Saturday, September 19, 2015

Wendy Griffin "Crafting a Voice from the Darkness"

I'm currently taking an online course at CHERRY HILL SEMINARY, where I'm also the current Resident Artist.  The Course is Voices of Gaia, with Wendy Griffin Ph.D.   Wendy Griffin  is an extraordinary voice for Mother Earth, Gaia, Pachamama.  I was delighted to find (via the course I'm taking) this moving and urgent presentation on U Tube, which I saw when I attended the Conference in January this year.  I am further delighted that Wendy will be invoking Pachamama at the Parliament of World Religions in October.

She summed up succinctly the reality of climate change, as well as pointing out (since we are a culture that places value on money) the economic, political and social consequences coming as well…….the increasing numbers of refugees driven by the loss of habitat and resources (many speculate that the situation in Syria actually  reflects the drought they have suffered for a decade), the rising of all kinds of tribal wars and religious fundamentalism  as populations become increasingly stressed.

She spoke of the "prevailing narratives of our times, the stories we tell ourselves, the myths that we tell today" which include the fact that "our current economic system depends upon indefinite expansion - and a belief that progress through development is the ultimate good and improves everyone's lives."  And that "technology and science will save us".  She pointed out the truly terrifying denial of climate change on the part of Exxon Mobil and the oil industry in support of fracking and the oil sands of Canada.

I was moved and heartened to hear Wendy comment that "instead of these old myths what we need is a new narrative …..toward the behaviors that can create a sustainable, global civilization".    Because "re-mything culture" is at the heart of what I feel the Pagan movement can uniquely address itself to, the very reason I joined the movement so long ago, finding existing structures inadequate. 

"We need to create an understanding of how the world works as a global culture ….. We need to draw on ancient archetypes and tell ourselves new stories....and pagans are in a unique position to do this...........we understand the power of archetypes, the (power of myth making), we create these in our rituals."

I am in no way denigrating the progressive theologians. activists, and spiritual leaders associated with diverse  faiths  who are addressing climate change and the  humanitarian concerns of our times as we rapidly emerge into a global culture with a global crisis.  I am a great admirer of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and also of Pope Francis.......and so many others who have stepped up to the call of the time, great leaders.

But we are also confronted with religious forces that are fundamentalist, medieval, oppressive in their world views, and  DO NOT include evolution, climate change, women, or cultural diversity in their narrow worldviews.   And like it or not,  they have a lot of power.    Witness the power that evangelicals have within the USA, people who take the Bible as the literal truth, and wish to impose this "truth" on everyone else.  In South Carolina, for example, I recently read that some schools are not allowed to talk about fossils found locally because the age of the fossils, unfortunately, disagrees with the Biblical notion creation's timeline.  

Sadly, this kind of  "truth" also de-sacralizes the Earth and embodied existence (which, since women are generally the means by which people enter the world with a body, provides fuel to the scapegoating of half the human race as well.)   These fundamentalist religious structures were perhaps useful during the dark ages, or to wandering Semitic tribes 2,000 years ago, or the fall of the Roman empire,  but they have not evolved to be appropriate to the crisis of our time.

As an emergent religion neo-Pagans are uniquely gifted with the ability to "re-myth".    Our very creativity is our strength, and our reverence for Mother Earth is the mythos we can further.  The "new narrative" Wendy speaks of  is a task we're up to, we are weavers together in the great work of creating a  "webbed vision".  

And as Wendy pointed out in her presentation as well, this "webbed vision" has to be active, not passive, and certainly not fatalistic.    If the Earth is our Deity, then our actions upon the earth (which includes member of our species as well as all other Beings of the Earth) have to be seen as either desecration or reverence. 

While I was reading I thought of one of my favorite books, THE GURU PAPERS by Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad.  They speak of how many contemporary religions, from evangelical Christianity to aspects of Buddhism to "Guru traditions" to "A Course in Miracles"….. are in their essence   "renunciate" theologies.   In these systems  divinity is placed "elsewhere", be it the heaven or paradise that awaits the faithful ("be in the world but not of the world"This is a prime theme in religions that are  patriarchal, with authoritarian deities such as the Old Testament Yahweh.  Or , more subtly, the message is  that "this is not real", and hence "the real world" is to be found in some diviine, other-worldly abstraction once we are "purified", "enlightened",  or have our conciousness raised sufficiently.    

Human beings are myth makers, and religions are mythic, archetypal systems that help people to concretize the ineffable.  What are needed desperately now are myths/religions that are appropriate to the crisis we have been born into, that are "embodied", that sanctify again the great Community of Mother Earth.  We can't afford "somewhere else" religions, not now.

“Hope now lies in moving beyond our authoritarian religious past in order to build together a sustainable future for all the interwoven and interdependent life on our planet, which includes the human element.  We will have to evolve now into a truly compassionate and tolerant world – because for the first time since the little tribes of humanity’s infancy, everyone’s well being is once again linked with cooperation for survival.

 Our circle will have to include the entire world.”

Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad

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