…with Spirit

The Gaean way is an “indigen-ish” spiritual path. What do we mean by that? Take a look at the following chart. You can click on the image to see it larger. This shows many spiritual and religious trends as far back as we have record of. At the far bottom left of the chart is “European Animism”. It is roughly at the same level of many of the other animistic and shamanistic paths found elsewhere on the tree. While each culture has its unique (and beautiful) expression, nearly all religions started in pre-history as these kinds of animistic paths.

The Evolutionary Tree of Religion

All religions arise out of Animistic and Shamanistic roots.

Animism and Shamanism

Animism is the belief in spirit– not just human souls or a belief in one or more “Great Spirit” that they might refer to as deity. It is a belief that the entire world is permeated through with spirit, and that the animals, trees, and even rocks have spirits inhabiting them which can only be perceived in altered states of consciousness.

Shamanism could be described as a set of methods or techniques by which someone interacts with the spirits within the world around us.

Therefore: Animism is a paradigm or world-view, while Shamanism is a set of practices that works within the Animistic world-view. The Gaean Way is both Animistic and Shamanistic.

{Note: the term “Shaman” comes from the Tugusk Siberian language word “Saman”, which is a term for one of the Evenki holy people. We intend no disrespect to that culture, or any other culture, by borrowing the word as representative of the larger concept of “one who works with spirit” in an Animistic context.}

Spirits and Gods

Different indigenous religions have described various forms of “spirits” with which they might work shamanisticly. In general, these take three forms:

  1. Guides: Spirit guides are beings of wisdom. Many cultures call upon the spirits of their ancestors to guide their decisions. Others might call on the wisdom of Animal totems, such as Bear or Wolf. Modern theists often ascribe all wisdom to God.
  2. Guardians: Indigenous peoples often call on certain kinds of spirits that have power to help people, protecting them from threats like disease or disaster. Some modern theistic paths call on guardian angels or saints for protection.
  3. “Go-fers”: Keeping with the “G” alliteration, “go-fers” are spirits which are sent out (“go for”) to accomplish some sort of task for the shamanic practitioner. These are viewed as “lesser spirits” that have limited power and scope, but are useful.

“Deities” could be thought of as spirits which have the wisdom and power to fulfill all three roles, often with a will of their own, and perhaps even the inclination to involve themselves in our lives uninvited.

Theism: Polytheism, Henotheism, & Monotheism

Gaeans are lightly Polytheistic and/or Henotheistic. Let’s define those concepts:

“Theism” is the belief in deity. From an Animistic context, Theism identifies certain spirits as having greater power or influence in our lives.

“Polytheism” is the belief in many deities, and freely engages any or all of those deities ritually for a number of reasons. Many Bronze and Iron Age cultures were polytheistic, such as Ancient Egypt and Babylon.

“Monotheism” is the belief in only one deity, and only allows for the ritual engagement with that One. The first major monotheistic religion was Zoroastrianism. Manichaeism followed. Both of those largely died out, but heavily influenced the primary monotheistic religions still around today: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

“Henotheism” is something of a cross between the two. It acknowledges the existence of many deities, and is therefore polytheistic, but focuses ritual engagement with only one– or perhaps two– of the many. Often, Henotheism was practiced by families and tribes. Each family would have a “family god” or “tribal god”, which, in group worship, would engage with that deity. Personal veneration of other deities was allowed and even encouraged, so long as no one tried to unseat and usurp the place of the primary group deity.

Many people in Ancient Greece and Rome were henotheistic, devoting themselves to one deity, but acknowledging and honoring the others in a pluralistic religious context. Judaism actually started out henotheistic before the Jews’ Babylonian captivity, after which they became pretty insistent that Jahweh wasn’t just the “main god”, but the “only god”. Their disrespect of other gods during the time of Julius and Augustus Caesar got them into hot water with the rest of the Roman Empire.

The Gaean Way is henotheistic and intentionally chooses Gaea as a primary deity. The reasons for this are fairly straight-forward:

  • Our world faces global environmental catastrophes as a result of human activity. Unless we change course, we endanger our species’ very survival on this planet. It is critical that we place Mother Earth foremost in our thoughts and efforts at this time in Humanity’s development.
  • The veneration of a Great Mother evokes some of our most primitive psychological impulses– seeking comfort in the Universal Love of “Mother”. After millennia of Western Culture teaching us that we are a “fallen” and despicable species, condemned by an angry Father God, only saved through the Infinite Love of God’s Son, we see the need take ownership of our “sins” in a different way: acknowledging that we have chosen our societal ills to gain the perceived boons of civilization. If we recognize that our nature is essentially good, and that evil is not a cosmological constant, but a system that is enshrined in the worst abuses that civilization has brought us, we can begin to heal and recover from the mass-psychosis of Western Civilization.
  • We desperately need to heal the relationship, on both personal and social levels, with the Feminine. Women have been second-class citizens and oppressed now for way too long, and by elevating a Divine Feminine to preeminence, we can help women feel empowered, identifying with the Divine; and men can alter their relationship to the Divine as well, learning a new way to embody the Divine Masculine that is distinct from the archetypes of Father, King, and Warrior.