Earth represents the sensual and embodied experience of the worlds of matter. We welcome all religious and cultural practices – as long as there is no harm done to people or animals as part of this practice. We are curious about the symbolic meanings of objects in various spiritual practices and rituals. Even atheists and agnostics are welcome, for they appreciate the sensate world for simply what it Is . This is also well and good, for many of us see Spirit or Divinity as immanent in matter.
Earth also is concerned with ‘place and space’ in matter. So, we honor the sacred places of all religions and respect their rules of conduct in these places.
We delight in the multitude of the forms of matter! We see beauty in the very large and very small, and this beauty, or the ‘adornment’, of matter is called the Cosmos (from the Greek). We see matter, not as a distraction from spiritual practice, but as the joy of the infinite unfolding of the Mystery.
We also honor the creation of Art with matter, for we are as God/desses when creating something new. We encourage and take delight in each others’ artistic creations. Still, we must beware that our technical abilities as humans do not outweigh our wisdom, for our creations can also be destructive. Cultivating foresight in all that we choose to create is a major challenge for the human race.
We also honor all the differences in race and body types of our fellow humans.
Stone symbols: pyrite, opal in matrix, black precious opal
Research cultural practices of dress, adornment, art
Research symbolism of objects in religious practices
Visit or read about religious buildings, sites, etc.
Interact with other races, cultures
With Air Element
So many ideas! – As many as there are people! Air is concerned with rational thought, categories, logic, & science. Talking and reasoning together. We are free and unafraid to float ideas, express them, and create new connections. We listen and take joy in learning others’ views. We create new words for new ideas, like “compersion” and “polyamoury”. We think it is ok to disagree, as long as we are not disagreeable. We are in love with books and love to share our discoveries. We are curious about the stories and folktales of other cultures, and learn good lessons from them.
We learn discernment and are aware of the tools of propaganda, so we don’t become victims of it.
The vibrations of music travel through the air, so we love to play and listen to music and explore the music of other cultures. We blend the riffs of the world and create new songs, new chants, and new rhythms.
We keep up with world events and write letters to our leaders and participate in our rights of free speech. We are unafraid of expressing our opinions as long as we are civil and polite.
We journal, write poetry, write letters (and maybe write at least one book?). We are curious about the origins of words, and how words shape our perceptions. We are unafraid of changing our minds, because we are always learning, always seeking, and always open to new ideas.
Stone symbol: polished labradorite
Research methods of propaganda
See works of author Noam Chomsky
See book – The Dance of Life by Edward T. Hall on how people are connected or isolated by rhythm and time
Learn about reframing problems
With Fire Element :
For thousands of years, humankind has worshipped the Sun, or at least, tracked its course through the seasons. The light of the Sun shines upon all and so we all are blessed by its rays. Human cultures have personified the Sun as a ‘he’ (such as Ra in Egypt), or as a ‘she’ (such as Amaterasu in Japan). Our western culture has usually chosen the masculine pronoun for the Sun (and the feminine for the Moon). However, because we hold diversity as a value we also explore the Sun and Moon as reversed genders, thereby deepening our knowledge of this important symbol of light and life for all creatures on this Earth.
In astrology the Sun rules Leo, the sign of courage and generosity. The Sun’s light shines upon all, whatever their station in life, and expects nothing in return. This holds a lesson we all may take to heart.
The Sun as courage teaches us to live a heroic life. This can take many forms, from trying something new, to saving a life. We encourage each other to be unafraid of new ideas, and to be unafraid of our own power. We enjoy each others’ successes, without jealousy or envy. With each challenge we overcome, we are transformed (another fire symbol) and ever renewed. “Where there is fear, there is power,” - Starhawk.
Stone symbols: faceted white zircon, white/yellow cubic zirconia (man-made), gold
Explore the Sun as deity in many cultures
See The Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell
Eclipse of the Sun by Janet McCrickhard
O Mother Sun! by Patricia Monaghan
Truth or Dare by Starhawk
With Water Element :
Water is called the ‘Universal Solvent’. It dissolves and takes a vast variety of substances into itself, surrounding each molecule with itself. Like water, the SweetWood Temenos community welcomes a vast variety of people into itself with our water-sharing ceremony. Whatever others’ emotional state, we strive to welcome them without judgment (within reason of course), and like water, patiently flow around the obstacle of any emotional distress. (Water rules the emotions.) We learn to forgive others’ feelings, for we know there are no wrong emotions, only wrong actions. We share hugs.
In the I Ching, there is a trigram called the “joyful lake”. We embrace joy and laughter as the birthright of all human beings. We love a good joke and strive to put our new guests at ease.
Each new person we meet brings the past with them in the form of their emotional nature. Past traumas can be encoded in their souls and can cause emotional difficulties that can break up a group into factions. So, we study ways to de-escalate anger and strive to honestly and openly express our feelings. We bring feelings into the light of conscious awareness, instead of letting them fester in darkness and silence. We learn to trust and be trusted. It takes time for water to smooth the stone. We say “Waiting Is”.
Stone symbols: precious white opal, rainbow moonstone, silver
Familiarize yourself with basic psychology
Learn peaceful communication
See book – Antagonists in the Church by Kenneth C. Haugk
With the Ancestors :
We are fortunate to live in a country (the USA) that is composed of people from cultures all around the world, including the living relatives of Native Americans. This gives us the opportunity to explore an almost infinite variety of past societies, their organization, and religious/moral practices. We see our own society in contrast to these. We realize the human ability to adapt and make a great number of choices in how we live with one another. We are no longer trapped inside the comfortable cocoon of the society we are born into.
Many of us enjoy re-creating past cultures and imagine how life was for our ancestors (Renaissance fairs are one example.) Many of us are also interested in exploring our own ancestral lineage. Since most of us born in America come from more than one cultural background, we compare ancestor to ancestor, seeking meaning in their differences and similarities. We ponder how our ancestors met and married across cultural lines and honor their bravery in doing so.
A fruitful area of study may be how different cultures/countries interacted with one another. How do these cultures welcome strangers in their midst? How do religious practices flow across cultural boundaries? Why does war break out? How and why does prejudice take root and grow? How do different cultures make peace?
An excellent example of cultural dispersion done peacefully is the practice of Buddhism.
Stone symbol: rainbow obsidian
Activities: See above
With the Descendants :
Our children are the carriers of our present culture into the future. Human society is now vastly complex, so we teach our children not to be afraid of different societies, but instead, embrace them. We try to expose them to people of all races, classes, religions and the societies of different countries. They can learn acceptance before prejudice.
The USA is a good example of how a country can be organized in a pluralistic fashion. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights were written to throw off the tyranny of rigid -- proscribed religious practices, and the rulership of an elite royalty. We must always teach our children the importance of the freedoms of religion, of speech, and of assembly, and also how fragile they are.
We can help our children replace fear of the strange with curiosity. We can encourage them to embrace the complex and the paradoxical. As Terence McKenna says, “We must accept the inherent messiness of the Universe”. Many times there are no pat answers, so teach them to accept open-ended problems with less anxiety and more wonder. Encourage them to find their own answers, for many times there is more than one solution to a problem. Strive to give them a well-rounded education of both science and the liberal arts (including history). Encourage them to find connections between them, so their minds stay flexible enough to embrace and ultimately, to love, novelty .
Stone symbol: paua shell
See book – Put Your Mother on the Ceiling: Children’s Imagination Games by Richard de Mille
With the Community :
What makes the SWT community special and unique is our respect for the many spiritual beliefs of our members, including those who are atheist or agnostic. We welcome those with different backgrounds and new ideas. Our bonds of fellowship are forged in the 5 Values, not in a certain creed or set of commandments. We do not expect our members and friends to give up their personal beliefs; in fact, we welcome them to share those beliefs, so all can be enriched.
We realize that culture and belief is fluid, and defined by each sovereign individual. We say “Thou Art God/dess”, for we realize the freedom and responsibility of creating your own reality (within the rules of the physical universe of course). As long as no harm is done to living creatures, we welcome each person to define their own set of beliefs and philosophy. We are a microcosm of the macrocosm of all cultures on this Earth. We strive to dream the myths and practices of the past forward into a bright future of inclusiveness. Our inner wholeness reflects the larger wholeness. In fact, many of us born in America are descendants from a number of cultures, so we are living examples of Pluralism and Diversity. As long as your beliefs don’t require you to gather up converts, we welcome you!!
Stone symbols: rainbow calsilica, any many-colored and spotted stone (such as agate or some jaspers)
History of the Pluralism in the USA