Eleventh Day of Christmas and Synaxis of the 70 Holy Apostles
THE "OBJECTIVE VIEW” which we attempt to find through science and philosophy is not possible; consequently it falsifies whatever conclusions we derive from it. This is especially true in the contemplation of our own planet. If we seek a detached and objective vista from which to solve the ecological crisis, we have already failed. Detachment is death. Gathering data, considering economic options, laws, talks and conferences—these will fail because they attempt to see the problem with the same objectivity that first caused it. The only real healing for our ruptured relationship to the Earth is a return to geo-centrism.
The ancients saw the Earth at the heart of concentric Heavens. We misunderstand them if we try to make these spheres into some kind of map. The ancient model of the universe was preeminently symbolic, not geographic. Our modern and unimaginative minds might not be able to accept that Earth, as a place, is the center; but can we return to the idea that Life is the center? The Earth can represent Life, symbolically or collectively, being a common root or center of living things. The ancients knew Earth and Heaven not as a material “things,” but as a cosmos. Understood in this way, geo-centrism (meaning Life-centrism) is the only genuine human perspective, because it is human beings who contemplate reality. We are the mind of the Universe, and this makes Earth the eye of the Universe by extension.
The Modern era is frequently explained as the move from a geo-centric to a helio-centric model of the Universe. “The Earth moves around the Sun,” we teach schoolchildren through books, maps and animation. But what we teach them without words is the more important lesson, and unfortunately the move away from geocentrism hasn’t ended with a Solar System. It has ended with no system at all. We are Nihil-centrists now; this is what we believe without explaining it to our children or to ourselves. A Nihil-centrist believes in no center, or more accurately, believes in Nothing at the center. The only possible center of the Universe for the current model is the site of a Big Bang—a self-destroyed place, a place of escape. Matter rushes away from the emptiness of its birth to fill the universe with empty forms in blind obedience to empty laws.
Contrast the Big Bang with Let There Be. In one case, a great noise; in the other, a voice of reasoning command. In one case, we are classed by sheer statistical probability as another instance of chance material arrangement. Even if we “live” in some sense, our simple lives are meaningless in comparison with the size of non-being. However, if the Universe still echoes with Let There Be, the thoughts of God confer meaning and purpose. The size, location or time of the Earth is no longer random or meaningless. Wherever God is watching is the center of the Universe. Where God is present, time and motion cease. Where God breathes is Life and Truth.
Geo-centrism affirms spiritual reality, and nihil-centrism is likewise spiritual as well as material. If there is no center to the Universe, there is consequently no center to our lives. Human life requires the kind of center we call an Altar. The Altar preserves the sacramental possibility, so that even if we lose the sacramental perspective, we can be reoriented to it. When Christians traded the Altar for the Pulpit, we traded our privileged place under the living and watchful God for a mechanical but private convenience. We traded transfiguration for rhetoric. We now live no differently than our secular neighbors. Our televisions and our trash are outward habits that betray our inward disposition. There will be so solution to the ecological crisis as long as we speak and act, spend and eat as altar-less nihil-centrists. Recycling, pollution control measures, clean energy—none of these will stop or even slow our destructive behavior. In fact, these will likely justify the misuse of our planet and make its destruction morally comfortable. Only the Altar reminds us and returns us to the sacred.
Earth is the Altar of the Universe. This “sacramental view” —rather than the “objective view” of pulpit, science and policy—is our only hope for living in harmony with our planet. Geo-centrism is another name for the sacramental view. Perhaps it’s time we returned to what the ancient world knew perfectly well: that Life, especially human life, is the center of a great and reverential mystery.
Joshua Alan Sturgill is a former Vice-President of Eighth Day Institute and a graduate of Sangre de Cristo Seminary. His eleven-year association with Eighth Day Books provided frequent opportunities for lectures on literature, iconography, and Orthodox theology at universities, conferences, and churches. He currently resides in Santa Fe, NM, pursuing a degree at St. John's College. He spends as much time as possible reading and hiking.