April 2009


 “You’ve got to do your own growing, no matter how tall your grandfather was.” Irish Proverb

 When adults ask kids “What do you want to be when you grow older?” kids will often respond with “I want to fit in to society providing a function for it and conforming to a stereotype.”

Ok, not exactly! It’s usually put into simpler words than that, but if you look between the lines, this is the answer that usually pervades what a child will say about their future. The point is you won’t get a kid saying “I want to be happy,” “I want to be myself”, or “I want to experience lots of things, and express myself in lots of different ways without limiting myself to one thing because you only live once.”

The problem is that society has been built with the principle of conforming to it or fitting in with it somehow. A child, when asked about their future is being asked about how they want to fit a role and provide a function in society. In short, be a stereotype.

From birth many people are conditioned to be something because of the stereotypical expectations of their parents and other peers. It usually starts with gender; boys wear blue and girls wear pink, girls have long hair and boys have short hair, boys are supposed to be rough and adventurous and girls are supposed to be calm and sweet. Toys and television are also a factor in how kids are programmed as they are symbolic of the reality they have to prepare for. One form of gender “branding” that alway suprises me is that of newborn girls having ear piercings. In some cases it’s so expected that people make the mistake of calling a girl a boy because they don’t have earings!

This is later reinforced by schools. The children move in social circles that reflect and reinforce their conditioning. One of my schools used to have a partial gender segregation on the playground, where boys would get the larger area because, typically, boys would play football and other rough games, whereas the girls would spend their time in a smaller area playing hop scotch and skipping ropes.

Further steps in this programming or conditioning are what class they belong to, how much money they have, how popular they are, what nationality they are etc.  Once adulthood is reached the identity of an individual is supposed to be dedicated to solely one career (it was once upon a time, less now though). Literally you are a nurse or you are a gardener. You don’t do nursing or gardening. There’s a sense of becoming specialised and losing the full range of potential that a single human being can be. School lessons in self-discovery and self-development are strongly lacking because society has a “self” designed for you already so there’s no need to be an individual.

What if society had been built a different way? What if it was designed, not to conform to, but to be a platform to creatively discover and develop yourself within? This is the creative potential of society that many people don’t realise. Society can be far more malleable than many people take for granted. It is not a structure to fit into, it is more like a mine to extract raw material from, something that can help you realise your individual potential. Although reinventing society’s old structures to replace it with new ones is itself quite a work, and many give up trying.

When adulthood is reached people have either conformed to society or become disillusioned and rebelled. But many of these “rebels” are just reinforcing this rigid system by fulfilling a stereotype, or more appropriately anti-stereotype. They see only two choices, to define themselves for society or define themselves against, not knowing that they can reclaim an individual identity independent from either conformity or rebellion. Either way, conditioned or “anti-conditioned” individuals are faced with the task of re-educating themselves. The real problem is not society itself, but the individuals within society that don’t realise they have other choices other than rebellion or conformity; they can choose to be themselves.

There is a difference between natural human development and conditioning. Development comes from within and grows outwards, whereas conditioning comes from without and works inwards. An individual’s development will always be informed, to some extent, by their interaction with the world and there will always be rules and laws to conform to, but there is always the seed of their natural development within them, which does not need to be imposed but encouraged and left to naturally blossom. In this way society is outgrown, the individual is not constrained by it but nurtured by it. But instead of leaving society behind, they turn their energies back to society and in this way society grows with each generation, outgrowing itself and being reinvented for the changing needs of people.

“The person who tries to live alone will not succeed as a human being. His heart withers if it does not answer another heart. His mind shrinks away if he hears only the echoes of his own thoughts and finds no other inspiration.” Pearl S. Buck

I like to pray. I like the feeling of being listened to and of possibly being responded to. The thing is I gave up on any belief in invisible disembodied entities that could hear me a while ago. But I still like to pray, even if it is only my own unconscious “hearing” it, the intentions of my prayer being planted in its depths where it can reside until it is ready to emerge in some future revelation.

But sometimes I need to have something other than my own psyche to respond to my prayer, an entity or entities that will respond directly to me. I think that’s the good thing about other people that you can talk to and be open with. If you have people like that that is. If you don’t it’s easy to see why people turn to disembodied entities, fantasies or a big anonymous universe. An invisible ear is better than no ear. And yet it’s not something that you can rely on forever. The empty silence is only a temporary measure that consoles for a little while but can only swallow the prayer and never respond. And that’s not good for any person.

I think that’s why I write. Humans are what I pray to, the entities that I expect a response from. Perhaps not an immediate response, it can take a while for words and ideas to circulate in the collective human psyche before it comes to fruition. Sometimes there is no response and it’s just enough to know that there’s someone out there listening, or in this case reading.

So with my blogs I pray to humanity, an “entity” I know is capable of understanding and even of responding. And in some ways my blogs are the responses to other people’s prayers, that what I am saying is what someone else may have been waiting to hear. Many people write things, not just to share their ideas, thoughts and opinions but because they are trying to communicate with the world, and that requires responses.

It doesn’t matter if God, Goddess or gods can hear, understand or respond to our prayers, as long as there are humans that can. Each of us can pray. But even better, we can all respond to prayer, including our own, making it work through us.

 When someone prays, will humanity answer?

“We do not live on the Earth, we are a part of how the Earth lives.” David Richo

“You go to Nature for an experience of the sacred… to re-establish your contact with the core of things…The final test is whether your experience of the sacred in Nature enables you to cope more effectively with the problems of humanity.” Will Unsoeld

“Paradoxically, turning attention to the inner life can make us acutely aware of the beauty and fragility of the earth. Since our collective habits of behaviour appear to be leading toward annihilation, recognition of our capacity for conscious evolution has become an increasingly compelling necessity. Spiritual awareness of our relationship to the whole earth can no longer be considered the prerogative of a few introverted individuals. Although it may take a leap of faith to believe that a radical shift in human consciousness is possible, this global mind change may be necessary to shift our collective trajectory from self-destruction to self-renewal.” Frances Vaughan

I have spoken of three functions of ancient Druidry and have put them into a relevant form for modern times, but what I have not really gone into detail about is Druidry as a nature-based spirituality. We could say, maybe, that Druids were ecologists and environmentalists. But considering the times they were living in, everyone in their cultures had to have some basic ecological knowledge of some sort, so it could not be seen as a druidic “function” but a basic fact of life for everyone. Today, whether we are into Druidry or not, this is something we should all have, we should all be familiar with ecological knowledge, of the fact that we are part of an ecological system and that it is the very basis for our existence. Locked away in our cities we are disconnected from where our food comes from, where our oxygen comes from, where our water, gas and electric come from, even where out money comes from! We are so familiar with a world which is so human dominated we forget just how embedded we are in the living systems of the Earth, how much we depend upon them and how much we affect them.

It’s important for our eco-starved species to once again gain an ecological perspective that pervades every aspect of our activites on, or more appropriately as part of, the Earth. Humanity and every aspect of its evolution should find a way to evolve with the Earth’s evolution and also creatively contribute to it. The development of a holistic intelligence is one that can only grow as a part of nature, the work of politics and relationships also includes our relationship with nature and the journey of the spiritual life is a part of nature not apart from it. Nature is such a fundamental part of Druidry that each of the functions I have described can be better understood if we put the suffix “eco” on each; ecoeducation, ecopolitics and ecospirituality. In such a way we recognise that ecology isn’t just one of many subjects but the entire context of our lives. An important resource for modern Druidry’s worldview can be found in the scientific developments of the Gaia Hypothesis and Earth Systems Science and the implications they have for every aspect of our lives.

Such a fundamental part of human life is ecology that I’m reluctant about treating this as a separate subject, because our various activities, like spirituality, education and politics, do not stand apart from nature, but can only exist because of nature. Each of the functions of Druidry can be envisaged as pillars of Druidry; The Three Pillars of Druidry. Or better yet, trees; The Three Trees of Druidry. The fourth “pillar” or “tree” is nature, but it does not stand separately, it itself is the Three Trees and also the sky above them and the earth below them. The “function” of ecology or environmentalism, must be so fundamental to the other three functions that it pervades them, their growth and their evolution, as it should with the whole of human existence. Leaving this subject last and apparently separated from the others signifies the human psyche’s split from nature. Something that a nature-based path like Druidry can facilitate in this modern world is the healing of the human consciousness in relation to nature.

Yes, you’re right, you haven’t misclicked somewhere else, this is the Grove of Quotes. I’ve just changed the “theme” of this blog, change with the seasons. Let me know what you think.

I’m adding new pages, which appear as part of the header on this new theme (that’s why I changed). So far it’s The Grove of Quotes (my About) and an article on ecopsychology. Next I’ll put the complete Three Functions of Druidry, once I’ve published the last article. And also I’ll put one for The Earth Sanctuary, the project that I’m a part of and of which this blog is an individual expression.

Blessings,

Adam AKA Treegod

“It [spirituality] is the province of our responsive and creative imagination – not just a fiction-factory but a vitally necessary place where we work out the interpretative patterns we need for our life-world as a whole, structures and visions to provide some usable order in the chaotic world of our experience.” Mary Midgley

 

“Dreams pass into the reality of action. From the actions stems the dream again; and this interdependence produces the highest form of living.” Anais Nin

 

“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.” Carl Jung

 

I left spirituality until last because it’s too easy for modern Druids to focus on the spiritual aspect of Druidry at the expense of the political and educational aspects of it. Druids were priests, magicians, seers, prophets, diviners, mediators with the deities, shamans, guardians of sacred knowledge, sacred places and shrines and a whole range of spiritual and religious functions in their society. They were the mythologers and mythographers of their time, governing the images, stories and symbols that would guide, and even legitimise, the lifestyle and culture of their peoples. They also encoded their peoples’ experience into myths to preserve the wisdom of the past for future generations, locking their history and worldview into symbolic form.

 

Symbols speak to us at deep levels; they evoke and invoke energies within us, energies that give us a connection between our personal life and the rest of the cosmos. Spirituality gives meaning and ethics to guide us in life, guiding our attitude and behaviour, but it also goes deeper than that. Psychospiritual development can take place, through the normal psychological development stages, but also a spiritual development where an individual is open to their creative potential beyond initial psychological programming. When therapy stops or is not necessary, and the psyche is in a healthy and balanced state, development doesn’t stop there, it carries on. The psyche is not a static machine, to be repaired, adjusted and kept running smoothly, it is a growing organic thing that constantly changes, and spirituality is something that helps us cope and direct that change, and allows the soul’s own Dharma or spiritual “blueprint” to unfold and evolve according to its own inner pattern.

 

Each person’s inner pattern and life journey is extremely personal and individual. I live and work with people, our own paths in life run parallel but they do not merge. Working together, growing together, but never growing into each other. My life journey can only ever be mine, shareable with no other being, but it is a thread in the fabric of evolution; of human evolution, of the living Earth’s evolution and of the whole cosmos’ evolution, with its beginning and end residing there; emerging from and finally merging back into nature. And here we take a step into a fundamental aspect of modern Druid practice and belief; its connection to the natural world and the focus it can create in humanity on ecological and environmental issues. (next article)

“To put the world right in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.” Confucius

 

“Politics has less to do with where you live than where your heart is.” Margaret Cho

 

“The new vision senses the Earth as a complex system, Gaia, and recognizes that our globalized social world is reliant on the natural world: when there’s trouble in nature, there’s trouble in society.”  Susan Canney

 

The Druids were lawmakers, counsellors to kings, guardians of sovereignty, peacemakers, and probably warmakers too. They would resolve differences between tribes and probably even resolve differences with people within a tribe. For this they had to be very aware of the social balance of things and used their knowledge to guide this balance. Some were probably corrupt, following their own selfish schemes or that of their tribe and some may even have had a noble idea about a common good for all people. I like the common good idea, but realistically human nature is what it is and has the habit of doing all sorts of things, even within such positions of power and responsibility. Despite this not too rosy image of human nature, in the image of a Druid we have a figure that is powerful in social and political fields of activity, and that is what I lean on here.

 

For me, my political work as a Druid isn’t about walking into warzones or gang fights to resolve the conflicts there. It isn’t about me signing petitions, lobbying new legislation, attending a political march in protest about some issue, social work, standing for election or “making my vote count.” Politics, at its root, is about how humans relate to each other, it’s about our relationships. Political discord stems from the social ills we have, so all political work fundamentally starts here. It’s about the relationship between offspring and parents, men and women, young and old etc. Before we heroically face the problems of the world, we should heroically face our own personal problems, and from that foundation all other problems of the world; economical, ecological, national, international etc can be legitimately dealt without skipping personal problems; an essential experience if we are to tackle anything else. Before we take our issues to Monarchs, Prime Ministers or Presidents we should face and resolve the issues we have with our parents, children and all our relationships.

“The highest function of education is to bring about an integrated individual who is capable of dealing with life as a whole.” Krishnamurti

 

“Only the development of his inner powers can offset the dangers inherent in man’s losing control of the tremendous natural forces at his disposal and becoming the victim of his own achievements.” Roberto Assagioli

 

“I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built up on the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think.” Anne Sullivan

 

Druids were educators. They had schools that taught many things; history, genealogy, stories, laws, lore and other things. They were living breathing archives that could be called upon by tribal chiefs and kings, or the common people of the tribes. They must have had complex mnemonic systems to catalogue everything into their memory, since their tradition was an oral one and it was forbidden to write anything down. One such system is their alphabet, the Ogham, that was used to list things and their attributes. The most well known is the tree alphabet, but there was plenty of others for birds, animals, herbs etc. This system, or one like it, must have been used to remember extensive information.

 

Druids today don’t have to be living breathing archives, we have books and computers for that sort of thing, and it is not forbidden to write anything down. A shame in some ways, as writing things down (like I am now) has the tendency to abstract information, removing it from living experience. And we can see that in the book-based education of today, it emphasises a lot on intellectual knowledge; what to think than on how to think. I don’t say that we should ban books (I love them too much!) but that they are not the be all and end all of education, and that education should be directed towards living experience. For me, a Druid education is an integrated one, based on developing a holistic intelligence, not just an intellectual one. And also it is about self-development and discovery and not for a student to conform their knowledge to a school’s syllabus. Another thing to remember is that education doesn’t just take place in a classroom, all aspects of our life educate us in different ways; from the media we get our information from, the books we read, the films we watch, the toys we have as children, the relationships we’re involved with, the careers we choose. All of these things are symbols of the educational and psychological structure we build up inside us.

 

Holistic intelligence I think of as something that includes many aspects of the human being. As I said, intelligence is measured mainly by intellect, as the so-called “Intelligence Quotient” or IQ reflects. It’s tests are all about how well the intellectual, thinking side, of humans work. The “I” of IQ is more appropriately seen as Intellect because intelligence can also be seen as emotional intelligence, physical intelligence, social intelligence, ethical intelligence and spiritual intelligence. We could also talk about creative or imaginative intelligence as Druids were also the artists, poets and musicians of their peoples, and also health intelligence, since Druids could also specialise in healing, as doctors of their time. But knowing how to be healthy and stay healthy is a fairly basic skill for all people, not just something for professionals. Education should be about the development of the whole human being, not just the intellect. In the same way that we should have a “healthy and balanced diet” to stay physically healthy, we should also have a healthy and balanced education, in order to develop a healthy intelligence, a holistic intelligence.

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