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Spirituality as metaphor in relation to a life in harmony with nature
Civilization is a powerful force in terms of the creation and maintenance of worldviews in its population. It self-perpetuates by creating conditions for people that drive the way they think. Civilization is a consuming force; civilized people observe such and form the following opinion, almost automatically: "We must consume without end to survive." Depending on cultural context and other factors, this manifests in different ways: "Drill, baby, drill!" says the oil-loving free-marketeer. "Even though forest depletion sucks, it can hardly be helped." says the compromising "green" left-liberal. "...and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth." quotes the right-wing Christian. The mindset is unavoidable within the confines of civilization, but to abandon civilization is, among other things, a rejection of this mindset -- or else it is not an abandonment of civilization at all.

The anti-civilized person, looking at the crumbling ruins of their worldview, must build anew in the ashes -- just as they imagine building a new society in the ashes of this one. They must look to pre-civilization for inspiration, to be sure, but never trust that the old traditions hold all the answers. What then, is the foundation of our new worldview? I am not here to proselytize, or to slander against heretics, but indulge me as I preach a little. I have constructed what I think is a sane and well-grounded worldview, not contradicting but instead incorporating both scientifically established fact and a spiritual connection to nature.

In the pursuit of an elegant worldview, I first came across the question of something called (in English, at least) "god". It is a word that has been used to describe vastly different beings, but I feel that it can be classified in two different major meanings, and that both types of god exist (in a sense) in my worldview. The first goes by names such as Yahweh, Brahman, Dao, The Force, The Schwartz, The Godhead and many others. It refers to a conception of a pervasive, all-encompassing being with power beyond any limits and a presence in everything. When considering the particular nature of this being, we come across a simple and reasonable conception in the works of Spinoza, the father of the philosophy known as Pantheism. Pantheism proposes as follows: that which we call God refers to all that exists taken together as one being. We may equate the term with The Universe. If we were to propose the existence of such a being, it would necessarily have to be pantheistic. It is absurd to imagine an all-powerful being a mere component or participant in everything that exists. Besides? Just looking at the universe tells it all. It's a system that operates on a unified set of rules that all things fall under. These rules, and hence everything that happens in the universe, are the only things that can be said to be all-powerful. To look at the universe as a kind of mindless Lovecraftian entity is perhaps not literally true, but it makes a whole lot of metaphorical sense, and besides, from a strictly empiricist POV, you have as much reason to suspect the universe of consciousness as you do of your next-door neighbor. It also helps with perspective. The universe runs on laws and has a kind of will to it. You can imagine the functioning of the universe as a kind of fate or destiny. Instead of submitting yourself to the inevitability of all that is, you can see yourself as a part of destiny and a force to shape it. Being a component of the universe means that your feet are dipped in the river of destiny, and you can change it even as it pulls you.

What of the second definition of god? It often sports a designation other than "god". The Olympians and other Greek gods, the Asir and Vanir, the gods of the Hindus and of the pagan Celts are often referred to as gods in English, but likewise we refer to Native American deities variously as gods or "spirits", and the Abrahamic tradition of believing in angels and devils is not far off either. It is important to recognize the animistic roots of such religions. We are taught that "primitive peoples did not know how to explain natural phenomena and so explained that human-like entities were directly responsible for lightning strikes, earthquakes, etc." This is perhaps laden with a layer of patronizing assumption. The pre-civilized were not stupid, just lacking in data, and even that is perhaps exaggerated by the modern storytellers. They had brains the same mass as ours, genetic codes nearly identical -- that is, if we were to switch the places of a pre-civilized baby and a civilized one, surely each could grow up to be normal members of their society. If we can't assume they were stupid, why can we assume they were mistaken about these phenomena? Just as likely they used personification as a metaphor. I say, someday people will look back upon us and utter profoundly, "people didn't know how or why the United States operated as it did, so they invented a god to explain it, and called him Sam." Well, one way or another, the animistic worldview is reasonable for the same reason that the pantheist one is: it works as a convenient and insightful metaphor. By imagining each river, rock and tree as a being with a will, it creates a connection and a respect for nature that the "dominion over the earth" worldview fatally lacks. The devastation enacted by people who believe that nature is a resource to be depleted, sold and profited from is the ultimate downfall of civilization, and it is the reason why all civilizations have fallen expect for the one that is falling right now.

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