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By Rhonda Fabian
Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee is a Sufi teacher in the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya Sufi Order. As an author, he has specialized in integrating the ancient Sufi approach to dreams with the insights of Jungian Psychology. He speaks compellingly to our spiritual responsibility at this present time of transition, and to an awakening global consciousness of oneness. A Kosmos contributor, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee has more recently written about the feminine, the anima mundi (World Soul), and spiritual ecology.
We shared this exchange, on February 19, 2015.
Kosmos: Teacher, what aspect or quality of our essential human nature can best counteract the powerful pull of consumerism and greed that traps so many?
Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee: Love is the greatest power in creation, and the most essential quality of our human nature that is needed to help change our present situation, particularly our love and care for the Earth. The Earth, which has given us life and nourishes us even as we continue to abuse it, desperately needs our love, our care and attention. Its species are dying, its soul is crying.
Through our love for the Earth we will have access to a deeper dimension of our own nature, a living heritage that can nourish us with the meaning and magic that comes from our soul and the world soul. We will also discover ancient forces within creation that can help free us from the spell of consumerism, from its entrancement.
Life is a self-sustaining organic whole of which we are a part, and once we reconnect with this whole we can find a different way to live—one that is not based upon a need for continual distraction and the illusions of material fulfillment, but rather a way to live that is sustaining for the whole.
Love always turns our attention away from our isolated sense of a separate self towards the greater whole of which we are a part. It reconnects us with our own sacred nature and the sacred within all of life. As such it is the simplest and greatest force to free us from our present addictions. But it does require a shift in consciousness, a fundamental change in attitude to break free of this present entrancement. Love confronts us with this challenge: that it is not about “us,” but about something greater than our individual self. And there will be sacrifices that we need to make, as we free ourselves from the grip of ego-driven greed and constant desires.
Kosmos: What teaching from Sufism is most relevant for world leaders to hear at this time?
Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee: The central Sufi teaching of the unity of being—that all of creation is an expression and manifestation of an inner unity—is the most important mystical teaching at this time. The oneness, which the mystic knows in the depths of the heart and also experiences reflected in the outer world, needs to become central to a world at present driven by divisiveness. Only when we work together from an understanding of living unity will be able to evolve beyond many of the problems that cause suffering in the world today. And together with oneness is the importance of service.
Selfless service is a foundational spiritual quality that is necessary to help humanity at this time of transition. Any real “leader” is one who is in service to the needs of the whole.
However we have to acknowledge the forces of greed and exploitation—of “me” as opposed to “we”—that stand in the way of such an evolutionary shift. We cannot afford to be idealists, but need to recognize the political realities and vested interests of the present time, even as we seek a more sustainable and just world. For this reason I do not see much real hope from today’s world leaders, who are too much a product of, and dependent upon, the present industrial/consumerist system that advocates continued economic growth, despite this being unrealistic and unsustainable.
Kosmos: What does it mean today to be a ‘global citizen’ of a ‘living Earth’?
Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee: To be a “global citizen” is first to acknowledge the oneness and interdependence of all of creation. Only from a consciousness of oneness can we participate in the healing and transformation of the living Earth that is so vitally needed at this time, otherwise we will just continue to manifest the symptoms of separation. It is our ideology of being separate from the Earth, that it is a “resource to be exploited,” that has created our present ecological devastation and crisis of climate change.
Acting from a place of oneness we need to return to a conscious relationship with the Earth as a living being rather than dead matter, which our ancestors understood as having a soul, anima mundi, as its indwelling spiritual consciousness. When we remember our relationship with the Earth as a sacred being we can work together with the forces within nature, the primal powers of creation that shamans and indigenous peoples have long understood as central to our shared well-being. We can no longer afford to ignore or reject this inner dimension of life.
Being a global citizen of a living Earth is to return to the ‘great conversation’ with all of its many inhabitants, in both its inner and outer worlds. We can no longer live in isolation, alienated from the very planet that supports and nourishes us both physically and spiritually. We need to learn once again how to respect and listen to the Earth, to its ancient wisdom and spiritual depths. The Earth can teach us how to live in harmony and oneness as part of the great web of life. Once again we can learn how to walk in a sacred manner, experience her wonder and mystery, care for her soul as well as her soil.
Kosmos: Some spiritual teachers have said that Life/Consciousness will continue beautifully with or without human beings. Do you have any thoughts or feelings about this?
Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee: All of life is sacred, is a revelation of the divine—nature is the first book of revelation. Human beings hold a unique place in the symphony of creation in that we are able to consciously experience its beauty and wonder, witness its oneness—see the face of the Creator in the creation. And yet it is our forgetfulness of this revelation, our treatment of the Earth solely as a resource to fulfill our material needs, that has precipitated our ecological tragedy. If we remember the sacred nature of the Earth then we can stay true to our spiritual covenant with creation. If we continue with our present pathological destruction of our ecosystem, and the temperature continues to rise, it is possible we will face our own extinction as a species. Without human beings life will continue—the planet will continue its cycles of evolution—but a central note will be missing, a quality of divine revelation will not take place.
Rhonda Fabian is the digital editor of Kosmos Journal
Fall | Winter 2016