The perception of Earth, or nature, as mother, is both ancient and worldwide. It is a symbology that is both simple and intuitive. Children are given life and sustenance from a mother’s body, just as we are of the earth, the body that gave humans life and continues to offer sustenance and resources. The words and symbology flow easily and poetically in our rituals and practices. However, there are some issues that have snuck in the side door as we have revived earth connection as a spiritual practice. There are two, in particular that, I find problematic.
First, there is the issues of a gendered Earth. Now I’m not saying you should necessarily scrap the concept of Mother Earth, but let’s be conscious as we move forward. Growing up as a girl and in turn raising a girl, I am very aware of how much time we both spent re-imagining male imagery and characters in order to relate. It felt like squinting to blur the picture so I could imagine a place where I fit in. This “gender squinting” is an issue in most modern religions as well. And as I look forward into the future to imaging a more egalitarian, open society, I would hate to accidentally import “gender Squinting” into that future. The divine within us, and the universe as a whole, no matter the source or imagery, should be a place where everyone’s soul feels at truly at home.
Second, there is the issue of commercial imagery. There are a lot of earth spirituality images available these days with beautiful quotes, intentions, and prayers. And in general, I find they bring a moment of joy and connection when I come across them during my day. The ones I take issue with are the ones depicting that connection, or in some cases Earth itself, as an attractive young woman. Not sure what I mean, any internet search for images of Gaia, mother earth, or mother nature will clarify.
What is problematic with that? There are several issues. First, they promote a “glam” version of spiritual practice, focusing on a look rather than experience or practice. “glam spirituality” shifts the focus to looking the part rather the inner journey. This outer focus, in turn, makes spirituality a bit of a spectator activity. Second, it reinforces our society’s focus on youth as the desired state of being and feminine beauty as a product available for purchase. This image of young feminine beauty creates issues from all sides; young women feel an enormous amount to pressure to look right in order to please the world, those who do not look the part, for whatever reason, receive the message that we are less than, and finally, it creates the illusion the young woman in the image is herself somehow available to the viewer. All these perspectives muddy the spiritual waters and dim our spirits, they reinforce human constructs while missing the true nature of Earth. The universe offers such an immense variety of beauty, let us find our inspiration there.
Earth, from the Gaia perspective, is an all encompassing lifeweb. The biosphere, and the planet within, alive as one living being. A being made up of a million different lifeforms, just as our body is a community of millions of different cells and molecules, living and working in symbiosis. And within this beautifully complex lifeweb there is a place for everyone and everything without precondition. As a society, we are finding our way back to our conscious connection to this lifeweb, and as we do so, it is our spiritual work to open to it free of our societal blinders. We must look past ourselves and our preconceptions in order to create the harmony and sustainability that we seek.
Einstein famously said “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”. Likewise, we cannot create a true earth spirituality using the imagery from outdated or harmful human constructs.
Let us step outside the human viewscreen into the vastness of the universe, and with our heart re-imagine the future.