by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee
First published by Dumbo Feather magazine in Australia March 2021
What is the world into which you are walking, and what is the landscape you will pass on to your children and grandchildren? Will it be alive with the truth of the Earth or the false promises of technology, the distortions of social media? What are the stories that will guide you, the communities that will support you?
Rather than sharing stories sitting around the firelight, laughing and feeling community, or gossiping over backyard fences with neighbors, we live more and more disembodied in swirling online communities, fed by images or tweets that demand our constant attention, attention monetized by internet corporations. Social media that once promised to bring us together in new ways, instead now creates ever more divisiveness, locking us in a swirl of deception, lies and conspiracy theories pushing us even more out of balance, trapping people in a dark maze of disbelief, fed by computer algorithms and clicks.
We appear to have become caught in a strange miasma of trolling and cancel culture, of clickbait and memes. Social media has created a world of alternative facts, stories that seem to arise out of some toxic field of disinformation, trying to catch our attention, wanting to be shared, retweeted, until, lacking real substance, they often dissolve back into our dark collective imagination. They have even created their own mythology, calling themselves “Kraken,” a tentacled creature of Norse mythology that arises from the deep, swallowing ships.
Is this the world that was promised to you? When I was your age, eighteen, I believed other stories, whose magic was lighter, deceptions less dangerous. I attended the first Glastonbury festival in England, near to the mysterious Tor that carries an ancient tradition of druids and King Arthur’s mystical Avalon. We learned about ley-lines, the energy structure of the Earth known to our ancestors. We felt that here, beside the Tor, our dreams could be magnetized by the Earth and come alive. We were naïve and blissful, rejecting the materialistic world of our parents, believing that free-love, music, and meditation would change the world, that through dancing and chanting we could bring peace. This was another story, a myth of a new age. There was no internet or social media to spread this message, but it passed from person to person, from song to song, celebrating the simple mantra that “All you need is love.”
There was wonder then, joy alive when the sun grew round through the morning mist. Strangers were lovers and friends. Dreams and food were shared, brown rice and vegetable stew. Of course we were idealistic. The Vietnam War was to drag on for four more years. Genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda would follow, Syria would be destroyed by a civil war killing hundreds of thousands. But for a moment there were these seeds of a future that is still waiting—a future born of love and unity, and a spiritual awakening that belongs to all. Maybe this awakening of the world will remain as a dream, just a song heard for an instant and then lost, drowned by the clamor of today’s many voices and ceaseless demands. Or maybe it can come alive, Spring returning after a bleak Winter of forgetfulness, the music of creation heard again, the oneness that belongs to all of existence felt in the simple joys of daily life.
This is the story I still hope for you, this wonder waiting to be born. So many lies have been told, so many patterns of deception woven into our consciousness, polluting our minds and emotions. Rather than dreams birthed like the songlines of the Aboriginal Peoples, we are caught in nightmares that are now destroying the fragile web of life. One of the most primal lies of our present way of life is the very myth of materialism: that more “stuff” will make us happy. In order to embody this myth, humans have become “consumers” whose lives are dedicated to the profit of corporations, even as these corporations are committing ecocide, destroying the very ecosystem that supports us all. And while some politicians and corporations now speak encouragingly about “green growth,” they do not dare to confront the basic fallacy of endless economic growth independent of ecological sustainability.
There are stories that sustain us, and stories that are destroying us. The seed of hope—of an alternative to materialism—that I felt when I was your age, sustained our generation. But we were naïve. We knew nothing of the coming climate catastrophe, of rising seas and loss of species. We did not have to cry out for a future being stolen, for wildflower meadows never seen, coral reefs turning skeleton white. You belong to a harder time, to young people being prepared to tell truth to power, to take responsibility for the denials and inaction of a previous generation.
Since those heady days in the fields near Glastonbury I have been watching this primal division—the vision of a future based upon oneness that recognizes the interdependence of all of life, and the bleakness of corporate greed and corruption and the wasteland it creates. Seeing young people protest for a future that they may never know touches a deep chord—how many generations will be lost until we turn back to the Earth? Or most simply, how long will it take before we return to values that support life, that recognize that all life, all creation, is sacred? Not just human beings, but butterflies and spiders, rocks and rivers, grasses and forests, algae and fungi …
When we return our consciousness to this primary awareness, this simple truth known and honored by our ancestors, Spring will come again. How this Spring will awaken, what buds will flower, what trees will bear fruit, will depend upon our attitude and actions in the coming years and decades. Those who have recognized the Earth as a single, organic, interconnected living being can support this transition, can help to keep the inner rivers of life pure, so that they can nurture what will be born. Rebirth always comes from the darkness, like seeds underground, or the initiation chambers of the ancient mysteries. But this darkness can be full of the nutrients needed for rebirth, and soil that looks barren can still be tended with love and care.
Granddaughter, I do not know what your dreams are or where will they take you. In what world will your children and children’s children take their first steps and speak their first words? What magic will be alive for them, what stories will they be told, what old books will they read? Will they still be caught in the dying days of an old era, the wasteland of this civilization, or will the air be unpolluted, the waters run clear, the lies and distortions long forgotten? Into what world will you grow old as I am now old?
I can only hope that from the harsh land of the present time you will see seeds emerging, green shoots of a way to be that respects all of our more-than-human world, that can once again live in balance with the natural world. And maybe you can again hear the song of the first day, that magical moment when our consciousness first experienced the wonder of being alive. When you were very young you lived in this garden, the wonder sparkling in the air around you. I have a photo of you from this time which I keep on my desk, reminding me of when our world was new.
This is a story of a simpler time, when humanity was still young and the Divine was a tangible presence in the air around, like the first sweetness of Spring. There was a knowing present then that is now deeply hidden—a knowing of the sacred purpose of creation, of its beauty and wonder. And this knowing was coming alive, speaking to human beings in all the myriad voices of the world around, in the streams and storms, in the cries of the birds and the animals, in the first language of life.1 It was the joy of life communing with us, a prayer without words, as simple and joyous as when I walk the nearby shoreline and watch the pelicans dive into the waves.
This is the “in the beginning” of the story, when the Divine did not have to be looked for, because She was a simple living presence, when every breath and dream was felt as sacred, when there was a kinship that embraced everything, every plant and stone, every river and tree. Then all was known in its true sense, and every blade of grass, every animal and person knew where it belonged. And here, in this world, human and divine could meet and speak of the wonder of what is, and spirit and matter did not know any division.
Later it all began to change, and that is the story of human evolution, the myth of “the Fall,” and the beginnings of religion as a way to return to what had been lost, to uncover, reveal this essential relationship. It was also when earth magic began to change, ceasing to be a simple celebration—a calling out or singing of its own name—as, gradually, over millennia, the spirit withdrew into the inner worlds and heaven and earth grew separate. And the patterns of distortion that covered the Earth became stronger and stronger, until today we find ourselves in a world that has lost its way, that is spinning more and more out of balance. And the tragedy of a civilization that is destroying the fragile web of life that supports us all.
Now, as thousands of years have passed, so many tides have come and gone, we stand in the time of the great forgetting, when humanity is furthest from the Source. And yet, as in every journey, I am returning back to the beginning, knowing that we need this simple magic, this primal relationship, in order for the world to come awake again, for a new story to begin.
It is easy to dismiss the magical world as just a fairy tale belonging to childhood or old tales. That what we need at this moment more than ever is hard science, that carbon reduction and loss of biodiversity are our most pressing concerns. And yes, there is important work to be done reducing our industrial imprint, healing the Earth from the damage we have inflicted. But if we do not remove the rational blinkers from our consciousness how can we respond to the deeper need of the moment, and recognize that we are part of a world in which spirit and matter are not separate but sing together—something long known to our ancestors who walked upon sacred ground and danced, spoke and sung to the spirits of the land.
If we are to step away from the present story of separation, we need to return to what is foundational, to reconnect our consciousness with the living Earth, and not just with Her physical ecosystem—helping to restore Her biodiversity, wetlands, and wild places—but also Her magical nature, Her sacred presence. Otherwise we are just living a fragment of our destiny—still treating the Earth as an object. Kinship with the Earth and all Her inhabitants is not just placing our feet on the ground, but meeting soul to soul.2 This is a songline we need if we are to help dream a new story into existence.
Granddaughter, you have inherited a broken world and yet I know that you have also lived in the garden, present in the multidimensional world that is your heritage. You were born to hear the land sing, the trees and the rivers speak, to listen to the silence that is always present. You were born from both stardust and dreams, and you carry this quality of light, this dance of possibilities. You do not need to be bound by the old stories, an exile in your own land. You are part of its awakening, its song. You will know how to weave new threads into the tapestry of life, even as you feel what is ancient and true. And you will pass on to your children and children’s children the deep knowing that is already within you.
- David Abram describes how “for the Inuit, as for numerous other peoples, humans and animals all originally spoke the same language.” He quotes an Inuit woman: “In the very earliest time when peoples and animals lived on earth … all spoke the same language. That was the time when words were like magic …” Those who are recognized as shamans or medicine persons “most fully remember the primordial language, and are thus able to slip, at will, out of the purely human discourses in order to converse directly with the other powers.” From The Spell of the Sensuous, p. 87–88.
- The soul of the Earth, its spiritual intelligence, is traditionally known as the anima mundi, or for the Kogi Mamos, Aluna.