|About David Spangler|
David’s Desk is my opportunity to share thoughts and tools for the spiritual journey. These letters are my personal insights and opinions and do not necessarily reflect the sentiments or thoughts of any other person in Lorian or of Lorian as a whole.
If you wish to share this letter with others, please feel free to do so; however the material is © 2014 by David Spangler. If you no longer wish to receive these letters please let us know at info@Lorian.org.
~ David’s Desk, Current Issue ~
Ever since our distant ancestors dropped out of the trees and stood upright on the vast plains of Africa, we have been oriented around a vertical axis. In the beginning, I’m sure those ancient proto-humans thought of safety as up, in the trees, and danger as down, on the ground where predators roamed. Out of this very practical assessment of their environment, early humans laid the foundation for our mythic imagination. Is it too far-fetched to suppose that the reason we see heaven as above us and hell as below may be rooted in this primeval exploration of standing upright on the ground? Do we think of Light as descending from higher levels of being because of the sunlight that comes from the sky above us?
Whatever the reason, there is no doubt that we privilege vertical thinking. We think of higher and lower ranks in society and try to be “upwardly mobile”. We speak of a “higher self” wherein our spiritual nature is located as contrasted with a “lower self” that can obstruct that spirituality with its earthly needs and characteristics. When we’re happy, we speak of being “up” while when we’re sad or depressed, we complain that we’re “down”.
Humanity is now engaged in a struggle to learn to think in new ways. The world and the times demand it. At the very least, we need to learn the language of ecology so that we can properly engage the environmental challenges such as climate change that threaten us. The problem is that ecology involves thinking horizontally. A rain forest is not “higher” than a desert in value; there is no hierarchy of ecosystems, no rank that says goodness comes from meadows but not from swamps. All manner of ecosystems are needed for the benefit of life and the health of the planet, not just one or two. As systems, they interact as collaborators. Vertical thinking can lead us to visualize the world in terms of dominance and submission, the “higher” controlling the “lower”. But this is not the way to see the interconnectedness and interdependency of the world. We need to think horizontally, partner to partner, not master to servant.
It’s not that “vertical spirituality” is incorrect and must now be abandoned. Rather it’s that we need to complement it with a horizontal perspective as well, one that sees Light and Spirit in the world about us, in the bodies we wear, in the nature around us, even in the very fabric of matter. We need to think in a way that has neither up nor down, right nor left, back nor forward. Spirit is all around, and Light flows in all directions.
Vertical spirituality is aspirational (a reaching up) and invocational (a drawing down), but what is a horizontal spirituality? Surely it is a reaching out, a spirituality of connection, collaboration, and blessing. It discerns the Light within the world and within others and adds to that Light from the gifts of one’s own being.
In fact, the act of giving provides a wonderful image of horizontal spirituality at work, an image in keeping with the spirit of the Holiday Season now upon us. However, for this image to work, we need to understand giving as something more than just the exchange of objects, however delightful such exchanges can be. Giving is not simply the satisfying of a need or a desire, nor only an act of generosity, again however important and worthy such an act may be.
Giving is an act of perception. It is the opening of the heart to see another both in their uniqueness and sovereignty and in their connectedness to oneself as part of a greater whole. When such a perception arises, love flows, and the gift is a celebration and recognition of mutual participation in the life of the world. In other words, the gift is an affirmation of another’s identity and individuality and of the value of that identity to the community of being we all share.
If I think of giving (and of gifts) in this way, I realize that it’s an act of meeting a deep need we each have to be seen and appreciated for who we are. In this context, the gift doesn’t have to be an object. It could be something as simple as a smile, an appreciative nod, a friendly word, a helping hand, a loving embrace. What makes it a gift is that it comes from a part of me that takes the time and energy to truly see the other in his or her individuality, looking beyond whatever labels and categories I may have mentally attached to this person. It comes from a part of me that honors the other and acknowledges that in their unique nature, they are a gift to the world. It comes from a part of me that loves and blesses and wants to support the other in the miracle of their being.
We all want to be recognized and honored for who we are as persons, not just for our roles or our titles, our activities or our contributions. We want to know we mean something, that we are not just random collections of atoms spinning in space. The act of giving as an act of horizontal spirituality says “You are meaningful. You are valuable just as you are. I appreciate and honor your presence in the world with me. Thank you for being!”
As the holiday season comes upon us, we’re going to hear a lot about giving (television shows are already filling up with ads for Christmas presents). We will all feel the pressure to buy this or that, and the emphasis often will be on the nature of the gift, not necessarily on the nature of the person to whom it is going. Caught up in the swirl of advertisements, we will feel the commercialism of the holidays and the tendency to turn the act of giving into a social necessity, a ritual of exchange and transaction that is more about getting than it is about being.
But it is well within our power to pause and recover the deeper meaning of gifting as an act of horizontal spirituality. We just need to stop and see the Light that is in each soul, each person, and in the world around us. We need simply to remember that we are each gifts. We are each a soul giving itself to be part of the life and Light of the world. To recognize this in each other is itself a powerful act of blessing. Then, when we give, whatever we give, we do so saying in our hearts, “I give this to you, my friend, in loving recognition and honor of the gift you are.”
For those interested, here is the link to David’s recent interview with Joanna Harcourt-Smith about “Conversations with the Sidhe” on Future Primitive
(c) 2014 David Spangler
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