What does it mean to take a vow - “I promise to be the best lover and defender of the Earth that I can be?"
The world needs a profound expansion of human consciousness to move us beyond Tribalism to a consciousness of the whole. The vow we share in common is a vow of service that supports those in service to Earth and one another.
This vow to respect and defend our sacred Earth could integrate core values underlying the vows that our ancestors often undertook, applying them from a modern perspective.
For example, traditional vows of orders in the West have included Poverty, Obedience, and Celibacy. Monks have often added a vow of Stability. Of course, married couples take a vow of marriage, to be faithful “until death do us part.”
What values do these vows represent for us today, and how can they be applied in the Order of the Sacred Earth?
First, we recognize that the traditional monastic vows said something profound about three profound dimensions of human reality: economics and money; government, decision-making, and community organization; and sexuality. All three of these dimensions remind members of OSE community that these issues are always present at the forefront of the human condition and our interaction with others. Let us consider each.
Let us recognize this as an awareness of the value of simple living, resisting the dominant cultural myth about consumerism, the idolatry of money and the addiction to shopping, spending, acquiring and discarding to “keep up with the Joneses.”
Rather than reducing our great purpose for existing to such pitiful obsessions, OSE community members could commit to living lives of simplicity and supporting those who have less. We would be actively involved, according to our gifts and resources, in bringing forth a New Economic System that works for everyone on the planet—not just all two-legged ones but all beings, the oceans and fishes, the forests and trees, the plants and animals, the birds and the weather. An economic system based on community, not on rapacious profit—that is what a vow to support Mother Earth requires. That is a twenty-first century version of the vow of poverty.
We have come a long way since a vow to obey the edicts of a religious hierarchy. The world has been changed by democratic and socialist standards of self-governance. But we have also seen the rise of fascism, corporate lobbying, and the shadow-rule of the uber-rich. It stands to reason then that members of OSE will stand up for the rights both of individuals and of the commonwealth, the community of Earth dwellers including future generations of human and nonhuman beings, the biosphere, and the planet. Democracy is a fine goal and ideal but it has diverse expressions and has
its intrinsic limits and to be real must recognize that not only individual rights are important, but Earth rights and community rights are also important. Our survival depends on our recognizing the rights of all beings, human and nonhuman.
Our ancestors recognized the power of the second chakra, our sexuality that we all carry within us and which can be an expression of our deepest spiritual longings as well as our survival. Precisely because it is so foundational to the birth of children and the keeping together of family life and the survival of the “tribe,” sexuality can also be an avenue of profound distraction, addiction, and hurt. So sexuality, so sacred a reality, can also carry a large shadow.
Taking a vow of celibacy had profound social implications for our ancestors, for it was the most certain expression of birth control when other means of birth control were often rare to find. It was also a potential means of liberation ofwomen and gay people from cultural norms that required marriage, with love or often without it.
Today the psychological, spiritual and sociological importance of sexuality has been simplified considerably by modern science and technology, as birth control is easy to obtain and homosexuality is recognized as an inborn trait among hundreds of species, not a uniquely human disease or sin.
But we also need spirituality to remind us of the sacred dimensions to sexual experience, the return of the wild God of passion amidst mutual exchange and communication and pleasure-giving. The conception and birth and raising of children adds to sexuality the element of Responsibility. We are called to ensure that children come into the world with the guidance and care and support of loving families and without placing undue burdens upon the planet’s resources. We are called to protect our partners and the public health from sexually-transmitted diseases. We are called to protect our partners from heartbreak, abuse and abandonment, and to protect all genders from bigotry, discrimination and hate. And we are called to educate ourselves in the joy and sacredness of sexuality, so that not just the ego is involved but the full self, the spiritual self, the spontaneous and passionate self.
This committed religious to remain in the same monastery for their whole lives. We may translate this to a commitment to study, learn to love, and stand up for our bioregion, becoming conscious eco-citizens wherever we find ourselves
Spirituality requires a love of one’s place, roots in one’s place, being at home within one’s locale. This relationship to place is part of the first chakra and it is also the meaning of humility, which comes from the Latin word for “earth.”