Remembering the Sacred
Some years ago in Boulder, I saw Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee speak with Father Thomas Keating about interspirituality. At the time, I was so taken with Fr. Keating that Vaughan-Lee barely registered. But since then, he has become a strong voice for ecospirituality and I’ve come to admire him greatly.
I was deeply moved listening to this interview about Vaughan-Lee’s new book called Darkening of the Light: Witnessing the End of an Era. Though I haven’t read it yet, it’s clear that the book covers much of the same terrain as Joanna Macy’s work, emphasizing the need to bear witness to what we are doing to the world in order that we might take responsibility and ultimately transform our society.
This involves a willingness to endure tremendous grief and sorrow, without numbing out or distracting ourselves like addicts. For the same dark force that’s devouring nature is also what keeps us in our inane technotainment bubble, worshipping the trivial. The great spiritual practice of our day might be simply to not turn away. To bear witness. And to care.
The task of holding the world’s suffering in our awareness without moving immediately to fix anything is very challenging. But it might be the alchemy we need. Vaughan-Lee speaks of the importance of allowing ourselves to feel the situation fully as a necessary step in truly taking responsibility. When we rush to fix or problem-solve, there’s a way in which we are not letting ourselves fully have the brokenness. And without that, our responses are doomed to be shallow and ineffectual.
He says something else that I rarely hear from anyone else, and I think it’s vital: To the same degree that our rapacious culture of greed and disconnection is laying waste on the physical plane, it is doing the same to our inner worlds of soul and consciousness. It must be so, as there is no real separation between spirit and matter.
And so in the same way that our culture and social world is homogenized and diminished, our spirituality (what’s left of it) and understanding of the meaning of reality is also eroded. But as Vaughan-Lee says, most spiritual teachers and institutions are not even aware that this has happened. They are locked into the pattern of separation just like every other human domain. It’s taken for granted.
We are engaged in a great act of desecration. I think this is the spirit-matter split itself.
But if we can see it, perhaps there is hope that we can heal and transform it. But first we must see it, and allow ourselves to have the impact of it, and grieve it. Only then can we move into wholeness, sacredness, and inscendence.