“Do we really want to be the bureaucrats of the Earth? Do we want the full responsibility for its care and health? There can be no worse fate for people than to be conscripted for such a hopeless task – to be made forever accountable for the smooth running of the climate, the composition of the oceans, the air, and the soil. Something that until we began to dismantle creation, was the free gift of Gaia.” James Lovelock

“Nature is trying very hard to make us succeed, but nature does not depend on us. We are not the only experiment.” R. Buckminster Fuller

Just remember this, Gaia has been evolving without conscious and intelligent intervention long long looooooooooooooooong before humans arrived on the scene. If we weren’t so troublesome we’d be considered as an interesting afterthought, adding a conscious quality to an unconscious evolution. Just because we are the “conscious aspect” of Gaia that does not mean we need to start running the show. As I said before, Gaia’s been getting on fine without us AND we still haven’t learnt to run our own show, let alone Gaia’s. We’re treating our planet badly, we’re treating each other badly, and if we carry on down this route then we’ll end up being our own worst enemy.

First things first, we need to recognise our emerging global civilisation as an integral part of Gaia, that we depend on her and our only means to survive is to cooperate with her by aligning every aspect of human culture, society and civilisation with the living Earth. We need to do this by aligning with each other. You and me we have to admit we live on the same planet, with nowhere to run and nowhere to hide anymore, and have no choice but to cooperate and coordinate with each other. Right?

Easier said than done, I know, but its worth our survival isn’t it? We’re in for a stormy nightmare, but if we really value this planet, the life on it, and humanity’s participation with it we can do it. Altogether now; Yes we…. you know the rest Obama 😉

But even if we achieve this we should never think we can run the show, all we can do is to add a conscious element to an unconscious evolution, as an enhancer not a controller. But wouldn’t it be beautiful if we used our arts, sciences, religions and cultures, not only as something to enhance human life but the living Earth as well. Hold that vision strong and clear in your mind; it’s our compass, our orientation, that will guide us along that long and hard road we have ahead of us for harmony to be restored .

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“Society exists only as a mental concept; in the real world there are only individuals.” Oscar Wilde

God bless message boards, the bloggers inspiration, it’s all grist for the mill.

Typically, though not always, tribes are seen as localised in geographical regions (yes, even nomads), have common ethnic roots, share a common culture, have a structured organisation and are tied together by strong familial and social bonds, in essence, group identity. The society I belong to is definitely not a tribe in this sense, it is, as Oscar Wilde says, a mental concept. If everyone got amnesia, just imagine how many boundaries and distinct groups would disappear.

Long ago, the British Ilses were overrun with Goidelic, Brythonic, Pictish and, later, Anglo-Saxon tribes, but now they have all merged and the borders of their territories exist as countries and counties, if that. And the idea of “peoples” means little to people who regard the difference between such geographical regions as the difference between work (Sussex), home (Kent) and social life (Greater London).

Most concretely I have a birth certificate that tells me I was born in Britain and so I’m a British Citizen, as does my passport, with all the rights and responsibilities that that holds. That could be my tribe. But it says little of my ethnic or cultural background, I could be a Muslim with family from Bangladesh, like a few of my friends from school. It also says little about my familial or social ties. In such a large, anonymous and impersonal system, friends are lost and gained like so many leaves on a tree and families just drift apart in the vast anonymity of it all.

So now gangs of youths roam around unchecked in whatever haphazard way they can get away with and our “elders” are sent to nursing homes or their opinion so out of touch with the times it’s not worth listening to them (but they weren’t expecting so much change). One generation to the next can be as different culturally as two nations. My mum came from a Roman Catholic family and rejected that for a more Protestant faith. Her mum grew up in a Protestant denomination but married and became Roman Catholic. My dad grew up with Protestantism and later embraced Spiritualism. I had a Protestant childhood, a sort of Spiritualist adolescence and later went through an experimental NeoPagan phase that has become something that doesn’t even have a label for it. I call it my life journey, which has many influences on  it. Though if you look through the rest of my blog (hint hint) you might get a feel for what I’m about.

I grew up in Brighton (Hove actually) which is fairly cosmopolitan (compared to another place I’ve lived in England). I don’t know what to call my culture, except Multiple Exposure in South East England.  I know more about some American TV programs than my own Royal Family and its history. That is the effect of living in a multicultural and Western society I think. It’s a make-it-up-as-you-go-along culture, which has its advantages and disadvantages, as do all cultures.

To be honest, in this cultural atmosphere its easy to see how extremist groups emerge from this, they’re scared because what they thought was a very stable and well-defined world becomes a melting pot that gives way under their feet. Socially dependent individuals become very insecure  and may react violently and retreat into a smaller box than they were in before. It’s also understandable that people without a clue about who they are or what they are doing get lost amidst it all.

I’ve never identified myself as very English, partly because my grandad came from Scotland and also, as I was growing up, being English didn’t seem to be anything in particular, it seemed quite bland to be honest and overrun by international influence, particularly the US (did I mention TV programmes? And let’s not forget McDonald’s). My break from Christianity also broke me out of cultural identity, and I only embraced Spiritualism nominally. Later, upon finding Paganism, I jumped at it and started an active spirituality. In a way this was my chance to forge my own individual identity without the Christian identity of my mum and the Spiritualist identity of my dad.

Modern Paganism itself is not a single belief system or tradition, but an eclectic melting pot that, whilst including traditions like Wicca, Asatru, Druidry amongst others, it also includes bits from the New Age, Indigneous traditions, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. Individuals with no-fixed-tradition are aplenty. It was a good atmosphere to look at myself without adopting fixed cultural trappings that might obscure my view of myself. I could have lost myself in this philosophical chaos, but I didn’t and the continuous focus of “nature-based spirituality” was what sustained me a lot of the time. It was always about nature and my connection with it, no matter what beliefs I was looking into and experimenting with.

That’s my group spiritual identity broken and my national identity is well on its way. Well, no, nothing is actually broken, it’s just expanded to include other things. My British nationality has expanded to become a part of the European Union, my geographical position is in Spain (or Catalonia, which might be a separate nation, or not) and I live with a Swiss family, one of which is my girlfriend. Would you like Tea and Toblerone with that Tapas?

So, where was I?

Oh yes, tribes!  What is my tribe? For me my tribe is not bound by cultural or ethnic roots, it has nothing to do with any social organisation I belong to, nor my supposed class, my geographical position, my family, my social circles, beliefs, spiritual traditions or any group affiliation.

To rephrase a well known saying, “Your tribe is where you heart is.” In the global melting pot of a mental concept that I call “my society” that’s the best I can do for a tribe. Well, actually that’s pretty good, and it works well for me.

“Most religious stories and mythologies have some sort of similar root, some sort of global archetypes.” Maynard James Keenan

 “Americans want to believe that the average Brit wears a bowler and a school tie and maintains a stiff upper lip and has a certain dry sense of humour; they do not want to be told that a good percentage of the British population are vulgar dimwits who care about nothing but shopping, alcohol, football and Posh Spice’s navel.” Joe Queenan

In Jungian psychology there is the well-known concept of the Collective Unconscious; a “reservoir” of ancestral experience inherited through genes or very ancient memes. In science it’s known that babies’ brains are “hardwired” to recognise faces shapes and voices. There has also been research that suggests they can recognise spider shapes at an early age, presumably because the quicker you can recognise a danger, like a poisonous spider, the better your chances of survival. These examples show that experience of the world is, to some extent, built into our genes from ancestral experience and show a very basic idea of Archetypes; models of human perception, roles and functions that are often represented by symbols and personalities.

But not only can the Collective Unconscious be ancestral experience but unconscious material that we exchange every day, things in society that we don’t question and take for granted as “reality.” This too contains “models of human perception, roles and functions that are often represented by symbols and personalities” that are called stereotypes.

There is a subtle but important difference between the two; Archetypes, for the most part, come from within and are natural to the human psyche and its development and are the fulfilment of certain human experiences. Stereotypes are things to conform to, that are imposed on the human psyche from the outside by cultural standards. With Archetypes the human psyche is simply going through different processes of human development that most humans go through despite culture. With stereotypes the human psyche is being programmed by cultural forces and made to fit into a preset image.

But it’s difficult to tell the difference between the two when you get to look at stereotypes and Archetypes. Some stereotypes have archetypal aspects to them, the interpretation of some Archetypes can be twisted so that they are conformed to and some Archetypes might be very ancient stereotypes that are so consistent with human existence they become universal in quality.

I think that’s the good thing about Archetypes, their universal qualities allow us to see another culture and understand the basic human experience that is going on underneath the bowler hat, feather headdress, baseball cap, horned helmet or sombrero. It’s only the mind that is so immersed in its cultural or societal stereotypes that cannot understand another human being from another culture because the other doesn’t fit into their idea of human “reality.” In this day and age where humanity is reaching a global phase of its development, it’s important to relinquish stereotypes and embrace an archetypal understanding of others, to form a common basis of understanding and communication. We can still be members of our own culture, but instead of conforming to it we can creatively play with it to complement the basic experience that is the human being.

“Let us feel and obey the urge aroused by the great need of healing the serious ills which at present are affecting humanity; let us realize the contribution we can make to the creation of a new civilization characterized by an harmonious integration and cooperation, pervaded by the spirit of synthesis.” Robert Assaggioli

 

“Whether we own it or not, most of us are deeply influenced by Christianity. With so many years of history, it could not be otherwise. We are influenced by it even if we consciously reject it.” Jim Pym, You Don’t Have To Sit On The Floor

The context: a Druid message board and I ask whether or not those trying to recreate a pre-Christian worldview (known as a Reconstructionist) take into account the history of Christianity and its influence on them? For instance, I had a Christian upbringing and the society I grew up in has had a heavy Christian influence built into it, can I legitimately disown this Christian influence to reconstruct a worldview that is more or less extinct?


 I was thinking of the value of the Christian worldview to the unfolding of history. Its claims of exclusivity have been detrimental, there’s no doubt about it. But it’s what I think of as a human-based worldview, much like Buddhism. Originally, it came from a Jewish background and it could have stayed that way, as one type of Judaism amongst others, like the Pharisees and Saducees of its time. If St Paul hadn’t converted it may have stayed that way. But Paul took the message further and broke its original Jewish context to make it more universal. In some of his writings he talks of men and women, rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, all united “in Christ.” For me, this is an important aspect of Christianity and other human-based worldviews; it transcends local cultural boundaries and brings humanity together into the same basis for understanding each other.

 

In theory, it’s good. One example is in Tibet, where Buddhism “defeated” the native shamanic worldview. But it didn’t try to subdue it, it understood that the native worldview had its own valid expression in the world. All it did was to take the native practices and beliefs and bring it into line with a Buddhist understanding. Buddhism (in this case at least) respected the continuity of Tibetan culture but also had something valuable to offer to Tibet that it may not have found for itself; a common HUMAN understanding as opposed to a worldview in which only Tibetans can understand. Here we have a healthy mingling of a local worldview and a universal (human) worldview.

 

In Christian Europe, things were quite different. I think originally Christianity was like Buddhism in that it was something that didn’t impose itself on other cultures but could find itself happily “seeding” itself amongst different cultures because it wasn’t so constrained to local cultural views, like Jews, Celts, Vikings, Arabs, Romans, Greeks etc. Its basic human element meant it could fit almost anywhere (Rome, Greece, Egypt, Israel etc). I think when the Roman Empire took hold of Christianity that was when Christianity became a force to dominate the world with (because that was what the Roman Empire was doing) but this time it was doing it on a religious level, using Christianity’s universal human quality as a tool to dominate the world with, seeing themselves as the sole custodians of a human religion (as opposed to a local tribal religon) that gave them the rights to feel superior to their “pagan” subjects, who they saw as unenlightened “yokels”. A view that has tainted European thought ever since. Another problem (and one that Buddhism hasn’t been clean of either, except for some female Buddhas) is that women weren’t a valuable part of it, often being seen as somehow “less than human.” Perhaps something that some pre-Christian worldviews can help us resolve but once again, despite nominal “goddess worship” women have sometimes suffered the same.

 

But still, the Roman Christianity couldn’t completely convert the native cultures. Often the Christian worldview they imposed had to be adapted to native practices as much as it adapted the natives, so we often see old Pagan celebrations hidden beneath a thin veneer of Christian language. Then later, with the Protestant Reformation, there have been attempts to shed even this and get down to the basics of a human worldview without the trappings of culturally specific practices.

 

The universal human quality of Christianity is the aspect that I feel is the best of the legacy that it represents. In it I am black, I am white. I am man, I am woman. I am HUMAN. I think in this day and age though, Christianity’s true nature could be revived through the gentle clarity of Buddhist understanding and more able to shed its “Roman” quality of Imperial Domination and the Jewish God’s claim to exclusivity. But that’s my own idea and various interfaith efforts are working towards this.

 

For me to reject the Christian legacy of my culture’s history is to deny a universal human worldview, to once again divide humanity up into local tribes. For me the true legacy of Christianity is human unity, which is why I don’t believe in rejecting it nor in reconstructing a pre-Christian worldview as a replacement. What I do believe in is what I’ve recently taken to calling Reconnectionist Paganism.

 

For me, this is to go beyond the Christian-centric vision of history we have. It seems that history has forgotten about what happened before Christianity in Europe. The Pagan roots were hidden and denied by Christianity (unlike the spread of Buddhism, possibly). For me, the coming of Christianity in Europe was not the problem. The problem was the suppression of Pagan culture. We could have been more peacfully united in a human-Christianity, where local tribal cultures still flourished and yet had a common human understanding “through Christ”. That did not happen though and the Roman and Jewish baggage that Christianity had aquired skewed our historical identity so that we forgot about Pagan Europe, or at least denied its identity. Paganism, for me, is about reconnecting the roots of my British-European identity to a deeper, pre-Christian, one. But I still maintain my Christian heritage, especially its Humanist elements.

 

The problem, for me, is that if I adopted the Reconstructionist approach and tried to learn to think like my pre-Christian ancestors (Germanic, Celtic and/or Norse) I’d be learning a worldview suited to the way the world was back then, when you stood for your tribe against the potentially hazardous forces of nature and competition against other tribes. In this day and age, when we’re in such a small and delicate world, with powerful technologies at our disposal, this tribal worldview (fragmented and competitive, like Celtic cattle raiders or Viking pirates) is not to our advantage, we are in desperate need of basic human values of collaboration and common understanding, something we can find in the Humanist elements of Christianity (at least in the heritage of the Western World).

 

But humans are not an isolated subject, we cannot have a Humanist worldview without recognising its wider context; that of our living planet. For me, this offers another common worldview, alongside our common humanity. It is the universal context in which we have all evolved within and carry on evolving. In this stage of history, we need to develop a “Gaian” worldview especially since our influence on the environment is so powerful that we cannot afford not to coordinate and focus ourselves together, with the same worldview to orientate ourselves.

 

The Earth is ONE thing. Humanity is learning this, but in a detrimental and destructive way. No matter what culture you are in, no matter where you live, no matter what beliefs and values you hold dear, we all live under global influence, the collapse of which will be universal, affecting every human being (and plenty of other species as well). Favoritism is not a part of this system, so either we have to find a coherent way of thinking and behaving within the living Earth or go extinct, along with all the worldviews we have developed.

 

On one level, that of the planet, there is conformity. But at the same time there is room for diversity as the diversity of species and ecosystems (and even worldviews) can attest. Then the “conformity” I’m talking about is not conformity at all otherwise our ecological diversity would not be possible. Instead, I talk about coherence and synthesis.

 

As a student of Psychosynthesis (founded by Robert Assagioli), I view my life as a single, progressive, path and the various aspects of my personality as a coherent whole working towards synthesis. So too with the history of things, which I view myself as a “synthetic” part of. Humanity is on a coherent evolutionary course, despite appearances (we are diversified as a species but at present humanity is undeniably going through a process of globalisation).  For me, the course of our historical developments i.e. practical (agricultural, industrial) or spiritual (monotheistic, polytheistic etc) are legitimate ways through which humanity, as a coherent whole, express what we are, what we have become and what we are becoming.

 

For me, to deny my Pagan heritage is to cut away at a root of my human identity, depriving it of a vital part of what my humanity is. On the other hand, denial of the more recent Christian developments is to regress, depriving me of a vital part of what humanity, for me, has become. To be “totally Christian” or “totally Pagan” I see as an impossibility in these times where both have played a fundamental part in our evolution as a species. I cannot just “baptise” my past away, thinking it is not a part of my spiritual journey.

 

To be honest I don’t care about whether there is one God or many gods or none at all. I don’t believe that’s neither important nor REALLY relevant to our present place in history. What I do believe in is humanity and the Earth. I seem to remember one fiction book’s take on King Arthur where he was asked what he believed in, the old polytheist religion or the newer monotheistic religion. His reply was something like “I don’t know but I know I believe in humanity.”

 

I’ll add to this “I believe in Gaia,” that humanity cannot regard itself in a separate way from its ecological context, although a distinction can be made. Humanity’s current process of globalisation means that all the cultures that have found themselves estranged from each other, diversifying from each other, are now converging, with our new atmosphere of international travel, communication and politics. This is a very volatile time, where incompatible or competing cultures are finding themselves at odds. We grew from Africa and spread around the globe, becoming diversified. But because of the inventive, communicative and organisational nature of humanity, the process of globalisation seems an unavoidable part of our evolution.

 

My view of Druidry is coloured by this. I do not view Druidry as a local Irish-British-Gaulish “wisdom tradition” to be reconstructed but something that could have found itself growing beyond this culturally bound context. The Druids I view as an intertribal network, providing different tribes and different cultures with a common way of understanding and communication, at its heart I can see that it may have had humanitarian values. I wonder, if the Roman Empire had not invaded Britain, and later Christianity had not usurped the Druids, that Druidry may have expanded and evolved across Europe, uniting fragmented tribes and their different pantheons with common principles. Speculation, true, but one that influences how I practice my Druidry. What’s more, what the “humanitarian” Druidry does that Christianity and Buddhism often don’t so much is to consider the importance of our environmental context, it has a place for humans within nature. It is mainly seen as an Earth-based spirituality.

 

The Conclusion: For me, this is perhaps best summed up in “To be “totally Christian” or “totally Pagan” I see as an impossibility in these times where both have played a fundamental part in our evolution as a species.”

My journey through Paganism helped me recognise and integrate a deeper pre-Christian identity that was within me and within my culture. But also I see the evolution of humanity as one process, and all of its world views, developments and challenges are part of that process, from the dispersal from Africa and subsequent diversification to the global reconnection we are going through now. Ultimately I view myself as a Gaian, because within the living Earth all of our worldviews has developed, from Animism to Materialism, Shamanism to Scientific Pantheism, Nihilism to Idealism, Polytheism to Monotheism, all have grown within humanity, and humanity has grown within Gaia. Our ideas are as much a part of Gaia  as we are.

 

“You see that pale, blue dot? That’s us. Everything that has ever happened in all of human history, has happened on that pixel. All the triumphs and all the tragedies, all the wars all the famines, all the major advances… it’s our only home. And that is what is at stake, our ability to live on planet Earth, to have a future as a civilization. I believe this is a moral issue, it is your time to cease this issue, it is our time to rise again to secure our future.” Al Gore

This quote sums up Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth and not just that, it sums up the present situation on “our only home.” Humans are now going through a major transition, one from local levels to a global level. With the invention of the Internet, with satellites and advances in transportation, this world has become a remarkably smaller place, and with such an easier flow of people, international government and the internet, a global civilisation is beginning to come into being.

But we are also facing some of the biggest challenges we have ever faced, as pointed out in the movie. Contrary to what people thought in the past, the Earth, “our only home,” does not have unlimited resources that we can use as much as we want, and also, the Earth is not somewhere where we can throw our industrial waste without consequence.

The facts and figures in this movie are impressive, they’re not just entertaining special effects or a catchy storylines like in other movies, they have very real and serious implications for how we behave within the confines of Earth. It is, as Al Gore said “a moral issue,” but it isn’t new. Since the 70s, if not longer, science has been telling us to be careful of our planet because it isn’t a system that’ll support us no matter what we do to it. Movements have arisen in response, to be aware of being in balance with nature, but still it hasn’t become mainstream, being supported largely by specialist scientists and movements on the “fringes” of society.

But this is changing. Look at the daily newspaper and you have news about the environment. Look at the internet and you’ll find a HUGE amount of environmental websites. You can even go to a cinema to watch Al Gore telling us about the “Climate Crisis.” These media are the mythology of our age. Mythology is information about the state of the world we are living in and how we view it aswell, in some ways it gives us our morality.

If mainstream society’s mythology changes, then so can the direction that society takes and with the work of people like Al Gore, things look brighter. Environmentalism is becoming more mainstream, more people are aware that we don’t just live in a human world but also an ecological one, one that sustains us, as long as we look after it.

“We hope to see a Europe where men of every country will think as much of being a European as of belonging to their native land, and that without losing any of their love and loyalty of their birthplace. We hope wherever they go in this wide domain, to which we set no limits in the European Continent, they will truly feel ‘Here I am at home. I am a citizen of this country too.'” Winston Churchill

I’ve been getting “European.” Perhaps it’s because I live in a different country from my origin. Perhaps it’s because I live with my Swiss girlfriend and her multi-lingual family (5 languages altogether!)
But also, I see the world changing in a specific way. No longer can we be so localized within our nations, worldwide communication and travel is uniting humanity and transcending local cultural boundaries. Globalisation has taken hold and is in progress, for good or for bad. I hope for the good, of a common humanity and our place within Gaia.
I look through my family tree at my genetic heritage; English with Scottish, Irish, and possibly Welsh and German. That is of the past, but what of the future? I feel myself as defined by my potential future as I am by my inherited past.
But my future isn’t just European, it is a common humanity, coevolving within itself and with the living planet of which we are a part. That I feel has been part of humanity’s destiny even when it first spread beyond Africa, across the globe, diversifying, genetically and culturally. And with our present levels of travel and communication, we are brought closer into a smaller world.
Our mix of different cultures in such a small world can be a very volatile mix where cultures find themselves at odds. But I believe, even through our diversity we can find unity, because at the end of the day, despite cultural, national or racial identity, it is our humanity that remains.