Reverence for the Body 1

As Pantheists, we revere nature as sacred and divine. Science teaches us that our bodies are a part of nature and the implication of this is that our bodies should be revered as something sacred too. They are indeed Temples. Our first responsibility in life, as taught by the principles of natural selection is that of survival. If we want to survive, if we want to show reverence for our own bodies then we need to take care of ourselves, we need to keep our bodies well and pure – clean, healthy, well exercised e.t.c. Our bodies are not ours to treat how we like if we are Pantheists. We are part of the divine universe and we have a moral duty and responsibility to keep our bodies in top condition. That means taking an interest in health and nutrition as well as other aspects of well-being. It means not smoking or taking drugs and that we limit consumption of alcohol. It means we keep well rested and meditate to keep stress low. Most importantly it means we pay attention to our food intake. There are some brilliant scientists and doctors doing a lot of good research in the area of nutrition and the effect of what we eat on our bodies and health. People like Dr Joel Fuhrman, Dr Colin Campbell, Dr Caldwell Esselstyn and Dr John Mcdougall. Have a watch of this video by Dr Fuhrman….

 

 

The Role of the Modern Druid


Druidry is a religion, it is a spirituality, it is a way. But more importantly it is a relationship – a relationship with Nature, with the Universe. In this post I want to look again at Druidry – how there are differences and similarities between the ancient Druids and those today, but also how both are based on a relationship with the world around us. A modern Druid author named Greywind writes in his book, The Voice Within The Wind, about nine roles of a Druid. By using the lens of the Bard/ Ovate/ Druid distinctions, we can look at those nine roles and see what a modern day Druid might be like, especially from a naturalistic perspective.

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Ancient Druids were made up of three groups. The first of these was the Bard. In Greywinds book, he identifies two strands of Druidism that could be said to be the roles of the Bard. First, Druidry is based in Celtic culture, language, mythology and history. The role of an ancient Bard was to act as a historian and lore keeper, to tell stories, make music, recite poetry to remind people of their history and culture, to inspire and to entertain. Today, modern Druids can study ancient Celtic culture in order to inform their beliefs and actions as Druids, but they can also go further. Bards can become modern historians and genealogists, reminding everyone of the collective histories (not just the celtic parts) of their family/ local area/ nation (and even of the Earth/ Universe through the epic of Cosmic Evolution). This will help to give people a grounding, a context within which to see themselves and live their lives and perhaps to inspire them to live in better ways.

The second Bardic strand identified by Greywind was Art. The Celtic people’s produced a lot of Art, especially sacred art. Bards were very creative and created stories, music and poetry to help spread their messages. Today we can take this further – Bards can write books, make films, be orators/ public speakers, take photographs, act on stage and do performing arts, alongside the traditional Bardic arts, in order to entertain and to point people towards Awen – towards the magic we experience in the miracles of Nature.

The next group in Ancient Druidry was the Ovate. There are three strands that could be said to be the preserve of the Ovate. The first of these was healing. Ovates were the healers of the ancient Celtic world, not just physical healing but also spiritual healing – keeping balance and looking after the relationships between the human and “more than human” worlds. Regarding physical healing, they would have been experts in Herbalism. Today, modern Ovates could learn Herbalism once again, as well as First Aid in order to help to heal people. Some may even wish to become Doctors.

A second Ovate strand is Metaphysics. The ancient Druids believed in a cosmos made up of land, sea and sky, but also of supernatural elements like the Otherworld. From a naturalistic point of view, a modern Druid may choose not to believe in the existence of the Otherworld if there is no scientific evidence. However, knowing about the Cosmos and the world around us is surely a modern Ovate role. Ovates would study Astronomy to know about the universe, as well as becoming scientists and naturalists to know about the world around them, giving them a deep sense of awe and wonder at the universe and a closer relationship with the natural world. Alongside this, Ovates could study Bushcraft, to know how to survive in the wild, to learn more about nature and to awaken or sharpen their primitive instincts.

The third Ovate strand is Seership. Ancient Ovates were Shamans, experts at divination and contacting the Otherworld for wisdom and healing. While there may be some benefit to using Tarot Cards to try to view situations differently, or to using drumming techniques to alter states of consciousness, a Modern Ovate would not necessarily have to believe in the supernatural. There are modern ways of “divination” such as learning to predict the weather based on watching clouds and nature that an Ovate could study i.e. studying nature and its patterns in order to be able to predict things. Another aspect of Shamanism includes helping people with non-physical healing…some would call this the spiritual aspects of their souls, others psychological or mental health. By studying psychology and skills like counselling, Ovates can do a similar job in looking after the holistic health of a person, both physical and spiritual/ psychological. Part of this role must also include healing people’s relationship with nature – healing the rift between the human and “more than human world.” by adopting a naturalistic form of Animism which saw the “spirits of a place” as the living beings themselves – insects, animals, plants, trees, microorganisms, an Ovate would seek to heal our relationship with them, teaching humans to respect and look after them.

A group of druids from the Sylvan Grove of the...The final group of Druidry was the Druids themselves. There are four strands identified by Greywind that I feel represent the role of the Druid. The first is Ritual. Ancient Druids would conduct the important spiritual rituals of the tribes, especially at the times of the Festivals. Today, we do not necessarily know the exact rituals that were followed, but we can make our own that are meaningful to us, whether elaborate or simple, and modern day Druids can oversee these rituals. Modern Druids can celebrate the eight festivals and invite others to do the same, in order to help increase everyone’s awareness of the changes in nature – be they agricultural/ seasonal or solar – and simply to have fun. Druids could also celebrate the lunar cycle.

The second Druid strand is Natural Philosophy. Ancient Druids would study both the inner and outer world – the physical as well as the spiritual and would seek to learn from observation of nature in order to understand and create their philosophies for life and living. Modern Druids can do the same – studying Philosophy to discover the wisdom of the past but more importantly studying nature and the way the world works now to find the best ways to live. Looking for wisdom in the sciences e.g. seeing how evolution and Gaia theory teaches that we all have a common ancestor, are all kin, are all interconnected, and then building our lives and our ethics upon that understanding.

The third Druid strand is Teaching. Ancient Druids would teach their people through various methods about their culture, laws, the universe and nature. Modern druids can do the same – through a variety of means. We can learn, and then teach others what we have learned so that we can all live better lives in relationship with the natural world. Some Druids may choose to have a career as a teacher.

The fourth and final Druid strand is Service. The Druid class in ancient Celtic cultures was very important, highly respected and occupied many of the most important roles in society – whether that be judges, teachers, peacemakers, political advisors, philosophers or ritualists. Druids were there to give a service to society around them. Modern Druids can follow this same path – not sitting back, but getting active in society, whether that’s learning about law, how to help people become more peaceful and solve conflicts or giving advice, and helping or holding to account those in politics. Druids were a class who believed in getting involved in their world and trying to make it a better place. Those who aspire to be modern Druids must do the same.

I believe that as Naturalistic Pantheists, we can take on a modern role of a Druid and fulfill these roles in our own lives.

Moving House

Hey everyone,

I am moving house tomorrow and due to my internet provider being very busy, unfortunately I will not have internet access to update this blog properly for about a month. I will try to do what I can using my mobile phone to update it but I won’t be able to write much through that so any posts will be short. As soon as I get internet back I will put a few posts up all at once to make up for my absence. As someone who spends most of my free time on the internet, it will be an interesting experiment to not have it for a month.  On the bright side, I will be using this time away from the internet to try and improve my contemplative practices and connection to nature.

Regards,

NaturalPantheist

Celebrating Autumn Equinox

English: Greenwich: an autumny feel in Greenwi...

Greenwich Park in Autumn (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy Autumn Equinox everyone. Also known as Mabon or Alban Elfed (light of the water) to Druids, this is the second of three great harvest festivals. It is also a time of balance. The Autumn Equinox is the midpoint between the summer and winter solstices, when the day and night is of equal length and light and dark are balanced. It marks the beginning of the dark half of the year for the northern hemisphere, when nights are longer than days.

By the time of the Autumnal Equinox, the earth around us is showing the signs of the journey into winter – with later dawns and earlier sunsets, the weather is cooler and the leaves on the trees are turning wonderful colours. The animals are busy preparing for winter – squirrels collecting nuts and acorns while birds prepare to migrate to warmer climates.

This is a time to celebrate the bounty of Mother Nature. The arable crops like grains have all been collected and now it is time to harvest the fruits of the vine – apples, blackberries, grapes and hops. Eating a meal of autumn fruits and vegetables, making jams and wine or going blackberry picking are wonderful ways to celebrate this time as Naturalistic Pantheists.

Blackberry

Blackberry (Photo credit: Lastaii)

It is a time of change and transition, a time of honouring the changing seasons and a time of reflection and thanksgiving. You could make a list of all the things in your life that you are grateful for and then spend some time meditating on them. You could also go out for a walk and look for the changes in nature, perhaps even collecting a few things to put on a Pantheist altar to the Earth at home.

Whatever you do today, may you have a wonderful time and enjoy the gifts the Earth has given us this Autumn season.

Below is a video called “An Ode to the Autumn Equinox” –

Naturalistic Pantheism and Philosophical Taoism

yin yang symbolBest known for the Yin Yang symbol and the art of Tai Chi, Taoism is an ancient Chinese religion based upon the 6th Century writings of Lao Tzu, recorded in the Dao De Jing. There are two strands of Taoism – Philosophical Taoism and Religious Taoism. As Naturalistic Pantheists, it is the first strand – philosophy, which we can learn the most from.

The key figures in Philosophical Taoism are Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu. Lao Tzu wrote the Dao De Jing, a short book of 81 verses which sets out how to live life well and in line with the Tao/ Dao. The literal meaning of it is the book (jing) of the way (dao) of virtue (de). After the Bible, it is the second most translated book in the world. Common themes and symbols in the book include being a ruler or sage, the concept of Wu Wei and living simply and in harmony with the Universe/ Dao.

Taoism is based on close observation of the patterns of change in ourselves and the natural world. These patterns are part of what is meant by the concept of “Dao” and only by studying nature can one learn how to live in harmony with it. In this way, Taoism is pro-science and pro-empiricism.

So what exactly is the Dao? The Dao De Jing opening line says “The Dao that can be spoken of is not the eternal Dao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name.” If the Dao could be defined it would not be the Dao. Yes, thats helpful I know. The word Dao, literally means “way” or “path.” It could be defined as “the way things are” or “the way things work” in Nature, however it is much more than this. The Dao is essentially ultimate reality. It is the principle behind the universe. It is an expression for the profound unity of the universe and it is the relationships between all the many pieces of the universe. It is the universe and how it works – Nature and its patterns. It is everywhere and flows through everything. It is everything. It is also the pattern by which we should live our lives. It is all these things and more – it is the ultimate, mystery that can only be experienced not described.

Philosophical Taoism calls for people to live a life of simplicity, inner peace, humility and compassion, revering and learning from Nature. A key concept in Taoism is the idea of “Wu Wei.” The literal translation of this is “non-action” but its true meaning is closer to “effortless action” or “spontaneous action.” The idea is not to strive or tamper or seek to control, but to have few desires and to live as much as possible in a state of P’u (original childlike simplicity), following the Dao and unencumbered by social institutions and ideas. We are not to exert our will against the Dao, other people or the situations of life, but to “go with the flow” and let things take their natural course. To live a life in line with the Dao would mean to live a simple and humble life, not chasing after wealth, fame or power, but being content with what we have in the present. It would mean having no fixed goals and no expectations of people or situations. It would mean realising that we don’t control the world and accepting things, relaxing and being adaptable rather than controlling or judgemental. It would mean realising the difference between what our true needs are and what needs we have invented, and paring back our lives to the most important things – the basics.

Another important concept in Taoism is water. Water is a powerful symbol because it is a symbol of Yin. It is weak, soft and humble and yet it has the power to overcome even the hardest thing. It is adaptable, always seeking the lowest place, yet it gives life to all. The wise sage in Taoism must seek to be like water.

A final interesting aspect of Taoism that we can learn from as Pantheists is the Taoist emphasis on longevity and health. Taoists emphasise our current lives rather than looking to any afterlife. They want to enjoy life now, live every moment in a long and healthy life. They have created many practices for this, but perhaps the best known, and one which science is beginning to acknowledge as beneficial is the practice of Tai Chi. An ancient martial art, practicing this regularly can bring many health benefits including confidence, inner calm, fitness, flexibility, balance, strength, mental focus and mindfulness. It also allows a deeper understanding of the philosophy behind Taoism.

Below are two videos – the first explaining Taoism and the second quoting from the Dao De Jing. Enjoy…

Sabbath Manifesto

shabbat pictureOne of the religions that has always inspired me and has a host of wonderful religious practices is Judaism. One of their primary practices, and probably the reason for the survival of their culture during 2000 years of Christian persecution, is Shabbat, the Sabbath. The Sabbath, beginning at sunset on Friday evening and ending at Sunset on Saturday evening, is the most sacred day of the week for the Jewish people. On this day, the whole family gathers for a special meal, candles are lit, prayers are said and a special meal is eaten. They are forbidden from doing any work on this day as it is a day of rest. It is a time for religious practices, for spending time with friends and family and for celebration.

As a Naturalistic Pantheist, I strongly believe that we can learn from this practice and adopt it to our own needs. In fact, there is already a movement called the “digital sabbath” or “secular sabbath” growing in popularity. With internet addiction becoming a growing problem and our materialist, ever connected, consumer culture wreaking havoc on our social lives and on the environment, perhaps a “Pantheist Sabbath” once a week could do wonders for our relationships, our personal lives and the environment.

But how would it work? The Sabbath Manifesto project has set out 10 guidelines for a modern Sabbath, whether secular or religious. These are –

  • Avoid Technology
  • Connect with Loved Ones
  • Nurture your Health
  • Get Outside
  • Avoid Commerce
  • Light Candles
  • Drink Wine
  • Eat Bread
  • Find Silence
  • Give Back

Using these guidelines, I believe that Naturalistic Pantheists can create their own “Shabbat” celebrations, perhaps weekly or perhaps on full and dark moons? And we can take time out to both give ourselves, and Mother Nature, a rest. What do you think?

Go Vegan?

fruit and veg pictureI’ve been a Vegetarian for 10 months now. As a Pantheist, I believe all life is interconnected, all life is kin and all life deserves respect. Pantheism means to be reverent toward and hold nature sacred. Some may argue that we should eat meat because the animal kingdom includes meat eating – but it does so because some animals do not know any different and have no other options for meeting their dietary needs. For humans this is not the case – we can make a choice! It is possible to live a full and healthy life on either a vegetarian or vegan diet. In fact, its much healthier than eating a meat based diet. Having been a Vegetarian for almost a year, I am considering going Vegan now as I research and learn more about the cruelty inflicted upon animals in the egg and dairy industries. I want to ensure that my life fits in with my values and I do all I can to show respect and reverence to Mother Nature.

Below is a video about Veganism. Have a watch and then consider whether how your life choices are guided by your values.