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EARTHWATCH

It Took Many Spirits to Make Up Halloween : Today, some thinkers are linking the ancient lore of the celebration to modern efforts to protect the planet.

October 27, 1994|RICHARD KAHLENBERG | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Judging from my in-box, it must be Halloween season, election time or both, if there is a difference.

I got to thinking about Halloween. These days you see pumpkins all over the place--acres and acres. Didn't Halloween used to be a harvest festival? Thanksgiving for Druids or some kind of earth festival?

Actually, it turns out to have been a pagan new year's day, plus ancestors' day. Many cultures, in fact, have chosen the end of October to celebrate the onset of winter. Halloween, is actually a sort of universal holiday that has historically been co-opted and sanctified by most religious groups.

Whether you are an ardent environmentalist or not, you're celebrating Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees, when you bob for apples at this time of year. When you traipse around the neighborhood with your trick-or-treating kids, you're following in the spiritual footsteps of ancient Celts who honored a god, Muck Olla in this same way. It caught on in this country when Irish and Scottish immigrants brought the custom with them. Country folks moved to the city and used it as a way to get acquainted with neighbors.

These ecumenical and neighborly feelings are of recent vintage, though. But some old tensions persist. Technically, were looking at a celebration--originally called All Hallow e'en--that falls on the eve of All Saints' Day, Nov. 1, which was placed at that time of year because the unchurched persisted in having their religious observances at the very end of October.

This melding of the pagan and the monotheistic still bothers some traditional Judeo-Christian communicants, who feel it smacks of sorcery and witchcraft.

Non-superstitious American thinkers have, nevertheless, been coming up with ideas that unite spiritual feelings, including planetary consciousness, with modern science. Pounding away on the part of their computer keyboard that has letters rather than numbers, some Nobel laureates, working-stiff physicists and an Anglican priest have produced some dazzling exercises in scientific speculation for us to contemplate this All Hallow e'en.

"The Physics of Immortality: Modern Cosmology, God and the Resurrection of the Dead," by F.J. Tipler from Doubleday; "Evidence of Purpose: Scientists Discover the Creator," an anthology published by Continuum; and "The Faith of a Physicist: Reflections of a Bottom-Up Thinker" by John Polkinghorne from Princeton University Press all look at old faiths in a new way.

For readers uncomfortable with the linking of science and religion--rather as paganism and monotheism have gotten together for this weekend's holiday--it might be helpful to reflect on an old saw from the world of science: "If a little science takes one away from God, a great deal of science brings one back to Him."

Taking all this a step beyond Halloween, there is even a new book out entitled "Spiritual Politics: Changing the World From the Inside Out," by Gordon Davidson and Corinne McLaughlin. It takes on some Big Questions we'll all be facing next week.

The day after the election the authors will be conducting a seminar in Ojai. Their theme is planetary stewardship, with lots of emphasis on the very earthy matter of business and the environment.

It seems as though the old Druid priests are back, trying to reconnect modern people to the earth using the ancient church's idea of making common cause with one another. Their goal is to approach the secular business and political community and raise their planetary consciousness.

Details

* FYI: For information on the Nov. 8 presentation by the authors of "Spiritual Politics: Changing the World From The Inside Out," Gordon Davidson and Corinne McLaughin, call The Meditation Group in Ojai 646-5508.

* READ: Copies of the book published by Ballantine Paperbacks at $12.95 are available at local bookstores.

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