Re-Enchanting the World
John Beckett just wrote a really nice essay on re-enchanting the world over at Patheos. What I think I like the most about it, is that he gives really simple, clear-cut steps for just about anyone (regardless of level of practice, length of practice, religion, etc.) to do just that. It’s definitely worth a read.
This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot, re-enchantment. Or to be more accurate, I’ve been contemplating the causes of our dis-enchantment because I think it’s the thing that, perhaps more than anything else, creates stumbling blocks for us devotionally, and for our restorations. After all what is restoration at its core but restoring the sacred to the world? Our hearts and minds and souls may be in the right place but that doesn’t mean that even within our own selves this isn’t an uphill climb: we do not know how to move in the world as though it is filled and redolent with the holy. We no longer know how to gaze at something sacred and profound and see Mystery. We do not know, deep in our bones, how to cherish devotion or belief without it turning to poison (fundamentalism) in our hearts. Ever since I returned from my ancestor pilgrimage, I’ve really been pondering why that is. What happened and when?
I don’t have the most eloquent of words to really describe what I’m trying to get at here but I’m going to spill this out here on my blog and let it stand for now. Maybe I’ll come back to this again later, when I’ve sorted it out a bit more in my own mind.
When I went to the four ossuaries this summer I saw evidence of a type of powerful devotion, of religious fervor and continuity, and yes, Mystery that I had never thought to experience before. It made me realize that there was a time not too long ago when people still grasped the necessity of devotion, when it had not yet been pathologized or dismissed to the realm of the ridiculous or déclassé. When I visited these places I had proof right in front of me that our world had not always been so spiritually barren as it is today. More even than the ongoing contact with the dead, it was this that gripped and moved me throughout my pilgrimage and as much blessing and joy as I had at encountering places so profound, I also came away with a deep, abiding grief for what we have lost.
So much so that I almost think the spasm of mechanization, the addiction to “progress,” that came in the wake of the scientific revolution, our deification of the so called “Age of Reason” stripped from us something essential to our souls: a sense of the sacredness of the world. In some ways, I think the spiritual devastation that this has caused, a devastation each and every one of us deals with every day as the Weltanschauung of our time, is even worse than the initial destruction of our polytheistic traditions that preceded it.
I fought that realization when it first came to me. I really had to sit with it for a long while and I’m not entirely comfortable committing it to print here but….it was one thing to have our traditions destroyed. That was horrific, however, there was still the unhampered ability to engage with the sacred and that was valued and nurtured even if in severely restricted form. To see the sacred, to reverence it wasn’t yet viewed as something stupid and backward, so long as the object of one’s reverence was in accord with the new monotheism (or hidden enough under layers of syncretization that it seemed to be). Some spark of the sacred still survived and could be fanned into flame. You had a revolution of mystics in the 12-14th centuries that proved that.
I’ve said before that I think the Protestant Reformation was the beginning of the end. Whatever ideals it began with, it ended up being an attack on the beauty of the sacred and Mystery itself and while there was a momentary Renaissance in the Catholic Church during the Counter-Reformation (that’s when you see the majority of ossuaries becoming real centers of devotional praxis for instance), the hostility toward mysticism and mystery had already gained too much of a foothold in our world to be ignored. By the late 17th century people were tired of religious wars. Instead of looking at monotheisim as the problem, devotion and religion slowly began to be pathologized in favor of the perceived hope, security, and safety of science or of a Christianity stripped of ritual and Mystery. “Progress” became the only god worth venerating and we forgot how to value the sacred. We forgot the protocols of engagement. We forgot and not just with the Gods. We forgot the sacred in life, death, and everything in between too. The result has been that collectively our souls have become shallow and hard and it’s a very, very difficult thing to come back from, especially when most of us have known nothing else.
So go and read John Beckett’s article and see what other suggestions you can add to his list. Then go out and do them because we need to make as many pinpricks and keyholes and windows and doors for the sacred to flow back into our world as possible, for the survival not just of our traditions, but our world as well.