At this critical time in human and planetary history, what Buddhist scholar and activist Joanna Macy calls “The Great Turning,” the world does not need a new religion or even a reshuffling of our old religions. It does not need a new church either.

Group photo of the three Co-Founders of the OSE. Photo originally posted here.

What it needs is a new Order, that is to say, a community and movement of people from varied backgrounds of belief systems (or non-belief systems) who share a sacred vow to preserve Mother Earth and to become the best lovers (mystics) and defenders (warriors) they can be on behalf of Mother Earth. A post-denominational Order and a post-religious Order. Therefore, a Spiritual Order.

On September 17, 2014 I was awakened at four o’clock AM with a simple and clear mandate: “Do this!!!!” Later in the day I wrote the following note to myself on a scrap of paper spelling out what the dream had told me to do:

To launch a new ‘religious’ order which is in fact a spiritual order that is deeply ecumenical and creation centered, allowing for people to more easily and joyfully carry on their varied vocations to save Mother Earth within a loose but real sense of community. It would take us beyond Institutional Religion and Institutional Education as we know them.

History is not calling for another religious order subject to a religious headquarters or bureaucracy but a spiritual order, an order dedicated to implementing authentic spiritual values in our souls and our institutions and birthing new ones along with societal networks….

Video reflection explaining the vision and mission of the Order of Sacred Earth with the Co-Founders. Originally posted to YouTube by Order of the Sacred Earth Community

OSE is not a religion because portions of humanity may well have outgrown religion. It is a movement to gather humanity to pay attention and to focus on the great issue of our time (Thomas Berry called it “the great work”), which is the survival of our planet in all its diversity, beauty, and magnificence. It is a community of sisters and brothers dedicated to saving the Earth in whatever ways they can as citizens, as workers, as parents, as elders, as young adults, as humans who care.

OSE is in no way anti-religious however. Persons who are religious are welcome into this community along with those who do not identify as religious. Spirituality, however, is required, and that means a willingness to attempt to live life fully and deeply and not skate along on the surface of superficiality, tribalism, or materialism/consumerism. Spirituality is best tested by our generosity and courage and willingness to stand up for generations still unborn by living lives of gratitude and awe, creativity and healing, compassion, and justice centered on the sacredness of our common home, Earth.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Skylar Wilson, Jennifer Listug, Order of the Sacred Earth: An Intergenerational Vision of Love and Action, pp. 4, 17.

To read a transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: “Earth in our hands”  Photo by TitusStaunton on Pixabay

Queries for Contemplation

Do you sense that new forms of spirituality are required today and that that they may or may not fit into current forms of religion?  And that a common commitment (or vow) might be useful to make the connections endure and effective?

Recommended Reading

Order of the Sacred Earth: An Intergenerational Vision of Love and Action
By Matthew Fox, Skylar Wilson, and Jen Listug

In the midst of global fire, earthquake and flood – as species are going extinct every day and national and global economies totter – the planet doesn’t need another church or religion. What it needs is a new Order, grounded in the Wisdom traditions of both East and West, including science and indigenous. An Order of the Sacred Earth united in one sacred vow: “I promise to be the best lover and defender of the Earth that I can be.”
Co-authored by Matthew Fox, Skylar Wilson, and Jennifer Berit Listug, with a forward by David Korten, this collection of essays by 21 spiritual visionaries including Brian Swimme, Mirabai Starr, Theodore Richards, and Kristal Parks marks the founding of the diverse and inclusive Order of the Sacred Earth, a community now evolving around the world.
“The Order of the Sacred Earth not only calls us home to our true nature as Earth, but also offers us invaluable guidance and company on the way.”  ~~ Joanna Macy, environmental activist and author of Active Hope.

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14 thoughts on “Why an Order of the Sacred Earth?”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, You ask us today: “Do you sense that new forms of spirituality are required today and that that they may or may not fit into current forms of religion?” Yes, because the time is long over due to change over from a Newtonian, machine-like, hierarchal institution of religion. The Church being a palatial building, and the people supply the money to keep the machine running–they fuel the machine. And so with “religious” orders, being intricately structured, and hierarchal in their governing. Its time to live in a world that is more organic than machine-like, more egalitarian then hierarchal, deeply ecumenical–those of all faiths, and even some of no faith, working together for the common good. That is what I see in the Order of the Sacred Earth. Then you ask us: “And that a common commitment (or vow) might be useful to make the connections endure and effective?” Yes, I agree. So could you tell those who follow the DMs how they can be part of the Order of the Sacred Earth?

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    Thank you for these telling insights.
    Belief and non-belief systems certainly need to co-habit non-hierarchically on this one precious Earth.

    The photo of “Earth in our Hands” is so poignant and powerful. Do you know who made the model that Titus Staunton photographed? The fingers look as if they are moulded in clay – ie of the earth.
    Whoever it is deserves acknowledgement, and perhaps an opportunity to say more about their work.

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    Linda Chamberlain

    I think there are many people following the spirit of the Order of the Sacred Earth in their own quiet ways.

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    I tried to join the Order of the Sacred Earth and attended a couple of Zoom meetings awhile back, but I haven’t heard a thing about in quite a while until today’s meditation. It sounds like the order is still functioning on some level. I’d like to find out more about it.
    Tom Fitzgerald
    Newburgh, NY

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    Barbara Schwartzbach

    Yes, I believe it is happening organically, seeds are planted by this space, Service Space, Carrie Newcomer, Parker Palmer, Krista Tippet, poets, artist, people who value the land they walk on.
    People who believe in humanity, decency, kindness, loving Mother Earth ? is the foundation.

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    Thank you Matthew and the team for birthing the OSE model so needed
    at this time in history. I have attended a few Tuesday evening meetings
    although any late evening meetings pose a challenge for me. The OSE
    gatherings appear to be focused on reports from various groups around
    the country. I’m wondering if there might be a way to coordinate efforts
    with other groups such as the Pachamama Alliance or Joanna Macy’s Active
    Hope both of which are exploring spirituality in the context of activism?
    I’ve found community connections in both of these places. Also, heard
    Jim Roberts presentation on the Creation in Crisis zoom meeting yesterday
    and came away inspired by the personal stories he shared which illustrated
    a commitment to an activism infused with joy. I would love to hear more personal
    stories with opportunities for shared practices. Pat McCabe, a Navajo elder, spoke
    at the Pachamama Alliance zoom gathering this week on how spiritual practices
    allow us to live in the moment, listening for Spirit. And, thank you Matthew
    for introducing me to the angels who are just waiting to be invited in to help us
    in our evolutionary journey at this critical time in history.

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    Matthew, I’m glad in today’s DM you reminded us of the Order of the Sacred Earth and it’s urgent importance as an existential human movement. I must confess that when I bought the book a few years ago (published in 2018), I didn’t finish it and it got lost in my bookshelf. In the last few months with the help of Michael Dowd and his website, / Conversations, I have become more consciously aware (and saddened in my grief process) with others of the existential severity of our climate/environmental catastrophe and the imminent collapse of our patriarchal global industrial ‘civilization.’ Besides finishing the book and sharing this DM with my network of internet spiritual friends, I’ll see if there is enough interest to form a local support group of the Order of the Sacred Earth. I think our survival as a human species around the world in the near future is going to depend on the formation of compassionate spiritual groups in small communities helping and supporting one another, not only physically surviving, but spiritually connected to Sacred Mother Nature/Earth….

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    I agree with Linda’s comment, that there are many people following the Spirit of the Sacred Order, in their own ways. We gather with a small circle during the Equinoxes and Solstices, along with other cyclic Moon Times, to align with and honor the Sacred Mother Earth. It’s an ecumenical circle, as people walk in a variety of spiritual paths. Several of these people also walk this out in their lives, through supporting and participating in other Environmental Conservation circles. Another teaches in newly created Forest Schools, connecting children with creation, teaching them through nature. Another is an artist, whom awakens people to their sacred relationship with our Earth Mother, helping others understand in an experiential way, their connection and alignment with the elements. Others participate in creating community gardens, including those whom are impoverished in the process. All are quietly living out their commitment and walking out their vow to our Mother Earth in their own personal ways. We aught not to underestimate these small seeds of change being cast out upon the soil of the womb of our Mother Earth, nor the ones that fall into the hearts, minds and souls of others; which carry within them the potential to take root, unfold, evolve and emerge within the collective consciousness of humanity. All of these small acts matter, in ways we may not see, in our turning towards a pathway of balance and harmony and the beauty of this.

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    Absolutely agree that we need new forms of spirituality. As Matthew points out, religion is slow to move or turn, and that is true of all institutions, including government. Sociology 101 teaches that any institution/bureaucracy ends up having the goal of maintaining itself. Where religion should be the leader, it often becomes a deterrent to progress of all kinds. My local Presbyterian church has long had solar panels and has divested from fossil fuels, but attempts to convince the National Assembly that complete divestment is absolutely essential has fallen on deaf ears–instead, a case by case process is recommended. But too late is just around the corner, if it has not already happened. Yet, as others have pointed out, there are small groups and local efforts to preserve our precious earth.

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    Yes, we do not a renewed spiritual reflection that does not just include the Mother Earth but also alien intelligences and the cosmos. Personally, I have found The Aetherius Society to be both revealing and insightful in this regard.

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    Thanks for today’s post on the Order of the Sacred Earth. I got on the mailing list and ordered the book. I look forward to further engagement.

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    I found that I am born of the Mother Earth, She is the Daughter of this, the Most Holy Living Universe ♥️ I am interested in the Order of Spiritual ? Earth. It would be healthy to explore an expression of expanding this beautiful vision ? Ken Keefner, OFS

  13. Avatar

    I too agree we need a new form of spirituality and that may of us have been practicing a form of the order of the sacred earth. and when I shared this post with my circle many wanted to officially join the order. So can we have an official order?

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