One of my earliest memories—I must have been five or six—is of going to the grocery store (Farmer Jack, for those of you from Michigan and old enough to remember) with my mother in the spring. During these visits, I would always ask her if I could look at the seeds displayed on the rack for intrepid Detroit-area gardeners. To me, it was a wonderland. All those colorful pictures of carrots, squash, peas, onions, radishes, and even flowers! I begged my parents to let me have a garden, and eventually my dad overturned some sod in our yard (the plot must have been 2’ x 3’) and I planted some radishes and carrots. Thus began my career as a farmer, though it was more than thirty years until I had a farm of my own. But, in the interim, I had plenty of gardens.
Accompanying my growing involvement with the Kingdom of the Plants has been what one might call an intuitive Christian spirituality, which has at times manifested in a kind of Celtic idiom, a quality my wife and I have sometimes described in terms of being “Catholic Hippies” and which I have more recently thought of as a variety of “Catholic Neo-paganism.” Indeed, when our children were very small, we adopted a Celtic prayer as a grace which we continue to invoke before meals:
The Maker of All Things,
The Lord God worship we,
Heaven white with angels’ wings,
Earth and the white-waved sea.
Eventually, my involvement in the Kingdom of the Plants was augmented by an equally devoted attachment to the Kingdom of the Animals, and on our farm (Stella Matutina) we take care of dairy goats, hogs, and poultry, as well as honeybees. This life also includes our English Shepherd, Sparrow, and a number of barn cats, not to mention the wild creatures—the deer, raccoon, opossum, squirrels, mice, shrews, voles, hawks, crows, insects, and other denizens of the woods—who share the land we call ours. None of this would be possible, of course, without the soil and water provided for us by the Kingdom of the Minerals.
Even though I already knew this, I recently found myself profoundly moved by the realization of how intimately the life of my family participates in the lives of the plants and animals and land around us. This occurred when I was sitting in a deer blind on a sunny November morning. Perhaps I was awakened to what Chas S. Clifton describes when he writes, “We enter into the cosmic give-and-take; we admit our sometimes predatory nature and thus let the wild into ourselves, a true form of holy communion, a participation.”1 Beat poet Gary Snyder describes the phenomenon in his own singular way:
Once every year, the Deer catch human beings. They
do various things which irresistibly draw men near them;
each one selects a certain man. The Deer shoots the man,
who is then compelled to skin it and carry its meat home
and eat it. Then the deer is inside the man. He waits and
hides in there, but the man doesn't know it. When
enough Deer have occupied enough men, they will strike all
at once. The men who don't have Deer in them will
also be taken by surprise, and everything will change some.
This is called “takeover from inside.”2
Snyder’s observation is very close to the Native American notion (of which I was reminded recently by my dear friend, Therese Schroeder-Sheker), that the deer actually offer themselves to us in this sacred gesture.
The fact is, that all of us are intimately intertwined with Nature, and, further, that Nature—like us—is intimately intertwined with Divinity. As I’ve written before in this blog and in my books, the observation shared by both Sergius Bulgakov and Rudolf Steiner that the moment Christ’s blood touched the earth at Golgotha the earth itself was sanctified and made the Holy Grail is a central tenet of my own spirituality. My work as a biodynamic farmer is simply an affirmation and commitment to this realization.
In my myriad meditations on the Christian Mystery, I have often puzzled over how to read the Ascension of Christ. Even though I believe in the existence of Heaven, I don’t think Jesus floated up to some location “up yonder.” If that’s the case, then maybe Erich von Däniken was onto something when he argued that Jesus, the saints, and angels were really extra-terrestrials and that those aren’t halos—they’re space helmets! My own thought has been to think of the Ascension as analogous to the sublimatio stage of alchemy, in which “the spiritual is raised from the corporeal,”3 and that Christ’s physical body became spiritual substance and united with the universe by expansion.
But I have recently been very taken with Margaret Barker’s interpretation of the Ascension. For her, Jesus, the High Priest, as he entered into the cloud on the Mount of Olives, like the High Priest in the Temple, was reentering into the Holy of Holies; that is, the interior of Creation is itself the Holy of Holies. She speaks of this integral relationship in terms of a Covenant: “The covenant of creation bound everything in one system: the material world, living beings, human society, and the invisible forces called angels or powers.”4
This, quite simply, is Sophiology. All of us, whether we realize it or not, whether we live on a biodynamic farm or in the middle of the city, are intertwined with the Kingdoms of the Plants and of the Animals, with the Kingdom of the Minerals and with the Kingdom of the Spirit. Realizing this is to enter the Kingdom, and this is how the Kingdom enters us. This is called “the take-over from inside.”
Michael’s latest books are an edition of The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz and Transfiguration: Notes toward a Radical Catholic Reimagination of Everything. He can be reached at email@example.com See also The Center for Sophiological Studies' available courses.
1 Chas S. Clifton, “The Hunter’s Eucharist” in A Hunter’s Heart: Honest Essays on Blood Sport, ed. David Peterson (New York, 19960, 143–49, at 149.
2 Found in his collection Regarding Wave (New York, 1970).
3 Paracelsus, Concerning the Nature of All Things in Hermetic and Alchemical Writings of Paracelsus the Great, ed. Arthur Edward Waite, 2 vol. (London, 1894). 1:152.
4 Margaret Barker, Creation: A Biblical Vision for the Environment (London, 2010), 111.