not for lack of choices and possibilities, but from a super-abundance. And no clue, key or compass ready to hand.

So when I say I’m doing Druidry wrong, I mean by that what Thoreau says (pronouns expanded): “I desire that there may be as many different persons in the world as possible; but I would have each one be very careful to find out and pursue their own ways, and not their father’s or their mother’s or their neighbor’s instead”.

That is, I ignore or defy peer pressure (insofar as I can) where it really matters — not in the obvious outward ways of young people discovering for the first time what it means to have a self, choosing hair or makeup or clothing or other faddishness at odds with arbitrary norms that superficially reassure us all is well, that the walls are secure, that wakeful sentries guard the gates. Not outwardly but inwardly I wander and marvel, where as yet the Thought Police do not patrol. (Though cookies and bots, Google and Amazon are scratching at the windows.)

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What cookies have I swallowed whole lately?

It’s because we do not trust each other to “be very careful to find out and pursue their own ways, and not their father’s or their mother’s or their neighbor’s instead” that we feel we must lay out tracks and paths for all, lest the heedless deeds of a few bring down the whole ramshackle scaffold that passes for civilization. And the few are never us but always Somebody Else. Until the trees finally reach me and teach me differently.

Ya gotta go wrong to go right.

“You gotta get in to get out”, Genesis sings in “The Carpet Crawlers”.

“The only way out is through”, says Robert Frost in “A Servant to Servants“.

outbackstAh, Outback Steakhouse, guru of the moment, with its tag “No rules, just right” — there’s a form of my own credo: that somehow, in the spiritual Outback we’re each exploring, I suspect there’s a path that’s right, apart from (other’s) rules, one for each of us. My evidence: we’re all walking our own paths anyway, in case you haven’t noticed.

Something of what all this can mean in turn I’ll be addressing in the next post.

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*The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, 2011.

Images: cookies picture by Kimberly Vardeman; Outback Steakhouse tagline.

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The Trees — Druid & Christian Theme 1   2 comments

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tree-of-life

[This post begins a series of explorations of nine themes that can serve as sources of ritual and common ground for Druids and Christians. I’m setting forth on such a series for two reasons. First, reader interest spiked, with visitors from over a dozen countries in the 24 hours after “Jesus and Druidry, Part 3” was posted. Second, I include myself among the interested.

The great majority of us have Christian friends, relatives or co-workers. Also, many of us know Biblical stories and images, and count them as part of our “wisdom-store”. Some of us have also experienced the more toxic forms of institutional religion but nonetheless have managed to hold on to a love for the Light in its Christian garb.]

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“Image is more transformational than doctrine”.

As I started to draft a list of Druid-Christian themes, that message came through sharply. How to make generous use of imagery in helping to energize the transformations Druidry — and Christianity — can provide? John Muir writes, “The power of imagination makes us infinite”. I’d amend that: the potential in the wise use of imagination can reveal our limitlessness. Not as snappy, but more accurate, for me.

First on my list of image-themes is “trees”. As a primary Druid focus, trees also link to Christianity. One obvious example appears in the book of Genesis with its two trees in Eden, the tree of knowledge* and the tree of life. If Druids are tree-knowers and seekers of tree-wisdom, these two trees have something to teach.

ramon_llull_tree_of_knowledge

arbor scientiae — tree of knowledge

One year as I read Genesis with my high school students in freshman English, a student quipped that the real problem was one of sequence. Adam and Eve simply ate from the wrong tree first. “What are we supposed to take away from this? Go for immortality, then knowledge!” (The other order may leave you wise but dead.)

Wit can take you surprisingly far at times. Perhaps the serpent as well was mistaken in the advice he gave. Why no mention of the other tree? Was immortality in fact already an option at that point? After all, God never banned that second tree. Or did we need it, even then? Was that an early mystery? Isn’t life inherent in all we are and experience? We’ve all sensed the undying in us, even as the physical body faces all the many challenges that will one day wear it out, even as our beloved Druid trees must eventually fall.

We can also see in the two trees a kind of psychic split, perhaps — a split in us, in our consciousness. But together the two name a wholeness that Druidry and other traditions point us towards. The cycle of birth and death reveals an underlying energy or vitality — the thing that makes worlds possible, that greens (and reddens) them with life, with chlorophyll and hemoglobin. “From the One come Two; from the Two, Three; from the Three, the Ten Thousand Things”, says the Tao Te Ching.

A persistent Christian legend has it that the wood for the cross of the Crucifixion originates from the Tree of Knowledge, or in some variants of the story, from a tree that grew from seed that Adam’s third son Seth planted in his father’s corpse. A full circle of ritual story here, or better, a spiral: it’s a tree that stands at the center of the Christian drama. Literally, wood serving as the stage for the unfolding of the human experience of the loss of innocence that comes with maturation, and the return, for those willing to make the effort to learn and grow and change.

The fruit of the tree of knowledge is, after all, desirable, because it holds the power “to make one wise”, as the serpent tells Eve. Life (the Hebrew meaning of Eve) tells us as much.

Why not then a Druidic-Christian “Mass of the Holy Trees”?

“Tree and leaf, breath and fruit, wisdom and life — all these come from you …”

bri-cross-shoulderBring branches and leaves, images of both cross and spiral, Brighid’s cross serving well for a combination of these. A cross — the quartered world of directions and physical energies, the elements, the cycle of death and life. Spiral — an image of eternity, of rebirth and continuity, the cycle continuing.

But wait … there’s more.

The book of Revelation gives us the image of heaven or eternity in the holy city, foursquare (four again!) and whole. And through it runs

… a river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb, down the middle of the main street of the city. On either side of the river stood a tree of life, producing twelve kinds of fruit and yielding a fresh crop for each month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations (Rev. 22:1-2).

“The leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations”: the tree of knowledge has merged with the tree of life — or rather there is no difference between them. All the healing we have sought in knowledge now issues from a double(d) tree — one on “both sides” of the river. And it is fruitful in every month, a cornucopia, a message that each month has its life and healing energy, freely given, whatever the apparent season. In the middle of a city, a human and humanly-shaped place, grows life in its most potent imaginal form as Tree, the world-tree, a worldwide image and cluster of stories.

Here are powerful images to unite Christian and Druid observance and practice. A second Druid-Christian theme is up next.

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Images: tree of lifeBrighid’s cross tattoo; tree of knowledge.

*Tree of Knowledge: the illustration comes from Ramon Llull’s Arbre de Ciencia or Tree of Knowledge. Llull, aka Raymond Lully (1232-1315), was a renowned medieval writer and thinker, who studied both Latin and Arabic science and mathematics.

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