Initiation into a Living Planet

One of the puzzles of climate science is the persistence of the Holocene Optimum – ten thousand years of anomalously stable climate that has allowed civilization to flourish. Science, as far as I can tell, attributes this basically to good luck. I have encountered among indigenous people a completely different explanation… 

…that the rituals performed by cultures who were in a good relationship with the spirits of the earth maintained conditions conducive to human well-being. Indigenous cultures were in constant communication with other-than-human beings, supplicating or negotiating for ample and timely rains, mild winters, and so forth. But they weren’t merely praying for good weather, they also saw themselves as upholding the long-term relationships with natural powers that were necessary to maintain a world fit for human habitation.”  … The upshot is not that we should imitate indigenous rituals, but to learn the worldview behind them – the worldview that located them within a living, intelligent, sacred world. Then we will be able to translate that understanding into our own systems of ritual (the ones we call technology, money, and law). To a primal part of my psyche, it seems obvious that human affairs affect the climate through vectors of symbol and metaphor. This intuition is not so far from the medieval view that social iniquity brought down God’s wrath in the form of natural disasters. As I write this the rain pours down on the farm; having filled all the culverts and basins, it is now breaching the swales, wreaking destruction, carrying off topsoil. Fourteen inches already and still it pours. Meanwhile, the American Southwest suffers record heat and extreme drought. The inequitable distribution of rainfall mirrors the unequal distribution of wealth in our society. So much here that one knows not what to do with it; so little there that life itself becomes impossible. Our culture too has its rituals: we manipulate the symbols we call money and data in the magico-religious belief that physical reality will change thereby. And it does – our rituals are powerful. Yet they bear a hidden price. As other cultures understood, to invoke magic for selfish ends inevitably brings disaster. Sooner or later, a deranged Earth climate will follow derangement in the social climate, political climate, and psychic climate. I may be projecting meaning onto noise, but 2018, a year of extreme polarization in human affairs, has also been a year of extreme polarization of temperature: heat in some places and seasons, cold in others.

Original Article (Charles Eisenstein and ECfES):
Initiation into a Living Planet and ECfES *data from 2015
Artwork Fair Use: ECfES

Leave a Reply