Thursday, August 30, 2018

Living within limits

“Mystery Teachings from the Living Earth” is a short book by John Michael Greer, a prolific author on ecological and spiritual subjects. Most of the ideas in the book will be familiar to avid readers of Greer's other works. It seems the main purpose of writing this particular volume was to counter the craze around “The Secret”, or rather to flesh out some lessons after that particular fad ended in disaster. The author's alternative form of spirituality won't win any popularity contests!

Greer emphasizes balance, wholeness, gradual evolution and, above all, limits. Many of his “spiritual laws” are really basic laws of ecology. The gradually unfolding evolution of the cosmos didn't had our species in mind, we can't change the universe simply by changing our mental attitude or thinking, nor are the heavens obliged to give us anything just because we happen to want it. Most secularized readers will find this critique of “The Secret” obviously true, but the author has something to tell us, too. Limits, balance or cause and effect means that our modern, industrial civilization will inevitably decline and fall. Death and suffering are inevitable parts of the human condition, human civilizations rise and fall in a cyclical fashion, and our material greed is one key factor not just in the rise of modern culture, but even more so in its future demise. Indeed, Greer seems to think that everyone, secular, Christian or The Secret-inspired, is caught up in a kind of negative “magical thinking”, where we imagine that we can get something from nothing. He tops off by criticizing apocalypticism as simply the flip side of the secular myth of progress. In the apocalyptic scenario, the goodies will be brought by some outside force, rather than by our positive thinking or scientific break throughs, but the concept is still the same: the world's biggest free lunch ever (at least for those on a first-name basis with whatever outside force is out there).

Not a popular message, as I said. I admit that I don't entirely like it myself. If there's some weak point in it, I suppose it's connected to Greer's own belief in magic. Since humans exist on different “planes” (in the Hermetic-occult sense), a change on the mental or astral plane can affect the material plane. But if so, why can't a super-magician change the world? Or why can't astral beings manifest on our plane, giving us free energy? Or why can't Sanat Kumara gently land on the North Pole, speeding up Gaia's evolution? I'm sure Greer has some answer to this (karma, balance between planes, etc), but I hereby predict that this magical loophole will be used by those who want to have more than the author believes the cosmos allows for.

In the end, Greer seems to believe in the possibility of further evolution for the human race, and he references a few Theosophical and Anthroposophical books. He certainly believes that individuals can evolve into becoming a kind of saints. However, the spiritual-cosmic evolution envisaged by Greer is very slow and gradual. Essentially, he wants us to accept our existence as humans on the third planet from the Sun, seeing this particular “manifestation” as an opportunity to learn. And the most important lesson is to live within limits…

Perhaps that really is a kind of mystery.

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