“We have, I believe, integrated our Copernican revolution in astronomy altogether more successfully than we have integrated our Copernican revolution in epistemology.”
“Of themselves, of course, neither integration nor repression will issue in sanctity. Sanctity is always a consequence of grace. So we are in the end dealing with something as seemingly old fashioned as nature and grace. In Christ in Gethsemane an extremity of grace engaged with the deepest, darkest and most difficult extremities of nature. Nature in the Mesozoic mood. Nature in paleozoic mood. In all its moods, modern and archaic, nature was graciously integrated.”
—Crossing the Kedron, 151
“The point I would like to make is that it isn’t good to slay the Dragon. It isn’t good to rid the earth of its autochthonous monsters. It isn’t good, hoping for peace in our city, for peace in our minds, to lobotomize the psyche, to lobotomize the earth.”
Integration offers the keyword to John Moriarty’s vision and literary style. His work diagnoses a perniciously false desire he sees at the root of European (and many other) cultures. The urge to separate, to clear, to purify, to erect walls and categories and delineations manifests throughout all manner of ecological and spiritual maladies. We tell ourselves stories about how human civilizations must conquer and keep at bay the dangers of the untamed wilderness and its unintelligible monsters. By contrast, Moriarty claims that “Dragon-slaying, repression, lobotomy, and extramural exclusion have been our Western way. It hasn’t worked” (Buddh Gaia, 7). Stories of integration call into question the reigning and mythic logic that considers humanity above and apart from nature and the world. He traces continually unfolding catastrophes of the global climate, enduring plague, endless war, or economic cruelty to disintegration. But the innumerable cultural, religious, industrial, and technological walls we construct to insulate humanity from nature are woefully inadequate. Part of the issue lies in a limited Christian anthropology that sets humans apart from the world by refusing to follow Jesus’ descent into to be integrated with nature. Integration does not mean absorption or assimilation like the quest to conquer ever more territory. The delusion of Christian empire feels threatened by the unfathomable glory of the universe revealed by new scientific insight—Galileo’s telescope, Darwin’s explorations; imperial cosmologies fear the untranslatable sounds and smells of the earth or the mystical insights of other cultures. “Our biblical immune system isn’t able to cope […] The empire might die. But a Christianity without empire isn’t a Christianity without hope. A politically destitute Christianity isn’t a dead Christianity. A Christianity, destitute though it be, that crosses the Kedron with Jesus is giving itself to adventure, the greatest adventure there is” (Dreamtime, 25). Instead, Moriarty offers up counter-rituals of integration that embrace, rather than recoil, from the image of a humanity integrated with nature.
An excitement for integration calls for new language. Moriarty coins a neologism “theranthropic” to celebrate integration—joining the words “theanthropic” meaning incarnate deity or divine-human and “therianthropic” describing such hybrid creatures as centaurs, Pan, shapeshifters, shamans, Ganesh, bird kings, horse goddesses, even Job called “brother to dragons and a companion to owls” (Job 39:29 KJV). Picasso’s sketches of a young girl guiding the Minotaur symbolize the aesthetic of integration (this theme appears throughout Moriarty’s writing and the literal images that open Buddh Gaia). “By leading the Minotaur back into our world, she, the child, reintroduces the theranthropic among us, not just as a category, but as a phenomenon, of consciousness and culture” (Horsehead xxxiii). Moriarty’s vision of integration resists assimilation into anonymous singularity or economic usefulness; he never rejects his primary vantage point in stories Christian and Irish. “Jesus the Christ is he among us who is most incarnate. He is our hero of integration. He has enabled us, now again, to drink from the well of commonage consciousness in the crypt, a well of Pleistoscene shaman might have drunk from, a well Cernunnos might have drunk from. Grand-Canyon deep in the earth’s karma, Jesus has enabled us to be incarnate. He has enabled us who, hitherto, were only on the earth, to be of the earth” (Dreamtime, 143). Indeed, Moriarty offers an antidote to our dis-integrating mindsets through his writing, its own (intimidating) integration of stories and drawings and poems and drama, of literature and philosophy and mythology and theology. He integrates references from all corners of the globe that sing what it means to be integrated with human and animal history, to honor nature’s fearsome instincts alongside it’s wild majesty, to gaze at a rock and “put off all my knowing, my geological knowing, my chemical knowing, my mineralogical knowing, my folklore knowing, and, fantastically undefended, I stood there in the unassuageable mystery of me…undergoing a rite of passage into learned ignorance” (Crossing the Kedron, 191).
If there might be a methodology for integration, Moriarty conceives it as cultivating perceptions and paradigms that refuse to foreclose the world’s possibility to surprise us. In order to ready our minds, our eyes, our religion, our culture for integration means unlearning the separations, categorizations, and instrumentalizations of achievement, production, and supremacy. We have to abandon what Moriarty calls the “Medusa mindset,” one that sees creation only as dead matter waiting to be mined, used, and discarded; we fix our judgements onto the world we presume to be separate from us, turning a living universe into unmovable stone (cf. Dreamtime 99). Integration is different; integrations invites us to listen to ordinary and everyday world speak in a dreamy language between enchantment, rapture, and mundane simplicity. Integration is the payout to settling for less and discovering the world’s untold beauty, to quieting the noise of industrial machinery and contemporary societal expectation so to hear the sound of a living universe–a theme that first appears this theme first appears in the Epilogue to Dreamtime but that Moriarty comes to call a “mantraverse” (cf. Curlew, 14). Far better would it be to heed the advice of spiritual, shamanic, mythic, animal, literary, botanical, and all manner of guides that only appear to our “Medusa mindset” to be foreign, alien, merely material to be exploited, problematic, and Other from us. The grace of recognized integration, the spectacular quality of ordinariness, invites us to marvel mystery at the heart of our everyday world and our place within nature. As Moriarty writes, musing on a comment from his father, “And I knew what he meant: if you aren’t philosophically fit to walk in the Otherworld you aren’t philosophically fit to walk in this world. All other worlds and this world are one world. And the only philosophical words you need are wonder and wonder and again wonder” (Dreamtime, 195).
Reflection by Charles A. Gillespie