Saturday, October 20, 2007

Experience of the Spirit

In his book ReEnchantment (2000), David Tacey writes that: 'We are witnessing the rebirth of an ancient experience of the spirit.' He views this spiritual enflowerment as 'holistic, embodied, mystical and immanental rather than transcendental' (2000:100). It is inspired by indigenous eco-religious cosmologies. In the western quest for the sacred and the outpouring of individualised spiritualities, Tacey argues that we need to create a web of connections from the centre outward (rather than an upward heavenly focus) and seek the 'divine presence' in everyday subjective experiences.

What is useful about Tacey's overview is his potent observation of the shift within a postmodern spirituality from the transcendent to the immanent and self-transcendent, from heaven to the heavens and the earth, from power over to reconciliation, from a disembodied a-sexuality to an acceptance (indeed celebration) of our erotic and embodied lives, and from the masculinity embedded in hierarchy and dogma to the recovery of 'the feminine face of the divine' (102). Tacey hopes this will bring about an earth-centred spiritual revival, whether within mainline religions or the syncretism of new age spiritualities.

These shifts are apparent in the expressions of nature religion as well as the greening of mainstream religious practice. The influence of concepts such as lived experience and lived religion have overflowed into everyday life such that the daily connection with the river valley offers a space to experience the sacred in everyday ecological processes and actively participate in the sacredness of river spirituality.

The theme of sacred water and river spirit is also the focus of a radio performance honouring the Chesapeake Watershed in Maryland (US). Entitled 'In Living Community: A Spirituality of Water', producer and writer Sara Leeland (2006) pays homage to the flow of the river noting the deleterious impact of upstream action on downstream river and enbayment health. She laments that the waters of the once nourishing fish-filled Chesapeake Bay 'are on the edge of dying' (2).

One reason for the state of these troubled waters, she believes, is that politics and a desire for healthy waterways don't mix, so she concludes that politics is not the answer. Instead she questions whether a 'spiritual re-awakening' could change our response-ability about 'the role of water in our lives'. Then she asks: 'Could such an awakening lead to unprecendented support for action to heal our human impacts on the waters of this planet?' (2).

Leeland raises similar questions to Tacey. Both outline that an eco-spiritual revival is linked to the understanding of the planet as 'a revelation of divine wisdom'. This, Leeland hopes, can be manifested in a practical engagement in water-care, saying, 'The more we become sensitive and reponsive to water, the further it leads us into a vital recognition of our larger community' (Leeland, 2006:9).

Water holds a spiritual power that spirals through the peaks of waves and rides on the interflow of the salt-laden tides.

Leeland SE, 2006, In Living Community: A Spirituality of Water, Radio performance piece, Chesapeake County, WYRY 97.5 LP FM,
Tacey D, 2000, ReEnchantment: The New Australian Spirituality, Sydney, HarperCollins.