Our life is no dream; however, it should be, and perhaps one day shall be.
There is a delicate and brilliant rapture in the wilds, the forests, the forgotten places which have not heard the echoes of mortals for centuries. Or the ancient pilgrim sites, the holy wells and temples, the towering Buddhas and the resounding Cathedrals. The incomprehensible vastness of the sea, or the mountains, or the deserts, or the stars.
And there are the gates within, the meditations, the prayers. The conscious and unconscious unlocking and opening of vine-covered doors and iron portals into outer truths which can only be explored by entering passages no one else sees.
There are gates to the Other everywhere. But we should not forget–there are also gates we build ourselves.
Worlding and Dualism
I’ve introduced the notion of worlding into the discussion of place and enchantment for a reason. When we speak of the sacred and the mundane, the Other and the material, enchantment and disenchantment, we can get caught in a dualism or dichotomy which, if internalized, divides all of our existence into two opposites. Countless writers have explored the danger of this way of thinking, inherited in western thinking particularly through René Descartes and other Enlightenment thinkers. I can’t match their brilliant work, nor do I need to. A short explanation should suffice.
On the surface, it appears that dualism is almost self-evident. There is male and female, day and night, mother and father, dead and alive. It would seem one could derive dualistic thought specifically by observing nature, and this is why dualism (and many other Enlightenment ideals) take root almost invisibly within our minds—they appear to be obvious or self-evident.
Dualism, of course, ignores every single state between its two artificial polarities. There is Day and Night, yes, but there is also Sunrise, Sunset, Noon, Afternoon, Evening, Midnight, and Gloaming (my favorite word EVER). There are days you work, nights you work, nights when the thinnest amber sickle-moon rises over the trees into an explosion of wheeling stars, evenings which last forever in gold-rose-violet light, mornings you wake too early, nights you wish would never end.
There is male and female, yes. But there are males who express female, females who express male, old men and young boys, gruff adolescents and mothering fathers. There are girls, maidens, mothers, crones, women who heft 50lb bags of flour over their shoulder without effort, women who move with grace as if the wind itself. There are ladies, there are riotgrrls. There are FTM’s and MTF’s, androgynes, hermaphrodites, metagendered, and there is at least one indigenous culture with five genders, the Bugi of Indonesia.
Dualism is a shorthand so omnipresent in western materialist culture that it’s easy to mistake it for a natural division of the world. But it isn’t.
Everything (can be) Sacred
There’s a Pagan response to dualism which is an incredibly good start. Acknowledging that dualistic thinking regarding Sacredness is wrong (and damaging) by reducing the world to mere either/or, it posits a potential and powerful answer: everything should be seen as sacred.
This approach is beautiful. We’ve divided so much of the world into this/not-this that our classifications have become almost the “word of God.” Many who espouse this view have identified the damage dualistic thinking has done, and some have (I think correctly) traced this thinking historically to the Reformation and particularly Calvinism. Before Calvin, the universal/catholic (remembering that catholic means “universal”) view was that nature had a sacredness specifically as it was created by the same god who created humanity. Even though most catholic thinking enforce hierarchies within the order of creation, since it was all creation, it all had its place and role within the order of things.
Calvinism, and the Enlightenment which sprung from the Reformation’s divorce from the universalizing thought of Catholicism, introduced and then built entire theories of human existence apart from nature (with a couple of outliers, like Rousseau). No longer was the forest sacred because it was created by the Christian’s god, it was useful because it was converted and improved by man. (“Improvement,” by the way, is one of the central logics of Capitalist thought—Adam Smith justified stealing land from the First Nations people in America because they weren’t doing anything with their land: that is, they weren’t improving it).
The view that everything is sacred, then, counters this insidious, Materialist trend, and is quite affective. And I am very much in love with this idea, that every place and everything we do is holy and beautiful. It’s beautiful—but insufficient. I don’t think it’s true—or, not yet, or not without the agency of our worlding.
Worlding and Agency
Mind if we revisit the quote from Chakrabarty which I introduced in my first essay?
“[D]isenchantment is not the only principle by which we world the earth. The supernatural can inhabit the world in these other modes of worlding, and not always as a problem or result of conscious beliefs or ideas…gods and spirits are not dependent upon human beliefs for their own existence; what brings them to present are our practices.”
Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe, p111-112
The reason “worlding” seems to me an apt way to understand enchantment and disenchantment is precisely because it is an act of human mediation, an act of human agency. It reminds us that, because we create the world, we delineate or expand the Other, imbuing and drawing it forth, coaxing and shepherding it from its hidden places or walling it out of our worldings.
Think on the image of The Magician from Tarot. One of the more common meditations on the card suggests that he “mediates heaven and earth,” and also represents communication. The Magician, therefore, worlds the earth. Druids are fond of triads, and even Hegel pointed out that the Celts seemed to possess a sort of dialectical thinking before he developed his theories on dialectics; that is, the one, than its opposite, and then a third which mediates and transforms the duality into something new.
We are that third.
We are The Magician, teasing out the threads of meaning from the wilds and the stars, from spirit and from matter. We weave these threads from and into the earth, worlding what should be sacred into what is sacred. Everything should be sacred, yes, and everything can be.
We, frail and brilliant mortals, made of flesh and dirt and shit, the dust from stars and the wind from graves—we world the earth into disenchantment or enchantment, co-creating with the gods and the spirits, seeing the sacred in what is ignored, imbuing the mundane with meaning. We, like The Magician, and like the figure of The World, can choose to dance with creation and open gates of the Other, or choose to world it from our lives.