REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS
I really enjoyed reading it! And I should have let you know that sooner - sorry to have become distracted by other things.
Your writing style is very clear and personal, by which I mean I can see you behind it. You ask questions that many people have asked themselves, in one form or another, while resisting the urge officiously to provide ready-made answers. Thus, you have side-stepped guru-hood - thank goodness for that!
If you don't write another word (and I hope you do) this book will stand as a beautiful summation of your good and inquisitive nature and guide many people in their quest to see the wood for the trees.
Love and best wishes
~ Phil Chandler, E-mail
Planet as Self – an Earthen Spirituality
This book engaged my attention from the start. In the opening pages, Sky McCain asks why, when we know the destruction that is being done to the planet and we know what must be done, do we 'deflect and argue and doubt and contend?' (pg 6). His answer is that deep down we don't love the Earth, because we haven't been taught that Gaia is loveable (pp 7-8).
The reason we don't love Earth is that our cultural worldview is outdated. He goes on to explore how both Christianity and Renaissance science have taken us ever further from our enspirited planet. Like it or not, we now see and experience the world through these filters (pp 25-6). One replaced the worship of the forces of nature with that of saints and martyrs. The other viewed nature, as it did women, as 'passive and compliant to the needs of commerce and industry' (pg 40). In time this developed into the philosophy of a new, machine-like world which sanctioned the manipulation of nature (pg 41).
Science has, of course, moved on and the influence of Christianity has declined, but their legacies remain. If we are to love the Earth, we must strip out these outmoded beliefs and replace them with ones that acknowledge our deep connection with the planet and all other living creatures. This is the Earthen Spirituality of the title.
McCain goes on to outline how we can do this. It involves, amongst other things, acknowledging that we are not necessarily at the pinnacle of creation. Other creatures have a much more important role in maintaining the continuance of healthy life on Earth – bees, worms and bacteria, for example (pg 73). Nevertheless, we do have a role to play which is tied up in expressing the collective consciousness of nature (pg 80). I particularly liked the suggestion that we, along with all other life forms, are the nerve endings of Gaia, allowing her to be conscious of herself (pg 81).
McCain also gives a number of Earthen Spirituality practices, both communal and individual, to help us to reconnect with the Earth. The sharing of food, and blessing food before meals – such things show the reciprocity of love between us and Gaia. My own favourite is to give the ego, the thinking function, a rest – not by fighting it but by loving and appreciating it, and giving quiet assurance that you will call on it when you need its analytical skills (pg 88).
This is a small but very thought-provoking book. In addition to analysis of what's wrong and suggestions for putting it right, several chapters end with a reflective passage on the author's experience in various locations around the world which deepens the subject matter.
Earth Books, 2011
~ Moragh Mason, email
Review of ‘Planet as Self’ by Sky McCain
It’s self-evident that the health of planet Earth is crucial to our very existence. But if there are any doubts about the need for us to be reminded, one reading of Sky McCain’s book ‘Planet as Self’ dispels them. He argues for a radical rethink of our relationship with what we ought to regard as Mother Earth or Gaia and points out how beliefs – scientific or religious – can so easily be mistaken for truths. Nothing less than a paradigm shift in our basic beliefs is called for.
The notion that humanity has dominion over all the earth certainly ought to be challenged if the hallmarks are a consumerist treadmill and the ravages of environmental degradation. Sky pulls no punches in castigating apathetic and destructive attitudes.
But what I find so heartening is his remedy for this spiritual malaise. He charts an inspiring path to a new awareness of the natural world. A key factor is to stay in the present moment. ‘Be aware of what you are doing, thinking, feeling,’ he says. ‘Out of this awareness comes … the capacity to be completely attentive.’
He talks of the ‘utter delight in observing Nature’ and of ‘a reciprocal loving energy flowing whenever my heart is open to it.’ I like the way he draws upon the philosophy of Native Americans. ‘We are the land,’ they say. ‘You cannot separate us from the land.’
Sky’s book benefits greatly from passages in which he describes his own response to the natural world and I am impressed with the extensive range of sources he quotes in advocating an Earth-based spirituality.
The challenge he sets humanity is a profound one but the path to a more ecocentric world is illuminated by this book. Anyone reading it will feel empowered to take those first vital steps towards a new awareness. The beauty is that in reconnecting with Mother Earth we reconnect with ourselves, our senses are awakened and our lives enriched. What greater incentive than that do we need to start putting an ‘earthen spirituality’ into practice?
28 February, 2012
~ Laurence Shelley, personal letter
Its been a couple of years since I’ve come across a book I wish I’d written myself, and interestingly this one is by the husband of the last author /editor I raved about (that was + is GreenSpirit Marian Van Eyk McCain) And this is written better than I could do. Sky has a lovely way with words, easy to read. I can imagine a twinkle in his eyes when he speaks of the Earth, and his love radiates out of the pages. For a very long time I have been looking for ways to convey the sense of I am Earth, her food my body, her water my blood, and I share the molecules from the stars with every other creature and plant. This isn’t just a fanciful worldview, it is a most fundamental fact and such understanding is vital for our survival. Sky takes it further: my mind is Earth’s mind, Earth as perceivable manifestation of God. It has been told in a style of someone speaking to me.
In this book is the first time outside of science fiction I have heard us referred to as “Earthlings.” Yes! And he puts into graspable practicality what Peter Russell (among others) has been helping me to understand since my aha! days in the early 1980s. This read is more to me than preaching to the converted: it is speaking for me, taking me further into life and builds my store of how. It is available as hard copy and e-book.
Cynthia Alves February 2012
~ Cynthia Alves, personal letter
One definition of stupidity is Doing the same thing over and over again, yet expecting a different result. Sky McCain explains how we participate in a form of cultural stupidity by believing that our thoughts and ideas about the planet upon which we live are truly our own. In reality - he demonstrates - they are the result of a philosophical shaping that has been driven for centuries by the thinkers and spiritual traditions that have come before us. In taking us through a literature review that spans more than two millenia of thought, Sky demonstrates that this process is a natural one - a cultural, societal process - yet one that can lead to the most unnatural of conclusions. The conclusions that we accept, unchallenged, have resulted in a disharmonious way of being - an assonance - a persistent act of mass stupidity in which we all participate, that fails to appreciate the poetry of being. Recognising that we are unconscious slaves to the ideas of others is a vital first step if we are to break free of preconception, and develop a real, open, communicative relationship with the world around us and the very earth upon which we walk. As Sky puts it . . . out-dated beliefs can linger. . . if they are not consciously examined. Planet as Self makes that challenge, and suggests some steps that can be used to sustain that challenge and avoid falling back into inherited ways of thinking.
~ Lama Namgyal, http://drala-jong.blogspot.com/2011/07/book-review-planet-as-self-earthen.html
It is important to be clear - this is not a Buddhist book. The conclusions drawn from Skys challenge lead him to what he describes as an Earthen Spirituality. Readers will find that spiritual view compelling - or not - depending on their personal proclivities and passions. However the deconstruction of the cultural processes that have driven our corrosive effect on the environment is something valuable for everyone to understand. The authors passion for his subject sings out of the pages.
Nurtured by rich personal experiences of nature and much critical reading, the author develops deeply challenging reflections about our attitude to planet Earth and the web of life. He shows how our cultural worldview requires a radical paradigm shift - a new awakening and awareness that moves from an egocentric to an ecocentric consciousness and life stance.
An incisive and most helpful guide for developing an Earth-centred spirituality that is integral and holistic, collaborative rather than competitive, enabling us to become partners and co-creators of Gaia. May this inspiring book find many readers, especially among the young.
~ Ursula King, Professor Emerita of Theology and Religious Studies,University of Bristol
In the tradition of Thomas Berry and Matthew Fox, Sky McCain’s book Earthen Spirituality is taking us by the shoulders, giving us a rough shake, and shouting in our faces, “The redemption of humankind lies not with right relationship with some father god in the sky, but in right relationship with our mother the Earth.” His book is an articulate and moving cry for a new and global religious reformation, a call to return to sanity that touches not only our bodies and minds, but our spirits as well. ~ John R. Mabry, former editor CREATION SPIRITUALITY magazine
This book is beautifully written, elegantly argued, heart-warming as well as mind-warning and utterly necessary. As a Christian Priest who is also a ‘bardic’ member of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, I was especially interested in the chapter Paganism and Christianity. Here, in relatively few words, the author leaves no stone unturned. He then take us on an exciting journey through the many twists and turns of nature based spirituality, various strands of monotheism and the whole new world of modern science all in relation to the planet that is our home. It is a book that is both theoretical and practical and will enlighten, shock, remind, disturb but most of all re-ignite (or perhaps set on fire for the first time) a deep and passionate love and appreciation for our mother – Gaia – the earth beneath our feet.
~ Mark Townsend (author of The Path of the Blue Raven, O Books)
This is a profound book. The author presents the big picture and shows how humanity can live in harmony with the living earth. ~ Satish Kumar, Editor, Resurgence