“If one were to look back at the earth from the moon – and we have seen pictures taken of the earth; this gorgeous blue jewel hanging there in space – and to say that that’s just for ‘use and benefit’ in the same way that a sink would be, in the same way that a toilet bowl is for use and benefit… From the word go our attitude to the earth, our relationship to the earth was all wrong and here we have Biblical permission, and an almost Biblical command to be like that in relation to the earth.” – Seeking To Walk Beautifully On The Earth
Moriarty’s Night Journey To Buddh Gaia serves in large part as an exploration of the possibility of ‘an enlightened Earth’. In this and other writings, Moriarty emphasises the role of perception in influencing and altering behaviour. Our perception of ourselves as the dominant species on earth has had major consequences for how we treat each other, our fellow creatures, and our environment. He contends that our mistreatment of the earth arose early on in our development, as demonstrated by the speared bison in Lascaux, the destruction of the Cedar Forest in the epic of Gilgamesh, the slaying of the Minotaur in Greek myth, the Biblical divine command to rule over nature in Genesis; all instances of mankind’s will to subdue, dominate, and exploit the natural world. “And so it is: with terrible consequences for ourselves and the Earth, we got off to a bad start – all the worse for the fact that, with cultural fostering – it has become the Western enterprise.” (Buddh Gaia, 43)
We have given ourselves Biblical, cultural, and philosophical permission to use the earth for our benefit, resulting in major ecological devastation. Very often, we rely on spiritual questing to overcome the destructive elements of our conditioning. However, sometimes even spiritual endeavour can separate us from the earth: organised religion has a tendency to view certain elements of reality as more important or privileged than others. For instance, the burning bush through which God talks to Moses is presented as sacred ground. Moriarty contends that ‘all ground is sacred ground’ (Seeking to Walk Beautifully on the Earth).
As well as being grateful for the possibility of ascendant spirituality, Moriarty is grateful for the gravity which holds us to earth, putting us physically in touch with the nature world. Fully engaging with that world, including its dangerous, primal elements can alter our perception of the world as being for ‘use and benefit’ to a perception of the world as a site of potential or actual enlightenment. Fully inheriting and integrating all that we will make us an ‘evolutionary success’. Moriarty’s conception of ‘Buddh Gaia’ as the enlightened earth invokes the dual notion of the enlightenment experience of the Buddha, with the notion of the world as ‘Gaia’, the earth as a living, dynamic system.
Reflection by Kevin J. Power