The Centre for Ecology and Spirituality ceased operating as a Spirituality Centre at the end of 2018
The founding staff, Brothers Leonard Sheahan and Trevor Parton are grateful to the many peoplewho have patronised the Centre for the past eighteen years. Both have now retired. No program of events will therefore be set out for 2019.
Trevor Parton has now published a beautifully illustrated paperback of these articles and his photography and poetry.
This can be obtained from the Centre ($30 posted - Australia).
74 A Spirituality of Re-enchantment
The 13.7 billion year history of our universe has been marked by the ongoing rise of consciousness,
culminating at this point in time in the reflective consciousness of the human. Each step along the way might be labelled as a ‘transformation of consciousness.’
The first lesson comes from nature. All animals, all life forms (taken right down to raw matter) have a degree of consciousness in that they are all subject and reactive to that which draws them on.
73 We are Here for all of Us
This is the title of a hauntingly beautiful song by Alicia Keyes, and is a compassionate response to many of the ills affecting people across the world. (link) What immediately struck me was the hidden implication of the word ‘us’.
As an ecologist I wondered how inclusive this term could be. Couldn’t it also include all life forms, and maybe also the entire cosmos with its families of planets, stars, and galaxies.
72 Our Life as a Hero’s Adventure
Seen through the lens of Joseph Campbell’s seminal volume ‘The Hero of a Thousand Faces,’ in which he maps out the major themes of mythology, and its place in our lives, we might be able to see our own lives mirroring many of the lives of history’s heros.
We could construct an immense list of heros and heroines from our knowledge of history. These would typically include names like Nelson Mandela, Malala, Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, the innumerable heros and heroines of war and conflict, mothers and carers, and of course, our great religious leaders, Jesus, the Buddha, and Mahomet.
71 Earth takes care of us, not we of it
This is one of those quotes that leap out of the page at you - recognition that it is an idea that takes us out of out, into a more ecological space. It is taken from Lyn Margulis’ book The Symbiotic Planet, and the whole quote is even more confronting. ”To me, the human move to take responsibility for the living Earth is laughable . - the rhetoric of the powerless. The planet takes care of us, not we of it.”
70 There is only one question - How to love this world?
If any lines of poetry regularly haunt me, it is this simple challenge to my life. These deeply beautiful lines are from Mary Oliver’s equally beautiful poem Spring. It simplifies so well the essential motivation we need to have, as we have our human experience of being creatures of Earth. It is the basic question we need to apply as we do everything in our lives. Mary Oliver’s poem is about a black bear awakening as Spring breaks, as so often in Mary’s poetry we are drawn into a transpersonal experience of what it means to be bear/human.
69 Comment je Crois - How I Believe
Readers of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin will recognise this as the title of a work by him (1969). Everyone comes to a point in their lives when they must needs reexamine and either confirm their beliefs or adjust or reject them. In the case of Teilhard the process of evolution so possessed him that it became a touchstone for virtually all of his thinking.
68 The New Cosmology
There is a wonderful ordering present in nature. This includes the process of the kookaburra learning to laugh. But it functions everywhere, in every plant or animal as it grows to maturity. It is present in the background of ecology as Earth purifies air, recycles the waters; all these things are the matrix in which we are immersed and interconnected.
67 The Agenda of the World is a Sacred Agenda
Over the last twelve months or so three books have ‘invited themselves’ onto the shelves of my library. They are Sacred Unity and Angels Fear, (Towards an epistemology of the Sacred), both by Gregory Bateson, and Reinventing the Sacred by Stuart Kaufmann. They have inspired me to use the word in the title of this issue. The other part of the title ‘The Agenda of the World’ has come from an internal document of our order (the Christian Brothers) where we have been exhorted to address the agenda of the world in our activities. We are very often trapped by the words we use. In this instance what do we mean by the ‘world’?
66 Sustainable Spirituality
The time is coming and is already here for many individuals, where personal integrity begins to outweigh blind adherence to a prior-held world-view. The world is changing so fast and its intricacies and inner secrets are becoming so more and more transparent that the allurement of a new and more comprehensive perception of sacredness is rising like a bright sun for many.
The amazing sequence of events that has brought us from the exploding start of the universe, through generations of stars and now our planetary system teeming with creative potential including ourselves, is still pregnant with possible wonders to come. What has been the ordering that has made this possible?
65 Are we realising a new ecological “WE”?
John Seed, the Australian ecologist once said of his deep concern and activism on behalf of the forests “I am part of the rainforest protecting myself. I am that part of the rainforest recently emerged into thinking.” The ‘myself’ here realises an emerging identity between self and the forest.
64 What is meant by Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation?
On the face of it, the wholeness initially implied by the word, suggests that everything should be valued for its place in the scheme of things. There is just a hint here that things should be valued primarily for their benefit for us humans.
63 The Ferment of Becoming
Look around and see what is happening to our world. Ferment is everywhere. The human is in trouble, the animals are in trouble, the earth is in trouble. The rhetorical question is always “What is going on”. There is no single answer to this question. It depends on what your world-view, your cosmology is. Why do humans have restless hearts?
62 The Universe is a Storyteller - Looking back/Looking in
This understanding for me came when I first read the words ‘When you go out, you are really going in’. For someone who has spent a significant part of his free time hiking in the wilderness regions of Tasmania, and writing of my experiences, this did not take a long time for me to see its depths.
61 One Universe, One Earth, One Mind
There is a lot of talk about the nature of consciousness and mind these days, and it proves almost impossible to elucidate at all well. However, besides the confusing language, there is a kernel of wisdom that several traditions have tried to extract.
60 Spirituality grows out of the things you really love
You cannot have a spirituality around things to which you are indifferent. If family is something you really love, then you will surround it with rituals: rituals of greeting and parting, flowers and gifts, poems and songs of affection, celebrations of events, and other creative ways of showing affection.
59 We cannot say the Universe
The title of this essay has many sources in many traditions, for example, from the “I am Brahman”/”Thou art that” of the Upanishads to “You are the universe in ecstatic motion” of Rumi.
58 I am the Universe -The Universe is my Body
When Teilhard de Chardin, in his The Human Phenomenon announced to his Western audience that every being and every thing had both an ‘inner’ and an ‘outer’ aspect he effectively set in motion a mode of thinking that began the task of repairing the separation of the human from the rest of the universe.
57 A Spirituality Born out of the Stars
There is a language that we are yet to learn, a language that does not reflect our disconnection from the world, but a language that we can use to access the deeper genetic roots that come from our evolutionary past on Earth, and our inherited pre-genetic roots that come from the sublime events that exploded from the first instant of the Universe.
56 I am not myself without everything else
Thomas Berry had the facility to not just recount for us some of the advances in science but also to put them into a cosmological context. This quote in particular speaks to our identity in its relationship to ‘everything else’. To fully understand this you would probably have had to experience a deeply lived moment of union within a relationship whether it be a divine or human to human relationship, or an ecological relationship with say forest, sea, a pet animal, river, mountain.
55 We Individualise the Universe
Thomas Berry says: We are a product of the universe and in us the universe is becoming conscious of itself in both its physical and spiritual dimensions.
......... that to take the Universe Story to heart is to awaken to “our own deeper self,” “the Great Self,” which is the heart-mind of the sacred universe.(The Sacred Universe)
54 Rewilding the Human
Rewilding is about overcoming human domestication and returning to behavior inherent in human wildness. It emphasizes the development of the senses and fostering deepening personal relationships with members of other species and the natural world. Rewilding intends to create permanently wild human cultures beyond domestication. Rewilding is considered a holistic approach to living, as opposed to skills, practices or a specific set of knowledge.
53 The Illusion of Separateness
Towards the end of his life, the eminent anthropologist and prophet of relationships, Gregory Bateson said he sometimes catches himself 'believing that there is such a thing as something that is separate from something else.' (from An Ecology of Mind). It is not difficult in our everyday use of English, and with the ever-present western dualism around us, to also fall into this trap quite routinely. I say trap because our native experience gives the lie to this heresy of separateness. In our best (human) moments we can be one with everything (note the oneness sayings of Jesus).
Personally I do try both in speaking and writing to beat this illusion.
52 How Should We Live?
I believe this question is central to a notion of spirituality and it might well be preceded by a few others like:
Where have I come from? - Why am I here? -Where am I going?
The answers to these latter questions will probably determine the answer to the first one. Depending on your worldview you will probably come out with different answers. As Christians we have been accustomed to looking to the Bible or the teachings of our churches as a form of guidance, though ultimately we are answerable to ourselves and our own insights. This latter view might be seen as unorthodox, but it is what millions are having recourse to in these times where old certainties no longer satisfy the spiritual hunger of people.
51 Living in the Radiance of Being
Our century is marked by two seeming polarities – on the one hand the magnificence of our universe and its story, and on the other, the seeming intractable problems facin
50 The Olympic Games
"Every second of my lfe has prepared me for this moment." Do you remember this statement made by an Olympian before the recent Games in London? What an exquisite insight this gives us into life.
49 The New Cosmology/Consciousness
You could fill a large box with books that talk about consciousness. Maybe you would think that most people would agree on what the term stood for, but on reading a lot of the literature on the subject you could easily imagine that writers each had a different window on the subject.
48 The Feeling Earth
The time is 5.15am on Thursday 5th January, 2012. The year has scarcely begun but already Earth is buzzing with activity. As I lay in bed mentally composing notes for this essay, I was contemplating the central idea of one of my favourite philosophers and process thinkers/theologians, Alfred North Whitehead. He proposed that all knowledge comes to us via the medium of 'feeling events.' This is a fairly radical epistemology that has shaken much of modern and postmodern thinking.
47 Soul of the Earth
Have you ever wept with joy or compassion for the beautiful world you find yourself in? Notice I used the word ‘in’, because truly we are in and amongst the world and not separate from it as some cosmologies would have it. And just how are we to consider ourselves ‘in’ the world? I would like to look again at the ancient notion of the anima mundi (Latin for soul of the world) and Jung’s collective unconsciousness.
46 The Ecology of the Heart II
We and the world we live in are connected in a synergistic fashion. That means that we can only progress together. We must love the earth if we expect it to in turn love and nurture us. The newly conceived embryo’s heart commence to beat 21 days after conception, and it beats at the same rate as the mother (for a time). We need to lay down on the earth ourselves and let our heartbeat and the heartbeat of the earth come into resonance. This could be a consciousnesschanging little ritual. Try it!
45 The Ecology of the Heart I
The particular emphasis here is connected to the Teilhardian concept that spirit/consciousness is present right the way through from the inorganic to the organic. This implies that consciousness is spread right across our bodies from our cells and neurons and culminating in our more complex assemblies - the organs, and particularly the heart and the brain.
44 Earth is Talking in a New Language
The catastrophic events of recent times constitutes a new relationship of experience with nature and the Universe. Formerly we could reasonably expect that we could predict the weather and the seasonal signs with some confidence. Now Earth seems to be speaking a new language that is taking us unawares.
43 The Spiritual Dimension of Earth
Basically ‘spirituality’ is a word, a concept, to connote something or some state that lies behind the word. This is the same for all the
metaphysical terms we use, including our most sacred terms to describe the Godhead. Meister Eckhart liked to distinguish between
the words God and Godhead, deeming them to be quite different. As I understand him, the ‘God’ is the word we give to what cannot be
42 'Invited or not, the God Arrives'
C G Jung had this quote from Erasmus (Vocatus atque non vocatus deus aderit) inscribed both over his doorway, and also on his tombstone. Some say they were also his last words. Jung wrote:
‘It is a Delphic oracle though. It says: yes, the god will be on the spot, but in what form and to what purpose? I have put the inscription there to remind my patients and myself: Timor dei initium sapiente [“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”] Here another not less important road begins, not the approach to “Christianity” but to God himself and this seems to be the ultimate question.’
41 Science/Religion and Myth
Science and Religion are not so strange bedfellows. Einstein once famously said “Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.” Just what is the relationship between them? Once upon a time there was no question but that they were intimately
related. This was true for both the Christian West and the Muslim East, and as well India with its heritage of Hinduism and Buddhism,
and China with its great mystical tradition. Mind you, some of the science e.g. astrology was as much myth as anything else.
40 We Have Been Touched by the Universe
The mystical thinking from Plato through St Nicholas of Cusa to Teilhard de Chardin and Alfred North Whitehead is expressed today in terms of the quantum theory of David Bohm one of the fathers of the quantum theory has a certain take on it
In some sense man is a microcosm of the universe; therefore what man is, is a clue to the universe. We are enfolded in the universe.
39 What Does it Mean to be Human Pt.2
This question was asked in a previous edition of Rubida. Now, as I sit beside a dry creek bed in the Flinders Ranges, it is time for me to revisit the question and ask for your comments also.
Here in the chair is a self-reflective human - over there, ancient river red gums E. camaldulenses are lined up among the rocks that have been uncovered along the bed of Wokkerwilla Creek. These rocks of the Trezona Range contain fossils of stromatolites that were the early producers of oxygen on the planet - maybe 550 million years old. The trees themselves are the fruit and model of a very patient allurement that nature constantly offers us.
38 Find Profound Joy in Life
The above words are attributed to Brian Swimme, in answer to a question from an audience member at a conference a few years ago. The question from the concerned person was along the lines: “In view of the disaster we are facing, what should we do?” At first glance it is an enigmatic answer, and indeed it was followed by more pragmatic ideas. However I wanted to focus on the first response. Certainly we are faced with crisis and catastrophe in terms of climate change, extinction of species, religious and cultural disfunction etc. The future is full of uncertainty and ominous signs.
37 What Ultimately Matters?
Do you remember? This question was asked in a passing fashion in the Spring edition last year. It is a question that I often throw at people to get them thinking. This question is a bit of a tease, and I hope you do not expect me to give a comprehensive answer to it. Nevertheless it is an interesting philosophical question, and maybe ecology can give us some clues to sort out matters of importance in our lives.
36 Bushfire - Fire, Earth, Air & Water Out of Balance Humans - Out of Touch
In the quiet, I heard a distant tree falling, and then about a minute later, another. It is not common to hear a tree falling, but this was
at 2 am in the morning, and I was on ember watch during the bushfires. During a bushfire trees frequently fall after their trunk has been
damaged by fire, and the silence of the night seemed to amplify the sound.
35 You are a Dimension of the Universe
We are all dimensions of the Universe. A flower and a galaxy are both expressions of the Universe and both of them narrate the beautiful story of a sublime incarnation of Spirit. Every animal, plant and molecule ia a dimension of the Universe. Many of these little life-forms have got together to produce the so-called higher forms of life, of which we are an example. Each new lifeform is consequent on, and connected to what has gone before. As philosopher and mathematician Alfred North Whitehead beautifully put it: The whole universe
34 We are Co-Creators with the Universe!
A life-form is never aware of evolutionary change until it is upon it. Nor is it a simple thing to envision what the new might be like. A complex interaction of forces coming from the inner or psychological realm, the cultural or tribal experience of people, and the reaction of the natural realm around us moulds our individual and collective identity. Even the galaxy has an inbuilt creativity that virtually guarantees the progress of life.
33 To be Human is to be Connected
It is late Autumn when I am writing this. This morning I picked a bunch of wild mushrooms from around the house and cooked them for breakfast. I was a hunter gatherer for just a short time today. It felt good. Something about living in place.
32 “There is an integrity to Creation”
This quotation comes from Pope John Paul’s Peace Day Message of Jan 1, 1990. It is an easy thing to say, but it is a little more difficult to interpret when you ask yourself just what is implied by ‘Creation’ and just what might constitute the meaning of the term ‘integrity.’
31 Ecology and Spirituality
In the 1950’s and 1960’s Ecology became a popular subject both in senior secondary schools and in universities. Ecology might be defi ned as a study of the interactions of plants and animals among themselves and also with the wider environment. The environmental era had not properly started, and Rachel Carson did not publish her epic work Silent Spring until 1962. This kickstarted or stimulated the emergence of an already incipient environmental movement fi rst in the USA and then more widely.
Gaia is a metaphor for Earth. This resurrection of the name of one of the Goddesses of early Greece was the brainchild of scientists James Lovelock and Lyn Margulis, when they were researching the interaction of the living systems of Earth’s functioning. They saw systems within the planet that were so self-healing, so regulating of many kinds of balance, and so synergistic, that they suggested that Earth parallels much of the systems of our human bodies. In this sense they likened Earth to an organism, and gave it a name – Gaia.
29 What does it mean to be Human?
At a time when Thomas Berry is urging us to re-define the human as a species, this is a really important question. Homo sapiens is the only member of the Homo species to survive to the present. The most recent other representatives of our species would have been the Neanderthals who died out maybe 20,000 years ago in Eurpoe and the recently discovered remains of the smaller ‘human’ on the Indonesian island of Flores.
28 Climate Change: Curse or Blessing?
Climate Change a blessing? Surely this can’t be right. Look around; the environment is doing all sorts of wierd things. It’s wetter and drier, hotter and colder than ever before. Humans, animals and plants are suffering all over the planet. We are said to be in the sixth major extinction of species in the history of life, and what’s more distrubing is that we seem to be to blame for it.
27 “In Wildness is the Preservation of the World”
When Henry David Thoreau made this statement in 1851 many thought he had meant to say wilderness rather than wildness. However wildness was correct. It is a quality rather than a place, and it is a quality that we share with all other species - more or less. The creation story of Genesis implies that we were not of ‘wild’ origin but came from the hand of God already domesticated and separate from the rest of creation. This is fi ne, and many still hold to this belief, but it is certainly not what Thoreau was talking about. This was only a few years before Darwin published his Origin of Species (1859).
26 Reflection: A Spirituality for the Planet
Can we hope for a spirituality that the whole earth can embrace that will heal us, the people of the earth, the plants and animals of the earth, and very earth itself? Enough of duality; we are of the earth; we are the stuff of earth born into refl ectivity, soul and creativity. As Christians, we have a duty to study this challenge in a christological manner, as it were through the eyes of Jesus. And what is crucial, I think for this challenge is not to hold Jesus Christ captive within the confi nes of Christian doctrine, but to make him and his vision available to the cosmos which is where his humanity originated.