Returning the Sacred: Indigenous Ontologies in Perilous Times
L. Williams, R. Roberts & A. McIntosh (Eds.), Radical Human Ecology: Intercultural and Indigenous Approaches. UK: Ashgate, 2012, pp. 73-88.
34 Pages Posted: 4 Jun 2020
Date Written: 2012
For as far back as stories of human occupation on this planet extend, human history has been marked with periods of great crisis that have been preceded, to the best of our knowledge today, by very distinct warning signs. Some of these periods have signaled a change in the direction of humankind’s organization and purpose and affairs, others, as Jared Diamond and many others have recorded, have seen the collapse of social organization and ultimately the extinction of particular groups. Warnings of great transformational moments in the affairs of humankind that have echoed down through the ages signaled periods of profound change from which result either great, evolutionary leaps forward or cataclysmic destruction, regression, and ultimately extinction. In the case of the first scenario, these are often marked by what cultural historian Thomas Berry (1991: 1) calls great overarching movements of people who arise to fulfill what he described in 1999 as the “Great Work of a people” adding each time new layers of human understanding, organization and consciousness. He includes in these the emergence of the Humanist tradition of the Greeks with its understanding of the human mind, the Great Work of Israel in giving voice and expression to a new experience of the divine, the Great Work of Rome in the gathering of all the peoples of the Mediterranean world and in Western Europe, the bringing about of ordered relations with one another. In the land known as China arose one of the most elegant and great civilizations ever known, and in the Americas, he says, (as in Australia, Aotearoa New Zealand and many other parts of the world), the Great Work carried out by the First Peoples was the establishment of an intimate relationship with the powers that brought the continent into existence. This chapter is concerned with the nature of that intimate relationship with these powers as it relates to the great crisis of this moment in time, a crisis that has been defined as “a potentially fatal rift between human beings and the earth” (Foster, Clark and York 2010: 14), its contribution to the “Great Work” ofour own day and to the role of Human Ecology as a twenty-first century social science.
Keywords: nature, crisis, spirituality Indigenous knowledge, global transformation, human ecology
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