by Josef Anton Kuhn
Our ancestors had many stories, often referred to as teachings, about creation and spiritual being. Many of these stories have survived the onslaught of modern cultures and technology. They present different visions of creation than are given by many present-day interpretations of religious, industrial and government institutions. Modern institutional and ‘new wave’ thinking often assigns far greater importance to human beings than to everything else in creation. Our ancestors had more spiritual awareness and respect for Nature and other beings, recognizing the Creator and our connections and interdependence.
The science of ecology has proven the interaction of all life forms. Steadily improving technology and a rapidly growing database are increasing our knowledge of our bio-physical environment. Ecosystems, at local, regional and global scales, are living beings. Like the body of a human being in many ways, they can be in good health, or in poor health. Ecologists, working with other scientists, can provide a very good assessment of bio-physical and socio-economic health of an ecosystem. What science does not address is the spiritual aspect of Nature, ecosystems and the interconnected living and non-living beings that all come from the Creator.
In recent years, this shortcoming of ecosystem science has received greater recognition. A growing number of scientists, philosophers and spiritual teachers are now responding in ways that I find very encouraging. The wisdom they are providing will assist us all in achieving greater spiritual awareness. The recent book Spiritual Ecology edited by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, addresses the shortcomings of ecosystem science in a collection of thoughtful and inspiring essays. The book captures, from a variety of cultural perspectives, the importance of embracing Nature awareness in our individual and collective consciousness.
This increased awareness of the spiritual presence of Nature’s creation, including our individual and collective human-being, can improve our decision-making as individuals, communities, national and international institutions. We must better educate ourselves, and especially our youth, regarding the forces of Nature, including the sun, air, water, climate, fire and human-beings, that interact in creating, maintaining and ending life. This awareness is reflected in the stories, songs and dances of diverse cultures, ancient and modern. As more and more people become enlightened, aware of the spiritual nature of our lives, the better our prospects for good decision-making and healthy ecosystems become.
We have political and business leaders today who are unaware of, or do not want to acknowledge, the bio-physical or spiritual ecology considerations in our decision-making processes. The ‘sacred cow’ of economic growth, especially of large industrial enterprises, and the competitive, energy consuming, waste generating strategies of the twentieth century, are essential to achieving ‘success’ in their view. Pollution and accelerating loss of species and natural habitat are of little concern to them. Government responsibility to protect the health and spiritual well-being of ecosystems is barely recognized.
However, as more and more people see the damage that harmful industrial practices are doing to our ecosystems, locally and globally, a re-thinking of what we need from our political and business leaders is emerging. Excessive exploitation of natural resources to generate wealth at the expense of life is increasingly being recognized as a formula for disaster. Human-beings are becoming more aware of present reality, and with that awareness they are more conscious of the Supreme-Being. Ancient peoples recognized the Creator in the air, water, rocks, soil, plants and animals that they lived with, and in themselves. All beings were given respect in stories, ceremonies and daily life. Sacred places, where spiritual presence was especially high, were recognized and protected.
The time has come to include spiritual ecology in better stewardship of our life-support systems. These ecological, economic systems that we depend on, and impact, in our day to day lives are threatened by lack of awareness and flawed decision-making. Climate change and other human induced impacts are increasing dramatically in our natural environment and in our altered landscapes. Nature awareness and spiritual ecology must become as important as science, economics, business and politics if we are to contribute to the well-being of our children and grandchildren.