Touching the Ground of Being Undergirding Creation

For the next few DMs, we will be sharing some creation stories from various traditions. 

Thich Nhat Hanh says that if we fail to penetrate creation we will fail to find the ground of being behind it:

Colored version of the Creation illustration from Martin Luther’s 1534 translation of the Bible. Image by Lucas Cranach on Wikimedia Commons

If you are not able to touch the phenomenal world deeply enough, it will be very difficult or impossible to touch the noumenal world—the ground of being.

Behind and within the depth of the phenomenal world there lies the divine presence.

Thus we continue our meditations on the ground of being by celebrating the variety of creation stories that our species is heir to.  Rather than fight about who has the story factually correct, why not celebrate their diversity and the wisdom contained therein?   Recent science offers us a creation story that is also worth sharing and drawing lessons for living from.

Let us begin with the Hebrew Bible.

In the Hebrew Bible the oldest creation story is found in Psalm 104.  In that psalm we have a telling of the unfolding of Creation that celebrates the existence of the sky, waters, clouds, wind, fire, earth, mountains, thunder, valleys, wild animals,  wild donkeys, birds, grasses, cattle, plants, wine, oil, bread that comes from the soil. The trees, the stork, wild goats, rock-badgers, the moon, the sun, the night, the forest animals, the lions–are all claiming their food from God.

Visual meditation on Psalm 104. Video by Darrin Harvey.

Yahweh, what variety you have created,
arranging everything so wisely!
Earth is completely full of things you have made:
among them vast expanse of ocean,
teeming with countless creatures,
creatures large and small,
with the ships going to and fro…

Notice how human ingenuity, in this case ships, is included among the wonders of Creation in the psalmist’s understanding of things.

In the Creation story in Genesis One we are assured that creation is good and very good.

The book of Wisdom (7:17-22) offers still another creation story, one that is evolutionary in its perspective and, like Psalm 104 and Genesis, places humankind near the end of a long unfolding of Creation.  It recognizes that Wisdom and Creation go together.

Traditional medieval medicines being compounded at Kentwell Hall Herbalist’s Room. Photo by Kotomi_ on Flickr.

Simply I learned about Wisdom…
the design of the universe,
the forces of its elements,
beginning and end of time,
changes in the sun’s course, variation of seasons,
cycles of years, positions of stars,
natures of animals,
tempers of beasts,
powers of winds,
thoughts of humanity,
uses of plants,
virtues of roots,
Such things as are hidden I learned,
for Wisdom, the Artisan, taught me. 

This creation story, couched in a beautiful poem, is profoundly evolutionary in its message. It is not at all anthropocentric. First comes cosmology–the design of the universe, followed by its powerful elements, then time, the sun, the seasons, the animals, the powers of wind—and only then come the thoughts of humanity.  

How true it is that 13.8 billion years of unfolding has rendered our species, with our thoughts and creativity and struggles and the rest, possible.  Interdependence is acknowledged.  Gratitude for existence is presumed.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths, pp. 43, 34f.

Banner Image: Symbols of the divine presence: Stained glass window (detail) in Holy Family Roman Catholic Church, Teconnaught/Annacloy, County Down, Northern Ireland. Image by Tahc on Wikimedia Commons.

Do you practice what Thich Naht Hanh is advising, looking for the Ground of being behind creation?

Recommended Reading

One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths

Matthew Fox calls on all the world traditions for their wisdom and their inspiration in a work that is far more than a list of theological position papers but a new way to pray—to meditate in a global spiritual context on the wisdom all our traditions share. Fox chooses 18 themes that are foundational to any spirituality and demonstrates how all the world spiritual traditions offer wisdom about each.“Reading One River, Many Wells is like entering the rich silence of a masterfully directed retreat. As you read this text, you reflect, you pray, you embrace Divinity. Truly no words can fully express my respect and awe for this magnificent contribution to contemporary spirituality.” –Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

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3 thoughts on “Touching the Ground of Being Undergirding Creation”

  1. Avatar

    The picture, “Colored version of the Creation illustration from Martin Luther’s 1534 translation of the Bible. Image by Lucas Cranach on Wikimedia Commons,” ……. hmmmmm …… It strikes me how I would never place
    G O D — Creator — ‘outside’ of Creation, the way this picture does. I look at this picture, and I really feel somewhat repulsed by the image [idea] of G O D ‘being above,’ ‘looking over, ‘ outside of humanity, outside of Creation.

    My experience of G O D — and my ‘knowing of’ G O D, is G O D within …… G O D within everything ……. me, you, each and every person, each and every part of Creation. G O D-Within-Creation. G O D-inthe-Midst-of-Creation.

    So, too, G O D-Within-Suffering. G O D-inthe-Midst-of-Suffering. And G O D-Within-Death. G O D-inthe-Midst-of-Death. That is how I ‘see’ G O D.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Well Linda, There is no doubt that there is an image of separation of God and Creation in Lucas Cranach’s painting. And I totally agree with your image of G O D within. However, just because Cranach got it wrong does not diminish the beauty of his painting and we also have to be understanding of the times in which he lived where there definitely was a separation between God and Creation…

    2. Avatar

      Your point is very well taken. The modern era–the Protestant Reformation as well as 16th century catholicism–consider Michaelangelo’s creation painting in the Sistine chapel ceiling–is much more theistic than panentheistic which is what you are talking about, Linda, and is what creation spirituality it all about and what pre-modern consciousness was about. But it needs artists to put it into imagery. Hildegard tried in her day but many more artists should be doing so today, finding ways to image panentheism. So we can take this image as something from a past and theistic consciousness and, as Rick pointed out, find whatever is beautiful in it. But as you are pointing out, we can and must do better.
      Thanks for your comments.

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