Monday, October 19, 2009

About The Other Pax Christi Workshop I Attended

Mount Taylor is now a protected Native American Sacred site--at least by the State of New Mexico. This effectively prevents reopening the uranium mines.

The other workshop I attended on Saturday was a great gift. Not so much because of the material presented, but because of it's subject matter. Sr. Joan Brown (osf) gave an introduction to eco spirituality. Since this was an introduction to the concept, and very time restricted, she was unable to get into eco spirituality with any depth. However, I did pick up some very valuable resources and resource people. For Catholics, Fr. Thomas Berry is probably the most notable voice, although he was most certainly influenced by Teihard De Chardin's thinking, and much of what he writes extrapolates from Chardin's thinking.

My own experience of eco spirituality is centered in Native relational concepts. It has been a process of years and years of inner work to get to the point where I have even a smattering of understanding of what Natives mean when they talk about the Earth as a consciousness and humanity as part of that consciousness. My personal path has been made much more difficult because of how I was raised as a child.

Western religious and philosophical thought is reflected in how we parent and are parented. The Catholicism in which I was raised saw mankind as corrupted by original sin and the earth as something to be feared and overcome. For both me as a child, and the environment around our home, the idea was to instill order and mold both to something better than our flawed starting point. To put it in different words, my parents saw their duty as bringing the Kingdom of order to our house and my psyche.

As a child I spent hours and hours and hours mowing the lawn--in patterns--raking leaves, pulling weeds, and planting flowers in designed beds. A native child would have spent the same amount of time experiencing his natural environment, learning to relate by observing relationships in action, being open to all kinds of information, and internalizing the patterns of nature, not overlaying patterns on nature.

When an Indigenous elder would tell stories about the spirit of the coyote, an Indigenous child would have understood that spirit to be of the same spirit as his own, a real and knowable part of his active consciousness and part of the same pattern of nature he inhabited. He would understand he could be the spirit of the coyote and that coyote could be part of him.

I on the other hand, understood myself to be separate, distinct, and above the coyote. I simply experienced it as a legitimate target for my rifle. I've often thought it prophetic for my later life that I was never able to actually pull the trigger. On some level of consciousness I saw that the coyote was at least related somewhat to my beloved dog. My brothers were not plagued with such reticence. Perhaps because they did not have a beloved dog, the coyote stayed totally 'other'.

It took me a really long time to understand that when Native elders spoke about the lack of boundaries in consciousness between nature and mankind, they were speaking literally. They were not using metaphor or a kind of 'deus ex machina' literary device. They were talking about real experiences and real potential in human consciousness.

Hunters would talk about calling their targets to them, not going out and looking for them. They had an ability to enter the consciousness of the animal, see it's surroundings, and use that information to find it. The believed this melding occurred (or was permitted) because the animal had given it's consent to be killed for the benefit of the hunter and his family. The hunter prayed, not with an attitude of fearful expectation, but of trustful certainty and gratitude. There for his consciousness was attracted to and intersected with a willing animal and he was given all the information he needed to find this animal. Jesus did this same thing with the Apostles when the Apostles couldn't find fish. Jesus never had the same problem and always knew where the nets should be dropped. Hunting is just one example of many examples in stories Native elders tell to illustrate this other way of knowing empirical data through the use of expanded notions of human consciousness.

Eco spirituality is about trusting that the earth and the cosmos has an inherent ability to maintain it's own balance and it's own healing. The earth does not need the Western world view to bring it to some sort of higher order or sanctified state. It does not need to be tamed and controlled, but rather trusted, because it takes our existence and our consciousness into it's equation of balance. It invites us to participate on a level which is both magical and loving. It invites us to drop our artificial boundaries and experience the true magnificence and inter dependence of God's intent for His creation.

The religious structures of the West could be the last best hope to get this message out before the Western world view destroys this planet. Before that can happen, these religious structures have to rethink their theology and move from an insistence on the ontological evil of man and a fear based notion of God, to one of trusting love and a shared community with all of creation. If one listens carefully, one can hear this message coming from the Indigenous communities, the theology of the East, and trends in the study of human consciousness--and tentatively, from the Vatican itself.

To conclude, I left this Pax Christi event with information on two ways the West is heading toward global disaster. One through the Military Industrial Complex and one through global warming. The hope lies in shared consciousness and opening the mind to the possibilities inherent in that view of consciousness. It is in this awareness that real solutions to our problems exist. As Albert Einstein is reputed to have said, it's difficult to find solutions in the thinking that created the problem to begin with. It's time to expand the thinking and learn to live in two worlds--the world of matter and the completely inner connected world of creative consciousness.

For more information on the work of Sr. Joan Brown see this website:


  1. Wonderful Post! I'm a great admirer of Thomas Berry. Can't say more because I'm off to the Tatras Mountains in Slovakia, the skiing resort of Liptovsky Mikulas - where the mystery of the universe will speak to me (I hope)

  2. Have a safe trip and don't break an ankle. Mountains are good places to hear from the mystery of the universe. So are deserts and best are deserts with mountains. :)

  3. Beautiful post Colleen. There is much for us to learn and unlearn.

    This evening I decided to see if Jupiter was still in the southeast sky and it was and just as I moved to get a closer look at it I saw something fall from space. It came straight down in a white streak and could have been space junk or a meteor. It was amazing, because it happened just at the moment I reached a spot in the yard that I could see that part of the sky as there is a very large oak tree in the way. Whatever it was that fell from the sky must have wound up in the ocean.

    It reminded me of the time I found the butterfly wings. Something compelled me to go out back and look at the sky at that very moment tonight. Usually I go out front.

    What you have written here reminds me of something I read of St Francis of Assisi. There was a wolf that was terrorizing people and St Francis confronted it and it went away.

    "The hunter prayed, not with an attitude of fearful expectation, but of trustful certainty and gratitude." Isn't that how we should pray?

    The western world view is destroying the planet, just as it is causing famines and great hardship for many people.

    Amen, Colleen, "It's time to expand the thinking and learn to live in two worlds--the world of matter and the completely inner connected world of creative consciousness."

    Bless you and thank you Colleen for sharing this with us!!

  4. Butterfly, you will find it interesting that Sr. Joan opened her talk with the story of St Francis and the wolf.

  5. I do find that very interesting Colleen. I am wondering what specifically Sr. Joan had to say about it.

    Thinking of Earth as a consciousness is a profoundly new concept to me. However, when thinking about the Creator of this Earth it starts to make some sense to me. Having done some reading of Earth's evolutionary eras and eons and observing by reading about the very beginning of the basic life single cells I can almost see a veil starting to lift away and see with new eyes. This is all very fascinating. Hopefully the consciousness of western thought will not destroy our chances for further lifting this veil and humanity may truly be a part of that consciousness of God's creation of which we were designed to be connected.

    We are on the fast track to extinction with the amount of nuclear weapons, the use of fossil fuels and the backward consciousness that feeds into such systems that could take us to oblivion and the planet to a place inhospitable to much of life.

    The weather seems to be trying to correct what is not in balance. In so doing we have extreme patterns of drought in some areas and too much rain in other areas, colder weather when it is normally warmer and vise versa and this seems to be occurring more frequently. The intensity of storms cannot be denied. I read there were at least six tornadoes in Vermont of all places. Two at the most in a single year was rare for that State. We've all witnessed great storms in the last few decades that outdid all other storms in weather history.

    On a molecular level there are undoubtedly other changes occurring in relation to Earth's changes and the consciousness of people on Earth.

    Fascinating and scary at the same time. Much to learn and unlearn.

  6. I just looked up Pax Christi from the Fr. Dear site . ok I am filled with Hope again . There are peaceful not hatefelt catholics out there . whew what a relief . Thanks

  7. Rox, if your impression of Catholicism is mostly that given by the mainstream media and the Vatican, I can see where one might wonder if there were any Catholics dedicated to peaceful concepts.

    Pax Christi used to be a lot bigger than it is now, but over the last three decades it's been systematically drummed out of most American Dioceses. In face, in Lincoln, NE you are automatically excommunicated if you belong to it, and in the past couple of weeks, two bishops who belong to Pax Christi were denied speaking privledges in the dioceses of other bishops.

    Notions of peace do not seem to be welcome in the current church. Must be too counter cultural and relativistic.

  8. Hi -- Thanks for your hidden compliment in using my photo for this post. However, I don't recall you asking for permission to do so -- do you understand that using someone else's work without permission is a copyright violation? In addition, it's very difficult for me to understand how appropriating the artistic -- one might even say spiritual -- work of another individual can possibly be considered morally acceptable.

    On a technical level, you are also using my bandwidth each time my photo loads on your blog -- in other words, you are helping yourself to a resource that *I* pay for.

    I request you remove the photo from your blog immediately. In addition, I'd appreciate an apology.

    Lisa Tannenbaum

  9. Lisa, you are welcome for the hidden compliment. Thanks for my well deserved kick in the butt for using the photo. It has been removed forthwith and I extend my apologies.

    Your photo was exquisite.

  10. Yikes, I do this all the time! That was quite a scolding.