Thursday, June 09, 2011

The World Is Sacred - One Pagan's Values

This essay is part of the 3rd Annual International Pagan Values Blogging and Podcasting Month, which you can learn about here and here.

The world is sacred.
It can't be improved.
If you tamper with it, you'll ruin it.
If you treat it like an object, you'll lose it.
–Tao Te Ching, Chapter 29 (Stephen Mitchell translation)

I'm not your typical modern Pagan: I don't worship gods and goddesses and I don't cast spells. Nonetheless, I practice a human-centered, Earth-based spirituality, and the basis for that spirituality is the belief that all Creation is sacred. From a value standpoint, this means that if you consider everything and everyone sacred then you treat all with honor and respect.

Native American peoples certainly understood this concept:
Honor the sacred.
Honor the Earth, our Mother.
Honor the Elders.
Honor all with whom we share the Earth:-
Four-leggeds, two-leggeds, winged ones,
Swimmers, crawlers, plant and rock people.
Walk in balance and beauty.
– Unidentified Native American elder

Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.
– Chief Seattle, 1854
All value, all "morality", stems from one's attitude toward the environment in which one lives. If, as in the Abrahamic religions, you believe that humankind was created to dominate the world it lived in, and that that environment was only temporary and often deceptive, then you will treat Creation as the object of your exploitation, and even treat your fellow humans as objects to be dominated and controlled. Old Lao Tzu certainly pegged that one, as noted in the quote above: "If you treat it like an object, you'll lose it." As you can see, we're most definitely in danger of losing the world through our objectification and exploitation of it.

But if you believe, as the Native Americans did, that all Creation is woven together in an infinite, interconnected web of sacredness, then you can't help but treat the Earth and your fellow creatures with honor and respect. From that perspective the Golden Rule - “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them..." (Matthew 7:12) - takes on a whole new meaning.

A human-centered, Earth-based spirituality by its very nature engenders a value system based on respect, honor, kindness, and toleration. When all is one, then there is no "other" to fear, and harm to one is harm to all. I believe this and I strive to achieve it. These are my "Pagan values".

I'll leave you with this video I put together several years ago to illustrate the Tao Te Ching quote with which I began this essay. The music is "Moon Flower" by Peter Kater and R. Carlos Nakai from their "Improvisations in Concert" CD. Enjoy!

© 2011 by A. Roy Hilbinger


  1. Hey Roy, that was a neat video slideshow. Nice job with the photos. :) But I have to admit that the spider caught me by surprise - ack!

    She is, however (once I'd relaxed) quite a pretty bug; any idea what type she is with those translucent arms and orange belly dot?

  2. I believe that, too, Roy. But you probably knew that.

  3. Nanc - That's a Leucauge venusta, an Orchard Orb-weaver spider. To the naked eye she's just a little green dot, but shot in macro she becomes a rainbow.

    Steph - Heh, heh! Yeah, I knew that!

  4. Interesting that aboriginal peoples all over the world seem to have this connection to country that we've let slip. Our Aboriginals are the same, managed the place for 5,000 years before we managed to stuff it up. Lovely pics as always.

  5. I agree utterly with the sentiment expressed here. Good good post.

    I tried to watch the video, but my machine seems to be having a problen with YouTubes lately. Had to shut it off about 2 minutes in.