I’ll begin with a strange question. How many of you read your horoscope? Or at least check them out from time to time in the Saturday paper? Most of us have a vague sense that if you are a Christian, there is something not quite right about taking horoscopes seriously. We may not be quite sure what it is, but we know we shouldn’t take it seriously. If we are a conservative or fundamentalist Christian, we might have been taught that it is of the devil.
Still, we’re pretty interested aren’t we? How many of you believe that the way the planets aligned at the date and time of your birth could influence your life? Do you find it as interesting as I do this level of interest in the alignment of the stars and the planets? No, we don’ really believe in horoscopes, do we? But yes, we check them out.
I remember reading historian, Richard Tarnas’ book, The Passion of the Western World, highly acclaimed among academics, for his lucid account of the history of ideas. He’s a serious scholar. I highly recommend the book if you want to trace the seminal ideas of the last 2500 years that still influence our thinking today.
So when his next book came out, Cosmos and Psyche, I did not hesitate. The first hundred pages or so I found riveting. He describes how the modernist worldview systematically voided the universe of meaning and purpose. Space, including the stars and the planets, we were taught to be mostly inert, balls of gas and hunks of dead matter. By the time we arrived in the 21st century, late postmodernist philosophy deepened the belief that space was mere emptiness, that there was no intrinsic meaning in the universe, excepting the meaning and purpose which humans ascribed to the universe—and added to the deadening of the cosmos that even these meanings are arbitrary and relative constructions.
Then suddenly the book takes a surprising turn. He starts to write about astrology. He cites carefully researched correlations between periods of great upheaval and transformation in human history, and the planetary alignment of Pluto and Uranus.
For example, these two planets were in conjunction in the 1960’s, at the time of the Protestant Revolution, the French Revolution, the Scientific Revolution, and for the period known as the rise of Romanticism.
Keep in mind that Richard Tarnas is no fool. As I said he is a highly respected historian, and his book, The Passion of the Western Mind, is destined to be a classic. I found my own reaction interesting. I started questioning his credibility. He himself admits that belief in astrology is “the gold standard for superstition”.
So I ask myself, where did I learn to be so deeply suspicious of astrology? Where did I learn to so vociferously defend against the possibility that the heavens and the planetary bodies expressed a deep patterning, what religious people have called the mind of G_d. Where did my suspicion of synchronicity between the heavens, Earth, and the human come from?
I don’t think it was my religious upbringing. After all, this is the United Church of Canada, where everything is acceptable.
Somehow, by the time I got to seminary, I just knew that the starry skies might be beautiful on a clear night sky, but at the end of the day, they represented a whole bunch of gas and matter, signifying nothing. I might agree that their beauty reflected the work of a Creator. But the possibility that the stars and the planets themselves participated in, and were participated by a pervasive Wisdom, was off the table completely.
We hear the psalmist declare:
“19:1 The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.19:2 Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge.19:3 There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard;19:4 yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun
And notice the organic transition from the deep patterning of the cosmos to the deep patterning that is reflected in the moral code of the day. Morality that participates in the same wisdom that is animating the heavens and Earth is trustworthy. The statues and ordinances and laws reflect this Wisdom.
Despite the ancient Jewish suspicion of the nature gods of surrounding cultures, along with their so-called idols, the psalmist is poetic enough to feel in his bones and in his heart that the heavens are not inert. They are not voiceless. They have a story to tell.
Earth is not yet the dead, inert object that the modernist, rationalists declare it to be: The firmament proclaims G_d’s handiwork.
The night is believed to have “knowledge”. What does the night know? Well, certainly not particle physics. The night doesn’t know about. The night knows, by participating directly in the reality of G_d. The night, along with the revelation each day brings, is that part of creation which presences the Whole. Or you could call this G_d. Or you could call it Health. Or you could call it Wisdom. It doesn’t matter what you call it.
But what does matter is that we don’t forever lose the feeling for it. All creation is being lived by a Wholeness or by the primordial Health. And this Wholeness is biased toward…you guessed it, wholeness. The wholeness is what is living you. And what does the Wholeness want? It wants you to fully experience and manifest your own unique wholeness.
Because like the stars, the constellations, and the planets, you are also synchronized to the Wholeness out of which a universe emerges and continues to emerge—with this bias to have this Originating Wholeness manifest and uniquely expressed. Where? In you. In us collectively.
The challenge is for those of us unconsciously steeped in rationalism (and that includes most United Church folk) is that we are that part of creation—the modern human being—who suffers under the profound illusion that we are separate from the universe.
Physicist, Henri Bortoft, asserts that the universe is holographic. Every part of creation is the place for the presencing of the whole. But if we believe that we are separate from the stars and the planets, if we believe that the movement of the stars and the planets are not animated by the same Wholeness that animates us, then we become that part of creation, that is not for the presencing of the Whole.
What are we for then? Well, I can tell you what we are headed for if we do not regain this felt sense that the whole of the universe, every star, every planet, every grain of sand, every amoeba, and every human is being lived by a Wisdom that is biased to bring about Health and Wholeness. We are headed for destruction. Without this felt sense that we are participating, along with the heavens and Earth, in the realization (making real) of the Originating and Ongoing Wholeness that is living us, our souls contract. We become, not expressions of the Whole, but egos and personalities, out to get what we can, take what we can, while the getting is good.
Which is, I don’t need to tell any of you, what we’re doing to our planet. Not because we’re bad. We’re not bad. We may just be the crowning achievement of a 14 billion year evolutionary process. We’re that part of creation that can give voice to the beauty, the wonder, the awe of what we’re involved with. We can be the voice of the stars, and put into language the story that they tell in their simple radiance. And when we do, the heavens rejoice.
Paul intuited that all of creation was waiting with eager longing for the arrival of the children of G_d – the human ones! Creation gave birth to us so that we might consciously awaken to the gift of life, consciously express gratitude, consciously love all creation. We’re not bad. But we are living foolishly. That is, without the wisdom that tells us of the deep patterning and synchronicity that is living us.
I recently was doing a bit of reading about Copernicus. You remember that is the 16th century, Polish astronomer who came up with the ground-breaking insight that Earth and the planets circled the sun, and not the other way around. Typically, when we hear the story, we are told that he discovered this, as though he looked through a telescope and saw it all happening. In fact, he didn’t see anything that anybody else couldn’t see, including the Ptolemy, the mathematician responsible for the Earth-centered view of the universe that Copernicus’ replaced.
But Copernicus didn’t discover anything. At the time, people were not concerned with “truth” as fact the way we are. It took a couple more centuries for us to actually discover that the universe worked the way Copernicus suggested—that is, that he got the facts right.
But Copernicus simply didn’t like Ptolemy’s math. It wasn’t elegant enough. It was too chopped up. Listen to his reasoning for changing the math:
“Nor have they been able thereby to discern or deduce the principle thing— namely the shape of the Universe and the unchangeable symmetry of its parts. With them it is as though an artist were to gather the hands, feet, head, and other members for his images from diverse models, each part excellently drawn, butnot related to a single body, and since they in no way match each other, the result would be monster rather than man.”
Copernicus intuited that the universe was a single, living organism, and that you couldn’t divide it up into parts without becoming monstrous. Ptolemy’s math was too hodge-podge for him. Copernicus intuitively felt that by having Earth circling the sun there was more synchronicity and more wholeness.
He tapped into the wisdom of the Whole. That’s how he did his science and his math. He literally moved heaven and earth, through his equations, to effect a harmony that he felt. He left it to other scientists to work out the evidence. The Pope at the time accepted his equations for practical purposes. He needed a new calendar.
Bortoft claims that the way Copernicus did his science was the way all of science works, that is, it is filtered through an organizing idea. Many of the big ideas, including Darwin’s theory of evolution (in the particular way it was expressed) were what Hubner calls “spontaneous acts”—there was nothing which compels or determines the choice which is made. As Bortoft puts it in relation to Copernicus’ discovery.
“Copernicus’s choice of a Sun-centered cosmos enabled him to find the symmetry and harmony of the whole, in a way that had escaped the Earth-centered scheme. But the motivation for this was principally aesthetic. In wanting to find symmetry and harmony in the cosmos, Copernicus was adopting the Renaissance ideal in architecture and painting as a precept for astronomy. So the foundations of the Copernican theory do not lie only in astronomy as such, but in the entire cultural—historical situation”
Now, I spend some time on this by way of trying to get at what happened in the modern era. Because it was during the modern that the heavens, which once told the story of God’s glory, fell completely, deafeningly, and sadly silent. And we need to remember, that despite the Jewish suspicion of nature religions, all of their major festivals are based on the lunar cycles. Some more ancient wisdom that is bred in the bones of Judaism got lost somewhere along the way.
Bortoft says that science itself is historically and culturally conditioned. It is conditioned by organizing ideas, and the organizing idea of modern science (in its materialistic expression) is that the universe is dead. Matter is all there is, and matter itself is not being lived by any animating force. No intelligence, no wisdom, no vitality. Nada.
Human beings have been reduced to genes and neurons. And for the most part we’ve bought it, hook, line, and sinker. Theologians and ministers scramble to find the science that will validate faith. Science has become what the church was in the 15th century and scientists have attained to the status of medieval priests. Nothing is legitimate unless it is validated by the priesthood.
Don’t get me wrong I love science. It has served humans well in the 20th century. But we need to put it in perspective. We need to understand, first off, that science doesn’t discover raw facts. It discovers what it is looking for and what it is looking for is filtered through an organizing idea about reality. That organizing idea today is materialism—which values the parts over the Whole.
I’m not trying to turn anybody on to horoscopes. But I am here to encourage us all to put into language what the heavens and our beloved planet, along with all our kin creatures continue to say silently, for those who have an ear for silence.
The whole Earth is filled with the glory of G_d. The heavens are full of a wisdom that we can know because this wisdom also resides in us. We can shift from the rationalistic mode of “knowing about”, to the mystic way of knowing, through union with what we seek to know. Listen to the stars. They have a story to tell. Listen to our beloved planet and to the moon. They have a story to tell about an Intelligence and a Love that is living us all in this great, unfolding that is life itself.
Jesus knew that even if we continue to remain silent, which we cannot afford to do as a church, the rocks would cry out. But let’s not remain silent.
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