“Love's Hurricane has come! The whirlwind of Knowledge has arrived!
My thatched roof of Delusion has been flung to the four directions!
My hut of illusion, so carefully crafted, has come careening down! …
With contemplation and clear devotion, the Holy Ones have rebuilt my roof.” Kabir, translated by Andrew Harvey in Turn Me to Gold: 108 Poem of Kabir
As the Earth resurrects in riotous Spring glory, what does it mean for me to practise resurrection in this season? What could it mean for us as a community? What might it mean for us as a society? As life starts to open up again, what may we open our hearts to?
There is no resurrection without death. The season of resurrection starts with “saying yes to the terrible blessing of death”, in the words of Mirabai Starr. If I were to think about this past year in terms of the Easter story, it feels to me as though we have been through a year long Easter Saturday – dead to our old lives, waiting in the darkness for new life to emerge.
The old familiar structures, securities, certainties, have gone. Like Kabir, I feel like my houses of delusion and illusion have come crashing down. I can no longer maintain the illusion that I am in control of anything except myself. I have had to really accept that everything is always changing. I am in a continual process of letting go of my attachments to the way I think things should be and my expectations of what the future holds. There is sacred healing in surrendering to the Great Mystery, in staying in the cloud of unknowing long enough to get wet through.
Carolyn Baker, in her recent book written with Andrew Harvey, Radical Regeneration: Birthing the New Human in the Age of Extinction, says, “the only sane response to the death of certainty is to practise being present to life from moment to moment. This does not mean ignoring the future or failing to connect the dots of the present with those in the future. What it does mean is committing to practicing presence while being awake to predicament.”
Practising presence while being awake to predicament. This is my commitment this Easter - to remain present to what is and not to shy away from looking into the shadows.
Many spiritual elders think that humanity is currently going through a global dark night – not just as a result of Covid-19, but with climate catastrophe, mass extinction and economic breakdown. All the old certainties are falling away. Some have used the word 'apocalypse' – which is usually used to refer to the end of the world, but literally means 'unveiling' or 'uncovering'.
We are seeing all the inequalities of the systems of domination that rule our world being unmasked – inequalities such as systemic racism, lack of access to vaccines for refugees, mass job losses being experienced by those in lower income brackets, and the world's poorest countries suffering most from the effects of climate change.
In the UK Unitarian movement a few historians are engaged in revealing the full picture of the legacy of slavery in our movement. Whilst many Unitarians campaigned to abolish slavery, there were more Unitarian slave traders than there were abolitionists – and many of our chapels and churches still benefit from their money.
These are hard truths to face. It is not always easy to know how to act on them, but together we can work through the muddle and the mire, if we are willing to commit to being open to what emerges.
In his 2001 book, The System of Anti-Christ: Truth and Falsehood in Postmodernism and the New Age, Sufi scholar Charles Upton wrote, “the specific spiritual practice of apocalyptic times is: To let everything be taken away from us, except the Truth.”
I have experienced this year as one when false layers have been stripped away. As well as the uncomfortable truths about the brokenness of our world that are being revealed to us, there is, I believe, another Truth, at the core of our being, a truth about our wholeness. This isn't a truth in the sense of something that can be fact-checked, but a deep, eternal Truth about the essence of life itself. To me, this Truth is that we were created in Love, we are Love and we are Loved, we are worthy of Love, Love is our purpose. Love literally makes the world go round - everything is connected, everything is in relationship. In essence, we are One.
There is a beautiful phrase that is repeated over and over again in the Hebrew scriptures to describe the relationship of Yahweh with His people – 'steadfast love'. I believe that we are all held in the “Steadfast Love” of the Divine embrace. I have felt this more and more over the past year, through all the chaos, this deep inner knowing that we are all, to use a Sufi phrase, the Beloved of the Beloved. And we can all be mirrors of this divine love. We have the potential to live lives of love and beauty, in harmony with God/Nature.
In his article, Covid-19 is a Symbol of a Much Deeper Infection - The Wetiko Mind-Virus, Psychologist Paul Levy suggests that Covid 19 is “a materialization in our world—a revelation —of the immaterial and heretofore invisible virus that exists deep within the collective unconscious of humanity, a virus of the mind—the Native Americans call it “wetiko”—that literally cultivates and feeds on fear and separation.”
This virus stems from the illusion of the ego that we are separate beings. It has infected humanity for a long, long time. It is behind the false separation of mind from body and humans from nature. I believe there is a vaccine for this virus – and the vaccine is Love, which transforms our separation into intimacy. The great Japanese Zen master Dogen wrote that “Enlightenment is intimacy with all things.”
Andrew Harvey and Carolyn Baker describe five levels or ever-widening circles of intimacy:
1. Non-duality – recognition that the One is living in you
2. Total communion – heart, mind, soul, and body, with another human being
3. Tenderness – radical, heartfelt compassion with all sentient beings and the practice of tender protectiveness that arises naturally from it
4. Creativity – the intimacy of pouring out our gifts in a vibrant, dynamic relationship with the world
5. Sacred action – action which midwifes the birth because it springs from the cultivation of the four other tantras that infuse and sustain it.
This Easter may we experience the resurrection of intimacy – intimacy with our true selves, with each other, with the interconnected web of being, with the Divine consciousness. The seeds of the new creation are hidden gems that exist within us already. During lockdown, many of us have already connected deeply with the truth that we are part of nature and not separate from it by spending much more time outdoors becoming intimately acquainted with our local wild places.
Wildness is one of the themes of Wendell Berry's poetry. Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front issues us with another invitation to “practice resurrection.” Or perhaps it is an invitation to practise insurrection – both resurrection and insurrection are 'rising up.' Wendell Berry encourages us to rise up in resisting the forces of control and surveillance in modern life , to defy expectations by going 'with your love to the fields'. Could we resurrect an older way of being, closer to the earth? Could we remember that we are part of nature and not separate, and act accordingly?
Richard Rohr, in his 2019 book, The Universal Christ, writes, “In the resurrection, the single physical body of Jesus moved beyond all limits of space and time into a new notion of physicality and light – which includes all of us in its embodiment.”
We all participate in resurrection. Death and resurrection are within us around us all the time. We all experience many deaths and resurrections throughout our lives. We see them in the cycle of the seasons. Perhaps the most pertinent example from nature is the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly.
Ferris Jabr, writing in Scientific American, describes the process, “First, the caterpillar digests itself, releasing enzymes to dissolve all of its tissues. If you were to cut open a cocoon or chrysalis at just the right time, caterpillar soup would ooze out. But the contents of the pupa are not entirely an amorphous mess. Certain highly organized groups of cells known as imaginal discs survive the digestive process. Before hatching, when a caterpillar is still developing inside its egg, it grows an imaginal disc for each of the adult body parts it will need as a mature butterfly or moth.”
Just as the caterpillar already contains all it needs to transform into a butterfly, so everything we need for our own transformation, is already within us. What imaginal discs do I have available in my caterpillar soup to form me into a butterfly, flying free?
Here's my Mad Farmers' Daughter Liberation Front Manifesto:
In the spirit of Kabir, rebuild the roof with contemplation, devotion and divine love
Release expectations and be open to what comes
Work on healing separation in all forms
Listen to the wisdom of the body
Nourish wholeness in communion with nature
Cultivate intimacy with all things
Commit to sacred activism – act from the tender compassion of intimacy for a resurrected life in which we love and cherish each other and all earthly beings.
In her 2016 article, Practice Resurrection: The Call of Easter, Christine Valters Painter wrote, “The resurrected life is at heart a great and mysterious process. It is not something we can understand on logical terms, it is only something we can live into and experience.”
This Easter, may we all live into and experience the resurrected life. May we be like the fox and practice resurrection.