The Soul of America: New Beginnings 32
Developing the Capacities of Spiritual-Earth Presence
What we are going to be involved within this second series of The Soul of America: New Beginnings, is very simple, really simple, — but it involves starting with an image of a unity of heaven and earth. And how to live in harmony with that unity. The image is difficult only because of layers of assumptions that have to be dissolved. I want to begin with looking at some of the assumptions of the Christian religion, my heritage. The religion itself may not hold these assumptions, not in its depth, but they are what we are accustomed to and what the teachings say.
Religion separates the Oneness of God, or Source, and the realm of the divine – spirits, angels, the dead, from the Earthly realm – while confusing that by saying ‘God is everywhere’. A Two-ness does exist, but it only SEEMS to be a division.
Supposedly, we are here, mortals; the spiritual worlds are elsewhere, and religions become the arbiter between the worlds, establishing the doctrines and regulations for, more or less, sometimes, seeming to join the two worlds – faith, belief, codes of behavior, Sacred Texts to live by, prayer, sacraments, rituals. But, it is always a ‘one-way’ direction of the between – how we have to do certain things – live certain ways, pray, perhaps meditate, know the laws of the religion, practice those laws, be aware of the documents of the religion, and be subject to the priests who are the directors of how we act – in order someday, to switch where we are, from the place of the mortals to the place of the spirits; that someday arrives at the end of life.
Sometimes, when the religion is deeply practiced, mystical experiences occur and are even present in daily living. There are very few individuals who have bridged the gap, so we have the impression that doing so occurs only rarely and to those who undergo severe inner training.
The division between ‘here’, and ‘there’ – Earth and Heaven just SEEMS to be a division; in reality, it is not. It is not that we have been fooled by religion. It is more that this ‘system’ of division has been perpetuated for so long that no one even typically thinks differently. Jesus, the bearer of the Christ is the primary future template. When we are like him, then when we are ‘here’, we are also there’ – “I and the Father are One.” Many, though, look for ways in which we can be more responsible with and in our own spirituality.
There is a kind of middle place – that is, one that is still within religion but attempts to, perhaps we can say, introduce certain practices of spirituality – usually, though, without developing a very clear picture that they are on the border of a very different way of being human, and draw back. I am thinking, for example of “Centering Prayer”, where there is meditation and coming to a place of experiencing something that is ‘beyond’, let’s call it. But, nothing is done with it. That is, you engage, return, and live your life in a defunct civilization, feeling perhaps strengthened and perhaps able to help others live ‘closer’ with the spiritual worlds.
And, we might think of certain ‘adjuncts’ to religion – like yoga, retreats, dream practices, adding practices from other spiritual traditions, and other ways of ‘bolstering’ religion. And, there is also some interest in moving more toward, I would call it ‘psychologizing religion’, with the hopes of ‘humanizing religion’. I am here thinking of The Living School of Richard Rohr and his associates.
Esoteric spirituality does not make such divisions. To say it another way, religions hold to a division between spirit and matter or soul and matter, while esoteric spirituality speaks, sometimes, not always, and certainly not all approaches to esoteric spirituality – but some speak in a way that assumes spirit as matter, rather than spirit and matter. And, for the most part, the unity is not spoken of in this manner, but, rather, esoteric spirituality assumes that we, through discipline and meditation and practices, can experience the spiritual realms, leaving the question of spirit as matter, or spirit and matter more open.
Various forms of meditation promoted by esoteric spirituality all require leaving the body to be within spirit – which also includes, leaving the world/earth. The inherent connection between body/spirit, and thus earth/spirit is never indicated. So, at certain times, we can ‘dip’ into the spirit worlds, get a taste of what is ‘there’, but not much more – that is, I don’t know anyone who is able to describe, to track the worlds entered into, for example, with Centering Prayer, and directly work with what occurs when the ‘world returns’. Perhaps the mystic does live within the spirit worlds and this world on an ongoing basis. Still, something is left out – the Earth.
Even esoteric spirituality excludes Earth from the spirit.
Perhaps there is speaking of particular places – Sacred Places – certain natural places, such as where Mary has appeared, or, say, Our Lady of Guadalupe which are considered ‘holy’, and certain built places, for example, Chartres Cathedral. But Earth Herself is not considered spirit.
Hold on, don’t let emotional reaction close you off, for we are now getting close to where we will be working together.
First, I do want to emphasize, emphatically, that none of what I am saying is a criticism; it is only descriptive, and necessary to picture to try and assure that some who may be thinking, and probably worried, that what I will be describing has nothing to do with anything religious or spiritual. It is not within the assumptions of religion; and it is also not really within the assumptions of those borderline places, nor is it even within any known esoteric spirituality. True, when I speak of the ‘Spiritual Earth”, such speaking does not derive from any of the three ways considered above.
I find it necessary, though, right at the beginning, to emphasize that in wanting to seriously consider Earth as spirit, this will not be the Earth of our usual sensations. It is not possible for Earth, as it is considered in usual awareness, or within the awareness of science or technology, to be the Spiritual Earth. It is not that there is ‘another earth’, somewhere, but Earth is quite complex; invisible aspects of the visible earth can be entered without leaving visible earth, and can be experienced without much difficulty. Our engagement will be with the ‘imaginal Earth’. The imaginal realm exists between the sensory realm and the spiritual realm; it partakes of both, as living imagining, that is, imagination that is real, just as real as looking at a tree or a mountain, or a flower, or grass are real sensory experiences. And, at the same time, it is as real as any deep spiritual awakening.
To the extent we can become a bit free of the now-promulgated assumptions of religion, imaginal Earth will open to experience. The surprise of this first writing may be that it is not materialism that blocks perceiving the imaginal/spiritual earth, but religious assumptions. And, another part of the difficulty is that we are not ‘material’ enough; we have settled only into the materiality that can serve us — and lack the capacity of serving the imaginal Earth in such a way that She opens to our presence.