Let’s do a quick thought experiment.
Let’s consider your underlying thoughts about how you view the world. Here are two different ways in which we can regard what we experience “out there”:
Option one: As I look out at the world, everything I experience is separate and apart from me. To come degree I can manipulate these things. Many items I see are lifeless inanimate objects while some may be considered “alive”, but neither contains anything special like a “soul” or “spirit”. Everything is a product of this material world’s evolution and can be explained in some scientific way.
Option Two: As I look out at the world, everything I experience is somehow connected to me. As I interact with the world, I sense how my actions are changing things out there and how those changes are circling back and impacting me. This underlying unity of all gives me a sense that that there is something special embedded in the world, something that could be termed as “soul” or “spirit” or some other word that reflects its true essence.
Yes, this is a forced choice and you may not totally agree with either viewpoint but suspend that thought for a moment. Stop reading and take a moment right where you are and look around the space surrounding you. As you look out at the objects around you, which perspective comes closer to how you perceive the world?
The Resacralization of the World
This past week, I had the great pleasure of interviewing progressive talk show host Thom Hartmann about his book The Crash of 2016 for the Coffee Party USA. It was a fun conversation which went by way too fast. In my concluding question, I asked him something to the effect of what one take away did he hope people got from his book. His answer had more than one part, but it was his last comment that struck me. In concluding, he stated that he hoped there would be a shift towards a resacralization of the world. I gathered from his words that he wished to see a change in how we perceive the world such that more and more of us realized that the Earth and everything we experience is sacred.
Now if you go to Wikipedia (admittedly an often biased and frequently incomplete source) one sees that the term “resacralization” is defined as “the return of religious meanings to public sectors of social life such as politics, the arts, and the body, and the resistance of secularization” (“secularization” being the removal of religious meanings from public life).
Although this definition is accurate to a degree, I also find it limited by our concepts of “religion” as opposed to what is “spiritual”. For many, these terms are synonymous. However, in my viewpoint, religion is separate from spiritual. Religion relates to the rules, dogma and organization that arise around a particular set of spiritual beliefs. Hence, hearing of our returning “religious meanings” to the public sector can tend to make us think we are talking about bringing a particular set of dogmatic beliefs to our view of the world, something to be extremely clear I am not advocating.
On the other hand, the term spiritual relates to the underlying ultimate truth of our existence and with that our actual experience of that which is divine. Therefore, I see “resacralization” as really more of “the return of a direct realization of the sacred or divine embedded in all that exists including the public sectors of social life such as politics, the arts, and the body”.
Depth and Genuineness
Many years ago, Thomas Moore in his bestselling book Care of the Soul (subtitled “A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life”) wrote, “If we knew in our hearts that things have soul, we could not govern them as conscious subject over inert object. Instead we would have a mutual relationship of affection, respect and care. We would be less lonely in a world that is alive with its own kind of soul than we are in a mechanical world we think we need to sustain with our technological efforts.” I agree wholeheartedly.
Let me add here that I realize that many reading these words will struggle with the word “soul”. Most of us were trained to plug in as our meaning for that word the idea of some “non-physical immortal essence of a human being” that many religions want to “save” while material science seeks to deny soul’s existence. But Moore says it’s impossible to precisely define the term as he uses it. Rather he says it is something that we intuitively know and sense, yet it has something to do with “genuineness and depth”.
I agree with this too. Intuitively we know that there is more to our existence than we can perceive with our senses. There is the surface material actions of things “out there” and then there is the “something else” in the world, something that is the “depth” below the surface, the truth or “genuineness” of what we experience. We might call it soul, but we might call it by other names as well — spirit, God, love, consciousness, energy — all just words serving as an approximation of that greater power and presence that we sense is really there.
It is that which we intuitively know that we need to reignite within our awareness. This process of shifting our perspective so that we begin to see everything as sacred and divine is the true “resacralization” of the world that is called for in these times.
The Problem with Secularization
The rise of secularization (again, the removal of religious meanings from public life) was that as we threw out the bathwater of religion, we also threw out the baby of spirituality. In our rush to rid ourselves of dogmatic beliefs driving our exploration of the world, we removed our sense of how sacred and meaningful this life truly is.
When things are no longer sacred, then we tend to treat them differently. Everything becomes something that we can twist and turn and manipulate to our personal self interest. It becomes easier to justify actions that are not in our collective best interest.
Plants and animals become commodities for food such that we can change their genes without concern, that we can over produce the ones we want such that we reduce biodiversity, that we treat animals poorly via factory farming.
Economies become driven by the need for continuous growth and consumer consumption without regard for how such growth is realistically sustainable or its impact upon the planet.
Corporations become instruments of the economy that are driven by more and more profits without concern for their workers or the environment, such profit motivations drive them into seeking to control our governments to ensure higher profits.
War and violence become the norm, driven by corporations seeking to expand their sales, religious zealots seeking to expand their converts and salvation — and governments seeking to expand their power.
Shifting Our Consciousness: Seeing the Sacred World
Humanity made a conscious shift over time from its original sense of the sacredness of the world to its secularization of the world. This shift was important as it loosened the bonds of rigid thinking and religious dogma so that we could be free to explore the truths of scientific discovery. Yet there is another shift calling us now — one that will loosen the bonds of thinking the world is all competition and survival of separate things fighting for control, power and ownership, a change that will allow us to be free to explore the intuitively known truths of unity, genuineness and depth embedded in this world.
Any shift, any movement, starts with one person and then another….and then another changing their beliefs, changing their perspective. It starts with you, it starts with me. How can you or I do this?
Let’s go back to our thought experiment. Can I set the intention today that I will see the world just a little bit more sacred (as described in option two) than I did yesterday? Can I expand that realization a bit more tomorrow?
Our senses coupled with the scientific mindset seduce us into seeing the world as “widgets” out there with no true soul. Something inside us senses differently. There is value and meaning to this world. Everything I experience is embedded with something that cannot be easily measured but can be detected by our true nature.
Our true nature is looking out there for this genuineness, this soul, this divinity. We are seeking its true nature….and its true nature is seeking us. When we sense that connectedness, we sense the sacred. Or as Rumi simply put it, “What you seek is seeking you.”
The more that we grow this sense of seeing the world and everything in it as sacred, then we naturally change our actions in the world. The world and life becomes less about power, control and manipulation. The world and life become more about dignity, respect, honor, appreciation, sharing, support and love.
Yes, as Thom Hartmann stated, we truly need to move towards a “resacralization” of the planet. Let’s you and I begin today.