A friend was out in the woods recently, talking to trees; some more than others. A Douglas Fir in particular seemed to be a great one to interact with. And she ‘heard’ words come back. The message was to head back after eight days alone in a rainy Northwest forest. This turned out to be for a very good reason; her horse was about to be put down due to injury and old age. She arrived with minutes to spare to say her goodbyes after over twelve years together.

‘Doug Fir’, as she identified the tree that warned her, rose to prominence during her forest quest to re-kindle faith. As a child, she also talked to trees while playing, and to Jesus while praying. Somehow both were part of a magical world where she experienced answers to her prayers. Grown up and educated as a scientist, she later stopped believing in Christianity, or rather, she started believing Christianity is a mythology, a man-made story system. The heart-felt magical belief faded with childhood. This particular week in the woods, however, she missed it and wanted to rekindle her faith. Not having Jesus available, she fell back on the wonderful trees. I won’t recount the entire adventure here, other than to say she did find answers to words directed at the universe. The connection point was Doug fir.

Listening to her retell the story, I was struck by how humans of faith seem to need to talk to something. Even religions that appear very introspective and seek to evade the mundane through inward meditation nevertheless have statues of their prophets and gods. We can all visualize the laughing Buddha, or the Virgin Mary, Thor and Zeus. In popular mythologies, citizens talk to superheroes. Jews and Muslims denounce graven images, yet there always seems to be some object, some connection point – like the Wailing Wall or Mecca – that is special, sacred. Humans, it seems, can’t connect to God without directing their prayers towards something tangible.

In the case of our Northwest forest sprite, the connection artifact came into focus after she re-started her journey towards faith. In other words, desire for connection comes before the connection point is identified. Abraham saw his burning bush as he sought after God. This may explain the localization of connection points, like the ‘Virgin of Lourdes’, or the sacred nature of Medina. Some confuse the connection artifact with the connection, as if the locale is the catalyst. In fact, pilgrimages to holy sites are not required.

If the various mythologies around the world that function for their believers as religions are in fact created by peoples over time, it is reasonable to assume that connection points can be created and conjured, much like our forest pilgrim transformed the tree in front of her. With eyes of faith, she turned an ordinary tree into a sacred intermediary point. You see, she has been well versed in the principles of community mythology and knows there is no religion apart of story. Having moved away from the exclusive God of Christians after much thought and soul searching, she was not about to conflate the artifact with the faith. It’s quite remarkable that despite the knowledge that her prior faith was connected to a concocted mythology, she was still able to find faith again. This time, the faith artifact was also conjured by a human (quite opportunistically). In a way, the Doug fir is a ‘found’ connection point.

Listening to her speak, it was clear that the Douglas fir had been elevated into something more than a tree. It became a spiritual entity by virtue of its function as a connection point of faith. This transmutation is to be expected when the mythical imagination is in play. It is an important mental shift because it points the way forward on the dynamics of faith and myth. One of the concerns I have had was whether someone who knowingly creates a mythology can participate in it as effectively as one who has it handed down. Her experience suggests that this can be the case.

It is one thing to believe in Jesus because that is the truth as told to you by parents. It’s quite another to believe in a tree that you’ve just elevated to a connection point with God! Yet for her it worked, and this is a great lesson for us. Apparently, you can pick your connection point and activate it yourself through the mythic imagination, and it can be effective for faith.

The dynamics of myth become the dynamics of faith when you express your thirst for connection with God or the universe through a found connection point. This makes faith much more portable and malleable. Artifacts and their location shouldn’t define your faith. Rather, your mythic imagination identifies and defines the artifacts you’ll need to light that fire of faith. These become portals to the world beyond, and they are at your disposal, regardless of how you feel about traditional religion.

 

— Roy Zuniga
Kirkland, Dec. 2015