Beliefnet
A Pagan's Blog

This blog frequently covers
organic food issues.  It could be
said to do so a little obsessively. 
Most of my readers will prefer eating organic, but is this an important
ethical issue?  How is that Pagan?

We experience the Sacred in the
world, whether or not it exists transcendental to it. Every relation with
anything has a spiritual dimension. 
Everything.

This means that everything is
more than simply a means to our ends. At the same time, we are beings of need.  Of necessity, many things must be means
to our ends, particularly what we eat.

Doesn’t this put us in a
quandary?  I don’t think so.  I think it is an opportunity to deepen
our spiritual insight.  Our relation
to agriculture is a wonderful place to do this.

When I was a boy, we occasionally
said grace around the table.  When
we did I always wondered why we did not thank the plants and animals we were
eating.  We only thanked God. But
it was the plants and animals who died that we could live. 

Not thanking them evidences the
state of mind that has led to the hellish mass production of chickens, eggs,
cattle, salmon and hogs.  It has
led to the massive fields of monoculture sustained by a steady flux of chemical
poisons and practices that leach the life from the soil.

In other words, when we regard
something as simply a means to our ends, all that matters is using it
“efficiently.” For me, this attitude is akin to using a cathedral as a latrine
because it is convenient.  How we
treat the food we consume is in part a measure of how we treat the Sacred that
we honor.  

The old hunting and gathering
ethic of having respect for everything is deeply in touch with a Pagan
sensibility.  As agriculture
transformed human lives, along with advantages it brought disadvantages.  I think the biggest of these was that
we shifted our spiritual appreciation and respect from concrete beings: this
salmon, this deer, this plum tree, to increasingly more abstract entities:
Mother Earth, Father Sky, and so on. 

I am not saying it is an error to
praise and honor Mother Earth and Father Sky, the Lady of the Moon and the
Horned Lord of death and rebirth – far from it.  I am saying it is a mistake for us to stop there.

As societies became more divorced
from the land that sustained them, it seems to me their spiritual world tended
to become increasingly abstract and distant: God with a personality, and
finally, God without a personality. 
Perhaps this is why so many in the modern world are concerned with
“proving” God exists.  They have cut
themselves off from the most easily accessed means of encountering the More
than Human, and then wonder why they feel so alone in the universe.

All these more inclusive and
abstract dimensions of Spirit are real in my experience, but when divorced from
Spirit “all the way down” we are left with little reason to care about the
roots of our encounters with this world. 
When we do not care about the roots, we tear them up, unthinkingly, and
put their use under the control of the organized sociopaths that are
corporations.

Caring only for the power that
money brings, corporations steadily distance us from caring for the Sacredness
of the Earth, and so dissolve away the foundations of our humanity.

Aldo
Leopold once wrote – and this is one of my favorite quotes –

For
one species to mourn the death of another is a new thing under the sun. . . .
we, who have lost our pigeons, mourn the loss. Had the funeral been ours, the
pigeons would hardly have mourned us. In this fact, rather than in Mr. DuPont’s
nylons or Mr. Vannevar Bush’s bombs, lies objective evidence of our superiority
over the beasts.

When
we begin to treat the weaker things in this world as of no ethical consequence,
as inconsequential from a Spiritual perspective, we set into motion that fatal
progression that leads to the loss of what is most unique about our humanity.

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