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Future Sacred

The Connected Creativity of Nature

Published by Park Street Press
Distributed by Simon & Schuster

About The Book

Reveals how our survival depends on embracing complexity consciousness and relating to nature and all life as sacred

• Rejects the “survival of the fittest” narrative in favor of sacred symbiosis, creative cooperation, interdependence and complex thinking

• Provides examples from complexity studies, cultural history, philosophy, indigenous spirituality, biomimicry, and ecology to show how nature’s intelligence and creativity abound everywhere

• Documents how indigenous cultures lived in relative harmony with nature because they perceived themselves as part of the “ordered whole” of all life

In Future Sacred, Julie J. Morley offers a new perspective on the human connection to the cosmos by unveiling the connected creativity and sacred intelligence of nature. She rejects the “survival of the fittest” narrative--the idea that survival requires strife--and offers symbiosis and cooperation as nature’s path forward. She shows how an increasingly complex world demands increasingly complex consciousness. Our survival depends upon embracing “complexity consciousness,” understanding ourselves as part of nature, as well as relating to nature as sacred.

Morley begins by documenting how indigenous cultures lived in relative harmony with nature because they perceived themselves as part of the “ordered whole” of all life--until modernity introduced dualistic thinking, thus separating mind from matter, and humans from nature. The author deconstructs the fallacy behind social and neo-Darwinism and the materialist theories of “dead matter” versus those that offer a connection with the sentient mind of nature. She presents evidence from complexity studies, cultural history, philosophy, indigenous spirituality, biomimicry, and ecology, highlighting the idea that nature’s intelligence and creativity abound everywhere--from cells to cetaceans, from hydrogen to humans, from sunflowers to solar panels--and that all sentient beings contribute to the evolution of life as a whole, working together in sacred symbiosis.

Morley concludes that our sacred future depends on compassionately understanding and integrating multiple intelligences, seeing relationships and interdependence as fundamental and sacred, as well as honoring the experiences of all sentient beings. Instead of “mastery over nature,” we must shift toward synergy with nature--and with each other as diverse expressions of nature’s creativity.


Chapter 6

Symbiosis: Sacred Offerings

In The Old Way: A Story of the First People, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas describes the gift culture of the Ju/Wasi people inhabiting the Kalahari desert. She describes their concept and practice of xaro, “almost every object was subject to xaro, received as a gift from someone else, to be given as a gift to another person later.” Xaro has to be authentic. For example: “A return gift made too soon would seem like a trade, not like a gift made from the heart, and thus would not strengthen the social bond, which was its purpose.” In other words, the social bonds formed by xaro grew from an authentic desire to be tied together, and benefit to one was seen as benefit to another. “In a social fabric as tight and thick as that of the Ju/Wasi, what happens to one happens to all.”

Western modernity inverted this idea that we exist, first and foremost, as intersubjective social beings. Cartesian solipsism and dualism led to the creation of the infamous subject-object split, which neo-Darwinism and positivism later solidified. In modernity, the individual took on the role of the primary agent in nature and viewed relationships and collectives as secondary. When the primacy of individuality rules, we block out the power of intersubjectivity. Celebrating individuality at the expense of “interbeing” (as Buddhist teacher Thich Nat Han called it) leads to social systems dominated by a few powerful individuals and to the ideology of “trickle-down economics.”

By contrast, in indigenous gift-sharing and kinship societies, individuals do not “win” at the expense of society but rather consider society’s win as theirs. Futurist Riane Eisler referred to this as “linking rather than ranking,” typical of the partnership paradigm, and the antithesis to the dominator paradigm. “Empowerment of self and others” characterizes the partnership model.

We don’t just have gifts to offer; we are gifts--intrinsically so. Rather than solely judging our worth on what we can offer materially, or how well we play ideological games, we should nurture the entelechy within each being.

Instead of funneling humans into categories, or treating us as cogs in the ever-growing mechanism of industrialism and capitalism, we would do better to begin by assuming that all beings possess intrinsic purpose, on offer to the whole. As author Jean Houston once described entelechy: “We are all loaded and encoded with a dynamic purpose, a special gift and ability that comes naturally to us--so naturally that we may even take it for granted and not recognize it as our innate, great purpose.” Nature’s genius takes place all around us--an acorn has within it an oak--and nature’s genius takes place within us as well.

In an open, healthy system, energy flows where it needs to go through the guidance of appropriate structures. This applies to organisms on every scale. Flow promotes well-being. For instance, most disease results from over-accumulation of materials in certain systems of the body that lead to blockage or abnormal growth. Disease arises from repeated imbalance that leads to a restriction of natural flow. When normally beneficial processes either speed up or slow down, unable to circulate throughout the body at a normal rate and appropriate time, illness follows. What began as a beneficial process turns into an unnatural blockage. Excess private accumulation of resources can be thought of as a societal disease that clogs the system, creating gluts and deficiencies.

The true gift circulates through the system as a common benefit. In Silent Theft, David Bollier says: “once a gift is treated as ‘property,’ once it can be exclusively owned and withheld from the community--its power as a gift begins to wane.” Withholding the gift of self diminishes our power. This reminds me of Thomas Berry’s “broken conversation.” When human conversations dominate our awareness, we can no longer contribute to the whole of sentient life. Consumed with private accumulation, we no longer serve the wider collective. Just as our offering to the whole of life preserves our life, offerings to the collective preserve our self. Our future, then, depends on resuming the flow of “the gift,” offering the self and contributing to the “great conversation.”

Sociologist George Simmel once said: “Gratitude is the moral memory of mankind.” Sustainability activist Charles Eisenstein refers to this as the “gift mentality.” In The Ascent of Humanity he describes the “lonely, mercenary domain” of the founders of modernity: “To live in the gift reverses that process, undoing the bonds of the discrete and separate self and all that goes with it.” So if privatization and accumulation create imbalance and disease then a return to a gift mentality and sacred symbiosis can begin to reverse the process, restoring balance to the whole.

Physicist and environmentalist Fritjof Capra clarified the importance of symbiosis in our evolutionary destiny: “All larger organisms, including ourselves, are living testimonies to the fact that destructive practices do not work in the long run . . . Life is much less a competitive struggle for survival than a triumph of cooperation and creativity.” When atoms became molecules, which in turn formed cells, it happened by “organic choice.” As Stephen Harding points out: “Mitochondria teach us that independence is impossible.” Evolution happened when living organisms made the choice to cooperate. Without the wisdom of our mitochondrial ancestors, we would not have had the immense privilege of evolving into complex creatures like human beings. More than most other mammals, human infants depend on others from the moment we are born. Eisler notes: “humans are biologically equipped to derive enormous rewards of pleasure from caring connections, without which, because of our uniquely long childhoods, we cannot even survive.”

This drive to connect has forged our evolutionary path. The social evolution of human tribes, not to mention our species’ survival, depends on this ability to connect, to partner with, and to create for and with others. We receive so much from other beings every day, and we, too, have so much to offer in return.

About The Author

Julie J. Morley is a writer, environmental educator, and futurist, who writes and lectures on topics such as complexity, consciousness, and ecology. She earned her B.A. in Classics at the University of Southern California and her M.A. in Transformative Leadership at the California Institute of Integral Studies, where she is completing her doctorate on interspecies intersubjectivity. She lives in Sebastopol, California.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Park Street Press (February 12, 2019)
  • Length: 272 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781620557693

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Raves and Reviews

"In her deeply thoughtful and wonderful book, Morley presents an engaging argument for bringing the sacred into all our world-making endeavors. She invites us to re-awaken to our cosmic connectedness, re-enchant our present and future, and create possibility in the face of crisis. Timely and essential reading."

– Dr. Judith Orloff, New York Times best-selling author of Emotional Freedom

“. . . a glimpse into ‘nature’s enigmatic creativity’--the sacred dance of complexity that unfolds in the space between chaos and order--the mysterious home of the Trickster. Simultaneously erudite and enchanting--and fully consistent with both science and spirituality--Future Sacred welcomes us to break bread with Mother Earth and discover the sacred, joyful, indefinable magic at play just below the hard surface of everyday reality. A beautiful work that lifts the spirit and the mind into a place of wonder and possibility.”

– Tamsin Woolley-Barker, PhD, author of Teeming: How Superorganisms Work to Build Infinite Wealth in a

“At this teetering moment in the story of our species, when the fate of not just our kind but of so many other species hangs in the balance, we are massively in need of fresh ways of thinking attuned to the more-than-human matrix that holds, enables, and secretly nourishes all of our human cogitations. Future Sacred could not be timelier--its themes are crucial to the very prospect of a livable future.”

– David Abram, PhD, author of The Spell of the Sensuous and Becoming Animal and founder of Alliance fo

“In her deeply thoughtful and wonderful book, Morley presents an engaging argument for bringing the sacred into all our world-making endeavors. She invites us to reawaken to our cosmic connectedness, reenchant our present and future, and create possibility in the face of crisis. Timely and essential reading.”

– Dr. Judith Orloff, New York Times bestselling author of Emotional Freedom

“A richly textured cornucopia of wisdom and facts for the 21st century. Such a vibrant mixture of poetic expression and objects of fascination is rare indeed. Read and enjoy this wonderful book!”

– Allan Combs, PhD, director of the Center for Consciousness Studies at the California Institute of In

“. . . a richly textured investigation into where we have been, where we are going, and how and why we need to transform our society right now. Morley dives deeply into examining how unity, compassion, and collaborative creativity can reinvent our vision of the future. Exploring diverse methods grounded in complexity theory and systems thinking, Morley makes the case for a necessary healing of our planetary relationships. A wonderful contribution filled with deep theoretical reflection and challenging inquiry, Future Sacred presents an engaging look at the original ideas shaping the new paradigm.”

– Ronald Alexander, PhD, leadership consultant, psychotherapist, and author of Wise Mind, Open Mind

Future Sacred elegantly weaves many different threads of indigenous wisdom, philosophy, and science into a new and ancient fabric of meaning that reenchants the Earth and our co-creative role within her. This book reconnects us with the ‘radical enchantment of now,’ reminding us of our innate kinship with life as a planetary process and of our co-creative agency and hence responsibility for the future of life. At this time of planetary peril, Morley issues a call for embodying our sacred interbeing in all we do, so that we may heal ourselves in intimate relationship with a living planet, individually and collectively living into the future sacred now--today--through our thoughts, words, and actions.”

– Daniel Christian Wahl, author of Designing Regenerative Cultures

Future Sacred urges us into a new story--a story of synergy and partnership with the cosmos. Morley’s wisdom compels us to respect the intrinsic sacred sentience that underlies the interrelatedness in the web of life. This work of integrity recognizes that no true separation exists between human and planetary problems. Thanks to Julie J. Morley we are compelled to embrace sacred communion. This work requires our deepest attention.”

– Kingsley Dennis, PhD, coauthor of Dawn of the Akashic Age: New Consciousness, Quantum Resonance, and

“Julie Morley draws on an impressive array of sources--ancient and modern, indigenous and Western--to support a proposal that is as simple as it is profound: if we are to move toward a sacred future we must learn to live on nature’s terms, with partnership rather than domination, synergy instead of mastery. She is so right to tell us that in the present planetary catastrophe we cannot afford not to act, but we can less afford to act without these deeper insights.”

– Peter Reason, professor emeritus, University of Bath, and author of Spindrift and In Search of Grace

“Anyone concerned about the current environmental crisis needs to read Future Sacred. Inspired by indigenous wisdom and modern science, Morley combines her deep love and respect for nature with wide-ranging insights from biology, ecology, and complexity science. The result: an inspired and informed account of the intimate relationship between humanity and the rest of the natural world. The survival of our species may well depend on implementing the wisdom contained in these pages.”

– Christian de Quincey, PhD, author of Radical Nature and BlindSpots

“One thing is certain: our future is uncertain. Looking at the state of the planet today, it is hard to imagine how humanity can avoid the looming ecological catastrophe. But with enough wisdom and inspired action, we can pull through. Julie Morley’s message is clear: ‘We need to think differently about how we think and act.’ Her book Future Sacred, a manifesto for the future, shows us all the way forward.”

– Brian Thomas Swimme, PhD, professor of evolutionary cosmology at the California Institute of Integra

"... Morely’s work is important because of its unique spiritual approach to addressing political and ecological problems. Morely argues correctly that our ecological crisis emerges from a global crisis of spirituality."

– San Francisco Book Review

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