One of the highest points of my spiritual journey was meeting the Dalai Lama in the early 1990’s. Admittedly all I got to do was say hello and smile as I walked past him into Wembley Conference Centre. I was there to hear him talk on “interdependency”; it was a brief meeting but one that I’ll never forget. His talk on interdependency was obviously from a Buddhist view point of view but the principle of interdependency underpins wholeness.
The Law of Wholeness is John Michael Greer’s first law of spiritual ecology. It postulates (I love that word…) that ecology and Nature cannot be viewed as independent parts and must be considered as a whole. He uses a field as an example of a whole system, describing the interplay between a field mouse, the hay, the soil and predators. It relates to the First Law of Thermodynamics which states that energy cannot be created or destroyed as the total sum of energy in a closed system remains constant even if the energy in individual parts changes.
Exploring the connections between things such as a mouse and the field it lives in, or between a fish and its river, or more importantly between ourselves and the world we inhabit, is a superb topic for meditation. Understanding our impacts on the world, our footprint if you like, is often a sobering process and I often forget that we can contribute a little and well as pollute. Ensuring that this contribution to the world broadly outweighs our footprints is what we must remember to do.
It never fails to anger me when I hear of apparent green minded people, pagans, ecologists etc. who fly, especially on holiday. I can’t think of many activities that are more damaging or have a bigger ecological footprint. If you want to work against Nature then flying regularly is the quickest way to do it. Some talk of flying as a climate crime, personally I see it as a crime against nature to spill 10 tons of CO2 just to fly to Australia for a holiday.
When we start to think of ourselves as part of a whole ecology with its inputs and outputs, we can drill down into the impacts we have on the world around us. The pollution from diesel exhausts may kill millions of people but it also kills other animals too. Our waste from Christmas will doubtless be burned or landfilled if we haven’t recycled it polluting either earth or air.
Thinking through and meditating on the Law of Wholeness both helps us to understand how things are reliant on each other and starts to build a self sense of the problems some of our actions cause. It should start to push us to work with Nature not against her.
This is where the interconnectedness that the Dalai Lama spoke about in that conference centre many years ago. He talked of the interconnectedness of people as well as the connections between people and their surroundings. It is important to realise that we are a social animal and cannot survive for long on our own. We need to work in communities and those communities need to work with their surroundings too. Everything is interconnected and it all forms a cohesive whole. Better still if that cohesive whole is not one that is self destructive as so much of humanity is making it.
I wanted to consider the Law of Wholeness from a couple of other points of view too. An animist perspective might be to consider life force (Nwyfre for us Druids or Chi/Qi for the Taoists etc.) as existing in everything. This life force connects us all with our surroundings as our interactions pass life force up and down the food chain for example.
I hope that as Druids we honour the land, sea and sky and feel part of them as indeed all of us are part of our surroundings rather than distinct and separate from them. It is too easy to slip in to lazy thinking, separating ourselves from surroundings. Everything we do impacts on the world and our communities, we cannot be separate when we are part of a whole system.
Finally, two quotes. The first is from the Tao Te Ching:
Humans follow the laws of Earth
Earth follows the laws of Heaven
Heaven follows the laws of Tao
Tao follows the laws of nature
The second is from Aristotle who said “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” and in spiritual ecology, nothing could be more apt – hence this is the first law of spiritual ecology.