A few days before Easter, I remembered a hymn received by a beloved matriarch in the Brazilian rainforest community that was my spiritual home for 20 years. The lines that struck me were: “I must love my Mother in the heights [heaven]” and “She is our protectress and guides us on the path of salvation.” I deeply love and respect this elder, who has patiently received and supported me many times—but I suddenly saw that the beliefs presented in these lines sum up the enormous illusion that is driving the destruction of our planet.
Somewhere along the way, as the Book religions were driving a wedge between humans and Nature, the whole idea of “salvation” became the “saving” of our souls, one by one, so we could go to heaven. Our reward for our time on earth became leaving it and going to a much-vaunted better place—a place ruled by a remote Father-God located somewhere “up there,” which became our own destination as well.
The spirituality of our indigenous ancestors, on the other hand, devoted itself to constantly strengthening their connection with all life in the place where they lived. They knew from vivid personal experience that the survival of their bodies as well as their souls depended on being in a reverent and reciprocal relationship with the Sacred Land and all its inhabitants.
So our Easter question becomes: What is salvation really? If it involves just saving us humans, this impulse is merely one more example of human supremacy. Our own salvation, however we might think of it, means nothing if the biosphere around us is dying because of our own blindness and greed. And on the spiritual level, also, salvation is meaningless if we continue to insist that we are separate and superior.
If we think the Mystery of Easter, of Jesus’s famous and profound sacrifice, has to do with saving only ourselves, or only believers, or only humanity, we are missing the whole point. By holding on to the idea of a separate self, we’re denying the deepest truth of our existence—that we’re part of the whole thing!
I don’t believe that we humans are here on earth to learn separation. Even those New Agers who assert that they’re temporarily visiting Earth from somewhere else surely didn’t come here to learn separation, isolation, and domination! What’s the use of that? What kind of God wants that for us? And even if the patriarchal male God wants it, the female Goddess surely doesn’t!
Gaia is teaching us in plain sight every day that we are part of Her vast Creation. This is the only gift humanity needs. We can’t continue to believe that God—and the Divine Mother, as the hymn says—live up there in the heights. We live “down here” and it’s time to fully take our place here and plant our flag of salvation in Gaia’s garden.
However, there is an Easter mystery that seems well worth exploring—the Resurrection not only of the spirit but of the body. Does anyone really believe in that? Catholics say they do every time they recite a Rosary. Surely “resurrection of the body” is just another way of saying “regeneration of the Sacred Land”! This is what our path here on Earth is all about.
And this requires us to think about Salvation as including all life on Gaia. Not as simply preserving every material body, human or non-human, in its original state forever—no living, evolving system does that. But all bodies DO live on, as compost for the plants, or in the guts of whatever animal ate them, and ultimately as the minerals, chemicals and gases on whose continual interactions all life depends. These fundamental cycles of transformation comprise the bedrock of Gaia’s green force, of Her regenerative powers.
So as the Easter season carries on into another blessed spring, let’s allow our study of salvation and resurrection to begin with Gaia. As we attune with Her wise, vibrant, earthy forces, we might find a whole different world in which to fully live, here and now, and forever.