A rather common response I get when discussing nature-centred traditions is that ‘We should not worship creation but the Creator’. It always fascinates me when people speak with such conviction as though there is a perceived acceptable way to worship God. If this is the case I’m very curious to know who sets this criteria?
What is most interesting is that the people who automatically regurgitate this statement are usually those who have no qualms with people worshipping in a Church, Temple, Mosque, Synagogue or any other man-man building deemed as sacred. Yet will have a strong opinion about reverencing nature as a means to communicate with God. What is it about revering nature that makes people so upset?
To date I have not heard one good reason for the negativity towards nature reverence. Just programmed responses from their holy book of choice. The influence of mainstream religious teachings has people thinking outside of their own intuition and ignoring and condemning ideas and philosophies that were once the norm.
Across the various traditional African spiritual traditions the Creator is seen as the Supreme force that permeates all life. You will find this understanding across the continent including the Zulu’s of South Africa and their belief in Unkulunkulu, Mukuru of the Himba’s (Namibia) and Olodumare of the Yoruba’s (Nigeria). In these philosophies ‘God’ aka the Supreme force manifests itself in all life including celestial bodies, the elements, nature and ourselves as human beings, therefore in this worldview we are not separate from this essence but interconnected and everything within creation are all manifestations of the Supreme force i.e. God. This point of view is profoundly expressed in the Akan proverb ‘If you want to speak to God, tell it to the wind.’ (The Akan ethnic group of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire).
So when people are giving reverence to nature they are acknowledging the life force that exists with in it, these properties have the capability to nourish and sustain life. Nature, just like a mother to a child, provides the ability to live. For example the sun enables life to grow, the plants provide foods and medicines, the rivers and lakes offer water to drink. All of these elements are vital to our existence and our bodily make up. With this is mind why is revering nature such a problem? What better way to thank God than by acknowledging and giving gratitude for the life giving properties all around us?
These philosophies led to ecological based societies that put an emphasis on living harmoniously with one’s environment.
In today’s society our misunderstanding of the true nature of the Creator and its manifestation via nature has left us in a dire situation with issues such as global warming, excessive use of natural resources, pollution of our lands, waters and air. These issues are a direct result of no longer acknowledging the Creator through the lens of our ancestors and living by the philosophies of indigenous people.
So for those with the oft response ‘do not worship creation but the Creator’, perhaps its time for a re-education by examining the philosophies of the ancient that sustained vast empires and civilisations without the corresponding negative consequences as we have today and they will be pleasantly surprised by the amount of wisdom contained within them.