A spiritual view
of the local environment emerges from trying to read and express various signs
of the workings of nature, in relation to our position in the grand scheme of things. For example,
the Koran has much to say about 'signs' which, through the imagination, point to the deeper
significance of everyday life.
- "In the creation of the
heavens and the earth; in the alternation of night and day; in the
ships that sail the ocean with cargoes beneficial to man; in the water which God sends
down from the sky and with which He revives the earth after its death, dispersing
over it all manner of beasts; in the disposal of the winds, and in the clouds that are
driven between earth and sky; surely there are signs for rational men." (The Koran
- In a similar set of holistic
notions, St Francis of Assisi praised God "for our sister,
Mother Earth, which brings forth varied fruits and grass and glowing flowers", and
ended with praise to God "for our Sister, the death of the body." Neighbourliness on
the part of a stranger is signed, as an important element in the evolved pattern of
human behaviour, in the parable of the good Samaritan. A sunset seen above an
urban skyline can be both a scientific and a unifying spiritual experience.
about origins and values in nature cemented families in the past, but are now
lost or diluted within minority subcultures, unattached to the major world religions, who are left
to develop their place in an idiosyncratic cosmology.
Moral and spiritual
teaching has always relied heavily on visual imagery in the formation and
realisation of a society's attitudes, values, and beliefs, and their transmission, as signs of what
is to be human, from one generation to the next. An experimental meditation is being developed
based on images of the natural world which the painter Graham Sutherland used to compose
his Great Tapestry at Coventry. This is included in the folder 'Library' as 'Sutherland's
Tapestry', and may be accessed through 'Index.htm'.
Examples may be
gathered through local appraisals of the influential role played by the visual
arts and architecture in the formation and maintenance of religious and spiritual values in all
societies since prehistoric times. However, there is no generally accepted educational
framework to use neighbourhood notions about nature to link communities and environment to
a larger scheme of spiritual values. In particular, classroom examples are needed which highlight
spiritual reasons for promoting a particular course of local development.
take a world view that is rooted in the imagination and passes beyond the
limits of ordinary life. They start from the postulate that the material cosmos in some way
expresses or manifests a deeper spiritual reality, expressed through human consciousness.
as Julian Huxley have seen an apparent progress in cosmic evolution towards
increasing consciousness and control. That is to say, we are part of a development from the
unconscious simplicity of the Big Bang to the conscious, diverse and complex carbon-based
life-forms of the planet earth. Our unknown future carries the possibility of understanding and
controlling the cosmos itself.
Attempts to provide
biological explanations of consciousness are far from convincing, and are
certainly not established by scientific study. The ultimate personal expressions of conciousness
are through the arts. The author Henry Rider Haggard, for example, through his fertile
imagination, kept returning to the possibility that the material universe does express a spiritual
reality. The purpose of cosmic evolution may be the emergence of some form of conscious
relationship between that spiritual reality and entities in the material cosmos.
Science is not
irreligious. It does not entail that there is no spiritual reality, no God, and no
purpose in the cosmos. Many of the greatest scientists were strongly motivated by their
religious beliefs. The sort of highly ordered and emergent universe that science discloses is
compatible with, and almost overwhelmingly suggests, the existence of a creator of enormous
wisdom and power. Religious myths depict the way in which that reality makes itself known in
the material universe. Religious rituals establish appropriate responses to that reality. Religious
symbols express its fundamental character.
- Some religious thinkers take
the view that modern science can help to clear away
some elements of literalism, ignorance and myopia which still disfigure religion by
providing a new and better understanding of the material universe. Spiritual notions
extend the this scientific world view through ideas which define a realm of spirit, from
which the material cosmos emerges, and to which it will return. Religion has an
irreplaceable role to play in relating human life to that wider spiritual context. Our age
offers the possibility of relating the scientific and religious perspectives in a mutually
- Taking Chrisitanity as an example, from
the beginning it attempted to present a cosmic
vision of a spiritually ordered universe, whose purpose would be somehow completed
by a future full knowledge and love of the creator.
The myths of Christianity show:-
- how God ordered the universe
and produced a conscious moral agency;
- how God expressed the essence
of divine nature as self-giving in the life of a
particular human, Jesus;
- how God disclosed the ultimate
goal of the universe in the resurrection of Jesus.
The cosmic vision of the first Christians was that the spirit who was the creator
cosmos had acted in human history to initiate the liberation of human lives from pride and
egoism, and their union with the divine essence of selfgiving. In other words, we are part
of the whole cosmic process from the Big Bang, and have emerged as conscious agents
which can consciously unite the material to God, its spiritual source and goal.
The cosmos and
all life in it, will eventually cease to exist. But the Christian view has always
been that the fulfilment of God's purpose lies beyond this space-time, even though it must be
approached through it. God's goal for the cosmos is that everyone who has ever lived will have
the opportunity to share in a trans-historical knowledge and love of God in a 'new creation'.
From a Christian viewpoint, this Cosmos is the place where souls emerge in the material and
temporal realm. But they were always intended to find their fulfilment in the eternal realm, which
is the spiritual reality of God.