PEGI EYERS ~ Ancient Spirit Rising
I’ll return to that childhood day in a moment, but first, a look at ecomysticism, and how it has blossomed into a wonderful earth-connected spiritual path practiced all over the world. Ecomysticism is the reclaiming of wild nature as central to our appreciation of the Divine, or however we describe the Great Mystery, and is embodied in our reverence and love for the Earth.
By experiencing the “wild within” of our own ecology and that of Earth Community, we find that we need no intermediaries, special philosophies or religions to know that the Earth is sacred. By seeing the wonders of nature up close and having primal experiences in the wild, we develop a spiritual bond to the plants, elements and creatures, and realize a powerful kinship with all life. For millennia, it can be said that ecomysticism was the governing force in Indigenous earth-emergent cultures, that lived in balance and harmony with the land.
So generally speaking, what is an ecomystic experience? There is no simple definition, but when we are in the natural world spontaneous experiences or feelings can happen that leave us speechless and awed, knowing that an exalted power has shaped our lives. Touched by a great vision, awakening, manifestation of divinity, or epiphany similar to the “kundalini rising” experience in Eastern wisdom traditions, it can be described as the expansion experience well-known to many mystics. The ecomystic experience can lead to great feats of physical endurance, amazing creativity in works of art, unforgettable memories, and even a complete change in one’s own life. As scholars over the years continue to look at the phenomena, they have found that the initial ecomystic experience most often occurs in childhood, and that is exactly what happened to me.
There are countless examples of those having transcendent experiences in nature both at the formative time of childhood or later in life. These ecstatic moments of rapture remain deeply embedded in our psyches, and can inform our experiences, creativity and goals as we mature and grow. In the western tradition, the well-known ecomystic Henry David Thoreau embraced wildness with his whole being, and became a “transcendentalist of simplicity and roughness.”
The Irish writer, mystic and clairvoyant George Russell received dazzling insights into the “memory of the Earth” which he tuned into at will on hillsides outside of Dublin, and at sand dunes by the sea. At these liminal sites, revelations of the "ancient places and peoples" were made known to him.
British Druid Emma Restall Orr attributes the early beginnings of her life-long spiritual quest to the transcendence of a childhood awakening, also at age eight, to divinity, wholeness and peace. She tells us that she “was lying on a warm stone in rural Spanish sunshine, that time did not exist, and that everything around me was the wholeness of all that had ever happened in that ancient valley. At eight years old, it was an experience of being completely held in peace and security, to the extent that I recognize my spiritual journey to be a seeking to re-create that exceptional feeling.”
As we can see from these narratives, nature spirituality can give us ecstatic experiences, and the ability to see into the heart of things that really matter. We form a deeper understanding of ourselves, our purpose and our connection to the Great Mystery. Reclaiming nature as a mystical mirror of ourselves, and allowing ourselves to have adventures in green spaces are the blessings of ecomystic practice that can assist us in the rewilding of our souls. Our connection to nature has withered over the generations, but there is an ancestral memory in all of us that, if given the opportunity, can renew our kinship to the Circle of All Life. And, as a powerful expression of sacred balance, Ecomysticism can renew humanity’s spiritual connection to nature and evoke true environmental healing.
Carl von Essen, Ecomysticism: The Profound Experience of Nature as Spiritual Guide, Bear & Company, 2010
Emerson on Thoreau quoted in Ecomysticism: The Profound Experience of Nature as Spiritual Guide, by Carl von Essen, Bear & Company, 2010
George William Russell, The Candle of Vision, New Hyde Park,
University Books, 1965
Amiya Chakravarty (editor), A Tagore Reader, Macmillan Company, 1961
Emma Restall Orr, “Pagan Ecology: On Our Perception of Nature, Ancestry, and Home,” The Wanton Green: Contemporary Pagan Writings on Place, Mandrake, 2012
Pegi Eyers is the author of "Ancient Spirit Rising: Reclaiming Your Roots & Restoring Earth Community," an award-winning book that explores strategies for intercultural competency, healing our relationships with Turtle Island First Nations, uncolonization, recovering an ecocentric worldview, rewilding, creating a sustainable future and reclaiming peaceful co-existence in Earth Community. Available from Stone Circle Press or Amazon