5/19/2010

There Are No Inanimate Objects

We gouge the earth for coal and bleed her black veins for oil as if She were an inanimate object. Western culture assumes that the material world is simply "raw material," ours to take and to monetize. Otherwise, Earth has little or no value because minerals, water, oil and air are lifeless matter. How's that been working out for us?

In truth, there are no inanimate objects. A single atom in a rock vibrates with layers of living intelligence. A pebble is animated with atomic motion, organized in unfathomably brilliant mathematical architecture. Some stones are quite wise.

Native Americans who keep to the ancient ways, still fast and pray near sacred rock formations and mesas, listening to voices of the mineral kingdom. For thousands of years, Australian Aborigines have oriented themselves in vast stretches of desert by listening to the "Song Lines" that vibrate from rocks and sand.

Jesus illuminated a morsel of bread with divine fire: "Take, eat, this is my body." "Every creature is a word of God," wrote Meister Eckhart. St. Basil the Great said that nature was "God's other book." And St. Bernard told the first monks who settled the European wilderness, "Go into the woods: rocks and trees will teach you more than any library." Christian mystics incorporated this ancient way of knowing, called Animism, into their vision of "the universal body of Christ."

But post-Enlightenment science and Protestant theology debunked Animism as primitive superstition. And tragically, modern education drills such modes of knowing out of our children. When my daughter was in first grade, I explained to her how native peoples honor the life in stones. She shared this with her classmates in the art room. You'd think at least the art room would be safe! One of the children told the art teacher, and the art teacher made my daughter stand in the corner for suggesting that stones are alive.

Our survival as a species may depend on our ability to revive our tribal Elders' way of knowing. This is why the film, "Avatar," ignited such yearning for atavistic vision. The salvation of the earth may depend on our recovery of Animism.

For we have lost our vision of a living earth, our second sight of soil infused with spirit. We have divorced Father mind from Mother matter, and thus devised an economic system that brutalizes the natural world.

Yet an Animistic vision of hope arises, not in our churches and synagogues, but in the science of quantum physics. Founding quantum physicist, Sir James Jeans, wrote that the material world is "a world created out of pure intelligence." Physicist Arthur Eddington, another quantum pioneer and president of the Royal Academy of Science, wrote: "All through the physical world runs that unknown content which must surely be the stuff of our consciousness. The stuff of the world is mind-stuff."

"All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force," wrote Max Planck, one of the monumental physicists of the 20th Century. "We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Mind. This Mind is the matrix of all matter."

This body is as sacred as the soul, each molecule of flesh a portal to unbounded consciousness. A blade of grass embodies an angel. On its tip, oceans of wisdom overflow the dewdrop. Take the smooth pebble from a cold stream and hold it in the palm of your hand: this too is sacred. Each atom of it glitters with galaxies, and a radiance sub-nuclear, where nebulae are born. Deeper inside, the quark sings in silence; photons effervesce in the primal vacuum. Here are the waters of the void, which are the waters of your own primordial awareness. Matter and consciousness are One. For over those waters the Spirit breathes, and God is always saying, "Let there be light."

1 comment:

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