Eco-Art: Movement

I’ve just finished an Eco-Art course, and I’ve decided, with a bit more time on my hands, I’d share some of the reflections and art here:

IMGP2697Yesterday it rained, and I watched the rain’s constant splashing on the house’s roof. I watched the effect as it hit the surface and expanded sideways. Afterwards I went for a walk with my dogs in the forest and saw that branches had bent lower with the weight of the water. There was a lot of silt that had been displaced down the valley, as temporary streams covered the paths. A tube we use to divert water to a small lake was blocked and the water was going another way. I unblocked it and the water once again went down it to reach the lake.

Everything is, was or will be in constant movement. The growth of plants towards the light shows their history of movement, bits of mould silently appear and we wonder “where did it come from?” Any change is a sign of movement. And as we sense things we are receiving signals that have moved through time and space to be sensed.

Water is really something that is in constant movement, and always in a state of flux from one state to another. I’ve just finished my painting Rain Splash, experimenting with water dropping down and hitting a surface, making its shapes. The water is “at rest”, and yet not at all. On a molecular scale it is drying, the moisture being absorbed into the paper or evaporating into the atmosphere.

Magic of the Mist

In my world of the Great Island, everything “comes from the Mist.” The Mist is the principle of creation from which the Great Island and the seas surrounding it came, mysteriously condensing like the morning dew. They came ready “equipped” with life and ecology, but the human/humanoid population came afterwards, emerging from the Mist in four waves, defining the four ages (smaller groups and individuals have also arrived, but with less impact). It is said that if you find yourself lost at sea and surrounded in mist, you may find yourself transported to another world, another universe, perhaps even the Great Island itself (see Great Island History and other Reports of St John de Monmouth).

Each wave is successively more “advanced”, technologically speaking, yet also more estranged from the creative power of the Mist, which has parallels to our world: we have become more technologically developed, more knowledgeable about the world around us, yet we are experiencing an ecological crisis due to our disconnection with our own natural roots. Perhaps we are advancing in ways we couldn’t have otherwise, but we are also perilously close to failing.

As our knowledge of the world increases so the Mist recedes more and more, and its magic and enchantment fade. But it is always there, because knowledge has its limits, and at the edge of our limits, there is the Mist. But the Mist also represents imagination and creativity, so though we gain in knowledge and technology, we lose something more essential to life itself. When we limit ourselves to What We Know, we limit our choices and actions, but when we become aware of our limits and grow beyond them, a whole new world of choices and actions emerge, as if from the Mist.

There is a prophecy of a “fifth wave” that will arrive and bring harmony to the Great Isle. The various peoples will once again become one with the Great Isle, but this time with the benefits of the technologies accrued along the way. The first wave came from the East, the second from the South, the third from the West and the fourth from the North, but where will the Fifth Wave come from? Only one direction remains: the centre, or within. It is a prophecy describing our own potential, not the arrival from “outside” that we must wait for.

The Fifth Wave defines well the difference between knowledge and imagination, yet also harmonises the two qualities, enhancing them beyond anything we can know or imagine, but this can only happen within each one of us.

A Triad of Human Artifice

Three human props that mean little when one is alone in nature: personal identity, social status and abstract ideas.

Before nature, questions of “who” are limited in use, our position in society does not reflect our position in nature, and the beliefs, concepts and opinions we carry around in our heads are often not adjusted to the reality of nature.

Truth Against the World

“Truth Against the World” is the motto of Iolo Morganwg, inventor of many of modern Druidry’s traditions. I just want to take a little time to examine what it means, and why I’m only recently contemplating it seriously.

The mystics say “abandon  the world” which can be understood well… or not at all. Usually it is understood as the Earth or nature, so spirituality became associated with something “above and beyond” the world of matter. Ecologically speaking, this has been a disaster, hence my reluctance to accept Iolo’s motto. We really don’t want to add to the anti-nature attitudes that have done great damage to our world.

But I think the hermits had it (partly) right.  They abandoned society and sought out isolated places in nature. They were tired of hypocrisy and the myriad fantasies that people called “reality”. Apparently only the tree, rocks, birds and weather talk sense – everything else is rubbish; they speak the “truth against the world”. A cold cave is a cold cave, it won’t pretend to be anything else.

But the world is getting smaller, and we can’t really abandon the human world physically like the hermits did. It’s also not going to make things any better – you leave behind society, and though you may feel better (partially), society certainly won’t. But our “abandonment” of society shouldn’t be physical (even if it is tempting) since being anti-social is also damaging, and you’ll always carry a little bit of society with you. The abandoment has to be a lot more subtle than that.

I’m reminded of the Matrix films, and taking the red pill and the blue pill. Once you take the red pill and realise the truth that “everything is a lie” you don’t need to leave the world of egos and appearances behind, you just need to learn to navigate it without losing yourself. You can enter or exit the Matrix/world/society at will, work within it or work outside of it, without announcing your subversion or being detected by THEM! (“them” is pretty much anyone that has a vested/egoistic interest in Society, which is pretty much everyone). You maintain the ego as a Useful Tool, but not a Fundamental Reality.

Most people think of themselves as egos that drive bodies around, which is a Lie Against Nature. The beginning of the Truth Against the World is the realisation that we are bodies carrying egos. If we all started thinking like that, the world would be an extremely different place! (and hermits would come flocking back to society in droves… if they notice anything happening outside their cave, that is)


Druidic Inspiration: Fantasy and Function

Nothing is real in Druidry? Indeed, nothing, but that is the challenge of any modern movement, religion or spirituality – our ideas, theories and fantasies need to be applied in the living world and have a relevance in our lives. This relevance needs to be proved in the world and the lives of people, i.e. have a function. They are not real in themselves – they need to be made real.

How, though? What is its value in the modern world? We can rule out historicity, but after that is anyone’s guess/invention. There are fraternal druids with social, charitable and philanthropic themes, cultural druids that use it to celebrate and strengthen their Celtic identities, activist druids that see it as a way to make changes in the world and spiritual/religious druids that seek to reconstruct, revive or reconnect with ancestral ways as they imagine it. These continue because they have value for someone in some way.

My own Druidry is of a spiritual stripe, combining reverence of nature with inner human development. The definition that most rings true to me comes from the Ancient Order of Druids in America which “understands Druidry as a path of nature spirituality and inner transformation founded on personal experience rather than dogmatic belief.”

In Druidry I found a path that turns towards nature instead of turning away from it, a quality that is vital in our age of ecological crisis, it also allowed me to experiment and investigate my beliefs without passively following an arbitrary list of them, and with this comes my own inner healing and development. I am a being with a lot of potential, and this, for the sake of myself, humanity and the world, needs to be developed and allowed to breathe. Other spiritual traditions also contain these, but its myths, archetypes and images developed out of a Western mindset and so are suited to a Western mindset, so we don’t need to seek out and appropriate exotic paths – we can find what we need “at home”.

As I said in my article on the Three Functions of Druidry “My interest in Druidry is mainly about what their function and role was within society and how that image can inspire the role of Druidry today.” I think the image of the ancient druid speaks to us and shows a powerful figure of authority and wisdom that is at the same time a nature mystic, at harmony with nature. This image, true or not, is inspiring and continues to inspire, which is nice and everything but…

is it really real? For me, as a “druid-in-training” this is an ongoing process and a lifetime’s work. Druidry is nothing if it cannot be effective and of service to the world.

Druidic Inspiration: Tradition, History and Fiction

Druidry is here and well-established, and continues with whatever “facts” are facing it. What we know of the druids comes from biased and/or invented second-hand reports. Whatever wisdom they left might be found in medieval sources and folklore, but not without heavy alteration over time and by the hands of Christian scribes. Any connection between archaeology and the druids is, necessarily, speculation. And yet modern Druidry continues unabashed.

Some druids will, like many, ignore the evidence, and carry on believing what they want (this is common enough, many still hold to Genesis over geology, and even new scientific theories must wait for the new vanguard to replace the old vanguard). Others will “lose faith” and go seeking for that fabled legitimacy elsewhere – they’ll just find the same, I reckon. And yet others will do something with the evidence and use it to see their traditions in a different and more honest light.

Fiction may not be true, but it can still be meaningful and inspirational. If this weren’t the case, all science fiction and fantasy would just shrivel up and die. And most religion too, I shouldn’t wonder! I’m reminded of what AMORC says about their history that it “may be divided into two general classifications: traditional and chronological. The traditional history consists of mystical allegories and fascinating legends that have been passed down for centuries by word of mouth. The Rosicrucian Order’s chronological accounts are based on specific dates and verifiable facts.”

“Traditional” accounts of Druidry may be found in Iolo Morganwg’s Barddas or Ross Nichols’ The Book of Druidry (a related account of the latter may be found here). A chronological account would be Ronald Hutton’s Blood and Mistletoe, which effectively dismantles the historical legitimacy of the previous two, but doesn’t quite strip away their value, bringing it more into focus, but only if viewed creatively, through the lens of Awen and applicability.

Druidic Inspiration: Historical Generalisations

Carrying on from the idea that modern Druidry is based on Awen and invention…

What if, just what if there were no druids, that Celtic society had no specific caste/class that specialised in education, justice, healing, philosophy, magic or religion, and that the “druids” that the ancient Greeks and Romans wrote about were not members of said caste/class but were simply individuals taken from any part of their society – warrior, aristocrat, craftsman, farmer, merchant – with the relevant skills and knowledge. They were not organised or perennial enough in Celtic society to be seen as A Thing, but a semi-coherent variety of things that have been lumped together under the convenient label of “druid” (in modern times we could do the same and say that doctors, judges, solicitors, diplomats, artists, journalists, historians, theologians, priests are all “druids”).

This is perfectly possible, but has big consequences for how we view the neo-druid movement: everything we do or believe that we call “druidry” is based on a fantasy (shock-horror)!!! But fret not, this can be asserted with a fair amount of confidence about any spiritual or religious tradition. At some point they were all “invented” by other people, it’s just some have age and social prestige in their favour, making them a little more credible.

More posts to come on the subject!