Ceres and the Opportunity
For Empowerment in the Face of Crisis
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Just to Awaken You
In Miracle of Love – American spiritual teacher Ram Dass’ delightful book of stories about his guru Neem Karoli Baba – Ram Dass shares an anecdote (1) in which he expresses concern to his guru about the Chinese invasion of India in 1962. He asks Neem Karoli Baba why the Chinese forces have come. Baba smiles slyly and with utter calm, says, “Just to awaken you.”
While it since has become something of a cliché in New Age circles to assume that “everything happens for a reason,” and “that which does not kill you, will make you stronger,” there may be reasons to take such clichés to heart in the Age of Ceres – for Ceres is known in mythology, not just as the goddess who put her foot down with dire consequences, but as the force that set the cycle of seasons in motion. As such, she represents a catalyst to evolution, to change, and to the transformation of intolerable conditions. To the extent that we can learn what Demeter is trying to teach us – how to live in harmony with the natural order of things – we may yet be empowered to turn things around.
While some gods (like Zeus and Hades) were vain and pompous and enamored of their status and privileged position, others – like Prometheus, and Demeter, and Dionysus – defied the divine order to level the playing field between gods and humans. Before Ceres turned to her scorched Earth policy to avenge her daughter, she worked quietly in disguise to turn Demophoon - a mere mortal - into a god, a ritual she later institutionalized in the Eleusianian mysteries. More about this in the next post. Meanwhile, we can safely assume that in the endless archetypal battle between entrenched power and upstart rebellion, Ceres is on the side of the underdog - that is to say in today's parlance, the 99% of us just trying to get by.
If Zeus and Hades were alive today, they might take the form of a Wall Street banker and a faceless oil company executive, respectively, while Ceres can be seen at work in the Occupy movement, the efforts of local communities to ban fracking, the movement to overturn Citizens United, and the state and local movements to label GMO foods - or anywhere David battles Goliath.
Having said that, in the age of Ceres, behind the headlines grabbed by Plutonic forces systematically raping the Earth and defiling everything that could otherwise be held sacred, and beyond even the noble movements mentioned above, my sense is that a quieter revolution is going on. In the end, this quieter revolution may be every bit as essential to the outworking of our collective destiny as the decisions being made in corporate board rooms and the political arena.
The fundamental change at the heart of this revolution has to do with how we – as individuals – view ourselves, the human species, and our place within the larger scheme of things. Historically, we have tended to think of ourselves as masters of the universe for whom no problem is too large, and no dream unattainable. In the Age of Ceres as increasingly frequent catastrophic weather events like Hurricane Sandy and the Indian ocean tsunami of a few years ago devastate our communities; as perpetual wars generate epidemic waves of PTSD-deranged veterans returning to our broken families; as increasing disparity between rich and poor leaves more of us hungry and homeless; as the natural environment in which we live becomes increasingly inhabitable because of our toxic legacy; it becomes increasingly clear that we are not in as much control as we may think we are.
Nor on the other side of the equation, do we have as much power to fix what we have broken as we would like to think we have. At least it is becoming clear to increasing numbers of people that “saving the planet” may not be within our capacity. If we make the shift that we can imagine Ceres is asking of us, however, some of us still believe that perhaps we can save ourselves. Perhaps. As put in perspective by the wise philosopher and herbalist Stephen Buhner (2):
Gaia has been self-caretaking for a very long time; Gaia does it very well. The belief that we must save the Earth – even if it is driven by deep concern for the damage that is occurring in natural ecoystems – is only another form of hubris, the flip-side of the arrogance of the belief that we can do as we wish to the Earth without repercussions . . .
There is a common drive to believe we are somehow special . . . But we aren’t. We are just part of the weave . . .
What is at risk, from our human point of view, is not the planet but our civilization . . . We are, at this point, burning the house to keep warm in the winter. And while the climate may alter so much that human life can no longer survive here . . . the important thing . . . is not that we die – or even that our species dies – for that is inevitable for all of us . . . What is more important is how we live.
The quiet revolution that is going on now – at the dawn of the age of Ceres – is an increasing desire on the part of many humans to learn how to live, how to be part of the weave, rather than something special or apart or above the rest of the weave.
It is not likely that the plutonic forces that rape, pillage and plunder the world for profit will stop doing what they have always done. Perhaps they will do enough damage that those who live on the edge of the weave will watch it fray and find themselves dangling from the ends. The weave itself, however, is not in danger. And those that make it into the heart of the weave – those that learn to live their lives in symbiotic relationship with the natural and human communities in which they find themselves – will likely survive. Perhaps, as they rise to the occasion that life in the Age of Ceres demands of us all, they will even thrive.
What is also becoming increasingly clear to a larger number of people is that being a part of the weave – living consciously and humbly within it as a participant, right where we are – empowers us to do something about our own lives in a way that attempting in our delusions of grandeur to dominate, manipulate or control the weave does not. As the venerable Worldwatch Institute has noted in its State of the World 2014 annual report (3), “Action – on climate, species loss, inequity, and other sustainability crises – is being driven by local, people’s, women’s, and grassroots movements around the world, often in opposition to the agendas pursued by governments and big corporations.”
These movements are about people taking charge of their own lives, right here, right now, not by looking to governments or gods for rescue, nor by attempting to change something from the outside in, but rather by rolling up their own sleeves, seeing what is needed in the places where they live, and then doing something about it from the bottom up and the inside out – from within the weave. Homeowners in Chicago plant rooftop gardens; commuters in Helsinki decide that ten years from now no one in the city will have any reason to own a car; women in rural Kenya band together and plant trees to restore their local habitat to life-sustaining vitality. Despite the fact these sorts of quiet local changes are not generally reported by the mainstream – corporate-owned – media, and are sometimes opposed by governments, this shift toward grassroots do-it-yourself bootstrap effort represents a quantum leap forward that may yet save the humans – or at least some of us – for the next phase of our collective evolution.
(1) Ram Dass, Miracle of Love: Stories About Neem Karoli Baba, New York, NY: E. P. Dutton, 1979, p. 140.
(2) Stephen Harrod Buhner, Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm: Into the Dreaming of the Earth, Rochester, VT: Bear & Company, 2014, pp. 402-412.
(3) World Watch Institute, "State of the World 2014: Governing for Sustainability,” http://www.worldwatch.org/bookstore/publication/state-world-2014-governing-sustainability.
The last post in this series is Ceres, the Eleusinian Mysteries and Spirit Plant Medicine.
To read more blog posts, go here.