Pagan Studies


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Studies Blogs

Advanced and/or academic Pagan subjects such as history, ethics, sociology, etc.

b2ap3_thumbnail_fallow-deer-dama-dama-wikimedia-commons.jpg"You are taught to believe that faith can move mountains, yet many of you will find it extremely difficult to accept your own relationship with the environment." (8)

I.    Ecopsychology

Development of themes of polarized forces and separation of the physical and the spiritual laid a foundation for western civilization which developed into religions featuring absolute values, contests of good and evil, and disdain for the human body and natural world.  Thinkers and teachers from Newton to Enlightenment philosophers reinforced these ideas in the name of science and rational thought.  The Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, and the rise of capitalism and consumerism, further resolved our attenuation from wholeness.  In our time, the scientific model has taught us that if there was ever a divine being, he or she was a clockmaker who set the time and walked away.

Today the emerging field of ecopsychology is teaching us a new way of viewing the self as an inseparable part of the larger natural environment in which we live.  The first gathering of ecopsychologists at the conference, “Psychology as if the Whole Earth Mattered,” agreed that “if the self is expanded to include the natural world, behavior leading to destruction of this world will be experienced as self-destruction.”  Ecopsychology seeks to evolve a practice of psychology that will reunite the human psyche with that of the world.

II.    Seth/Jane Roberts

b2ap3_thumbnail_Daylily-May-30-2017.jpgA collection of writings by the late Jane Roberts introduce several themes which strongly support the premises of ecopsychology.  The so-called “Seth” books have now influenced more than one generation of influential thinkers and writers.  Seth has been cited as a formative influence by such luminaries of contemporary consciousness studies as Deepak Chopra, Sanaya Roman, Shakti Gawain and Marianne Williamson. 

The Seth view of the world, read thirty and more years after publication, now bears a striking resemblance to the new quantum physics.  Field theory and the behavior of particles are clearly described in Seth’s landscape of probabilities, alternate realities and consciousness units.  Because of its widespread influence and logical exploration of ideas normally coopted by religion and mysticism, the Seth body of work now stands as a valuable bridge between the old model of a mechanical universe and an ecopsychological paradigm. 

While this short paper is far from an exhaustive survey of the Seth literature (Roberts’ collection is the second-most requested and read collection at the Yale University library), it will acquaint the reader with parallels between contemporary ecopsychology and the ideas of Seth.

III.    Seth Themes Which Support Ecopsychology

    a.    An Earth Gestalt

b2ap3_thumbnail_Khasi_Hills_Mawphlang-credit-Prida-Ariani.jpgThe Gaia hypothesis first articulated in the mid-1970s by James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis has become common parlance here in the beginning of the 21st century.  Not only pagans espouse a unity of all life on earth, but Earth Day services and miscellaneous homages to God revealed in nature now abound throughout mainstream Christianity. 

In The Unknown Reality, Seth expounds at length on the continuum of consciousness out of which the human psyche rises.  Human entities in the Seth cosmos are no more separate from the world than a cloud is from the sky.

"Physically speaking, earth itself has its own kind of gestalt consciousness.  If you must, then think of that earth consciousness as grading upward in great slopes of awareness, from relatively ‘inert’ particles of dust and stone, through the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms.  Even then, remember that those kingdoms are not so separate after all.  Each one is highly related to each of the others.  Nothing happens in one such kingdom that does not affect the others." (10, p. 287)

Although life forms become individuated, there is not the separation which characterizes western thinking.  In fact, consciousness prefigures the natural world, dreamed into being by the creative power of thought.  In such a universe, irruptions of physical form could be thought of as a standing wave on the stream of energy, though one with every detail and subtlety of a human personality forever remembered at some not-yet-understood subatomic level.

"You grant soulhood only to your own species, as if souls had sizes that fit your own natures only.  You preserve these ideas by thinking of animals as beneath you . . . But all things have consciousness, and in those terms possess a soul-nature.  There are no gradations as to soul.  Soul is the life within everything that is." (10, p. 287)

b2ap3_thumbnail_astronomy-5.jpgA number of contemporary scientists have proposed the hologram as a model for understanding existence, the story told in Michael Talbot’s landmark 1991 book, The Holographic Universe.  A hologram is produced through a specific process using reflected and split laser light which records a wave interference pattern on film.  Bouncing laser light off the film produces a three-dimensional image, a famous example being Princess Leia’s plea for help in the movie Star Wars.  But when one cuts up a piece of hologram film, the image is not destroyed, but rather each fragment of the film still possesses and can project the original image.  This astonishing phenomena would seem to illustrate the way that all of life, including human, are a seamless, unified whole.

Stanford University neurophysiologist Karl Pribram first published his theories of the holographic nature of the brain in 1966, three years after Jane Roberts began speaking in trance as Seth, about the intricacies of consciousness.  Ironically, Roberts and her students were exploring the same ideas about existence as scientists like Pribram, during the same time period.  This common phenomenon is itself an illustration of the holistic nature of existence.

In “the unknown reality,” one meets Paul Shepard’s “self with the permeable boundaries.”  Human thought and action reveal themselves as both cause and effect when linked inextricably with the rest of this field of life.  While each detail of life manifests its own characteristics, it cannot be understood, nor can it function, in isolation from the greater gestalt of the universe.

    b.    Cooperation and Interconnection

b2ap3_thumbnail_sk-2017_04_article_main_mobilejpeg_quality20.jpgEcopsychology teaches us a healthy relationship with the natural world can only result from recognition of our interconnection, and active mutual cooperation among all species and parts of the planet.  Seth’s assertion that even the smallest parts of creation have at least an iota of consciousness supports this need.

"A great, gracious cooperation exists between those seemingly separate systems, however.  If you will remember that even atoms and molecules have consciousness, then it will be easier for you to understand that there is indeed a certain kind of awareness that unites these kingdoms." (10, p. 287)

Complete freedom of choice is asserted throughout the Seth writings as the only way to truly learn, grow and create.  By advocating the principle of free will Seth also acknowledges an acceptance of outcomes which may at times appear destructive.  Shepard says, “An ecologically harmonious sense of self and world is not the outcome of rational choices . . . it is latent in the organism. . .”

Seth continually returns to the earth to illustrate his ideas, always referring to the inherently mutual nature of existence.

"Even the trees at the highest tip of the hillside send sturdy roots into the ground, and receive from it nourishment and vitality – and there is a great give-and-take between the smallest sapling in the foothills and the most ancient pine.  No single blade of grass dies but that it affects the entire mountain.  The energy within the grass sinks into the earth, and in your terms is again reborn.  Trees, rocks, and grass constantly exchange places as energy changes form.  Water rushes down the hillside into the valley, and there is a constant give-and-take between the village below, say, or the meadows, and the mountain.  So there is the same kind of transformation, change, and cooperation between all identities." (10, 481)

Statements like this are self-evident to many in the fields of ecology and ecopsychology, but presented by Seth could as well be perceived as science or spirituality.  This kind of transitional discussion can provide the underpinning for the effort by ecopsychologists to lead individuals  to view and treat the earth as their own body and soul.

    c.    Land As Memory

b2ap3_thumbnail_serpentmound.jpgAnthropology in the 20th century helped to create a widespread awareness by the public of indigenous peoples’ attitudes towards the land on which they live.  Native American, Amazonian and Australian aboriginal spiritualities are often cited or appropriated by environmentalists to advance their cause.

Seth’s concept of mutually-cooperative and interconnected forces could explain the indigenous attachment to and reverence for the earth.  Speaking of the atoms and cells which form an organism or ocean or mountain, then break down and disperse to form other life forms, Seth reminds the reader that, “Reminiscent within each form is the consciousness of all the other combinations, all of the other alliances, and identity continually forms new creative endeavors and gestalts of relatedness.” (10, p. 483)

Because of this constant exchange of energy in the physical world, we carry chromosomally some form of the knowledge of our ancestors, according to Seth, noting that very old cultures were aware of this trait, accepting that the ancestors were an integral part of present-day life, contributing to the experience of the living.

"The animals were also accepted in this natural philosophy of selfhood as the individual plainly saw the living quality of consciousness.  The characteristics of the animals were understood to continue ‘life,’ adding their qualities to the experience of the self in a new way . . . The human body would be used in earth’s great husbandry as, from it, dying and decaying new forms would arise.  This was a give-and-take in which, for instance, a jungle neighborhood was truly home, and all was a portion of the self psychically, spiritually, and physically." (10, p. 536)

The word for body in activist Jeannette Armstrong’s native (American) Okanagan language translates “land-dreaming capacity,” In our class reading, Armstrong says, “Okanagans teach that the body is the Earth itself.  They say that our flesh, blood, and bones are Earth-body; in all cycles in which the Earth moves, so does our body.  We are everything that surrounds us, including the vast forces we only glimpse.”

The view of the Okanaga and that of Seth may go far beyond Shepard’s “permeable self” because not only are the physical elements recombined, establishing interconnection, but the cumulative experience of each life form also becomes an integral part of each new form.  This dynamic intermingling suggests that creation has never stopped, but that the world recreates itself anew in every moment.

    e.    Creation As Manifestation of Consciousness

b2ap3_thumbnail_astronomy-7.jpgSir Isaac Newton’s famous clockmaker analogy embedded in the western psyche an attitude that the earth is no more than a complex object, a vessel for the passion play between deity and humanity.  DiZerega discusses how the concept of a transcendent god, removed and separate from creation, desacralizes the world, devaluing it and setting the stage for environmental abuse.

Conversely, Seth constantly iterates the world, indeed the universe, as the ever-evolving creation of divine thought, a creation which is indivisible from its creator, and therefore panentheistically divine, itself. 

"The rhythms of your body and of your consciousness follow the patterns of your planet.  The planet itself is composed of atoms and molecules, each with their own kind of consciousness, however; and in the gestalt and cumulative cooperative organization of their nature the physical structure is formed – out of consciousness." (10, p. 348)

Stephen Aizenstat also asserts that, “ . . . all the phenomena in the world possess intrinsic unconscious characteristics – subjective inner natures,” and notes that the rhythms of nature lie beneath civilization’s religion, economies, culture and politics.  He posits that the work of depth psychology should extend Jung’s collective unconscious to the more inclusive “world unconscious.”

Ecopsychologists strive for recognition and embrace of our oneness with and impact on the environment.  Seth does not stop with recognition, but goes on to describe a fluid and dynamic relationship.

"There is little difference between the currents of blood that flow through your veins, and the wind current, except that the one seems to be within you and the other without.  Both are manifestations of the same interrelationship and motion, however.  Your planet has a body as much as you have.  Your blood follows certain prescribed patterns and so does the wind. . . As cells within your body influence it, so does your body affect the larger body of the earth.  The weather faithfully reflects the feelings of the individuals in any given local territory.  Overall weather patterns follow deeper inner rhythms of emotions." (10, p. 349)

IV.    Summary

b2ap3_thumbnail_wikicover.jpgFor many, the Seth writings have provided a rationale for intelligent and logical discussion of subjects most often viewed as irrational mysticism.  Seth’s splendid panorama of the universe as sentient and whole rejects the mechanistic thinking of our dominant culture in favor of a joyously alive and interactive existence.

"God knows itself through the flesh.  God may know itself through a million or a thousand million other worlds, as so may I – but because this world is, and because I am alive in it, it is more than appearance, more than a shackle to be thrown aside.  It is a privilege to be here, to look out with this unique focus, with these individual eyes . . . to see this corner of reality which I form through the miraculous connections of soul and flesh." (10, p. 696)

Those miraculous connections of soul and flesh are the stuff of which our collective healing will  come, as ecopsychology continues its vital work, saving Gaia by leading us to a loving reunion with our source.

by Holli S. Emore, 2005

Bibliography

1. Aizenstate, Stephen, “Jungian Psychology and the World Unconscious,” Ecopsychology, Sierra Club Books, 1995.
2. Armstrong, Jeannette, “Keepers of the Earth,” Ecopsychology, Sierra Club Books, 1995.
3. DiZerega, Gus, Pagans & Christians: The Personal Spiritual Experience, Llewellyn Publications, 2005.
4. Lazslo, Ervin, Science and the Akashic Field, Inner Traditions, 2004.
5. Popescu, Petru, Amazon Beaming, Viking, 1991.
6. Pribram, K.H. (1966). Some dimensions of remembering: Steps toward a neuropsychological model of memory. In Gaito, J. (Ed.), Macromolecules and Behaviour. Academic Press. [Excerpt in Pribram, K.H. (Ed.) (1969), Brain and Behaviour 2 - Perception and Action. Harmondsworth: Penguin.]
7. Roberts, Jane, Seth Speaks, Amber-Allen Publishing, 1972, 1994.
8. Roberts, Jane, The Nature of Personal Reality, Amber-Allen Publishing, 1974, 1994.
9. Roberts, Jane, The Unknown Reality, Volume One, Amber-Allen Publishing, 1977, 1996.
10. Roberts, Jane, The Unknown Reality, Volume Two, Amber-Allen Publishing, 1979, 1996.
11. Roszak, Theodore, “Where Psyche Meets Gaia,” Ecopsychology, eds., Roszak, Gomes, and Kanner.  Sierra Club Books: 1995.
12. Shepard, Paul, “Nature and Madness,”  Ecopsychology, Sierra Club Books, 1995.
13. Talbot, Michael, The Holographic Universe, Harper Perennial, 1991.

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Midsummer: Watch Out for Fairies!

The longest day in the Northern Hemisphere is upon us: Midsummer has reached even up here in Scotland where the long days go on and on even when we don't have sun. We've had more than our share lately, which is a bit disconcerting.

I have been deep in Scottish fairy lore for a project I'm working on. It's not my usual bailiwick but I am enjoying the tour immensely. One of the unexpected delights (thanks to a recommendation of the Folk Horror Revival group) is A. D. Hope's A Midsummer Eve's Dream: Variations on a Theme by William Dunbar. I have mentioned the late medieval Scots poet in previous columns like A Headache in Medieval Scotland and A Meditation on Winter.

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The Dragon of the Home

It flies above rooftops, snaking down chimneys to steal wealth or sustenance. Sometimes it appears as a bolt of fire. Other times, it takes the form of a small, red-coated man. Still other times, it appears as an animal -- a lizard, serpent, black cat, rooster or chicken. In Occitan and Catalan cultures, it's called drac, a term related to the more familiar dragons ("Drac"). Like dragons, dracs are connected with wealth and fortune, although unlike "wild" dragons, domestic dracs bring these things to the masters and mistresses of their dwelling (albeit, at the expense of their neighbors) (Encyclopedia of Norse and Germanic Folklore, Mythology and Magic). It makes its home in chimneys or behind the stove -- hot places, where fire naturally dwells, the center of the home. It is a shape-changing spirit, a trickster, but it is happy to serve its chosen family as long as it is well cared-for.

Wild Spirits

So how do dracs come to be? One tradition states that they are born from a yolkless egg; another claims that they are established in a household through a contract with a devil (The Tradition of Household Spirits 154). In Demons and Spirits of the Land, medievalist scholar of folklore Claude Lecouteux argues that the term "devil" is used in these instances to represent a land spirit:

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  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis says #
    I love this, thank you!!!!!!! —a dragon's granmother and a daughter of dragons.
Can you work with the Internet as a spirit?

Recently, one of my readers asked me an intriguing question. She wanted to know if the internet could be a spirit in its own right, a deity that could be worked with. She had done some work on her own and that work seemed to say yes, but she was curious about my perspective on it, so I figured i'd share it through an article.

The first time I got on the internet, it was 1995. I was in my last year of high school and I got to use a computer for the first time and access the world wide web (as it was known back then). Why do I share that with you? Because I didn't grow up with the internet. I had to adapt to it. I fortunately did so, while I was still a teenager, and to be honest I took to the internet like a fish takes to water.

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I tend to think of cyberspace as a biome like grasslands, deserts, and temperate forests are biomes.
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    That's anther good way to describe it.

Two of our students from the current Per Ankh II course share rituals they created as classwork.

Gratitude Ritual by Selina White

b2ap3_thumbnail_Hathor.jpgThis aim of this ritual is to offer up and give thanks to Hathor for five things you are grateful for on foot of a success/triumph. The number five is used to reflect the myth of the five gifts of Hathor, where a person initiated in the cult of Hathor would be asked to name give things that they were grateful for while looking at the five fingers of their left hand, the left hand being the hand that typically grasped the plentiful crop while the right hand cut and harvested it.

The altar is dressed with lighted candles and any number of items which represent Hathor to the participant, including:
Fresh flowers;
A necklace or piece of turquoise;
Sweet cake;
A horn;
Sycamore leaves;
A mirror;
etc.

Opening invocation:
“Hrt-Hrw, of the domain of Horus, Heset, wet-nurse to the gods
Nurturing mother, mistress of song and dance, of celebration and gratitude, bringer of life and comforter in death, I offer to you in gratitude all that you have lovingly bestowed unto me”

Raise the item of gratitude above your head, imagining your arms to be the horns of plenty of Hathor, the item being embraced within them.

For non-physical items you are grateful for, use a symbolic object or visualise the item over your head being embraced by the your arms, being the horns of Hathor.

With the item raised above your head, say:
I offer to you, Hrt-Hrw, Goddess of Love and Abundance, [name the item], may it serve and benefit me in accordance with your will and in ultimate service to humanity.

Place the item on or near the altar and place your left hand over it for a few moments, while ringing the sistrum.

Repeat this for the remaining four items.

Closing invocation:
May these offerings of gratitude please you, Hrt-Hrw, Lady of the Stars and Lady of the West. I ask you to bestow upon me abundant life, happiness and prosperity. May each day find me grateful to you for your five gifts and help me realise that if I should lose one, that there will always come another in time, flowing from your infinite divine nourishment.

Ring sistrum a number of times. End the ritual with a celebratory meal of bread/milk/wine/honey with song and dance.

Morning Devotion to Ra - by John Scruggs

b2ap3_thumbnail_Tutankhamun_Falcon1_retouched.jpgOn the altar is a scarab, a votive candle, a stand to hold the clothing made for Ra.
The ritual takes place just before sunrise - or upon rising.
The ritual begins with making an origami kimono which will be used as a dressing for the altar.

Embodying Ra speak:
Ra, mighty one who on his barque sails with the sun across they sky, we welcome you home from your night’s journey. We beseech thee to rise so that light may shine on the land and bless crops and villagers alike. That all may grow and prosper in the light of your day.

Water is sprinked on the altar and on ourselves. Embodying Ra speak:
We bath thee Ra in the water of life as the Nile that by thy grace floods and creates ground for food.

The kimono is placed on the stand.  Embodying Ra speak:
Ra, we dress the for day’s journey ahead to sit upon thy thrown on the barque of life. We adorn thee in regal vestments befitting the one who brings light and life to the land.

An offering of food is placed in front of the “dressed” Ra.  Embodying Ra speak:
We offer thee food, oh most blessed Ra, to nourish thee on thy journey across the sky even as you nourish the land with thy light.

Embodying Ra speak:
Ra, arise and shine, carry our hearts with you even as your carry our lives with you into the day.

The votive candle is lit as the sun rises.  Embodying Ra speak:
Mighty Ra, even as you rise the scarab curls up before you. We welcome you and travel with you on your journey across the sky and partake of the life it brings to our land. Let the light be nourishing, but not burning. Illuminating but not blinding. Gui ding but not forcing. With you, we recreate. So be it. It is done.

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Elf Shot in Scotland

In the collection Scottish Charms and Amulets George Black recounts a variety of folk practices, many of which linger on not only in word but in material form. Amulets always draw interested audiences in museums where they are on display and bring together the traditions captured in words as charms with a tangible force. Arrowheads are one popular example.

As in many places, Black notes that 'the prehistoric flint arrowheads so numerous in Scotland were long considered by the peasantry to have fallen from the clouds, and to have been used as weapons by the fairies to shoot at human beings' and also especially cattle. Like the well-known Anglo-Saxon charm Wið færstice for elf-shot cattle, there were a variety of ways to battle the illnesses presumed to be caused by the folk too small to be seen. 

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  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis says #
    Rock on! (Pun, oh, I just noticed, cool.) Thanks!

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The Whispering Hearth

The hearth has long been a place of power. We have already explored its position as a place of healing and protection. In many European cultures, it is also traditionally a place for communion with spirits, where offerings are left and knowledge from them can be gained. In Germany, the space between the back of the stove and the wall was called Hölle, “hell” (Lecouteux 70). It’s important to note that the words Hölle and hell originate not in Christianity but from a Proto-Germanic word meaning “a hidden place,” i.e. the underworld (Online Etymology Dictionary). People have long sought out the insight of the dead and other spirits regarding the future, and the hearth or stove was one common site for divination.

 

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