Observations of the light and the dark of what is, was, and might be in the Pagan community's expansion and evolution.
The Deep Sky
The vast and deep expanse of the sky has always been a source of wonder for me. I have the good fortune of living in a place that is still rural enough so that I can see the Milky Way, and many many stars simply by stepping outside into the night. Almost without fail, I find that gazing into the heavens awakens within me the grand presence of the sacred. What I have seen with simply my eyes is enough to inspire this blog, but what has been seen by the collective eye that we call the Hubble Space Telescope does more. I've included a photo that is called the Hubble Extreme Deep Field which shows a tiny portion of the sky, and yet within it there are over 5500 galaxies. Almost every speck of light in the photo is a galaxy and the average galaxy contains between 200 and 400 billion stars.
We do not have the means to observe the whole of the manifest universe, but what we can see exceeds our comprehension. Some may say that we can comprehend the manifest universe through all the various diagrams, charts, and graphs that can summarize it. While that is true, it is a bit of a conceit and only provides the illusion of knowing and feeling the immensity of space. I have had friends tell me that the sheer size of space makes them feel small and insignificant if they look too long into the never ending sky. The sky that is shown to me through the instruments of science parts the veil to a mystery that awakens the sacred within me.
Whether or not it is done with awareness and intention, it is very telling to me that so many fundamentalist faiths greatly limit the size of space and the span of time that is the demarcation for their universe. May we never fall into that trap, or at the very least may we drag ourselves out of it quickly.
I can tell you that meditating upon the grandeur of space has had an impact on my beliefs and practices. I believe among other things, in spirits of place. I also believe that the Goddesses and Gods have identities that are as real as our own identities. I should also point out that the concept of individual identity is slippery whether it is applied to humans or Divine Beings. I also believe in the strong form of the “as above so below” axiom. As such everything is involved and enmeshed in the process of evolution, whether it be a tree, a human, or a Divine Being. So if I take these things that I hold true and fix my gaze on the stars, I imagine the following:
Every star, nebula, planet, comet, and more has its own myriad of spirits of place. Each location defined as a specific place, by its local context, has its own genius loci.
If the tiny speck that is our planet merits the attentions of Goddesses and Gods, then what of the billions upon billions of other planets? What of the glowing nebulae that are the birthplaces of new stars? Are they also the domains of Goddesses and Gods?
I am enough of an animist to say that I believe that there is life everywhere throughout the universe. I am enough of an optimist to believe that there is intelligent life elsewhere as well. How many billions upon billions of Goddesses and Gods, myths and pantheons (or their analogues) exist beyond this world?
I am fairly convinced that all the Goddesses and Gods that we have names for, that we work with, or that we worship are local. And by local I mean that they are associated with our planet or at the most our solar system. Any Deity that can encompass a universe large enough to contain the over 200 billion galaxies that can be observed, exceeds the reach and the grasp of our creeds and our consciousness.
In the face of the actual scale of time and space, it becomes unlikely that any of the Gods and Goddesses that we can know are actually omniscient, omnipresent, or any other “omni”. I would also say that any Creator Deities we know would also be local Creators rather than the Creator(s) of the Universe. I believe that the Goddesses and Gods have their own Deities that they in turn work with and worship. This perspective does not diminish them, but rather places them in a new context. Our mythologies and metaphysics have been foreshortened, not just by placing the Earth at the center, but by making the heavens too small.
I'm filled with wonder and awe when I look at the night sky. My heart and my mind expand even further when I see through the artificial eyes of constructs such as the Hubble Space Telescope. When I try to imagine how much more can be perceived through the senses of the Goddesses and Gods that we know, I am beyond words. When I try to meditate upon what a true Cosmic Divinity might be like, consciousness falters. But it is through that effort of stumbling for words or of consciousness faltering as we try to reach the boundaries of our knowing that we grow through the practice of mystery.
You may or may not find comfort or agreement with these speculations, but I suggest that you not ignore the messages that are writ large across the canvas of nature. The canvas of nature is larger than the earth and the blue sky of our atmosphere. I think that one of the hallmarks of living, evolving, healthy, Pagan traditions is a vigorous interplay between the realms of science and the realms of myth. Without this, we may find ourselves in an evolutionary cul-de-sac, or worse yet mired in literalism. Keep looking up and out as much as you look in and within.
- Photos courtesy of NASA
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