The Three Sacred Relationships℠

The Three Sacred Relationships℠ are the three general realms in which Gaeans strive to preserve, sustain, and restore a healthy, positive relationship. The three realms are:

  1. The Material Realm – The Earth and the Body, which is made of the elements of the Earth.
  2. The Social Realm – From the individual dyadic relationships, to one’s family, clan, tribe, and the rest of humanity.
  3. The Spiritual Realm – From the spirits of the plants and animals, to spirit guides and the spirits of our ancestors who watch over us.

These realms are drawn from a comparative study of many indigenous paths. As one studies the spiritual life of indigenous peoples, we see these three themes arise again and again. Being in “right relationship” in these three realms is considered the basis of a spiritual life. One does not, for instance, cut down more trees than one needs, because to do so is disrespectful to the Earth, as well as the spirits of the forest. By the same token, one does not slay an animal, except when there is need. One does not act with greed or selfishness or vanity or false pride around one’s tribe.

What is “Sacred”?

The concept of “sacred” throws some people. To many, it conjures up images of a religious officiant, dressed in special vestments, wielding special tools, on a special day, performing special sacraments. In fact, the word “sacred” comes from the linguistic root term “scire”, which means “to cut”, “to separate”, or “to divide”. Its implication is that “sacredness” refers to that which has been “set apart” from mundane use for a special religious purpose. We use the term differently, however.

To indigenous peoples, “sacredness” is an alien concept, because spirituality permeates every aspect of life, and the notion of doing spiritual things one day a week, while not being spiritual the rest of the week, is nonsensical. If a man fishes a stream, and pulls some trout from it, he thanks the spirit of Trout, and the spirit of that Stream for its bounty, and returns to his family in thanksgiving for this blessing. If a decision is to be made by the clan, the elders gather together, performing some rites of purification to keep out the spirits that cause conflict, and they invite the spirits of their wise ancestors to come and share wisdom with them, so that a good decision will be made. To them, there is no “secular life”.

If we look a little deeper into what they are doing, and compare it to what Western culture does, a pattern emerges: Modern economies move energy from a source, and bring it under the control or use, without respect for the source or giving back in equal measure. This is “exploitation”. That energy may be literal energy, such as wood for fires, coal, oil, or natural gas. It may be the exploitation of human energy– their laboring muscles or creative minds. It may be other natural resources such as gold, fresh water, rich soil, native forests or grasslands, or the oceans. Western culture extracts value from the Earth and from other human beings in excess of what it returns, calls it “profit”, and their shareholders are happy and their stock goes up. This is “capitalism”, and it is inherently exploitative. If we were just counting the value we personally add to the process, it would not be so– for we have a right to profit from our own efforts and labors– but it is the goal of capitalism to own such resources that we generate “passive income” from the efforts and labors of others, or from natural resources we have laid claim to. In our individualistic, capitalistic culture, it is in how much one “takes” that a man’s worth is measured.

Indigenous peoples, however, focus their efforts on taking only what they need to satisfy their own needs and that of their families, and it is, rather than in the taking, in what one gives or contributes that indicates a man’s or woman’s worth. Hoarding, which is taking a share greater than what one needs, and more than the next person, is one of the worst “sins” one can commit in many indigenous tribes. If a resource is gained, such as a buck being taken in the hunt, the hunter may not honorably claim any more of that resource than anyone else in the Tribe. He may receive praise, recognition, thanks, and respect, but not a single morsel of meat more than the next person. This attitude is what keeps indigenous tribes in a natural balance with their environment. Hoarding, at an individual level, or societal level, unbalances the environment, and leads to over-consumption and population beyond the carrying capacity, and eventual collapse of the population, after the environment is so destroyed that it can no longer sustain them. This is known as “The Tragedy of the Commons“.

We are rapidly approaching the point of that kind of collapse on a global scale, and we need to learn from indigenous peoples how to once again live in balance with our environment. In the three sub-pages you find under this heading, you will find more specific ways Gaeans address sacred living.

Thus, we define “sacred” as a cyclical, bi-directional flow of energy. We take no more than we need, and we give back in equal measure in some way. If we harvest a tree, we plant three more for the next generation to enjoy. If we receive something of value from another person, we honor that relationship by giving back in equal measure. As we receive value from the spirits around us, we honor them through our offerings, and so bring honor to ourselves, our family, and our tribe.