The function of evil is to rekindle in our awareness the presence of the Divine in all things and in all situations. It is to bend our attention towards the conviction that LOVE is the premier force of the universe.
It’s been extremely difficult if not frightening to try to paint lately, during this incredibly potent , magical and nightmarish time. Like so many others, it is overwhelming to be witness to a time in history when the barbarians are not only at the gate, they are in the gate.
It has been noted that during times of great upheaval, when the entire edifice of our shared collective belief system is threatening to crash at any moment, that is the time when the artists, visionaries and writers arise to help us navigate and name that momentous pivot point in our evolution that can be called “The Changing of the Gods.
Perhaps it is not so much a literal changing of actual Gods, as it is a reimaging of the Great Story that has defined us.
The Great Story is really the culture’s myth about who they are and why they are here.
In our western culture this is called the Judeo-Christian myth, and it reflects a certain image of God the Father with a long list of manly attributes. For the last 400 years this myth has been modified by the scientific revolution, which it seems has given religion a rather material and mechanistic bent.
Even so, for millenniums this myth has been a vital if not brutal face of who we imagine ourselves to be, what we collectively believe to be reality and where our place in the universe actually is.
But now this Great Story has lost its power. The function of any cultural myth, any Great Story, has always been to renew and heal. But slowly, over hundreds of years, it has fallen into a cynical view of power that justifies harming and killing. The visionary power of Christ that electrified human beings has been organized, diluted, institutionalized and dogmatized into impotency.
Thus, the Great Story is no longer capable of renewing itself or the people. It has increasingly fallen into the hands of those who want to rule the world.
When Great Story becomes co-opted to serve the petty needs of tyrants it becomes deathly ill. No one can save it. This is the meaning of the phrase, ”Where there is no vision, the people perish.”
What happens next is the onset of decay. We can witness the rise of fundamentalism, the justification for torture, the mass incarceration and the consolidation of wealth into the hands of a few. There is crime, depression, anxiety, terror, suicide, and addiction. The entire web of mutually benefiting relationships begins to break down, and brother turns on brother. This is the metaphorical story of Cain and Abel. As in the myth of the Fisher King, the earth goes fallow and the people begin to die, spiritually and physically.
All this points to a time of chaos. Although the function of chaos is about course correction and not about punishment, it can certainly feel like punishment. But if we look at our present predicament like a spiritual emergency, that is, a rapid, chaotic psychological and spiritual transformation, then the symptoms have a trajectory, one whose potential leads to healing and a more expanded awareness of the unity of all life.
The manifestation of chaos in our time has some potent shamanic elements. We are collectively being dragged kicking and screaming into our own collective underworld where the entire image of who we are is being dismembered and deconstructed by forces we are powerless to influence. Practically overnight, we find ourselves on the path of the ordeal.
This is the realm of the archetype of the hero’s journey. It’s about the soul finally stepping forward in order for its needs to be acknowledged and attended to so that a gift might be released. Because when the soul steps forward, the limited ego has no choice but to step back and this can be extremely painful. The soul wants to have a say now in what is most true, beautiful and magnificent about who we are as human spirits.
So first, there must be a death, an end to the old story and to the illusion that we are separate beings. That can feel like a Dark Night of the Soul. We can feel lost, utterly abandoned by God, angry, confused, and horribly alone. We no longer care about the things that used to distract and entertain us. Our relationships change. We feel despair and unspeakable grief. We long for the presence of comforting Spirit in our lives.
Yet, even as the old story within us is dying, a new story is on its way. It is being birthed right now, even as we speak. This is like the myth of the Phoenix.
In the birthing of the new Great Story that I see, we are the co-creators of it. By definition, the new Great Story informs us that we are not alone in the universe but are in fact altogether linked into one cosmic web of intelligence, one unity of life. We are in partnership with the divine intelligence and that source is in us.
War becomes unthinkable. The idea that some beings are entitled to rule the rest becomes ludicrous. The new Great Story is a conviction that what we do to the other we do to ourselves. It is about living the truth that everything is alive and therefore sacred. Overpowering the earth with pollution and exploitation in the name of private profit is seen as a form of insanity.
The new Great Story is about each of us allowing the Divine Intelligence to return to its own creation, not as religious dogma, but as a living presence in us. God is no longer “out there” but in here. And one of the signs that the Divine Presence is returning is that all the rules about what is possible start to change. And then we do too.
So as an artist, how does one express this? How can one express the unseen presence of Spirit that is our essence?
My own purpose in doing art at all commenced more than six years ago after a personal spiritual emergency that forced me to find some sort of order in the chaos, some sign that behind my own personal pain there was loving intent and not punishment. It forced me to try to grapple with the ancestral conditioning of a vengeful, wrathful, insane God who cast people into hell for even looking wrong in the lineup.
The art that emerged for me during this time in the form of the geometric mandala was a kind of personal proof that there was a living presence of beauty and love in the universe that was beyond my limited understanding and conditioning. I viewed the art that emerged as actual evidence of our divine origins and the fact that we are already saved. If God is us and we are God, how can God cast himself into hell eternally and not die Himself?
This was no easy insight. For me, with my own entrenched ego, it has involved a long ordeal of terror, anxiety, panic, body somatization, and painful doubt. It has involved moving through the conditioning of my own traumatic past and the religious conditioning of my Mormon ancestors.
For me at least, it has been no small matter to stand before the inevitable confrontation with death that seems built into accepting the true power of our own spiritual nature.
So how to face the burning bush, like Moses on the mount? How can something be so beautiful and terrible at the same time?
It is true that my practice of art right now is really difficult. It’s hard to put into an image what I’m saying here and yet, I feel I must try. Like many others, I get terrified. I have my sleepless nights. I have my illness, my chronic pain, my doubts. And like many others, I have that experience of my heart permanently breaking at the senseless violence of our times.
The purpose of this post is to share with you that the art that I do, that was born out of an intense and almost unendurable crisis of the soul, has been urging me lately to speak in words about this process and share what my experience is of living through these times.
It is all about the reimaging of God and thus ourselves, so that peace, renewal, prosperity and life can once again return to this planet we call our home. It is about the right to thrive and claim the gifts awaiting us when we attend to the needs of the soul.
It is about love, pure and simple.
The butterfly is the image of metamorphosis, the mysterious process by which the entire human species is transformed from a limited isolated state of consciousness to a more expanded awareness of the unity and sacredness of all life.
At a pivotal point in our evolution, we spontaneously enter into an internal trance-like “cocoon” in which our old identity is radically refashioned. When we emerge from this protective enclosure, we have new-found wings, renewed purpose, joy and unimagined beauty.
Our own metamorphosis stimulates this awakening process in others, unleashing dynamic new possibilities.
I am often asked, “Where do you get your inspiration for these images?” “How did you name them and produce the commentary that goes with them?” “It must have taken a such a long time to produce such detail, how do you find the focus?”
I am unsure of how to answer these questions because the truth is that the source of these images is the same for me and for you. All creativity comes from the realm of the soul, a place that is beyond the brain in a mystical domain that binds us all as a species.
Because my painting was born out of the experience of a dark night of the soul, out of such a profound healing crisis of consciousness, each painting is essentially the same painting over and over expressed in a myriad of different ways.
Every painting expresses the idea that we are all one being in a unity of life, that there is a divine order behind the apparent chaos, that we are loved and ARE love beyond what we can even imagine, and that there is a major sea change now underway in our collective belief system about who we are, why we are here and what is worth doing. This “paradigm shift” is now accelerating at an exponential rate and involves a collective shaman’s journey into our own underworld.
This means that our prevailing Judaic-Christian and scientific myths are breaking down. We are moving away from centuries of believing in a vengeful, jealous, angry, male God who resides “out there” in heaven and moving toward a new image of God as love, joy, mercy, compassion, prosperity and redemption that is inside each one of us. The old Calvinistic story that only a select few of us have been saved while the rest of us are damned no matter what we do, is dying, along with the hierarchical notion that there are a few superior chosen beings entitled to dominate and rule others by virtue of their wealth and power.
For 400 years science has assumed that all life is a random accident. It has insisted that the physical universe is completely devoid of intelligent design and that the only way of knowing reality is through objective observation and reducing everything into its component parts. In doing so it has cleaved reality into parts, extolling the objective, denying the subjective, elevating reason and demoting intuition.
It has asserted that consciousness is a product of the brain despite challenges from quantum physics, systems theory, Near Death Experience, noetics, and age-old spiritual traditions that the entire universe may be the result of consciousness.
Science like religion has become dogma, blind to its own assumptions and increasingly powerless to prevent us from destroying ourselves or to address our most noble spiritual and visionary experiences as anything more than pathology or fantasy. It can tell us how to do things but it cannot tell us whether they are worth doing.
Just as I experienced a personal dark night of the soul, where I felt utterly without hope, completely abandoned by God, totally bereft of all comfort, consumed with the greatest of spiritual agony, my identity utterly destroyed, I now feel that all of us, collectively, are similarly entering a dark night of the soul. The rise of religious fundamentalism, the relentless attacks on the earth, the rapacious greed, the dependence of the economic system on violence and war to maintain it, the political corruption, the extreme polarization and focus on terror are all symptoms of this entry into the dark night.
As a species, we are in a hall of mirrors. Everything we see now is a reflection of ourselves. We cannot escape the reality of our own shadow by controlling things, by changing forms but not the essence, by manipulation, by force, by having temper tantrums and smashing all the dishes, or by blaming the evil others and tying to exterminate them with endless wars. We cannot excuse ourselves from the cultural collapse now taking place by imagining that we will be lifted in rapture while the heathen be damned or that we are exceptional beings exempt from the fate of rest of the world.
This collective descent means that the old stories and myths that have for so long informed and revitalized our culture are decayed and dying, without the power to renew, guide or inspire us any longer. Yet like the Phoenix, a new story, a new myth, is preparing to arise from the ashes.
A descent into chaos is not simply because we are being punished but because we are being blessed! The intent behind such a journey into darkness is healing. It is the great corrective that we need in order to see who we really are and to become spiritually authentic. The purpose of all journeys to the underworld is to die to what we thought we were and become reborn to who we truly are. That transformational process leads to a spiritual emergence; a return from the darkness into the light bearing the exact gift that is needed at this particular moment in our evolutionary history.
That is what my paintings are about. The gift. They are images that reflect the magnificent love and beauty of what we are. They express the perception that even in the darkest times, there is a divine order behind the chaos and that that order is in us. They express the Great Awakening, the unprecedented moment in history when an entire species awakens from millenniums of slumber.
I am not a trained painter nor did I paint from childhood. I did not go to art school. I paint because I yearn to somehow give voice to the soul within who could not, after so many incarnations, contain and repress itself any longer.
That is why I paint and that is where these images come from.
Introduction to the Presentation
You have likely heard the saying that “where there is no vision the people perish.” And certainly it would appear that we live in a time where vision a pathology and blindness a virtue.
Many observers over the past few decades have noticed that
- in times of cultural change and shock,
- when the stories religion and science tell us about who we are , why we are here and what we are supposed to do become too constricting to our questing human spirit,
- when the culture’s teachings omit something absolutely vital
- and when some aspect of the dominant doctrine deeply injures the soul
THEN, in those times, the prevalent myth or story about who we are and why we are here will ultimately lose its power or degenerate into fanaticism, violence and various forms of chaos.
When that happens, the society becomes demoralized, fragmented, and defeated and there is decay and collapse into fear, poverty, and polarization.
Metaphorically the land becomes barren, a lot like the myth of the Fisher King.
However, it is precisely at that time when certain kinds of visionaries, artists, poets, musicians, and heroes re-emerge.
And they have a task to do.
That task, is to bring forth a new image and vision, a new story that in some way explains more deeply who we are and why we are here and what we are supposed to be doing in such a way that it renews that culture’s relationship to the cosmic order & the sacred patterns of the earth.
If the culture can ACCEPT & RECEIVE these new images then a new shared collective belief system, a new paradigm, can be embraced and the society can evolve and thrive once again and thus become fertile.
So what does this have to do with mandalas and how are they healing images of the soul?
The basic thesis of this demonstration is that the creation of a mandala is, by its very nature, a potent way of accessing the images of the new paradigm. This is by definition, a healing process for the soul.
It seems to me that mandala painting is a way of focusing our consciousness on a deeper, more authentic and more expanded version of our greater identity that subordinates our limited ego and thus, helps re-connect our awareness to the whole.
That focus automatically takes us “out of the box” as it were, and moves us closer to a greater awareness of our purpose…that is, who we are, why we are here and what we are supposed to be doing.
It is interesting to note that the root of the word mandala comes from the Sanskrit and means circle and center.
In a variety of cultures the term mandala represents the geometric or circular pattern or plan of the cosmos either symbolically or metaphysically.
It also represents the microcosm of the universe from a spiritual or enlightened perspective.
In many traditions, it represents the divine intelligence made visible. In psychology it represents the SELF.
From the art as activism perspective, it represents a kind of spiritual lighthouse.
Mandalas have been used for thousands of years in many cultures in ritual, healing, worship, astronomy, calendars, sacred architecture, initiation, meditation, focusing and concentration, trance induction, communication with the divine and in spiritual instruction to name a few.
A mandala implies love, wholeness, unity, oneness, the quintessential, the pattern behind the form, the order behind the chaos, timelessness, the great cycles, Spirit, Divinity and much more.
Thus, mandalas have become linked metaphors for the unity of all creation and the individualized soul as it is connected to a divine and sacred SOURCE.
Although few of us have ever seen a soul directly, we all feel it to exist. And feeling is clearly another form of seeing, one we often invalidate.
So by “Soul” I mean the sense of something central, something in the center, something that is THE immortal, non-material individual essence of each person that is indelibly connected to a much larger divine pattern.
It feels to me very much like a mandala, a magnificent pattern of who we are.
It seems to me that the primary language of soul is imagery and feeling. This includes dance, music, poetry and high art.
Fortunately, mandalas by their very nature, are perfectly suited to enabling the soul to speak in its own language of its relationship to its own divine source, without judgment, censorship or the looking to outside authorities for validation.
So, the creation of a mandala becomes a ritual act of deep listening to and then expressing this message from the soul. That in itself takes us beyond the boundaries of our conventional reality. It is that experience of moving beyond our own boundaries that is visionary, transformative and healing.
I have come to this way of thinking because a little more than 3 years ago I passed through a crisis of soul that was a sudden and overwhelming psychological transformation that at first appeared pathological but that in fact, had a trajectory that led me towards healing and an expanded awareness of the unity of all life.
At the time I did not think I would survive nor did I imagine that I could possibly endure the pain, grief, and loss of the dark night of the soul that overshadowed my life during that 3-year period.
Nevertheless, I did survive. And out of that chaos emerged this process of painting mandalas that helped me so much and which I have been doing ever since. And so, here I am.
I hope that by sharing this process with you, you too may utilize this wonderful form of soul healing.
-Richard Welker, Santa Fe, NM March 16, 2013
The painting above is entitled “Aboriginal Healing: The Blessing at Doubtful Creek.” Copyright 2013 by Richard Welker, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA.
It should rightfully be called “Githabul Healing” in that the word aboriginal is a European designation that does not honor the way native Australians refer to themselves.
This painting was inspired by Ydo and Jarmbi of the Githabul nation and all of the protectors at Doubtful Creek, near Casino in the Australian state of New South Wales. Doubtful Creek is the site of a fracking pad located directly in the heart of the ancient land of the Githabul people. This land is now shared by many European Australians who have transformed much of this place into some of the most beautiful and rich farmland in Australia. This fracking for natural gas, all to be sent to China, is sanctioned by the state, and now threatens an entire community; their water supply and air, the food supply, their sanity, their way of life and 40,000 years of aboriginal harmony with nature.
The painting signifies to me the profound meeting of the light skinned and the dark skinned as One. It is an acknowledgment that the fate of the one IS the fate of the other. It represents a healing and a humbling of the European/Anglo assumption of innate superiority prevalent around the world that is destroying the very fabric of nature and threatening all sentient lifeforms on earth.
A Letter to President Barack Obama
Dear President Obama,
I am one of the some sixty million people who voted to give you one last chance to stand for love, for economic justice, and for the environment. I voted not so much for you but for the hope of the world.
It would seem obvious now that a new paradigm is being birthed: one whose main question is, “Is this act loving? Is it kind, is it compassionate, does it cause pain and suffering to the other who is myself?”
I ask this of you because the base that elected you, progressives, women, Latinos, people of color, Native peoples, unions, working class, and youth, do not support drone killings, Keystone pipelines, GMO foods, endless war, reductions on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, persecution of whistleblowers, and the appeasement of the far right in favor of increased wealth redistribution to the top 1 %.
We want you to champion the desperately needed dialogue on climate change before we are extinct, as the World Bank now reports is a very real scenario. We want you to champion the saving of our environment while advocating, funding and empowering an earth-friendly economic system. We want you to bail out the people and punish the banks, not the other way around. And we want you to stop shaming our country with slavish and demeaning allegiance to Israel no matter how egregious her government’s conduct.
Above all, we want you to read the handwriting on the wall: We Are All One People. There is no other.
Our collective purpose is transformation and justice. Thus, it is not just your last chance personally, it is our collective last chance as a country to align ourselves with truth and hope. Either we choose love as the way to save this world or we choose politics as the way to destroy it. I pray you choose love.
Richard Welker / PO Box 31704 / Santa Fe, NM 87594
A new mandala image entitled, “Hand Writing on the Wall” by Richard Welker, copyright 2012.
At this posting, we are now 25 days before the end of the Mayan calendar long count and the end of a long age. The old and decayed image of a wrathful, punishing God who sends the vast majority of his children to hell to be tortured for eternity is dying. All around us we can see the collapse of this ancient belief system.
We are entering a new paradigm characterized by universal love, cooperation, equality of feeling and reason, and respect not only for each other but for our Mother, this earth. A new awareness is growing that contrary to the dogma of scientism, it is consciousness itself that is the fundamental cause of matter and not the other way around. The writing on the wall is the inevitability of a new global mind change, a new collective belief system, and a new vision for humanity to emerge.
The title of this image recalls the story in the Bible in the book of Daniel of the handwriting on the wall that was witnessed at a banquet hosted by king Belshazzar. As those at the feast profaned the sacred vessels pillaged from the Jerusalem Temple, a disembodied hand appeared and wrote on the palace wall the words, “Mene, Mene, Tekel, u-Pharsin.” The prophet Daniel was summoned and interpreted this message as the imminent end for the Babylonian kingdom. That night, Belshazzar was killed and the Persians sacked the capital city. (from Wikipedia)
Politicians, God, and a New Consciousness on Earth
By Richard Welker
You may have heard of Richard Mourdock, the Tea Party-backed candidate for senate in Indiana, who in a debate on Tuesday, 10/23/2012, responded to a question about whether abortion should be allowed in instances of incest or rape. His actual words were:
“You know, this is that issue that every candidate for federal or even state office faces. And I have to certainly stand for life. I know that there are some who disagree, and I respect their point of view. But I believe that life begins at conception. The only exception I have to have on abortion is in that case — of the life of the mother. I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”
At first I thought what, God intended rape? Apparently not, as Mr. Mourdock further explained after the debate.
“What I said was, in answering the question from my position of faith, I said I believe that God creates life. I believe that as wholly and as fully as I can believe it. That God creates life,” Mourdock said. “Are you trying to suggest somehow that God preordained rape, no I don’t think that,” Mourdock said. “Anyone who would suggest that is just sick and twisted. No, that’s not even close to what I said.”
Ok. So if a woman gets pregnant as a result of incest or being raped, God intended the pregnancy, but HE did not intend the rape. That sounds like what Rick Santorum once said,
“I think the right approach is to accept this horribly created — in the sense of rape — but nevertheless a gift in a very broken way, the gift of human life, and accept what God has given to you,” Santorum told CNN’s Piers Morgan in January. “We have to make the best of a bad situation.”
So was Mourdock saying is that he believes that life is a gift from God, that God intends life no matter what, even if the woman is forced, coerced, incested, or raped? Did he mean that the gift of the unborn life trumps even the woman’s will and she must accept the consequences and live with it the rest of her life, unless of course her life is endangered?
For me, trying to understand what has become the American obsession with the “right to life” that translates into “no exceptions” is more than confusing. It’s plain scary. Theologically, this position is so thorny that those who are anchored in it must twist themselves into embarrassing knots to justify it. Some, like Missouri Senator Todd Aiken even went so far in defending the staunch “no-exceptions” policy that he actually said,
“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” he opined. “But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”
This is such a denial of the facts as to be indefensible. But it does illuminate the problem of having to follow an image of God that is all loving, all-knowing and all-powerful and who then forces HIS “gift” on women whether they want it or not! It makes God out to be saying something like the following:
Look people, I, the Lord your God, intend there to be life whenever and wherever a man puts his penis into a woman and ejaculates. PERIOD! No matter HOW that penis and sperm got there, nor to what human it is attached to, from the moment physical copulation occurs, I command you to respect that penis as the giver of life. I INTEND for that act to result in THE GIFT OF LIFE.
I want to be very clear here. I don’t want condoms, morning-after pills, coat hangers, or anything else in the way. My law is final. I don’t care if the man is a Taliban, a terrorist, a Democrat, a communist, a pervert or the Devil himself. I don’t care if the man is her father or a war criminal who uses mass rape in the service of genocide. I certainly don’t care if the woman herself gives her consent although I do feel her pain. I don’t even care if the woman is basically a child. If she is old enough to ovulate she is old enough to take responsibility for the situation. MY sole intention here is that my gift of life be respected. A woman’s lot is to either accept MY gift of life with joy and resignation or whine about it for the rest of her life. There are no exceptions.
Now hear me on this! I am the ONE POWERFUL GOD OF CREATION, merciful and loving! Anyone on earth who mocks MY command by using abortion, birth control, family planning or any other liberal intervention to thwart my will on earth, is a murderer or a sympathizer. Therefore, I will punish such people in the afterlife by putting them in hell forever. And make no mistake; I will put them in prison in this life as well, just as soon as my faithful on earth are fully elected.
But listening to so many politicians speak for God’s intentions, it does not seem far-fetched at all to conclude that it is this same God, the giver-of-the-gift-of-life who is also involved in being the giver-of-the-gift-of-death and who thus, may sound something like the following:
Those of you who accept my doctrine of The Right to Life are my faithful. Because you are my faithful, you are saved. Because you are saved, you are my Chosen People. Because you are my chosen people, you have dominion over everyone and everything else on Planet Earth. Because you have dominion, you are superior to every living thing and endowed to rule. Because you are superior and endowed to rule, you are right to exploit this earth relentlessly for maximum profit. Because you are right to exploit this earth, anyone who stands in your way must be revealed as a parasite, a weakling, and a nay-sayer, which realistically, includes half of your midst. Your success at securing vast amounts of wealth and dominion for MY HOLY PURPOSES is simply a sign from ME that you have MY favor and blessing.
I say unto you that your Right to Life means it is your duty to preemptively root out your enemies before they root you. This means that I allow you to deliver whatever means are at your disposal to eradicate the godless and defeat those who oppose you. And although it is unfortunate that many “so-called” innocent men, women and children may come in harm’s way, MY doctrine of Pro-life means it is preferable that those who are jealous of your freedoms and way of life, those who are not my chosen, should be cleansed of opportunity or life as the case may be.
Your reward is to harvest the spoils of this earth as you see fit and enter my heaven in rapture during the last days, which by the way, are coming right up.
So be it. Amen
Whew! The problem here in insisting that God is an all-loving, all-knowing and all-wise Divine Being intimately involved in the day-to-day affairs of men, who then behaves like an arrogant, cruel & petty tyrant, makes God look either clinically insane, infantile, or pathologically addicted to power.
Of course, this is intolerable. It defies logic and reason, feeling and intuition, with no exceptions. (OK, I admit, there are some people who want God to act like Hitler). But my point is, such an image of a deity defies intelligence. No version of God or image of God can survive the perception of the people that the God they live under has become an irrational, incompetent, raging fool. And none ever has, even if they have been exceptionally lived. That is why, in my opinion, those who adhere to this increasingly unbelievable image of God are beginning to fall apart at the seams trying to find logical explanations to mend the increasing numbers of bizarre irrational behaviors that this God continues to exhibit.
It seems to me that is also why, throughout history, there have been these amazing transitional periods of change where there is quite literally times involving a “Changing of the Gods.” Or, more properly, a changing of the image of God. Zoroaster, Buddha, Moses, Christ, Mohammed, Lao Tzu, Pakal of the Mayans; all came along at some critical juncture in the evolution of consciousness to renew the sacred relationship between God and man.
Those messengers, saviors, world teachers and visionaries transmitted to people a new vision of themselves and their place in the universe, thus renewing and revitalizing their dying culture. This is the function of myth and every society has one, whether it’s alive and well, or sick and ailing. The transmission and the delivery of that new vision enables the people to re-imagine or re-image themselves in such a way as to once again find purpose and joy while restoring the earth to health and bounty.
Thus, it is no accident that when a culture is in decay, when the leadership becomes tyrannical, impotent, callous, or resorts to lies and denials simply to maintain power, when things begin to fall apart, when there is chaos, violence and a return to fundamentalism, when the old stories no longer work because they are filled with rigid dogmatisms and empty ceremonies, that is the precise moment that new visionaries arrive to tell a new and a more accurate Story about who we are.
I believe that we are in now in such a period of momentous consciousness change. It could certainly be described as a “Changing of the Gods” moment. The hostility and dogmatism that has focused on a woman’s right to terminate her own pregnancy appears to be a symptom of this change that is part of the general indicators mentioned above. I think that it is extremely significant that after thousands of years of historical evolution the highest value our culture can bestow upon a person’s worth is how much wealth and power they have accumulated. If that is the culminating zenith of our society, then it seems almost obvious that something new is about to come along.
Taken together, the 2000 year-old Judaic-Christian religious paradigm and the 400 year-old scientific paradigm seem to me to be sadly, in their present forms, no longer powerful enough, complete enough, nor true enough to deal with the collective challenges now facing us. Quite simply, they are contained in very small boxes at a time when we need a much bigger box than they offer. Neither provides us with a complete enough vision of who we really are, what our role on planet earth is and what is noble and worth doing. Neither is able to identify nor admit the possibility of a direct visionary experience of spirit that is now emerging in a new form of human, the homo luminous man and woman.
It seems then that the ground is ripe for seeding. As it stands, form has been tyrannizing essence and essence represents our greater and truer Self. The visionary experience of the founders of the great spiritual traditions who symbolized the ability of this greater Self to manifest on earth has degenerated into religious dogmas, fanaticism, literalism and sound bites. Science continues to pathologize genuine visionary experience and treat it with drugs. Meanwhile, cultural support for an actual experience of the Divine, of unity of life, of love, which is our true purpose and calling, has been completely marginalized. Vision is definitely not what we are getting from our religious or political leaders or our media, whose current images of God are utterly obsessed by abortion, gay marriage, terrorists, and the entitlement of those who insinuate their own superiority.
So in summary, the little story of Mourdock’s comments on rape and abortion is really a much bigger story about the growing pains of birthing a new, shared, collective belief system, a new paradigm. Out of the chaos of this moment, out of the immolation of the Phoenix, something entirely new seems destined to rise from the ashes. In this new consciousness, time itself will be seen as cyclic, not just linear. Consciousness itself will be accepted as the prime causal element in the universe. The feminine will become equal with the masculine, hierarchies will be replaced by cooperation; war and violence will become obsolete. Feeling will takes its rightful place next to reason. Gaia herself may become the new religion and direct contact with Divine Spirit will be seen as one’s birthright, no intermediaries needed. The greatest value will be love, not power.
The new vision, I think, will be a renewed experience of what it means to live on earth as a co-creator, where all are co-interdependent; all equal, all divine, all brothers and sisters, and all members of a vast and beautiful bio-sphere who is itself, finally preparing to join an even grander scheme in the intergalactic union of stars and cosmic brotherhood.
The Importance of Visionary Experience
Throughout the history of mankind, shamans, mystics, artists & visionaries have recorded spontaneous encounters with the divine or the demonic. They have spoken of visions, visitations by gods, angels, supernatural beings,journeys to heavens and underworlds and ecstatic union with God.
These experiences, luminescent as they are, resulted in the activation of archetypal forces so powerful that they transformed not only the individuals who had them but in some cases the entire cultural paradigm for hundreds or even thousands of years.
Every religion owes its origins to this kind of experience. Many great achievements, both in art and science have had their source in visions, dreams and intuitions. Historically, the renewal of culture itself is deeply connected to this kind of visionary experience, to the creation of a living myth, a Great Story, that influences and even structures whole cultures.
Our own 400-year old paradigm of western-based science has largely discredited such experiences as infantile regression or superstition at best, and psychosis and pathology at worst. The voice of the mystic, the visionary and the God-inspired has been silenced from our awareness, in favor of a rigidly rational view of reality that is exclusively physical, material and validated solely through objective measurement, dissection and the five senses.
The power of this world-view, this paradigm, has had a massive influence on every aspect of our society. So successful has this world-view been that we scarcely notice the assumptions upon which it rests. We take it as fact that logic and reason are superior to emotion and intuition, that man is separate from nature, that the parts explain the whole, that subjective knowing is invalid, and that consciousness is a result of the brain’s chemistry.
Science assumes life to be an accident: the product of random mutations of chemical and atomic bonds. Evidence that suggests that consciousness may be beyond the brain is categorically rejected.
Paradoxically, a large majority of us profess faith in a supreme deity. Yet despite our stated reverence of such visionaries as Christ, Buddha, Mohammed and saints who have insisted that a direct experience of a transcendent or immanent reality is our birthright, it is much more likely that the visions these people experienced would today by rejected or pathologized by both the spiritual movements they founded and our mental health institutions.
It has been said that where there is no vision the people perish. Our culture appears in a state of crisis, of rapid and acute change. The Judeo-Christian image of god that has structured Western civilization for 2000 years is dying. The old moral consensus is gone, the old vision no longer guides us, the old answers don’t work. Evidence of being favored and blessed by God has been reduced to the quantity of wealth and political power we enjoy. Our supreme science remains impotent to validate the core of our inner experience, a soul it denies is real. This loss of vision leads to demoralization, breakdown, fanaticism, psychosomatic distress, addiction and collective crisis.
Yet, it is precisely in these times, where new conditions necessitate a radical re-examination of our most basic values and outlook, that these ancient encounters with the divine may rise again in new visionary forms for the purpose of renewing, revitalizing and transforming our culture and our lives. As Joseph Campbell has said, “at the bottom of the abyss comes the voice of salvation. The black moment is the moment when the real message of transformation is going to come. At the darkest moment comes the light.
It is not improbable then that we may encounter someone engaged in their own visionary, mystical or dark night of the soul experience. If we respond with acceptance and respect, moving beyond the limitations of our own paradigm, they may reveal to us the radical self-organizing and healing potential that exists within a psyche that has touched the transpersonal. In doing so we gift our own collective with perhaps the very thing it needs at this time, and so we ourselves become an agent of renewal.