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The Dilemma of Thanksgiving Grace for Religious Naturalists

November 21, 2014

Ah, those warm, comforting memories of Thanksgivings spent with family. … Or, are they sometimes not so blissful? Like when the family meal starts with a request that we all pray about Jesus’ blood?  If that sounds familiar, you may enjoy this short video by John Cleland Host.  Have a great Thanksgiving!

And here’s a simple grace that John Halstead says with his family:

We thank the earth in which the seed did grow.
We thank the hands that the seed did sow.
We thank the sky which gave us rain.
We thank the sun whose rays give us gain.
We thank the hands that this meal did prepare.
To live in honor of these gifts is our prayer.

Happy Thanksgiving to all our HumanisticPaganism.com friends!

“How Earth-Centered is Neo-Paganism Really?” by John Halstead

November 19, 2014
cover of Gaia's Gift

“Earth-centered World” by Glynn Gorick

Our late autumn theme here at HP is “Responsibility“.  This is the first in a 3-part series, looking critically at contemporary Neo-Paganism from an earth-centered perspective.  Note: The views expressed in this essay are the author’s and are not necessarily representative of HumanisticPaganism.com or any of its other contributors.

“Until we get our heads out of the clouds and come down to the earth we so love, and get our hands dirty… we won’t be leaders in the environmental movement. It’s time to organize!”

Karen Engelsen, in response to the question why Pagans aren’t the leaders of the environmental movement

Neo-Paganism has been around for almost 50 years, if you date it to 1967, the year Feraferia, the Church of all Worlds, and NROOGD were all organized.  Back then, Neo-Paganism showed real potential as a new “Earth religion”.  Feraferia and the Church of All Worlds in particular styled themselves as nature religions, with ambitious goals short of nothing but saving the world from itself.  Chas Clifton, author of Her Hidden Children, The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America, identifies 1970, the same year as the first Earth Day, as the year when Wicca transformed from a “mystery religion” or “metaphorical fertility religion” into a “nature religion”.  That same year, the founder of the Church of All Worlds, Oberon (then Tim) Zell, had a vision of Mother Earth as a living planet several years before James Lovelock’s Gaia Hypothesis was popularized.  A few years later, Margot Adler would describe the Neo-Paganism of the mid- to late-1970s as a “celebratory, ecological nature religion.”  Since then, though, Neo-Paganism has struggled to reconcile its exoteric earth-centered principles with the esoteric Self-centered practices which it inherited from traditional Wicca.  Anthropologist Susan Greenwood reports finding from her research among Pagans in 1990s “that there was more emphasis on ritual and psychospiritual ‘internal’ nature as personal experience rather than a connection to, or even an interest in, the environment.”

Read more…

“Gaia’s Heartbeat: practicing empathy for the Mother of us all” by Brandon Sanders

November 16, 2014

This essay was first published at the SolSeed blog.

According to James Lovelock’s popular Gaia hypothesis, all life on Earth, in combination with the geochemical cycles it interacts with, can be treated as a single living organism called Gaia. Humanity has an obligation to care for Gaia, but it is hard to empathize with Gaia because her rhythms are so much slower than ours that we can’t directly perceive them. Our core brain doesn’t care for those it does not empathize with. To powerfully motivate our core brain to care for Gaia, we’ve created a music video to help us empathize with her. The music video speeds up Gaia’s rhythms to match the rhythms of our hearts beating and our bodies breathing, so that our core brain can perceive Gaia as an immediate living being. We hope that regularly watching the video will increase our motivation to take care of Gaia.

  Read more…

Mid-Month Meditation: “planetize the movement” by Drew Dellinger

November 14, 2014

Editor’s note: We encourage our readers to take these mid-month meditations as an opportunity to take a short break from everything else. Rather than treating these posts the way you would any other post, set aside 10 minutes someplace quiet and semi-private to have an experience. Take a minute to relax first. After listening to the recording and/or reading the lyrics, take a few minutes to let the experience sink in. If it feels right, leave a comment.

from the Sept 2014 People’s Climate March in NYC

“planetize the movement” by Drew Dellinger

planetize the movement

we are standing on a planet
that is shooting through space,
and it’s time we started acting like it

imagine nations with freed imaginations

it’s time for s/he who
sees the way
to seize the day,
seize the hour,
seize the levers of power
and
be the change

a new page,
a new stage of drama
we need a movement of movements
in the age of Obama,
‘cause not even a messiah could cure this empire

we need all of us
to face all of the past,
and move past it
I ain’t gonna study war no more,
except in history classes

globalize liberation,
planetize the movement—

you can’t stop
the Earth’s revolution.

The snafu was the half who
would settle for half-truth
so I’m at it again with a pad and a pen
some things deserve to dissolve
and the last shall be first and vice-versa

(you are floating
on a planet;
act accordingly)

cryosphere melting,
ten trillion tears
to a vanishing planet

Earth—dream blossom
of the cosmos:
silent universe,
speaking in species

every cell is intelligent
cultivate bioluminescence

the breath is the bridge

imagine nations with freed imaginations

we are standing on a planet
that is shooting through space,
and it’s time we started acting like it

globalize liberation,
planetize the movement—

you can’t stop
the Earth’s revolution.

(Originally published in Tikkun magazine, Jan./Feb. 2009)

About the Author

Drew Dellinger, Ph.D., is a speaker, poet, and writer about issues of  ecology, justice, cosmology, and connectedness.  He is the founder of Planetize the Movement.  Drew has presented at TEDWomen, Bioneers, the Green Festival, the Dream Reborn, and the Parliament of the World’s Religions. and shared stages with Thomas Berry, Julia Butterfly Hill, Brian Swimme, and Joanna Macy.  He is the author of a book of poems, Love Letter to the Milky Way.  He also created and taught the course, “New Cosmology: The Universe Story” on ecology, worldviews, and the work of Thomas Berry. His multimedia presentation, “The Cosmic Narrative”, was made into a film, The Awakening Universe. languages.  Drew holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy and Religion from CIIS, and was an Associate Professor and Director of the Program in Social Ecology.

“Leopard in a Minefield: The Flourishing of Nature” by Chris Highland

November 9, 2014

Falklands minefield

This article is part of the Patheos Public Square 2014 Summer Series: Conversations on Religious Trends. It is republished here with the permission of the author. 

The naturalistic reformers of nineteenth-century America call us to love this world and no other. We can’t “save” this world until we save ourselves from distractive spiritual speculation, until we turn our minds to radical interrelationship.

The true bible is the book of nature, the wisest teacher the one who most plainly expounds it, the best priest our own conscience, and the most orthodox church a hall of science. . . Let us call ourselves by what names we will, are we not creatures occupying the same earth, and sharing the same nature? And can we not consider these as members of one family?. . . . My friends, I am no Christian. . . I am neither Jew nor Gentile, Muslim nor Theist; I am but a member of the human family. ~ Frances Wright, Reason, Religion and Morals (1829)

The popular speaker, abolitionist, and freethinker who wrote the heretical words above was a powerful voice in the early 19th century. She inspired Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and led Walt Whitman to call her “one of the best women in history though also one of the least understood.”

But what of the endangered planet of the 21st century? How do these words of an early American leader speak to the severe challenges of our current global environment? Standing alongside Thoreau and Muir, Burroughs and Roosevelt, Rachel Carson and Janine Benyus, in the freethought tradition of Thomas Paine and Walt Whitman, Wright offers a solution to our self-destructive path. But most of us won’t like the solution or the cure.

In a nutshell (eggshell or turtle shell), here is what I find stunning about the wisdom of these naturalistic reformers: they call us to love this world and no other. They beckon us back from ages of heaven-mindedness and distractive spiritual speculation, back to earth, back home. We can’t “save” this world until we save ourselves from other worlds.

Read more…

Autumn Cross-Quarter

November 7, 2014

Samhain altar by Trea Silverwolf

Today is the Autumn Cross-Quarter in the Northern Hemisphere. Among Neo-Pagans, the Cross-Quarter is commonly celebrated on October 31 as Samhain (pron. saw-in).  It is the part of the origin of modern Halloween. The actual date of the cross-quarter falls about a week later on November 6 or 7. The precise date and time for the cross-quarter for the year can be found at archaeoastronomy.com. Meanwhile, those in the Southern Hemisphere experience this time as the Summer Cross-Quarter.

Read more…

“Hieroglyphic Stairway” by Drew Dellinger

November 5, 2014

Editor’s note: Pagans just finished celebrating Samhain, during which many of us honored our ancestors.  Earlier this week, Catholics around the world celebrated the Day of All Souls, during which they too honored their ancestors.  As we move into our late autumn theme of Responsibility, we at HP are shifting our attention from our ancestors to our descendants.  And thus, we open this theme with a poem by Drew Dellinger.

Hieroglyphic Stairway, Copan, Honduras

it’s 3:23 in the morning
and I’m awake
because my great great grandchildren
won’t let me sleep
my great great grandchildren
ask me in dreams
what did you do while the planet was plundered?
what did you do when the earth was unraveling?

surely you did something
when the seasons started failing?

as the mammals, reptiles, birds were all dying?

did you fill the streets with protest
when democracy was stolen?

what did you do
once
you
knew?

I’m riding home on the Colma train
I’ve got the voice of the milky way in my dreams

I have teams of scientists
feeding me data daily
and pleading I immediately
turn it into poetry

I want just this consciousness reached
by people in range of secret frequencies
contained in my speech

I am the desirous earth
equidistant to the underworld
and the flesh of the stars

I am everything already lost

the moment the universe turns transparent
and all the light shoots through the cosmos

I use words to instigate silence

I’m a hieroglyphic stairway
in a buried Mayan city
suddenly exposed by a hurricane

a satellite circling earth
finding dinosaur bones
in the Gobi desert
I am telescopes that see back in time

I am the precession of the equinoxes,
the magnetism of the spiraling sea

I’m riding home on the Colma train
with the voice of the milky way in my dreams

I am myths where violets blossom from blood
like dying and rising gods

I’m the boundary of time
soul encountering soul
and tongues of fire

it’s 3:23 in the morning
and I can’t sleep
because my great great grandchildren
ask me in dreams
what did you do while the earth was unraveling?

I want just this consciousness reached
by people in range of secret frequencies
contained in my speech

You can see Drew recite this poem here.

About the Author

Drew Dellinger, Ph.D., is a speaker, poet, and writer about issues of  ecology, justice, cosmology, and connectedness.  He is the founder of Planetize the Movement.  Drew has presented at TEDWomen, Bioneers, the Green Festival, the Dream Reborn, and the Parliament of the World’s Religions. and shared stages with Thomas Berry, Julia Butterfly Hill, Brian Swimme, and Joanna Macy.  He is the author of a book of poems, Love Letter to the Milky Way.  He also created and taught the course, “New Cosmology: The Universe Story” on ecology, worldviews, and the work of Thomas Berry. His multimedia presentation, “The Cosmic Narrative”, was made into a film, The Awakening Universe. languages.  Drew holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy and Religion from CIIS, and was an Associate Professor and Director of the Program in Social Ecology.

 

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