Nothing is more difficult than to practice goodness within a system whose rules, goals, and information streams are geared to individualism, competitiveness, and cynicism. But it can be done. We can be patient with ourselves and others as we all confront a changing world. We can empathize with resistance to change; there is some clinging to the ways of unsustainability within each of us. We can include everyone in the challenge; everyone will be needed. We can listen to the cynicism around us and pity those who indulge in it, but refuse to indulge in it ourselves. The world can never pass safely through the adventure of bringing itself to sustainability if people do not view themselves and others with compassion. That compassion is there, within all of us, just waiting to be used, the greatest resource of all, and one with no limits.
— Donella Meadows
“Without a clearer understanding of why people seek the consolations of religion, we can make no persuasive case for sustainability beyond the fact that we wish to survive. In other words, environmentalists lack both a deep explanation for what ails us and a larger cosmology or spirituality rendered into a coherent and plausible alternative story of our ecological maladjustments. Neuroscientists and biologists are learning a great deal about what makes us tick, but can they tell a compelling, authentic, and life-oriented story of our human sojourn plausible and powerful enough to replace stories about the end times and the inevitability of Armageddon? If they cannot, charlatans will fill the human need for meaning in hard times with snake oil of one kind or another. . . .if we could know why we ought to be sustained, we might better understand how to go about it. To know ourselves worthy of survival, for one thing, would lend energy to our efforts toward sustainability. If we believe ourselves unworthy — no more than maximizing creatures Homo economics, or just clever primates — our efforts toward sustainability will lack the conviction that arises from knowing our cause to be valid.”
~ David Orr
Down to the Wire: Confronting Climate Collapse
Someday someone will isolate the frequency of love and build a machine to transmit it. Calling it Smith’s Healing Rays, they will charge to beam it at our injured parts. And we may forget it was ours all the time. But for now, we will call it TREE.
The fabricated TREE will not be as effective as what we can develop within ourselves. For TREE is individual, each person sending that love particular to her/his being and no computer can simulate the variety, tenderness and efficaciousness of the heart. TREE is particular, but it is also collective, not the act of one person, but of several, not exclusively an act of intimacy, but also of community. And TREE is not what we have associated with healing, the sucking into our own healthy bodies of a disease occupying another, but rather the loving saturation of the other body with the healing light originating in the heart.
An impoverishment of the soul exists within “First World” countries: the means for a just existence are within our grasp, but our wills, our social structures, and our imaginations have not yet proven adequate for that struggle. I would name the sickness of the “Third World” as an impoverishment of the body, in the sense that basic bodily needs – food, housing, health care, and work – are so often lacking. The connection between the soul-sickness of the north and the body-sickness of the south is as strong as the connection, in the human organism, of the soul and the body. We are one in our sickness and disease; we will be one in our healing and liberation. What needs healing is different in each case, however; and the remedy for healing and liberation also differs.
We meditate, we bring gifts, we make sacrifices, we invoke helpers, angels, spirits, gods, we engage in purification rites, fast or eat ritual foods, we light candles or sit in the dark, we drink wine or abstain, we examine our conscience, confess our misdeeds, make pledges, adorn ourselves or tear our clothes, we travel to far places, make pilgrimages or sit in a cave. Every religion on the planet has its versions of these activities, but these are not the means through which initiation occurs or spiritual capacity is achieved. These are necessary rites. They are what we do to prepare ourselves, to demonstrate our intent, to create a vessel; these are the equivalent of knocking at the door.
For this reason, the accounting of the details of ritual and ceremony obfuscate the events and reveal far less than is implied. They are interesting, but they are not the thing-in-itself. The initiation will not happen without them and also they are not central to it. One face of our obsession with material events is our desire to be able to do everything ourselves. This is one shadow of our desire to know and to control. We value what is reproducible because it empowers us. And because we crave power, we want to be able to reproduce anything and everything. Technology reassures us that there is no power greater than ours. If we understand the technology we will be able to reproduce the event ourselves. For the materialist, there is no “magic” in an event, there is only the difficulty of discovering and refining the formula. When mechanical thinking such as this is brought to the spiritual, one misses entirely the field that one is trying to enter.
This is the dilemma of the visible and the invisible. The materialist does not know how to negotiate the field of the invisible and so presumes it will be revealed at another time or that it does not exist. He or she may then use the technology that is available as if it were sufficient, without understanding the consequences of his or her incomplete activity. Such a one cannot see or isn’t concerned with what is missing, but the healer will recognize that what is missing is everything. This is one difference between a dark sorcerer and a true healer. A dark sorcerer will work for effect without an alliance with Spirit, while the healer knows that there is nothing but the alliance with Spirit. The healer uses the ritual events in order to prepare the vessel so that Spirit can pour itself into the world. Or we can put it this way, if someone cannot recognize the soul, he or she cannot recognize soullessness. And because the soul cannot be had through technique, purchase or resolve, it lies outside the will to power.