This Category, *Pagan Ethics, contains a series of posts that are a commentary on a book – Living with Honour – written by Emma Restall Orr.  My interest in Pagan ethics emerges out of a need to capture in words the attitudes and behaviour that might manifest out of a person’s love of Gaia and dedication to an Earthen Spirituality.  Emma’s beautiful book, which I at first eagerly skimmed, then read slowly and carefully and now enjoy re-reading has stimulated my thinking and inspired the comments in these posts. I obviously highly recommend the book and hope that my commentary serves the spirit of *Pagan Ethics and challenges the reader to examine their attitudes and world view toward a greater reverence for our place within and among the life of Gaia.  As my one-time friend Wolf says, may Gaia bless.


Divine Intent and the Craving for Certainty

Emma Orr suggests that divine intent – following God’s law – is “no more than the craving for certainty.” I fully agree, to the extent that I propose that for most people, resulting from this lack of certainty lays the foundation for their interest in an other-worldly worldview. The extent of this fear of the unknown – shockingly, most of us don’t remember signing any agreements to get into this life and have little idea what will happen when our organic life ends – leaves most people with this bottom-line prayer: “Oh, God, please tell me what to do!” Having been brought-up in a Protestant, nearly fundamentalist setting, I can remember the excruciating search for “the right way to live.” For about five years it dominated my behaviour dominating my interest in life and allowing me no peace or rest.

I just couldn’t find a satisfying, coherent path. The biggest stumbling block was the image of over ¾ of the human population damned to hell because they were unwilling or unable to say just the right words concerning Jesus Christ. My second stumbling block was the memory of my church experience as I remembered that only the well-heeled, suited, business and society men who took up the collection whilst the small farmer’s wives lesser well off folks did the cooking, cleaning, and child minding. I was so, naive. I thought that if I became a preacher, I could work in the fields during the week and visit the sick and preach on Sunday. Also, I would visit the bars and befriend those who might at some time open-up to having a chat on the subject of righteousness. After all, didn’t the Lord come down to earth to save the sinner? Well, that’s what the bible said. I desperately needed an answer to these paradoxes, I needed certainty because I thought it was my primary mission in life to find them; maybe I was seeking truth. Whatever, I found myself lonely and miserable; finding nothing else important enough to attend to. Finally, I gave up. I somehow was able to unchain myself from the agony of finding no suitable answer to the meaning of life through my narrow, Christian avenue of possibilities. At the age of 19, I found myself exhausted from the search and just decided to launch myself alone armed with only my limited experience and what seemed at the time, limited access to guidance from within. I remember standing on Central Avenue, Albuquerque, New Mexico saying something like: “Do what you will. I’m tired of seeking for the “right” way to live. I’ll go it alone. I’ve never looked back. I became free.
There are no mistakes, just outcomes and learning experiences. We are free to be who we are in any moment as long as we are willing to take the consequences of our actions. This is true freedom and it makes the world my oyster. Guidance comes from what I described in my previous blog post #4: reasoning and Knowing. Given my attitude expressed above; is the answer to Godlessness science and materialism? Certainly not, for they have become substitutes for traditional religion. Traditional science, reductionism and materialism have become our society’s chosen triune God. Those who don’t believe and thus do not fit gather meagre scraps from the table laden with the commodity market of world trade. Democracy is now spelled oligarchy. Sorry, I am no longer that desperate for answers.

Emma continues* [pg. 194] by citing how various prominent, deep thinkers: among them, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Sartre, Heidegger and John Stuart Mill weave their stories. Although this is fascinating reading – and I am in no way criticising Emma Orr, it is just that adopting somebody else’s meaning of life will not sustain you. Actually, I’m sure Emma fully agrees. After 100 years of research, and asking 1000 questions of sensitive thinkers and gurus, you will still be faced with the question: But how do I feel about this? The questions: Who am I? – And how shall I be in the world? – Can never be answered by anyone else but you. Don’t be too surprised if you don’t find at the end of this road that the answer is that there is no answer!
Why? One, you will never discover yourself “out there” because “you” are the looker. “You” are not an object that can be known. This is non-dualism. I’ll not offer further explanation at this time. I’ve explained it in my book Planet as Self. Better, see Ken Wilber in No Boundaries, Ramana Maharshi, or Jean Klein who do explain it far better and with deeper understanding than I.
Two, if you want answers, you will have to supply them yourself. The trouble is, most of us simply don’t trust our ability to know at that level. We have been conditioned to a life of dependency on divine authority even though we know that all religious leaders are persons speaking on behalf of God. So be it. As one of my favourite songs tells it: “Everything is beautiful in its own way.” I’m reminded of Vadim Zeland’s words: “The world is the mirror of your attitude towards it.”
Because of what I said in paragraph One above, I suggest that we will never be satisfied with “meaning of life” from the perspective of the prevalent world view consisting of the belief that we are separate entities looking out on a world “out there” and a planet that we happen to be “on.” Perhaps a more fulfilling framework, a position where our presence is integrated into a vast wholeness that we share, is a worldview that posits us as beings in a holarchy. We are the holons with our major systems, limbic, respiratory autonomous nervous system, etc. below us and Gaia, the living, loving Earth above us.
Thinking like a planet will be the subject of my next post #6

*Living with Honour, A Pagan Ethics, Emma Restall Orr, O-Books, 2007