A W A K E N I N G T O C R E A T I V E L I F E
| © 2010 Stephen Wollaston | Site designed and built by Ian Mowll & Santoshan
Spirituality Unveiled: Awakening to Creative Life
Santoshan (Stephen Wollaston)
Published by Earth Books
There is communion with God,
and a communion with earth,
and a communion with God through earth.
– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
As splendid and awe inspiring as some of the world’s great cathedrals, mosques and temples are, they were often built with the aim of transporting people to a different place – to a world beyond the physical world. There is nothing wrong with this. The buildings are celebrations of the spirit, creative abilities, profound teachings and visionary ideas. Nonetheless, they can be seen to miss an essential element of spirituality that is not only about a vertical transcendence to sacred and divine realms, but also a horizontal embracing of the divine in all.
Early indigenous cultures, such as the Native Americans and Australian Aborigines,
all had strong roots in Nature based forms of spirituality, and many of them have
kept this element as a central part of their beliefs and practices. For them, the
divine is often experienced and revered as an all-
Native American culture, along with other indigenous traditions, call our universe’s
Creator, the Great Spirit. Daoist spirituality, which has roots in shamanistic practices
and a belief in an interactive world of departed ancestors and spirits, teaches about
As with all great teachings, there is a need to reflect on what they imply in order to discover their deeper meaning. Although we might have to work hard to find mention of the divinity of Nature in the four canonical Gospels, former Archbishop William Temple noticed how Jesus saw a close relationship between God and the natural world:
Jesus taught men to see the operation of God in the regular and the normal – in the rising of
the sun and the falling of the rain and the growth of the plants.
This cosmic and Nature based realm of spirituality is also found in sacred Hindu
images of dancing Shiva (Shiva-
In the past, it seems that practically all cultures had their creation stories, which gave meaning, purpose and direction to people’s lives, and invariably united communities in shared beliefs. Early indigenous people grasped their deep relationship with an interrelated spirit world by drawing upon their ancient stories, symbolism and metaphors that had profound life affirming meaning and helped them to relate to the natural world and cosmos. Their everyday lives and beliefs were intimately intertwined with the universe and the world of Nature, which were often celebrated in shared rituals and gave their communities spiritual purpose. Although occasionally this was sadly not always extended outside of their supportive communities. A down side to small tribal communities is that a mentality of us and them can still persist.
Yet without their stories and shared rituals they would not have known who they were or how to interact with the world around them, as the stories gave them identity and helped them to understand where they stood in the greater scheme of things. The lay monk Wayne Teasdale also reminded of this:
Native Americans know that all beings are part of the web of life, and we have responsibilities to this great web of interconnection. Native cultures are keenly aware that nature, the earth, the Great Spirit, and the spirit guides have taught them everything they know. It is all a gift from the divine realm through the mediation of these more familiar spirit guides who inhabit all worlds.
Yet in the light of contemporary science, many of the ancient stories of indigenous
cultures have lost much of their power and relevance to the age in which we now live.
Our understanding of how stars, galaxies and organic life came into being no longer
matches a lot of their contents, though some writers, such as Ellen Bernstein, have
revisited the Bible’s account of creation and have beautifully highlighted its deep
ecological message. But for many, these early accounts of creation are no longer
a part of their lives. Partly because of this, as well as mass urbanisation, many
of us have lost our connection with Earth and the sacred element of life that early
indigenous cultures recognized. Contemporary materialistic life has drawn many away
from having an intimate relationship with a divinity and spirit world that is present
in both the seen and unseen. Having no shared story at all that we truly treasure
has been seen by authors and teachers, such as the late modern day prophet of eco-
But unlike ancient creation myths – as Joel Primack and Nancy Ellen Abrams point out in their excellent book View from the Centre of the Universe – this has to be a contemporary factual and flexible account that is not bound to just one tradition. It needs to be a part of an ongoing search for truth, based on new insights and discoveries, which will help us to build harmonious communities where everyone feels valued and is able to use their abilities, and express their creativity in fertile and supportive environments.
On the whole, contemporary western societies have lost something essential by no
longer possessing shared beliefs and teachings, and not realising that they can often
help us to awaken to a significant relationship with Earth. When we have nothing
to bring us together and find a deep sense of belonging, we often clog-
A simple remedy is to reconnect with the creative and dynamic universe in which we live – to rediscover our roots and our ultimate spiritual heritage. Rabbi Michael Lerner writes about this in Spirit Matters:
We are the heirs of the long evolution of Spirit. Each of us is the latest unfolding of the event of Creation. Our bodies are composed of the material that was shaped in the Big Bang. And, so, too, our spirit. The loving goodness of the universe breathes us and breathes through us, giving us life and consciousness, and the capacity to recognize and love others.
In a talk given at a seminar on meditation, celebrating the life and teachings of
John Main, the Benedictine monk, Father Laurence Freeman, mentioned how he ran Back
to Basics courses for troubled teenagers suffering from depression and low self-