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Posts tagged ‘mysteries’

Book Review: “Earthed” published by Mystic Christ Press: Bridging the Gap Between Christianity and Paganism

This fascinating book came into my hands because I belong to a Facebook group called Mystic Christ and heard about the publication of this collection of essays by authors with both Christian affiliation and a desire to express spirituality through nature connection.

Earthed - Christian Perspectives on Nature Connection

Earthed – Christian Perspectives on Nature Connection

This sounded like a book after my own heart. For many years I was greatly drawn to a spirituality very close to pantheism/nature mysticism; and one of my chief objections then to the Christian faith was what I saw as its “black and white” stance and its refusal to recognise the validity of this kind of spirituality. I remember years ago a certain Tory politician being asked if he was religious or a churchgoer, to which he replied, “No, I don’t go to church, I feel much closer to God walking in the Yorkshire Dales”.

In the view of the authors of “Earthed” this is a valid spiritual position to take.

The book, edited by Bruce Stanley and Steve Holllinghurst, brings together the views and experiences of several authors who have a range of different approaches and outlooks but all believe that Christianity’s relationship with nature matters.

The earlier essays provide an overview and then move on to more detailed accounts of personal experiences. I must admit I found some of these read a little like vicars seeking to justify to their evangelical colleagues why they are moved by pagan religious rituals in nature.

However,  I was pleased to see a chapter by Annie Heppenstall, “Do I Not Fill Heaven and Earth?” Annie led the Celtic Christian celebrations I attended at Morton Bagot church in Warwickshire. There is also a very good article by Anne Hollinghurst about St Francis of Assisi.  “A creation-centred spirituality,” she writes, “should also include St Francis’ rule of compassion for the poor, a rejection of the pursuit of wealth, status or reputation in favour of simplicity and poverty of spirit.”

To me there’s no problem in the idea of worshipping God in and through nature.This has always been a spirituality very close to my heart. But I do acknowledge that some people find the natural world wild, disorderly and threatening.

I enjoyed the chapter about The Green Man by Simon Cross, in which he draws a thread connecting the story of the Garden of Eden with the Legend of the Holy Rood, the Frankenstein story, North American Indian spirituality and its understanding of the Great Spirit, through the 1800’s resurgence of interest in occultism and onto fear of little green men from Mars, space research and exploration and the current fascination with wilderness survival skills (as demonstrated in various TV programmes).

The theme of this book was highlighted from a different source on Sun 16 November 2014: I was watching a BBC TV programme presented by Sue Perkins from a remote rural community in Cambodia, where she was spending time with people who have “a relationship with the natural world that many of us crave.”

Another outstanding chapter for me in this book is “Oceanic God” in which author Nick Thorpe writes about things he has learned from the power of the sea and from the people who earn their living by chancing their lives upon the sea.

“After my sea pilgrimage,” he says, “I resolved to allow myself a broader, more open-handed belief; less fretful about the details of doctrine, more willing to let complex realities clash, and mysteries remain.”

There is also a lovely piece by Paul Cudby on “Friendships Across the Divide: A Theology of Encounter” which I strongly identified with. I have myself felt the spiritual sense of nature connection which he describes, on several occasions throughout my life. The experiences he describes follow the principle that whatever you practice regularly becomes almost intuitive and then new possibilities spring up.

In conclusion I’d say that the premise of this book is correct: that in western forms of Christian worship many habitually cut themselves off from this kind of nature connection; and this is a totally unnecessary source of alienation from those who find themselves naturally drawn to pagan and mystical spirituality.Instead, we end up creating a division between those whose spiritual practices might otherwise find many points of similarity.

If any of this rings a bell with you, I highly recommend this book.

Offerings to the Water Spirit

If there is magic on the planet it is contained in the water” (Loren Eiseley – American anthropologist, philosopher & natural science writer).

I’m led to reflect on this every time I come upon a pool of water in a public place – whether that be the pool in the Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew, the weir at the Saxon Mill, Warwick, the fountains in Trafalgar Square, or even the pool inside the Royal Shakespeare Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon. All have one thng in common.

They all have coins thrown in them. 20p, 50p and £1 coins; pennies and 2p and 5p and 10p pieces… Deep in the human psyche, folk religion demands that we offer up at least a nominal amount of what we most value to the water god in the hope that this will transform our lives.  Coins are thrown ino the water, because, reaching back through the roots of our pagan heritage, many of us still need to pay tribute to the world of Faerie.

I am fascinated by our pagan roots, and by how they blossom again and again through time. I’m currently reading “The Wine of Angels” by Phil Rickman. Rickman of course, as his fans know well, loves to explore  the desire and longing found in many English communities for ancient traditions, landscape mysteries,  and folk religion, as he draws it all together into a crime mystery presided over by Merrily Watkins, woman priest and deliverance expert.

 Anthropologists at the University of California tell us that virtually any pool made accessible to the public qualifies as a wishing well. Offering money to water is an old tradition that can be dated back to Roman-British or Celtic mythology. Since then it has evolved from a religious ritual into a fun, yet superstitious cultural practice… which can be most effectively explained by relationships with the supernatural.

The River of Life, we are told in the Book of Revelations, runs through the Holy City.  And back right at the beginning of the Bible, the Spirit of God moves across the face of the waters.  Jesus spoke of bringing water of life. He told the Samaritan woman whom he met at the well, “I can give you water of life so you will never thirst again.” No wonder she replied, “Give me this water!”

C.S. Lewis knew the powerful symbolism of water when, in “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” he created that fearful image of a sea which turned to gold anything that fell into it – combining in one image the sharpest possible contrast: between the fulfillment of our greatest dreams and of our worst fear – limitless wealth, or death.

How do you feel about water? – about pools , rivers, and streams? Do you relate to them in a spiritual way? I’d love to hear your stories!

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