The Moon Walk, July 21 1969
Che fai tu, Terra, in ciel?
Dimmi, che fai, Silenziosa Terra?
What are you doing, Earth, in heaven?
Tell me, what are you doing, Silent Earth? – Giuseppe Ungaretti, Italian poet
The astronauts, having soared beyond thought into boundless space, circled many times the arid moon, and begun their long return: how welcome a sight, they said, was the beauty of their goal, this planet Earth, “like an oasis in the desert of infinite space!” Now there is a telling image: this Earth, the great oasis in all space, an extraordinary kind of sacred grove, as it were, set apart for the rituals of life; and not simply one part of this Earth, but the entire globe, a sanctuary, a set-apart Blessed Space. Moreover, we have all now seen for ourselves how very small and precious is our heaven-born Earth, and how perilous our position on the surface of its whirling, luminously beautiful orb.
Space and time, as Immanuel Kant recognized, are the antecedent of all experience and action whatsoever, implicitly known to our body and senses even before birth, as the field in which we are to function. They are not simply “out there,” as the planets are, to be learned analytically, through separate observations. We carry them within us, and so have already wrapped our minds around the universe. “The world,” wrote the poet Rilke, “is large, but in us it is as deep as the sea.”
We carry the laws of the universe within us and we are no less mysterious. In searching out its wonders, we are learning simultaneously the wonder of ourselves. And I do not mean this poetically, but factually, and historically. The visual broadcasting of the moon walk has transformed, deepened, and extended human consciousness to a degree and in a manner that amount to the opening of a new spiritual era.
What we know today, if we know anything at all, is that every individual is unique and that the laws of his life will not be those of any other on this Earth. We also know that if divinity is to be found anywhere, it will not be “out there,” among or beyond the planets. Furthermore, we know that the mathematics of those outermost spaces can be computed here on Earth. There are not laws out there that are not right here; no gods out there that are not right here. In other words, what has just now occurred is a transformation of the mythological field to that which is of a magnitude matched only by that of the Old Sumerian sky-watch in the fourth millennium B.C.E. And what is dissolving is the world not only of gods and men, but of the state as well. The laws of the Earth and or our own minds have been extended to incorporate what formerly were the ranges and the powers of the gods, now recognized as ourselves. Hence, the whole Monumental Order has been withdrawn from “out there,” to “in here.”
A new world age is projected, which is to be global, comparable in spirit to the spirit of old age in its disillusioned wisdom and concern for the physical body, concentrating rather on fulfillments in the present rather than the distant future. The residence of the spirits now is experienced in men, right here on Earth; the Earth and its population, which our astronauts beheld and photographed rising above the moon into Heaven. Heaven now is not “out there,” it is here.
Man is no longer a Heaven-sent stranger to this world. The truth of the matter is that we didn’t come into this world at all; we came out of it, just the same way a baby comes out of the womb or a leaf comes out of a tree…Just as Jesus said that one doesn’t gather figs from thistles or grapes from thorns, so also you don’t gather people from a world that isn’t peopling. We are a natural product of this Earth, that is to say, if we are intelligent beings, it must be that we are the fruits of an intelligent Earth, symptomatic of an intelligent energy system. In the past, the ancients called this energy by many names: qi, shakti, holy spirit, asè.
We may think of ourselves then, as the functioning ears and eyes and mind of this Earth, our Mother. Our bodies are one with this Earth, this wonderful, “oasis in the desert of infinite space,” our mind, the Earth’s mind, the mind of the Universe. Man first responded, in his dismal cave, to the fascination of fire as the apparition of a power that was already present and operative within his own body: heat, temperature, oxidation; as also in the volcanic Earth and in Jupiter and the Sun. It is now time to put ourselves in accord with that energy, and with the natural order of Mother Earth.
We are, at this moment, participating in one of the greatest leaps of the human spirit, to a knowledge not only of nature but also of our own deep inward mystery, that has ever been taken, or that will ever be taken. The solar system and the atom, the two extremes of scientific exploration, recognized as identical, yet distinct! Analogous must be our own identity with the All, of which we are the ears and eyes and mind.
Science has not diminished man or divorced him from divinity. On the contrary, the scientific point of view, remarkably, rejoins us to the ancients, in that they too recognized the whole Universe as a reflection of our own most inward nature and the powers that govern all movement as magnified through the archetypes.
The poet and the mystic, and in many cases, the so-called primitive spiritual systems, regard the imagery of revelation as a symbol through which insight into the depths of being and the powers of the Universe are conveyed anagogically. Sectarian theologians on the other hand, hold hard to the literal readings of their narratives and their symbology as fact, and keep the world traditions apart. “God is our God and no one elses’ and the holy land is there and nowhere else, etc.” The three incarnations of Jesus Christ, Krishna and Shakyamuni, will not be the same, yet as symbols pointing not to themselves, or to each other, but to the lives beholding them, they are equivalent. One cannot behold a symbol and see it for what it is unless one is able to awaken, in one’s own being, the spiritual resonances which respond to the symbol, not only as the sign but as “sacrament” and “presence.” Mythologies then, are great poems pointing infallibly through ubiquity to a “presence,” a “power” or “eternity.” In this function, all mythologies are great poetries and all mystic traditions are in accord and where any such inspiriting vision remains effective in a civilization, every thing and every creature within its range is not only sacred, but alive.
Whereas theologians point invariably back to the past, and Utopians point to some promissory desired future, the spiritually awakened see God and Heaven in Every Thing they behold, right now and right here. The spiritually awakened in the past have known this; “The Kingdom of God is at hand and men do not see it.”
God (or the Gods) is an illegible sphere whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere.
We are the children of this beautiful planet, Earth, that we have only just lately seen for the first time, photographed from the moon. We were not delivered into it, but have come from it. And the Earth, together with its beloved Sun, this Light around which it flies like a moth, come forth, we are told, from nebula; and in turn, that nebula from space. So that we are the mind, ultimately, of space. No wonder, then, if its laws are our laws. Likewise, our depths are the depths of space, whence all those gods sprang forth from men’s minds in the past projected onto animals and plants, onto hills and streams, and the planets in their courses, all worthy of worship for the sheer miracle that they are.
We are indeed the Great Mystery’s eyes, its ears, its thinking, and its speech; and participants here and now in an act of creation that is continuous in the whole infinitude of that space and our mind through which the planets fly, and our fellows of the Earth and now among them. Our mythology now, therefore is to be of infinite space and its Light, which is without as well as within. The gods are in you and all around you. “Split a piece of wood, and I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me.” On our planet itself all dividing horizons have been shattered. We can no longer hold our loves at home and project our aggressions elsewhere; for on this spaceship Earth, there is no “elsewhere” any more. We are all brothers and sisters of this planet. We are all in this together. There are no “outsiders” any more. A mythology of shared experience meets the requirement of the hour.
The new mythology is, and forever will be, as long as our human race exists, the old, everlasting, perennial mythology, in its “subjective sense,” poetically renewed in the now: addressed, not to the flattery of “chosen peoples,” but to the waking of individuals in the knowledge of themselves, not simply as egos fighting for a place on the surface of this beautiful planet, but equally as centers of Mind at Large, each in his own way at one with All, and with no horizons.
~ Joseph Campbell ~