What is Ancestral Time? Returning to One’s Destiny

We were on a bus, travelling to a meeting about European sacred natural sites being held by the IUCN in Sami territory in Finland. Seated beside me was Thymio Papayannis, the co-founder of WWF Greece who is also closely involved with nature conservation with the Orthodox monastic communities on Mount Athos. The two of us were discussing the physicists’ notion of “deep time” and its root in the work of the 18th century Edinburgh thinker, James Hutton. In discussing the age of the Earth this Father of Modern Geology had written: “We find no vestige of a beginning, no prospect of an end.” In addition, as somebody who had defended his PhD at Leiden on the circulation of the blood, he sowed the seed of what Lovelock would much later call the Gaia theory. Our planet, the geologist concluded, is “not just a machine but also an organised body as it has a regenerative power.”[1]

Thymio rested his hand on my arm to emphasise his point in seeking to bridge the physical with the metaphysical. “You see,” he said, in a tone that expressed a memorable sense of urgency. “The Holy Spirit is diachronic.”

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