Zuni Mountain Sanctuary’s Traditions ~ Past & Present
December 19th of our year, 2016, ZMS celebrates its 20th year, beginning when three self-described Radical Faeries met at a gathering in New Mexico. As documented in an early IRS petition this idea of a sanctuary was partly an outgrowth of a national “back to Earth” movement started by the Radical Faeries several decades ago; partly in response to a particular spiritual need in the Southwest, the discussion of the formation of a new Radical Faerie Sanctuary. The primary intention of this new community was, or is to provide an earth-friendly natural setting for all those wishing to pursue both an individual and collective spiritual growth in such a setting. The ZMS founders proposed that, as an essential part of that growth, people should be encouraged to live together in peace & harmony with themselves, those around them, and the earth which sustains us all.
To truly understand the historical significance of the present-day religious activities of Zuni Mountain Sanctuary, one must look back forty years ago to the meetings of a small group of people in California, which led to the formation of our ‘sister’ (though autonomous) church known as Nomenus. Here, a man named Arthur Evans, an author & founder of the Gay Activists Alliance in New York City, started a circle of gay men who met regularly to establish a foundation of spiritual commonality. These meetings over the years grew in size and number until 1983 when several participants decided that to continue their devoutly spiritual work of attuning Mother Earth, they would attempt to purchase land. By 1985, Nomenus had been formed primarily to expedite the process of finding this land, which would be placed in trust for the express purpose of providing space for the practice of Radical Faerie spirituality in its many forms. Since 1985, Wolfe Creek Sanctuary in Wolfe Creek, Oregon was formed and serves as a permanent place of worship for the Church of Nomenus.
Today, Zuni Mountain Sanctuary consists of a consensus-based governance that is supported by Stewards, Residents, Visitors and a Board of Directors, including an ever-growing wider community of like-minded and kindred spirits. With a robust mailing list the Sanctuary Stewards provide a permanent place of worship for a much larger congregation of people interested in maintaining and developing the human connection with Earth. While our spirituality follows an earth-based path, our beliefs are those which all true religions share. We have come from and we return to many spiritual traditions. In our practices, Christian and Eastern, together with Native American traditions of belief rooted in Nature and the natural world, are reunified. In the words of Joseph Campbell:
The unity of the race of man, not only in its biology but also in its spiritual history, which has everywhere unfolded in the manner of a single symphony, with its themes announced, developed, amplified and turned about, distorted, reasserted, and, today, in a grand fortissimo of all sections sounding together, irresistibly advancing to some kind of mighty climax, out of which the next generation will emerge.
Active in the congregation of Zuni Mountain Sanctuary are individuals whose traditions stem from: Eastern traditions such as Buddism, Hindu, Shivite/Krishna, Yoga, Sufi, Tantric, Mandalic and Tai Chi; Western traditions such as Judaic, Gnostic and Charismatic Christianity; Eleusinian and Dionysian practices; and naturalistic religious traditions such as nature, Wiccan, shamanic and traditional American forms.
What threads this diversity together is the shared vision of spiritual peoples interweaving their religious practices, experiences and knowledge with an open, nonjudgmental respect for the variety of religious expression; and, most importantly, the commonality of human spiritual needs, human being and human destiny. In short, for us to continue practicing meaningful spirituality, we must understand the concept of Balance. We believe that the sharing these diverse traditions brings us closer to our collective vision; and this sharing is itself a spiritual practice of balancing. In 1985, Harry Hay, perhaps the principle founder of the Radical Faerie tradition, wrote:
The ‘term’ spiritual represents the accumulation of all experiential consciousness from the division of the first cells in the primeval slim, down through all evolution, to your and our latest insights…[in] Consciousness… What else can we call this overwhelmingly magnificent inheritance? Other than ‘spiritual’?
To read more about Harry Hay, see Mark Thompson’s interview from Gay Soul: Finding the Heart of Gay Spirit and Nature. To flex that faerie muscle of yours read Radically GAY, Harry Hay, edited by Will Roscoe.
~~ BELIEFS ~~
Our beliefs are specifically religious and we identify Zuni Mountain Sanctuary as a Church. As a self-conscious sharing of this diversity, our spirit is renewed by our day-to-day activity. We are deeply moved by our beliefs. They call us to action. They identify us as a deep religious people and as a Church. As we share beliefs, we share values. Through the sharing of our beliefs and values we have created this ever-growing spiritual community.
The shared beliefs which unite Zuni Mountain Sanctuary are those to be found in all religions:
We believe that divinity and humanity – spirit and matter – are inseparate; that each of us is wholly divine and a manifestation of divinity. In some traditions this is called “immanence”. Immanence: the oneness of body, mind and spirit. In her teachings the feminist, religious Starhawk refers to this as:
The awareness that the world and everything in it is alive, dynamic,
interdependent, interacting and infused with moving energies: a living being, a weaving dance.
Our vision of spiritual health is holistic and, for us, is counterpart in physical health is a spiritual concern. The practice of our faith is a healing experience, a facet of spiritual balance.
The members of the church of Zuni Mountain Sanctuary are engaged in both personal and collective quests for the realization of Immanence. This spirit quest is the central, turning core of our religion and worship.
We believe that Spirit is renewal and that all spirituality shares the theme of Nature as the source of renewal. Nature is the wellspring of life and death; it is manifest in each of us and all the diverse rhythms and lives of the natural world. Harry Hay once summed up our belief system in a vision of Subject-SUBJECT Consciousness. We believe the Earth, and all of it, loves to be loved. Subject-SUBJECT Consciousness begins with the awareness of human responsibility for loving Stewardship of Nature’s creations. To love what lives, we believe, is to fully appreciate the immanence of all people and all creation; never to force but to understand, to care, to nourish. We believe that a Continuum connects individuals to each other and to the environment. Subject-SUBJECT Consciousness is an ethical ideal and a religious view of the world. It orients us towards ourselves and each other; it guides our spiritual community and our personal spirit quests; it balances the imbalance of domination, aggression and exploitation.
~~ 11/20/2016: documented in an early IRS petition the ideas of ZMS: Worship at ZMS ~~~
Harry Hay says it best in his own writing: Humanity must expand its experience from persons (subjects) thinking objectively – thinking competitively (in a nutshell, thinking opportunistically and nearly always in terms of self advantage) – to thinking in terms of loving-sharing-consensus. Humanity must expand its experience to thinking of another, that other, not as object (to be used, manipulated, mastered, consumed) but as subject (as another like him/her self, another self to be respected – to be appreciated – to be cherished). The Golden Rule.
~~ WORSHIP ~~
Our forms of worship unify the practices and energies of many spiritual traditions. As Babaji tells us: “To work and worship together is essential in life!” Our worship is based on the kinship of spiritual history of many peoples; and addresses the question of our spiritual future in the One-World village. Through balance and subject-SUBJECT love, each religious tradition supplements the others. Thematic parallels and overlaps as well as contrasting perspectives, when brought together, testify to both the diversities and universals of human being and religious belief.
Prominent in our worship, our texts, our symbology and our values is the sacred form of the Circle. The Circle, being the perfect natural form, unifies an infinity around a common center. We are reminded of the attributes of Nature: whole, interrelated, cyclic. When we congregate, we do so as a Sacred Circle, with neither leaders nor followers. As participants in the Sacred Circle, we are equals in fellowship, contributing fraternally to our shared experience.
Of the sacred circle, Starhawk writes:
When we cast a circle, we create an energy form, a boundary that limits and contains the movements of subtle forces…. The casting of the circle is the formal beginning of the ritual complex ‘cue’ that tells us to switch our awareness into a deeper mode. In ritual, we ‘suspend disbelief’ just as we do when watching a play.
Equally prominent in our religion is reference to the natural world, the theater of Nature, where the forms and rhythms well out of the spring of Nature Herself. The natural world is symbol and guide for the ever-renewing source of Spirit/Nature. Worship in nature recalls to us ecological connections, evolutionary biology, which are a part of the web of Balance and to the natural equality and creative source in which our religious meaning and purpose are rooted. As Stewards of the land, we worship and encourage each other to worship the land through practice of the principles of permaculture. Permaculture, as defined by world-renowned permaculturalist, Bill Mollison, covers three primary areas of concern regarding the ethics of human interaction with the environment:
1. Care of the Earth;
2. Care of People; and
3. Managing consumption
(For further information about permaculture, see Permaculture, Bill Mollison, Island Press, Washington, D.C., 1990)
~~~ Stay tuned for more of the story. ~~~