Earth Shaman Calen Rayne wrote in 2005 how his experience with the force of Mother Nature during hurricane Ivan influenced his view of our role as a human species. As hurricane Irma bears down on Florida, his words resonate powerfully with us today.
To download a pdf of this article from Calen's website raynemaker.com, click here. Copyright Calen Rayne: All rights reserved.
living in balance
by Calen Rayne
Story has the ability, if we observe and listen, to share with us a nearly 14 billion year old cosmic birthing, and to help us see where we fit into the fabric of that same unfolding Story. We are all a “part and parcel” of the cosmic essence, sharing the same DNA with every other living being, and thus sharing the same Story. Midrash Hane’elam offers this observation:
Story has reinforced my understanding of the cosmos as a single, continually unfolding multiform event, one that continues to manifest primordial energy in new and mysterious ways. What we must understand is that we are not here to control nature for our own benefit, but to engage co-operatively with nature in a compassionate manner.
In the Neolithic period,
Where some old theologies may have deemed that everything in the cosmos was produced by the hand of God, and that God’s will is being done, newer theologies, have a different focus. Often drawing from ancient traditions, they invite us to serve as co-creators during our earthly stay, thus bringing more challenge and joy into our existence. In his book, Wrestling with the Prophets, Matthew Fox speaks of one remarkable scientist who knew the nature of our relationship with our cosmos and how “Cosmology awakens our awe of being here.” 3
But just maybe we need to learn to rely not on any particular spiritual tradition, but on our own sense of what needs to be done, to listen individually to what our cosmos is telling us. As Kaballalist Eruvin in the Babylonian Talmud puts it, ““Religion is nice, but even without all that divine revelatory hullabaloo, the Creator left us enough information in the earth about how to live in balance.” 5
I believe we are capable of sharing the cosmos and allowing creation to continue to unfold in an ordered, meaningful and noble fashion. Maybe we are indeed in the eighth day of the created order as one religionist wrote. “What does God do all day long?” Meister Eckhart asks. He answers, “God gives birth. From all eternity God lies on a maternity bed giving birth.” 6
This process is called cosmogenesis. Brianne Swimme and Thomas Berry discuss this concept in “the Universe Story.”
The fear is that most of us are still operating on far fewer spiritual cylinders than are needed to “read the story” and then be capable of motoring this universe in a compassionate manner. In Matthew’s account of the resurrection it is an earthquake and an angel that allows the women to see the opened tomb and to realize what had happened. Earthquakes are Mother Nature’s way of coming back to life in a way that grabs our attention with a display of “brute force.” She can also do it gently by insisting that a flower grow through a concrete sidewalk. Having experienced and survived the flood brought to North Carolina by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, I am acutely aware of the “brute force” doctrine, and more in touch with what our cosmos is trying to tell us. Ivan demonstrated in ways of a more personal nature that I am still processing “how Story has affected my life.”
In spite of a dam to send water away from our 4000 square foot warehouse apartment/studio, and a trench to guide water underground around the structure, the raging waters knocked down a 200 year old hemlock tree to change the course of the “Big Ivy River,” normally a trickling creek. My wife Jini and I were inside with flashlights trying to save a few items when waters came rushing into the building.
I screamed at her to leave as the concrete foundation wall collapsed in my studio, and I ran out as the furniture crashed a few feet behind me. Jini went in water over her waist when she stepped in the now collapsed trench, and only the aging Lab Yosa swimming in front kept her from being swept down the river. I pulled her from the hole and pushed her on the bank as a tree limb crashed into my leg, and after spinning around, I fell toward the bank and she grabbed my arm and pulled me out of the swirling waters.
It didn’t matter that meteorologists had predicted a crest the following evening, because at 1:00am, the cosmos decided that rain needed to be dumped in large quantity and move quickly down a mountain in North Carolina, and nothing man-made was going to stop it. As we sat and watched five feet of water spin around for an hour inside the warehouse destroying everything we had, until a bridge finally snapped in two to release the waters, the message from the cosmos was quite clear. And regardless of our attempts to manipulate our physical environments the message is always the same. “I will live.”
Sitting beside this scene in a driving rain storm, there was little to do but pray. For me, prayer is not asking for anything, it is seeking my place in the unfolding mystery of the cosmic order. Gabriel Marcel “suggests that we postindustrial adults become so programmed to solving problems that we lose our capacity to wonder and become ecstatic at mysteries. A mystery, on the other hand, is something in which I find myself caught up and whose essence is therefore not to be before me in its entirety.” 8 I find myself, as I did sitting beside the river that night, caught up in the mystery of primordial energy unfolding the story of creation around me, and am at times in awe of its power, as I was during that time of the flood.
It would seem we may be cursed by our oft times myopic anthropocentrism —namely, the conviction that we humans are the center of the universe. Maybe it is still possible to promote primarily human matters as being of ultimate concern without arrogantly claiming to be the sole or even featured species in the cosmos. As members of an immense web of life, we are interconnected with all forms of life in the universe.
Like it or not, we must begin with our very human possibilities and limitations. Kaballistic teachings remind us that our task is great, too great for us as individuals, but not to be ignored:
We are indeed merely stewards of the gifts bequeathed us, be they spiritual, intellectual or economic resources. And as stewards we are more than brokers. During our time of possession, we stewards have an opportunity to handle life with a more creative touch.
We are not sole and ultimate determiners of history, even though we like to think of ourselves in that way. But we are not pawns either. We are collaborators. Our role in the unfolding of the cosmos is to be not only “Takers,” as Ishmael referred to us, but “Leavers” in the spirit of a long ago people, participants and co-creators if you will of this “eighth day of creation.” For ”Takers” to become “Leavers” will be difficult.
It seems possible that our species indeed needs to come to quickly acknowledge and understand that it is part of an unfolding spiritual story, and that it must direct its energies toward a successful outcome for that story, to “enter into the productive processes of nature.” I believe we are all indispensable, that we are all part of “the plan.”
In “The Universe Story” we are told that,
I once heard a symphony orchestra perform a lengthy piece, and took note of the man sitting in the back simply turning page after page intently and not contributing. But twenty or so minutes into the piece, he adjusted his tuxedo and picked up a small triangle. As the orchestra reached a crescendo, he tapped the triangle once, and then sat back down, his “contribution” finished for the evening.
That “ping” may have seemed insignificant to many listeners, but in the mind of the composer, something would be lost without that moment. Each of us is that “ping,” and this world needs our imagination and attention and works to enable the unfolding story of creation to continue to manifest with our survival as a species. Hildegard of Bingen speaks of the music, “God, I am your opus. Before the beginning of time, already then, I was in your mind.” 12
There was a story once in a Tennessee newspaper about a young girl about to step into the tub when the new hot water heater exploded behind a nearby wall. Without anything to cover her, she ran outside. Her parents gathered up the other children, then contacted help to battle the blaze. They didn’t realize the older child was missing at first. When they could not find her, volunteers searched through the night until the hounds led them back to the charred ruins of the house. There, beneath the porch, the little girl was asleep, wrapped in an old grain sack. “Why did you run away?” her father asked. “I didn’t want to live where things like that can happen!” she replied, with tears in her eyes. “But you came back,” said her mother. “When I got to the top of the hills, I could see there was no place else to go,” said the girl, “Just now this is the only home I have.”
We must come to the realization we, too, are approaching the top of a similar hill, and that Earth is “just now the only home we have,” and decide whether our home is one we will cherish and care for, or whether it will be destroyed, possibly along with us, by our continued neglect. But the earth and our entire cosmos is more than “just a home.” Matthew Fox reminds us, “The universe and the ecosystems are not just our home; they are sources of delight and awe, of wonder and intoxication. Therefore, they are the matrix for a renewed mysticism, for to enter these mysteries, as cosmologists are now naming them, is a mystical experience.” 13
It must be our shared spiritual vision, and task, to cherish, humbly and gratefully, this home we have been given, and make ourselves more spiritually capable of living fully and responsibly in it. As we learn in The Universe Story, ”There is eventually only one story, the story of the universe.” 14 And further, that “The well-being of the Earth is primary. The well-being of the Human is derivative.” 15
There is an order of reality present—which calls for our trust and reverence, and for our faith and commitment. For those who would
listen, our cosmos has a solemn message, “listen to me and I will teach you.” Thomas Berry offers the following advice,
Whether we continue to survive as a species is open for debate, and it depends in large part on whether we are willing to listen, and to accept the teachings of our cosmos. In the most mundane portion of our daily schedule we can discover great wonder and unveil incredible mystery. We need to engage our exploding, evolving universe right now, and every day. We must investigate the process of becoming in all thoroughness, lest we mistake for primitive what is a natural and necessary unfolding of the cosmic mystery before us, and for natural what is actually part of the artificiality of what some would call “man-made progress.”
It has been said that “The supreme reality of our time is the vulnerability of our planet.” 17 We have the ability to postpone global extinction through the practice of compassion, both toward our cosmos and each other. This is the very essence of Via Transformativa. For what else were we created?
Reprinted with permission from Calen Rayne. Copyright Calen Rayne: All rights reserved.
1 Winkler, G. (2004). Kaballah 365: Daily Fruit From The Tree Of Life. Kansas City, MO, Andrews McMeel Publishing, p.61.
2 Swimme, B. and T. Berry (1992). The Universe Story. New York, NY, HarperCollins Publishers, p. 168.
3 Fox, M. (2003). Wrestling With The Prophets: Essays on Creation Spirituality and Everyday Life. New York, New York, Jeremy P. Tarcher / Putnam, p. 9.
4 Ibid., p. 9.
5 Winkler, p. 41.
6 Fox, M., Wrestling With The Prophets, p. 12.
7 Swimme, B. and T. Berry, p. 2,3.
8 Fox, M. (2001). Prayer: A Radical Response to Life. New York, NY, Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, p. 29.
9 Winkler, p. 228.
10 , Quinn, D. (1992). Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit. New York, New York, Bantam / Turner, p. 168
11 Swimme, B. and T. Berry, p. 44.
12 Uhlein, G. (1983). Meditations With Hildegard of Bingen. Rochester, Vermont, Bear &Company, p. 94.
13 Fox, M., Wrestling With The Prophets, p. 57.
14 Swimme, B. and T. Berry, p. 268.
15 Swimme, B. and T. Berry, p. 243
16 Berry, T. (1998). The DREAM of the EARTH. San Francisco, Sierra Club Books, p. 35.
17 Shrager, E. F.-K. a. D. S. (2003). A Concise Encyclopedia of Legal Quotations. New York, Barnes and Noble Inc., p. 102.