Gnostics on the loose
Pope John Paul II spoke often about the “culture of life” and the “culture of
death” – the “culture of life” being based on acceptance of biblical values and
the love of God and the “culture of death” being based on rejection of biblical
values and the love of God. The struggle
between these two incompatible cultures, between good and evil, between reason
and unreason, can be seen on many levels including within the human soul itself
and within the life of the
There is no
immunity for the Australian Catholic Church from this great struggle of our
times. Well informed Australian
Catholics are not overly surprised when they see signs of the rejection of
biblical values and the love of God even within the structures of their
Church. Cardinal Pell has himself been
quoted in the media acknowledging the presence of paganism within the
presence of paganism within the archdiocese of
Given that no action appears to have subsequently been taken in relation to Earthsong by the relevant Church authorities, it is perhaps now appropriate that the purportedly Catholic Earthsong ‘project’ be examined anew and in more detail. Earthsong maintains a website in its own name, offering programs in “Exploring the New Cosmology”, “Earth’s Imagination”, “Powers of the Universe”, “Celebrating Cosmogenesis: The Triple Spiral in the Seasonal Wheel” and “Spirits of the Australian Desert”. The programs are offered on several Church properties. As Gilchrist had noted, Earthsong is co-sponsored by the Brigidine Sisters, Christian Brothers, FCJ Sisters, Loreto Sisters, Presentation Sisters, Mercy Sisters (Ballarat East) and Mercy Sisters (Melbourne), “with several other unnamed orders providing funds..”.
Far from exercising discretion, the Earthsong website says of its “Powers of the Universe” program, “This study circle focuses on an eleven part DVD series by mathematical cosmologist Brian Swimme. The series aims towards a synthesis of scientific and spiritual world views, empowering people to rediscover and remember who they truly are in the greater story of life. One segment will be watched during each session and followed by discussion and ritual.” Brian Swimme’s website is more explicit. There, the “Powers of the Universe” DVD series is labelled “an exploration of the powers coursing through Universe and in each of us”.
Cosmogenesis: The Triple Spiral in the Seasonal Wheel” also features in the Earthsong
program. The website declares,
“This seminar, led by Glenys Livingstone a
The full title of Glenys Livingstone’s book is “PaGaian Cosmology: Re-inventing Earth-based Goddess Religion”. The back cover of Livingstone’s book says, “PaGaian Cosmology brings brings together a religious practice of seasonal ritual based in a contemporary scientific sense of the cosmos and female imagery for the Sacred. The author situates this original synthesis in her context of being female and white European transplanted to the Southern Hemisphere. Her sense of alienation from her place, which is personal, cultural and cosmic, fires a cosmology that re-stories Goddess metaphor of Virgin-Mother-Crone as a pattern of Creativity, which unfolds the cosmos, manifests in Earth’s life, and may be known intimately.”
Further, from the back cover, “PaGaian Cosmology is an ecospirituality grounded in indigenous Western religious celebration of the Earth-Sun annual cycle. By linking to (the) story of the unfolding universe this practice can be deepened, and a sense of the Triple Goddess—central to the cycle and known in ancient cultures—developed as a dynamic innate to all being. The ritual scripts and the process of ritual events presented here, may be a journey into self-knowledge through personal, communal and ecological story: the self to be known is one that is integral with place…PaGaian Cosmology may be used as a resource for individuals or groups seeking new forms of devotional expression and an Earth-based pathway to wisdom within.”
The Earthsong website also includes a ringing endorsement of PaGaian Cosmology from well known religious sister and former ABC board member, Veronica Brady, who says: “…this is a practical book which arises from Livingstone's sense of alienation as a woman in search of a faith. In effect she develops what Thomas Berry calls a ‘functional cosmology', a way of learning to live with and celebrate the life of the cosmos reflected in the seasons of the year but also in the seasons of a woman's body, virgin, mother, crone, acknowledging also that, dwelling in the southern hemisphere but living in a culture brought from the other side of the world, we need to adapt to where we live—though, mercifully in my view, she resists the temptation to appropriate Aboriginal culture in the process.
Sister Brady continues, “So far so good. Few people will have problems with this. Some, however, may be troubled by her sub-title, Reinventing Earth-based Goddess Religion, sensing an attack on divine transcendence. What is at issue here, I think however, is the fact that for many, women especially, institutional religion no longer seems to offer abundance of life but its restriction, not a call to reverence but to power over others.”
The November/December 2004 issue of Madonna, a
Here, Sister Anne Boyd expresses the classic position of the Gnostic in the Church, both “coming out of a Christian tradition” and at the same time claiming Christian status for her Gnostic positions. By remaining within the Church, this Brigidine nun participates in the project of Gnostic “transformation” while seeking to maintain a formal Catholic identity. This is the very essence of subversion.
Earthsong is by no means the only option in the
It is clear that there is an active and by all accounts growing
New Age, Gnostic movement in the Catholic Church in and around