Now I want to share with you, who were and are my teachers and guides on my journey into the depth of an ecological life commitment and my call as Earth Elder, Earth Wisdom Keeper. You will see how I was guided from within by all these teachers, these sources of wisdom. They have changed my life deeply and I owe them a lot.
I am convinced that you who read this page, also have your story of how you were and are guided. I have experienced such a deep guidance of the Cosmos and I feel that the whole evolutionary process from the beginning was and is guided. If we know the Universe Story and the process of the Evolution we see how at the right moment great changes happened in the process of evolution and the journey of the Cosmos went on. If this is the cosmic pattern then this pattern is also true for our personal life. We are cosmos.
As I share my story of (ecological) spiritual growth with you, you might in a deeper way discover your own story. Yes, the Cosmos and the Earth are our teachers and guides. May we be open to what is given to us.
My first teachers: My grandparents and parents
Both my grandparents and parents were farmers. They never heard about ecological processes and an eco – friendly lifestyle. They had to survive on poor soil and work hard for a living. The early generations of farmers were very connected with the seasons, the land, the community of life. They knew intuitively how everything is connected. I owe them so much and I am very grateful for the simple life close to nature. I have learned that humans depend on what the Earth can give. It was also from living together in a village with other farmer families, that we were embedded in a network of relationships. This meant safety, a deep sense of community.
Values like working together, respecting each other, celebrating together, sharing of the abundance of the harvest of our gardens, have deeply influenced in my younger years my life choices and the decisions I took for my profession. My parents and grandparents had a deep sense of identity, self worth; they knew who they were and were proud of this. Because of this I am also proud of my up-bringing on the land. I can never be grateful enough.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ ( 1881 – 1955) was a french philosopher and Jesuit priest who trained as a paleontologist and geologist and took part in the discovery of the Peking Man. His whole life was dedicated to the study of the history of life. The knowledge about the Earth and the evolution grew in the first half of last century and a new worldview began to emerge. He has shared his deep experiences about the universe and development of life in the many books he wrote.
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I began to read his books when I was seventeen. I was fascinated by his writings, though I could not understand it all. But in me a vision on the world and the meaning of everything began to grow. It has never left me and now I am older I see how his vision and writings have brought me to see my call and kindled my passion to help develop deeper consciousness about the journey of the universe. At that time I was struck as by lightning when I read this in the introduction to his book “The Phenomenon of Man”(Fontana Books) : “I believe that there is not a more decisive moment in the life of a thinking being than when the scales fall from his eyes and he discovers that he is not an element lost in the cosmic loneliness, but that an universal will to live is in him and makes him human”. He saw the human as the axis of evolution.
Indeed, this was I believe the most decisive moment of my life. I was 18 and a path opened for me.
In those early years of growing to maturity I read so many of his books. I was fire and flame about the deep meaning in everything. It gave me a sense of my life taken up in a tremendous sacred process of Cosmos, Earth, evolution of all life, moving to what Teilhard called the point Omega. ( A point of Unity of everything at the end of evolution) Love moves everything forward to the completion of Creation and the Universe.
These visions have given me always the power and energy to work for the world, to defend the life of the Earth, to look with open eyes into the suffering of the world and find a deeper meaning. It is the foundation of my worldview, my life of prayer and meditation and my commitment to work for the healing of the Earth, her people and all life. Now sixty years later, I can still at times be moved to tears when I read his texts. I am ever grateful for so much guidance from my teacher P. Teilhard de Chardin in all my years.
“To live a Cosmic life is to live dominated by the consciousness that one is an atom in the body of the mystical and Cosmic Christ”.
From his book “Cosmic Life”
“Just trust life: life will bring you high, if only you are careful in selecting in the maze of events, those influences or those paths which bring you each time a little more upward. Life has to be discovered and built step by step: a great charm, if only one is convinced ( by faith and experience) that the world is going somewhere”.
From his book “Cosmic Life”
I thank my teacher for these words and I hope that young people of today find solace in this conviction and a deep faith in God, as I have found in early maturity.
Creation Spirituality / Mysticism of Cosmos and Earth
The next teacher on my way was Matthew Fox. In the eighties of last century, Creation Spirituality came along my way. I met someone who had studied at the Institute in Culture and Creation Spirituality in California, USA with Matthew Fox. She opened to me the way to Creation Spirituality. The old inspiration of my youth was touched and a whole new way of looking at creation opened. I began to read and study the books of Matthew Fox. He was at that time a Catholic priest and a member of the Dominican Order.
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I became acquainted with the many mystics and wisdom people who have meditated and written about the sacredness of creation. Creation Spirituality is an ancient tradition drawing on the wisdom of so many ancient cultures and religions as well as contemporary science. Creation Spirituality has also deep biblical roots. Mathew Fox draws very much on the writings and insights also of the Medieval European mystics. So I learned about the writings of Meister Eckhart and the works of Hildegard of Bingen. I began to understand that Western Christianity had moved far away from the deep cosmic awareness of ancient Christianity before the Middle Ages. It has given me so much inspiration. The Cosmos is fundamentally a blessing: those words have since then always been in my heart. The fourfold way of Creation Spirituality has been a guide on my way.
The process of growth is described in four stages / four different experiences:
1. awe-delight, amazement (Via Positiva)
2. uncertainty, darkness, suffering, letting go (Via Negativa)
3. birthing, creativity, passion (Via Creativa)
4. justice, healing , celebration (Via Transformativa)
The book of Matthew Fox “Original Blessing” has been and still is a source of inspiration over all these years. Matthew Fox was silenced by the Catholic Church and had to leave his order. He still teaches and writes and develops Creation Spirituality further.
Hildegard of Bingen
Through the study of Creation Spirituality I came to know the writings of Hildegard of Bingen, her mandalas and her music. Hildegard lived in The Rhineland, Germany from 1098-1179. She was a catholic nun and founded several ( ecological) cloisters for women. Starting from the age of three she had visions. She saw God in the universe, the plants, the flowers, the seasons. She knew about the oneness of everything in the universe long before we speak about this in our time. She had a worldview in which God was feminine and masculine: a holistic worldview.
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I was very inspired by her life, her worldview, her knowledge of nature and most of all by her music. I studied her mandalas, read her writings and meditated with her texts. In one of those meditations I “saw” Hildegard. We were sitting in a beautiful garden in her convent along the Rhine. I met her as my sister and we were deeply touched by each other’s presence. She gave me her mandala of the Cosmos and just spoke a few words: “You have to do it”. I stayed behind puzzled and continued my life and mission with people as I had done before. I had not yet understood what she meant and the call she had revealed.
Years later, when I had founded De Gaarde ( ecological learning center) and was introducing people who came in the Story of the Universe, I suddenly saw that I was doing what she had asked me to do. More and more I knew I did not need to just study her writings. We had understood each other. She had come to me as my sister. Her words are my words, her ecstasy is my ecstasy, her songs are my songs. In the workshops and programs I gave, she was teacher and guide and I experienced that she spoke through me. I had never felt this before. This became one of the most remarkable spiritual experiences in my life.
source image: Mandala The World All
Teachers of Conference “Crisis of The Earth, Crisis of The Soul“
In 1996 I participated in a conference in Todmoos Rütte, in the South of Germany. I was drawn by the theme of the conference: Crisis of the Soul, Crisis of the Earth. At that time I was more and more involved in accompagniment of persons in deep spiritual existential crisis. In this conference through the many workshops and encounters, there was a great shift in my worldview. I saw it also happening in other people and was very astonished that during the conference there were crisis teams supporting people who found themselves entering in a deep crisis because of a great shift in consciousness. I had no idea, that the root of existential crisis was often the shift to a complete new way of looking at everything. The shift from a tight ego, trying to still hang in to shifting towards a total new worldview with a cosmic consciousness. I experienced that once this shift is allowed, everything changes. I also experienced this determining change. The foundations on which my life and mission till then was built disappeared under my feet. It was scary and at the same time glorious. I do not remember all the presenters and workshop leaders, though they have touched me deeply.
In the conference I mentioned already, I got the opportunity for a workshop / experience in Holotropic Breath work. The psychiatrist Stanislaus Grof had learned it from the shamans and it is a way of very deep healing, especially of trauma. People are guided into a different state of consciousness, the so called non – ordinary states of consciousness. Deep layers of the soul present themselves and healing happens where it is needed. Deep and fast breathing brings us to places where there is a need for healing. And all this with soul-music in the background that provoked all kind of feelings and experiences. Much was healed, things I did not remember happened. And as I was struggling again through the birth canal, I saw the Cosmos opening. An ineffable experience of beauty and homecoming. All has changed since then, in my personal life and in the healing work with people. The consciousness of that moment and the inner knowing that I became aware of, have never left me. One of his books :The Stormy Search For The Self – A Guide To Personal Growth Through Transformative Crisis (1990), with Christina Grof, was since then my guide in helping people in heavy transpersonal crisis. I owe such deep change and transformation to this man. What has struck me most is, that he could give such an assurance and sense of self worth to people who felt so small because of their crisis. I understood that these are the heroes of today; they dare to face the transformation and all it entails and are and will be leaders in the new consciousness and paradigm shift. They have learned the way!
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Stanislaus Grof, born in Tsjechië in 1931, psychiater, who went to the USA. ( Esalen ) Together with Abraham Maslow and Anthony Sutich, co-founding father of the transpersonal psychology. In the transpersonal psychology there is room for religious and spiritual experiences. He developed a complete new psychology and a very different map of the psyche; a psychology in congruence with the new insights into the structure of reality and the nature of human consciousness. What often were considered to be symptoms of pathology of the soul, he named as ways of tremendous change and growth. ( Source Wikipedia)
My deep gratitude to this great teacher and guide.
I guess it must have been in or around the time of that conference I heard for the first time about Joanna Macy and her work. Joanna Macy Ph. D., born in 1931, is a scholar of Buddhism, systems thinking and deep ecology. A respected voice in movements for peace, justice, and ecology. She has developed her vision and processes from fifthy years of of activism. She calls her work the Work That Reconnects. It is a she a ground-breaking theoretical framework for personal and social change, as well as a powerful workshop methodology for its application.
She addresses psychological and spiritual issues of the nuclear age, the cultivation of ecological awareness and the fruitful resonance between Buddhist thought and contemporary science. Step by step she put all her discoveries in her many book like Coming Back to Life: The Updated Guide to the Work That Reconnects (with Molly Brown, 2014); Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy (with Chris Johnstone, 2011) Active Hope and many others. Her latest book, A Wild Love for the World (2020) is an account of a life of pioneering and deep contemporary spirituality. Her life journey is from despair work to active hope, also in times of deep crisis and diminishing of the whole community of life.
I remember how impressed I was by her question: “What do you do after the evening news and you heard about all the suffering in the world?” Since the middle nineties I have always made use of her work and began to know the impact of it. She has taught me to see the denial in us, when it comes to understanding the damage done by a worldview of economic growth. She has listened with great compassion to people who were in despair in the time of the nucleair threat of last century. Where do we draw hope from? She called her work Despair Work. In her workshops, and I have been so privileged to be in a workshop with her in 2008, she helped people to make choices for the Earth, even if we are so afraid that Earth and her life will die. How to find and mobilize our hope? Active Hope, i.e. call to action even if we are afraid that Earth life will not survive. Then today we still can give the best of ourselves! In her work she made the inner journey from Despair Work to Active Hope! Just a few words about Active Hope from her book Active Hope.
“Active hope is waking up to the beauty of life on whose behalf we act. We belong to this world. The web of life is calling us forth at this time. ….” (page 35)
I am grateful to Joanna Macy for her courage and showing sources of hope to so many. As she always says: “You can do the work “. Thank you Joanna for this gift.
In 1997 I got hold of the book “The Dream of the Earth”. I had heard about Thomas Berry already ten years earlier, but in one way or another I never got to reading his books. There is a time for everything and I was not yet ready for the great changes he would bring in my life. Once I started reading I noticed that I was building on the experience I had in my young adult years when I discovered the vision of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. More than 40 years later I discovered Thomas Berry who built on the foundation laid by Teilhard. What a mystery of inner guidance. Again there was the experience that everything I read I understood and I knew was true. I was fire and flame and experienced such a deep grounding of what I knew deep inside. Later on many of his other books followed and each time a whole new dimension in my mission emerged; reconnecting people with the Earth by telling the New Story of Creation and helping human consciousness to grow. I realized how alienated I had become from the Earth and her life and the process of ecological conversion started.
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I knew if I would really go for this new call, my life would change very much. In 1998 I went to Genesis Farm, in Blairstown USA for a time of study and experience. The great changes in my worldview which happened before, now were grounded: to help others to find a new meaning in their life and to live an eco- friendly life, based on a strong spirituality. So often I wonder where I would be now and how I would live had I not been so inspired and guided by Thomas Berry. Thanks for this person who has crossed my path. Later on in my workshops in so many places in the world and with people of very different worldviews and cultures I experienced that the vision of Thomas Berry embraces such cultures and religions. What a gift to the Earth and our time!
When I entered the period of travelling after I had let go of De Gaarde, in 1999, I was in touch with Thomas Berry and Mary Evelyn Tucker. She took care of publishing his texts and the many books. Thomas Berry was grateful that his work was going to be more known in Europe and S.E. Asia and give me the permission to work with his texts. An anthology of his most well known texts was published both in Dutch and Indonesian. Thomas had died already at that time, but his sister was so grateful and proud that this has happened. She also has died already at a high age some years ago.The anthology is in the archives of Thomas Berry,
Sister Miriam Therese Mac Gillis O.P.
The foundress of Genesis Farm Sr. Miriam Therese Mac Gilles was the next teacher who came along and initiated me in the vision of Thomas Berry. As an adept of Thomas Berry she had created Genesis Farm, an ecological learning center in Blairstown close to New York, USA. It is a place to manifest and bring into practice what Thomas Berry had written about. She spent many years as a happy art teacher before her complacency was broken in 1968 by the questions of a student who challenged her about the Vietnam war. After a lonely, five-year period of questioning everything, she stopped teaching art, embarked on a career as a social justice activist, met Thomas Berry, a Passionist priest, geologian ( theologian of the Earth) and cultural historian and began her life’s work around ecology, sustainability, and agriculture. In 1980 she co-founded Genesis Farm, which has become one of the main examples for fifty ecological farms, earth learning- and retreat centers founded by womens congregations in the U.S. and Canada. Genesis Farm is for me the place of homecoming to the Earth and finding my place in the community of life.
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Brian Thomas Swimme (born 1950) a professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CISS) . Swimme is an evolutionary cosmologist in the graduate faculty of the California Institute of Integral Studies in the Philosophy, Cosmology and Consciousness Programs; an area of study within the Philosophy and Religion Program. It is designed to help shape the intellectual, moral and spiritual leadership of its students. Swimme ‘s primary field of research is the nature of the evolutionary dynamics of the universe. He has developed an interpretation of the human as an emergent being within the universe and Earth. His central concern is the role of the human in the universe and the evolution. (source Wikipedia)
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In the time in Genesis Farm, Brian Swimme initiated me in the Story of Cosmos and Earth. For hours I listened together with others to his deep teachings that opened visions I never dreamt of. His videos of the series “Canticle of the Cosmos” are grafted in my soul. Also the many hours of “Powers of the Universe”, a DVD series he made later. Brian Swimme taught me what wonder and amazement is, and the transformation this brings. What a gift in my life to know now what it means to live a cosmic life and to have such a profound understanding of the processes of the Universe.
Humans and Nature – Brian Swimme
Barbara Marx Hubbard was born in 1929 . A remarkable woman who all of her life has promoted Conscious Evolution. At her heart, Barbara Marx Hubbard is a visionary, a social innovator. She was an evolutionary thinker who believed that global change happens when we work collectively and selflessly for the greater good. She realized that the lessons of evolution teach us that problems are evolutionary drivers, and crises precede transformation, giving a new way of seeing and responding to our global situation. As an author, speaker, co-founder and president of the Foundation For Conscious Evolution, she posited that humanity now, as never before, is on the threshold of a quantum leap. If we are able to integrate newly emergent scientific, social, and spiritual capacities, we could transform ourselves to move beyond our current global crises to a magnificent future equal to our vast new potential. (source Wikipedia)
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She launched the first online course I know of, to introduce and guide persons through a proces of transformation into a consciousness for evolutionary change and leadership. I have been so fortunate to participate in this course later on, a gift of this foundation. The course is no longer online, but the content is available on DVD. This process has been so foundational in my ways of assuming leadership for moving towards our collective future. I believe with Barbara that “if we will bring forth what is in us, we will create what will save us”. Quote of Barbara Marx Hubbard from The Gospel of Thomas. Thanks be to this wise grandmother and leader for all her insights and wisdom. Barbara died in 2019.
Swan Medicine Woman
This is an homage to my dear teacher Marjorie. She came in my life in 2002, some years after I had started De Gaarde. She supported me so much in those years. She taught me how to love the Earth and be healed in that process. Through her I have been able to be a healing person and presence in my own right for many, in different places and continents.
I owe her to find the power of the Feminine in my soul, spirit and body. So much needed for the healing of the Earth. I bow in respect. She taught me how to be in service and do everything in love. In this way the Earth is Mother, also through me.
Thich Nhat Than and The Plumvillage community
In 2015, together with my friends from Eco camp (Bandung, Indonesia) I was in Plumvillage( France) for retreat. I had heard already for more that 30 years about Thich Nhat Hahn, the founder of this place. I had read some of his books and shown the video about his life to visitors of De Gaarde. I knew several of his meditations and the concept of mindfulness. And then there was the week in Plumvillage community, in autumn of 2015. Thich Nhat was not there, because of his severe stroke not long before. It was indeed: “I have arrived, I have come home”, as we sang in that week. In all the simplicity of the present moment: breathing in and breathing out. I realized that all my travels, all my efforts, all I had been doing for and with Mother Earth were embedded now in this utter simplicity. Shortly afterwards I had to rest because I broke my upperarm, and in a process of months all that was given in the week in Plumvillage lead me further to newer ways of service to the world, and to the Earth and her healing. The books and texts of Thich Nhat Than opened a whole new layer of restful love. All this has brought me home, after the many travels in my life. Now I am breathing in and out for the healing of the world.
Source image: Plum Village
I know myself to be part of the great change in humanity that is underway, step by step as my feet caress Mother Earth when I walk mindfully. I try to be part of this worldwide movement and spiritual family.
See also the many songs of Thich Nhat Hahn on Youtube
“One messenger after another has been sent here. Be that light.
Do not become a follower, for only love and light carry the hope of life.
By serving and sharing who you are, the masters work through you
and your life takes new meaning.
Soon the light will return. This is the season to celebrate.
You are the gift!
Keep the peace candle burning in your heart “.
Frank Coppieters PH.D. Handbook of the Evolving Heart
See more of his inspired meditations in www.livinglightcenter.com
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