3/21/2011

CAN WE BEFRIEND THE ELEMENTS?

In view of the massive tectonic shifts underway, this essay first published on 9 December 2008 deserves yet another revisit...
How can we avoid wholesale eco-apocalypse - if we're too goddamn arrogant to apologize to Mother Nature for constantly trying to make a quick buck by flogging off her vital organs as commodities in the marketplace? If you were a magnificent old-growth rainforest, would you appreciate being gangbanged and chainsaw-massacred by loudmouthed louts who call you ugly names like "merchantable biomass"?


THOSE EIGHT WORDS struck me like a sledgehammer when I first encountered them while reading a rather ponderous and nebulous work by the well-known astrologer, shamanic oracle and publisher, Barbara Hand Clow, who says her Cherokee grandfather taught her to listen to the elements and attune her psyche to the earth. After his death the young Barbara was subject to the severe traumas of growing up in a dysfunctional American family and experienced recurring contact with what she later identified as Pleiadian entities. At university Barbara majored in Jungian psychology and began delving into astrology and cosmomythology. In 1974 she married Gerald Cudahy Clow and together they established Bear & Company as a highly successful publishing house for cutting-edge, "New Age" authors.

But coming back to those eight words that had so much impact on me. Let's deconstruct and decompress that "Isaiah" quote:

Monotheism is the defining feature of the Abrahamic religions which are at most 4,000 years old (since the patriarch Abraham supposedly lived in the era between 2,000 and 1,500 BCE). Hindus believe the Kali yuga or Age of Darkness began at midnight on 23 January 3,102 BCE. In effect, the advent of the Abrahamic era (dare I say error?) occurred approximately a thousand years into the Age of Darkness when all divine revelations were subject to severe distortion and refraction. Interestingly, scholars of the Mayan calendar report that in 3,113 BCE the Earth began traversing a 5,000-year beam of density emanating from the Galactic Core, during which humans would become more individualized and egocentric. This densification and dimming of human consciousness is supposed to terminate between 28 October 2011 and 21 December 2012.


Most astronomers concur that the Solar System is approximately 4.6 billion years old, as estimated by the radiometric dating of meteorites. The Earth, according to consensus scientific opinion, was probably formed shortly afterwards. Some point at the figure 4.56 billion years as the age of our planet. Paleoanthropologists can't quite agree as to exactly when Homo sapiens may have begun to appear on Earth, but the general time frame ranges between 400,000 to 160,000 years. Let's say Homo faber (tool-using hominids) began multiplying around 250,000 years ago. Though the concept of a single Almighty Creator God has been around for approximately 4,000 years, the word "monotheism" was introduced into the English language by the Neoplatonist philosopher, Henry More, only in 1660 - less than 350 years ago.


What does anthropocentrism mean? It is the belief that humans must be considered at the center of, and above any other aspect of, reality. Monotheistic religions posit that God granted Man "dominion over Nature" - in other words, human considerations take precedence over the rest of the ecosystem. Ultimately, this leads to the dangerous viewpoint that making money is the single most important human activity on earth and that hills exist just so wealthy folks may build luxury apartments from which to gaze upon the urban sprawl below. We have seen the catastrophic results of such egotistical and myopic thinking. Stringent legislation and stricter enforcement won't solve the problem in the long run - but a radical shift in consciousness and perspective most certainly will.


Alchemy (from the Arabic Al-kimia) postulates that the Matter Universe consists of four elements - Fire, Earth, Air, and Water - and that these elements are present on the micro- as well as the macrocosmic levels. Indeed, our physical bodies are a blend of these very elements. Fire represents vitality, spirit, intellect; Earth the mineral compounds that constitute our blood and bones and fleshly tissue; Air the breath that oxygenates and cleanses our lifeblood, separating us from death; and Water (which forms 60-80 per cent of our bodies), symbolizing our emotional tides, influenced by the electromagnetic interaction of the Moon's gravitational field with that of the Earth.


When I relocated from Kuala Lumpur in early 1992 to the verdant hills of Pertak, Ulu Selangor, I soon became acutely aware of the close proximity of all four elements in my ecstatically beautiful riverine environment. Just sitting on a 500-million-year-old granite rock aglitter with embedded quartzite, feeling the hot sun on my skin, the fragrant breeze in my hair, soothed by the neverending riversong of crystalline life-sustaining waters - I felt for the first time in my life completely and absolutely at home.


It's exquisitely therapeutic to find your analytical mind suddenly and spontaneously falling silent while all your senses come alive. You begin to grasp the notion of Zen, of being totally in the here and now. In this serene state of receptivity, your body begins to pick up impressions long forgotten or usually unnoticed in the hurly-burly of urban existence. The rock you're resting on begins to tell you stories in its own distinctive mineral voice. And you begin to perceive the holographic, fractal nature of form itself - wherein the rock you're connected with in turn connects you with the entire spectrum of mineral consciousness.


Gradually, it dawns on you that the compressed experience of spacetime imposed on us by routinely accepted constraints of modern living is no more than an ephemeral veneer of insensitivity, of a societally sanctioned sensory shutdown. Our natural state is to be in constant awe and wonderment at the glorious epiphanies that abound all around us.


When indigenous cultures connect with the elements through their shamans, they do so in a spirit of friendly cooperation. The very idea of combating the forces of nature would strike them as foolish and futile. How can one possibly defeat the wind or vanquish the ocean waves? On the other hand, by understanding these majestic forces and respectfully working with them, one is able to harness their might for one's own purposes. Wind and wave and solar power could free us forever from the stranglehold of voracious corporations that trade in toxic fossil fuels. Do we truly believe we can suck dry the oil reserves with impunity? Have we never considered the possibility that these subterranean and suboceanic pockets of petroleum actually serve as hydraulic shock absorbers, preventing the tectonic plates from scraping together with results disastrous to dwellers on the earth's surface?


The element Air embodies the idea of interconnectivity, communication, communion. When we consciously share breath with another, we synchronize our heartbeats and merge our energy fields. We experience a melding on the soul level, a fusion of destinies. Interesting how in our figures of speech, air features prominently as a metaphor. For instance, Malays speak of khabar angin (gossip, rumors) just as Italians call gossipers venticelli (little winds). Those with noble hearts are considered "fragrant" (wangi in Malay) while others with malicious intent are described as "stinkers" (busuk). The nose obviously knows better then the brain!


Where integrity reigns and people are naturally inclined to speaking truthfully, atmospheric pollution is a virtual impossibility. If you live in an asphyxiating hellhole where pedestrians scurry around wearing gasmasks, car windows are constantly closed with the aircon going full blast, while outside the air is almost unbreathable from carbon monoxide fumes - it's a clear sign that lying has become a national pastime.


When 100-million-year-old hardwood forests are clearfelled and set on fire by oil palm companies, you can be sure that a great many untruths are being circulated about the sustainability of monoculture cash crop plantations and the illusory profits to be made from a nearsighted biofuel campaign. Indeed, some of the biggest logging concerns and oil palm corporations have ministers as major shareholders - and that explains why the annually recurring haze just won't go away. How does it feel to choke and gag on your own lies?


Water is the Vital Essence of Life, it's chi or prana in liquid form. Moistness is an indication of fertility, sensual ripeness, warmth of feeling; and dryness suggests sterility, barrenness, humorlessness, sexual apathy. In effect, water is the element that signifies our emotional flux. The tragic situation in Malaysia wherein anxiety about water shortages is used to justify the construction of unnecessary dams even as flash floods recur with debilitating frequency reveals the unhealthy state of the nation's emotional life. Floodwaters are murky, polluted and often accompanied by waterborne diseases. What does this indicate about the kind of emotions we are expressing... or not? Are we being governed through fear rather than love?


Monotheism and the Abrahamic religions are patriarchal by definition, since these belief systems involve worship of a male deity, a Heavenly Father or Lord. A bit of research into the early history of the monotheistic religions associated with Yahweh reveals that there was a systematic excision of pre-existing Goddess emblems by a misogynistic male priesthood.


Why was the Sacred Feminine suppressed? Look at your left and right brains. The left is regarded as the logical, male brain where abstract symbols are linearly processed into alphanumeric codes - in effect, language. The right is usually associated with intuitive functions such as spatial and temporal navigation and the processing of non-verbal sensory data - in short, the "female" brain. Male children are trained to suppress their emotions while females can cry since they are "the weaker sex." Patriarchal societies are largely warlike and male children are required as cannon fodder for military campaigns. We can't be sending sissies to the battlefield, can we?


Progress is measured in physical terms, never metaphysical. Development is infrastructural, rarely cultural. Science and technology are to be encouraged; arts and humanities are best suited to girls... and effeminate boys (would you like to see your only son become a ballet dancer and move around with the arty-farty gay crowd?) Homophobic, testosteronally propelled national aspirations will neither tolerate the ambiguity of poetry nor the nature mystic's recognition of the aliveness of the elements...


But, alas, only the poet, the mystic, and the true lover in each of us can access and befriend the elements, and restore balance and harmony to the land. Legislative measures and political rhetoric demanding a scientific and technological solution is, at best, the band-aid approach to serious environmental injury. How can we avoid wholesale eco-apocalypse - if we're too goddamn arrogant to apologize to Mother Nature for constantly trying to make a quick buck by flogging off her vital organs as commodities in the marketplace? If you were a magnificent old-growth rainforest, would you appreciate being gangbanged and chainsaw-massacred by loudmouthed louts who call you ugly names like "merchantable biomass"?





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