For some people spirituality has nothing to do with nature. For others, it is God’s creation. For still others, it is their religion. They recognize immortality in the natural cycle of being born, living and then returning to the Earth. They seek solace from the trees of the forest.
I am one who finds meaning in the patterns of ecology. My values are rooted in seeking the greater good of all living things. Due to some old, unpleasant experiences with religion, I have been uncomfortable with the concept of spirituality. Believing too much in a heaven or the supernatural can lead people to devalue this life and take for granted the planet that sustains us. I tend to believe only in what we can explain, or at least whatever does not contradict what we know.
However, measuring ideas against this standard presents a problem. There is much we know that cannot be explained. Science is rife with paradoxes. It is difficult to approach these wonders without some kind of spiritual response. True wisdom comes from the acceptance that knowledge is finite. What we do not know occupies vast reaches of reality.
Many years ago when I was religious, I wrote a poem speculating how my daughters’ souls might have existed before they were conceived. Many people consider souls the part of us, mind or energy, that exist aside from our physical bodies. Most religions agree that we have them, but tend to disagree whether nonhuman creatures or things possess them. Science has found no trace of such a thing as a soul, and most recent research pursues the theory of an organic basis for consciousness.
My poem, “Made in secret,” appeared in Elisabeth Hallett‘s book about pre-birth communication, Stories of the Unborn Soul. When it came out 10 years ago I still had raw spiritual bruises from the past and could not read it through.
This year another book has been published, Cosmic Child by Eve Olive: a beautiful anthology of poems and stories on the same theme. Again, my poem is included, four pages down from Mary Oliver and two up from Rumi. I was amazed when I saw it. I appear to be one of the youngest writers represented in its pages. This has nudged me to finally read Hallett’s book cover-to-cover.
Now I can hear and appreciate other people’s stories of belief, regardless of what I believe. Widespread manifestations of bigotry in the world have persuaded me we need more openness and respect.
Hallett’s accounts, coming from many quarters, lead me to wonder how much of our existence defies measurement and understanding. What is the difference between natural and supernatural? Do they both belong to reality? How do we accommodate our differences in understanding, while building a society that respects every person and creature, even the Earth itself.
Perhaps the dream world can provide answers. It often has. The other night as I turned out the light and lay down to sleep, I told myself, “I am going to dream about the spirit world.” It was not an expression of faith but curiosity. We never know unless we ask. Intentions count.
Then as I drifted in and out of sleep I glimpsed an image, best expressed in poetry.
We ask permission to see
into the beyond
and find ourselves
peering through a window
finding ourselves peering back
children watching children
to see how to act.