The Mystery of Home

One of the key questions that we pose during the Cancerian phase of the Alchemical Journey is “what does home mean to you?”. What emerges from our enquiries continually is that home is a place of peace or solace, connection, effortless joy, love, warmth, a place to return to, a place that sustains and nourishes us; time and again, the answers seemed to echo each other. Invariably, home is re-called by participants as an experience of being ‘at home’, surrounded by the natural beauty of the world around them, a return to a temporarily lost connection to the natural world and the divinity implicit within it.

The Greeks have a term oikos, which I find particularly helpful as I ponder this same question myself. It is from oikos that we derive our root term ‘eco’, and it is translated as meaning ‘home’. It is a richly conceived term though. While it can refer to a human experience of home as the place where you live, or originate from, it can also be a temple, or an astrological ‘house’.[1] It embraces not only a place, but also an experiential desire or search for home, which incorporates the building and caretaking of temples and precincts, wherein the gods may be accommodated, and wherein both human and divine may dwell together. Our modern term ‘ecology’, coined by the naturalist Ernst Hackel in 1869 to describe the relationships between plants, animals and the environment, thus suddenly seems to carry a more profound, mysterious connotation. It embodies a spiritual longing for return, a desire to reconnect to one’s home, to one’s roots.

Few things are more important to us in life than finding a home, and we may spend much of our lives searching for that experience. Thomas Moore speaks of the experience of enchantment, “thick in the air”, when we experience, albeit momentarily, this oikos, and how we are “haunted by its elusiveness”, when we lack it. Martin Heidegger describes the experience of being ‘at home’, as an experience of authenticity, something the human beings tends to encounter only as rare, but profoundly enlightened moments. For Heidegger, these moments exist among a vast sea of inauthentic experience when we feel cast adrift from the experience of being at home. Maurice Merleau-Ponty talks of moments when the distinction between subject and object temporarily dissolves in our perception and we recognise that we are genuinely connected to that which we perceive in a way that no longer renders us separate from it. Such realisations are momentary, and seem to exist outside of the delineation of normal time and space. Or practice of making a home for the soul, then, is one of creating a temple that can accommodate the possibility of such momentary exaltation.

So home must be something more than just shelter. It must embody a sense of belonging, a sense of being in the right place with the right people around, in the right kind of environment, engaged in activities that feel right and that allow the soul to penetrate our experience. For Thomas Moore, ecology is the ‘mystery of home’, a mystery that can embrace more than just the place where we live, for our sense of home can even extend to include even the planet itself as our home; enough that it might inspire us to act to protect and take responsibility for it.
[1] Moore, The Re-Enchantment of Everday Life, p. 41-2

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