Time and Cosmology--By Kelsey Gustafson
What is the meaning of life? How significant is human existence in the grand scheme of the universe? What is a lifetime worth within the history of humanity? What will become of the earth and the human race? These are some of the “big questions” that people have been asking for thousands of years. Over time, cultures have developed different cosmologies, or ways of interpreting the world in order to make sense of these difficult questions.
In her book, The Anthropology of Religion, Fiona Bowie defines cosmology as “a theory or conception of the nature of the universe and its workings, and of the place of human beings and other creatures within that order”(Bowie 2006: 108). Cosmologies are deeply connected to the environment in which the society is located, the time during which they live, and the social attitudes within the culture.
The human race is currently approaching a point in time that has been recognized in the cosmologies of many cultures as a time of great change. The Maya predicted a long time ago that the year 2012 would be a turning point. This date has been referenced with frequency in the cosmologies of many cultures and spiritualities throughout the world, and has become a part of the collective consciousness within many societies. Some interpretations of this prediction point towards an imminent apocalyptic cataclysm, while others interpret it as the end of a cycle, not the end of the world.
A societies relationship with their environment directly affects which of these interpretations they choose to adopt. Bowie summarizes the work of philosopher Freya Mathews who suggests that classical Western cosmology regards humans as separate from the natural world, and thus does not see it as a hospitable place for humans, but rather as a dangerous force that must be tamed in order to benefit the human race. The cosmologies of “non-Western” societies often view the environment as intrinsically interconnected with the human experience and is seen as a powerful but positive force. According to this interpretation, Western cosmology would tend to view the 2012 predictions as the end of the world whereas non-Western cosmology would view it as a natural change.
The following segments address different cosmological interpretations of this moment in time, the significance of cataclysmic predictions, and how outlooks upon the proposed oil and gas drilling in the San Louis Valley are reflective of social attitudes regarding the destiny of humankind:
William Buehler has been living in Crestone since 1995 and identifies as a “mystic deeply involved in Metatronic ‘Ascension’ dynamics relating to a continuum Time shift now ongoing”. According to Buehler, the whole collective Planetary/Racial Mind/Soul is being affected now. According to this system, we are at the end of a great cycle, which indicates that “world cultures are now rapidly shifting; the new Metatronic systems and state of being is replacing the old”. He believes that each country has a destiny, a religion, a culture frame, and that they all fit into a master plan.
Lorraine Fox Davis, a Crestone resident and active member of the Crestone spiritual community, also believes that we are on the cusp of great cosmological change. In her speech to our class, she addressed the 2012 prophecy by observing that we appear to be in a time of crisis that will lead to great change. She mentioned that technological advances and globalization have catalyzed communication between cultures, resulting in a great increase in the amount of wisdom available to us. She believes that in this time of cultural exchange, it is critical that we come together because there is much to be learned through the sharing of different worldviews and that everyone’s spiritual path has truth in it. Crestone, as a place where people from many religious beliefs come together to co-exist in unity, is an example of this cross-cultural exchange. Lorraine hosts sweat lodge ceremonies from the Blackfeet tradition once a month, observing that each time more people are coming from diverse spiritual traditions. The amount of interest in this ceremony from people of different backgrounds and her willingness to accept them and share with them her traditions, illustrates the direction in which she believes our culture is heading.
Hanne Strong, the founder of the Manitou Foundation, tells the story of a prophecy regarding the creation of the spiritual community in Crestone and the role it would play in the event of a third world war; “So we lived here and after three months a knock on the door…there was an old man standing outside, the local mystic, we called him the prophet. He had foreseen everything that was going to happen here. Basically he said ‘you are going to bring all of the world’s religions together, the cultures of the world. You’re going to build these villages. When the third world war starts you’re going to have thousands of children coming in here and your job is to bring forth a new civilization of people that are in harmony and have evolved spiritually.’ And he did say, by the way, that the third world war will be nuclear and that the nuclear fallout will not enter this valley, it’s the only safe place in the United States of America”. Hanne’s account is chilling, yet other Crestone residents feel a similar sentiment with the valley representing a safe spiritual haven from chaos predicted through visions.
Darlene Yarborough, a Crestone Spiritual Alliance Representative and member of Humanity and Unity, speaks about the love that she feels in the Crestone community and recalls moving there immediately following a vision of catastrophe; “There were visions of things happening in the world, floods coming, and earthquakes and all kinds of things, and we were lifted off the road and I was taken inside the mountain…the vision was continued on to show things in the world, different catastrophes and such, and after the vision ended, I moved here within the year…when I think back 13 years later as to what did it mean to start a new religion, I think it is this place, about going beyond the old definitions of religion and looking at new ways to live. I like the term that the new religion is the religion of love. We don’t have exact names for it, but we have a religion of love here”. This religion of love that Darlene describes echoes the sentiments of Lorraine and Hanne who see Crestone as a place where people can come together and share wisdom, a place that has become stronger through collaboration with others. The peaceful vibes radiating though Crestone are felt by many and have lead to its popularity as a destination for spiritual retreat. People often spend time in Crestone in order to get away from the problems of the “real world”. The idealized vision of Crestone as a center for love and understanding is strengthened through contrast with the “outside world”. It is easy to think of Crestone as an isolated community, but in reality, it is subject to the exact same problems that the rest of the world is facing.
Joy Kells, a Volunteer Firefighter and member of Cottonhood sustainable Co-op, foresees a crisis that will affect everyone in the country; “What we are looking at here in the United States is a total disastrous economic collapse very soon. I have known for a long time…that I would see food riots in my lifetime. There are going to be people killing for food. Take action on it…I’m thinking that when we have the massive change in the world that is starting now with economic collapse and global climate change the systems and the governments and the economies that we have depended on in the past are going to bail us and we are going to be in a position of having to find new ways to deal with it…I think its going to be a big eye-opener for a lot of people.” In her vision, Joy addresses the reliance of our society upon the government and other systems and implies that while the collapse of these systems will bring suffering that it will simultaneously be an “eye-opener” and could be seen as a long-awaited lesson for our society as a whole.
Just as Kells sees a national food shortage as an opportunity to learn, John Winter, a Crestone Sangha member and program director at Dharma Ocean, believes that the crisis of the possible oil drilling in the valley may also provide a valuable lesson. “I think it’s a problem only insofar as we view it as a problem. And I don’t mean that in an apathetic way, but I think everything that happens in life carries a really important message for most of us and I was just describing to you what the message is in all this for me. It’s offering a way for me to kind of examine my life and myself. I think it’s a problem in the sense that were destroying the earth and I think it’s not a problem in that it’s reminding us that we’re destroying the earth. So do I think the general direction of our culture and our world is going in a negative direction? Yeah. By the way that we’re exploiting the earth and its resources and most of all exploiting human beings all over the globe. Do I think that this whole problem with Lexam coming in and drilling is particularly a problem over and above anything else? No. In fact I think it’s a blessing because it’s reminding us that just because we moved to Crestone and are ‘spiritual’, doesn’t mean that we’re above it or outside of it. It’s a call to be engaged.” John sees the Lexam drilling proposal as a blessing for holding up a mirror to our society. Recognizing the major problems with our society is apainful, but necessary step along the path towards a more enlightened and honest society. Both Joy and John imply that there may be other ways of living that we have not yet considered and may not consider until we must for survival. The lessons that they speak of are all a part of the age of change that we are experiencing now.
All of these accounts interpret the time we are in to be an age of great change. An intrinsic characteristic of any change is the simultaneous rush of both positive and negative forces. With regard to the age in which we are living within history, many agree that we are heading towards chaos and disaster, weather this be environmental, political, economic, or spiritual; the systems upon which we have relied for so long are starting to feel unstable and the general sentiment is that they may collapse, leaving our society to survive in a different way. Although the impending crisis is frightening, it will force a shift in mass consciousness and demand a change in values and worldview. Perhaps it is the Western worldview itself that has caused the imbalances that are now leading to disaster. In her discussion of cosmology, Bowie concludes, “Western cosmologies are predominantly destructive and unsustainable, treating ecosystems as endlessly expendable and exploitable. Western societies are often contrasted with those with cosmologies that encourage sustainable (adaptive) economic and environmental practices”(Bowie 2006: 131). If our western systems are on the verge of collapse, maybe it is because they are not the best systems in the first place, and a change in thinking could a blessing for motivating people to come up with a better way to live.
Crestone is a place where people have already begun to question our systems, and the present threat of oil and gas drilling in this sacred valley is further challenging the community to think in new ways. Though the Crestone community is generally considered to have a more spiritual, contemplative worldview than the wider society, with the Lexam case, they face the exact same problems challenge the rest of the world; exploitation of the land and people. Though the fight will be painful, it is an opportunity for unification and positive change in thought. The visions expressed by Crestone residents’ show that the Crestone case reflects the energetic activity of this critical point in cosmological history we are experiencing now. Only time will tell how these visions will manifest.
Bowie, Fiona (2006) The Anthropology of Religion, Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, pp. 108-133.
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