The political thunderstorm of 2016 has left me shaken. Perhaps I am naïve to feel so taken aback at the directions which many major world powers have been taking; but I am taken aback. I am disheartened. I am worried, scared for the future of this planet. 2015 saw some positive moves forward in my book—Ireland voted for marriage equality, a man with actual left-wing politics was elected to the British Labour Party… And so perhaps I was lulled into a false sense of security that an increasing number of people in the world were holding my views.

This is not a political blog, and I’m not about to start making it one. But I can’t pretend to isolate my religious beliefs from my political ones; I can’t pretend to isolate my spiritual life from everything else happening in my world. And today, I am afraid for the integrity of many things which my spirituality holds sacred.

I could write at length about my fears for the environmental crisis, my fears for all the ways in which vulnerable people’s quality of life will suffer, my fears for the repercussions across the globe. But there is already a wealth, an overabundance even, of such material online. So instead I want to write about how the election—and other political events this year—have made me feel about spirituality, my moral obligations, and my agency in this world.

One of the things I hold most sacred is the feeling of connectedness. It’s a feeling that is often hard-won. Connectedness on a cosmic level is something I can only drop into when I am at my spiritual peak, meditating every day, and thinking actively about divinity. But during those times when I have been able to access that feeling, it has given me hope and energy: hope that it really is possible for one individual to reach out and send tremors across the web; and the energy required to harness my creativity in order to make those tremors happen.

For the first few years of my interaction with the spiritual community, it was enough to see that I was influencing other people’s spiritual practices. It was enough to see that I had helped people clarify their thoughts, built ritual, or allow themselves to be spiritual in the first place. I had a deep, residing belief that spirituality was the key to people’s happiness—or at least to the happiness of my peers, those people in the West who had already fulfilled the first three or four levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Over time, it’s become increasingly clear to me that this influence—inspiring others to be spiritual in the face of western scientific naturalist dogma—does not feel like enough. It’s not enough for me to shy away from involvement in political, social, and environmental activism under the guise of separating my spirituality from my morality, or not knowing where to start.

The changing political environment in the West has shaken my underlying belief in the efficacy of spirituality to really change anything. It has woken me up to the fact that, at the end of the day, when I am writing about Paganism from a progressive, feminist, inclusive, green perspective, I am really just preaching to the choir. The problem with online spaces is that they become echo chambers. We all follow each other, read each other’s words, and interact within the community in which we feel most comfortable. And that is important—it’s empowering and affirming, and ultimately safe. But it’s the very safeness of those echo chambers that has led me to becoming unconsciously complacent about the direction in which the wider world is going.

So now I am wondering: how can I help to create tremors that will change anything on a more fundamental level? How can I contribute? I am more than willing to keep putting energy into fortifying our community—giving us the spiritual backbone and clarity we need to put our stamp on the world. But I want to start thinking about how our community can push beyond the boundaries of our current influence. I want to think about what I can do as a spiritual writer and thinker to help build a better future.

Because the most resounding realisation this difficult year has brought to me is this: My spiritual practice has been so much sand for me to bury my head in. I told myself that connectedness with the Cosmos, with the All, with Goddess, was the most important thing. I told myself that connection to our community was evidence that I was reaching out. I told myself, worst of all, that if I was a pantheist, then the destruction of our particular society, ecosystem, and planet could only be seen as one more sacred process in the divine creative/destructive cycles of Cosmos. Therefore, my environmentalism, my socialism, was peripheral to this central tenet.

If revering natural processes is what I’m all about, then I need to revere the natural empathy and outrage I feel for those who are suffering. I need to revere this impulse to help stand in the way of the destructive march of capitalism. I need to revere my morals and my beliefs about social order. If the microcosm mirrors the macrocosm, then this desire for equality, for reducing suffering, for creativity over destruction, is mirrored in the divine whole of Cosmos. I am ready to own that. I am ready to stand for that. I am ready to belief that my influence and impact can do more than convince others that a spiritual practice is all we need for true happiness.

Spirituality can stand for more than a distraction from social responsibility. If I truly believe in the power of self-made religion, in the power of harnessing symbols that are meaningful to us as individuals, then I should believe that our spirituality can empower us for anything we choose. I am for spirituality that revitalises the self. But I am also for spirituality that revitalises a society, or a world.

4 thoughts on “Beyond the Echo Chamber: Looking towards a Spiritual Activism

  1. Andy says:

    I agree-we cannot compartmentalise our lives. Our faith/spirituality has to inform every part of our lives. Sometimes it is difficult amongst all the negative things that are going on in the world, but I think we must strive to see the balance. Play our part, too.

  2. October (Lors) says:

    HI Andy how lovely. I have always felt that our spiritual earthly and everyday lives truly do inter weave and interlock with one another. I see life, the universe and all that is, almost acting like a giant spinning wheel ( so the device that spins the thread or yarn of our lives if you will )

    The thread or yarns are spun to create, but although the wheel ( ie the device) changes the fibres, ‘we’ the spinsters or spinners are always in charge of our own tasks and or creations, we choose the type of fibres from which we spin, and if the fibres remain natural or to be dyed.

    I also agree and believe that we should strive to counter balance in our lives,So if we take from nature, we should return, If we collect wood for our fires or stoves we could give thanks,by simply popping something in to said fire upon lighting it, to thank and lend our appreciation, or If we take a pebble from the beach, to pop a little thank you in to the sea, taking only a few minutes of our time,allowing the waves to pull in that thank you (always making sure of course that the gift is sea safe, and non harmful to anything residing there)

    I feel it is our responsibility to take care of this beautiful Earth, and to do our bit, however large or small to protect and prevent further damage. I so agree with Áine if we all create little earthquakes together then maybe we can change the way the world seems to be heading.

    My son has severe Autism and learning difficulties as well as various sensory issues, I want his adult years to happy ones and not filled with dread, confusion, fear, pollution, and war. He is 20 years old in less that a week and my goals are truly simple. Protection, rights, the gift of happiness and fearlessness regards what he sees when he, looks out of the window, my goals are not set in stone and as I am not stone mason, I must work with the tools that I have been blessed with to help him in all he strives for as he moves forward in his life mother by his side both in the physical sense and the spiritual.

    It is indeed a mad world. but also a wonderful world too 🙂

    October (Lors)

  3. MarkH says:

    This is excellent. I’ve been an activist for a long time and write about politics and political philosophy/theory but am coming at this from the opposite direction and starting to look to the spiritual to bring balance to my life. I’m coming more and more to believe that we need a myth and we need to see the wonder in the world again if we are to bring meaning to political action and your writing and videos have been very helpful in that regard.

    • Áine Órga says:

      Thanks very much! Yes I’m a big believer in that, in the power of the stories we internalise about the world, and how that influences our values and assumptions.

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