Sunday, April 24, 2011

One the All: Alchemy as Sacred Ecology

The health, and even the future, of our Earth (which is not other than our humanity) seems under attack. Certainly, it is threatened. But our present scientific and philosophical approaches to nature, though noble and well intentioned in their aspirations, seems able to provide only short-term, band-aid responses that alleviate the symptoms, but provide no fundamental remedy. "Problems" addressed in one area become only more widespread and virulent elsewhere. Meanwhile, we persist in the behaviors that caused the crises in the first place. The situation only worsens. Loss of topsoil, extinctions of species and habitats, wars, droughts, famines, oppressions and toxic pollutants proliferate. It is almost more than a heart can bear.

How much this actually affects Gaia-Sophia herself is of course unknown. She may even be waking up as some visionaries attest. Certainly many experience that nature appears more transcendently beautiful with each passing year. Nevertheless, even if that is the case, and great evolutionary "earth changes" are under way, it is clear that we are being called to learn to think and be in another way, one more in harmony with our Mother, the beauty of the world, who is also comic nature, that Earth in the largest sense, which is for Christians the body of Christ.

It is not hard to see how we have come to this point. Selfishness, greed, and the need for the illusion of dominion and control pervade our thinking. Though allegedly "value free" and "objective", all our actions, based as they are on the radical separation of self and other, subject and object, citizen and stranger, friend and enemy, humanity and nature, earth and cosmos, actually embody the dominant cultural paradigm or value of egotism, which we can call the disease of our time.

At one level, egotism appears as the double (or shadow) of our present "observer" consciousness that reifies the experiences of our psychological consciousness into objectification, reification: the illusion of distance and the fantasy of material causation. We experience ourselves as distant from one another, distant from nature, distant from the stars, distant even from the spiritual world. We find ourselves perpetually "elsewhere", rather than here. And distance in turn gives rise to the urge to separate, dominate, control, manipulate -- and even lie -- in the course of which hate becomes easier than love and prejudice than openness. In other words. we lack intimacy -- with the world, the divine, and ourselves. At the same time and for the same reason, we lack a spiritual understanding of the fundamentals: space, time, light, causation, gravity and so on.

Above all, of course, we lack knowledge of Life -- not just of biological life, but also of the indivisible, invisible Life that animates the cosmos: Cosmic Life. For all its effectiveness and technological range, modern science remains a science of what Rudolf Steiner calls "Sub-nature" -- the world of physics, chemistry and technologically applied mathematics -- is cut off from nature. Sunk far below nature, it has descended into a virtually autonomous lifeless realm of its own. To redeem it requires that we move proportionately upwards -- toward Life, the right orientation for any true path of knowledge.

This has always been known. A sacred science of Nature or Life has existed from the beginning of humanity's spiritual journey. Selfless, dedicated to healing and harmony, and resting upon non-dual experience, it has accompanied, sustained, and underlain each religious epoch and every revelation.

Called alchemy or, loosely, in the West, Hermeticism, it is the ancient, primordial, sacred science of Nature. Present in all historical cultures from India and China in the East to the Abrahamic West and always adapting its practice to its context, its origins are lost in the depths of prehistory. In a sense, it is the primal cosmological revelation. Nevertheless, in the great revival of mystical, esoteric traditions and practices during the last century, the tradition has -- except for a few specialists -- been largely ignored or simply read as psychology.

In fact, not only alchemy, but also nature herself has been largely ignored. In the great revival of mystical, esoteric traditions and practices during the last century, the whole question of sacred or spiritual science has been left to one side. Although we have studied and practiced the teachings of the saints and sagesof past ages assiduously, we have passed over their sciences of nature in silence. Perhaps, therefore, it is time to explore the relevance not only of our Masters' "inner" science, but also their science of Nature, which, because it is whole, includes, transcends, and erases all separations such as inner and outer.

This other science is vast. Its worldview is utterly different to our own, for it seeks to understand nature in itself, for itself, out of itself, as our sacred, holy, even divine source. It is therefore a path of praise, love, and adoration, of knowledge as a donum dei, a gift of God.

Contemporary science for its part, contrary to what we might assume, is not in any sense a path of knowledge. It does not know what it deals with. Indeed, in a way, it renounces knowledge. It is not concerned with truth, but only with what works and false theories, especially with a great deal of money behind them, can be extraordinarily fecund.

True knowledge, on the other hand, is a spiritual reality, a cognitive spiritual state of encounter.

From the perspective of consciousness, the shift from science to technology may thus be seen not only in terms of a movement from unity to multiplicity, but also, as, as has been said, the degeneration of Love into utility. To confuse utility with love is a fundamental loss of orientation, for love resides at the core of all as the tradition bears witness.

Pherecydes of Syros, for example, a teacher of Pythogoras, and "Hermetic" because he was learned in the Prophecies of Ham and the secret books of the Phoenicians, whose revelation is attributed to Thoth or Hermes, taught that:

   Zeus, when about to create, changed himself into Love, for in composing the
   order of the world out of the contraries he brought it to concord and friendship,
   and in all things he set the seed of identity and the unity which pervades everything.

Sacred science, then, works through Love with the Mystery of the World or Nature.

From the essay ~ One the All: Alchemy as Sacred Ecology, by Christopher Bamford
In the book ~ Green Hermeticism: Alchemy and Ecology, pgs. 30-32
By ~ Peter Lamborn Wilson, Christopher Bamford, and Kevin Townley