Religion and Ecology
Presented by Morgause Fonteleve at the 2nd Interreligious Forum Conference entitled ‘Religion and Ecology’ at the University of Pretoria, Groenkloof Campus 15 August 2012.
In the last 24 hours, over 220 000 acres of rain forest have been destroyed, 50 000 people died of starvation and more than 145 plant or animal species became extinct.
In the past century half the world’s wetlands have vanished, 80% of grasslands and 40% of the worlds land surface suffer from soil degeneration. 70% of the world’s fisheries are depleted and the world’s freshwater system is greatly in peril. Daily we read about new killer viruses, severe weather and catastrophic storms are getting progressively worse, earthquakes, tsunamis, cancer causing pollution, threats to our food and water supplies, and so on.
The New Age Movement advocates the interconnectedness of everything in and through God. Academically speaking, within the ranks of the New Age Movement, stands Neo-Paganism, the reconstruction of pre-Christian spirituality.
Pagans experience a strong connection to Mother Nature, hold the Earth and all its creatures as sacred, and seek personal connection with the Divine through the celebration of the Cycles as well as through communion with everything in which Divine Essence permeates.
Most Pagan Paths are pantheistic or polytheistic celebratory faiths. Pagans maintain that planet Earth is alive and all of its organisms and inorganic surroundings are closely interrelated and integrated, forming a complex system of life, a subtle process of give and take. This Collective co-operation in equilibrium is what creates and maintains the conditions for life as we know it on the planet.
The heresy of separatism is what has lead to the growing series of extremely urgent crises that confronts the world today. It brought about pollution, destruction of the balance of nature, over-population, world-wide economic and political disorder and the creation of an environment that is neither physically nor mentally healthy for the people who live in it.
Pantheism does not ascribe to personal Gods, but believes instead that the Universe is sacred and divine. Everything shares in divine essence; divinity does not transcend reality, but surrounds the All and is within it too. Pantheists believe in the immanent essence of the Divine. The collective whole, the cosmos, the earth are all therefore One and sacred.
Paganism reconciles science and religion through ecology leading to strong environmental awareness in the Movement.
Gaia is the primal Greek goddess who personifies the Earth. She is “Mother Nature”, or Mother God!
The mountains, the soil, the rivers, the atmosphere, etc. are all organs/parts of the Mother’s body and the processes of reaping, harvesting, consumption and replacement are the mechanics which directly affect Her metabolism. Perhaps this happens in a slow, almost imperceptible manner, but it happens, and presents serious repercussions further down the line. The Gaia Movement and the Global Green Movement are mainly concerned with humans living life in a more sustainable manner within the living, breathing divine Whole. Mother Earth must be protected from destructive human activity masquerading under the guise of progress and advancement. This calls for sustainable development as well as the return of industrialised nations to a more wholesome, more respectful way of life.
Let’s look at the bigger picture. Life starts in water; life on the planet and life in our mother’s wombs. If we analyze the health of the marine ecosystem, it becomes evident how serious the matter of ecology is.
Plankton production has been affected through drastic climatic changes. The ocean’s “salt pump” has been disturbed by the melting of the ice masses at the poles. It regulates the salinity of the Oceans, the ocean currents, the coastal temperatures and winds. This affects life in the oceans as well as life on the landmasses.
Dragging and dredging disrupts and disturbs the fragile balance of the ocean floors, obliterating many species of crustacean and subsequently the smaller fish. Fishing out areas has lead to an alarming decline in vertebrates, matched by an increase in invertebrates.
The large predator fish have been systematically depleted through overfishing. In the last 50 years the abundance of large fish (like cod, swordfish, tuna and recently even hake) has dropped by 90 per cent. Fishing vessels now pursue the smaller forage fish. Man is fishing down the food chain therefore, and this promises dire consequences for the planet and mankind. It is a big vicious circle.
Al Gore said, “We face a true planetary emergency. The climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity. It is also our greatest opportunity to lift Global Consciousness to a higher level.”
Crisis has the ability to organise people against the common enemy. We may organise ourselves around the ideology of ecology to combat pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, soil erosion, poverty, sickness, famine. We have finally realised that man is man’s greatest enemy and that the human family needs to awaken, stand together and live according to principles of commonwealth, ecological morality and social philosophical ethics of respect and protection of the environment. This will come through a shift of consciousness.
Einstein stated that humankind could not resolve its problems from within the same place of consciousness in which they had been created. Humankind is at a turning point. A period of mental and spiritual transition, a passage to the next phase of human evolution, we believe it to be one of spiritual unity through diversity.
The best way to reshape the World is to start recreating our own internal world. If we do not attempt what some consider to be “the impossible”, and contribute in our own little (but by no means insignificant) way, the “unthinkable” will certainly happen. Too soon for apathetic comfort …
A person’s body is an invaluable gift that should be cherished, enjoyed and be cared for. Everything is sacred and worthy of one’s respect and protection, for “everything” is part of our “Greater Body”.
Amongst the Greek Pagans the word Arête meant virtue and by virtue we understand the level of inner personal excellence associated with the “All-Good”, which ensures the benefit of all. It is not akin to “good” and not the opposite of “bad”. It simply is the Original Essence upon which man attempted to improve and failed, seeking control and exploitation of others through hubris (the arrogant pride and feeling of superiority towards others).
Ecology is the way of respect and preservation and should be a natural expression of our acknowledgement and embracing the full spectrum of the Divine Experience and Manifestation. We should encourage men, women and children to act with nobility and truth towards one another and the environment.
Edmund Burke said “All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing.”
Ecology can easily be promoted by scripture and spiritual literature from every religious background.
We owe the people of this country more than a practical approach to the tragedies of the past by focusing on the real issues in the present and by developing modes of reparation and healing, not only of our psyches but also of the environment which houses and sustains us.
It is our role to empower people with the know-how, to bridge the differences, encouraging the will for independence, sustainability and the determination to do what is right for the environment, which will ensure its preservation and hopefully restoration for future generations.
The word ecology has its roots in the Greek word “oikos” (house). If man learned to live in harmony with his environment, we would see the sublimation of undesirable tendencies and propensities. The Macrocosm is our greater home or body, and our personal microcosm is our individual reality and home. I understand that it is human nature to err, to want, to take, to hurt and harm in order to profit, but I understand too that it is man’s duty to evolve and unfold spiritually and uplift his surroundings with him in so doing.
Man’s spirit is imbued with Divine Essence. In its inquisitiveness, in its seeking answers and in its need to classify the HOW of things, man creates science. Science (or knowing) cannot be separated from Philosophy and Religion for only these three can nurture man to the point of self-urged evolution, that self-begetting, the bringing forth of what lies internally; our god-like essence. This needs to be manifested and celebrated, and to truly celebrate, everything and everyone, must be involved.
Everything aspires towards the Good. Little by little, man becomes aware, and in the process of acquiring “Complete Awareness”, he BECOMES. This blissful state of BEING(ness) means cosmic-consciousness, a feeling of “at-one-ment” with everyone and everything else.
The Spiritual Leaders involved in these inter-faith debates are not aiming for the simple political co-operation of a state’s subjects. Rather, the Union we seek is incomparably wider and more profound. It is one of Cosmic Kinship, or Earth Family.
When we look around us, at the world today, we see the results of moral degradation. It is not a problem of religion, but a problem of ideology, the justification of exploitation, of dominion, hostility and the eternal dichotomy of good and bad. As Monica Sjoo says in her book, The Great Cosmic Mother, “we not only worship our Gods, we become like them”.
All religions say, in one way or another, that God is Love. Does man possess a false idea of God therefore? His actions clearly divulge this misconception.
Let us triage the global scenario we find ourselves in today.
The State has become the long arm of a series of “Gods” and the Religious Institutions, through man’s “inspired” writings, have turned this world into the apotheosis of patriarchy where war and money are the gods to whose tune mankind dances, not in Temples of Spiritual Freedom and Love, but in the Market Place where monopolies, institutionalised dualism, exploitation, degradation and war are the order of the day. Through men’s fallacious understanding of God, “God” has waged war on mankind for the past four millennia. Who benefited? Nobody. Not even God!
The True Divine transcends matter but includes it, it transcends the divisive gender dichotomy and does not have the need for profit, does not need dominion over a disobedient race of men. Divinity does not transcend Reality. It is the Whole within which the All exists.
In our Immanently Divine Core we too possess the ability to overcome through focus and discipline, as well as to transcend our limitation, beginning to see the Universe as the Divine Communion of “Godness”.
Spirituality and Religion do not need authoritarianism, fascism, or any other “ism” to stir love and reverence of God in man’s heart.
“As a nation we need values. The long-term impact of not having a valuebased society is that South Africans will be damned,” says Archbishop Tutu. “If we do not have the right values of truth, honesty, love and compassion, then we are for the birds. Our nation will self-destruct.”
It is therefore our duty as spiritual leaders, to encourage them to embrace the ideal of ecological balance and to take ownership of their role within what is required to make the world a better place.
As Al Gore said, “The fate of mankind, as well as of religion, depends upon the emergence of a new faith in the future.’ Armed with such a faith, we might find it possible to re-sanctify the earth…”
South African Pagans make it one of their goals the realization of “at-one-ment” with the Divine and their fellow citizens, irrespective of race, social status, gender or creed as well as with the environment. Pagans in their individual capacities seek to express their belief in the interconnectedness of everything, through being pro-active in their homes and communities, in particular with environmental matters.
Let us ponder on this Native American saying, “Will you teach your children that the earth is our Mother. What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth. This we know – the earth does not belong to man. Man belongs to the earth.”
Some accuse those driving the need for the evolution of global consciousness as a cynical manipulation of science to promote some or other political agenda. They claim that the climate crisis and environmental problem have been transmuted into a moral and spiritual issue, a doctrine of sustainability purposefully designed to engender a sense of collective guilt. Pagans, however, refute the “guilt card” and continue to visualize a global civilization that chooses to transcend factional, political, racial, nationalistic, economic, cultural, sectarian and religious divisions, favouring the Oneness through which the “GOOD” can be achieved for the Whole.
In closing, we believe that there is a point of meeting and a golden occasion for inter-religious dialogue especially where ecology and the environment are concerned for we all share the same home, breathe the same air, and drink the same water.
Religious leaders should pledge to work for such a transformation in the individual and collective consciousness which will translate into visible efforts and achievements which would bespeak the presence of the Divine in our lives, irrespective of our personal brand of spirituality.
May we all be abundantly blessed in our religious, spiritual and ecological efforts.
REFERENCES AND SOURCES
1] South African Pagan Council Website: http://www.pagancouncil.co.za/files/MinutesofSAPCConference2007.pdf
2] Wikipedia’s article on The New Age Movement: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Age
3] Plotinus ~ On Plotinus’ philosophy of Prayer (from Great Initiates of Fire Course xxvi – electronic copy – http://www.santiagobovisio.com/ing/books/course25.htm
4] The last Hours of Ancient Sunlight ~ by Thom Hartmann ISBN 1-4000-5157-6
5] Proclus – Proclus on Plato’s Timaeus, Book II, Pages 175, 176 and 179
6] Proclus, The Theology of Plato, translated by Thomas Taylor. – Electronic copy – http://www.archive.org/details/ProclusOnTheTheologyOfPlato-ElectronicEdition
7] Trotman, C. James (2002). “Introduction”. In C. James Trotman. Multiculturalism: Roots and Realities. Indiana UP. p. ix. ISBN 9780253340023.
8] The Great Cosmic Mother ~ by Monica Sjoo & Barbara Mor – ISBN 0-06-250791-5
9] the green fuse – bringing philosophy to life ~ http://www.thegreenfuse.org/harris/sacredeco.htm
11] The Law of the Rights of Mother Earth ~ by Raul Prada
19] ADDENDUM ~ THE LAW OF THE RIGHTS OF MOTHER EARTH
(translated by Morgause Fonteléve for the Pagan Community)