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Center for Action and Contemplation


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Science: Week 2

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The world is not a problem to be solved; it is a living being to which we belong. The world is part of our own self and we are a part of its suffering wholeness. Until we go to the root of our image of separateness, there can be no healing. And the deepest part of our separateness from creation lies in our forgetfulness of its sacred nature, which is also our own sacred nature. —Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee [1]

Thomas Berry writes, “If there is no spirituality in the Earth, then there is no spirituality in ourselves.” We have forgotten that Nature was our first Bible, a mirror and reflection of our Creator. (You can read more about this in my meditations for January 18-24, 2015.)  Berry continues: “Many earlier peoples saw in . . . 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.” [2]

Karl Jaspers calls the primal connection that the first people had with the universe Pre-Axial Consciousness. [3] David Suzuki finds this Pre-Axial Consciousness among aboriginal people today as well. “Aboriginal people do not believe they end at their skin or fingertips. The earth as mother is real to them, and their history, culture and purpose are embodied in the land. The aboriginal sense of the interconnection of everything in the world is also readily demonstrable and irrefutable scientifically.” [4]

Indeed, the new quantum physics reveals, as Ilia Delio says, that “matter is not composed of basic building blocks but complicated webs of relations. . . . Interconnectedness lies at the core of all that exists.” [5] Interbeing should make total sense to you if you are a Trinitarian Christian, but most Christians never made the connection.

Roughly before 800 B.C., most people connected with God and reality through myth, poetry, dance, music, fertility, and nature offerings. They felt their inherent belonging in the web of this physical world as they actively participated in the cycles of the moon, seasons, planting, and harvest. They lived in what was still a naturally enchanted universe. This was what St. Augustine and St. Gregory spoke of as the pre-existent “church that existed since Abel” who was “considered righteous by God” (Hebrews 11:4). Owen Barfield called this innocent state “original participation.” This long lasting category of people might be much larger and surely older than any organized religion today. [6]

Living in human-made environments, disconnected from the natural world, we have forgotten the intrinsic, basic connection of respect between ourselves and the world. As Pope Francis writes, “The created things of this world are not free of ownership: ‘For they are yours, O Lord, who love the living’ (Wisdom 11:26). This is the basis for our conviction that, as part of the universe, called into being by one Father, all of us are linked by unseen bonds and together form a kind of universal family, a sublime communion which fills us with a sacred affectionate and humble respect.” [7]

Gateway to Silence:
Co-creating wholeness

[1] Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, ed., Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth (The Golden Sufi Center: 2013), 1.

[2] Ibid., Thomas Berry, 15.

[3] Adapted from Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self (Jossey-Bass: 2013), 112.

[4] David Suzuki, The Sacred Balance: Rediscovering Our Place in Nature (Greystone Books: 1999), viii.

[5] Ilia Delio, The Francis Factor: How St. Francis and Pope Francis are changing the world (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2015), MP4 download.

[6] Adapted from Rohr, Immortal Diamond, 112.

[7] Pope Francis, Laudato Si’,, 89.

Image Credit: Hildegard von Bingen, “The Universe” (detail), Scivias Codex, c. 1165.
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