DR. DAVID FRAWLEY (PANDIT VAMADEVA SHASTRI)
There are many movements going on today that aim to change or improve the world in this time of global crisis. Almost everyone is encouraging us to become an activist in one form or another, for one cause or another. While I don’t doubt the necessity of this position, and have been active for several causes myself, I wonder whether it is enough? Can anything we do as mere human beings take us out of the rut caused by the unsacred way in which we live, by our human-centered way of life that tramples the world of nature around us and blinds us to the spirit beyond?
We mainly look to human agencies to help us or to improve the world. We look to politics to elect a better party or a better leader to show us the way beyond the problems that politicians have caused. Or we look to economics for a better plan to use our resources or a way to more equitably distribute the wealth, though our business and economic leaders have shown themselves to be woefully shortsighted in their actions. We want governmental help, charitable grants or media coverage for our cause, in order to better promote it in society, though the government and media often seem to be making our problems worse. We think that by changing human institutions and those who run them, the world will also change.
If we do look to the spiritual realm, it is also usually to human agencies, human teachers and manmade, historical beliefs and human-centered dogmas. We try to save other people through our personal belief or conviction, as if making the majority of people follow a certain religious or spiritual formula that appeals to us, will magically solve all other problems. If we call upon God, it is usually a rather human God, sometimes with notable political biases, and it is to favor our particular group and its interests that our prayers usually go forth; not to transcend our differences or to dissolve them in the Divine presence, that is beyond all names and forms.
The fundamental problem – which is at the root of all our outer social and personal problems – is that we as human beings are asleep and insensitive to the sacred world in which we live. We do not honor Nature and the Divine powers at work within her ever-changing currents. The result is that we do not honor each other or even honor ourselves, much less the greater non-human world. We don’t see the beauty of life as a whole; much less sense its deeper consciousness. We plunder and pillage nature in our search for human happiness, pleasure, wealth and power, or at best make nature into an adornment for our selfaggrandizement.
In the commercial realm, everything is a commodity to buy or sell, whose value will go up or down in an unpredictable manner. We are judged by what we own, earn or – worse yet in the age of credit cards – by what we owe, as if these numbers have some positive value and lasting significance for the real meaning of our lives. In the religious realm, the individual is commonly regarded as a soul to be harvested or a potential donor for a belief or an institution. We are judged by a religious label or name that puts us in a limited camp, not by a greater sense of unity with the universe that transcends all human definitions. We seem trapped in an outer show of superficial quantities in which our higher Self, which is more akin to the stars, is forgotten along with the living world around us.
The Volcano’s Voice
Recently I had the honor of being part of an ancient Hawaiian ritual to Pele, the Goddess of fire, the volcano Goddess, at the cliff at the rim of the crater of Kilauea in Hawaii, the world’s most active volcano, which was steaming with sulfur. Representatives of the island’s spiritual elders, who had a living lineage and connection to that Goddess power no human agency can ever control, accompanied us. One could feel oneself drawn into the crater in an almost palpable manner, as if one would gladly become a human offering to the Goddess.
The great Gods and Goddesses of geology, of the primal earth energies, were alive and one could sense them, smell them and almost touch them, their energies pervading the physical and the psychic air. These powers were sensitive and aware and could guide us to a deeper consciousness, peace and transcendence, if we could but leave our human identities and compulsions behind.
At that moment, one’s individual life, and the entire human world, seemed rather small and trifling, a brief lull in the midst of greater geological transformations that marked the land. One could sense yet more primeval powers at the origins of creation when the entire universe was a vast erupting ball of fire and great deities looked over the beautiful inferno of light with timeless eyes, gliding through the currents with a bodiless joy and an unbounded energy that had no end.
Native peoples – to the extent that we still leave them to their original cultures – and the ancient world in general, reflect a sense of the sacred that allows them to honor every plant, animal, land formation, cloud or star. For them life is measured by the sacred time of nature’s rhythms. Every human action requires a prayer and a ritual to make it part of the greater sacred world. Such native cultures have largely been dehumanized and devitalized, and are but a shadow of their former selves. But we can still sense the sacred moving in them and their traces on the land.
We continued along the crater’s rim and soon encountered the usual groups of tourists, who went in and out of their cars for a quick view of nature’s wonders. It was an odd sensation. One could still feel the ancient deities and the sacred mystery of the land, but the people one saw missed this altogether, floating in their personal thoughts oblivious that they were at the womb of the great Goddess herself. Of course, they saw the crater with their physical eyes but it was mainly a geological phenomenon or a photo opportunity, a memento of having been to the vacation paradise of the Hawaiian Islands.
Such modern people, largely divested of the sacred, seemed like shadows, though no doubt, all were looking for something sacred to give meaning to their lives. One could sense the anguish of those who worshipped the volcano Goddess to see the sacred body of their mother trampled upon as a tourist curiosity. We did not see anyone else bow down to the Goddess, much less make her an offering, call out to her or hear her voice, though probably it echoed in the minds of many passersby as a strange and unrecognizable background sound.