Alan Watts has a ‘godlike’ status for those of us who prefer spirituality to religion. He of course was the first to deny guru status for himself, but as a teacher he continues through his recordings to shed light on what is otherwise obscure and confused. One area in which he sheds illumination is on the spiritual significance of rocks. In the third of a sequence on the subject this month, I should like to quote a short passage from Watts.
“Where there are rocks, watch out! Watch out, because the rocks are going to eventually come alive and they are going to have people crawling over them. It is only matter of time, just in the same way the acorn is eventually going to turn into the oak because it has the potentiality of that within it. Rocks are not dead. You see, it depends on what kind of attitude you want to take to the world…
You cannot get an intelligent organism such as a human being out of an unintelligent universe. So in any lump of rock floating about in space, there is implicit human intelligence. Don’t differentiate yourself and standoff against this and say ‘I am a living organism in a world made of a lot of dead junk, rocks and stuff.’ It all goes together, those rocks are just as much you as your finger nails.”
~ Alan Watts
To get the full force of this, listen here to Watts himself explaining the living force of rocks. The ancients must have sensed this in choosing them as a focus for their worship, not only in Japan but throughout the world. Was there an unconscious realisation that life itself had emerged out of rock?
In the Shinto tradition kami descend to inhabit rocks. In other words, the rocks act as containers for the invisible and intangible spirits. This concept could be taken in modern terms to symbolise the way the rock of earth nurtured the lifeforce.
The notion of living rocks is a potent ancient mystery that modern Shinto has largely subjugated. In their place Meiji modernists have substituted ritual reverence for a divinely descended emperor. Those of us with inclusive inclinations look rather to the animist roots of the tradition, and in so doing we must reclaim the true spirit of rock – the kind of shrineless worship in the heart of nature. The kind of rock, in short, that really can ‘save your mortal soul’.
Where there are rocks, watch out!!