“Where do healthy, mature human cultures come from?”
This was Bill Plotkin’s question to the audience at his lecture at California Institute of Integral Studies, co-sponsored by Holos Institute for holistic psychology and ecopsychology (the counseling center I work with). Depth psychologist and author of Nature and the Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World, he says that healthy, mature human cultures come from nature. (Now I know why I’ve always had the sense that I was born from the center of a Willow alongside a roaring riverbed into the arms of a Grandmother.) Plotkin illustrates the qualities of a mature culture as being life enhancing, deeply imaginative and creative, cooperative with evolution, emerging naturally, and self-organizing. Rather than stemming from the strategic mind, he sees these qualities emerging from the collective unconscious, the earth’s imagination working through us, symbols, and dreamtime (to name a few). The strategic mind is responsible for carrying forth that which comes from these deeper places, often re-membered in the underworld journey.
As I listened, I began asking myself, “Where do healthy ‘cultures’ in the natural world come from? What is the source of the earth’s imagination?”
An image of a pinwheel galaxy burst into my mind and I began thinking of a garden design we have been using as a model for our community garden at the ashram. I was immediately reminded that everything on this planet and in the universe is a reflection and expression of the Great Mystery.
Where do healthy human cultures come from? The Great Mystery, the Divine, Goddess, God as expressed through Nature. Love as expressed in the Universe and reflected in Nature. Ultimately, this connection to the Source, the Reality that we are embodiments of this divinity, is what we re-member in the underworld journey, through dreamtime, and in the depths of meditation. Whatever language we find to describe it, we find meaning.
When we are gifted with even a glimpse of this reality, our head goes rolling as if the Goddess Herself chopped it off. As we run to collect it (after all, it is what we believe is our identity), we realize that particular head is actually not us at all. Hence the crisis begins because more often than not, we do not want to let go of our constructed identity. Even with proper understanding that this is exactly what we signed up for when we entered our name on the grand membership roster for the Cosmic School for the Spiritually Adventurous, we still have what you might call “a moment”. In that moment when we think we don’t know who we are anymore, we are actually more in touch with who we are. This is when the strategic mind can’t grasp anything (thank the stars!) and we begin to become more present with our experience. We embody our awareness.
However excruciatingly expansive these moments can be, they are, nevertheless, challenging to strangers of the underworld. The timing of these perpetual transformations is typically inconvenient and goes against the grain of our devotion to productivity and routine, which is exactly why we must surrender to the grace – yes, I said grace, that is unfolding. Resistance simply creates more suffering. At some point we start to recognize that the universe is actually conspiring to help us toward an experience of wholeness and fulfillment.
In Santana Dharma (Hinduism), Lord Ganesha is an elephant-headed deity who is honored for his role in not only removing obstacles, but also placing obstacles in our path. Why would we worship a deity that creates obstacles? These obstacles create another path. If we can’t go the way we were going, we have to find another way. In the discovery of finding another way, we are called to become more creative, resourceful, resilient, and perceptive. We are asked to stop and listen before taking action. A new approach emerges. If we are listening, a new Self emerges and we begin living in rhythm with the Divine heartbeat in the earth, the Great Song within all of creation. In this heartbeat, in this song, we experience unconditional Love. We re-member ourselves. The golden shadow flies into our hearts and gives us wings.
Perhaps we are experiencing a collective call to the underworld. Perhaps the elephant is dancing around us creating new pathways. Perhaps Hecate is standing here at the crossroads waiting for our offerings to the three-headed dog that helps us perceive the third way. Perhaps all the mystical forms of those who bear witness to this sacred initiation of our crossroads are drumming our way into a deeper connection with our heartbeat.
Perhaps this heartbeat will inspire us to perpetually evolve into to Love in its ultimate expression.