Why the silly Halloween theme? It is as close as my current page-theme selections get to witches, reputedly devotees of Earth Mother.
PART TWO: Earth as Weaver of Life
This illustration is listed under the topics "goddess, nature, pagan, wicca, etc. Very appropriate to the topic at hand, BUT. . .
Free image from http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/mother%20earth
BUT. . . the realities of life and death in this world of ours is better depicted by a Goddess like Kali (Hindu) or Skadi (Norse), who were both mothers (givers of life) and destroyers (takers of life).
That is how the world is. The above scene is very pleasant, but also very otherworldly. Kali, depicted below, is widely loved as a mother and protector of children even though she is also a taker of lives and scary. Just like Mother Earth.
Free Kali image from: http://www.hindugodwallpaper.com/wallpaper-34-179.html
On Page One I said that I found this line, in the song mentioned on that page, especially interesting:
Earth is said to be
"The weaver of a web of life that keeps us all alive."
On one level that statement is superficial and obvious: we depend on other life forms to maintain our existence. This is true whether we are omnivores, vegetarians, vegans or whatever. There is a chain and web of life, and we exist within it and cannot exist outside of it for long.
But the same day my Seattle-based friend sent me the link to this song was a conjunction day: two other thoughts were in my mind as I listened to this song, and another level of meaning seemed to me to be implied by this phrase.
I hiked for a few hours up into Slaughter Canyon, part of Carlsbad Caverns National Park that day.
While hiking I was marveling at the resurgence of life in that canyon after a devastating fire just two years ago. As I walked I was taking in the visible evidence of a little greenery here and there re-emerging, using energy from the sun, using a little bit of water in this desert from the sky (weather, powered by the sun), and fed with some of the minerals present in the Earth's crust, minerals made up of elements created in other suns long, long ago.
In other words, I was acutely aware of the engine that drives life on Mother Earth: Father Sun and his very distant predecessors.
For a few minutes there was a light shower, rain in the desert! I thought "Isn't that sweet, Mother Nature is watering her struggling little plants!" Then it occurred to me: Mother Nature is also the one who dropped lightning from the sky into this very dry valley, and killed a lot of its vegetation and who knows what kind of, and how many, creatures perished at the time, or starved later. Mother nature regularly gives and takes life.
At the same time I am currently reading Howard Bloom's The God Problem, How A Godless Cosmos Creates (Prometheus Books, 2012, Kindle Edition).
What is the "God Problem?" According to Bloom's page 10 it is this:
The God Problem is the simple riddle of how the cosmos hatches explosive novelties, the riddle of how the cosmos creates. How does the universe do what only bearded deities, divine designers, and holy minds in the sky have been thought to do? How does the universe invent a big bang? How does she fashion the first quarks? How does she come up with stars and galaxies? And how does she produce the biggest puzzle of all— the life, the consciousness, and the passion that make your hundred trillion cells you, and my hundred trillion cells me?
I am not very far into this book yet, but what I have read so far gives me high hope that Bloom is seeing things the way I see them: there is a driving force in the universe (but impersonal and blind) moving to ever greater complexity and infusing that complexity with ever greater intelligence until there exists consciousness, then self awareness.
To get there, Mother Earth, on whose skin we are experiencing and witnessing the realization of this cosmic drive, tills life like a farmer clears fields and turns crops under to prepare for a different planting.
The idealized goddess pictured above is beautiful but does not represent the reality of the Earth or Nature Goddess. Earth Mother and Mother Nature are more like Kali (or like the mother/destroyer Goddess named Skadi of the Norse people). She kills as much as she births. She is benevolent and violent at the same time. She is mother and destroyer of humans. She is totally blind to human suffering. She is our reality.
We all, every one of us, will be plowed under, many by slow natural processes. Sometimes, and unexpectedly, great numbers violently perish thanks to natural events.
Mother Nature creates and destroys with no regard for individuals or any special groups. No personal Gods exist who can influence the processes of nature, so there is no sense begging them to do so.
Humans exist. Nature has endowed humans with brains and imagination, and using both they have done remarkable things in harnessing Nature's powers and ameliorating or even preventing the potential damage of recurring natural disasters. Like Nature herself, humans are both creators and destroyers. Unlike Nature, however, humans target individuals and groups when aiming their benevolence or their destructiveness.
Purpose? Cosmically, there seems to be no purpose except to create self-aware life. It is possible that this self-aware life can then collectively create purpose.
It may well be that this human-defined purpose is the manifestation of the universe's intent-less purpose.
This, as in some earlier religions, again places humans at the center of creation and the universe. But so what, if it is so?
Collectively, sentient life (here and elsewhere) is the mind of the universe.
Collectively, sentient-life-defined purpose is the purpose of the universe.
Collectively , sentient minds are a direct manifestation of the driving force of the universe, the foam on the beer added to by tiny droplets of intelligence from below, from our Mother Earth, and exploding into nonexistence when finally reaching the interface (surface for foam, death for us).
If we want to call that driving force God, so be it, but be ready to realize then that this means we are, collectively, God!
This is really a good thing. It means all the good, all the love, and all the evil, all the suffering among us is the product of humans: no angels, no devils, no God, no Satan is toying with or manipulating us. All the good and evil in our world is of our own making.
WE have the intelligence and the power to make life better for the human race. Let's do it, and make the Universe proud of itself: us.
How does Bloom address this purpose question? Haven't got there yet, but am already enthused that close to the beginning (page 11) he suggests that we exist in:
. . . a cosmos that uses you and me to dream, to fantasize, and to reengineer the very nature of reality.
Bang! We are back at the center! But not because some all-knowing fatherly deity has created this world just to give us a home where we can be tested in matters of correct faith or behavior. It is far more complicated than that, far less personal, and far less personally comforting and satisfying.
I looked ahead in Bloom's book and see that toward the end he discusses life and ourselves and our thoughts as "emergent properties." I will need to read the whole book before I can see how he handles this idea, but I have thought for a long time that sentience is an emergent property in the complex structure we call our brain.
Perhaps we are emergent properties appearing and disappearing in these self-replicating (with willing sexual cooperation from us) complex structures, not unlike the virtual particles that flash in and out of existence in the vacuum of space. (A more engaging comparison than beer-foam). There is no room for heaven, hell, spirit, soul, or eternal life in such a universe of hard physics.
All the softness and emotional comforts we enjoy are human fashioned. Just as we create comforters to wrap around us on a cold evening, we create religious fantasies of an anthropomorphic God and a personal 'salvation' --continuance of life beyond death in a "better place"--to wrap around us to guard against the emotional chill of realizing we live in an impersonal purposeless universe that creates us and then uses us (and other sentient life forms elsewhere in the universe) to actualize itself. It uses the collective sentience of us all (humans and other life forms elsewhere) like a cloud computing system, with no care for or respect for us (or others) as individual beings.
The universe has no wish to alter any aspect of our lives or any
ability or wish to answer prayers. It is we who inject love into the
picture. It is our collective love that provides the universal
Love we feel when in a super-conscious
or mystical state, a Love that warms us from the inside and makes our light shine
in the darkness. But it is all just more emergent properties we
are experiencing, properties that go out as we die as surely as a broken
filament in a light bulb results in darkness, but will forever-more be present in
those who are still living and those yet to come.
It is noncomforting except in one way: this life is our poem to write for a temporary audience of one: our selves. There was no life before, there will be no life after, for us. Not in the way many of us think of it, as a personal continuity into forever. So every moment of the life we now live is a gift from the universe. Every moment ought to be cherished for the miracle that it brings us: the possibility to be aware of our being and to create beauty, softness, joy and love in an uncaring, impersonal, mechanical universe that doesn't give a hoot about us as individuals but expresses itself through us (and others elsewhere in the universe) as a collective sentient entity.
BUT WAIT, you correctly observe. If we are collectively the mind and heart of the universe, if we collectively are God, then our creation of human love and Divine Love is a creation of and by the universe. That means that wherever there is life, especially sentient, self-aware life, there is God and Love and all the things that I am saying do not exist.
Agreed, they do not exist apart from us. They do exist in us, and in a sense that does indicate that the universe does care about us individually. But the universe's caring is through us. We care for each other.
As long as we exist as a species, or morph into a yet more advanced species, there will be God and Love in the universe. They are us, we are them.
But we are also the authors of all the evil there is in the self-aware universe. It is also us, we are also it. The choice of which predominates at any given place or time is ours. The power is within us, collectively, to turn the world into a kinder, gentler more loving place. That is the good news, the gospel if you will, and imitating the man many feel to have been perfect in terms of his love and concern for others is a good way to start the world-improvement process. Improve the universe one sentient being at a time, and start with the person in the mirror.
So what does this newfound nihilism in myself do to the comfort I used to get from contemplating my all-time favorite poem from Rumi?Quoting Star and Shiva, pp. 148-149 of "A Garden Beyond Paradise" (click here to go to one of my Rumi pages for the full reference):
The poem still has comforting power, but my new nihilism sobers my reading of it. I need to become more acquainted with the idea, also associated with Kali, that we need to be able to accept ourselves as constructs, our egos as illusions and not realities.
Kali's sword symbolizes her function to slash us free from Maya, a false consciousness, which convinces us we are individuals and confuses our selves with our egos. I am surprised that my new way of seeing cosmic reality conforms to what Wikipedia says about Maya as illusion (note the similarity of the ocean/drop imagery used here to the imagery used by Rumi above):
Maya or Maya . . . has multiple meanings, usually quoted as "illusion", centered on the fact that we do not experience the environment itself but rather a projection of it, created by us. Maya is the principal deity that manifests, perpetuates and governs the illusion and dream of duality in the phenomenal Universe. For some mystics, this manifestation is real. Each person, each physical object, from the perspective of eternity, is like a brief, disturbed drop of water from an unbounded ocean. The goal of enlightenment is to understand this—more precisely, to experience this: to see that the distinction between the self and the Universe is a false dichotomy. The distinction between consciousness and physical matter, between mind and body (refer bodymind), is the result of an unenlightened perspective.
It is an interesting and maybe sad thing that my father and I, back when I was a committed devotee of a Christian religion, would argue this point again and again. The above statement closely reflects what I used to hear from him. He promised me that someday when I grow up I will realize that he is right and my notions of eternal personal survival, remaining the person I believe I am now, is an illusion I would do well to rid myself of.
He suggested I could be more at peace with myself if I just trusted in the reality of things as they are, rather than the false realities I wrapped myself in. What false realities? My religion-based beliefs about the nature of my self and about the nature of reality. I see now that he was right, I was wrong.
Why is it better to not believe in the eternal existence of the person I believe that I am most of the time? It allows one to stop living part of one's life in a future that does not exist. It forces one to take every moment of this life seriously, to see each moment as a gift, an opportunity to write another line of the poem of our life for our own satisfaction.
Life's moments, while we are capable of finding joy in them, are precious. They are not just opportunities for doing chores we feel we must perform to please some judge standing at the gates to an eternal life that is more important and real than this life. There is simply no such thing. Not in this universe.
This view, I am coming to realize, says that if we want to love and be loved, we must look to our fellow sentient beings, not to some abstraction in the non-material world. All the love in this world of our experience comes from humans, individually and collectively. A hermit in continual contemplation of an external God, no matter what his or her religious persuasion, is barking up the wrong tree, figuratively speaking. All the love that exists in the universe comes from sentient beings like us humans. If God is Love, we are God. Collectively.
Perhaps the inner drive many of us feel to think loving thoughts, to say loving words, and to do loving deeds are, through us, becoming a new emergent property of the universe.
If we believe so, collectively with other sentient beings elsewhere, it will be so!
But don't hold your breath. We need you alive to make this work.
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