Posts Tagged ‘Rebecca Solnit’s “Wanderlust: A History of Walking”


8.6.18 … And I’m still missing the old oak tree …

“Solvitur Ambulando” – It is solved by walking, 2018 Labyrinth Walks, Avondale Presbyterian Church – Charlotte NC, Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust: A History of Walking, Jane Austen, perennial philosophy, Aldous Huxley, Lascaux Caves in France, Richard Rohr, Cynthia Bourgeault’s “The Meaning of Mary Magdalene“ :

Well, it’s unbearably hot today. And I feel like frogs are over there croaking. Someone has placed some pine cones fortuitously for me to view, and I find an ant bed and some wild mushrooms.

Before I walk I read a chapter of Cynthia Bourgeault’s “The Meaning of Mary Magdalene“ which I will be using in my Tuesday Morning Bible Study this fall. I am not Catholic, so I have not paid much attention to Mary Magdalene or any of the other Marys for that matter. I will say that I grew up thinking that she was a prostitute… Maybe it’s because in the 60s she was portrayed that way in Jesus Christ Superstar. Very interesting.

I have noted before that one of my favorite features of Facebook is that it tells you everything you have posted on a given day through the years. In 2014, I was at the Lascaux Caves in France. Today, I found this quote on Richard Rohr’s site:

Some of the earliest evidences of human expression—dating over 40,000 years ago—can be found in the caves of Indonesia, France, and Spain. While the original meanings of these paintings are unknown to us, many anthropologists suggest “shamanism” or what we might call mystical consciousness and connection to the spirit-filled world.

There are no doubt significant differences in belief and practice between ancient traditions (as there are today between Christian denominations, other religions, and Native spiritualities). However, religious historian Karen Armstrong gives us a glimpse into what this spirituality may have looked like:

We know that shamanism developed in Africa and Europe during the Palaeolithic period and that it spread to Siberia and thence to America and Australia, where the shaman is still the chief religious practitioner among the indigenous hunting peoples. . . . [We learn from today’s shamans that] shamans have bird and animal guardians and can converse with the beasts that are revered as messengers of higher powers. The shaman’s vision gives meaning to the hunting and killing of animals on which these societies depend.

The hunters feel profoundly uneasy about slaughtering the beasts, who are their friends and patrons, and to assuage this anxiety, they surround the hunt with taboos and prohibitions. They say that long ago the animals made a covenant with humankind and now a god known as the Animal Master regularly sends flocks from the lower world to be killed on the hunting plains, because the hunters promised to perform the rites that will give them posthumous life. Hunters often . . . feel a deep empathy with their prey.

The images [on the cave walls] may depict the eternal, archetypal animals that take temporary physical form in [our] upper world. All ancient religion was based on what has been called the perennial philosophy, because it was present in some form in so many premodern cultures. It sees every single person, object, or experience as a replica of reality in a sacred world that is more effective and enduring than our own. [1]

Even in such an early, primal religion we can see the idea of this world as “image and likeness” of Ultimate Reality, and how the perennial idea of our connectedness with everything calls us to be respectful and compassionate toward all.

Source: Primal and Indigenous Spirituality, Shamanism, Monday, August 6, 2018, Hiroshima Day,

Because for the last several years I have studied Richard Rohr and several of his cohorts and their writings on non-dual spirituality, I have become very aware of the term “perennial philosophy.” Anyone else run across that term? It appears Aldous Huxley may have popularized it.

Many thinkers have identified common strands in systems of thought and religions through the ages. In 1945 Aldous Huxley wrote of a perennial philosophy “that recognises a divine reality substantial to the world of things and lives and minds; the psychology that finds in the soul something similar to, or even identical with, divine reality; the ethic that places man’s final end in the knowledge of the immanent and transcendent ground of all being”. He said that it could be found in both “traditional lore” and the “higher religions”, in every era.

Was Huxley right? Is there an eternal truth, that we keep on discovering – whether it’s a “divine reality” or something better formulated in another way? And if so, what is its nature – is it outside us? Is it simply an aspect of the way our brains are wired?

Source: Is there a perennial philosophy? | The question | Opinion | The Guardian,

And another quote to ponder …

For [Jane Austen and the readers of Pride and Prejudice], as for Mr. Darcy, [Elizabeth Bennett’s] solitary walks express the independence that literally takes the heroine out of the social sphere of the houses and their inhabitants, into a larger, lonelier world where she is free to think: walking articulates both physical and mental freedom.

― Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking

And I’m still missing the old oak tree.


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May 2020