Since the beginning of humanity until only very recently, people lived in intimacy with nature. I like the proverb attributed to Native Americans, regarding spring: “Walk gently on the ground, Mother Earth is pregnant.”
Although I was raised as a Catholic, I definitely “get” the nature-oriented religions I study. Yet this is no contradiction. If God made everything and is everywhere present, then God is in nature. Or as Spinoza (expelled from the synagogue as an atheist) concluded, everything actually IS God-chips off the ole block, so to speak. This makes us not small and insignificant compared to some big dude sitting on a distant throne, finger poised over the “smite” button, but part of the wonderfulness. Not the totality-not that any particular chip equals God (me, me, me, I want to be God) but rather that everything is part of an integrated whole.
Sure, I could have been burned at the stake for this belief at one point in time, which shows how incredibly scared and consequently stupid human beings can be.
It is a human universal to set apart sacred spaces. This space, surrounded by upended rocks or naturally-occurring trees, is a special space, we say. This space is where Mystery meets Mankind. Mountaintops are an obvious favorite and caves are popular portals in many cultures, as are springs. Anywhere the mundane meets the mysterious is a candidate.
Organized religions build churches, mosques, temples and synagogues. Some are quite impressive but no more impressive than a grove in the deep woods, over-arched with thick, moss-covered limbs. But that’s just my opinion.
As a rather mischievous child, I have to admit I was awed into relatively decent behavior by the beauty of some Catholic Churches. I remember attending a service in a cathedral; the ceiling seemed to soar into the sky. Then an unseen brass choir began playing, reverberating around that huge space. Holy…trumpets. They had me. Even more moving-one woman with a meltingly beautiful voice singing “Ave Maria” acapella.
Jesus had an appreciation for nature. “Consider the lilies of the field,” he said, “Even Solomon in all his splendor was not arrayed like one of these.” Saint Stephen, quoting Isaiah reminds us, “The Most High does not live in houses made by human hands.” Alas, we are mere mortals and we would like to give him a local address. Something you could find on GPS.
Yesterday I painted “Morning, Doves” and was almost done when I realized it was a sacred space. I know the birds are actually called MOURNING doves for the low mournful ‘cooing” they do. But these doves aren’t mourning. A new day is dawning in a sacred space, full of possibilities.