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Steps Toward A Dionysian Naturalism

Making the Earth Sacred in a Time of Ecological Disaster

by Wayne Martin Mellinger, Ph.D.

 

As I look out upon the world the most pressing problem I see confronting humanity is climate change.  If we do not significantly curb our emissions soon and there is a 4° C rise in the global average temperature, most coral reefs would be killed, the Amazon rainforest would dry up and at least 40% of the world’s species would be doomed to extinction.  Our species and our planet have never faced such an enormous human-made crisis.  Modern industrial civilization, fueled as it is by petrochemicals, has drastically damaged the fragile biosphere that supports all life on this planet.

Those of us living through the early 21st century are experiencing the dying of our planet.  A massive wave of extinctions along with the ubiquitous degradation of diverse ecosystems are killing a significant portion of nature’s abundance and diversity.  While during the last few centuries first western societies and then increasingly others around the globe (including China, India, Brazil, Japan, etc.) have witnessed an economic experience which has greatly increased the amount of stuff one portion of our populations have, the consequence has been the destruction of our natural world.  Many of us feel that it is not yet too late to avert a total environmental catastrophe.  But it could be very soon.  Indeed, this is a very frightening time to be alive.

This is the global context in which I am exploring the nature of my spirituality.  I recently committed myself to a multi-year “quest for truth and meaning” to clarify my theological orientations.  Specifically I am exploring ways to integrate science and religion through a naturalist cosmology centered on the Epic of Evolution–a Pagan-inspired creation spirituality ground in reality but filled with awe and reverence.  While I have attended a Unitarian-Universalist church in Santa Barbara, and have largely embraced the progressive humanism espoused there, I want to flesh out more precisely my theological beliefs, develop my religious literacy and enhance my spiritual practice.

Theology in the age of the Anthropocene must respond to the potential death of our planet as we know it.  This environmental emergency weighs heavily upon my mind as I explore what it means to be a spiritual person and to lead a spiritual life.  Joanna Macy describes our current era as “The Great Turning”–a period that is a transition between the old industrial economic system, which must be brought to a close, and a new economic system based upon sustainability, which must emerge.  The Great Turning is, according to David Korten, a spiritual revolution “grounded in an awakening consciousness of our spiritual connection to one another and the living body of Earth” (Korten, The Great Turning 2006, p. 18).  I want to align my theological inclinations with this spiritual revolution and to thus raise our awareness of our bonds to other humans, to other species and to our planet.

The de-sacralization of nature is a central causal factor in our ecological crisis.  No people who truly revere our natural world could allow such a massive destruction of so many ecosystems.  Within the last several thousand years our bonds to our planet have become broken and frayed. Many humans have moved from a sacred conception of nature to a mechanistic conception of nature.  I envision my spirituality as a necessary corrective to these problems.  To guide us through these turbulent times and to help us transition to a sustainable society, we need a revolutionary approach to religion that rethinks the moral foundations of western civilization which, I believe, have supported our ecocidal, repressive and hierarchical social systems.

The logic of my approach to these concerns is rather elementary.  If, as I assume, our current dominant theological approaches are a part of the problem in that they provide the moral and ethical framework of western industrial civilization and have thus contributed to the disenchantment of our natural world and to the deterioration of its sense of sacredness, perhaps we need to examine those religions which regard the Earth as a most holy object, examine the spiritual practices they use to maintain that sacred status and evaluate the values that they cherish.

Those approaches to spirituality which regard our natural world as inherently sacred might be termed Nature Religions.  These include, to name but a few, some of the most ancient religions on our planet, such as those of most indigenous tribal peoples, (such as Native Americans), the Pagan traditions of pre-Christian Europe and their modern “re-birth” in the form of Wicca, Neo-Paganism, as well as Druidry.  Over the past 30 years I have learned much by studying the wisdom of these rich and diverse earth-centered traditions.

In 1981 I arrived in San Francisco as a 22-year old youth studying for the GRE exams and considering the many fine graduate programs of the University of California.  It was here that I first encountered people calling themselves Witches and Pagans.  I was greatly intrigued by how these religious rebels were creating their own approaches to matters of the spirit. Some were firmly feminists who sought to build a non-patriarchal religion focused on the Great Goddess.  Others seemed more swayed by concerns for “New Age” metaphysics and the so-called “personal construction of reality”.  Still others were folk healers of various sorts who tapped into those shamanic aspects of the “Old Religion”.  All of them regard our natural world as sacred.  Fascinated by the emergence of this new religious movement I initially thought I had found a topic for my master’s thesis.

Contemporary Paganism and Wicca take diverse forms and it is hard to make generalizations about the beliefs of these modern followers of Nature Religions.  There is a sizable proportion who believe in the reality of deities, supernatural realms, spirit beings, magical powers and paranormal activities.  It is not hard to find how-to guides for Witches and Pagans instructing initiates on how to cast spells to lure boyfriends, how to heal with crystals and how to “read the future”.  The modern Pagan authors I most appreciate have rich metaphorical expressions in which esoteric language cloaks largely scientific worldviews.  Still, I often find myself a bit uncomfortable with the “woo-woo” aspects of Paganism and therefore choose to call myself a “Naturalist”.

On Naturalism

My goal in this brief essay is to lay out some preliminary ideas on a theological approach I am calling Dionysian Naturalism, which, as it’s name suggests, is a form of naturalism–a philosophical perspective that asserts the nature of realty based upon a certain kind of knowledge.   While there are many ways of knowing that are valid for some purposes, including appeal to religious authority, intuition, personal revelation, only the scientific method creates objective facts based upon empirical verification. I want my religious cosmology firmly based in these objective facts about the world.

Religious Naturalism is, perhaps, a subset of the Nature Religions, in that it also regards nature as sacred.  Yet, unlike some Nature Religion’s embrace of the supernatural, it is grounded in a scientific worldview that asserts that there is no ontologically separate realm which gives meaning to this world.  Moreover, it asserts that there are religious aspects of this world which can be understood within a naturalistic framework (Jerome Stone 2009 The Promise of Religious Naturalism).  We might say that Religious Naturalism is a Nature Religion without the “woo-woo”.

As stated, naturalists do not suppose that all truths are scientific truths, what is sometimes called “scientism”.  Rather, naturalists argue only that science offers the best way to understand the nature of reality.  Naturalists believe that answers based in science are generally more reliable than those derived from other ways.

While many religions supposedly make moral valuations based upon a transcendent basis, that does not make the value judgments of naturalists false.  Humans are social animals whose very existence depends upon societies based on moral behavior with each other.  Our evolution has provided us with moral reasoning and therefore morality is a natural phenomenon.

Our physical world consists of a space-time continuum composed of basic elements which are described by physics.  The natural world is all that exists and there is no special realm filled with angels, Heaven or grandfatherly deities.  Our natural world appears to operate without purposes, intention or foresight.  All the processes of the world are describable by science.  These include physical phenomena, biological processes and the psychological and social states and activities.  Thus, naturalists reject the dualistic view of many religions which hold there there are distinct natural and supernatural realms.  This monistic view of the cosmos entails a commitment to scientific empiricism.

The Epic of Evolution: A Religious Story for All Ages

The “epic of evolution” is the story told by scientists and others about the various processes that have lead us from the “Big Bang” to our present moment.  Included within that story are the processes of natural selection which have populated our world with various flora, fauna and other life forms.  While firmly grounded in a scientific cosmology, religious naturalism can be seen as a revival of ancient creation-based spirituality.  According to David Bumbaugh (2001), the scientific story of Creation is a religious story because:

1. It invites us to see ourselves in terms of the largest self that we can imagine—a self that was present in some sense in the singularity that produced the emergent world;
2. It suggests a larger meaning to our existence in that through us the universe is reaching for self-understanding;
3. It leads to an ethical framework for our lives by emphasizing our intimate relationship to everything.

Naturalist spirituality posits an underlying unity and interconnectedness of all phenomena.  It leads to mystery and wonder about why we are here or exist at all.  It leads to a sense that the Spirit of Life is at work in the cosmos.  Increasingly, the scientific community refers to the Earth as if it is a living organism, “the Gaia hypothesis”.  It seems important to note that referring to this world as a Great Goddess acts to reclaim the sacred feminine, which had long been banished from western civilization.  Clearly, religious naturalism is not a mechanistic, hyper-materialist, reductionist type of scientific worldview, but one that is holistic.

This perspective acknowledges impermanence and thus urges us to value our moments on earth, because there is no afterlife.  For naturalists the focus is clearly in on “this world” and on the present moment.  A focus on the present is necessary for it is only in the present that we can assert our aliveness, engage our projects, change directions and find meaning in our endeavors.

The Dionysian form of naturalism that I am advancing does not fetishize Enlightenment rationality.  I hope to maintain a healthy role for the passions and the emotions and hope to rethink the conventional wisdom concerning human nature and the imposition of reason as the central trait of our species being.  Following Friedrich Nietzsche I accept the impulses and instincts of human beings and celebrate our passions.  Moreover, these base instincts are related to sacredness.  We must affirm the deepest parts of our animal natures by finally realizing the wholeness of our minds and not be content with a caricature of Enlightenment thinkers’ ideal of what humans should be–one stressing what we are, rather than what we should be, one dissolving the gap found in the social sciences between systematic models of utilitarian, calculating, goal-oriented and rule-governed behavior, and our more nuanced, more integral, caring selves;

Nietzsche and the Dionysian Religion of the Future

As will be seen, Friedrich Nietzsche, the great German writer and thinker of the 19th century, has shaped this project in numerous ways.  While many people know Nietzsche as the atheistic and nihilistic author of The Anti-Christ, who proclaimed “God is dead”, the truth is that Nietzsche was a deeply spiritual man who prophesied a “new Dionysian religion of the future”.  Nietzsche believed that the death of the Judeo-Christian God was a spiritual event needed for humanity to advance to a higher state of being, a Superman.  The ultimate goal of the “death of God” is not atheism or nihilism, but the “re-evaluation of all values”.  In a sense the old god must die so that society can take a new form.

A central tenet of Nietzsche’s thought is that the prevailing myths of modernity–progress, reason and moral order–are decadent and are supported by values which are life denying.  Nietzsche first articulated the contrast pairs Apollo-Dionysus in his book The Birth of Tragedy.  Dionysus was the Greek god of ecstasy, whose worshipers—the female Maenads and the male Satryrs, celebrated each year on Mount Parnassus, with four days of ecstatic frenzy filled with dance, trance, entheogenic intoxication and love-making.  Dionysus over time becomes for Nietzsche a symbol for the affirmation of life.

A sacred general economy has guided the movement of humanity through the struggle to survive.  On the one side we have order, law and creation–represented by the Greek god Apollo.  On the other side we have chaos, transgression and destruction–represented by the Greek god Dionysus.  On the one side we have Apollo who represents beauty, permanence and perfection;  On the other side we have Dionysus who represents tragedy, intoxication and reverie.

Modern humans have become debased by absolute adherence to order and stability.  Through this Apollonian triumph we have lost our essential meaning and have become things.  The de-sacralization of nature we find in modernity is intrinsically linked to that most Apollonian of economic systems–industrial capitalism.  How we yearn to return to the immediacy of life at the edge of chaos.  How we yearn to dance again with Dionysus!

Nietzsche prophesied the advent of a “new form of divinity”.  The Dionysian religion of the future will supposedly worship a Pagan god that affirms life.  It will be immanentist and pantheist, and not offer an “afterlife”, but rather direct our focus to the here and now.  Nietzsche fought against nihilism and sought to build a higher form of humanity.  As noted, the “death of God” was a spiritual event which would allow the true affirmation of life.  Nietzsche placed great importance on the meaning of suffering in Christianity compared with a life-affirming “tragic” perspective.  Tragic humans affirm “even the harshest suffering: he (sic) is sufficiently strong rich and capable of deifying to do so”.  The Christian view sees suffering as an objection against life, and life-negating.   Nietzsche asks his readers if he has been understood when he boldly lays out the contrasting perspectives offered:  “Dionysus versus the Crucified” –either we can create a new life-affirming Dionysian religion or we can remain with the old life-denying Christianity.

Nietzsche believed that in moments of Dionysian ecstasy are to be found the supreme affirmation of life.  In our “primordial being’, the subjective mind is dissolved, and our bonds with nature is reconciled.  Ecstasy releases us from the ruling mythology and into a realm of ego-less becoming.  This shamanic use of techniques of ecstasy to transform consciousness and to change worldviews might be something useful for us to consider as we seek to re-sacralize the natural world.

The “Dionysian”

The modifier “Dionysian” situates my particular form of naturalism and carries with it multiple meanings:

The Dionysian Mysteries of ancient Greece were a well-known ecstatic religion based upon entheogenic (hallucinogenic) consumption.  Ecstasy is a divine gift which lifts us out of ordinary reality and allows us to more fully understand our relation to the universe.  Modern humans have excluded the experience of divine ecstasy from our lives and a gnawing emptiness leaves us craving for deep fulfillment and wholeness.  We mistakenly attempt to fill this void with material things, because we have forgotten the sensuous world of Dionysus.

Dionysus was often associated with the harvest of the grapes and is the youthful god of vegetation.  Thus, Dionysus is associated with fertility and represents the continual re-birth of nature in the spring.

Dionysus represents moments of rapture in which every cell in your body spontaneously shouts for joy.

Dionysus was a well-known shapeshifter who manifested himself in diverse forms.  Thus, he represents the ongoing and unpredictable changes of nature.

As one of the “Horned Gods” of Old Europe, Dionysus represents the male energy involved in the fertilization process.  But this is no “he-male” form of masculinity, and, in fact, Dionysus is the “Divine Androgyne” and represents a “gender–bending” form of masculinity.  Moreover, in ancient Greece the rituals of Dionysian religion often employed transvestite practices.

Dionysus was the one who brings madness and so the term “Dionysian” invokes a notion of “sacred madness”.  The ecstatic frenzy that took place during the archaic rituals involved a temporary insanity.  The trance state the participants entered were the result of wine, song, erotic union, as well as mind-altering substances.  Dionysus represents the irrational wisdom of our senses and an intuitive way of seeing the world.

The term “Dionysian” invokes the transgressive states of consciousness at the heart of ecstatic religion.  Related to the notions of sacred madness and ecstatic frenzy are the association of “Dionysian” with sexual orgies and intoxication.

One of Dionysus’s epithets is “the Liberator” and some claim that he appears whenever revolution and revolt break out.  The ancient followers of Dionysus often included men who have nothing to loose and women who cannot stand being locked at home any more (Ginette Paris 1990 Pagan Grace). Women, slaves and foreigners were among the chief participants.

Spiritual Practices to Make the Natural World a Sacred Object

Modern secular society tends to regard the natural world as something for humans to use.  This “utilitarian creed” is reinforced by an extreme anthropocentrism in which humans constantly imagine that it is all about them–that the world exists solely to satisfy human desire.  They worship the gods of Progress, Economic Growth and Profit, and faith in this trinity has led to a near ecological collapse.  Humans are so asleep to the consequences of this mechanistic conception of nature that we need a revolutionary religion to jolt open our eyes and awaken us to the world we’ve created.  We are born of the earth, live all our days within it and shall ultimately return to it.

In studying the cosmologies of indigenous tribal people across the globe as well as the tenets of modern Nature Religions a set of moral and ecological insights emerge which coalesce into a holistic body of knowledge that I am calling the “Wisdom of the Earth”.  These teachings remind us:

· Of the shared origins of all forms of life
· Of the ecological integrity of natural systems
· Of the ancient bonds of kinship between humans and other species
· Of the cycles of nature

At the heart of the Wisdom of the Earth is the idea that the natural world is inherently holy, that it is alive and animated by a single, unifying life force and that it is unfathomably mysterious.  Moreover, humans are responsible for sustaining harmony within nature, must express gratitude and make sacrifices in return for the benefits they derive from the natural world, and must routinely honor nature.

To re-sacralize our natural world and to turn it into a “Thou” rather than an “it”, Dionysian Naturalism hopes to develop spiritual practices, including rituals and ceremonies, liturgies, and mythopoetic narratives.  We need to discard the hierarchical schism between human beings and nature.  Humans are a mere part of nature and not the center of the universe.

Embodied Rituals and Our Relationship to Nature

Most indigenous tribal societies have had intimate relationships with their natural surroundings, sustainable cultural practices which often lasted hundreds of years and earth-centered spiritualities grounded in rich ceremonies and rituals.  Modern industrial civilization with its emphasis on practicality and instrumental rationality often finds such earth-affirming ritual practices frivolous curiosities at best, and lack insight into the wisdom they contain.  The embodied rituals of Nature Religions are best understood as sophisticated spiritual technologies which help to maintain a healthy relationship between and people and their natural world.  To repair our bonds to nature, DN urges us to reclaim such spiritual practices.

Many Nature Religions celebrate the Wheel of the Year and the eight seasonal holidays of which it is composed.  I urge Religious Naturalists of all persuasions to find ways to honor the cycles of life through these solstices, equinoxes and the cross quarter days. We need to particularize these festivals so that they fit the rhythms of our given localities and the actual manifestations of nature found therein.  Let us create meaningful and creative rituals filled with myth, art, story and dance which can deepen our connections to our bioregions and the living communities they contain.

Numerous other spiritual practices found in Nature Religions act to strengthen the relationship of humans to their natural world.  The practice of “casting a circle” in Wicca by invoking the four directions and the four elements situationally emplaces us within a local setting.  “Grounding” is often used in contemporary Pagan rituals to explicitly connect participants with the earth.  People are urged to imagine tree-like roots extending from themselves to the ground beneath their feet allowing a circuit of energy to flow between themselves and the earth.   And finally, by celebrating the Passages of Life we honor the rhythms of nature.  It is the repetition of these rituals, which focus upon our finding ourselves within nature, which helps to restore sacredness to our world and to ourselves.

We develop a sense of nature as sacred through first coming to see ourselves as sacred,. What embodied rituals and other spiritual practices can we employ to see ourselves as sacred?  Parker Palmer states: “Self-care is never a selfish act—it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others” (Let Your Life Speak 1999: pp. 30-31)  Diet and exercise are two important ways we care for our bodies and have been a mainstay of religious regimes from time immemorial. Contemplative practices, such as prayer and mindful meditation, nourish our minds and allow for mental space to consider our gifts to the world.  Slowing down allows us to be present and take time to acknowledge our reverence. Deep thought allows us opportunity to reflect upon our values and our attitudes, which are always choices we get to make.   Most importantly, contemplative practices can aid us in deeply knowing ourselves and our own mysteries.  No sharp line of demarcation separates us from the world.,  We each are manifestations of energies which have created and continue to create the universe.  We must awaken to this ecological conscience by allowing a spirit of respect, compassion and care to pervade our everyday lives and interactions.  We must take responsibility for how we live and live our lives with integrity.

The Re-Sacralization of Nature Through Entheogenic Sacraments

Dionysian Naturalism reclaims the shamanic heritage of the first Nature Religions.  Specifically, it embraces the entheogenic mysticism of our ancestors, who celebrated the holy in ecstatic rituals, often involving mind-altering sacred plants (entheogens)  We currently live in social worlds which strictly prohibit the use of so-called “drugs”;  The whole notion that altered states of consciousness might be gateways to spiritual experiences and insights is largely absent from our dominant culture.  We deny the history of the world’s religions and we deny our true human natures.  If we are a species prone to drunken orgies and getting stoned, let us accept who we are and embrace those aspects of humanity.

I envision a post-prohibitionist religion of the future in which the sacred use of plant-gods once again flourishes.  The “forgotten gnosis” which is the outcome of the ecstatic rituals at the heart of Dionysian Naturalism serves to re-sacralize nature;  Initiates often begin with the feelings of alienation so common in our modern world.  We sense that something vital is missing from our lives and feel disconnected from others and our natural world.  The consumption of entheogenic sacraments are framed as sacred journeys in which initiates face a symbolic death and rebirth.  Mythopoetic narratives and embodied and emplaced rituals will be constructed to elaborate these themes in a powerful language of reverence.  These deep and profound personal mystical experiences lead to a transformation of consciousness regarding our place in the world.

In our normal states of consciousness there is a clear separation between us and the outside world. Under the influence of hallucinogens, the boundary between the experiencing ego and the outside world disappears or becomes blurred.  As the ego reaches out to objects in the external world, they seem to come to life and acquire new meaning.  We feel blissfully linked to objects in the world and may sense a unifying wholeness to the cosmos.  This cosmic consciousness is recognized as a transcendent experience and a core aspect of religion.  The I-Thou barrier may be relaxed or dissolved and the individual feels at one with the whole of creation.

Frequently commentators on the entheogenic experience note that prolonged and repeated use leads to the dissolution of the ego and an overwhelming sense of the unity of the cosmos.  What is left, according to the late entheogenic researcher Terence McKenna, includes a “collective connection to the Earth”.  McKenna argues that the loss of these rituals has had a devastating consequence for Western civilization.  There has been a steady focus on the ego, and we have broken our relationship with the sacred feminine and the mysteries of life.  Our estrangement from nature is a direct result of the suppression of the Pagan mysteries and the banning of the shamanic use of techniques of ecstasy.  As McKenna states:

“An interrupted psychophysical symbiosis between ourselves and the visionary plant is the unrecognized cause of the alienation of modernity and the cultural mind-set of planetary civilization” (Food of the Gods, 1992: p. 245).

McKenna calls for a revival of the use of psychoactive plants in order to repair our relationship with nature.

I realize that this aspect of my approach to spirituality is the most challenging to people.  People who embrace my ecotheology, my concerns for social justice, and ethical framework might wince when they discover my support of entheogenic religion.  Often they are not aware that the very origins of religion may be found with these mind-altering sacraments (“the Wasson thesis”).  Or they may be ignorant to the very special wisdom obtained through such practices, what Nietzsche called “ur-eine”.  Most do not realize how our special human bonds with our natural world were likely greatly enhanced by these psychoactive plants.

Dionysian Naturalism as a Revolutionary Spirituality

Dionysian Naturalism (DN) begins with the historical experience of massive environmental devastation, as well as other social problems that result from our current social system, especially economic inequality, racism and sexism and other forms of oppression.  To create a just and sustainable society we need a spiritual revolution to awaken our consciousness to our bonds to other humans, to other species and to the planet.  We need to re-evaluate the moral and ethical framework of modernity and change it to one built upon total respect and dignity for ALL life forms and to every aspect our natural world. We need to come to see everything in our world as inherently sacred and worthy of veneration.

We must enter a phase of human history with more profound social changes than have ever been experienced before. The two prior great societal transformation of human history occurred at much slower paces.  The neolithic or agricultural revolution probably happened gradually over many generations.  The industrial revolution was somewhat faster, often occurring within the lifespan of single individuals.  We do not have the luxury of being able to slowly implement the required changes.  We need to almost immediately jump-cut to a new world.  And we need a spirituality which will support such huge leaps forward in our social form.  Dionysian Naturalism asserts the possibility of these changes.

We live in an age in which a number of “prophets” are envisioning a better future for our world and are devising strategies to get there.  A prophet is one who speaks by divine inspiration, often critically evaluating an existing society and putting forward a vision of a future society. The moral vision of “what isn’t working” and “the way it should be” aid a people to understand their world and change it in accord with spiritual principles and visions of society.

Lately, I have been reading the writings of David Korten and James Gustave Speth (among others). Both of these prophetic thinkers call for radically democratic political systems in which power is shared and balanced and opposition is encouraged and celebrated. They call for an economic system that is sufficiently regulated to ensure both the protection of consumers and the sustainability of the Earth. They envision a system in which wealth is redistributed generously to support the health and well-being of all citizens. And they want a social world in which all citizens are treated with dignity and respect.  I could name dozens of other prophetic voices echoing these same concerns and envisioning similar futures. When we “speak truth to power,” as the Hebrew prophets Amos and Jeremiah urged, we can tap into the spiritual roots of our political activism.

Experiences of the sacred are a source of a prophet’s sense of mission, her or his passion for justice and the courage to challenge the powers that be. For me, the sacred is our human response to the wondrous mystery of the unfolding of creation as feelings of awe, wonder and humility.  Some of these new prophetic voices are inspired by spiritual traditions that proclaim a “reverence for life.” By this is meant something more radical that the idea that every human life is sacred. Rather, what is proposed is that the universe is alive and humans are enmeshed in webs of existence.  This “systems perspective” is leading to a profound shift in our perception of reality.  A resurgence of wisdom traditions, such as Nature Religions, is occurring around the globe. Central to these changes is the notion that humans do not have “dominion” over nature but are merely a part of it.

Concluding Remarks

Our social system is inherently flawed as it is set upon principles of hierarchy, exploitation, domination and inequality.  Modern industrial civilization must be replaced with a form of society grounded in ecological sustainability, cooperation and greater equality.  Without doubt, these radical shifts will be very difficult to bring about.  Thus, Dionysian Naturalism must be an engaged spirituality in which spiritual sensibilities infuse our daily habits and practices as we remake a new world. The Earth is alive and we are but a small and humble part of this marvelous system.  Dionysian Naturalism is based upon a largely scientific worldview concerning the nature of reality which remains skeptical about truth-claims regarding supernatural phenomena and builds a theology upon our human response to the natural world.  Eschewing anthropocentrism, it wholly supports the inherent dignity and worth of ALL life forms in our cosmos and takes a holistic view of the interconnected web of life that humans live within.

Contemporary ecotheology must begin with the premise that there exists a relationship between our spiritual beliefs and practices and the current degradation of our natural environment.  Given our grave ecological crisis and the dire need for immediate action, I have advocated a revolutionary approach to religion, which massively critiques modern industrial civilization and thoroughly re-evaluates the values which have provided the moral and ethical framework of modernity.  Dionysian Naturalism posits that a central spiritual transformation required during the Great Turning, which will aid us in our creation of a new sustainable, just and cooperative economic system, is the re-sacralization of our natural world.  By radically changing our sense of the sacred and directing reverence toward nature, Dionysian Naturalism is grounded in an awakening consciousness of our connection to the planet, to other species and to one another.  Our holy planet is alive and all species share a special kinship with each other within our fragile web of life because of the unifying and mysterious life force we share.  We humans must be humble protectors of these ecosystems and must show our gratitude for nature’s abundance through routine acts of reverence.

May courage be with us all so that we might commence the high and holy work of transforming our social world in a responsible way. No more may we ruin the Earth. Never again shall we allow such gross human inequities. May we no longer have throngs of marginalized, silenced and displaced masses huddled on our streets. Allow us to have that courage to change that which must be changed. A new manifestation is at hand, a new hour has come. Amen.

 

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Originally published in Dr. Mellinger’s blog: Doing Modernity

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