Earth isn’t just home, it’s holy

Full disc satellite image of Earth from Russian Electro-L satellite (Russian Earth Observation centre) There is now a single issue … Continued

Full disc satellite image of Earth from Russian Electro-L satellite (Russian Earth Observation centre)

There is now a single issue before us: survival. Not merely physical survival, but survival in a world of fulfillment, survival in a living world, where the violets bloom in the springtime, where the stars shine down in all their mystery, survival in a world of meaning.
—The Rev. Thomas Berry

Finally we are waking up to our ecological imbalance, to the realities of global warming and its catastrophic consequences. It is also beginning to dawn upon us that these environmental changes are accelerating more quickly than we may realize. Behind our present ecological crisis, caused by industrial pollution—the chemicals, toxins, and particularly the carbon that our civilization emits—lies the demon of consumerism that walks with heavy boots over the Earth. Materialism is the driving force of our present self-destructive global culture, a myth that places short-term constant economic growth above any long-term environmental considerations.

This disregard for the environment is the product of a consciousness that is disconnected from the natural world and its interconnectedness. We appear frighteningly disconnected from real awareness of the effects of our materialistic culture upon the very ecosystem that supports us. And at the root of this disconnection is a forgetfulness of the sacred nature of creation, in a way unthinkable to any indigenous person. We are not only a part of a living Earth, but of a sacred Earth, an Earth that nourishes our souls as well as our bodies.

But collectively we have forgotten the sacred nature of the Earth. Just as there is an ecological need to reclaim our relationship to the Earth as a living whole—to come to know how we are part of a mutually interdependent ecosystem—so also there is call to reconnect with the sacred within creation. If the Earth is just a resource then there is no real responsibility. We can use and abuse it, as we are doing at the present time. If it is sacred then how can we justify our present attitude towards the environment, our acts of ecocide?

I deeply feel that we need to reclaim our spiritual relationship with this beautiful and suffering planet, feel it within our hearts and souls. We need to develop an awareness that the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the energy we use, are not just commodities to be consumed, but part of the living fabric of a sacred Earth. Then we are making a real relationship with our environment, respecting the land on which we live, the air we breathe.

We still carry the seed of this primal relationship to the Earth within our consciousness, even if we have long forgotten it. It is a recognition of the wonder, beauty, and divine nature of the Earth. It is a felt reverence for all that exists. Once we bring this foundational quality into our consciousness and life, we will be able to respond to our present man-made crisis from a place of balance, in which our actions will be grounded in an attitude of respect for all of life. This is the nature of real sustainability. To quote the Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki:

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Ph.D., is a Sufi teacher and author. Editor of the anthology

Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth

, he has been interviewed by Oprah Winfrey on Super Soul Sunday, and featured on the Global Spirit Series shown on PBS. For further resources visit:

  • castlegrayskull

    Snooooooooooore!!!! Just more false religion, false science, new age socialism.

  • rebeccaclark

    Wake up.

  • RosaBloom

    Thank you for posting this article. This is a language and perception so needed. It is sad to see a first response to this article to be so dismissive. The sacred nature of the Earth is not a religion, it is a basic and simple truth we have forgotten and the earth and all its inhabitants are paying heavily for that. If you do not want to call it sacred, then call it a deep respect, it call reverence. Call it He, call it She, call it creation, call it God. It does not matter. But at least call it and by doing so, recognize it’s amazing nature, its beauty and power. Remember it is also alive, then the whole relationship between oneself and one’s surroundings changes. There is a different awareness present. Just as it is beautifully said here: “We need to develop an awareness that the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the energy we use, are not just commodities to be consumed, but part of the living fabric of a sacred Earth. Then we are making a real relationship with our environment, respecting the land on which we live, the air we breathe.” Thank you again for this article.

  • Quercus lobata

    Oh wow, it touches my heart to see an article like this here. Thank you! I too believe that if we respect something and love it like kin, we treat it well. If we saw everything in the world as alive and aware, that would certainly change things…

    This reminds me of something I just heard biologist Katy Payne say on the radio recently: “What’s sacred to me is this planet we live on. It’s been here for more than 4 billion years. Life has been on it only for 3 billion years. Life as we know it, for a very short time. It’s the only planet where life has been found. And that, ultimately, I consider it sacred.”

  • Hildy J

    New age?

    Genesis 1:28 “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth”

  • ShannonB123

    Thank you for this timely and important post! I’m so deeply moved…

  • rkiyoshi

    This article is so important and so essential – thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • noorbird

    The title of this article alone makes me want to shout “Amen!” Thank you for publishing it. The author offers a vital perspective not heard enough at this time.

  • SHassen

    Kudos to the Washington Post for publishing this article and thank you to the author for restoring reverence to life and this world of which we are a part. It feels like returning to a consciousness of the sacred connection in all of creation would invite not a regression, but a natural state of being with meaning. More articles like this please!

  • PastorWahhab

    I greatly appreciate Mr. Vaughan-Lee’s perspective. Those of us who call ourselves Christian should realize that God made us to care for this world (Gen. 2:15), and that since God made it, it is holy. We are here to love and serve God and one another, not to participate in a culture of Greed. Jesus Christ was crystal clear that we can not serve both God and Money (Matthew 6:24).

    Certainly most of us no longer carry the understanding, widespread among indigenous people, that the earth is a living being. This understanding was widely held in the Christian West for many centuries–the “anima mundi,” or Soul of the World, is a concept dating back to Plato, who said in the Timaeus, “Therefore, we may consequently state that: this world is indeed a living being endowed with a soul and intelligence … a single visible living entity containing all other living entities, which by their nature are all related.” A similar perspective was held by many of our great philosophers, such as Baruch Spinoza, Gottfried Leibniz, Friedrich Schelling Hegel.

    On a purely pragmatic level, it is clear that despite the efforts of Big Oil and other financial interests to obfuscate and deny, we our fouling our own nest, our one and only home, at such a rapid rate that we are likely to bring widespread devastation to our ecosystem within the lives of our grandchildren if not our children. We will not be able to put this genie back into the bottle. We are already seeing a rate of species loss unmatched since the end of the dinosaurs. Sadly, those who will first be affected will be the poorest–e.g. the people of Bangladesh, which averages only 25′ above sea level.

    God wiped out humanity once in the time of Noah. This time, we may be doing the job ourselves.

  • eauvette

    Thank you so very much for publishing this article. It is vital to be having this conversation on a global scale … for our Western culture in particular to awaken to what is so genuinely offered as a reminder from Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, that our home the Earth is a living and sacred being. Yes please, more articles giving expression from this relational perspective!

  • An-Toan

    Thank you. This is among the most insightful op-eds that I ever have read in the Western press.

  • sindrah

    This article reminds us of the foundation of humanity, to act with love and common sense!

  • katherine-b

    A friend forwarded a link to this article and have to say I am surprised to read such a passionate call to our individual and collective humanity in the pages of the Washington Post. This fact alone gives me a sense of the depth of urgency and the longing for wholeness we share on a deeper level than outward differences seem to show. As each new tragedy unfolds and heroism and compassion come to the fore in the face of devastation, it’s clear that like it or not, believe it or not, we somehow KNOW we are in this life on this earth together and that our seemingly individual fates cannot be divorced from our collective situation. I’ll be re-reading this and passing it on. How to respond to such a deep call.

  • Hope99

    Thank you. It seems that we have forgotten the sacred essence of everything. And now we are living with the consequences all around us of that forgetting, in every aspect of our lives. Hopefully this article can be brought to a wide audience to help people wake up to the true nature of the problem.

  • kneary

    Many of us have become so inundated and entransed by our current myth of of unending economic growth and material prosperity that we’re totally unaware that we’re leaving our children and grandchildren the legacy of a meaningless life on a dying planet. The author of this this desperately needed perspective writes about, ” an Earth that nourishes our souls as well as our bodies.” Those eloquent words reminded of the story of Crowfoot, a leader of the Blackfoot Confederacy who, in 1877, was forced to cede his people’s land to the Canadian government resulting in the extermination of the buffalo and the starvation of the his people. His last words, as he was dying, were: “What is Life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night, it is the breath of the buffalo in the winter time. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.”

  • MLChristoffel

    This article deeply moved me. It is an important and inspirational voice adding a new perspective to the discussion about climate change and our current ecological crisis, Thank you Washington Post for publishing it. To achieve real sustainability, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee suggests, we need to change how we see and how we relate to the Earth. If we can see and feel that the earth is alive and life is sacred, so the earth is sacred then then we are beginning again to relate to the Earth as a living whole, “an Earth that nourished our souls as well as our bodies”. This will not only change how we relate to our environment, but I feel it will change how we relate to ourselves. It feels like a change from quantity to quality; from empty consumerism to meaningful relatedness.

  • Andrea Mathieson

    I always appreciate Llewellyn Vaughan Lee’s focus on the deeper layers of what we are missing in the environmental movement — a deeper, visceral connection with the Inherent sacredness within our natural environment. This call to engagement, to restore the forgotten frequencies of nature that are part of our most intimate birthright, is a call to courage, a call to deep truth, a call to intimacy with Life itself. Sometimes I’m surprised that people like him, and others such as our own national treasure, David Suzuki, do not throw up their arms in dismay at the task before us. The forgetfulness is deep and systemic, yet, in my own experience, the simplest of acts such as gardening with an ear to the earth, being present to the kindness possible in any moment, honouring the creative pulse of the moment continue to yield such intense sweetness. We are not forgotten by Nature in her constant gifts; it is us who forget to listen and receive with honour and respect. We have much to remember, and the paradox, it is so simple yet it affects everything in and around us.