“Man is the most insane species. He worships an invisible God and destroys a visible Nature. Unaware that this Nature he’s destroying is this God he’s worshiping.”

Hubert Reeves

The Realm of God on Earth : Spirituality and Climate Adversity | Priyanka Singh

The same piece of rock is holy for one yet futile for another. What is this relevance that some might feel towards a certain object? The experience of sacredness doesn’t have to be backed by logic, it’s a feeling. With all the words that exist in many languages, beyond the definitions of any dictionary, we all have the liberty to define and choose what it means to us, it could be as unique as our individualities.  

The presence of this feeling that there is something bigger than us that we relate to or are guided or mesmerised by is proof enough that humans essentially are spiritual beings.

This feeling can come from anything a flowing river, a flower, an animal, a fellow human, or something as massive as the cosmos.

There is a saying in my language ‘कण कण में हैं भगवान’ which translates to ‘God is in every particle’ which is similar to the view of Pantheism (It comes from ‘pan’ meaning all, and ‘theism,’ which means belief in God) “God is everything and everything is God.” I’m Priyanka Singh, founder and EIC of Planted Journal. I’m here to comprehend, What could spirituality mean in the age of climate adversity?
With the contrast degradation of the Planet, the urgency to understand the power of spirituality is of utmost importance.

The human pursuit of experiencing a connection with divinity is mysterious yet omnipresent. With the evolution of our species, there has been a parallel evolution of spirituality.

There is strong evidence that prehistoric humans performed rituals and possibly engaged in ancestral worshipping. Grave goods like stone tools and animal bones were accompanied by the deceased during burials. Ritual burials signify an awareness of life and death and a possible belief in the afterlife.

Living beings are primarily spiritual beings that sustain themselves by interacting with other spiritual entities such as plants and animals, and eventually merge with ancestral and natural spirits. Amongst the indigenous communities in southeast Asia, the spirits of everything from the mountains, rivers, forests and soil, are holy and believed to be guarding these places. Certain animals, especially tigers (Robert Wessing 1986), possess or can acquire their power. The life of the people living within these spaces is governed by these spirits.

Animal worshipping is another form of spiritual practice prevailing since prehistoric times. Bear, cattle, leopards and other animals were worshipped and this tradition still continues in some parts of the world. Half-human and half-animal deities were prevalent in Greece, Mesopotamia, and Egypt. They have been spotted in cave art in Germany and Indonesia. These supernatural creatures are still part of folklore. The origin of such ideas is perhaps the result of an altered state of consciousness or trance induced during shamanic rituals. It symbolises the transformation of spirits into a different realm.

The kinship between humans and animals is also a foundation of Totemism. The mystical relationship with a being (plant or animal) is shared by an individual or a group, that particular entity is considered as a totem providing protection and guidance. The shamanic rituals also had the tendency to pass on totems as hereditary custom.

The solar and lunar cycle marks the beginning of many rituals since the primeval periods continuing till now. The celestial bodies created a sense of godliness, archaeological sites of Stonehenge in the UK and the pyramids of Egypt and Mexico are proof of such beliefs.

Though the term ‘animism’ was coined by English anthropologist Edward Burnett Taylor less than a few centuries ago, the existence and understanding of practicing spirituality in interconnectedness with nature is there from the very beginning.

These practices are of a primitive kind yet they offer the understanding that we now need to tackle the current climate adversity.

Nature is the ultimate source of our survival, it leaves us awed and induces a sense of mysticism. The act of surrendering to the power of nature and letting it take over us by appreciating the truth we are in fact nature manifesting in human form is essential at this point. Whatever we need for survival food, water, air, and sunlight is found in this source. Being at war and forgetting the power it holds to influence humanity as a whole is problematic because it is at the very core of our physical and spiritual formation. 

Every year since August 2019, Amazon Rainforest makes the headline for breaking records with forest fires. This year in 2022, we have preceded the worst day for Amazon fires in 15 Years. Indigenous communities would use fire to clear small plots of land for agricultural purposes, then move elsewhere leaving the land to be naturally taken over by the forest. This strategic use of fire was a means to avoid large-scale forest fires. The indigenous people have their own way to understand and work with the element of fire leading to a viable union within the ecosystem.

However, the fire that we are witnessing now is something else completely. Now the forest land is being cleared for commercial agriculture and cattle ranching―land that will never be left to be taken over by the forest. The sole purpose of this form of fire is to convert the sacred land into profit- oriented fields. These forests holds the undiscovered plant species that could possibly be the cure for diseases and could benefit medical science. By destroying the forest we are also destroying our last hope for survival.

“Man is the most insane species. He worships an invisible God and destroys a visible Nature. Unaware that this Nature he’s destroying is this God he’s worshiping.”

― Hubert Reeves

With the changing ecological aspects, we must remind ourselves of what we have inherited from our ancestors, what makes us sentient, how our spirituality evolved over time, and how nature has witnessed it all by remaining at the very centre of it. This connection is divine in every aspect. The depths of forests are not meant to be crossed, they must remain in exclusion from mainstream human activities and solely dedicated to the wildlife and indigenous community.

In the heart of these forests is the Realm of God on Earth.

Written by Priyanka Singh @priyanka.parihar16

Image curation by Antoine Lacour @Luna.dzn