Terragnosis is an update to an ancient path of wisdom, practice, and earthly appreciation which began in ancient Egypt before spreading around the world. This Hermetic path has counterparts in many cultures.
What practical advice does it offer us for times of rapid change?
What if your church was the world, a world you felt you belonged to?
What if the sacred lived inside you, outside you, and all around you?
What if you lived in an animate cosmos with which you enjoyed ongoing conversations?
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What if your spirituality, though grown from ancient roots, fit the time and made sense of life today?
My journey toward such a path opened with vast cosmic dream imagery I could not, as a child, understand. As I got older, I realized that the punitive and violent brand of religion I was taught made no sense of how alive things felt to me, especially when I walked outside in rain, under trees, or at night beneath glowing stars.
There have always, I gradually realized, been people like me, for whom reflection, myth, and imagination open a doorway into a magical realm not apart from this world, but behind or inside it. And inspiring figures to mentor people like me: The shaman and storyteller making use of the gateway of symbols. Enheduanna of Akkad interpreting dreams. The Egyptian alchemist reading messages in flesh and stone. The Alexandrian magician. The Oracle of Apollo at Delphi. Pythagoras, who called Earth “Mother.” Ibn Arabi. Maria Prophetissa. The vision dancers of Ile Ife. The founders of the Jinxia Academy. Spiritual ancestors from many lands.
As far as I know, nobody until now declared, “This is our particular path.” It is not a path for everyone. Yet it reaches like a long silver chain through the ages and around the world, always reinventing itself: as gnosticism, as alchemy, as spiritual ecology… Some of its practitioners have been Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Taoists, pagans, pantheists, monotheists; some answer to no known religion. Its beliefs are not codified because belief is unimportant to it. What counts is gnosis, direct spiritual experience, of the more-than-human intelligence of things.
Terragnosis is the name I have given to this spiritually immanent path of reverence and respect, reflection and embodied practice. Its theory of knowledge is participatory and animistic. Its primary ethic is care, for ourselves, each other, and the world and its creatures. Its devotions spring from awe, love, and homecoming. Its cosmology spans spacetime as we know it. Its sense of the Soul of the World circulates freely from the depths of consciousness to the light of the stars and the indeterminate darkness of subatomic flux.
As a path aspiring to integrational discernment, terragnosis heeds scientific discovery but rejects materialistic scientism; accepts religion but transcends dogmatic intolerance; holds gratitude for esotericism but eschews the habit of splitting this world from any other: terra as in “here.” For the terragnostic, putting down people because they are immigrants, queer, old, underprivileged, differently abled, of this or that religion, or colored other than pale pink has no place in civilized discourse. Difference delighted in unites the human family even while it also feeds appreciation for our non-human kin.
As I consider the long path of this Silver Chain, it seems to bind its ancestry to a future in which human beings live in peace and abundance in just, post-patriarchal, Earth-honoring communities of belonging mentored by emotionally mature elders. Perhaps fabled images of lush, scenic utopias in fantasy and folklore foreshadow the realizable possibility for this future world civilization, aspects of which live today. In my own fantasies it goes by the name of Terrania, the mythos of a borderless and lovingly inhabited Earth aware of its place in the Cosmos. Those who feel at home do not conquer. They dwell. Perhaps one day documents like the Vindication of the Rights of Women, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Principles of Environmental Justice, and the Earth Charter will be seen as founding documents of Terrania.
The primary mode of terragnostic reverence as I try to practice it is continual conversation: with oneself, with the unconscious through amplifiers like dream work and active imagination, with one another (speaking and listening from the heart), with other beings that share our world, with the world itself, even with matter, including the everyday objects with which we surround ourselves. I watch my dreams reflect current events landing in my psyche from elsewhere. Imagining how another’s feelings, background, values, and needs shape their worldview helps me connect and grounds my care for them in empathy. The archetypal forms Jung describes as psychological begin, for me, in nature: the Spiral of individuation in whirlpools and galaxies, the Net of interdependency in veins and roots, transitions and thresholds in cell walls and bioregions, circles and curves channeling energy and motion.
The terragnostic love of place and culture is nested rather than separatist. I am simultaneously a native San Diegan, an American, a man of the cosmos and, I like to think, an honorary Terranian. My devotion to Earth penetrates the hardened paranoia of international borders. Stories and relationships require no passports.
For me, the entire world is a sensing organism. Where others see tornadoes touching down on World Environment Day as coincidence, I see a terrestrial gesture or message. Alice Walker says that when she appreciates wildflowers blooming in her yard, more show up the following season. Nature turns toward us the face that we turn toward it. We are it! It is us.
I grew up feeling alienated, exiled, and alone. Now I walk a mythic path through life. Dwelling somewhere between fact and fancy, myth, the connective tissue of worldviews and spiritual paths, is not about belief, but about wonder.
And I wonder what would come of terragnostics assembling to protect the planet we love while taking reflective and practical steps toward the world community of our desire.