I completed my bachelor of social work degree in Kansas City several decades ago and I remember having to[…]

You Love What You Know: Hearing Mother Earth

Council of All Beings Our message will come in a different form this morning.  Today we will have the[…]


Council of All Beings

Our message will come in a different form this morning.  Today we will have the privilege of experiencing The Council of All Beings, which was created in 1985 by environmental activists John Seed and Joanna Macy is a communal ritual in which participants step aside from their human identity and speak on behalf of another life-forms.

It aims to heighten awareness of our interdependence in the living body of Earth by hearing directly from other, non-human life forms who are deeply and adversely affected by the humans apathy about the Earth’s care.  In order to strengthen our commitment to defend it, the ritual of this Council of All Beings gives voice to the suffering of our world.

We will begin our ritual with acknowledgement of our mourning.

The interdependence of all life remains just a mental concept, without power to affect our attitudes and behaviors, unless it takes on some emotional reality. We need to feel it, but our capacity to feel is stunted if we block out the pain over what is happening to our world. Furthermore, if we proceed to take part in this Council, which includes the speaking on behalf of other life-forms, without first acknowledging our sorrow for what other beings are suffering at our human hands, we risk being superficial, even presumptuous.

Thus, we will hear expression of the pain for what humans are inflicting on the natural world, which includes not only grief, but fear, anger, and despair as well. Because these emotions are not encouraged in conventional society, and because they reveal the truth of our interconnectedness with all life, we acknowledge them fully, painfully.

[Play the Earth Song video ]

Reconnecting ourselves with a capacity to care through the viewing of such images, serves as an antidote to the pervasive psychic numbing our culture incurs. It also serves to awaken us to the interconnectedness of all life forms, our deep ecology.

Now we will move from mourning into a time of Remembering.

Our connections with other life-forms are based not only on emotional attachments to places and beings we have loved. They are also organic, woven by shared ancestries, embedded in our bodies.

Each atom in each molecule of our being goes back to the beginning of life, and has belonged to far more ancient and varied forms of life than our own.   The human form we now wear is just the latest and briefest chapter of a long evolutionary journey.

John O’Donohue speaks to this in his poem “In Praise of the Earth” when he says:

Let us remember within us
The ancient clay,
Holding the memory of seasons,
The passion of the wind,
The fluency of water,
The warmth of fire,
The quiver-touch of the sun
And shadowed sureness of the moon.

By remembering, we consciously own this ancient kinship so that, when the time comes in a few moments for some of us to speak for other life-forms, we can do so with a greater sense of authenticity.

To assist us in remembering I share with you the words of Council founder John Seed:

As your memory improves, as the implications of evolution and ecology are internalized and replace outmoded structures in your mind, there is an identification with all life. Then follows the realization that the distinction between ‘life’ and ‘lifeless’ is a human construct. Every atom in this body existed before organic life emerged. Do you remember our childhood as minerals, as lava, as rocks?

Respect and gratitude arise for our ancestors’ capacity to weather adversity and to respond collectively and creatively to enormous challenges.

The process helps us to believe that these capacities are still ours, and thus we can draw on them now at this crisis point for life on Earth.

By remembering we clothe ourselves in the authority of our four and a half billion-year history. We are called to start learning to act our age.

We pause quietly to remember.

The beings that co-exist with us in the web of life are profoundly affected by our actions, yet they have no hearing in our human deliberations and policies, no voice to call us to account. The Council of All Beings gives them a voice–and because it is our own as well, it can change the ways we see and think.

Our participants this morning are all familiar to you.  They have graciously allowed  themselves to be chosen by other life forms, so that their human voices can give voice to the experience of those who have selected them.

And now it is time for our Council of All Beings to convene.

We meet in council because our planet is in trouble; our lives and our ancient ways are endangered. It is fitting that we confer, for there is much now that needs to be said and much that needs to be heard.

Let us begin.  Please share who you are.

Roll Call:

1)I am the white tailed deer. I have been a part of the local ecosystem going back before the time of the first nations. I speak for all native mammals.

2) I am Lichen, living on air and light. I grow on rocks and trees. I am food and home for other beings. I am a sign of life, and speak for our interdependence.

3) I am a Sea Turtle, and represent all creatures and life in a marine environment.

4)  I am the Peregrine Falcon (part of the hawk family) and I represent all migrating birds. Every Spring, when the days get longer, our natural instinct is to fly northward and return to our breeding grounds where we build nests to lay eggs and raise our young. Often this journey can take many days and nights as we fly thousands of miles.

5)  I am bee, I speak for all pollinators, some of us live in communities,

some of us live more solitary lives. We eat from flowers and carry

pollen from plant to plant in our daily flight.

Please tell of your hardships.

1) My numbers have risen and fallen due to the exploitation of land and the over hunting of my herds. My clan’s health is a reflection of the health of the climate. We are solitary herbivores helping to maintain native plants by clearing some areas and spreading seeds that we can’t digest. Our trails in the forest lead to sources of water and nourishment.

2) As Lichen, I turn rock into soil. I worked patiently as glaciers retreated and new life forms appeared. I thought nothing could stop my work, but I am so sensitive to the environment that I absorb everything, and now I am being poisoned by acid rain and the toxins of industry and urban life.

3) For Millenia, my species have inhabited this rich land, burying our eggs in the soft warm sands that incubate our young. Traversing this terrain, as we sea turtles transition between earth and sea, gliding our bellies along the silky sands of Borneo.

4) We migrating birds have faced many challenges due to climate change in the past few decades. Intense drought and wildfires have destroyed our nesting areas. As a result of intense rain storms, sea levels are rising and high tides have drowned out Coastal wetlands, leaving fewer places to nest in marsh grasses and making it difficult to find food. The shells of my eggs are so thin and brittle now, they break before my young are ready to hatch.

5) The land in which I make my nest keeps shrinking – forests have been

cut down, open meadows are now paved over. Poisons from the farm

field and in the air have killed many of our kind, and the poisons that

don’t kill us can affect our ability to reproduce, the poisons can confuse

us so we cannot recognize our nests and the air pollution clouds my

ability to detect the plants I need for food.

Since it is clear that one young species is at the root of all this trouble, its representatives should be present to hear these testimonies. Therefore the other life-forms now speak to the humans directly.


Addressing Humans

1) Humans, can’t you see that when forests are cut down, we are compelled to cross into fields and live like herds of domestic animals, becoming reliant on human crops and subject to illnesses. The strength of our numbers is in having spaces where we are

allowed to live in harmony with the ebb and flow of life. Your human lives would be better if you kept more areas in the forest to heal the planet and restore balance.

2) All I need to live is clean, fresh air and light! When you see me, you know the air is clean enough for you, as well. My presence is a sign of your wellbeing. When I am gone, you will be in danger, too. When you pollute the air, you pollute us all.

3) But now, your bottle caps scratch my chest, the straws from your soft drinks and mocha lattes get lodge in my nostrils. This painful reality that today is my life, has stripped me of the carefree delight I once knew, diving for shrimp and lush sea grass in the deep blue sea. My outstretched appendages render me incapable of dislodging your plastic tools from my sore beak. Plastic bags and other debris surround me as pedestrians on a crowded street, blanketing my body like a dirty trench coat.

Though we have inhabited this planet for millions of years, in your sliver of existence, a mere clap in time, we have witnessed a drastic decline; an alarming vaporization of our community.

4) Many farmers along our migration paths have laid tiles to drain their land for better planting conditions… in turn, eliminating wetland areas which some call fluddles. Do you not realize that as migrating birds, we rely on fluddles for water and feeding spots along our long flying routes? Also, your pesticides on farms and lawns get into the water supply and soil, killing the invertebrates and earthworms on which we rely for food.  In urban areas, light pollution and swirling wind energy farms disrupt our ability to navigate in the dark of night. Plus, skyscrapers have become deadly as billions have been killed by flying in the daytime into the reflections from windows in tall buildings. There must be a better way?

5) Humans, I don’t understand your logic. It seems very short-sighted.

You create poisons to kill what you consider “pests” in order to improve

your crop yields; but by killing these “pests” you kill pollinators (and

not just the bees, butterflies, beetles, hummingbirds, bats) – do you not

see that without us, you stand to lose plants critical to human well-

being and livelihoods.

Fellow-beings, what strengths can be shared with them, what powers can be lent to them?

1) We deer offer you humans, a trail back to nature’s bounty. The ability to be quiet and observe things around you, the speed and agility to move quickly through space and to leave just the smallest trace in the woods.

2) I, Lichen, work slowly, very slowly. Time is my friend. This is what I give you, humans, patience and perseverance, sensitivity and awareness, and a long green path to compassion.

3) Let me tend to your gardens of the sea, as I prune and weed your kelp beds. Let my vegetative waste supply critical nutrients to the collapsing coral reefs. And may my graceful dives and radiant colors encapsulate your weightless gaze, as we share the crystal clear waters.

It’s not too late to turn this damage around, to slowly change course. It may not happen in our lifetime, but it CAN happen. We must pass down a generational resolution; adjust our habits in a restorative effort to be responsible ambassadors of mother earth.

4) We are peaceful creatures and wish to cause no harm to others nor damage to our earth. We offer you humans the lesson of perseverance … thru our long migration, many of us but not all will make it to our destination despite these difficulties and obstacles. May you likewise persevere in hearing our voices and caring for each other and our homeland.

5) Humans, do not despair. I, bee, give you the gift of pollination / the gift

of give and take – when I take my food from the flower, I give back a gift

by spreading its pollen. Watch my community work – all the bees have

jobs to do – the worker, the drone, the queen – and we work many as

one to achieve the health of our hive. Humans, you would benefit much

from working many toward one goal, the health of your hive.

These gifts reside already in the human spirit, as seeds within the psyche; otherwise they could not be spoken. May their naming bring forth a sense of wholeness and determined possibility.

Let us now observe a brief period of silence as we draw from our interdependence and connection with all of creation.


[Time of silence]

This concludes our Council of All Beings.

We will now return to our typical flow of worship, by inviting you to offer responses and inspirations to what has been shared.


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