Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Journal of a Soul 19


If spirituality is about anything, it is about connecting in a real and authentic way with self, others, whatever life force you believe in (you may be one of the many millions who call this force God) and indeed with Mother Earth or Gaia,of whom I have talked much in this and other blogs.  I was reminded of this connectedness we have with the Earth by listening to Pat Kenny this morning interviewing the author George Monbiot on his new book Feral, the review of which you will find HERE 

As a young country boy, I loved running free (or wild) through the fields and meadows which were so close to our house in a little rural Irish town.  The smells of those fields, of the grasses, the flowers and the cow pats still linger in my nostrils.  We city dwellers are a long way from the wild-ness of nature.  To walk through the fields and hills of one's locality (after all we can all find access to such places if we really want to with a little effort!) is in a very powerful way to connect with one's Real Self (Carl Ransom Rogers) or with the Soul (Religions, New Age Spirituality and Popular Psychology).

In a very real way, we are embodied souls or ensouled bodies and the link between the two is inextricable.  That is why I love the term BODY-SOUL or SOUL-BODY.  That is also why I find the concept of a Cartesian Dualism, not alone intellectually difficult to get one's head around, but very silly indeed.  As the philosopher Gilbert Ryle famously put it, such dualism, which says that the soul somehow inhabits the husk of the body rather like a liquid in a bottle, could simply be called "a ghost in a machine" and is ridiculous as such.  Whatever the Soul is, it is embodied or enfleshed.  Can it exist apart from the body?  That is a big question indeed.  Perhaps it can!

Moreover, a lot of us have experienced powers that play through us or inspire us, though, of course, this is not the same reality as the soul, although one could presume that the spirit works through the medium of that soul. I was once invited by a cousin to an AA meeting which he was chairing and everyone there attested to a higher power whom they believed pulled them out of their pit of despair rather like being attracted to a magnetic north.  They also attested that they could not become sober without trusting in the goodness of such a higher spiritual force.  I have myself experienced my being filled with a spiritual power several times while meditating on my own and with groups, and while attending various concerts, religious ceremonies, funerals, celebrations, plays and poetry readings and so on.  Whether this spiritual power is psychic - intra-psychic or inter-psychic - or from a different realm I am not too sure.  However, I am very open to there being spiritual powers beyond my finite and limited ken.  Moreover, I certainly believe that the soul is a spiritual principle somehow connected to the body, that is, it is certainly not something unconnected that rattles around within the husk of my body.  Any way, enough of this idle philosophical speculation.  Let me get down to the point of this post.  Like a river, I suppose it is nice to meander now and then, so, forgive me...

Commenting on the CAP (that is, the Common Agricultural Policy of the EU - a policy that had been cornerstone of the original Treaty of Rome which set up the EEC as it then was called), George Monbiot told Pat Kenny of RTE Radio that this policy had contributed to environmental damage by encouraging farmers to increase output through intensive practices such as the application of chemical insecticides and pesticides, and through the removal of hedgerows.  The CAP has furthermore been criticised due to its impact on farmland bird populations.  Wiki reports the following: "Between 1980 and 2009, the farmland bird population has decreased from 600 million to 300 million, implying a loss of 50%. Among the species that have been hit hardest are the starling and the tree sparrow, which have both declines by 53%. The removal of hedgerows and ploughing over meadows are two significant factors that may have contributed to more efficient farming, but that also caused a decrease in farmland birds' habitats."  See HERE 

It would seem that in our efforts to increase our wealth we are helping to destroy our planet.  In a newly produced TV programme on the River Shannon, Ireland's largest river, the presenter/writer Colin Stafford-Johnson alludes to the virtual disappearance of the corncrake (rare bird in these parts) due to farming practices.  This is a wonderfully filmed series and is currently being broadcast by our national broadcaster. See IWT and RTE Player. That this wonderful river is teeming with life in all its bio-diversity and interconnectedness is manifestly obvious.  That such an intricate and wondrous nexus of life is delicately balanced is also a given fact.  Further, that humankind can pollute and destroy such a web of life is also sadly a growing reality.

Spirituality, as I have outlined in my opening paragraph is about connectedness or connection or about the ability to make connections, to interconnect, to reach out beyond the individual and to feel part of a whole network of life or of being.  It is about the flow of energy or power or spirit.  In this sense spirituality is about making whole or healing the planet, the very opposite to polluting and destroying it.  In a very real sense, then, to claim to be spiritual and to engage in non-spiritual practices is a contradiction in terms!  Ponder this point as it is worth so doing!

We humans are unusual creatures in that we are at once the overseers of and part of the world which we observe - being both the observer and the observed at one and the same time.   That we are gradually polluting and killing our planet inevitably means that we are gradually poisoning and killing ourselves.

That we are part of the planet is also very much an integral part of our spirituality.  We are constituents of the wonderful, intricate and wondrous nexus of life that makes up Mother Earth or Gaia.  Most spiritualities today insist that ecology plays a central part in the way we interact or connect with the world around us. However, this is not surprising as nature always played a central role in traditional religions.  One has only to refer briefly to the Old Testament Psalms which saw/see creation as the work of a loving God who had/has set humankind over creation as its stewards.

The Home Tree - Avatar
We take our symbols from nature, and one of the greatest we have is possibly that of the tree.  In the Book of Genesis we have The Tree of Knowlege of Good and Evil.  In a lot of religions, theologies and indeed science fiction films we have references to the famous Tree of Life. This tree symbolises the interconnection of all life on our planet and serves as a metaphor for common descent in the evolutionary sense. The term tree of life may also be used as a synonym for sacred tree.  The Wiki tells us succinctly that  "[t]he tree of knowledge, connecting to heaven and the underworld, and the tree of life, connecting all forms of creation, are both forms of the world tree or cosmic tree, according to the Encyclop√¶dia Britannica, and are portrayed in various religions and philosophies as the same tree."  Is it any wonder, then, that such a potent symbol of the tree played a very central role in the wonderful sci-fi film Avatar? (It is called the Home Tree or the Tree of Souls in that film, if my memory serves me at all well!)

I began this post by aluding to the recently published book called Feral  by George Monbiot wherein he calls for the "wilding" of our flatlands and farmlands, much of which we have simply cut back with no reason except to gain CAP payments.  And what a marvellous neologism is that word "wilding" which he composes!  In the concrete jungles that we humans have made for ourselves, it is very hard indeed to put down roots.  It's very hard, again, not to be alienated from nature, from the Earth, and also from ourselves, indeed.  Maybe the price we pay for supposed progress is far too high a price to pay!  Maybe. Maybe!  

Given the use of the verbal noun "wilding," let us finish this post with a few lines from one of W.B. Yeats wonderful poems which mention the word "wild" therein:

Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand.
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.

(from "The Stolen Child" published in 1889. )

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