Oct 21 2008

October 2008 Newsletter

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Sea of Faith               Newsletter       


    Dunedin                           October 2008

The Ecological Imperative –
Is Tomorrow’s God Gaia ?

Five people who were at the national Sea of Faith conference in Blenheim reported briefly on the conference speakers who addressed this theme.  We had the chance to hear:
Pen Whitaker on Unitarian Universalist minister Derek McCullough:  “In Sync with the Sine Wave”. 
[“Worship is putting time aside to honour the things we cherish”]
Marjorie Spittle on writer and psychotherapist Juliet Batten;  “Communing with Gaia”  
[“By communing with Gaia we open our senses, minds, hearts and souls to nature”.]
Alan Jackson on Sea of Faith life member Lloyd Geering:  “God, Gaia and Us” 
         [“The hope of our species for a viable future depends on our mystical reunion with the earth”]
Bruce Spittle on biologist and philosopher Carolyn King:  “In Tomorrow’s Coliseum:  Gaia or the Lions?”                           [‘If forced to choose, would you say Gaia is God, or go to the lions?”]
Robbie Highton on photographer and conservationist Craig Potton:  “Prophetic and Mystic Voices”. 
        [“If the word Gaia is intended to offer hope that earth … may still right itself … then I would
           say it is a fool who sits in his or her own sewerage waiting for a superpower intervention”].

And we enjoyed time for questions and discussion!
National Steering Committee:

Our Chair, Geoff Neilson, who has been on this Committee for three years, did not seek re-election because of the demands of other commitments.  At the Annual Meeting in Blenheim, two of our other members  – Alan Jackson and Don Feist  – were elected to Steering Committee.





Do you find Questionnaires irresistible?
A Sea of Faith member from Christchurch is doing some research on how people’s belief in God has changed during their lifetime.  He is circulating a “Brief God Questionnaire” which he says could be completed in about 10 minutes. If you would like to see it, and perhaps fill it in, ask Don [email and phone below] to email it, or to bring a hard copy to next meeting. 

Quotes from the three Conference keynote speakers:

”We need to pause for a moment to realise what an extraordinary fact it is  – that in our minds we are able to create a picture of the universe.  It means that, through us tiny earthly creatures, the universe attempts to look at itself.   Unfortunately, this fact has often had the effect of causing us to think we are beings outside of the universe  – beings apart from it.  Then we cease to be aware of the connectedness of ‘all that is’.
A further unfortunate aspect of this wonderful fact is that we too readily assume that the picture of the universe we hold in our minds corresponds exactly to the way things are.   We fail to acknowledge that it is a picture that we have constructed.   Moreover, in the long and complex history of human cultures there have been many, and often quite diverse, mental pictures of the universe constructed by humans.  Of course, the modern enterprise of empirical science makes us confident that our modern picture of the universe is considerably closer to the real thing than the many cultural pictures that preceded it.
I am going to suggest, however, that in rather curious ways the ancients may have had a healthier understanding of the universe than we do today, in spite of the highly sophisticated and technological culture of the west.” 
[Lloyd Geering.    The whole address, with supporting illustrations, is available on the national Sea of Faith website ]
“Two major seismic shifts have to occur in our behaviour and understanding if we are to halt further collapse [of the house we live in, our biosphere].    Firstly, we must act collectively and individually in the political arena to protect the untrammelled integrity of ecosystems, and secondly, we must individually and culturally become more compassionate, intimate and sensual with all nature.   Both calls to action are not only foreshadowed in the Torah [the first books of the Hebrew Scriptures] but I would maintain they are two grand central rivers running through it.  I also believe these two rivers, one prophetic and angry, the other poetic and mystical, run through each of us individually, even though they may be subterranean or simply blocked up.   Our spiritual task is to urgently release both flows within us to the surface to correct our relationship with nature.
In the second river, there is a stream of constant wonder, at times stupefying and bewildering, at times delightful, sensual and intimate, before the given natural world.  This also includes long epiphanies on the eros between man and woman as one of God’s great delights.  But it is the dark river of heartburning anger at the way people treat each other and the given world, the prophetic call for justice, that I will turn to first ….”.     
– Craig Potton
Carolyn King’s handout was not a script but a copy of her PowerPoint presentation.  
Here is her “Outline” for her address:
·    Gaia as a fruitful analogy
–   Review of basic concepts
     –   History of previous global warmings,  potential future repeat
·    Danger of confusion between process and person
     –  Competing visions of Earth as passively vulnerable, versus actively purposeful
      –  Forces and consequences, powers of metaphor, carts and horses
      –  Reasons to suppose the earth is not sacred, but our duty to it is
·    Danger of loss of vision, political takeover, even coercion
 – Persecution of non-conformists perceived to be endangering public good
·    Challenge:  If forced to choose, would you say Gaia is God, or go to the lions?

Chairman:    Geoff Neilson   –    Phone 489-6727  –    Email:  Geoff
Newsletter Editor:   Donald Feist  –   Phone 476-3268   – Email:   Don

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