Numinous and Concrete
Occupying Sacred Ground: An Open Letter to Michael Lerner
Occupy has deep roots and far-reaching branches. Though reminiscent of the Diggers of the 1600s, of the Paris Commune, and the Haymarket uprisings, it also looks like something we have not seen before. Why doesn't it yet have a list of achievable goals? Because it is working on the long-term process of educating citizens and re-making a country. That is not done in under two months, not when it has taken 200 years for things to go awry, and certainly not when we need to retrain ourselves toward a new system of social organization and the possibility of real justice. Occupy recognizes the importance of conversation, teaching, and time.
While I would like to see General Assemblies accept the mantle of non-violence, I comprehend those who say we don't have a working definition of what violence is. Critiques of violence in Occupy usually center around a few smashed windows—a tactic I find puerile—while failing to note that big banks and multinational corporations commit substantial violence against Earth and humans daily. Children are chained to machines. Water is poisoned. Homes are stolen. A smashed window barely compares. Yes, I feel we would be better off, as one speaker at Monday's GA said, to "fight violence with non-violence," but I'm not scrapping the movement for lack of consensus on this point. It takes time for individuals to step forward into their power. It takes time to build leaders. We need to take that time, or nothing will ever change.
I take particular umbrage at the casual dismissal of the encampments as a "fetishization" of the occupied spaces. Place is sacred. Place tells us we have somewhere to stand. People establish sacred relationship with spaces, which strengthens the roots of Occupy. More importantly, taking up space is what ignites the imagination, and gives the larger movement outside the camps a touchstone, something to return to.
When Solar Cross Temple organized to donate portable toilets and washstands to Occupy Oakland, people felt excited to send tangible support to those who were willing and able to camp out in the cold to lend a voice to this process of change. The camps also remind us that this movement is not going away. Occupy will continue—rain, snow, or sun—and campers are willing to become a rallying point for those of us who show up at General Assemblies, put pressure on abusive corporations and unresponsive politicians, and those who are finding ways to work together to form more viable, less isolated communities.
As a Pagan minister, for whom the sacredness of earth and sky is paramount to my sense of spiritual connection, I comprehend the importance of place in my bones. I would hope that as a Jew, Rabbi Lerner, you would celebrate the tent encampments as sacred sukkot in which people displaced by foreclosure and unemployment dwell, becoming symbols of a larger awakening and the shaking off of collective bonds of oppression.
If the camps are forced to go away, they will live on in our minds, having taken root there. We will continue to find places to stand and speak. Together.
". . . this idea cannot be evicted."
T. Thorn Coyle, Solar Cross Temple and Morningstar Mystery School
T. Thorn Coyle is an internationally respected visionary and teacher of the magical and esoteric arts. The author of Make Magic of Your Life, Kissing the Limitless, and Evolutionary Witchcraft, she hosts the Elemental Castings podcast series, writes the blog Know Thyself, and has produced several CDs of sacred music. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook!