Dreams in Fire
What is needed now is reconsecration, for there are no longer any paths for us to follow. Let us proudly declare to the mountains and the rivers: we renounce the cult of humanity, we renounce the world of techno-industrial society, and we bind ourselves in reverence and service to the living gods of earth and sky.”
From Ramon Elani
We lead two lives, and the half of our soul is madness, and half heaven is lit by a black sun. I say I am a man, but who is the other that hides in me?
I awoke from dreams of fire. Dark hills loom on the horizon. Thin clouds drift through golden light. The hour is late in the day, later than we have thought by far. How have we come to this place? Where is this desert? A world burning and gods fled. How did we get here? We threw down the gods and worshiped ourselves. We loved ourselves too much. And what have we received for five hundred years of self-love? Ruin. No justice, no freedom. We sought to make the world a paradise for humanity. All the world brothers and sisters. Not a mouth hungry, not a body sick without a cure. Peace and abundance. There have been no greater crimes than the ones done in the names of these dreams. To paraphrase Robinson Jeffers, would that we were never anything more than worms and our lot would have been a kinder, more fortunate one. The crimes of the beast are nothing compared to the crimes of man. We are faced with the death of the world and it was done by our hands. We will burn a star right out of the sky. Says the Seeress: Would you yet know more? An acid ocean, a desert world, air we cannot breathe, water we cannot drink, life gone. By all of the gods, it makes the cruelty of barbarism seem kind and merciful. What a heaven we inhabited before we thought to cure ourselves of our darkness! This I swear, there is no crime done by the bestial part of man that can touch what has been wrought by the cold and rational heart of the machine. I spit endless curses, until I bleed from the mouth, upon those that seek to put the world and the gods beneath man, to put the pettiness of man’s society above life.
But can we not order things just so? Can we not remove the fetters and throw down the tyrants that oppress us? Can we not bring the light of truth and love to those ignorant and misled who torment us? The engineer comes with his technics and seeks to put it all to rights. And yet, and yet. Our lives are not our own. Humanity declares its independence and in so doing, brings hell to the world.
Made from stones and stars, we are. A glittering galaxy in a drop of dew, fading fast before the dawn. All the same, when the power to move things came into our hands, how quick we were to discard our true kin, the stars and moon. With what enthusiasm did we cast aside thousands of years of muck and blood and song in favor of this thing we called ‘society’ and ‘humanity.’ Consumed with human dreams, we closed the door within our souls to the dreams of the world. And so the light passed away from us.
To truly dehumanize our perspective means changing our response to the sufferings of humanity. If we truly seek to renounce an anthropocentric view of the world, we must unfortunately recognize that equality, justice, and freedom are unknown to the spirit of the cosmos. They are ideas that were banished from our lives forever when we named them. The engineer, the scientist, the statist, the capitalist gave us these words, and thereafter forever held their power. Now we beg them to give us what every pebble and drifting speck of dust could not possibly be separated from.
Reason, rationality, and the others are not to be found on earth, other than in the dreams of the same modern, Enlightened consciousness that enslaved and massacred the half the world. The same consciousness that gave birth to industrialism. To deny the existence of a world without suffering, exploitation, and cruelty is not the same thing as sanctioning, promoting, or celebrating the horror and vileness of the current state of humanity. We may be able to trade certain types of suffering for others. And doing so may constitute more than a quantitative difference. But as long as solving human problems, whether disguised or not beneath layers of superficial variation, remains our primary orientation, we will continue to maintain and reinforce an anthropocentric consciousness. Regretfully, we would be better off sitting on the mountaintop and dedicating our lives to prayer than trying to fight the battles that so many are preoccupied with. In the words of Dogen: “The imperial power has no authority over the wise people in the mountains.” These are understandable battles, perhaps. Worthy battles, perhaps. But nonetheless, battles which will bring us no closer to what we claim to seek. Perhaps with prayer and meditation we can return to the spirit of the world: “knowing that nothing need be done, is where we begin to move from.” There is no doubt that we stand in the midst of the Kali Yuga, the age of vice, of quarrel and contention, and the bull of dharma stands upon one leg alone.
We know that the spirit world exists, because we see it in our dreams. Our hidden parts, the parts that have been sealed shut by techno-industrial society like an oyster protecting the pearl within, remain connected with the spiritual nature of the world. It is within the unconscious, within the world of dreams that we confront the self that is beyond the self. And is this not ultimately the lesson of spiritual and mystical traditions? That all is one, all is not human. For that matter, human is not human. We are in the rock, tree, beast, and insect. And they are in us. For all is one, and that one is the spirit. Gary Snyder, once called the ‘poet laureate of deep ecology,’ puts it thus:
the world is our consciousness, and it surrounds us. There are more things in the mind, in the imagination than “you” can keep track of—thoughts, memories, images, angers, delights rise unbidden. The depths of mind, the unconscious, are our inner wilderness areas, and that is where a bobcat is right now. I do not mean personal bobcats in personal psyches, but the bobcat that roams from dream to dream.
Gary Snyder offers us little as far as action and praxis. This is not a coincidence. The more we search for paths to follow, the further we are from the way of the world. We have only to effortlessly grasp the meaning of things and leave it at that. As it is written in the daodejing: “a path that can be followed is not a spiritual path.” Let us leave things to the spirit of the world. In the end, this is the way to ultimately renounce our anthropocentrism. If humanity is not the culmination of the natural world, then why should we assume that the world is ours to save. It will not be saved by us, no matter what path we try to follow. Our delusions of control will only become reinforced in the process. If we are gods, as techno-industrial society tries to convince us, then the world is ours to exploit or attempt to save. But if we reject the idea that humanity is the center of the universe then
it would be presumptuous to think that Gaia much needs our prayers of healing vibes. Human beings themselves are at risk—not just on some survival of civilization level but more basically on the level of heart and soul. We are in danger of losing our souls.
We don’t understand what we are, what we are made of. We don’t understand that this world we treat as the backdrop for our petty dramas and squabbles or as material for our conquests, is alive with spiritual energy and myriad entities and powers. We would not be able to ignore this fact if we threw ourselves into the fearsome and awe-inspiring heart of life. Once, we could perceive the leopard’s grammar. The law that says, ‘I will eat you. I will devour you. For you are weak and I am strong.’ Techno-industrial civilization denies the law of the world. The spiritual life of our ancestors taught us to honor the law. As Gary Snyder writes, “the archaic religion is to kill god and eat him. Or her. The shimmering food-chain, the food-web, is the scary, beautiful condition of the biosphere.” If we wish to recover what has been lost, what has been taken from us by techno-industrial society, we must look inward to find it. We must rediscover that we exist as spiritual beings in a living world that is simultaneously alive and divine. What is needed now is reconsecration, for there are no longer any paths for us to follow. Let us proudly declare to the mountains and the rivers: we renounce the cult of humanity, we renounce the world of techno-industrial society, and we bind ourselves in reverence and service to the living gods of earth and sky.