Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth

Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth


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Showing the deep connection between our present ecological crisis and our lack of awareness of the sacred nature of creation, this series of essays from spiritual and environmental leaders around the world shows how humanity can transform its relationship with the Earth. Combining the thoughts and beliefs from a diverse range of essayists, this collection highlights the current ecological crisis and articulates a much-needed spiritual response to it. Perspectives from Buddhism, Sufism, Christianity, and Native American beliefs as well as physics, deep psychology, and other environmental disciplines, make this a well-rounded contribution. The complete list of contributors are Oren Lyons, Thomas Berry, Thich Nhat Hanh, Chief Tamale Bwoya, Joanna Macy, Sandra Ingerman, Richard Rohr, Wendell Berry, Mary Evelyn Tucker, Sister Miriam MacGillis, Satish Kumar, Vandana Shiva, Pir Zia Inayat-Kahn, Winona LaDuke, John Stanley, John Newall, Bill Plotkin, Geneen Marie Haugen, Jules Cashford, and Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781890350468
Publisher: The Golden Sufi Center
Publication date: 07/01/2013
Pages: 280
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee is a Sufi teacher who has lectured extensively throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. He is the founder of the Golden Sufi Center and is the author of more than 15 books, including Alchemy of Light, Return of the Feminine and the World Soul, and Prayer of the Heart. Thich Nhat Hanh is the founder of the School of Youth Social Service, a relief organization that rebuilt bombed villages, set up schools and medical centers, resettled homeless families, and organized agricultural cooperatives after the Vietnam War. He was nominated for the 1967 Nobel Peace Prize. Joanna Macy is a scholar of Buddhism, deep ecology, and general systems theory. She lives in Berkeley, California. Wendell Berry is a conservationist, farmer, essayist, novelist, and poet. He is a former professor of English at the University of Kentucky and a past fellow of both the Guggenheim Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. He lives in Port Royal, Kentucky. Sandra Ingerman is a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT), and professional mental health counselor. She was awarded the Peace Award from the Global Foundation for Integrative Medicine in 2007. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Richard Rohr is a Franciscan priest and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation. He lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Bill Plotkin is a depth psychologist, wilderness rites guide, and ecotherapist. He lives in Durango, Colorado. Mary Evelyn Tucker is a senior lecturer and research scholar at Yale University where she holds appointments in the Divinity School and in the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. She lives in New Haven, Connecticut. Brian Swimme is the director of the Center for the Story of the Universe and a professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies. He lives in San Francisco. Vandana Shiva is an environmental leader, and recipient of the 1993 Alternative Nobel Peace Prize.

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Spiritual Ecology

The Cry of the Earth

By Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

The Golden Sufi Center

Copyright © 2013 The Golden Sufi Center
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-890350-46-8


Listening to Natural Law

Chief Oren Lyons

Neyawenha Skannoh. It means "Thank you for being well." The greeting in itself is something of an idea of how Indian people think and how their communities operate.

What happens to you and what happens to the earth happens to us as well, so we have common interests. We have to somehow try to convince people who are in power to change the direction that they've been taking. We need to take a more responsible direction and to begin dealing with the realities of the future to insure that there is a future for the children, for the nation. That's what we're about. It is to our advantage as well as yours to be doing that.

In the concern and in the fights that we face as a common people, as human beings, as a species, we have to get together and we have to do things like we're doing now — meeting, sharing, learning. It all comes down to the will, what is in your heart. Indian people have survived up to this time because we have a strong will. We do not agree that we should be assimilated. We do not agree that we should give up our way of life. And that same will should be in your heart — the will that you do not agree that there be no future.

I don't believe, personally, that we have reached a point of no return in this situation that we're in, but we are approaching it. The farther you're away from a point of no return, the more options you have. As we move each day closer to a point of no return, we lose that day's option. And there will come a point where we won't have an option. There will be no more options. At that point, people will cry and people will carry on and so forth. But as Chief Shenandoah said to me, "I don't know what the big problem is. It's too late anyway." I said, "Uncle, what do you mean by that?" "Well," he says, "they've done a lot of damage. They're going to suffer." Kind of a simple observation, but true enough. There is a lot of damage done and people are going to suffer, but he didn't carry out the thought that we were told a long time ago in the prophecies, that there was going to be a degradation of the earth. We were told that you could tell the extent of the degradation of the earth because there would be two very important systems to warn you.

One would be the acceleration of the winds. We were told that the winds would accelerate and continue to accelerate. When you see that the accelerations of the winds are growing, then you are in dangerous times. They said the other way to tell that the earth was in degradation was how people treated their children. They said it will be very important to note how people treat their children, and that will tell you how the earth is degrading. So when you open up the newspapers today, they talk about exploitive sex and children, they talk about homeless children, and you can count homeless children by the millions. To us, it's a severe indication of the degradation. Society doesn't care.

So we have to take those signposts seriously and begin to organize ourselves and do the best we can. We must gather ourselves together, give ourselves some moral support, enough to go home and start over and do it again, because everything starts at home. It starts right there with you. It starts with you and then your family. Then from your family it goes out, and that's how you do it, that's how you have to do it. It's grassroots. You go back and you begin to inform and you get a little more excited and you get a little more severe in your positions and you begin to insist that people hear and listen. Education is important and how you educate people as to what we need is fundamentally important.

The spiritual side of the natural world is absolute. The laws are absolute. Our instructions — and I'm talking about for all human beings — our instructions are to get along. Understand what these laws are. Get along with laws, and support them and work with them. We were told a long time ago that if you do that, life is endless. It just continues on and on in great cycles of regeneration, great powerful cycles of life regenerating and regenerating and regenerating.

If you want to tinker with that regeneration, if you want to interrupt it, that's your choice, but the results that come back can be very severe, because again, the laws are absolute. There's no habeas corpus in natural law. You either do or you don't. If you don't, you pay. It's quite simple. So what we have to do is get our leaders to change, and if our leaders don't do it, we've got to raise better leaders, newer leaders. Raise your own leaders. Get them up there. It's your responsibility to raise good leaders. Get them up there where they can be effective and change the direction of the way things are headed.

I come from Onondaga, and from our country I remember when everybody planted. I stood behind one of those plows that you hooked behind a horse. And at my age, if you hit a rock, you flew right over the plow handle. It was hard to hold that plow. I remember that. It was hard work. Planting and agriculture are hard work. You have to get up early. You've got to do stuff, but it's great training for character. It's great training for becoming adult and becoming responsible, the best training really. But getting back to agriculture is hard to do these days. There will come a time, however, when only those that know how to plant will be eating.

That's not far off. So all of those Indian Nations that built whole civilizations around food and around thanksgiving and around spiritual law, those Indian Nations have to resurge and have to remind one another how important that is. All communities talk about prayer. We just don't call it prayer, but we do it all the time. We sing songs, dawn songs, morning ceremonies, thanksgiving- coming-up-soon-songs. Thanksgiving all summer, all spring. All of our ceremonies are thanksgiving. We have thanksgiving twelve months a year.

In the spring when the sap runs through the trees, we have ceremonies, thanksgiving. For the maple, chief of the trees, leader of all the trees, thanksgiving. Thanksgiving for all the trees. Planting thanksgiving. Thanksgiving for the strawberries, first fruit. Thanksgiving for the bees, the corn, green corn, thanksgiving. Harvest thanksgiving. Community, process, chiefs, clan mothers, everybody is there. Families are there. How do you inspire respect for something? By giving thanks, by doing it.

We have to do that. We have to be thankful. That's what we said. Two things were told to us: To be thankful, so those are our ceremonies, ceremonies of thanksgiving. We built nations around it, and you can do that, too. And the other thing they said was enjoy life. That's a rule, a law — enjoy life — you're supposed to. I know you can only do as much as you can do, and then when you do that, you're supposed to get outside and enjoy life. Don't take yourself so seriously. Do the best you can but get at it. That's the way you and I have community. I'll be down in the mouth and be moping and dragging around, but by meeting with people and sitting and talking and listening to all of the positive energy and the intentions at Bioneers, for instance, and other gatherings, it's renewable. I can go home and I can say, hey, there is a good bunch of people over there and they're working hard trying to help us out. Tell our own people to get off their lazy asses and do something. It's true. People are lazy today. They don't know how to work anymore.

That's the way it is and that's what it's going to take. Hard work will do anything. It used to be common, common law. So I would say that in the ideas of renewing yourself and the ideas of finding peace in our community, you should tell your leaders and you should tell everybody that there can never be world peace as long as you make war against Mother Earth. To make war against Mother Earth is to destroy and to corrupt, to kill, to poison. When we do that, we will not have peace. The first peace comes with your mother, Mother Earth.

Dahnayto (Now I am finished).

i thank You God for most this amazing day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes

E. E. Cummings


The World of Wonder

Thomas Berry

What do you see? What do you see when you look up at the sky at night, at the blazing stars against the midnight heavens? What do you see when the dawn breaks over the eastern horizon? What are your thoughts in the fading days of summer as the birds depart on their southward journey, or in the autumn when the leaves turn brown and are blown away? What are your thoughts when you look out over the ocean in the evening? What do you see?

Many earlier peoples saw in these natural phenomena a world beyond ephemeral appearance, an abiding world, a world imaged forth in the wonders of the sun and clouds by day and the stars and planets by night, a world that enfolded the human in some profound manner. This other world was guardian, teacher, healer — the source from which humans were born, nourished, protected, guided, and the destiny to which we returned.

Above all, this world provided the psychic power we humans needed in our moments of crisis. Together with the visible world and the cosmic world, the human world formed a meaningful threefold community of existence. This was most clearly expressed in Confucian thought, where the human was seen as part of a triad with Heaven and Earth. This cosmic world consisted of powers that were dealt with as persons in relationship with the human world. Rituals were established whereby humans could communicate with one another and with the earthly and cosmological powers. Together these formed a single integral community — a universe.

Humans positioned themselves at the center of this universe. Because humans have understood that the universe is centered everywhere, this personal centering could occur anywhere. For example, the native peoples of North America offered the sacred pipe to the powers of the four directions to establish themselves in a sacred space where they entered into a conscious presence with these powers. They would consult the powers for guidance in the hunt, strength in wartime, healing in time of illness, support in decision-making. We see this awareness of a relationship between the human and the powers of the universe expressed in other cultures as well. In India, China, Greece, Egypt, and Rome, pillars were established to delineate a sacred center, which provided a point of reference for human affairs and bound Heaven and Earth together.

There were other rituals whereby human communities validated themselves by seasonal acknowledgement of the various powers of giving ceremony, where the sun, the Earth, the winds, the waters, the trees, and the animals each in turn received expressions of personal gratitude for those gifts that made life possible. Clearly, these peoples see something different from what we see.

We have lost our connection to this other deeper reality of things. Consequently, we now find ourselves on a devastated continent where nothing is holy, nothing is sacred. We no longer have a world of inherent value, no world of wonder, no untouched, unspoiled, unused world. We have used everything. By "developing" the planet, we have been reducing Earth to a new type of barrenness. Scientists are telling us that we are in the midst of the sixth extinction period in Earth's history. No such extinction of living forms has occurred since the extinction of the dinosaurs some sixty-five million years ago.

There is now a single issue before us: survival. Not merely physical survival, but survival in a world of fulfillment, survival in a living world, where the violets bloom in the springtime, where the stars shine down in all their mystery, survival in a world of meaning. All other issues dwindle in significance — whether in law, governance, religion, education, economics, medicine, science, or the arts. These are all in disarray because we told ourselves: We know! We understand! We see! In reality what we see, as did our ancestors on this land, is a continent available for exploitation.

When we first arrived on this continent some four centuries ago, we also saw a land where we could escape the monarchical governments of Europe and their world of royalty and subservience. Here before us was a land of abundance, a land where we could own property to use as we wished. As we became free from being ruled over, we became rulers over everything else. We saw the white-pine forests of New England, trees six feet in diameter, as forests ready to be transformed into lumber. We saw meadowland for cultivation and rivers full of countless fish. We saw a continent awaiting exploitation by the chosen people of the world.

When we first arrived as settlers, we saw ourselves as the most religious of peoples, as the most free in our political traditions, the most learned in our universities, the most competent in our technologies, and most prepared to exploit every economic advantage. We saw ourselves as a divine blessing for this continent. In reality, we were a predator people on an innocent continent.

When we think of America's sense of "manifest destiny," we might wish that some sage advice regarding our true role had been given to those Europeans who first arrived on these shores. We might wish that some guidance in becoming a life-enhancing species had been offered during these past four centuries. When we first arrived on the shores of this continent, we had a unique opportunity to adjust ourselves, and the entire course of Western civilization, to a more integral presence to this continent.

Instead, we followed the advice of the Enlightenment philosophers, who urged the control of nature: Francis Bacon (1561–1626), who saw human labor as the only way to give value to the land; René Descartes (1596–1650) and John Locke (1632–1704), who promoted the separation of the conscious self from the world of matter. In 1776, when we proclaimed our Declaration of Independence, we took the advice of Adam Smith's (1723–1790) Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, a book of enormous influence in the world of economics from then until now. Our political independence provided an ideal context for economic dominance over the natural world.

As heirs to the biblical tradition, we believed that the planet belonged to us. We never understood that this continent had its own laws that needed to be obeyed and its own revelatory experience that needed to be understood. We have only recently considered the great community of life here. We still do not feel that we should obey the primordial laws governing this continent, that we should revere every living creature — from the lowliest insect to the great eagle in the sky. We fail to recognize our obligation to bow before the majesty of the mountains and rivers, the forests, the grasslands, the deserts, the coastlands.

The indigenous peoples of this continent tried to teach us the value of the land, but unfortunately we could not understand them, blinded as we were by our dream of manifest destiny. Instead we were scandalized, because they insisted on living simply rather than working industriously. We desired to teach them our ways, never thinking that they could teach us theirs. Although we constantly depended on the peoples living here to guide us in establishing our settlements, we never saw ourselves as entering into a sacred land, a sacred space. We never experienced this land as they did — as a living presence not primarily to be used but to be revered and communed with.

René Descartes taught us that there was no living principle in the singing of the wood thrush or the loping gait of the wolf or the mother bear cuddling her young. There was no living principle in the peregrine falcon as it soared through the vast spaces of the heavens. There was nothing to be communed with, nothing to be revered. The honeybee was only a mechanism that gathered nectar in the flower and transformed it into honey for the sustenance of the hive, and the maple tree only a means for delivering sap. In the words of a renowned scientist: "For all our imagination, fecundity, and power, we are no more than communities of bacteria, modular manifestations of the nucleated cell."


Excerpted from Spiritual Ecology by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee. Copyright © 2013 The Golden Sufi Center. Excerpted by permission of The Golden Sufi Center.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents


Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee Introduction,
1. Chief Oren Lyons Listening to Natural Law,
2. Thomas Berry The World of Wonder,
3. Thich Nhat Hanh The Bells of Mindfulness,
4. Chief Tamale Bwoya Revelation at Laikipia, Kenya,
5. John Stanley & David Loy At the Edge of the Roof: The Evolutionary Crisis of the Human Spirit,
6. Mary Evelyn Tucker & Brian Thomas Swimme The Next Transition: The Evolution of Humanity's Role in the Universe,
7. Sister Miriam MacGillis The Work of Genesis Farm: Interview,
8. Wendell Berry Contributions,
9. Winona LaDuke In the Time of the Sacred Places,
10. Vandana Shiva Annadana: The Gift of Food,
11. Susan Murphy The Koan of the Earth,
12. Satish Kumar Three Dimensions of Ecology: Soil, Soul & Society,
13. Joanna Macy The Greening of the Self,
14. Geneen Marie Haugen Imagining Earth,
15. Jules Cashford Gaia & the Anima Mundi,
16. Bill Plotkin Care of the Soul of the World,
17. Sandra Ingerman Medicine for the Earth,
18. Pir Zia Inayat Khan Persian & Indian Visions of the Living Earth,
19. Fr. Richard Rohr Creation as the Body of God,
20. Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee The Call of the Earth,
Epilogue A Final Prayer,

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"It's hard to imagine finding a wiser group of humans than the authors represented here, all of them both thinkers and do-ers in the greatest battle humans have ever faced. An epic collection!" —Bill McKibben, author, Deep Economy and The End of Nature

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