Monday, April 16, 2012

Anthropocene: the "Age of Man"?

"The  Council  of All Beings is a series  of  re-Earthing  rituals created  by  John  Seed and Joanna Macy to  help  end  the  sense of  alienation  from  the  living Earth that  many  of  us  feel.  Through  interactive   exercises,   we practice  letting  go of the socially constructed,  isolated self and come home  to our inter-existence with all  forms of life.  We  retrace our  steps through our evolutionary journey and allow other  life forms to speak through us. We shed our  solely human identification  and feel deep empathy for the myriad species and  landscapes of the Earth.  We see that the  pain of the Earth is our own pain." 

Council of all Beings Workshop Manual

It's ironic that as i listened to the video below, which suggests that we have rapidly been moving into the "Anthrocene",  or the "geological epoch of man", two earnest theological students are talking about God's goodness at the table next to me, and "His will".  I'm glad they can't read my mind..........

I think, once upon a time, I understood their faith. And by no means am I denigrating many of the compassionate teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.   It would be comforting to be nested into such a faith, a human faith that doesn't include polar bears, or plankton, or eco-systems, or even many women in its vision of  divinity and mono-theism.   I fancifully  imagine a discussion next door about the sanctity of  the evolution of all the eco-systems and  Sentient Beings upon this increasingly small, infinately precious planet....and find myself entering into  silent dispute with the commentators in the video as well..........what would it be like if this was the "Age of Woman", or at least, the more egalitarian "Age of Humanity"? Would it  make any difference in the face of our technology driven civilization, of a new god whose name is Profit? Sometimes I think so, other times I view our civilization is a run-away train.  
"THE GURU PAPERS critiques the guru/disciple liaison because it is a clear-cut example of the old, no longer appropriate paradigm of spiritual authority. It is not that we doubt that some who are considered gurus have deeper insights than their followers. Yet even with the best intentions, assuming the role of spiritual authority for others sets in motion a system of interaction that is mechanical, predictable, and contains the essence of corruption. Another purpose of this book is to show that corruption is not simply the failure or weakness of a specific individual, but is structurally built into any authoritarian relationship, and less obviously, any renunciate morality."(p.35)

In their book THE GURU PAPERS - Masks of Authoritarian Power,  Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad** coined the term "Renunciate" systems, referring to religious and social systems that are derived from an inherent renunciation of the world, a denial of body and flesh, of the  "here and now" of  life. I think it's a brilliant book that examines many contemporary spiritual systems from the point of view of the old paradigm of authoritarian, hierarchical systems, and is no doubt disturbing in the challenge it offers  to a broad spectrum of beliefs, from fundamentalist Christianity, to the "surrender to the Guru" advocated by Hindu ashrams, to a discussion of the "tyranny of Oneness" found in Eastern religions,  to such popular New Age systems as the "Course in Miracles". 

“Beware of organizations that proclaim their devotion to the light without embracing, bowing to the dark; for when they idealize half the world they must devalue the rest.”
 One thing these systems share in common is a sometimes subtle underlying assertion that "This is not real".  That the ultimate (and hence, the only important "reality") is somewhere else than within our bodies and bodily experience (which include the collective cycles of nature), or within the living world.  Whether conceived of as a pristine heaven or paradise wherein the chosen or saved are rewarded (after suffering the indignities of life), or something more esoteric that is more "real" and "better" than life,  "renunciate" systems are "transcendent" in their message rather than "Immanent" or "numinous".  What is sacred is somewhere else, and you need a spiritual authority of some kind or degree to get you there.    

The Authors point out that systems that teach us to believe that "what is sacred is somewhere else" , or to continually render our will and discernment over to "spiritual authorities" will also not help us to deal with the actual crisis of our time.  I might add that many of the systems they discuss, renouncing  and devaluing  "worldly experience", also teach a kind of useless passivity as well (which goes along nicely with authoritarian systems).    As Starhawk once said, "If we go with the flow, we're flowing straight into extinction."

We need to break the long spell, to learn to speak and to listen to the Earth.  How can we create new theologies, mythologies, that can speak to the hearts and imaginations of the future in ways that teach Immanance?  I think as I write of the movie Avatar, for example............or the procession that took  the "waters of the world" to the river Brue, to flow out into the world as a healing from Avalon at Glastonbury last year when I attended the Goddess conference.   Small or large, important ways to re-myth, re-sanctify, so important for all of us to take in, and create out into the world.   It's our task to speak,  by whatever means, whatever means, because if not us.........who?  So many of our relations, and those who are yet unborn...........have no voice...

 Anthropocene, or the Age of Man.


“Easily the most comprehensive, erudite, and timely book in print to explore authoritarianism in religion, institutions, power, the family, intimacy and sexual relations, and personal problems such as addiction.... Argue[s] persuasively that any system of values that places tradition and the past above the imperative to question the present is destined to become increasingly lethal."



Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Terrific post, Lauren. I find that images of the hands truly compelling.

Valerianna said...

Yes, terrific post! Thanks. Just had my Myth & Symbol class here for a retreat two weekends ago. We did a Council of all Beings-type exercise. They loved it. Being between 18 & 22, they have truly been raised in this crisis time. Its fascinating to hear them, their fears, their passion for the Earth. I know its a certain cross-section, but, alas, more and more of the students I teach KNOW that we need to change. Many more than 20 years ago when I started teaching.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Tipping point? Let's hope so.

Lauren Raine said...

thanks my friends........Valerianna, how marvelous your studio and group in the woods must be to attend.

Trish and Rob.......yes, let's hope things are changing........