Category Archives: Essay

The Otherworld

Universum - C. Flammarion, Holzschnitt, Paris ...

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There are two worlds.  These are not the worlds of the living and the dead, but the material world and the world of ideas.  They are not separate, but interact with each-other.  Ideas create reality and reality creates ideas.  The material world can be investigated and explored through scientific means, but the Otherworld cannot.  It is the world of dreams, visions, fantasy, fiction, imagination, visualization, and inspiration. Its reality is not literal, but metaphorical, as are its truths. In a sense, these metaphorical truths are more real than reality because they have multivalent meanings — they come closer to the divine.  Our society establishes a clear boundary between reality and fantasy, and values the former over the latter. The boundary, however, can be crossed.  We can enter into the Otherworld and bring a piece of it back into the material world.  This is the essence of magic, the key to creativity.

(2002)

What would Jesus do? Finding a spiritual archetype when you don’t have a religion.

Brooklyn Museum - Hands Female Nude Baby - Kah...

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How can I find a spiritual archetype that inspires me when I don’t have a religion to point the way for me?

Organized religions have a multitude of characters a faithful person can draw inspiration from.  Christians have Christ, Buddhist have the Buddha, Muslims have Muhammad.  There are gods, saints, prophets, holy men, characters from mythology and scripture.  Organized religions also tends to codify the characteristics of a devote follower.  They set out guidelines for daily and weekly religious practice, and observance of holy days and rites of passage.

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Eat thy neighbour – some thoughts on Nature-based religion

Lion 'hugging' zebraI would say my religion is nature-based.  Nature – by this I mean the physical world, from the subatomic to the cosmic.  When some people talk about nature-based religion they mean things humans didn’t make.  So forests are ‘nature’ and cities are not.  But when I say my religion is nature-based, I mean that it is based in the physical world.

So where do things like ‘gods’ and ‘supernatural beings’ come in.  You can’t have a religion without those things!  (Well, actually, you can.)  I would describe myself as a polytheist / pantheist / panentheist / animist / monist.  And I’m also an atheist and believe the gods are only metaphors constructed by humans.

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The Urban Forest

Regina streetscape

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I love the trees here.  They’re so friendly.  I’ve been in forests up north where the trees are foreboding.  Watching wearily like wolves.  Reminding you that you are an intruder in this place.  A noisy nuisance at best.

But here, in the city, the trees are friendly.  I think it’s because we have domesticated them.  Wild trees don’t grow here.  So we grow them from seeds, plant them by hand, support them with steaks to protect them from the prairie wind.  We water them, band them, spray them, prune them.  They are dependent on us.  They greet us with lolling leaves and happily wag their branches as we pass.

And we are happy to have them, too.  We say we need them for shade, for windbreak, to beautify the urban landscape.  But really, I think we need them for company.  They make us feel less lonely.  They are an oasis, protecting us from the vast emptiness that surrounds us.

The Bohemian lives of birds

A pair of Bohemian Waxwings (Bombycilla garrul...

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The other morning I thought I heard a strange whirring sound that made me look out the window.  The trees were covered in birds!  At first I thought they were just sparrows, but they seemed too fat to be sparrows, and they definitely didn’t sound like sparrows.  Then I noticed a distinctive crest – Bohemian Waxwings!  I’ve seen Cedar Waxwings before, but not Bohemians.  Bohemians are much ‘plumper’ looking than the sleek Cedars.   Despite the cold weather, I cracked the window open a bit to hear their shrill chatter a bit better.  The cat, too, was very excited and came to check out what was going on.  For a few minutes, I just enjoyed the sight and sound of the birds before they flew off to a neighbourhood where the berries were (hopefully) a bit more abundant. Continue reading

A Pagan In St. Paul’s Cathedral – E. Pauline Johnson

St Paul's Cathedral and the remaining tower of...

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Iroquois Poetess’ Impressions in London’s Cathedral

It is a far cry from a wigwam to Westminster, from a prairie trail to the Tower Bridge, and London looks a strange place to the Red Indian whose eyes still see the myriad forest trees, even as they gaze across the Strand, and whose feet still feel the clinging moccasin even among the scores of clicking heels that hurry along the thoroughfares of this camping-ground of the paleface. Continue reading