Another Samhuinn has come and passed and the veils between the worlds have opened and closed, yet our ancestors remain a presence if only we do not close the veils in our minds. In the druid calendar, the old year has ended with the passing of summer and the new year has begun in the gathering darkness of winter. Why? Because new life begins in the dark womb; new ideas begin in the darkness of the skull before being brought to light. Death precedes rebirth, for there can be no regeneration of the old without death. We live in the sublunary world of inertia and friction. Machines and living organisms alike wear out. The machine may be repaired; the organism may regenerate to some degree, but only to a point and then the machine must be scrapped and the organic body die and return to atoms, to be recycled.
The druid way presents this view of life. It is Eternal, and yet our bodies are ephemeral and pass away. Life lies not in the material organization of atoms, but in the spirit. The organization of spiritual quanta into a soul is what we call the true life, the indwelling spritual organism which generates and emanates the body and the ego like a snail growing a shell.
Yes, a soul, if viewed without its body might indeed appear as a shapeless invertebrate with little eye-stems.
The question is, whether a soul is ever, in fact, naked. For “ever” is a reference to time, and the soul lives beyond the mundane plane of time. The soul is not “unchanging” — no, quite the contrary. But it does not change and grow within the limitations of temporal space; it exists in the higher planes of the astral world and the mental world. Or rather, let us say that our being — we as beings — exist within all these planes simultaneously (not “at the same time” but without regard to time). Our being is Eternal and Eternity is a place, a place that is round, a limitless sphere. It may be understood as the soul of God, or the soul of the Universe.
The Universe is something too vast for us to grasp — it seems cold and impersonal. But let us consider the Anima Mundi, the soul of the world. We are better able to conceive in our minds a soul of the Earth, a Mother Gaia. The Soul of the Universe is like this, only on an inconceivably larger scale. Presumably we may talk of the soul of a galaxy or a nebula too, or the soul of a star.
Some say that we are each a star. Our soul is the soul of a star embodied in a frail and ephemeral garment of flesh and blood. I rather like that idea.
A visitor to our grove on Samhuinn said that he was in favor of whatever religion or spiritual practice permitted one to engage with something “bigger than oneself.” The expression is well-worn among definitions of religion. But curiously, it made me think that on the first level, that thing “larger than oneself” to which druids connect is the Earth. Without having to strain credulity or imagination to conceive invisible gods or goddesses, the druid way connects to that thing that is manifestly bigger than ourselves, our planet. In another sense, the druid connects to the Land, to the land in which he or she lives. A land which humans can internalize as they learn its landscapes, its food sources, its sacred places of beauty. A land which the heart of humans invests with love and meaning.
Is a religion really good if it prevents people from seeing this all too obvious fact — that the Earth is that thing greater than ourselves? If it instead substitutes an invisible, anthropomorphic God and embraces that bigger “thing” instead of the planet, the land? As we have seen historically, the more a culture worships invisible or distant deities, the more it begins to drift away from loving and understanding the land. When urban life leads one to never connect at all with the land, then one begins to think of the land as only a “resource” to be exploited and turned into cash. When the animal mundi is no longer at the center of our beleifs, then all spirit quickly follows and what is left are urbane skeptics, agnostics, and atheists, without anything “bigger than themselves” at all.
If the land is that “bigger thing” then the culture is unlikely to produce agnostics or atheists, for how can one disbelieve in the EArth? Only once the transition has been made to invisible gods, does the whole business of religion start down the road of disbelief, for it is in fact easy to disbelieve in the existence of invisible gods. In this sense agnosticism and atheism, as we see it today, is a by-product of monotheism, but equally well a product of poly theism, once it becomes disconnected from the land around us. When polytheist gods and goddesses become representations of social roles, types of knowledge or skill, or abstract ideas like Justice, Mercy, Truth, Goodness — at this point the door is opened to doubt and unbelief.
The stories woven of the land and the Earth are stories in which one can believe because they are rooted in the visible world. Even spiritual experiences are discussed in visible terms — visions, voices, signs.
November is upon us. Winter is the goddess Cailleach. No abstraction. No “pagan idol.” She is the Winter herself
May your cromlech, round house, or wigwam be warm until Spring and the sun’s return. Good night and sweet dreams.