One cannot travel through Zion’s National Park without the sense that one has entered another world—a world far more ancient than this one, of peace and majesty—where beings dwell in the cliff tops and little creatures scurry through the grass in the canyons along the streams that only run in the spring through the ravines. The rock cliffs, a thousand feet high, speak a language long forgotten from a time when those who lived before us were not us—were not the human race—but were instead magical beings perhaps of a human form, perhaps not, but certainly not of a consciousness that we would recognize as human.
Wiser than us they were, and more akin to the spirits of nature. And holding all this universe in the palm of her hand was the great being who created the stars and the worlds—the endless universes of myth and magic that exist still today—though we have lost touch with them—enclosed in our tiny circumference of human thought, imagining that only we are the pinnacle of creation, as an ant surveying his anthill might imagine himself to be the king of eternity, were it not for the fact that ants are so much wiser than we are and so much less subject to self-delusion.
The ancient rock cliffs towering red, brown, and white are shaped like the cities of fairies or the domains of angels. Up and up they go on their jagged climb, reaching from world to world, and that world only is the true world, within which lies the essence of existence, the eternal soul that lives within all things—the same soul in the white petals of the morning primrose and in the echoing call of the red-tailed hawk—the same soul—the soul that travels in the wind through the branches of the tall pine, and along the sun-sparkled pebbles in the creeks.
The world that has grown up around us is a poor reflection of that divine being—a dump heap of cacophony and chaos, bereft of consciousness, a battlefield of wars and conflict—within the mind and across the planet, which is now strewn with a toxic spell that encompasses all of physical existence, enshrouding the thoughts in turmoil. In the words of Shakespeare,
“To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death.
Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
And yet off-stage, beyond the theatre of the modern world, are the unfathomable mists of timeless being—the tales and the worlds long forgotten, which are the only true worlds, the only true levels of being—dwelling now perhaps only on the highest cliffs, the furthest outposts of the natural world still left on the planet.
As Lord Shiva, known as the cosmic dancer, Nataraja, dances his dance of the end, the Tandava, there is once again a churning of the seas, as before, so long ago, when the gods and other beings took part in this pivotal event. And so, one may see again the tumult of the seas, the volcanoes spewing fires to the four directions, the mountains falling into the sea, the stars slipping from their places, and many upheavals, as the seas are churned.
After Shiva’s dance, there will be a great stillness, a new sun and a new moon—or perhaps a return from ancient times of the oldest sun and moon, the parents of existence. In any case, out of the mists that gather in the mountain valleys where snows, and flowers, and new ages are born, there will arise again the peace of all the ages—the return of the eternity of beauty and grace, where the rock cliffs of Zion’s—and all the rock cliffs of the mountains of the world will be born anew into the world of all beginnings, that is their ancient home.
The great gold moon hangs in the sky, standing beyond all the worlds.
Photos: Sharon St Joan