We live in a sentient Cosmos. That is the premise of much of the Seasonal ceremonial celebration as it is done in the PaGaian tradition, the ceremonial marking of Her creative cycle: that is, with the understanding that ceremony is a conversation, a relationship with One who hears, as we listen also. This Cosmos is One who hears, who is the Great Receiver: we can count on that.
The dictionary definition of sentience is: “intelligence”, “feeling”, “the readiness to receive sensation, idea or image; unstructured available consciousness”, “a state of elementary or undifferentiated consciousness”[i].
This is particularly relevant to the PaGaian understanding of the Lammas/Late Summer Moment, which is the year’s quintessential celebration of the Old Dark One/Crone, a welcoming of Her phase in the creative cycle after the peaking of the light. The Old Dark One is the aspect who returns us to this sentience, to the Great Subject out of whom we arise. We are subjects within the Great Subject, the sentient Universe; we are not a collection of objects, as geologian Thomas Berry has noted. This sentience within, this readiness-to-receive, is a dark space, as all places of ending and beginning are. Mystics of all religious traditions have understood the quintessential darkness of the divinity, known often as the Abyss or Sea of Darkness. Goddesses such as Nammu and Tiamat and Kali are the anthropomorphic forms of this Abyss/Sea of Darkness that existed before creation. She is really, the Matrix of the Universe. This Sentience, as it may be written with the capital, is ever present and dynamic.
It could be understood as the dark matter that is now recognized to form most of the Universe. In PaGaian Lammas ceremony this quality is recognized in the metaphor of Her “Cauldron of Creativity”. Her Cauldron of Creativity is the constant flux of all form in the Universe – all matter is constantly transforming. We are constantly transforming on every level. We are constantly being received in every way. This is both our joy and our sorrow: we may enjoy Her embrace and reception, and it also may be devastating, to be consumed, and returned to this great sea of “undifferentiated or elementary consciousness”.
Yet this is what we are part of. Cosmologist Brian Swimme has described the base of being as the “all-nourishing abyss”[ii], recognizing both qualities: that of generative potentiality and also that of infinite absorption. Brian Swimme describes this all-nourishing abyss in which we are, as a power: out of which particles spontaneously emerge and into which they are absorbed, not just 13.7 billion years ago, but in every moment. We may image/imagine this power as the Great Receiver, the Old Compassionate One, complete forgiveness, Transformer, Depth of Love.
In PaGaian Lammas ceremony, it is said, after the dedication of each one’s bread figures to Her dissolution (by the celebrant in the guise of the Old Dark One):
I am Love, I am the All-Nourishing Abyss. All manifestation springs from me – you have given yourself back. You will reap the harvest, you will proceed in joy and abundance … for this is the Mystery.[iii]
“Love and Dark” may be the blessing transmitted and received, and it is not an ascent to higher realms: it is a sentience we are immersed in, an osmosis we may open to.
Livingstone, Glenys. PaGaian Cosmology: Re-inventing Earth-based Goddess Religion. NE: iUniverse, 2005.
Swimme, Brian. The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos. New York: Orbis, 1996.
Webster’s Third International Dictionary of the English Language Unabridged. Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1986.
[i]Webster’s Third International Dictionary of the English Language.
[ii]The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos, p.100.