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A Mystical Approach To The Climate Crisis

 

 

I’m a clinical psychologist, with a second doctorate in ministry, an ordained interfaith minister, a writer, but mostly I’m a mystic. I always have been. I’ve been writing and lecturing on conscious aging as a spiritual and mystical experience for over a decade. But more recently, I’ve come to see that a mystical awareness of life is critical to our survival in the rapidly approaching climate crisis. 

The Climate Crisis in a Nutshell

The Earth is getting hotter every year. Heat-trapping CO2 is higher than it’s been in 3 million years and the last five years have been the hottest ever recorded. It’s the “Greenhouse Effect.” Why is this important? Rising heat radically supercharges the weather all over the Earth, creating dangerous heat spells; ferocious hurricanes, tornados and forest fires; monsoon rains; expanding deserts; dying oceans; coastal flooding; inland draughts; an escalating tide of climate refugees; and massive species extinction. Climate scientists say we are potentially facing a collapse of biological and social systems threatening civilization as we know it. In fact, a consortium of 11,000 scientists from 153 nations made this announcement last November, “We declare clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency…The climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than most scientists expected…(and)…It is more severe than anticipated, threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity.” Adding to this sense of urgency, the lead negotiator for the Paris climate agreement proclaimed in February, “What’s at stake over the next decade is nothing less than the future of the planet and of humanity on the planet. That’s no exaggeration, that is no hyperbole. That is actually scientific fact.” That’s huge.

The climate crisis is here! It’s real. It’s bigger than we thought. And it’s happening now. We must wake up. But what are we going to do? And, why am I talking about mysticism? Is this idea crazy? While a mystical approach to climate activism may seem irrelevant at first glance, I want to unpack this idea and show you where it leads. We begin by defining three key elements: mysticism, mystical consciousness, and mystical activism.

Mysticism

The word mysticism simply refers to the firsthand experience of the sacred. It’s not weird, “woo woo,” or far out. We’ve all had big or little mystical experiences, like the stunned amazement of meeting our newborn child for the first time, standing in silent awe gazing up at ancient redwoods, falling in love for the first time, feeling the palpable holiness of a sacred place, or simply being deeply present at the passing of a loved one. In these moments, the mind stops its chatter, perception heightens, and we subtly experience the sacred consciousness that pervades Creation. Mystical Experience is a breakthrough of the divine into personal awareness that reveals the absolute sacredness of life.

Mystical Consciousness

Mystical consciousness arises from this same thought-free, sacred awareness, only now we learn to experience it intentionally and I have numerous exercises for doing that in my book. In its fullness, mystical consciousness unveils the exquisitely beautiful, infinitely precious, luminous, and timeless reality known as Creation. Everything is perceived as sacred, including us, for the Beloved has become the world and everything in it.

How might this mystical state change us? Poet Sophia de Mello Bryner describes,

I’m listening yet I don’t know
If what I hear is silence
Or God.

I’m listening but I can’t tell
If I hear the plain of emptiness echoing
Or a keen consciousness that
At the bounds of the universe
Deciphers and watches me.

I only know I walk like someone
Beheld beloved and known
And because of this I put into my every movement
Solemnity and risk.

This awakened state changes us and everything we do. Sufi mystic Rumi adds another important dimension, describing how we move in and out of mystical consciousness all the time. He explains,

The Breeze at Dawn has secrets to tell you. Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want. Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open. Don’t go back to sleep.” 

Rumi’s two worlds refer to our two basic states of consciousness, one side lost in thought, the other awakened to the pristine sacredness of the Earth. Mystical consciousness dwells naturally in the brain’s right cerebral hemisphere. It’s always been there. In sum, we are all mystics but we don’t pay attention to this dimension of experience because we’re always thinking and thinking blocks mystical awareness. Shifting from left brain thinking to right brain consciousness, we awaken mystical perception, which in turn changes the way we see the world, solve problems, do our work, and receive guidance from the spiritual realm. Which brings me to Mystical Activism.

Mystical Activism

Mystical activism, the topic of my book, evolves naturally from mystical consciousness because we now awaken a relationship with the divine as Creation itself. Do you want know God first hand? Experience Creation in Mystical Consciousness. This experience is profoundly motivating. Sensing the Beloved as nature itself, we respond with immense gratitude, amazement, wonder, awe and love. We begin to heal our relationship with the sacred world. We invite her guidance. And we fight to defend her. It’s like finding a young child toddling across a busy street. We don’t just drive by, we do whatever it takes to save that child. Same thing with Creation. In that moment, we suddenly understand how sacred and precious all life is on Earth and we can’t not respond.

What is our work now? Christopher Fry, in a poem called, A Sleep of Prisoners (which is perfect for this time in history though written in 1951), presciently appeals to us, exhorting,

The human heart can go the lengths of God…
Dark and cold we may be, but this
Is no winter now. The frozen misery
Of centuries breaks, cracks, begins to move;
The thunder is the thunder of the floes,
The thaw, the flood, the upstart Spring.

Thank God our time is now when wrong
Comes up to face us everywhere,
Never to leave us till we take
The longest stride of soul we ever took.

Affairs are now soul size.
The enterprise
Is exploration into God.
Where are you making for? It takes
So many thousand years to wake,
But will you wake for pity’s sake!

We’ve been asleep for thousands of years only to create this climate crisis. Will we wake up in time? Waking up is our work now!

Mystical Activism and the Climate Crisis

How does mystical activism relate to the climate crisis? Let’s get more specific here. We have removed ourselves from Creation. We didn’t get kicked out, we left on our own accord. Our waking hours are now spent in artificially insulated environments separated from the natural world – cars, houses, offices, stores, and jobs; worse, our consciousness is totally consumed by TV, cell phones, headphones, video games, the internet, news feeds, social media, endless conversations, and our own unruly chattering minds. We live almost entirely in our thoughts, beliefs, opinions and identities. We don’t see the sacred world anymore! That’s why it’s in crisis. Creation has been suffering all around us for years and we haven’t noticed. We’ve been too busy. Worse, failing to see the sacred nature of reality, we go on desecrating Creation, exploiting her as an endless supply of raw materials, a cash cow of new consumer products, or a garbage dump for toxic waste and discarded packaging. Because we are so lost in thought, we desperately need to come home to the first-hand experience of the sacred as Creation.

So how can mystical activism help in the climate crisis? Here are six ways. Mystical activism…

  1. Awakens the perception of a sacred reality, which is powerfully motivating (wd take care of what you love and what we hold sacred!)
  2. Fills us with the energies of the divine Self (we, too, are divine as I describe in The Divine Human, fueled by the power of love and our own sacred being, which we experience first-hand in this awakening)
  3. Provides revolutionary new tools for “solving” problems in mystical consciousness (problems never turn out to be what you think they are!)
  4. Rekindles our relationship with soul (whose consciousness waits for us in the right hemisphere to reveal our life’s purpose – it has a lot it wants to tell you!)
  5. Opens a right-hemisphere channel to the “other world” for help from deceased loved ones, ancestors, angels, spirit guides, and the divine everywhere (we are not alone!)
  6. Allows us to communicate with Creation herself to find out what she really needs

What might you see with new eyes? The poet David Whyte, describing the transformation of consciousness he experienced one Easter Morning in Wales, recalls,

Sunrise through the misted orchard,
morning sun turns silver on the pointed twigs.
I have woken from the sleep of ages and I am not sure
if I am really seeing, or dreaming,
or simply astonished
walking toward sunrise
to have stumbled into the garden where the stone was rolled from the tomb of longing. 

In mystical consciousness, we awaken in a sacred place and fulfill our longing for the divine as our true home once again.

The Challenge of Change

What we’re facing in the climate crisis is huge. It’s going to require thousands of changes and a radical transformation of consciousness to survive. Personal goals and checklists can motivate you in the short run, but in the years and decades of this transition, and in the face of terrible losses, suffering and despair, we need something much more powerful to sustain us, and that something is the experience of the sacredness of life – not as a metaphor, cliché, symbol, happy sentiment in Hallmark card – but as reality itself. We protect what we experience as sacred.

Sacred consciousness also helps us cope. Wendell Berry, in The Peace of Wild Things, confides,

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Berry is talking about the natural mystical experience of nature and how we are healed in its deep and conscious presence.

And Laura Grace Weldon, in her poem, Common Ground, reflects,

What’s incomplete in me seeks refuge
in blackberry bramble and beech trees,
where creatures live without dogma
and water moves in patterns
more ancient than philosophy.
I stand still, child eavesdropping on her elders.
I don’t speak the language
but my body translates as best it can,
wakening the skin and gut, summoning
the long kinship we share with everything.

Weldon is talking about our mystical kinship with nature and how we, too, find our true belonging there. Can you remember an experience of grace in nature? When being in the wilderness affected your state of mind, your mood, your very being? This is the awareness we must awaken in order to save our world.

In mystical activism, we live more and more in the divine flow of here and now, and experience the sacred world in everything we do – raising our children, loving our family and our friends, performing our work, being kind and considerate, caring for community and environment, pursuing climate activism, and even in the simplest human acts of eating and drinking and loving – they are all sacred in awakened consciousness. In this way, sacred consciousness reverberates through the whole fabric of human activity, touching everyone, everything, everywhere, tipping the balance toward peace, healing, inclusiveness, and joy.

Final Words

Thomas Berry, a profound and visionary thinker on ecological spirituality, the universe story and, by implication, mystical activism, writes,

“Perhaps a new revelatory experience is taking place, an experience wherein human consciousness awakens to the grandeur and sacred quality of the Earth process. Humanity has seldom participated in such a vision since shamanic times, but in such a renewal lies our hope for the future for ourselves and for the entire planet on which we live.” 

Berry also has something to say about how we recover the sense of the sacred, explaining,

“We will recover our sense of wonder and our sense of the sacred only if we appreciate the universe beyond ourselves as a revelatory experience of that numinous presence whence all things come into being. Indeed, the universe is the primary sacred reality.  We become sacred by our participation in this more sublime dimension of the world about us.” 

Berry’s words are a prophetic, elegant, and sublime description of the how experiencing the divine world can transform our climate activism. This is mystical activism in a nutshell.

Finally, mythologist Joseph Campbell adds simply,

‘This is Eden. When you see the kingdom spread upon the earth, the old way of living in the world is annihilated. That is the end of the world. The end of the world is not an event to come, it is an event of psychological transformation, of visionary transformation. You see not the world of solid things but a world of radiance.’ 

 

Visit www.johnrobinson.org for more articles, handouts, interviews, and talks on Mystical Activism.

Article originally posted on Braided Way.

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