|Mother, Sun, and the Compost Pile
by Willi Paul
published on April 7, 2011
Willi Paul's current passion and mission concerns how we can re-energize alchemy and mythology for the Sustainability Age. A former sustainability consultant who discovered Joseph Campbell's work sixteen years ago, Willi Paul launched PlanetShifter Magazine over the Internet on Earth Day, 2009, to build a database of interviews and articles about innovation, creativity and the green revolution. His bliss renewed in 2011 when he designed openmythsource.com to study myth and alchemy. His work now focuses on what is sacred, the community building power of permaculture, and the transformative energy of the new alchemy (whether soil, sound, or digital) and global mythologies.
Willi Paul is a tireless advocate giving voice to ideas that push us out of our comfort zone and past complacency in the status quo. It doesn't hurt that he's also one heck of a nice guy - but don't let that "aw shucks" grin fool you: Willi is committed to educating the public about living in harmony with nature, both within and outside ourselves. To access his countless interviews with leading green activists, alchemists, mythologists, mystics, and other cutting-edge thinkers, visit PlanetShifter.com.
Mother, Sun, and the Compost Pile: Integrating Permaculture with the New Alchemy, New Mythologies, and the Sacred
Students have told me they are fearful for the environment, the oceans are sick, but that there could be some sort of shift ahead. A sustainable path? I hope so, but I have a lot fears that the gasoline is going to dry up soon and we will be hungry. We are headed to a chaotic mess. If we can find a spiritual way to bring forth permaculture and change some of our values, we could save ourselves, but we need to do this consciously.
Many in my circle view the current smoldering meanderings from the old myths as in dire need of a refreshed power center - free from the burden of the withering storylines in old plots, online game slaughters, and our twittering kindergardens. My quick scan of mythic sites includes the home page of the Institute for Cultural Change (formerly the Foundation for Mythological Studies), which does mention sustainability, as well as MYTHOS for Creatives, working a global culture-based view. And, of course, Joseph Campbell Foundation is still blessed with the Hero's Journey and Initiation from Mr. Campbell. But myth needs a new spiritual search engine to go with the Internet. This new story base and vision map is permaculture and the new alchemy and sense of the sacred that comes with it.
Myth needs a new spiritual search engine to go with the Internet. My work focuses on constructing a new mythological paradigm that incorporates symbols, emerging from alchemy, myths and the sacred in the permaculture movement.
What is Permaculture? Some basic principles:
- Observe and Interact
- Catch and Store Energy
- Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services
- Produce No Waste
- Design from Patterns
- Integrate Rather than Segregate
- Use Small and Slow Solutions
- Use and Value Diversity
- Creatively Use and Respond to Change
Here are potential sacred permaculture symbols (see graphic below) that are built upon our love and respect for Nature, our communion as we work together in the soil, and the mystery of the seasons, stars and birth:
- Diversity (Soil)
- Growth (Seeds)
- Harvest (Basket)
- Transformation (Fire + Smoke)
- Stewardship (Compost Pile)
- Localization (Community Well)
What do you see? Feel? Nature in her various manifestations and integration are here. Could these symbols be seen as Sun-driven, each combining to build the larger tree of life? Both the ancient symbols and these offerings call for an integration of science and spirit.
The New Alchemy:
"I think it is the idea of being in balance with the earth and cosmic laws that make sustainability have this spiritual connotation (from my conversation with noted alchemist and author Dennis William Hauck).
While one must listen and learn from the most prominent alchemist living today, I would argue that Hauck’s so-called “cosmic laws” are better morphed into more practical sustainable values and technologies. This, in alchemy, is transmutation.
Alchemy is Transmutation is Action & Communication. The new alchemies are now available and experienced as a spiritual exchange, vision maps, and digging in the soil. I propose that the following types of alchemy are available for our use:
- Sound or Sonic
The New Mythologies
Two powerful sources for the new global permaculture-based, alchemy-fueled mythologies are the nature- related (what some call "dark green") religion movement, and rock music.
Dark Green Spirituality:
“Since the publication of Rachael Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962, environmental alarm has intensified and become increasingly apocalyptic. Meanwhile, nature- related religion has been rekindled, invented, spread, and ecologized. A great deal of this religious creativity has been dark green, flowing from a deep sense of belonging to and connectedness in nature, while perceiving the earth and its living systems to be sacred and interconnected. Dark green religion is generally deep ecological, bio-centric, or eco-centric, considering all species to be intrinsically valuable, that is, valuable apart from their usefulness to human beings.
"This (dark green) value system is generally:
(1) based on a felt kinship with the rest of life, often derived from a Darwinian understanding that all forms of life have evolved from a common ancestor and are therefore related;
(2) accompanied by feelings of humility and a corresponding critique of human moral superiority, often inspired or reinforced by a science- based cosmology that reveals how tiny human beings are in the universe; and
(3) reinforced by metaphysics of interconnection and the idea of interdependence (mutual influence and reciprocal.”
(Excerpt from Dark Green Religion by Bron Taylor, p. 13)
As for rock music, we hear and see symbols through rock music and art. Band names and titles of records and songs contain important cues, many political or humorous, but some for "mythic punch." Album art work is the first to be interpreted and often carries the same meaning all over the world. When musicians combine song lyrics with complimentary symbols, mythic meanings are reinforced and deepened. Symbols and metaphors are the seeds, our invitation to the feast. And many symbols, like numbers and colors, have ancient meanings and universal power. Joseph Campbell might have asked at this point: Do we know the power of these symbols? Have we lost our connections to the mythic reservoir?
So now I hope to build upon the powerful ideas of Joseph Campbell with the following "myth development" process that allows us to create and share new potential myths to serve as vision maps - stories that help us find our place in the world we are creating. Think initiation, journey maps, heroes, green technologies and permaculture in your backyard, neighborhood and community!
Mythology Generator for the Sustainability Age
1. Define current event, players, short and long-term impacts, artistic, religious, ecological, political, spiritual implications
2. ID historic, literary, mythic precedents that relate to the event
3. Chart multiple paths and outcomes from the event
4. List universal lessons
5. Draft myth story line using new names, place(s) and symbols from world mythology
6. Check piece for universal as opposed to local or real reference(s)
7. Simplify and finalize myth
Examples of six potential new myths crafted by this process can be found here.
Inner & Outer System of the Sacred
We need to decide what is sacred as a collective. In support new myths, new alchemy, permaculture and the sacred connected by the above model, the following ideas about sacred are offered:
Intention is a component of the Sacred.
Trust is a component of the Sacred.
Vibration is a component of the Sacred.
Protection is a component of the Sacred.
Initiation is a component of the Sacred.
Journey into Community is a component of the Sacred.
Process is a component of the Sacred.
Artifact is not is a component of the Sacred.
Control is not is a component of the Sacred.
Money is not is a component of the Sacred.
Buildings are not a component of the Sacred.
Ceremony is not a component of the Sacred.
Ego is not a component of the Sacred.
Competition is not a component of the Sacred.
This essay offers a starting point for exploring the ways that myth can point the way to the transformation necessary for our culture to build a sustainable future. I view the power of the classic myths as withering and unconnected to the environmental challenges of today. My charge is to create a new tool kit of alchemic symbols and renew the sacred as we collaborate to create the permaculture myths of the future - a call for new symbols, stories, & songs – connect new alchemy & myth back to our communities and the land!
I conclude with an excerpt from a recent PlanetShifter.com Magazine book review by David Metcalfe of the Book of Symbols - published by Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism:
“When we begin to take a more active view of the images that influence our interpretations of the world, we gain a better grasp of the world we are interpreting. The interplay of meaning, and the multitude of possibilities that lie in symbolic imagery, create a vital area of interpretation. Images arise in our sleep and their surreal juxtapositions call us to question what we ignore while awake. As art, poetry, devotional works and writing, these images emerge to express our relationship to the world.”