Information

The Sacred and Ancient Legacy of our Feathered Friends


Although lions, tigers and other ferocious man-eaters were hunted and subsequently ritualized by shamans who attempted to internalize the energy of these different animals, throughout the ages birds of all shapes and sizes also played central roles in shaping ancient rites and religious beliefs. However, tiny bird bones and feathers are often sidelined during excavations of vast gold-filled tombs and Paleolithic hunter burial sites, but nevertheless, the practice of using birds in ancient rituals holds volumes of data about ancient humans’ understanding of the cycles of nature.

This ancient Cascoplecia “unicorn fly" lived 100 million years ago in Burma at the same time as the bird with decoy feathers. ( CC BY-SA 2.0)

100-Million-Year Old Decoy Feathers

Recently a team of researchers led by paleontologist Lida Xing of the China University of Geosciences in Beijing studied 31 pieces of 100-million-year old Myanmar amber (commonly known as Burmese amber) containing feathers from the Cretaceous period with 3-D technology. They were astonished to discover everything they assumed about Cretaceous feathers was wrong. A 2018 Science Alert article by science correspondent Michelle Starr discussing the study explains that previously,“it was assumed that ancient birds had tail streamers for the same purpose as their modern cousins; to look good, especially during courtship.” But the scientists discovered these ancient feathers were far from colorful and built unlike anything today, leading to the conclusion that the feathers would have dislodged easily for quick removal acting like decoys so that their lengths coaxed predators to grasp their tails rather than their bodies.

Szczeliniec Wielki, part of Góry Stołowe National Park, Poland, where the child was found with bird skulls lodged inside its mouth. ( Rlelusz/ CC BY-SA 4.0 )

Bird Skulls Discovered in Child’s Mouth

In 2018 a Polish scientific project, re-examining artifacts found in Tunnel Wielki Cave in Poland in the 1960s, made the startling discovery of a decapitated child’s skeleton. A 2018 Science Poland article by Szymon Zdziebłowski detailing the discovery notes that the youngster suffered from, “malnutrition and died, aged ten, during the late 18th or early 19th century.” But oddly, the child’s shallow grave was found to be completely alone, and not just alone in its cave system, but no other cave burials have ever been found anywhere in the region. Adding to this bizarre mystery burial archaeologists recorded that for an unknown reason the, “tiny skull of a chaffinch had been placed inside in the child’s mouth.


Peacock: A Constant in Indian Culture

“With a view to cause satisfaction to the world, you indulge in your dance, thereby creating happiness at a time when it withers, being stricken or afflicted by the scorching sun. So, I approach you, who are the descendant of that race of Indra who are the only solace to those opposed by grief, in the same manner as the sun is approached as a friend of the lotus.”

These lines are addressed to a messenger peacock by an aching lover who is separated from his spouse, in the 16th-century poetic work called Mayurasandesa (The Peacock’s Message) by Udaya, a poet from Kerala.

It is not surprising that the lover in the above-mentioned work expressed his anguish through the peacock. The bird has always been an object of wonder and inspiration, and has been mentioned in accounts dating back more than 2,000 years. It adorns the crown of Lord Krishna, the most loved god of the Hindu pantheon, who has been an inspiration to artists across the subcontinent, Its beautiful train and hypnotic mating dance have captured the imagination of foreign visitors in ancient times it became the symbol of many an Indian royal and it was eventually adopted as the national bird of India.

For centuries, the peacock has played a pivotal role in Indian tradition. It has been revered in ancient texts and gracefully depicted in art through the ages. While the peacock is indigenous to India, there are various references to it being introduced to the West through this country. The Old Testament of the Bible (arguably) says that King Solomon (of Israel), who reigned around 950 BCE, received an import of peacocks from Muziris, an ancient port in Kerala. Even the Hebrew word for peacock, ‘tavas’, is believed to be derived from the Tamil word ‘togai’.

When Macedonian Emperor Alexander invaded India in 326 BCE, he was transfixed by a flock of wild peacocks in flight on the banks of the Ravi River. He was so enchanted by their beauty that he warned his army that anyone who harmed these birds would be punished. According to some accounts, Alexander took 200 peacocks with him when he left India and they became an item of wonder in foreign lands. Apparently, people would pay hefty sums just to come and see them.

In India, peacocks has been sacred to many dynasties. The great ‘Mauryan’ dynasty, founded by Chandragupta Maurya in 322 BCE, is named after the peacock. The bird finds prominent mention in the rock edicts of his grandson, the third Mauryan Emperor Ashoka. The seal of the 2nd century Kushan emperor Kanishka was a peacock, while the Gupta rulers, who presided over the ‘classical age in Indian history’, issued gold and silver coins depicting this glamorous bird.

Also, the 2,000-year-old neighbourhood of Mylapore in Chennai derives its name from Mayilarparikumoor, meaning ‘land of the peacock scream’. Pallava ruler Nandivarman III (c. 850 CE) was known as ‘Mylai Kavalan’ or the ‘Protector of the City of Peacocks’. In medieval times, the Tughlaq rulers (1320-1414 CE) adopted the peacock’s feather as their state symbol and incorporated it into the headgear of their soldiers.

Indian mythology is full of legends associated with the peacock. The most popular is around how it became so closely connected with Lord Krishna. The story goes that in Govardhana Hill at Braj, once when Lord Krishna was playing his flute, peacocks started dancing in joy and excitement upon listening to the sweet melody. After the dance, they spread their feathers on the ground and the chief peacock offered them to Lord Krishna with humility. The Lord accepted the gift and promised to always adorn himself with it.

Another story explains how the peacock got its beautiful plumage. It seems that when Lord Indra was battling Ravana, the rakshasa king of Lanka, a peacock raised its tail to form a protective screen behind which Indra could hide. As a reward, Indra granted the bird its gorgeous blue-green plumage and exotic feathered tail.

The peacock also features in the popular episode of samudra-manthan in Hindu mythology, which explains the origins of amrita, the nectar of immortality. It is said that when poison was churned, the peacock absorbed its toxic effects, thus acting as a protector.

The vahana of Lord Kartikeya is also a peacock named Paravani. And it is impossible to imagine Lord Krishna without a peacock feather attached to his headband.

Valmiki in his Ramayana wrote that while in exile for 14 years, Ram and Sita always watched the peacock’s graceful dances together. Many years later, when Sita was abandoned by Ram after his coronation, all the trees, the flowers and deer wept, and the peacock ceased to dance. Kalidasa (5th century CE), in his Ritu Samhara, described the bird through six seasons and its joy when the rains arrive.

The Buddhist Jataka story of Mahamor narrates how the Buddha was a golden peacock in a previous birth. In Buddhist mythology, the peacock is a symbol of compassion and watchfulness. Jain monks once carried fly whisks made of peacock feathers as they were believed to ward off evil.

The peacock is also revered by many tribes in India. The Mori clan of the Bhil tribe of Central India worships the peacock and will not even step on a peacock’s tracks. Similarly, the bird is the sacred totem of the Jat community in North India. The Warli tribe of Maharashtra fixes peacock feathers in a brass pot to represent their God Hirva and they dance around it. The Koyis of the Godavari River in Andhra Pradesh tie peacock feathers to Sitalamata.

When it comes to architecture, the depiction of the peacock goes as far back as the Harappan age (2500 – 1500 BCE). The peacock motif was a recurring theme in large jars back then. Even the 1st century CE Buddhist stupas at Sanchi and Bharhut have carvings of peacocks shown in a welcome pose.

Mughal ruler Shah Jahan (1592-1666), builder of the Taj Mahal, commissioned the Peacock Throne, made of gems and jewels, that was the envy of the medieval world. The top of the throne had two peacocks facing each other, like the peacock guardians of the Islamic gates of paradise and recreating the Persian belief that two peacocks facing each other symbolizes the duality of nature.

In the 19th century, the Mayuri veena was a popular instrument in royal courts. Even in textiles like the Kanthas of Bengal and Kutchhi work in Gujarat, one finds peacock motifs. And, finally, today, seldom do you find a lorry or a truck in northern, western or central India without this beautiful bird painted on its rear.


Religion, Science, and Spirit: A Sacred Story for Our Time

&ldquoFor people, generally, their story of the universe and the human role in the universe is their primary source of intelligibility and value,&rdquo Thomas Berry wrote in The Dream of the Earth. &ldquoThe deepest crises experienced by any society are those moments of change when the story becomes inadequate for meeting the survival demands of a present situation.&rdquo

We live at such a moment. Humanity&rsquos current behavior threatens Earth&rsquos capacity to support life and relegates more than a billion people to lives of destitution. This self-destructive behavior and our seeming inability to change have deep roots in the stories by which we understand the nature and meaning of our existence. The challenge before us is to create a new civilization based on a cosmology&mdasha story of the origin, nature, and purpose of creation&mdashthat reflects the fullness of our current human knowledge a story to guide us to mature relationships with one another and a living Earth.

Three Cosmologies

Three distinct cosmologies have each had their influence in shaping the Western worldview. Two are familiar. The third&mdashand most relevant to the task at hand&mdashhas ancient roots, and may in one form or another be the most widely held. It has virtually no public presence.

The cosmos is created and ruled by a Distant Patriarch. This is the cosmology most commonly associated with the institutions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It views creation as the work of an all-knowing, all-powerful God. From his home in a separate, sacred dimension called Heaven, He observes and judges our obedience to His commandments handed down to us through sacred texts and interpreted by His anointed religious authorities.

This cosmology focuses attention on our individual relationship with a personal but distant God, as expressed in Michelangelo&rsquos famous rendering of a God portrayed in the image of man. By implication, our human relationships with one another and with nature are secondary to this primary relationship. Although some adherents believe that we have an obligation to care for God&rsquos creation in this life and to show compassion to our fellow human beings, in many interpretations of the Distant Patriarch story, life on Earth is but a way station on the path to paradise. Nature exists for our temporary human use and comfort. Those who demonstrate their closeness to God by their pious religious observance and special knowledge of His intention properly exercise authority over the rest of us.

The cosmos is a Grand Machine.
This is the cosmology commonly associated with science. It is the standard story of Newtonian physics, evolutionary biology, and the institutions of secular academia. In this cosmology only the material is real. The formation and function of the cosmos and the evolution of life are consequences of a combination of physical mechanism and random chance. Life is an accidental outcome of material complexity and has no larger meaning or purpose. Consciousness and free will are illusions.

By this reckoning, the cosmos is much like a mechanical clock-works gradually running down as its spring unwinds. Building on the mechanistic determinism of classical physics, classical biology holds that life evolves through a combination of chance genetic mutation and a competitive struggle by which the fitter survive and flourish as the weaker perish.

According to the Grand Machine cosmology, a brutal competition for survival, territory, and reproductive advantage is the basic law of nature, and these same instincts define our human nature. Indeed, as economists of a social Darwinist perspective assure us, our competitive instinct is the primary and essential driver of human prosperity and progress. The defining debate turns on the question of whether this instinct best serves society when free from government interference or when guided by public regulation and incentives.

The cosmos is a manifestation of Integral Spirit.
This cosmology has ancient roots and a significant modern following, but lacks institutional support and public visibility. By its reckoning, all of creation is the expression of an integral spiritual intelligence engaged in a sacred journey to discover and actualize its possibilities through an ongoing process of becoming. Our world and the material universe of our experience are more than God’s creation&mdashthey are God made flesh. God is in the world and the world is in God, yet they are not identical. Although the spirit is imminent, it is also transcendent, a concept religious scholars refer to as panentheism.

We come to know the nature, purpose, and intention of this divine force through both our inner experience and our observation of its physical manifestation. All beings, stars, planets, humans, animals, plants, rocks, and rivers are expressions of this divine force&mdasheach with its place and function in the journey of the whole.

Contrary to prevailing theories of social Darwinism, the Integral Spirit cosmology recognizes that life is a fundamentally cooperative enterprise.

Indigenous wisdom keepers speak of the creator&rsquos original instructions to humans to get along with one another and nature. Brain scientists tell us the human brain evolved to reward cooperation, service, and compassion&mdashsuggesting that the creative processes of evolution have programmed these original instructions into our brains and DNA.

Extreme individualism, greed, and violence are pathological and signs of physical, developmental, cultural, and/or institutional system failure. Caring relationships are the foundation of healthy families and communities. The Golden Rule common to all major faiths is a better guide to appropriate moral behavior than mechanistic rules are.

The Integral Spirit cosmology postulates that we humans participate in and contribute to the divine journey. We can apply our distinctive capacities for reflective consciousness and choice either to advance creation&rsquos evolutionary thrust toward ever more creative possibility, or to disrupt it. Together, our individual choices determine our collective fate and shape the course of the journey far beyond our time.

We find threads of this story in the traditional wisdom teachings of indigenous peoples and the mystical traditions of all faiths, including the Abrahamic faiths. In his expression of his Jewish faith, Jesus taught, &ldquoThe Kingdom is within.&rdquo Muhammad taught, &ldquoWherever you turn, there is the Face of Allah.”

The Integral Spirit cosmology is consistent with the findings of quantum physics, which reveals that the apparent solidity of matter is an illusion and at the deepest level of understanding only relationships are real. I find that Integral Spirit is the underlying cosmology of a reassuring number of religious leaders and devout members of many faiths, including a great many Catholic nuns, as well as most people who define themselves as spiritual, but not necessarily religious.

Why Creation Stories Matter

Our creation stories have powerful implications for our understanding of our place in the cosmos and thereby shape our most foundational values, our politics, and the distribution of power in society.

The Distant Patriarch story characterizes our earthly existence as a separation from the divine goodness and grace of heaven. Our experience in this life becomes a test of faith, a burden to be endured and ultimately left behind in an eventual ascent of the righteous to reside with the creator in paradise. This cosmology reduces the purpose of life in the present to a fear-based quest to earn credits toward a divine judgment that will determine whether our fate after death will be to join the saved or the damned. It is a perfect setup for the manipulation and exploitation of believers by demagogues.

The Grand Machine story strips our existence of meaning and purpose. In so doing, it supports consumerism and an ethic of individual material gratification as a distraction from the terrifying loneliness and despair of an otherwise meaningless existence. By characterizing life as inherently competitive, it provides a pseudo-scientific justification for social Darwinism, colonial imperialism, racial domination, and the unrestrained competition of market fundamentalism. It neglects the far greater role of cooperation and synergy on which all living systems&mdashand human society, civilization, and culture&mdashdepend.

Though sharply at odds regarding the presence or absence of a spiritual intelligence, both the Distant Patriarch and Grand Machine cosmologies affirm the self-destructive individualism and separation that lead us to behave in ways that threaten Earth&rsquos biosphere and our future as a species.

The Integral Spirit story, by contrast, infuses all we behold in this life and beyond with profound meaning. All of creation is a sacred and ultimately unified expression of an eternal and intimately present divine will. All beings are interconnected and our fates are inextricably intertwined. As participants in and contributors to the ongoing process of creation, we each bear a sacred responsibility. Our lives take on profound meaning and purpose in relationship and service to the sacred whole.

This cosmology has the elements of the needed story for our time. It remains, however, largely a private story without the institutional sponsors that give the Distant Patriarch and Grand Machine cosmologies authority and public presence. The absence of institutional sponsorship helps to secure its authenticity, but the absence of public visibility limits its influence as a guide to rethinking and restructuring our human relationships with one another and nature.

Largely invisible in the public forum, it is not included in public opinion polls, leaving us with little idea of how widespread its acceptance actually is. Consequently, those of us who align with its foundational insights have no way to assess whether we are just cultural outliers or members of what may quite possibly be a cultural majority. Intimidated by our isolation, we may be reluctant to share the truth in our hearts, thus limiting our ability to share and deepen our insights and to join with others to fulfill the responsibilities to which the insights of this story call us.

Six Blind Men Describe an Elephant

Reflecting on the relationship between these three seemingly mutually exclusive cosmologies brings to mind the story of the six blind men describing an elephant. The first feels its side and proclaims, &ldquoAn elephant is like a wall.&rdquo The second gropes its tusk and counters, &ldquoNo, it is like a spear.&rdquo The third feels the trunk and says, &ldquoTruly it is like a snake.&rdquo The fourth feels a leg and insists, &ldquoAn elephant is like a tree.&rdquo The fifth feels its ear and pronounces it to be &ldquoLike a fan.&rdquo The sixth grasps the tail and says &ldquoNonsense, an elephant is like a rope.&rdquo

We understand and relate to our world largely through our basic senses. The spiritual dimension, however, lies beyond our limited direct sensory experience. When we seek to describe it, like the blind men groping the elephant, we turn to familiar imagery. This story is a warning that any interpretation of the infinite is likely to capture only a part of a much larger reality.

The Politics of Story Power

The mystics among the prophets, sages, and wisdom keepers of all times and traditions have discerned a spiritual order and unity in creation they could make intelligible to their followers only through metaphor. Consequently, they sought to communicate their mystical insights through easily understood stories and familiar images. Not surprisingly, the intended messages have been subject to omission and distortion as they pass from generation to generation.

Generally, for early indigenous peoples the deeper truth of creation as the expression of an integral spiritual consciousness translated into stories of an enchanted world inhabited by spirits of diverse motives and magical abilities. Matrilineal societies tended toward feminine imagery and worshiped images of the Goddess. More gender-balanced societies worshiped both a Sky Father and an Earth Mother.

With time, human societies developed large-scale institutional structures that supported powerful political and religious rulers with a considerable interest in shaping stories of divine power to serve their political interests. Stories and images of gods and goddesses as larger-than-life versions of their earthly rulers served them better than stories and images of an enchanted world of spirit beings.

The Abrahamic faiths&mdashJudaism, Christianity, and Islam&mdashwere each built on the foundation of a deep and profound sense of the integral spiritual unity and order of creation. Each emerged within male-dominated societies in which patriarchs were familiar figures and symbols. They naturally looked to the patriarch as their symbol for an all-knowing, all-powerful spiritual consciousness.

It was also natural that these societies placed their religious institutions in the care of men&mdashwho in turn found that it best served their political interests to favor the distant Sky Father over the imminent Earth Mother and to dismiss goddess worship as primitive and pagan. The priestly class further strengthened its power and authority by affirming sacred ancient texts interpreted by religious scholars as the sole authority on the will of God.

Eventually, the keepers of the faith conveniently forgot that the image of the Distant Patriarch was only a metaphor for the unity and order of the Integral Spirit from which all being manifests.

Separation of the material and spiritual worlds, rejection of the feminine, and a reliance on ancient texts as the primary (if not sole) source of human knowledge and moral authority, in denial of the data of the senses, became a serious barrier to the advancement of human knowledge and understanding. As the world divided into a multitude of institutionalized religious sects and subsects, the underlying stories of the spiritual unity of creation gave way to often violent competition for market share based on “My God is the real God” product differentiation.

Newtonian science emerged as a counter to religion&rsquos rejection of the experience of the senses in favor of explanations of events based on stories of the magical powers of mythic figures, and to the barrier this rejection posed to human advancement. To secure its integrity and authority, science embraced disciplined observation of how matter interacts with matter as its primary&mdasheven exclusive&mdashsource of knowledge and learning. This brought a new rigor to the search for order in the cosmos and lifted human understanding and technological possibility to previously unimagined levels.

Much as the priestly classes of institutionalized Western religions conveniently forgot that the patriarch was a metaphor, however, the gatekeepers of science eventually forgot that the denial of agency and free will that imposed a useful and beneficial discipline on scientific inquiry within the context of 17th-century belief systems was a choice&mdashnot a scientific finding.

A scientific culture that ignored or denied spiritual consciousness brought with it an implicit denial of life&rsquos capacity for conscious self-direction. This in turn limited our ability to comprehend and embrace the richness, potential, and responsibilities of our nature as conscious, intelligent, self-directing participants in Earth&rsquos interconnected, ever-evolving, ever-learning web of life.

That the reductionist story underlying most scientific inquiry to this day describes only one element of a larger reality does not invalidate the truth or utility of its contributions. It is essential, however, that we recognize how the myopia of classical scientific reductionism suppresses our sense of wonder, agency, responsibility to and for one another and living Earth, and our ability to actualize a democratic vision of the authentic popular sovereignty of self-governing peoples and an equitable distribution of power.

Integral Spirit as a Liberating Synthesis

Our future as a species depends on bringing to the fore of human consciousness a story that invites us to consider the whole of the elephant, and to relate to it in ways appropriate to both its nature and ours. The Integral Spirit story provides a core narrative.

In its contemporary expression, the cosmology of the Integral Spirit draws from the many ways of human knowing. It embraces and melds insights from the frontiers of scientific observation, the world&rsquos major religions, and the experience of indigenous peoples and mystics extending back to ancient times. In acknowledging both intelligent agency and material mechanism, it recognizes that agency plays out in an ordered living cosmos within a framework of rules, and it clearly distinguishes between free will and license. It affirms our human nature as spiritual beings with an epic calling to advance a sacred purpose, and it frames a vision of possibility to guide us to a viable future consistent with the divine will as revealed in our most comprehensive understanding of the cosmic unfolding.

Contemporary Western culture presses us to choose between the institutions of religion and science as our primary source for understanding our human nature, purpose, and possibilities. In their current institutionalized forms, Western religion and science are both relics of an imperial past. Both define themselves by stories that support the prevailing systems of human domination of one another, other species, and Earth. Each resolutely defends its claim to being society&rsquos ultimate and final intellectual and moral authority and clings to its own self-limiting cosmology as the only valid story.

Despite their imperial legacy, the Distant Patriarch and Grand Machine cosmologies are both the product of efforts to discern and describe critical elements of the larger story of the Integral Spirit. That larger story has been with us in various forms since the beginning of human consciousness.

It is readily evident why the Integral Spirit cosmology has lacked sponsorship and support from the imperial institutions that have defined the dominant human societies for the past 5,000 years. It evokes a radical vision of democratic possibility and presents a fundamental challenge to their legitimacy.

It is for this very reason that it is the story and the vision we now need to guide our way to a future in which we humans learn to live in balanced and mutual prosperous relationship with one another and nature.

Distributed Intelligence and Life&rsquos Capacity to Self-Organize

We now know a great deal more than we have in the past about the creative capacity of the processes through which Integral Spirit manifests. We still have much to learn from and contribute to these processes, but to do so we must acknowledge and celebrate them.

We know, for example, that at every level, the cosmos has an amazing capacity to self-organize toward greater complexity and potential.

The theory of distributed cognition or intelligence suggests that multiple minds have capabilities inherently greater than does a single mind. Many interlinked personal computers have more power than a single super computer. It seems that creation learned early on to apply this principle on a grand scale in the design of the endless fractal structures of its self-organizing systems long before the arrival of humans. It is a key to the creativity and resilience of the cosmos.

Earth&rsquos biosphere, the exquisitely complex, resilient, and continuously evolving layer of Earth life, demonstrates on a grand scale the creative potentials of the distributed intelligence of many trillions of individual choice-making living organisms, self-organizing to optimize the capture, organization, and sharing of Earth&rsquos energy, water, and nutrients to bring Earth to life. Acting in concert, they continuously regenerate Earth&rsquos soils, rivers, aquifers, fisheries, forests, and grasslands while maintaining Earth&rsquos climatic balance and the composition of Earth&rsquos atmosphere to serve the needs of Earth&rsquos widely varied life forms.

When we see all being as a manifestation of spirit, we might think of all of the biosphere&rsquos complex choice-making processes as occurring within the mind of God. In the ultimate sense, perhaps it does. Such a formulation, however, can obscure and diminish our appreciation of the true wonder and structure of the biosphere as a self-organizing living system.

The human body is an even more intimate example of the creative power of distributed intelligence. My body, which hosts my personal consciousness, is but one of the many trillions of organisms that together form Earth&rsquos biosphere. It is in turn comprised of tens of trillions of individual living cells, each a decision-making entity in its own right with the ability to manage and maintain its own health and integrity under changing and often stressful circumstances.

So how do our cells decide, individually and collectively, what to do&zwnj? Is there some form of conscious intelligence involved at the cellular level&zwnj?

Simultaneously, each cell faithfully discharges its responsibility to serve the demanding needs of my entire body on which its own health and integrity (and mine) depend. Together, these cells maintain the body&rsquos health and integrity even under conditions of extreme stress and deprivation to create a capacity for extraordinary feats of physical grace and intellectual acuity far beyond the capability of the individual cell. Resources are shared based on need, not greed.

We are also learning that trillions of non-human micro-organisms inhabit our skin, genital areas, mouth, and intestines with essential roles in supporting and regulating our bodily functions as members of a high-functioning living community

The body&rsquos individual decision-making resource-sharing cells and microbes are more than interdependent. Each is integral to a larger whole of which no part or sub-system can exist on its own. Together they fight off a vast variety of viruses, cancer cells, and harmful bacteria and create regulatory mechanisms internal to the whole that work to assure that no part asserts dominance over the others or monopolizes the body&rsquos stores of energy, nutrients, and water for its exclusive use. All the while, they adapt to changing temperatures and energy needs and variations in the body&rsquos food and water intake, heal damaged tissues, and collect and provide the sensory data to our conscious mind essential to our conscious choice making.

Another of the many impressive expressions of the body&rsquos capacity to self-organize is the process by which its cells continuously renew with no loss of body integrity. The cells lining the human stomach have a turnover of only five days. Red blood cells are replaced every 120 days or so. The surface of the skin recycles every two weeks.

Most of this cellular and molecular activity occurs far below the level of our personal awareness. So long as we provide the essentials of nutrition, hydration, rest, and exercise, our bodies’ cells fulfill their responsibilities to maintain our healthy function without specific instruction from our conscious mind.

Cells can and do go rogue, with terrible consequences. Cancer, Alzheimer&rsquos, and leukemia are examples. Within limits, the body has mechanisms to eliminate such threats. If those mechanisms fail, the body dies and the rogue cells die with it.

So how do our cells decide, individually and collectively, what to do&zwnj? Is there some form of conscious intelligence involved at the cellular level&zwnj? The Grand Machine story says no the processes are mechanical. The Distant Patriarch story does not address the question beyond the fatalistic suggestion that whatever happens is God&rsquos will. The Integral Spirit story says yes&mdashthe capacity for conscious choice is a defining quality of life and indeed of all being.

Is the consciousness underlying the choices of an individual cell a form of consciousness that would be in any way familiar to the human mind&zwnj? Probably not, but we may never know, because with the exception of mystics who have developed a capacity to bridge the barrier between themselves and the meta-consciousness, we have no recognized means to experience a consciousness other than our own, and least of all the consciousness of a single cell. What seems evident is that intelligent choice-making is a hallmark of living organisms at all levels.

One critical insight from recent findings in biology is that most of the body&rsquos self-organization occurs at the cellular level through intercellular communication and choice-making independent of direct intervention or direction from the brain and central nervous system.

Similarly, although the biosphere self-organizes on a global scale and is subject to external influences from other celestial bodies, the locus of agency is everywhere local. The dynamic consequences of local choice-making play out through the biosphere’s fractal structure and create global dynamics that in turn shape local choice-making with no evident central authority.

The separation or differentiation of consciousness is essential to creation&rsquos incredible capacity for creative innovation, yet we see in our human experience how the illusion of separation can lead us to relate to one another and nature in deeply destructive ways. Buddhism teaches that this illusion of separation is the cause of humanity’s self-inflicted suffering. To become fully functioning as individuals and societies, we must achieve a maturity of self-awareness that allows us to hold in mind the reality of oneness and at the same time honor the illusion of separation by accepting responsibility for our individual actions.

Exactly how it all works may forever remain a mystery beyond our human understanding. Based on what we do know, however, our bodies, the biosphere, and the cosmos all express as fractal structures that self-organize from the bottom up rather than from the top down&mdashexactly the opposite of what the Distant Patriarch story suggests. And contrary to the foundational assumption of the Grand Machine story, the evidence of our daily experience, reports of mystics, and some interpretations of quantum physics suggest that intelligence&mdashand presumably some form of consciousness&mdashis the organizing principle of our bodies, Earth&rsquos biosphere, and the cosmos.

When we see all of creation as a manifestation of God, of spirit made flesh, we may recognize ourselves as physical expressions of God, but not in the sense of Michelangelo&rsquos famous painting. We may also recognize that within the scale of the cosmos, we are far from being creation&rsquos only expression of conscious intelligence. To the contrary, we are only a tiny element of an expression so grand as to be beyond our perception and comprehension.

So what is our individual human relationship to the grand expression of Integral Spirit&zwnj? This is pure conjecture on my part, but I believe there may be clues in the relationship between the individual cells of our body and our conscious mind. I know my body&rsquos individual cells exist, but only because science tells me so. I may care deeply about their good health, yet I cannot discern the condition or function of any individual cell&mdashlet alone consciously intervene to save an errant cell from the consequences of its bad choices.

Given that my body&rsquos cells number in the trillions, the possibility that I might have such ability defies imagination. Imagine the distraction if our minds attempted to track details of the life of each individual cell in our bodies. It is for good reason our minds are highly selective in the information to which they attune.

It seems similarly unimaginable that the living Earth is conscious of my individual existence or behavior as a human cell in its larger body. If we scale this logic to the cosmic level, it would suggest that the living cosmos is unlikely to be conscious even of the Living Earth as one of the countless celestial entities that comprise it.

There is no necessary contradiction here with the reports down through the ages from spiritual mystics who experience the melding of their human consciousness with an undifferentiated consciousness that transcends all of material reality. If all creation is a manifestation of undifferentiated Integral Spirit, then the system of distributed intelligence discernible in a living, evolving cosmos is derivative of the undifferentiated meta-consciousness.

I believe in Spinoza&rsquos God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings. &mdashAlbert Einstein

Perhaps the individual human consciousness, with proper training and discipline, has the capacity to penetrate the illusion of separation to experience a temporary reunification with the undifferentiated spirit. Perhaps we all have the ability through meditation and prayer to tap into the wisdom of the higher levels of consciousness from which we manifest, and thereby tap into and experience the beauty of its creative wisdom in a very personal way.

It does not, however, follow that the undifferentiated meta-consciousness has the intention, desire, or capacity to attune to us individually, to intervene in our individual or collective human lives, or to change the operant rules of the self-organizing processes of the differentiated consciousness that shape the unfolding of the cosmos or its individual elements. This is not to suggest that the cosmos is indifferent to our existence. It may care deeply with the love that some believe to be the binding force of the universe.

Consider also that as manifestations of the Integral Spirit, we are instruments of its agency. We might therefore think of the voice that replies in the course of meditation or prayer to those who succeed in penetrating the ego&rsquos illusion of separation as at once the voice of our authentic self and the voice of God. Similarly, when we pray for divine intervention to save us from the consequences of our individual and collective choices, we in effect appeal to ourselves as agents of the Integral Spirit.

Step to Adult Responsibility

The important point is that, right or wrong, our choice of creation stories has real world consequences. If we choose to believe our fate lies with purely mechanistic forces beyond our control in denial of our own agency and responsibility, we then resign ourselves to the outcome of forces beyond our control. If we assume that a parental overseer&mdashwhether it be God, the market, a new technology, or compassionate space aliens&mdashwill save us from our foolish behavior, we likewise absolve ourselves of responsibility for our actions as we await divine intervention.

If we accept, however, that we are conscious, intelligent agents in a conscious, intelligent, self-organizing cosmos, it becomes evident that our future is in our hands and the well-being of all of Earth&rsquos children depends on our acceptance of adult responsibility for our individual and collective choices and their consequences.

Recall the Buddhist teaching that the illusion of separation is the source of human suffering. As manifestations of the spirit, we humans are instruments by which the spirit (God) expresses its agency in the material world. Thus, our appeals to God for salvation from our suffering are in effect appeals to ourselves.

The earlier assertion that evolution has hard-wired cooperation, service, and compassion into the healthy human brain does not negate our capacity for free will. Free will and the illusion of separation are both essential to our human potential to contribute to the creativity, adaptability, and resilience of a living Earth and thereby to the whole of creation. If we lose sight, however, of the interdependence behind the illusion, the sense of separation can become so terrifying as to overwhelm our predisposition for cooperation and lead to us to use our free will in deeply self-destructive ways. Free will conveys creative responsibility, not individualistice license.

Whether specific details of our chosen story are right or wrong is less important than whether its overarching narrative awakens us spiritually inspires cooperative, mutually beneficial relationships supports a way of living that recognizes the wonder, beauty, goodness, ultimate meaning and value of life and puts us on a path to a viable future. Most important at this moment in the human experience is that our chosen story calls us to accept adult responsibility for the consequences of our choices for ourselves, one another, and a living Earth.

Consequently, on purely pragmatic grounds, the Integral Spirit story in its many variations is the obvious choice. If wrong, we lose nothing. A clockwork cosmos could care less. A loving parent God will be pleased with our progress toward mature adulthood. If right, we avoid self-extinction, our lives take on profound meaning, and we unleash yet unrealized capacities for creative expression.

The Integral Spirit and a New Economy
Both the Distant Patriarch and Grand Machine cosmologies contribute to a sense of detachment from life that leads to a devaluation of nature. They also lend legitimacy to an undemocratic centralization of institutional power and authority. Further, the social Darwinism of the Grand Machine cosmology lends moral authority to flawed economic theories that instruct us to value money more than life and actively celebrate the behavior and ethics of the psychopath as a cultural ideal.
Whether or not the stories themselves are the cause of the deep, self-inflicted social and psychological pathology expressed in our self-destructive relationships with one another and Earth, their broad cultural acceptance poses a serious barrier to healing.

The pathology finds its clearest expression in a greed-driven economy grounded in a financial logic that assures us we are getting richer even as we destroy the real wealth of cooperative, caring human communities and Earth&rsquos natural living systems.

In our confusion, we forget that the only true wealth is living wealth, pay more attention to financial deficits than social and environmental deficits, and assume that the economy and business exist to make money rather than to serve life.

The living systems perspective of the Integral Spirit cosmology provides a framing story to guide our path to a planetary system of local bioregional living economies aligned with the needs and realities of the Ecozoic Era.

Transition to an Ecozoic Era

The foundational insights of the Integral Spirit cosmology hold the conceptual key to our collective passage to what cosmologist Brian Swimme and eco-theologian Thomas Berry call the Ecozoic Era, the fourth in the succession of life eras identified as the Paleozoic, the Mesozoic, and the Cenozoic. In The Universe Story, they note that our passage to this new era depends on a fundamental shift in the human relationship to Earth grounded in four foundational insights:

1. &ldquoThe universe is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects.&rdquo (p. 243)

2. &ldquoThe Earth is so integral in the unity of its functioning that every aspect of the Earth is affected by what happens to any component member of the community. Because of its organic quality, Earth cannot survive in fragments&hellip.The integral functioning of the planet must be preserved.&rdquo (p. 243)

3. &ldquoEarth is a one-time endowment&hellip.Although the Earth is resilient and has extensive powers of renewal, it also has a finite and nonrenewable aspect&hellipOnce a species is extinguished we know of no power in heaven or on Earth that can bring about a revival.&rdquo (pp. 246-7)

4. &ldquo[O]ur human economy is derivative from the Earth economy. To glory in a rising Gross Domestic Product with an irreversibly declining Earth Product is an economic absurdity.&rdquo (p. 256). [See inset: &ldquoThe Integral Spirit and a New Economy&rdquo]

As Berry elaborates in an earlier lecture:

&ldquoEarth is primary and humans are derivative&hellip.The Earth economy can survive the loss of its human component, but there is no way the human economy can survive and prosper apart from the Earth economy&hellip.There is no such thing as a human community in any manner separate from the Earth community. The human community and the natural world will go into the future as a single integral community or we will both experience disaster on the way. However differentiated in its modes of expression, there is only one Earth community&mdashone economic order, one health system, one moral order, one world of the sacred.&rdquo To accelerate this awakening and actualize its possibilities we need an open and self-critical public conversation about the foundational stories by which we understand our human nature and purpose.

If there is to be a human future, we must fundamentally reshape our cultures and institutions to work in creative partnership with the structure and dynamics of the biosphere. Is it consistent with our nature to do so&zwnj? It depends on the story.

The Distant Patriarch story is ambiguous, with many contrasting versions from which to choose. The Great Machine story says no it is our inherent nature to be individualist, competitive, greedy, and violent. The Integral Spirit story and the narrative emerging from a deeper and more contemporary understanding of evolution articulated by evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson and others say yes humans evolved to cooperate, share, and serve.

A Big Story Connecting Three Narratives
The emerging story of creation’s epic unfolding features three narratives, each flowing from one to the next.
1. The Integral Spirit Cosmology narrative recognizes the unity of creation and the contributions of our varied religious traditions, bridges the domains of science and religion, and draws from the breadth and depth of human experience and knowledge to reveal a self-organizing process that
combines order, chance, learning, and the agency of a distributed integral intelligence.
2. The Sacred Living Earth narrative builds on the understanding of the Integral Spirit narrative to present Earth as an intelligent living organism with an extraordinary resilience and capacity to learn, adapt, and innovate as it creates the conditions necessary to the emergence of ever more
complex, capable, intelligent, self-aware, and cooperative life forms.
3. The Living Earth Economies narrative builds on the Living Earth
narrative to frame a vision of and pathway to the culture and institutions of a New Economy that brings us into balanced partnership with Earth’s biosphere, meets the needs of all people, and is radically democratic.

As we follow the flow of the narratives from Integral Spirit to Sacred Living Earth to Living Earth Economies we move from the transcendent to the imminent, from the abstract to the practical, and begin to discern a pathway to a viable human future ripe with meaning and possibility.

A Story for Our Time

The turning we humans must navigate to a viable future depends on a profound awakening to our nature as spiritual beings and our responsibility as participants in creation&rsquos epic journey of self-discovery. This awakening will be partly experiential&mdasha joyful reunion with our true nature. It will be partly intellectual&mdasha larger and more nuanced understanding of the nature and purpose of creation and our human role in its continued unfolding.

To accelerate this awakening and actualize its possibilities we need an open and self-critical public conversation about the foundational stories by which we understand our human nature and purpose. That conversation must go far beyond an unproductive debate between doctrinaire Distant Patriarch creationists and doctrinaire Grand Machine social Darwinist evolutionists. Fortunately, the conversation is already underway in a rapidly growing number of forums sponsored by influential organizations including Contemplative Alliance, Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University, Pachamama Alliance, Temple of Understanding, Wall Street Trinity Institute, and others,

These conversations call us to reflect on what we truly believe and to examine contrasting cosmologies from the perspective of historical experience, the insights of history&rsquos greatest teachers, the frontiers of science, and implications for the path ahead. The process is best served by a sense of humility and recognition that for all our scientific advances, we remain far from a full understanding of the deep mysteries of the cosmos.

The Integral Spirit cosmology appears to offer many of the elements of the story we seek. Yet even with its ancient roots and its affirmation and enrichment by recent breakthroughs in science, it too remains a partially developed story and we are limited to speculating on many of its elements.

That we humans seem naturally drawn to unsolved mysteries may be a key to discovering and fulfilling our place of service to the whole.

We know not where the journey leads, nor whether a final destination is even a meaningful concept. The attraction is the inherent thrill of participating in a grand creative endeavor for which participation is its own reward.

We invite you to share your own thoughts, reflections, and questions in the comment field below.

Supplemental Commentary: My thanks to Fran Korten and to the many friends and colleagues who provided critical comments, encouragement, and important insights to this essay as it developed over several months from June to December 2012. They include Barry Andrews, Shannon Biggs, Ravi Chaudhry, Joan Chittister, Ted Falcon, Matthew Fox, Marybeth Gardam, Rob Garrity, Kat Gjovik, Christa Hillstrom, Garry Jacobs, Kurt Johnson, Graeme Maxton, Don MacKenzie, Winston Negan, Brian McLaren, Martin Palmer, Bill Phipps, Jamal Rahman, Steven Rockefeller, Bob Scott, Lucianne Siers, Ralph Singh, Brian Swimme, Karma Tshiteem, Lama Tsomo, Mary Evelyn Tucker, Richard Wilson, and others. Those interested in delving deeper can . Misinterpretations, errors, and omissions are mine alone.


The Stargate of the Alien Gods

If you possessed the key and secret knowledge and could open the cosmic portal leading to the kingdom of the gods, would you be prepared to travel to a world beyond your imagination and meet the masters of the stars? If we examine the progresses of humanity today, or sometimes rather lack there of, we wonder if we have reached a stage in our development allowing us to enter the domain of highly advanced alien species.

Students of Ufology and the Ancient Astronauts' theory often contemplate on the origin of advanced alien life-forms. Where did our alien creators come from? How can UFOs appear and vanish within seconds? The possibility of aliens visiting the Earth in the past and present times have been regularly rejected by a majority of scientists, mainly due to the problems of interstellar flight.

Critics of extraterrestrial hypothesis frequently repeat that the enormous distances separating the stars are an immense problem to any race wishing to explore the galaxy. Interstellar flight is indeed a difficulty, but for the human race. Alien civilizations, which are thousands, if not, millions of years ahead of us in their development have most likely discovered appropriate means how to explore the universe. We have no right to assume that all species in the galaxy are at the current technological level as humanity.


Are we prepared to enter
the realms of highly
advanced alien species?

Readers unfamiliar with the subject will naturally wonder what is so special about 2012 and in what way the year is connected with the opening of a stargate. There are no simple answers to this question.

What we do know is that December 21, 2012 represents the end-date of the Mayan calendar. I discussed this in my article When will the World End - 2012?

The Maya Elders believe this date points to the birth of a new age and the rebirth of Father Sun.

Many are speculating what the end-date might actually involve, a possible spiritual awakening, the end of the world, the return of the star gods, will the truth about UFOs finally be revealed, or maybe nothing will happen and the year will pass unnoticed.

In the recent years many prominent and more open-minded physicists have proposed the idea of parallel universes, wormholes and shown an increased interest in the existence of other dimensions. A spaceship could enter what is called a wormhole and find itself hundreds or even thousands of light years from its original position in space. The use of wormholes as windows in space would allow craft to jump to another space quadrant very quickly. It has also been theorized that anti-gravity devices could open a wormhole to a parallel universe.
Worlds unseen to naked eye cannot yet be fully comprehended, but their existence should not be denied.

Extraterrestrial life-forms can most likely originate from other planets as well as parallel universes, astral and ethereal realms. A closer study of certain reports indicate that alien beings sometimes manifest to our senses as apparitions and teleport themselves to our world from another dimension. This brings us to the fascinating mystery of stargates, which are considered to be gateways of the gods.

There are places on this planet, which are shrouded in myth, magic and mystery. These are sites where you can "feel" the presence of the alien gods, our ancient masters. Today, I would like to take you on a journey to Peru and explore what many believe to be the "gateway of the gods".

According to the Native Americans' legend there is a certain inter-dimensional doorway hidden deep within the Andes Mountains. Apparently, this is one of a number of strategic stargates around our planet. The doorway in Peru is located approximately 35 kilometers from the city of Puno. At first glance the Gate of the Gods (Puerta de Hayu Marca) looks like just an ordinary carved rock, but it is supposed to be much more than that.


Possible stargate in Peru

The story of the alleged stargate in Peru was first reported a couple of years ago by Paul Daemon. Sadly, few new discoveries have been reported since then.

The door is difficult to access and has unfortunately never been completely explored, but it is believed that this could be a portal, which leads to the land of the gods.

Many strange and unexplained sightings have occurred here and people who live in the area are scared to visit the place after dark. The fact that locals are often unwilling to talk about their remarkable experiences makes it difficult to draw the line between rumors, fiction and true events. Nevertheless, we can still get an overview of what is taking place in this region.

Witnesses have reported sightings of tall men with light hair and fair skin. These beings are often accompanied by blue and orange balls of light. These unknown creatures come through this portal and silently vanish back again. Who are they and where do they come from? The locals are convinced that the doorway leads to the land and home of the ancient gods. On certain occasions the gods return through this portal for a short while to inspect their Earthly domain. Thereafter they disappear back to their world.

As I explained in my book Voices from Legendary Times and in my article When will the World End - 2012? ancient civilization world-wide shared a universal belief in world cycles. The legends and myths we find in Australia, America, Africa, Europe, Asia all relate a story telling us that our current world is neither the first nor the last one. According to ancient records and beliefs, at least four marvelous worlds have already been destroyed due to global cataclysms in the past.

People living spread out in the small villages throughout the Andes think that the strange visitors observed near the doorway are the ancient gods who in prehistoric times came down from the skies and created life on this planet.

There is a common belief that before the emergence of the next world the ancient gods will arrive to inform and warn about the coming destruction. The natives do not fear the impending changes because although they know the ancient prophecy must be fulfilled, they have deep faith in their gods. In the same way the Christians believe in the second coming of Jesus Christ, who will come and rescue them in times of despair, people here believe the returning sky visitors will take the inhabitants to safety and protect them from all kind of catastrophes.

Not only have remarkable tall beings been seen vanishing through the mysterious doorway in the mountains. This place is also famous for the huge number of UFO sightings. Glowing disc-shaped spheres are observed frequently in this area, as well as in the vicinity of Lake Titicaca and Marcahuasi, another powerful cosmic portal in Peru.

People, who had the chance to visit and explore the door, describe a feeling of energy flowing through the body when touching the rock. Others have had visions of stars, illuminated areas and brilliant gas clouds. A sense of free fall has also been reported among the visitors.

One ancient legend tells there is a key to the portal, a golden disc that enables the owner to open the gates and enter the kingdom of the ancient sky masters. This legend goes far back in time, all the way to the foundation of the Incan empire. According to the natives, Amaru Muru, later known, as Manco Capac was the first priest king of the Incas. The true origin of Amaru Muru is a mystery.

Some say he was born at the legendary mountain cave, Tampu Tocco. During his childhood, he was taken up to the Sun God and later returned back to the Earth. Another version of the story is that Amaru Muru was a Lemurian sage. Shortly before the destruction of the continent he was sent together with other sages to various parts of the world. Their mission was to create new civilizations and they all carried with them a number of sacred objects and secret records from the legendary continent.

Amaru Muru and his wife arrived in light ships in a Peruvian valley. Several temples and cities such as for example Machu Picchu, Cuzco, and Tiahuanako were deliberately built over powerful vortexes. In time Amaru Muru's empire included not only Peru, but stretched all over South America. He also established the so-called Brotherhood of the Seven Rays. Hidden in a monastery deep in the Andes, this mystery school continued to follow the sacred Lemurian teachings. In addition, the monastery also preserved the valuable objects brought by Amaru from the motherland. Among one of these objects was a certain sacred solar disc. The disc was rarely seen and most of the time it was stored in a hidden chamber.

Apparently the golden disc was only removed from its place "in transcendental times or occasions of a cosmic character." In other words, the disc was used when a cosmic catastrophe was approaching and there was a need to open the gateways to the kingdom of the gods. This precious golden disc is supposed to be the key to opening the mysterious cosmic door. It is interesting to note that archaeologists, who have examined the rock at Hayu Marca, discovered a small circular depression next to the entrance. It has been speculated that this depression was perhaps intended for placing the golden disc, the key to opening the door.

Many sacred temples, cities and monuments world-wide are considered to be built over what appear to be vortexes. Invisible Earth energy, so-called ley lines connect a number of sacred ancient sites. Possible vortexes are supposed to exist in South-, Meso-, and North America, Egypt, Malta, Crete, Spain, Italy, Greece, Britain, France, Mesopotamia, Lebanon, Australia, Asia, simply all over the world.

Now let us return to Peru. Earlier I mentioned the Marcahuasi, a place where Heaven and Earth meet. It is undoubtedly one of the most remarkable places one can visit. It is not an easy task to get to the Marcahusi plateau, which is located high in the Andes at a level of 12,000 feet above sea level.

Marcahuasi is said to be a place beyond the veil of time. The Monument to Humanity and other sculptures remind us of all the lost and forgotten races, who lived in worlds prior to our own. Marcahusi is in many ways just as mysterious as the cosmic doorway at Hayu Marca. People who have visited the Marcahuasi plateau have witnessed incredible sightings of unexplainable kind. Unidentified flying objects have been seen hovering over the area on a number of occasions.
There is a theory that there is a powerful stargate located in the vicinity of Marcahusi. The locals have reported strange beings walking around the area during day and night. Do these creatures come from inside the Earth or from another dimension? Currently there is no answer to this question and all we can offer are speculations. People have been seen vanishing and appearing again out of nowhere. Cases of levitation have been reported on several occasions.

It is believed Viracocha taught his ancient secrets here at one of the great mystery schools, a temple of the ancient masters. When you spend some time in this region you can achieve a state of higher consciousness. Your state of awareness and your spirituality grows at this remarkable place, where you feel the presence of the cosmic teachers. Both Peruvian stargates are concealed and the knowledge how to use them is not lost, it is only kept secret. Could there be a specific reason why the inter-dimensional gateways are located in hidden and difficult accessible regions? Perhaps the ancient gods did not want us to find and use the doors leading to other worlds? Perhaps our wisdom and consciousness have not grown enough and we are not allowed to enter alien inhabited worlds? If we had the possibility to cross the gate, could we embrace extraterrestrial life in a peaceful manner? I leave these questions to the reader to answer&hellip

The Mayan prophecy says the great Quetzalcoatl will return through a stargate in a winged flying craft in December 2012. If that is correct, I wonder if we are prepared to come face to face with our creators&hellip

Copyright © 2006 Ellen Lloyd. Visit Ellen Lloyd's website at www.ufoarea.com.

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Books Books on Alternative History
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&ldquoMy barn having burned to the ground, I can now see the moon.&rdquo -- Zen haiku

Keywords: alternative history, esoteric history, unsolved mysteries, ancient civilisations, alternative archaeology, unexplained archaeology

She is mathematician and scientist, who has spent more than twelve years researching ancient mysteries, sacred texts, and the UFO phenomenon. Most of her research focus on the ancient astronauts' theory.


The Sacred and Ancient Legacy of our Feathered Friends - History

“For people, generally, their story of the universe and the human role in the universe is their primary source of intelligibility and value,” Thomas Berry wrote in The Dream of the Earth. “The deepest crises experienced by any society are those moments of change when the story becomes inadequate for meeting the survival demands of a present situation.”

We live at such a moment. Humanity’s current behavior threatens Earth’s capacity to support life and relegates more than a billion people to lives of destitution. This self-destructive behavior and our seeming inability to change have deep roots in the stories by which we understand the nature and meaning of our existence. The challenge before us is to create a new civilization based on a cosmology—a story of the origin, nature, and purpose of creation—that reflects the fullness of our current human knowledge a story to guide us to mature relationships with one another and a living Earth.

Three Cosmologies

Three distinct cosmologies have each had their influence in shaping the Western worldview. Two are familiar. The third—and most relevant to the task at hand—has ancient roots, and may in one form or another be the most widely held. It has virtually no public presence.

The cosmos is created and ruled by a Distant Patriarch.This is the cosmology most commonly associated with the institutions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It views creation as the work of an all-knowing, all-powerful God. From his home in a separate, sacred dimension called Heaven, He observes and judges our obedience to His commandments handed down to us through sacred texts and interpreted by His anointed religious authorities.

This cosmology focuses attention on our individual relationship with a personal but distant God, as expressed in Michelangelo’s famous rendering of a God portrayed in the image of man. By implication, our human relationships with one another and with nature are secondary to this primary relationship. Although some adherents believe that we have an obligation to care for God’s creation in this life and to show compassion to our fellow human beings, in many interpretations of the Distant Patriarch story, life on Earth is but a way station on the path to paradise. Nature exists for our temporary human use and comfort. Those who demonstrate their closeness to God by their pious religious observance and special knowledge of His intention properly exercise authority over the rest of us.

The cosmos is a Grand Machine.
This is the cosmology commonly associated with science. It is the standard story of Newtonian physics, evolutionary biology, and the institutions of secular academia. In this cosmology only the material is real. The formation and function of the cosmos and the evolution of life are consequences of a combination of physical mechanism and random chance. Life is an accidental outcome of material complexity and has no larger meaning or purpose. Consciousness and free will are illusions.

By this reckoning, the cosmos is much like a mechanical clock-works gradually running down as its spring unwinds. Building on the mechanistic determinism of classical physics, classical biology holds that life evolves through a combination of chance genetic mutation and a competitive struggle by which the fitter survive and flourish as the weaker perish.

According to the Grand Machine cosmology, a brutal competition for survival, territory, and reproductive advantage is the basic law of nature, and these same instincts define our human nature. Indeed, as economists of a social Darwinist perspective assure us, our competitive instinct is the primary and essential driver of human prosperity and progress. The defining debate turns on the question of whether this instinct best serves society when free from government interference or when guided by public regulation and incentives.

The cosmos is a manifestation of Integral Spirit.
This cosmology has ancient roots and a significant modern following, but lacks institutional support and public visibility. By its reckoning, all of creation is the expression of an integral spiritual intelligence engaged in a sacred journey to discover and actualize its possibilities through an ongoing process of becoming. Our world and the material universe of our experience are more than God’s creation—they are God made flesh. God is in the world and the world is in God, yet they are not identical. Although the spirit is imminent, it is also transcendent, a concept religious scholars refer to as panentheism.

We come to know the nature, purpose, and intention of this divine force through both our inner experience and our observation of its physical manifestation. All beings, stars, planets, humans, animals, plants, rocks, and rivers are expressions of this divine force—each with its place and function in the journey of the whole.

Contrary to prevailing theories of social Darwinism, the Integral Spirit cosmology recognizes that life is a fundamentally cooperative enterprise.

Indigenous wisdom keepers speak of the creator’s original instructions to humans to get along with one another and nature. Brain scientists tell us the human brain evolved to reward cooperation, service, and compassion—suggesting that the creative processes of evolution have programmed these original instructions into our brains and DNA.

Extreme individualism, greed, and violence are pathological and signs of physical, developmental, cultural, and/or institutional system failure. Caring relationships are the foundation of healthy families and communities. The Golden Rule common to all major faiths is a better guide to appropriate moral behavior than mechanistic rules are.

The Integral Spirit cosmology postulates that we humans participate in and contribute to the divine journey. We can apply our distinctive capacities for reflective consciousness and choice either to advance creation’s evolutionary thrust toward ever more creative possibility, or to disrupt it. Together, our individual choices determine our collective fate and shape the course of the journey far beyond our time.

We find threads of this story in the traditional wisdom teachings of indigenous peoples and the mystical traditions of all faiths, including the Abrahamic faiths. In his expression of his Jewish faith, Jesus taught, “The Kingdom is within.” Muhammad taught, “Wherever you turn, there is the Face of Allah.”

The Integral Spirit cosmology is consistent with the findings of quantum physics, which reveals that the apparent solidity of matter is an illusion and at the deepest level of understanding only relationships are real. I find that Integral Spirit is the underlying cosmology of a reassuring number of religious leaders and devout members of many faiths, including a great many Catholic nuns, as well as most people who define themselves as spiritual, but not necessarily religious.

Why Creation Stories Matter

Our creation stories have powerful implications for our understanding of our place in the cosmos and thereby shape our most foundational values, our politics, and the distribution of power in society.

The Distant Patriarch story characterizes our earthly existence as a separation from the divine goodness and grace of heaven. Our experience in this life becomes a test of faith, a burden to be endured and ultimately left behind in an eventual ascent of the righteous to reside with the creator in paradise. This cosmology reduces the purpose of life in the present to a fear-based quest to earn credits toward a divine judgment that will determine whether our fate after death will be to join the saved or the damned. It is a perfect setup for the manipulation and exploitation of believers by demagogues.

The Grand Machine story strips our existence of meaning and purpose. In so doing, it supports consumerism and an ethic of individual material gratification as a distraction from the terrifying loneliness and despair of an otherwise meaningless existence. By characterizing life as inherently competitive, it provides a pseudo-scientific justification for social Darwinism, colonial imperialism, racial domination, and the unrestrained competition of market fundamentalism. It neglects the far greater role of cooperation and synergy on which all living systems—and human society, civilization, and culture—depend.

Though sharply at odds regarding the presence or absence of a spiritual intelligence, both the Distant Patriarch and Grand Machine cosmologies affirm the self-destructive individualism and separation that lead us to behave in ways that threaten Earth’s biosphere and our future as a species.

The Integral Spirit story, by contrast, infuses all we behold in this life and beyond with profound meaning. All of creation is a sacred and ultimately unified expression of an eternal and intimately present divine will. All beings are interconnected and our fates are inextricably intertwined. As participants in and contributors to the ongoing process of creation, we each bear a sacred responsibility. Our lives take on profound meaning and purpose in relationship and service to the sacred whole.

This cosmology has the elements of the needed story for our time. It remains, however, largely a private story without the institutional sponsors that give the Distant Patriarch and Grand Machine cosmologies authority and public presence. The absence of institutional sponsorship helps to secure its authenticity, but the absence of public visibility limits its influence as a guide to rethinking and restructuring our human relationships with one another and nature.

Largely invisible in the public forum, it is not included in public opinion polls, leaving us with little idea of how widespread its acceptance actually is. Consequently, those of us who align with its foundational insights have no way to assess whether we are just cultural outliers or members of what may quite possibly be a cultural majority. Intimidated by our isolation, we may be reluctant to share the truth in our hearts, thus limiting our ability to share and deepen our insights and to join with others to fulfill the responsibilities to which the insights of this story call us.

Six Blind Men Describe an Elephant

Reflecting on the relationship between these three seemingly mutually exclusive cosmologies brings to mind the story of the six blind men describing an elephant. The first feels its side and proclaims, “An elephant is like a wall.” The second gropes its tusk and counters, “No, it is like a spear.” The third feels the trunk and says, “Truly it is like a snake.” The fourth feels a leg and insists, “An elephant is like a tree.” The fifth feels its ear and pronounces it to be “Like a fan.” The sixth grasps the tail and says “Nonsense, an elephant is like a rope.”

We understand and relate to our world largely through our basic senses. The spiritual dimension, however, lies beyond our limited direct sensory experience. When we seek to describe it, like the blind men groping the elephant, we turn to familiar imagery. This story is a warning that any interpretation of the infinite is likely to capture only a part of a much larger reality.

The Politics of Story Power

The mystics among the prophets, sages, and wisdom keepers of all times and traditions have discerned a spiritual order and unity in creation they could make intelligible to their followers only through metaphor. Consequently, they sought to communicate their mystical insights through easily understood stories and familiar images. Not surprisingly, the intended messages have been subject to omission and distortion as they pass from generation to generation.

Generally, for early indigenous peoples the deeper truth of creation as the expression of an integral spiritual consciousness translated into stories of an enchanted world inhabited by spirits of diverse motives and magical abilities. Matrilineal societies tended toward feminine imagery and worshiped images of the Goddess. More gender-balanced societies worshiped both a Sky Father and an Earth Mother.

With time, human societies developed large-scale institutional structures that supported powerful political and religious rulers with a considerable interest in shaping stories of divine power to serve their political interests. Stories and images of gods and goddesses as larger-than-life versions of their earthly rulers served them better than stories and images of an enchanted world of spirit beings.

The Abrahamic faiths—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—were each built on the foundation of a deep and profound sense of the integral spiritual unity and order of creation. Each emerged within male-dominated societies in which patriarchs were familiar figures and symbols. They naturally looked to the patriarch as their symbol for an all-knowing, all-powerful spiritual consciousness.

It was also natural that these societies placed their religious institutions in the care of men—who in turn found that it best served their political interests to favor the distant Sky Father over the imminent Earth Mother and to dismiss goddess worship as primitive and pagan. The priestly class further strengthened its power and authority by affirming sacred ancient texts interpreted by religious scholars as the sole authority on the will of God.

Eventually, the keepers of the faith conveniently forgot that the image of the Distant Patriarch was only a metaphor for the unity and order of the Integral Spirit from which all being manifests.

Separation of the material and spiritual worlds, rejection of the feminine, and a reliance on ancient texts as the primary (if not sole) source of human knowledge and moral authority, in denial of the data of the senses, became a serious barrier to the advancement of human knowledge and understanding. As the world divided into a multitude of institutionalized religious sects and subsects, the underlying stories of the spiritual unity of creation gave way to often violent competition for market share based on “My God is the real God” product differentiation.

Newtonian science emerged as a counter to religion’s rejection of the experience of the senses in favor of explanations of events based on stories of the magical powers of mythic figures, and to the barrier this rejection posed to human advancement. To secure its integrity and authority, science embraced disciplined observation of how matter interacts with matter as its primary—even exclusive—source of knowledge and learning. This brought a new rigor to the search for order in the cosmos and lifted human understanding and technological possibility to previously unimagined levels.

Much as the priestly classes of institutionalized Western religions conveniently forgot that the patriarch was a metaphor, however, the gatekeepers of science eventually forgot that the denial of agency and free will that imposed a useful and beneficial discipline on scientific inquiry within the context of 17th-century belief systems was a choice—not a scientific finding.

A scientific culture that ignored or denied spiritual consciousness brought with it an implicit denial of life’s capacity for conscious self-direction. This in turn limited our ability to comprehend and embrace the richness, potential, and responsibilities of our nature as conscious, intelligent, self-directing participants in Earth’s interconnected, ever-evolving, ever-learning web of life.

That the reductionist story underlying most scientific inquiry to this day describes only one element of a larger reality does not invalidate the truth or utility of its contributions. It is essential, however, that we recognize how the myopia of classical scientific reductionism suppresses our sense of wonder, agency, responsibility to and for one another and living Earth, and our ability to actualize a democratic vision of the authentic popular sovereignty of self-governing peoples and an equitable distribution of power.

Integral Spirit as a Liberating Synthesis

Our future as a species depends on bringing to the fore of human consciousness a story that invites us to consider the whole of the elephant, and to relate to it in ways appropriate to both its nature and ours. The Integral Spirit story provides a core narrative.

In its contemporary expression, the cosmology of the Integral Spirit draws from the many ways of human knowing. It embraces and melds insights from the frontiers of scientific observation, the world’s major religions, and the experience of indigenous peoples and mystics extending back to ancient times. In acknowledging both intelligent agency and material mechanism, it recognizes that agency plays out in an ordered living cosmos within a framework of rules, and it clearly distinguishes between free will and license. It affirms our human nature as spiritual beings with an epic calling to advance a sacred purpose, and it frames a vision of possibility to guide us to a viable future consistent with the divine will as revealed in our most comprehensive understanding of the cosmic unfolding.

Contemporary Western culture presses us to choose between the institutions of religion and science as our primary source for understanding our human nature, purpose, and possibilities. In their current institutionalized forms, Western religion and science are both relics of an imperial past. Both define themselves by stories that support the prevailing systems of human domination of one another, other species, and Earth. Each resolutely defends its claim to being society’s ultimate and final intellectual and moral authority and clings to its own self-limiting cosmology as the only valid story.

Despite their imperial legacy, the Distant Patriarch and Grand Machine cosmologies are both the product of efforts to discern and describe critical elements of the larger story of the Integral Spirit. That larger story has been with us in various forms since the beginning of human consciousness.

It is readily evident why the Integral Spirit cosmology has lacked sponsorship and support from the imperial institutions that have defined the dominant human societies for the past 5,000 years. It evokes a radical vision of democratic possibility and presents a fundamental challenge to their legitimacy.

It is for this very reason that it is the story and the vision we now need to guide our way to a future in which we humans learn to live in balanced and mutual prosperous relationship with one another and nature.

Distributed Intelligence and Life’s Capacity to Self-Organize

We now know a great deal more than we have in the past about the creative capacity of the processes through which Integral Spirit manifests. We still have much to learn from and contribute to these processes, but to do so we must acknowledge and celebrate them.

We know, for example, that at every level, the cosmos has an amazing capacity to self-organize toward greater complexity and potential.

The theory of distributed cognition or intelligence suggests that multiple minds have capabilities inherently greater than does a single mind. Many interlinked personal computers have more power than a single super computer. It seems that creation learned early on to apply this principle on a grand scale in the design of the endless fractal structures of its self-organizing systems long before the arrival of humans. It is a key to the creativity and resilience of the cosmos.

Earth’s biosphere, the exquisitely complex, resilient, and continuously evolving layer of Earth life, demonstrates on a grand scale the creative potentials of the distributed intelligence of many trillions of individual choice-making living organisms, self-organizing to optimize the capture, organization, and sharing of Earth’s energy, water, and nutrients to bring Earth to life. Acting in concert, they continuously regenerate Earth’s soils, rivers, aquifers, fisheries, forests, and grasslands while maintaining Earth’s climatic balance and the composition of Earth’s atmosphere to serve the needs of Earth’s widely varied life forms.

When we see all being as a manifestation of spirit, we might think of all of the biosphere’s complex choice-making processes as occurring within the mind of God. In the ultimate sense, perhaps it does. Such a formulation, however, can obscure and diminish our appreciation of the true wonder and structure of the biosphere as a self-organizing living system.

The human body is an even more intimate example of the creative power of distributed intelligence. My body, which hosts my personal consciousness, is but one of the many trillions of organisms that together form Earth’s biosphere. It is in turn comprised of tens of trillions of individual living cells, each a decision-making entity in its own right with the ability to manage and maintain its own health and integrity under changing and often stressful circumstances.

So how do our cells decide, individually and collectively, what to do‌? Is there some form of conscious intelligence involved at the cellular level‌?

Simultaneously, each cell faithfully discharges its responsibility to serve the demanding needs of my entire body on which its own health and integrity (and mine) depend. Together, these cells maintain the body’s health and integrity even under conditions of extreme stress and deprivation to create a capacity for extraordinary feats of physical grace and intellectual acuity far beyond the capability of the individual cell. Resources are shared based on need, not greed.

We are also learning that trillions of non-human micro-organisms inhabit our skin, genital areas, mouth, and intestines with essential roles in supporting and regulating our bodily functions as members of a high-functioning living community

The body’s individual decision-making resource-sharing cells and microbes are more than interdependent. Each is integral to a larger whole of which no part or sub-system can exist on its own. Together they fight off a vast variety of viruses, cancer cells, and harmful bacteria and create regulatory mechanisms internal to the whole that work to assure that no part asserts dominance over the others or monopolizes the body’s stores of energy, nutrients, and water for its exclusive use. All the while, they adapt to changing temperatures and energy needs and variations in the body’s food and water intake, heal damaged tissues, and collect and provide the sensory data to our conscious mind essential to our conscious choice making.

Another of the many impressive expressions of the body’s capacity to self-organize is the process by which its cells continuously renew with no loss of body integrity. The cells lining the human stomach have a turnover of only five days. Red blood cells are replaced every 120 days or so. The surface of the skin recycles every two weeks.

Most of this cellular and molecular activity occurs far below the level of our personal awareness. So long as we provide the essentials of nutrition, hydration, rest, and exercise, our bodies’ cells fulfill their responsibilities to maintain our healthy function without specific instruction from our conscious mind.

Cells can and do go rogue, with terrible consequences. Cancer, Alzheimer’s, and leukemia are examples. Within limits, the body has mechanisms to eliminate such threats. If those mechanisms fail, the body dies and the rogue cells die with it.

So how do our cells decide, individually and collectively, what to do‌? Is there some form of conscious intelligence involved at the cellular level‌? The Grand Machine story says no the processes are mechanical. The Distant Patriarch story does not address the question beyond the fatalistic suggestion that whatever happens is God’s will. The Integral Spirit story says yes—the capacity for conscious choice is a defining quality of life and indeed of all being.

Is the consciousness underlying the choices of an individual cell a form of consciousness that would be in any way familiar to the human mind‌? Probably not, but we may never know, because with the exception of mystics who have developed a capacity to bridge the barrier between themselves and the meta-consciousness, we have no recognized means to experience a consciousness other than our own, and least of all the consciousness of a single cell. What seems evident is that intelligent choice-making is a hallmark of living organisms at all levels.

One critical insight from recent findings in biology is that most of the body’s self-organization occurs at the cellular level through intercellular communication and choice-making independent of direct intervention or direction from the brain and central nervous system.

Similarly, although the biosphere self-organizes on a global scale and is subject to external influences from other celestial bodies, the locus of agency is everywhere local. The dynamic consequences of local choice-making play out through the biosphere’s fractal structure and create global dynamics that in turn shape local choice-making with no evident central authority.

The separation or differentiation of consciousness is essential to creation’s incredible capacity for creative innovation, yet we see in our human experience how the illusion of separation can lead us to relate to one another and nature in deeply destructive ways. Buddhism teaches that this illusion of separation is the cause of humanity’s self-inflicted suffering. To become fully functioning as individuals and societies, we must achieve a maturity of self-awareness that allows us to hold in mind the reality of oneness and at the same time honor the illusion of separation by accepting responsibility for our individual actions.

Conscious Choices

Exactly how it all works may forever remain a mystery beyond our human understanding. Based on what we do know, however, our bodies, the biosphere, and the cosmos all express as fractal structures that self-organize from the bottom up rather than from the top down—exactly the opposite of what the Distant Patriarch story suggests. And contrary to the foundational assumption of the Grand Machine story, the evidence of our daily experience, reports of mystics, and some interpretations of quantum physics suggest that intelligence—and presumably some form of consciousness—is the organizing principle of our bodies, Earth’s biosphere, and the cosmos.

When we see all of creation as a manifestation of God, of spirit made flesh, we may recognize ourselves as physical expressions of God, but not in the sense of Michelangelo’s famous painting. We may also recognize that within the scale of the cosmos, we are far from being creation’s only expression of conscious intelligence. To the contrary, we are only a tiny element of an expression so grand as to be beyond our perception and comprehension.

So what is our individual human relationship to the grand expression of Integral Spirit‌? This is pure conjecture on my part, but I believe there may be clues in the relationship between the individual cells of our body and our conscious mind. I know my body’s individual cells exist, but only because science tells me so. I may care deeply about their good health, yet I cannot discern the condition or function of any individual cell—let alone consciously intervene to save an errant cell from the consequences of its bad choices.

Given that my body’s cells number in the trillions, the possibility that I might have such ability defies imagination. Imagine the distraction if our minds attempted to track details of the life of each individual cell in our bodies. It is for good reason our minds are highly selective in the information to which they attune.

It seems similarly unimaginable that the living Earth is conscious of my individual existence or behavior as a human cell in its larger body. If we scale this logic to the cosmic level, it would suggest that the living cosmos is unlikely to be conscious even of the Living Earth as one of the countless celestial entities that comprise it.

There is no necessary contradiction here with the reports down through the ages from spiritual mystics who experience the melding of their human consciousness with an undifferentiated consciousness that transcends all of material reality. If all creation is a manifestation of undifferentiated Integral Spirit, then the system of distributed intelligence discernible in a living, evolving cosmos is derivative of the undifferentiated meta-consciousness.

I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings. —Albert Einstein

Perhaps the individual human consciousness, with proper training and discipline, has the capacity to penetrate the illusion of separation to experience a temporary reunification with the undifferentiated spirit. Perhaps we all have the ability through meditation and prayer to tap into the wisdom of the higher levels of consciousness from which we manifest, and thereby tap into and experience the beauty of its creative wisdom in a very personal way.

It does not, however, follow that the undifferentiated meta-consciousness has the intention, desire, or capacity to attune to us individually, to intervene in our individual or collective human lives, or to change the operant rules of the self-organizing processes of the differentiated consciousness that shape the unfolding of the cosmos or its individual elements. This is not to suggest that the cosmos is indifferent to our existence. It may care deeply with the love that some believe to be the binding force of the universe.

Consider also that as manifestations of the Integral Spirit, we are instruments of its agency. We might therefore think of the voice that replies in the course of meditation or prayer to those who succeed in penetrating the ego’s illusion of separation as at once the voice of our authentic self and the voice of God. Similarly, when we pray for divine intervention to save us from the consequences of our individual and collective choices, we in effect appeal to ourselves as agents of the Integral Spirit.

Step to Adult Responsibility

The important point is that, right or wrong, our choice of creation stories has real world consequences. If we choose to believe our fate lies with purely mechanistic forces beyond our control in denial of our own agency and responsibility, we then resign ourselves to the outcome of forces beyond our control. If we assume that a parental overseer—whether it be God, the market, a new technology, or compassionate space aliens—will save us from our foolish behavior, we likewise absolve ourselves of responsibility for our actions as we await divine intervention.

If we accept, however, that we are conscious, intelligent agents in a conscious, intelligent, self-organizing cosmos, it becomes evident that our future is in our hands and the well-being of all of Earth’s children depends on our acceptance of adult responsibility for our individual and collective choices and their consequences.

Recall the Buddhist teaching that the illusion of separation is the source of human suffering. As manifestations of the spirit, we humans are instruments by which the spirit (God) expresses its agency in the material world. Thus, our appeals to God for salvation from our suffering are in effect appeals to ourselves.

The earlier assertion that evolution has hard-wired cooperation, service, and compassion into the healthy human brain does not negate our capacity for free will. Free will and the illusion of separation are both essential to our human potential to contribute to the creativity, adaptability, and resilience of a living Earth and thereby to the whole of creation. If we lose sight, however, of the interdependence behind the illusion, the sense of separation can become so terrifying as to overwhelm our predisposition for cooperation and lead to us to use our free will in deeply self-destructive ways. Free will conveys creative responsibility, not individualistice license.

Whether specific details of our chosen story are right or wrong is less important than whether its overarching narrative awakens us spiritually inspires cooperative, mutually beneficial relationships supports a way of living that recognizes the wonder, beauty, goodness, ultimate meaning and value of life and puts us on a path to a viable future. Most important at this moment in the human experience is that our chosen story calls us to accept adult responsibility for the consequences of our choices for ourselves, one another, and a living Earth.

Consequently, on purely pragmatic grounds, the Integral Spirit story in its many variations is the obvious choice. If wrong, we lose nothing. A clockwork cosmos could care less. A loving parent God will be pleased with our progress toward mature adulthood. If right, we avoid self-extinction, our lives take on profound meaning, and we unleash yet unrealized capacities for creative expression.

The Integral Spirit and a New Economy
Both the Distant Patriarch and Grand Machine cosmologies contribute to a sense of detachment from life that leads to a devaluation of nature. They also lend legitimacy to an undemocratic centralization of institutional power and authority. Further, the social Darwinism of the Grand Machine cosmology lends moral authority to flawed economic theories that instruct us to value money more than life and actively celebrate the behavior and ethics of the psychopath as a cultural ideal.
Whether or not the stories themselves are the cause of the deep, self-inflicted social and psychological pathology expressed in our self-destructive relationships with one another and Earth, their broad cultural acceptance poses a serious barrier to healing.

The pathology finds its clearest expression in a greed-driven economy grounded in a financial logic that assures us we are getting richer even as we destroy the real wealth of cooperative, caring human communities and Earth’s natural living systems.

In our confusion, we forget that the only true wealth is living wealth, pay more attention to financial deficits than social and environmental deficits, and assume that the economy and business exist to make money rather than to serve life.

The living systems perspective of the Integral Spirit cosmology provides a framing story to guide our path to a planetary system of local bioregional living economies aligned with the needs and realities of the Ecozoic Era.

Transition to an Ecozoic Era

The foundational insights of the Integral Spirit cosmology hold the conceptual key to our collective passage to what cosmologist Brian Swimme and eco-theologian Thomas Berry call the Ecozoic Era, the fourth in the succession of life eras identified as the Paleozoic, the Mesozoic, and the Cenozoic. In The Universe Story, they note that our passage to this new era depends on a fundamental shift in the human relationship to Earth grounded in four foundational insights:

1. “The universe is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects.” (p. 243)

2. “The Earth is so integral in the unity of its functioning that every aspect of the Earth is affected by what happens to any component member of the community. Because of its organic quality, Earth cannot survive in fragments….The integral functioning of the planet must be preserved.” (p. 243)

3. “Earth is a one-time endowment….Although the Earth is resilient and has extensive powers of renewal, it also has a finite and nonrenewable aspect…Once a species is extinguished we know of no power in heaven or on Earth that can bring about a revival.” (pp. 246-7)

4. “[O]ur human economy is derivative from the Earth economy. To glory in a rising Gross Domestic Product with an irreversibly declining Earth Product is an economic absurdity.” (p. 256). [See inset: “The Integral Spirit and a New Economy”]

As Berry elaborates in an earlier lecture:

“Earth is primary and humans are derivative….The Earth economy can survive the loss of its human component, but there is no way the human economy can survive and prosper apart from the Earth economy….There is no such thing as a human community in any manner separate from the Earth community. The human community and the natural world will go into the future as a single integral community or we will both experience disaster on the way. However differentiated in its modes of expression, there is only one Earth community—one economic order, one health system, one moral order, one world of the sacred.” [Thomas Berry, “The Ecozoic Era”]

Failing to recognize the fundamental truth of our dependence on the generative systems of Earth’s biosphere, we humans act as a reckless, predatory invasive species, the equivalent of cancer cells systematically destroying Earth’s living body. In an act of collective insanity, we have created a global civilization that depends on a non-sustainable fossil fuel subsidy to work in direct defiance and opposition to the natural structure and forces of the biosphere. This leads to the systematic disruption and depletion of the biosphere’s generative systems and thereby Earth’s capacity to support life.

If there is to be a human future, we must fundamentally reshape our cultures and institutions to work in creative partnership with the structure and dynamics of the biosphere. Is it consistent with our nature to do so‌? It depends on the story.

The Distant Patriarch story is ambiguous, with many contrasting versions from which to choose. The Great Machine story says no it is our inherent nature to be individualist, competitive, greedy, and violent. The Integral Spirit story and the narrative emerging from a deeper and more contemporary understanding of evolution articulated by evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson and others say yes humans evolved to cooperate, share, and serve.

A Big Story Connecting Three Narratives
The emerging story of creation’s epic unfolding features three narratives, each flowing from one to the next.
1. The Integral Spirit Cosmology narrative recognizes the unity of creation and the contributions of our varied religious traditions, bridges the domains of science and religion, and draws from the breadth and depth of human experience and knowledge to reveal a self-organizing process that
combines order, chance, learning, and the agency of a distributed integral intelligence.
2. The Sacred Living Earth narrative builds on the understanding of the Integral Spirit narrative to present Earth as an intelligent living organism with an extraordinary resilience and capacity to learn, adapt, and innovate as it creates the conditions necessary to the emergence of ever more
complex, capable, intelligent, self-aware, and cooperative life forms.
3. The Living Earth Economies narrative builds on the Living Earth
narrative to frame a vision of and pathway to the culture and institutions of a New Economy that brings us into balanced partnership with Earth’s biosphere, meets the needs of all people, and is radically democratic.

As we follow the flow of the narratives from Integral Spirit to Sacred Living Earth to Living Earth Economies we move from the transcendent to the imminent, from the abstract to the practical, and begin to discern a pathway to a viable human future ripe with meaning and possibility.

A Story for Our Time

The turning we humans must navigate to a viable future depends on a profound awakening to our nature as spiritual beings and our responsibility as participants in creation’s epic journey of self-discovery. This awakening will be partly experiential—a joyful reunion with our true nature. It will be partly intellectual—a larger and more nuanced understanding of the nature and purpose of creation and our human role in its continued unfolding.

To accelerate this awakening and actualize its possibilities we need an open and self-critical public conversation about the foundational stories by which we understand our human nature and purpose. That conversation must go far beyond an unproductive debate between doctrinaire Distant Patriarch creationists and doctrinaire Grand Machine social Darwinist evolutionists. Fortunately, the conversation is already underway in a rapidly growing number of forums sponsored by influential organizations including Contemplative Alliance, Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University, Pachamama Alliance, Temple of Understanding, Wall Street Trinity Institute, and others,

These conversations call us to reflect on what we truly believe and to examine contrasting cosmologies from the perspective of historical experience, the insights of history’s greatest teachers, the frontiers of science, and implications for the path ahead. The process is best served by a sense of humility and recognition that for all our scientific advances, we remain far from a full understanding of the deep mysteries of the cosmos.

The Integral Spirit cosmology appears to offer many of the elements of the story we seek. Yet even with its ancient roots and its affirmation and enrichment by recent breakthroughs in science, it too remains a partially developed story and we are limited to speculating on many of its elements.

That we humans seem naturally drawn to unsolved mysteries may be a key to discovering and fulfilling our place of service to the whole.

We know not where the journey leads, nor whether a final destination is even a meaningful concept. The attraction is the inherent thrill of participating in a grand creative endeavor for which participation is its own reward.

Web Home of David C. Korten – Author, Lecturer, Engaged Citizen


Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor has been organized by the Library of Congress in partnership with Lincoln Cathedral—Bringing Magna Carta to the USA.

  • The Federalist Society for Law & Public Policy Studies
  • 1st Financial Bank USA
  • The Friends of the Law Library of Congress
  • BP America
  • The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
  • Earhart Foundation
  • White & Case LLP
  • The Burton Foundation for Legal Achievement

The Library of Congress also gratefully recognizes contributions received through the Friends of the Law Library from Thomson Reuters, William S. Hein & Co, Inc., Raytheon Company, Brill|Nijhoff Publishers, and the generous support and assistance provided by the British Council.

  • The Office of the General Counsel, American University
  • American Association of Law Libraries
  • Baronial Order of Magna Charta
  • Christopher J. and Sheilah F. Brous
  • Georgetown University Law Center
  • Tom and Erika Girardi
  • Magna Carta Foundation
  • Mark Medish Family
  • Patricia Glass Schuman and Vincent C. Civello
  • Roberta I. Shaffer

As well as contributions from an anonymous donor Law Librarian’s Society of Washington, D.C. Library of Congress Professional Association Mary Alice Baish Robert R. Newlen and Fairfax Resolves Chapter, Virginia Society, Sons of the American Revolution.

The Library gratefully acknowledges contributions from members of the Executive Board of the Friends of the Law Library of Congress: Kim Phan and Ambassador Robert Orr Geoffrey William Anderson Paul Godlewski Martin B. Gold Marian Blank Horn Steve Hrubala Billie Jo Kaufman Kenny Kraft Emily Rae Robert Sargin and Charles Owen Verrill, Jr.

The exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.


While we have you.

. we need your help. Confronting the many challenges of COVID-19&mdashfrom the medical to the economic, the social to the political&mdashdemands all the moral and deliberative clarity we can muster. In Thinking in a Pandemic, we&rsquove organized the latest arguments from doctors and epidemiologists, philosophers and economists, legal scholars and historians, activists and citizens, as they think not just through this moment but beyond it. While much remains uncertain, Boston Review&rsquos responsibility to public reason is sure. That&rsquos why you&rsquoll never see a paywall or ads. It also means that we rely on you, our readers, for support. If you like what you read here, pledge your contribution to keep it free for everyone by making a tax-deductible donation.


Ancient civilizations and restricted history bybest-selling author Freddy Silva

Ancient architects created a global network of temples and megaliths to mirror the perfection of the universe. With an unerring knowledge of the mechanics of nature, these magicians built sacred sites with precision to outlast the ravages of time and human folly. They understood the flow of subtle energy, located its hotspots, and applied a combination of geomancy, sacred geometry and earth magic to create living spaces capable of influencing consciousness. Behind every pyramid and stone circle there exists a symbolic language containing the keys to ancient systems of knowledge, codes of creation, sound, sacred geometry, and how they can be applied to influence the everyday world.

For decades I've researched countless temples, pyramids, megalithic sites, ancient churches and Gothic cathedrals, and discovered that they are intermediaries between the material and the spiritual. Essentially, sacred sites are portals. And in addition to tracking the sun, moon and stars, they have been used for healing, divination, the teaching of the Mysteries, and initiation into the Otherworld.

You could say ancient temples are the ultimate self-help centers.

Sages, scholars, mystics, even the Knights Templar hard-wired a library of information at sacred sites as an insurance policy for times when we’d forget why we are here. My research will make you aware of this legacy so that you may improve the quality of life within and around you.

Once you engage with ancient temples, the fringe benefits are beyond imagination.


The Sacred and Ancient Legacy of our Feathered Friends - History

THERE ARE TWO UNIVERSAL WORLD-FIGURES, found everywhere, among all races--the World Tree, and the World Mountain. For man could draw analogies--his traditions prove it almost better than his written records. He knew that he had been born, that he was living, that he must die yet of birth he remembered nothing, and death he would not know until too late. But in the animal world--above all in the vegetable world, he could watch the recurrent miracles of life and death, rebirth and

growth, sleeping and waking states more easily than he could note the same miracles in his own sphere. And so he came very early and easily to see a correspondence between humanity, greatest of the animal world, and the Tree, mightiest of its kingdom. It is true that in every great cosmological system and in great and lesser cosmogonies, there stands the figure of the World Tree, with its seed, its roots, its trunk, its resting perches, its knitting knots, its pith, its main branch, its leaves, its flowers and their sweet smell, its refreshing shade, its immortal sap, and the spot where it grows, all brought into close and exquisite analogy with man and his universe.

"Without doubt," sings one of the greatest of the Vedic poets, "though possessed of density, trees have space within them. The putting forth of flowers and fruits is always taking place in them. They have heat within them in consequence of which leaf, bark, fruit and flower are seen to droop. They sicken and dry up. That shows they have perception of touch. Through sound of wind and fire and thunder, their fruits and flowers drop down. Sound is perceived through the ear. Trees have, therefore, ears, and do hear. A creeper winds round a tree and goes all about its sides. A blind thing cannot find its way. For this reason it is evident that trees have vision. Then again trees recover vigour and put forth flowers in consequence of odours good and bad, of the sacred perfume of various kinds of dhupas. It is plain that trees have scent. They drink water by their roots. They catch diseases of divers kinds. Those diseases again are cured by different operations. From this it is evident that trees

have perception of taste. As one can suck up water through a bent lotus stalk, trees also, with the aid of the wind, drink through their roots. They are susceptible of pleasure or pain, and grow when cut or lopped off. From these circumstances I see that trees have life. They are not inanimate. Fire and wind cause the water thus sucked up to be digested. Accordingly again, to the quantity of water taken up, the tree advances in growth and becomes humid. In the bodies of all subtile things the five elements occur. In each the proportions are different."

According again to the races of men, the type of the World Tree varied. The Date-palm was the sacred Asherah of the Assyrians. To the Greeks, and to the Norsemen, the cosmic Ash was the World Tree. But also to the Greeks, and to the Germans, the Oak was the life-giver and the life-sustainer. And the Greeks made the vine the "sacred tree" of Dionysos. Persian legends centre about the haoma tree, and the Egyptians had a mythical golden gem-bearing tree of the heavens, where the Sky goddess Nut had her abode. The Japanese believed that a great metal-pine grew far to the north at the centre of the world, and the Russians have a legend of an Iron Tree whose root "is the power of God," and whose head sustains the three worlds--the heavenly ocean of air, the Earth, and Hell with its burning fire. To the branches of the Jambu or Rose Apple tree, the Hindu dead clung and climbed to immortality. India has also her incredible banyan tree, declared to be more like man than man himself. Unlike plants, man can move at will over the surface

of the Earth, but this sacred Indian Fig Tree bears the name of the Tree of Many Feet, because its seed, rarely rooting in the ground, ordinarily sends down its hanging garden of roots from its nest in the crown of palms, where it has been deposited by birds. These aerial roots, touching the Earth, sink into it, glide through it and from it spring upward again to send down other drooping branches that root themselves, and so, over and over, until the prodigious grove--myriad parts of a single tree sprung from one air-nested seed--eventually destroys the Palm that cradled it.

Countless books have been written about the origin of the myth of the Cosmic Tree, but the gist of them all can be stated very briefly. First of all, Heaven and Earth are separated. They must be, therefore, at one and the same time held apart--lest the heavens fall down and crush the Earth--and they must be also united by some subtle path of communication, some bridge over the monstrous interval. If a mushroom, delicate as a butterfly, can work a miracle in a night and raise a rock, a tree rooted in the Earth may support the sky. But no tree of Earth could reach to heaven unless it were itself divine, born somehow of the gods and so we find a host of literal "parent trees," said to be produced from the body moisture of deities, and capable therefore, in their turn, of producing man. In its more developed form, this parent tree became the Tree of Life, the Tree of Knowledge, offering men immortality and the wisdom of the gods. There is a Tibetan tree called Tarayana or the Way of Safety which grows by the side of the great river separating


Click to enlarge
PLATE XVIII. Yggdrasil, the World Tree of the Norsemen. After Finn Magnusen's

the worlds, and only by grace of its overhanging branches may men pass from the mortal to the immortal bank.

The oldest World Tree? who shall say? When in search of the "oldest" we always think of the ancient East but no one can assert--and prove--that Yggdrasil, the Cosmic Ash, the World Tree of the Norsemen, had its origin in the Orient, however remarkably its ideas coincide with the sacred trees of Asia. Let us begin for a change with the Occident and Yggdrasil.

"The chief and most holy seat of the gods," say the Eddas, "is by the Ash Yggdrasil. There the gods meet in council every day. It is the greatest and best of all trees. Its branches spread over the world and reach above heaven. Three roots sustain the tree and stand wide apart one is with Asa the second is with the Frost giants the third reaches into Niflheim, and under it is Hvergelmar, where Nidhug gnaws the roots from below. But under the second root, which extends to the Frost giants, is the well of Mimir, wherein knowledge and wisdom are concealed. The third root of the Ash is in Heaven, and beneath it is the most sacred fountain of Urd. Here the gods have their doomstead. The Asa ride thither every day over the Bi-frost, which is also called Asa-bridge. There stands a beautiful hall near the fountain beneath the Ash. Out of it come three maids. These maids shape the lives of men, and we call them the Norns. On the boughs of the Ash sits an eagle, who knows many things. Between his eyes, sits the hawk, called Vedfolner. A squirrel, by name Ratatösk, springs up and down the tree and bears words

of hate between the eagle and Nidhug. Four stags leap about in the branches of the Ash and bite the buds. The Norns that dwell by the fountain of Urd every day take


Click to enlarge
FIGURE 44. Yggdrasil, the Cosmic Ash (From Finn Magnusen's ''Eddalæren.'')
(From The Sacred Tree, or The Tree in Religion and Myth Mrs. J. H. Philpot, 1897.)

water from the fountain, and clay that lies around the fountain, and sprinkle therewith the Ash, in order that its branches may not wither or decay." 1

There are a number of interesting things to note here,

because of their constant recurrence in other world-concepts widely separated in time and race. One is the close association of the World Tree with the World Mountain one springs from the other, take them in what order we will. Another is the division of the Universe into nine worlds. Another, for the sake of comparison with a Mayan World Tree farther on, is the squirrel Ratatösk. Another is the Bi-frost or Asa-bridge.

In the beginning of all things, says the Norse story of the Creation, there were two worlds, Niflheim, the world of ice in the north, and Muspelheim, the world of fire in the south, with all the space between an empty abyss, called Ginungagap. The fierce flames in Muspelheim blew constantly over into the abyss many sparks which confronted only nothingness, until, from the ice-bound Niflheim, a great spring opened and sent down twelve rivers, some of which flowed into the abyss and formed great layers of frozen vapour. At last the sparks of fire met the frozen air, and Ymir the giant was created, and then, in turn,

From Ymir's flesh
the earth was formed,
and from his bones the hills,
the heaven from the skull
of that ice-cold giant
and from his blood the sea.

Of the nine worlds Asgard was the highest and was the world of the gods. Below it was Mitgard or Earth, the world of men, a flat disc surrounded by the River Ocean.

[paragraph continues] Beyond the River Ocean, but surrounding Mitgard, was Jötunheim, the upper giant world, and, beneath the Earth plane, was the great underworld divided into four worlds. In the North was the lower giant world of Niflheim at the South Urd and her two sisters ruled over the kingdom of the dead, and between North and South was Mimir's


FIGURE 45. Diagram of the Nine Worlds, supported by the World Tree Yggdrasil.
(From The Nine Worlds Mary Elizabeth Litchfield, 1890.)

land, where dwelt the wisest of the gods, and, with him, Day, Night, Dawn and the Sun and Moon. Below Niflheim again was the world of torture, and below Urd's realm of the dead, the land of subterranean fire.

Just two things bound these worlds together, the tree Yggdrasil, and the Asa-bridge, or Bi-frost. And a third--the spirit of heaven, the great Energiser, passing ever to and fro, guiding, controlling all the universe, from the first world to the ninth at home everywhere, abiding no-where, stirless when moving and moving when still that

without which there would be nothing--here shown as merely a tiny timid nimble squirrel.

But what was the binding and the separating bridge, the Bi-frost?


FIGURE 46. Diagram of the Scandinavian Cosmos.

1 Spring Hvergelmir, in Niflhel or Niflheim, under Yggdrasil's northern root.
2 Well of Wisdom in Mimir's Realm, under Yggdrasil's middle root.
3 Urd's Well in her Realm, under Yggdrasil's southern root.
4 Home of the Vanir.
5 Home of the Elves in Mimir's Realm.
6 Castle where Baldur dwelt with the Asmégir.
7 Northern End of Bifröst, guarded by Heimdall.
8 Southern End of Bifröst, near Urd's Well.
(From The Nine Worlds Mary Elizabeth Litchfield, 1890.)

Again, who knows? Its arch was over Asgard, world of the gods its northern tip resting upon the mountains of the ice-girt Niflheim its southern end in the realm of the dead, where Urd and her sisters ruled. Some say the

[paragraph continues] Milky Way is the original of Bi-frost or the Trembling Bridge, as some say the Milky Way is the very trunk of the Celestial Tree. Others believe that the Rainbow is the prototype for Bi-frost and all the "bridges of the world." For the World bridges are as universal as the "trees" and "mountains" of the world. Earth was cut off from Heaven--yet somewhere, if man could only find it, there was a path that might lead back home. The Bi-frost at its northern end was inviolately guarded by the great Heimdall, "World-Judge" or "World-Divider," "whose ears were so good that he could hear the grass pushing up through the ground, and the wool growing on the backs of sheep, and he needed less sleep than a bird." The gods crossed it every day on their way to the judgment hall in the realm of Urd, but the way was barred against all others, lest some thief in the night should find his way into Heaven. Yet it was the bridge also on which the souls of all the dead began their passage to the land of Urd.

The Persians had their Chinvat bridge, which is to say also, the Bridge of the Judge, over which all souls, good and evil, passed--"that bridge," says one of their sacred books, "like a beam of many sides, of whose edges there are some which are broad, and there are some which are thin and sharp its broad sides are so large that its width is of twenty-seven reeds, and its sharp sides are so contracted that in thinness it is just like the edge of a razor." Mohammed too placed a way over the middle of hell, "which is sharper than a sword and finer than a hair, over which all must pass."

Certainly the North American Indians considered the

[paragraph continues] Milky Way to be the "bridge" to the Land of Souls--a great village situated "where the Sun sets." "They call the milky way Tchipai meskenau, the path of souls, because they think that the souls raise themselves through this way in going to that great village," wrote Paul Le Jeune in 1634 of the Montagnais. One hundred years later Pierre Aulneau wrote of the Crees of upper Lake Superior, that they believed in a paradise of feasts and great hunts for the immortal souls of the dead. "But, before reaching it, there is a spot of extreme peril--the souls have to cross a wide ditch. One side of the way it is full of muddy water, offensive to the smell and covered with scum while on the other the pit is filled with fire, which rises in fierce tongues of flame. The only means of crossing it is on a fir tree, the ends of which rest. on either bank. Its bark is ever freshly moistened and besmeared with a substance which makes it as slippery as ice. If the souls who wish to cross to the enchanting plains have the misfortune to fall at this dangerous passage, there is no help left they are doomed forever to drink of the foul stagnant water or to burn in the flames, according to the side on which they fall." Sometimes the "bridge-building fiend" made the bridging spar a snake or a swinging log.

A "Sketch of the World," by a Thompson River Indian, illustrates this exactly. They believe that the Earth is square, level in the centre and rising towards the north from whence comes the cold, that it rises also in great mountain ranges about its borders, and that these mountains or lands are topped by mountains of air--the clouds


Click to enlarge
FIGURE 47. Sketch of the World, by a Thompson River Indian.

a. Trail leading from the earth to the land of the ghosts, with tracks of the souls b. River and log on which the souls cross c. Land of the ghosts and dancing souls d. Lake surrounding the earth e. Earth, with rivers and villages N. S. E. W. points of the compass.

(From Memoirs of the American Museum of Natural History, Vol. II, 1900, p. 343.)

and mists rising from the encircling lake of the world. All the rivers of the world rise in the north and flow south.

This trail to the soul-world has been minutely described

by James Teit in his The Thompson River Indians of British Columbia. 1 According to him, the country of souls is underneath us, towards the sunset, and its path is one of perils, storms, narrow bridges, and gaping chasms. The trail leads through a dim twilight along it are always visible the tracks of the people who last went over it, and also the tracks of their dogs, if they had any with them. It winds along until it meets another road, which the shamans, or medicine-men (their nearest approach to priests) use as a short cut when trying to intercept a soul. From here on, the trail is much smoother and straighter, and is painted red with ochre. Farther on it winds to the westward, descends a long gentle slope, and ends at a wide shallow stream of very clear mirror-like water. This stream is spanned by a long slender log, on which the tracks of souls may be seen again. After crossing the "bridge," if the traveller is fortunate enough to hold his footing on the slippery edge between the worlds, he finds himself again on the trail, which is now an ascending one. At a certain height is heaped a great pile of clothes this marks the spot on the journey where the souls must leave behind them all that they have brought from the other world. And from here on the trail not only seems level, but little by little the dimness and twilight confusion disappear.

Three guardians are stationed along the trail of the souls--one on each side of the river that must be crossed, and the third at the very end of the trail of the ghosts.

The first of these, on the hither side of the stream, has built for himself a sweat house where he spends most of his time. It is the duty of all three to send back to the land of the living any soul not yet ready to enter the land of the dead, even though he may have by some miracle of accident crossed the bridge. For sometimes it happens that a soul succeeds in passing the first two guardians, only to be turned back by the third, who is the chief of the three, and who now and then, being a great orator, sends back messages to the world of the living through the medium of souls who, having survived all other tests of courage and merit, fail in the final test of being judged worthy by the guardian of the gate of life to pass through.

But, having been permitted by him to pass, the soul at last reaches a large lodge at the end of the trail. It is made of a hard white material, like limestone or white clay. It extends a long distance from east to west, and is much shorter from north to south. Its top is "like a round mound or ant-hill." The doors to this white lodge are at the east and west, and the trail leads up to the eastern door, which is very small, barely large enough to let a soul pass through. But the western door, through which the soul passes to the land of ghosts, is much higher and wider. Through the entire length of the lodge there is a double row of fires, for when the deceased friends of a person expect his soul to arrive, they go in a body to this lodge to talk about his death and prepare to welcome him. As the newly arrived soul reaches the entrance to the lodge of the dead, he finds some one standing at the door to greet him and call him by name, while others sing, dance, and

beat upon drums. The air is always pleasant and still, and it is always light and warm. There are sweet smells of flowers, an abundance of grass, and berry-bushes laden with ripe fruit. The rest is hunting, feasting, and dancing through eternity, for the dancing, or immortal, souls.

The Wak wak Tree is a fabulous tree growing on a fabulous island somewhere in the Southern Ocean--or somewhere near Japan, or near the western (or the eastern) coast of Africa--it all depends on the traveller who tells the legend. It appears to have had nothing to do with America or the American Indians yet here is a curious bit of Sioux lore, which, in connection with one of the legends of the lost continent of the Pacific, has an odd interest here.

The Sioux Indians have a special reverence for what they call the waka da cedar. Waka da, according to W. J. McGee, 1 who has made a special study of the word in his The Siouan Indians, is a very curious word indeed. It has, he says, as many connotations as the Sanscrit word Karma, and, like Karma, is not to be translated by any single English word. The Sun, for instance, is not "the" or "a" waka da, but simply waka da. So is thunder, so is lightning, the stars, the winds, and especially waka da cedar, by which they mean precisely the state of being which makes a cedar human and more than human. Even a man might be waka da. The term, he says, may be translated by "mystery" more satisfactorily than by any other single English word nevertheless, with its vague implications of "power," "sacred," "ancient," "grandeur," "animate,"

[paragraph continues] "immortal," "not even an English sentence of ordinary length could quite convey the sum total of the aboriginal idea expressed by the term waka da." Perhaps all its meaning is conveyed when, applied to the cedar, they say it is that state of being which makes a cedar human and more than human.

Now of the Wak wak tree which bore human fruit, Turkey, Arabia, Persia, and India all had a tradition that in the Southern Ocean--or some other unexplored waste of waters--was an island called Wak wak--or a great mountain called Wak wak--because on it grew a tree which produced fruit with a human head, or fruit in the form of a human body, or even in the form of animals, and these beings, at dawn and at sunset, cried aloud, so that all might know the passage of the Sun, "Wak! wak!" The island and the mountain are mentioned in The Thousand and One Nights--Hasan al-Basri went there to find his wife and children. The tree is described without being named by Friar Odorico of Pordenone who in the fourteenth century left Italy to make the grand tour of the East. Arrived at Malabar, he wrote thus: "And here I heard tell that there be trees which bear men and women like fruit upon them. They are about a cubit in measurement, and are fixed in the tree up to the navel, and there they be and when the wind blows they be fresh, but when it does not blow they are all dried up. This I saw not in sooth, but I heard it told by people who had seen it." Plate XIX gives a drawing of the Wak wak tree, taken from an old Turkish History of Western India and Its Wonders, published at Constantinople in 1729. It represents


Click to enlarge
PLATE XIX. THE WAK WAK TREE
(From Ta’rikh al-Hind al-Gharbi. Constantinople, 1729)

the fruit of this fabulous tree not by human heads but by seven pendent bodies. The two great birds at the foot of the tree are as fabulous as the rest of it.

Sometimes these souls were imagined as suspended with their heads downwards, alive, but clinging and climbing


FIGURE 48. The Tree of Judas.
(From Maundevile's Voiage and Travailes, 1839 reprint.)

on a reversed path back to heaven. In an old Hindu legend it is related that Garuda, lord of all birds, coursing one day towards a gigantic banyan tree, with the fleetness of the mind, to sit thereon and "eat the elephant and the tortoise," in alighting broke one of the branches. As it broke he caught it and saw to his wonder that a tribe of Rishis called Valikhilyas were hanging from it head downwards, engaged in "ascetic penances." And gathering together

all of his strength, the lord of birds soared high into the heavens with his burden of hanging men, and saved


Click to enlarge
FIGURE 49. Osage Chart of the Universe, drawn by Red Corn.
(From Picture-Writing of the American Indians Garrick Mallery, 1894, p. 251.)

them. Sometimes, when the air is quiet, trees will move and their leaves rustle--this very common phenomenon

had for the ancients a mystic meaning at such times the invisible souls were talking to each other of their trials and triumphs on the journey back to heaven.

In their "Sketch of the World," the Thompson River Indians incorporated one form of the World Tree, in the bridge between the worlds, literally, "the path of life." The Osage Indians, in their chart of the universe, have another. Few world-pictures can be found more simply and beautifully drawn than this by Red Corn, with its Earth plane, its "stages" or heavens, and its Tree of Life. Like the Lenape pictograph, it is the "score" of a tradition chanted by members of a secret society of his tribe. It is explained by J. Owen Dorsey as follows: 1

The tree at the top represents the tree of life. By this flows a river. The tree and the river are described later in the degrees. When a woman is initiated, she is required by the head of her gens to take four sips of water (symbolising the river), then he rubs cedar on the palms of his hands, with which he rubs her from head to foot. If she belongs to a gens on the left side of a tribal circle, her chief begins on the left side of her head, making three passes, and pronouncing the sacred name three times. Then he repeats the process from her forehead down then on the right side of her head then at the back of her head four times three times, or twelve passes in all.

Beneath the river are the following objects: The Watse tuka, male slaying animal (?), or morning star, which is a red star. 2. Six stars called the "Elm rod"

by the white people in the Indian Territory. 3. The evening star. 4. The little star. Beneath this are the moon, seven stars, and sun. Under the seven stars are the peace pipe and war hatchet the latter is close to the sun, and the former and the moon are on the same side of the chart. Four parallel lines extending across the chart represent four heavens or upper worlds through which the ancestors of the Tsicu people passed before they came to this earth. The lowest heaven rests on an oak tree the ends of the others appear to be supported by pillars or ladders. The tradition begins below the lowest heaven, on the left side of the chart, under the peace pipe. Each space on the pillar corresponds with a line of the chant and each stanza (at the opening of the tradition) contains four lines. The first stanza precedes the arrival of the first heaven, pointing to a time when the children of the "former end" of the race were without human bodies as well as human souls. The bird hovering over the arch denotes an advance in the condition of the people then they had human souls in the bodies of birds. Then followed the progress from the fourth to the first heaven, followed by the descent to earth. The ascent to our heaven, and the descent to three, makes up the number seven.

When they alighted, it was on a beautiful day, when the earth was covered with luxuriant vegetation. From that time the paths of the Osages separated some marched to the right, being the war gentes, while those on the left were peace gentes, including the Tsicu whose chart this is.

Then the Tsicu met the black bear, called in the tradition Káxe-wáhü-sa n ' (Crow-bone-white), in the distance. He offered to become their messenger, so they sent him to the different stars for aid. According to

the chart, he went to them in the following order: Morning star, sun, moon, seven stars, evening star, little star.

Then the black bear went to the Wacka-cutse, a female red bird sitting on her nest. This grandmother granted his request. She gave them human bodies, making them out of her own body.

The earth-lodge at the end of the chart denotes the village of Hañka utaka n tsi, who were a very war-like people. Buffalo skulls were on the tops of the lodges, and the bones of the animals on which they subsisted whitened on the ground. The very air was rendered offensive by the decaying bodies and offal.

The whole of the chart was used mnemonically. Parts of it, such as the four heavens, and the four ladders, were tattooed on the throat and chest of the men belonging to the order.

Another Siouan tribe, the Sia Indians of New Mexico, believe that in each of the six regions of the world--they name these as the four quarters, zenith and nadir--there was a giant mountain bearing a giant tree, at whose foot was a spring, in which dwelt one of the "cloud-rulers," each attended by one of the six primal priestesses of the Sia, who interceded constantly with the six cloud rulers to send rain to the Sia. The six varieties of their World Trees were the spruce, the pine, the aspen, the cedar, and two varieties of the oak.

It would be a brave, not to say a reckless scientist, who would say to-day how young or how old the Mayan civilisation is. Thirty years ago, answers would have come easily enough but that was before the excavations of the

great buried cities in Central America began, which may very well result in the uncovering of records which ante-date the oldest we have. Already we know that America, youngest of the continents historically, is older prehistorically than we yet dare to say. And, although we never knew more than a little about the Mayas and their beliefs, we know to-day how fragmentary and isolated those bits of knowledge are, and how untrustworthy the conclusions we have drawn from them.

Nevertheless, under the date of 1640, there has come down to us a picture of the Mayan Universe, copied by Father Cogolludo from the central design of the Chilam Balam, or Sacred Book, of Mani, and inserted in his Historia de Yucathan, written at the end of twenty-one years spent among the Mayas (Plate XX).

At the bottom of the "universe" lies a cube, which has long been recognised as representing in the Mayan cosmogony the Earth. Above the Earth cube, resting on four legs which rest in turn on the four quarters of the Earth, is the heavenly vase, Cum, which holds the celestial waters--the treasures of the snow and of the hail, of the rains and the showers, on which all life, vegetable, animal and human, depends. Above this vase hang the rain clouds, and within it grows the Yax che, the Green Tree or the Tree of Life, its upper branches bearing on their tips the flowers or fruits of life on Earth, ol or yol that is to say, the soul or immortal principle of man. Under the Green Tree Yax che, the souls who have passed through Mitna or the underworld, dwell in happiness, while the others sink into a region where they suffer


Click to enlarge
PLATE XX. THE WORLD TREE OF THE MAYAS
(From Historia de Yucathan Diez Lopez Cogolludo, 1640)

eternal cold and hunger. In Brinton's Primer of Mayan Hieroglyphics, the inner figure of the cube, the vase, the clouds and the tree, is reproduced, lettered according to readings from other of the Sacred Books. The Earth cube in that picture is not lettered IUM, Earth, but tem, the Altar. "The Earth signifies the great Altar of the gods, and the offering upon it is Life."

The thirteen heads surrounding the World Tree signify, according to Brinton, the thirteen ahau katuna, or greater cycles of years. They also may signify the thirteen possible directions of Space. That is, the complete terrestrial globe is symbolised by the four cardinal points, zenith, and nadir, with man in the centre making the seventh, and the complete celestial sphere is symbolised by adding the six directions, with man, the focal point, remaining the same. "The border therefore," says Brinton, "expresses the totality of Time and Space, and the design itself symbolises Life within Time and Space."

Another Mayan world-picture is shown in Fig. 50, which is the central design of the Tableau of the Bacabs. Instead of the thirteen ahau katuna or greater cycles of years, this design is surrounded by "the signs of the twenty days," which extend in the original design, beyond the figure here given, to the four cardinal points and to the gods and time-cycles connected with them. "Again," says Brinton, "it is Life within Time and Space."

Here, sitting beneath the shade of the Green Tree, at its root, are the divine First Pair, Cuculcan, the feathered or winged serpent god, and Xmucane his spouse,--"the Creator and the Former," says the Popol Vuh, "Grandfather

and Grandmother of the race . . . two-fold grand-mother, two-fold grandfather . . . the Maker, the Former, the Ruler, the Serpent clothed in feathers, they


Click to enlarge
FIGURE 50. Our First Parents. From the Codex Cortesianus.
(From A Primer of Mayan Hieroglyphics Daniel G. Brinton, 1894.)

who beget, they who impart life, they rest upon the waters like a glowing light, they are clothed in colour green and blue, therefore their name is Gucumatz, 'Feathered Serpent.'"

The resemblances between the divisions of this Mayan

tree and the Norse tree Yggdrasil are obvious, but here is a correspondence in ideas that is very curious. Between the nine Norse worlds, it will be recalled, from the roots of the tree to its topmost branch, ran Ratatösk, scamperer between men and gods, matter and spirit, Space and Time--the great Energiser under the guise of a tiny squirrel. It is rather interesting to discover that under the green cosmic tree Yax che of Yucatan sits a figure whose name, Cuculcan, is derived from a Mayan verb, cucul, meaning

to "revolve," "to move round and round," as they moved their great calendar wheels to accomplish the rotation of time and that this rotation itself is called cuceb, "the squirrel," derived directly from the same verb cucul, "to revolve, to move round and round."

One more Mayan Tree of Life, too beautiful not to be included in any group of "Cosmic Trees," particularly as it shows the mystery of metamorphosis almost in the act of transmutation from one form to another is given in Fig. 51. In the original drawing the god of the north star rests upon it, as it rises from the heavenly vase that holds the heavenly waters. And, to show that Egypt and Yucatan were not separated in fancy at least by oceans

[paragraph continues] Atlantic or Pacific, here is a little drawing of the Sacred Tree of the Egyptians, with Heaven, or the Sky goddess Nut, bestowing knowledge on man and his soul.


FIGURE 52. Sacred Tree of the Egyptians.
(From Egyptian Mythology and Egyptian Christianity Samuel Sharpe, 1863.)

"THE WHOLE WORLD," says an old Hebrew writing, "is like a gigantic tree full of branches and leaves, the root of which is the spiritual world of the Sph’roth or it is like a firmly united chain the last link of which is attached to the upper world or like an immense sea, which is constantly filled by a spring, everlastingly gushing forth its streams."

When we take up the Kabbala, to interpret anything in it, we touch a book on which literally thousands of interpretative books have been written. The Arber Sephirotheca is perhaps its keystone figure, and the interpretations


Click to enlarge
PLATE XXI. ARBER SEPHIROTHECA
(From Utriusque Cosmi Robert Fludd, 1621. Vol. II)

of the relation and meaning of the ten Sephiroth which compose the "tree" differ so that any summary of them is not only hopeless but useless here. It is possible, however, to sketch largely and with no detail, a general explanation of this Hebrew World Tree.

First of all, what are the ten Sephiroth? First of all then, they are indicated by the first ten letters of the primitive alphabet in which, as we have noted before, Gods were Letters, Letters were Ideas, Ideas were Numbers, and Numbers were perfect Signs. They may mean either "to count" (that is, they may mean "numbers"), or "brilliance" or "spheres." Or they may mean "qualities," standing for the several grades or stages of wisdom. Or they may mean "emanations."

The Arber Sephirotheca (Plate XXI) shows the Hebrew scheme of Creation--the esoteric side of the Genesis story, beginning with the assumption that Creation began, not from the act of God, but from the emanation of God, due to his voluntary self-withdrawal in order that the universe might be created. "When the Holy Aged, the concealed of all concealed," says the Zohar, "assumed a form, he produced everything in the form of male and female, for Wisdom expanded, and Intelligence, the third Sephirah, proceeded from it, and thus were obtained male and female, viz., Wisdom the father, and Intelligence the mother, from whose union other pairs of Sephiroth successively emanated." The first Triad, then, which is represented, is Hochma or Wisdom, Binah, or Intelligence, and Cheter the Crown or the equilibrising force. These three in one are the Balance of forces, otherwise the Reason

of the Universe. This Reason is not represented separately. It is held to be inherent in the relation existing between and in the first group of three.

Then, from this first group of three forces, or its result, Reason, came the second group of three, Chesed or Mercy, the father, Geburah or Justice, the mother, which together produce Tipherets, or Beauty. This sixth again represents Balance or equilibrium in forms about to be materialised, the mediator between the Crown or Creator and the Kingdom or Creation.

The third triad consists of Netzeth or Victory, the father (explained sometimes as the eternal triumph of Intelligence and Justice, the two mothers), Hod or Glory, the mother, from which two springs Iesod, the Foundation, the Absolute.

The three triads, three forms each of the intellectual, the spiritual, and the material qualities, combine to form the tenth Sephirah, Malcuth or the Kingdom--or Sovereignty over the Kingdom or universe, manifested in the ten branching leaves. These branching leaves manifest, in turn, the direct relation existing between the ten Sephiroth and Adam Kadmon, the primordial, heavenly, incorruptible man, created in this way only "in the image of God." Adam Kadmon is the branching fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, and holds the middle place between the En Soph or All in All and the ten emanations holds, that is, the point of Balance or equilibrium. In this sense Adam Kadmon here, as in Plate IV, is regarded as the supporter and upholder of the universe. Nothing could be at first sight more unlike than these two images of the three

worlds, but there are enormous likenesses between them.

Another way of expressing this interrelation between the ten emanations is that the first Sephirah, by virtue of its equilibrising power, unites the second and third--Wisdom and Intelligence that the sixth Sephirah, Beauty, by the same virtue, unites the fourth and fifth--Mercy and Justice that the ninth Sephirah, Foundation or Absolute, unites the seventh and eighth--Victory and Glory, and by union with all, sends forth the tenth Sephirah, the Kingdom or the Universe. Again, the first three Sephiroth form the world of Reason the second three, the world of Spirit the last four, the world of the Body.

A tree must have a soil in which to grow soul and spirit must have a body moving energy must take a form. And a very beautiful and subtle interpretation of the World Tree myth may be found in an old black-figured kylix by Exekias, dating from the sixth century B.C. It is called "Dionysos in the Ship," and its reading depends entirely on an understanding of what the story of Dionysos meant to the Greeks and all the peoples who came under their influence (Plate XXII).

The story of Dionysos is always the story of Dionysos-and-Apollo. There is not such a thing as even half of this story one without the other does not exist. It veiled one of the greatest of the Greek mysteries, this conflict between these two gods, and the final reconciling of their struggle. It symbolised the conflict between light and darkness, between spirit and form--quite literally, the conflict between spirit and body. It was a mythological drama based on the old cry of man, "I feel two natures

struggling within me." The first impulse of antagonism is to defeat, even to destroy it seldom occurs to two opponents that there is a middle point, an equilibrium or balance, where peace abides. The story of Dionysos-Apollo is not one of destruction, but of final reconcilement between two opposing forces. Neither was to be rightly judged on the basis of "good" or of "evil," but on the basis of incompleteness only. Each needed the complementary force of the other without the other neither was whole. It was not Dionysos alone, nor Apollo alone, but the two reconciled and united that solved the struggle. In this kylix, Dionysos-Apollo floats on the aethereal ocean. The body or boat--a great fish--carries the unified god. The two are one, and from them united spring two great vines laden with fruit and leaves. About the living boat seven dolphins, "spies of the sea," keep guard to forecast storms and to warn the pilot. In this Dionysian vine picture the myth-cycle of the World Tree rounds upon itself. The Tree, given by the gods to mortal man, is itself re-born through man reconciled and made immortal, and is given back to heaven as a celestial vine. Dionysos-Apollo had escaped the Wheel of Fate, and could forever mediate between the remnants of man still bound to it, and the Olympian gods.

The mystery of the relation between Darkness and Light, which is the mystery of Dionysos-Apollo, had another representation in the seventeenth century, when Robert Fludd based the whole scheme of Creation upon it (Plate XXIII). It will be interesting to compare this drawing with some Chinese conceptions of the primal


Click to enlarge
PLATE XXII. DIONYSOS IN THE SHIP
A black-figured kylix by Exekias (6th cen. B.C.). in Munich (Furtwängler-Reichhold Griechische Vasenmalerei, No. 42).
(From Mythology of All Races, 1927. Vol. I, Plate XLIX)

causal cosmic struggle between Light and Darkness (pp. 147-150).

"At the top of the figure," says Fludd, "is expressed the Head, or the Root, of all things, both in the simplicity of His unity and the duality of His universal attributes, namely, One God, One Supreme Being, One Essence or Divine Mind, whether willing or non-willing. In the negative aspect it withdraws within itself, and refrains from sending Itself forth from Itself.

"B. is the effect of the divine potency, or non-willing, in which state all things were formless and in potency only, before the beginning of the world. B., in other words, is a hieroglyphic Image of God thus far altogether non-willing in which stage God is in His true Essence, shining within Himself, but not sending Himself forth from Himself. Such was the primal Chaos, from the bowels of which the materials of the Universe were originally drawn forth.

"Just as B. was the hieroglyph of the latent God, so C. is the representation of His glorious Emanation for the Creation of the World. This Emanation is the Word of God.

"From the union of these two comes one World [D. E.] in the Image of One Who participates in it both in His positive and negative aspects. That is to say, from the two opposites the World is born in the Image of its Creator. The World is in God, which means that the World is partly created and partly uncreated. Created, if we consider the material World, but uncreated if we consider its Maker.

"According to the mystical theology of Orpheus, Hesiod, Euripides, and Æschylus (who involved the divine mysteries in allegory), the Sun is taken in Archetype, as that divine source from which all ornament and beauty, embracing a multiple harmony of life, is derived. In His right hand is pity and benevolence, in His left, severity and punishment [F. G.]."

One aspect of this divine mystery of the Sun visible and the Sun invisible, they concealed, he says, under the name of Apollo, god of Day and of Light, the other under the name of Dionysos, god of Night and of Darkness. Each was but half of the other only the two are one yet each one, though separate, had within him the seeds of Darkness and Light. Hence, they argued that God is both destruction and creation, corruption and generation, author and actor that "just as he composes by the number 7, so he destroys by the number 7, for the sacred number 7 is attributed to the God of life." Night in its darkness, or Dionysos, symbolised God in His negative aspect of withdrawal within Himself, and Day in its light, or Apollo, symbolised God in his positive aspect of giving forth by emanation from himself.

THE FAMOUS ROSE TREE of the Rosicrucians has a Dionysian connection, for the Rose as well as the Vine was sacred to this god. It has also a Peruvian connection the Peruvian Eve--there is a native drawing of her later on--sinned not by eating the apple, but by picking


Click to enlarge
PLATE XXIII. ''And God said, Let there be Light, and there was Light.''
(From Medicina Catholica Robert Fludd, 1629)

roses, which were, in the Peruvian tradition, the fruit of the Tree." The bee is almost as much a part of this drawing (Plate XXIV) as the Rose Tree--here are a few odd myths of this marvellous being. According to Porphyrios, the Moon was called a bee according to Virgil, the bee alone of all animate things descended from Paradise, is a part of the mind of God, never perishes, and alone of all animate things, ascends alive into heaven. Dionysos is sometimes identified with the Moon, and is said in some traditions to have been born again as a bee. Again, the wax of bees produces light, hence bees are those that feed on fire. As for the rose, its bud resembles the acuminated or pointed sphere that symbolises ether in the ancient Stupa (Fig. 1), and the opened rose, to the Rosicrucians, symbolised the Universe spread out like a book, which he who could might read.

This representation of the universe by a rose appears to be a later development of a very ancient figuration of the universe by an onion--also a plant sacred to the old gods. Rather, the universe was represented by the layers of the onion--the Egyptians and the Hebrews and the Tibetans have used this over and over again. The core, to which the layers cling, may be the axis of the world, or the polar mountain of the world. In the Tibetan universe the onion's core is Mount Meru, surrounded by fifteen opaque, semi-transparent layers of oceans and mountains and oceans again until the outer skin is reached, which is the wall of iron about the universe. And all the heavens are one above the other, like the layers of an onion," says the Kabbala. ". . . And our companions who live in the

[paragraph continues] South, have seen in the First Book and in the Book of Adam, that all these earths which are Below, are like the firmaments Above, that upon that, and this upon this, and between each earth, a heaven (firmament) is spread out between each other (like the fine skin of the layers on the onion)."

Footnotes

94:1 The Prose of Younger Edda, translated by G. W. Dasent, p. 16.

101:1 Memoirs of the American Museum of Natural History, Vol. II, 1900, pp. 342-43.

103:1 U.S. Bur. Ethnol. Rep., 1893-94, p. 182."

107:1 Picture Writing of the American Indians: Garrick Mallery, 1894, pp. 251-252.


Many Branches–Something Witchy this way comes with Sarah Anne Lawless

ear Miracles, Many of those in my audience already know our latest guest in the Many Branches series–Sarah Anne Lawless. She is an occult author, witch, herbalist, and artist living in the Pacific Northwest. Her blog is well known in the Pagan community and beyond. Her knack for crafting a brilliant flying ointment is one that I can personally attest to, and her devotion to her Gods is inspiring. Please give her a warm welcome!

In her own words: A professional artist, writer, and herbalist, Sarah’s works have been published in various books, magazines, and online in The Cauldron, Hex Magazine, Witches & Pagans, Witchvox, Serpent Songs, and Hoofprints in the Wildwood. She is a carver, painter, and illustrator working in the mediums of bone, wood, ink, and paint creating original artwork, talismans, and ritual tools. Sarah is an animist, initiated witch, and wortcunner with a love of otherworldly beauty, folklore, mythology, poisonous plants, wildcrafting, wild places, and bones.

Find Sarah on the web at:

In the occult and magical community, you are known for making excellent spiritual products, your writing, and fine artwork, but you are also one of the few voices out there talking about working with animals and zoological talismans in an ethical and sustainable manner. This subject is a bit controversial but one that I think the magical community needs more familiarity with. What led you to begin working with animals and animal parts in a ritual setting?

For me, it started with collecting feathers and escalated from there and I’ve found that others who consider themselves bone collectors often say the same thing. Taking home a feather you found on a forest walk isn’t really so far off from taking home a sea-washed bone or a small skull picked clean by scavengers. Once people find out you’re a bone collector they will suddenly start calling you about bones, feathers, or dead animals they found and ask what to do with them. Then people will start showing up on your doorstep with boxes of bones and any friends that hunt for food will start giving you bird feet, wings, and sometimes even organs that they don’t want to waste. Often people don’t want to use or give me the animals they find, they just want to know how to bury it safely and give it a respectful send off to the spirit world. A bone collector can find themselves taking on the role of an animal funeral director.

I think the reason why many find my use of animal parts in magic controversial is because, through the use of zoological remains is still common in modern rootwork and the magical traditions of Central and South America, it is not common in modern witchcraft despite all the documented historical links and traditions. Many people are so far removed from nature, husbandry, and dirty hands-on folk magic that they find the use of zoological remains to be appalling and unethical without trying to first understand the context and history. Many assume that bone collectors such as myself are actually killing animals to use their parts in magic when this is very much not the case. You can find hearts, tongues, and feet at the butcher and you can find bones, skulls, teeth, claws, and hides from taxidermists, tanners, farmers, or hunters who don’t like to waste any part of an animal that’s been hunted or raised for food.

Another reason I think this practice is controversial is that many people assume you are using a dead animal’s parts solely for cursing and other black magic when again this is simply not the reality. Indigenous cultures who’ve held onto their animistic beliefs and traditions use animal parts in a sacred manner – they are used to better connect with animal spirits and the whole of nature itself. Feathers are often used to fly prayers to the spirits so they may hear them. Teeth and claws are used for protection against harm and to give one strength. Organs are more often used for healing and offerings than anything else – anyone with a grandmother who still buries dead fish in the garden for the fertility of the plants may best understand this. In rural areas of North America, you can still find farmers hanging deer antlers or bull horns over their barn door. They may have forgotten why, but once upon a time, it was the belief that doing so would protect your livestock and also ensure their health and fertility.

Modern butchery and hunting practices are wasteful and unethical for treating animals as soulless resources. By doing this work and using animal remains in a sacred manner in our spiritual traditions, we make those animals sacred. By showing them respect even in death, we make their lives have the same value as our own.

You are well known for crafting various flying ointments, often using ancient recipes. Why flying ointments and when did your love affair with them begin?

I first took notice when nightshades I had not planted started to grow in my garden plots and containers. Instead of weeding them, I researched them and became fascinated. This led me to grow other varieties like henbane, belladonna, datura, and Brugmansia. I had a lot of fresh plant material on hand and at the same time, I realized that no one I could find was making and using flying ointments today. Considering that flying ointments were one of the very few genuine direct links to the ancestral magical practices of preChristian Europeans, it puzzled me greatly that modern witches and pagans weren’t using them. Later I discovered this was largely due to fear of the plants as governments had been churning out frightening propaganda against them for centuries and our modern governments continue to spread the fear through misinformation. Tales of wild hallucinations and near death experiences come mainly from youths not seeking a spiritual experience, but who simply wanted to get high and who used these plants without research, proper preparation, and with no regard for dosage. They were using these sacred plants at a toxic level instead of in the much safer ways our ancestors would have and have consequently given these plants a much-maligned reputation.

I mainly work with plants in the Solanaceae (or nightshade) family. Though many would believe we no longer use them today, the constituents of these plants, such as atropine, are actually considered “core” medicines on the World Health Organizations “Essential Drug List.” Aside from the nightshades’ long history with witchcraft, they are also some of the oldest and most potent medicines used by humanity. How could an herbalist fascinated with ethnobotany not fall in love with plants that were both powerful spiritual allies and incredibly potent medicines? Though my original intent was to use the Solanaceae and artemisias for spiritual purposes, the more I worked with these plants, the more I found people came to me for their medicinal uses as well.

And so, after A LOT of research and careful testing, I started to make ointments with the plants I grew along with dried European mandrake roots. I found them to be very useful in aiding in dream work, spirit work, and trance work along with being excellent topical pain killers for relieving migraines, sore backs, and other muscle and joint pain. I started making them for shamanic and pagan groups who wanted to use them for rituals and ceremonies and I started bringing them to my own rituals and teaching workshops on these plants. With all my experience, I learned that much of the fear and propaganda surrounding nightshades and flying ointments is simply not true and that those of us who have learned their history and proper preparations should pass on our knowledge so it is not lost to future generations as it has been to generations past.

A lot of folks in the magical community struggle with what to call themselves. You have referred to yourself as an animist, witch, and spirit worker. What do those words mean to you and what is your advice for someone who has not figured out what the right title is for their work and beliefs?

When I call myself an animist, I am referring to my religious philosophy just as others would call themselves a polytheist or a monotheist. I do not worship gods, but instead see all things, all of nature, as being imbued with spirit, anima, life force. Interacting with and honoring the local animals, plants, rivers, lakes, mountains, forests, and larger land features are what matters most to me in my spirituality – the local spirits, great and small. Within animism, there is also room for ancestor reverence and so I also honor those who have come before me, both my own blood ancestors as well as those who lived upon this land long before I was born. Animism is believed to be one of the oldest forms of spirituality in human history and still permeates surviving forms of folk magic, folk religion, and common superstitions.

When I call myself a witch I am referring to the practice of witchcraft, not a religious path. It is the folk magic I do, the early modern witchcraft lore I study, and the rituals I put into practice.

When I use the term spirit worker, it is to reference my work with spirits, both are in this world and the other worlds of folklore. It is my dream work, trance work, and the rituals I perform to interact with spirits – usually plants, animals, or ancestors.

I don’t personally believe in putting too much stock in labels and finding the right one as everyone has their own definition of a term, some using the archaic meaning and some using a modern derivative. It is far too easy to waste a lot of time trying to find a label that fits all we believe and do when we could instead spend that time actively practicing and developing our own beliefs to suit our individual spiritual needs. I think it is a better use of our time instead of trying to fit into a role someone else has defined and be constantly fretting over it.

I wrote a whole article tackling this subject last winter as it comes up over and over again in spiritual communities: “Ducking Pigeonholing.”

Your art is gorgeous, tell us a bit about how you got started and what your current favorite artistic project is?

Thank you! I got started in art at a young age. I was always drawing and painting. I took art classes in every year of school because it was something I always enjoyed. I had a lot of support from my family who kept me well supplied with paper, ink, and paints. I even used to illustrate stories I wrote and bound them into little homemade books. Today I’m lucky enough to be in a position to get paid for my art and to illustrate the writings of others as well as my own. Falling more under the umbrella of a folk artist, I’ve been able to explore just about any medium I’m interested in – woodcarving, bone carving, pyrography, textiles, calligraphy, and jewelry to name several.

Right now I have a bit of an obvious obsession with drawing plants and skulls. I hope to do more pieces with plants and animals native to my beloved Pacific Northwest in the near future.

If you could give one piece of wisdom to my readers today, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid to chase your dreams and passions so you can live your life in joy and wonder, but at the same time be honest with yourself about how you’re going to pull it off in a practical manner.


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