Harrowed Yet Fallow

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“Bring me my Bow of burning gold:
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold:
Bring me my Chariot of fire!
I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land.”
— William Blake
The meaning of the word “pagan” as “village dweller” or one who lives beyond the borders of the civilized world is not coincidental. Within this definition is contained an understanding that the gods, the divine dwells within the land itself and that it is in our marriage to the land that we find ourselves bonded to the gods. This understanding is hardly unique to the traditional peoples of Europe and the British Isles. Those who seek to find union with god have always left the civilized and the urban world, from the hermetic Christian monks to the Buddhist and Daoist poet-recluses. It is in the fields of grain and dim forests that we find ourselves, as both children of the land and children of god. And yet to discover what it means to be children of the land and god is a journey fraught with terror. To go within is to go down. The journey to the self is the journey to the underworld, to the place of monsters and death. In this context we can readily understand Jung’s assessment that modern humanity will go to any lengths, no matter how absurd and self destructive, to avoid confronting itself. In our stubborn refusal to face our true nature, we desolate both human society and the land. Our present moment, which demonstrates the incredible fragility of human society, offers us the perfect opportunity to begin this last, greatest adventure: the return to the land, the return to god.
What is this great inward terror that we confront when we bond ourselves to the land? As the abyss of the self and the unconscious is the dwelling place of the most savage, strange, and unfamiliar parts of ourselves, the land is likewise suffused with powers violent, bloody, and unrecognizable. We find ourselves most profoundly other than we have imagined ourselves. In both cases, what we fear and identify as terrible, partly accurately, is none other than the nature of things as they truly are, removed from the veneer of the modern world. To live with the land reminds that there can be no growth without blood and pain, that death walks alongside birth, and that all that is owed must be given, in one sense or another. In order to posit a vision of the universe that conforms to quantifiable, predictable, and ultimately, controllable laws, modernity narrows its view. The smaller the vision, the easier it is to derive principles that appear to be valid. It becomes more and more difficult to maintain the modern notions of progress, limitless growth and human perfectibility, in an environment which is less than totally man made. In the most simple sense, rural life, properly understood, requires a confrontation of the reality that we cannot control, that we live by the sufferance of greater powers. To do so is to see ourselves as we truly are: blood stained killers, weak and small, fearful and superstitious, our prosperity inescapably bound to factors over which we have little control, that is to say, the elements, the bare facts of life and death, the grace of god. Just as terror lies in the heart of love, we find our own darkness and the darkness of the world in the heart of the land.
Let us not suppose, however, that there is not joy to be found, a deeper joy, in fact, in living thus. For only by confronting the darkness inside of us and inside the land can we hope to live. So it is that the people sang “sumer is icumen in” as they symbolically carried Death out of the village and mocked and abused him. We will hear the cuckoo sing and find that unsown fields have been plowed for us, merely awaiting our seed.

2 thoughts on “Harrowed Yet Fallow

  1. Good to see you publishing some stuff again. I used to eagerly await your essays at Gods and Radicals. Is a book still on the horizon?

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    1. thank you. yes, the book will hopefully see the light of day sometime this year or next. also, i will be publishing regularly again on gods and radicals later this month.

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