Sunday, May 31, 2015

Tribal, Cosmic, Mythic

"An Enchanted Universe"
- At the Desert Retreat House- 

Yesterday I was listening to a TV program about ancient civilizations and I cringed at a reference to the people who lived back then as "primitive people." In some ways I think our contemporary age of advanced technology may well be more primitive, less "spiritually" advanced, than those ancestors who lived so many centuries ago.

I am reminded of something author and priest Richard Rohr once said about the spiritual awareness of ancient peoples:

Before 800 BC, the thinking on the whole planet, no matter what the continent,
was invariably tribal, cosmic, mythic.
Simply by watching the sky, birds and trees, the seasons, darkness and light,
people knew they belonged.
They lived in an inherently enchanted universe where everything belonged,
including themselves. 

Over the course of history, as civilizations developed, supposedly advanced peoples and nations became more and more autonomous. Instead of defining themselves as belonging to the tribe, people developed a stronger sense of separated selves- egos that needed to be fed, gratified and protected. The natural world became more and more distant and removed from everyday life- a world of nature was now a natural resource to be used for human advantage.  

But more than anything else, as people advanced in knowledge and the age of science and reason dawned on the human race, we began to fool ourselves into thinking that we could figure it all out-define, explain and control this mysterious world of our human existence. 

As I see it, so-called primitive people were perhaps closer to grasping the truth than those of us living in in our advanced civilization.   Interestingly enough, the more scientifically advanced we become, the more we discover that those "primitive people" may indeed have had it right all along.

The most advanced human genome research of our own day has discovered that, genetically speaking, regardless of tribe or race or national origin, human beings essentially share the same genes- we are indeed one tribe- those ancient ones had it right all along. 

Furthermore, there are many scientists of our own day who have concluded that the entire planet earth essentially functions as one interconnected organism,  any changes in any one part ultimately affecting changes in every other interrelated and interconnected other parts

I think of something the famed environmentalist John Muir once wrote some years back:

When we try to pick out anything by itself we find
it is attached by a thousand invisible chords that cannot be broken, 
attached to everything in the universe.

As for being able to "figure it all out" - today's most sophisticated scientists, quantum physicists, cosmologists and neurobiologists have essentially concluded that the vast majority of this world in which we live is a great mystery- perhaps 5% of it can be scientifically explained and analyzed - all the rest is "dark energy." 

We may do well to pay attention once again to the spiritual lesson of our "primitive" ancient  ancestors. Since we all belong to the cosmos, we will surely self destruct if any one of us tries to define himself or herself as separated from or superior to anything or anyone else. The goal of the spiritual life is to come to a point where we experience our mutual belonging to one another and to the world of nature. 

As I see it, the ancient worldview of our so-called primitive ancestors may well go a long-way in helping all of us in this sophisticated civilization to re-imagine what and who "God" is all about. "God" - not some super human person above the fray of existence, but an unknowable,  uncontrollable energy abiding in and through everything that is. We long for this connection - we long for "God." 

Perhaps "God" is those thousands of invisible chords that cannot be broken,  connecting everything in the universe together. 

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