Does a water molecule have a soul? What about a glass of water? Does a river have one too? Are they the same soul or different souls?
P.S. I suppose you were hoping for more than that? Very well then. Here is a story.
Two years ago, I danced my first fire dance, a 3-day transformative shamanic ceremony. My first night, I was angry because I had carried myself into the dance's ceremonial arbor with me, dammit.
So instead of having the beautiful, feather-light spiritual experience I had imagined, all communion with divinity and visions of glory, I was sitting there with all my old bullshit, and nothing to distract me from it.
And the biggest piece of bullshit I had carried in with myself was my anger over the patriarchy and all my resentment over the male-image "God" I'd grown up with.
I was pissed because the Spirit Fire, which is the central fire in the dance and representative of connection with God (Great Spirit, the Divine, whatever you call it), was tended by a man.
And I did not want MEN in my spiritual space messing with my spiritual juju, goddammittttt.
So I'm sitting there in my bullshit and wondering what the hell I have got myself into, when I hear the voice of God.
She sounded like a really sexy female radio announcer. All sweet and low and purry and full of youthful vigor.
I mean, what the hell, God.
She goes, "You want me to be a woman."
And I'm like, "Well, yeah, but, uh.... Could you maybe be a bit older?"
And she says, "Sure," and now the vision becomes, well, visual as well. She's this beautiful old woman in a rocking chair, gray-haired, wrinkled, and her voice is crackly and deep. I love her.
She goes, "Oh, hey, would you like it even better if I were Black?"
And I'm like, "Oh, yes, please!"
And so now she is.
She's knitting something. There's a ball of yarn beside her and a basket holding the tail end of the thing she's knitting.
I say, "Oh, God, are you knitting the world?"
She holds it up a little ways, and it's this long narrow thing, all a sort of soft pink, and she says, "Oh, no, should I be? It's just a scarf."
I bust out laughing. In the vision and in my body, in my space in the arbor, for all the world to hear, laughter.
Because I get it. I see. She's saying that she can be whatever I want her to be, if it makes me happy to imagine her that way.
"Okay," I say. "I get it. Thank you. But, God, what are you REALLY?"
And she says, "Do you really want to know?"
And I say, "Yes, please."
And she says, "Then dance."
And at the exact moment that she says the word, "dance," the drum sounds for the next round of dancing.
There are not a lot of rules for the dancers in the fire dance, but one of the rules is that when the drum sounds, you dance. Whatever "dancing" means to you.
So I get up and step to the edge of my space, ready to enter the arbor and dance.
At the center of the arbor is a tree. It's called the prayer tree and at the start of the dance, all the dancers hang prayer ties from it, which are, at the end of the dance, thrown into the Spirit Fire.
As you may know, other than God Godself, the trees were the first nonhuman beings to break through my resistance and communicate with me directly. I had long been in the habit, by the time I danced, of greeting the trees in any area I entered and inquiring whether any of them wanted to communicate with me.
So, when I had entered the arbor at the start of the dance, I had gone immediately to this tree and introduced myself. When I lay hands on a tree, I am often able to sense the energy flowing through it. So I expected to feel some energy from this tree when I met it.
I had not expected quite what I had gotten. This tree was LIT UP. From the tips of its roots to the tips of its leaves, pure bright electric energy. It was like touching lightning. WHEW.
Now. Here I am, and God has just offered to teach me what God is. The drums have sounded. I am poised at the edge of my space, ready to dance.
And when the dance round begins, I feel called to the prayer tree.
I take slow, steady steps, in time with the beating of the drums.
And when I get to the tree, and place my hands on it, God shows up.
How do you describe this? The moment when you are in the presence of God? How do you explain how it's different from simple communication? Does the word "communion" do it? Not really. It's just... you're THERE. And God is THERE. Words don't work.
God says, "I am your prayers."
So, listen. I KNEW what this meant, in that moment. I FELT it. It was DEEP and it was THOROUGH. But WORDS–words fall short of truth. The deepest truths don't fit inside them.
So, the words are an approximation. Like a bad Google translation, but you kind of get the sense of it, right?
In that same moment, here is some of what I knew, that doesn't quite fit in the words:
God did not mean just MY personal prayers. God meant also the prayers of the other dancers, the prayers of all other humans, the prayers of all the creatures, the dogs and cats and squirrels and mice, the pill bugs and beetles and worms, and every microbe in the soil and the bacteria in the air... ALL OF IT.
And God did not mean "prayers" in any traditional human sense. God meant that everything we do, every thought we have, every word we speak–all of it–those are our prayers.
And what God was saying was that together we create our existence, together our consciousness is everything, and that everything is God. God was saying to be mindful what we focus on, what we pray for. God was also saying that our prayers are sacred. That our beingness is sacred.
God was saying that we are ALL God, individually, separately, and together. And so, when you ask me, does a molecule of water have consciousness, I say yes. Does the glass of water also have consciousness: Yes. The river? Yes.
And, likewise, each molecule in my body; each cell; each clump of tissue; each organ; each system of organs; my body itself; my family; the collection of humans as a species; all the beings on earth; Earth herself; the solar system; the galaxy; the universe.
Each of us has a direct consciousness that is the consciousness of one tiny piece of the total universal soul.
Consciousness is fractal. Infinite. Limited and unlimited. See? Words fail.
Our direct consciousness, the thing we think of as "me," is limited so that we may fully experience what it is to be what we are in this moment. But we can, if we want to, also access other pieces of our collective consciousness at will, if we understand how to do it.
I believe when we talk of "God," what we're really talking about is the ultimate collective consciousness, and that feeling of connection with the "divine" that we get when we pray or meditate. When we feel that golden flowing light in our crown chakra (or however we experience it), what we are experiencing is direct connection with the ultimate collective consciousness.
Likewise, we can connect laterally with other "pieces"–a river, a tree, a molecule...
Most shamanic traditions teach specific practices and tools for making those connections, but anyone can do it simply by believing and paying attention and getting quiet enough to start hearing the communications of others.
So. My friends.
Does a molecule of water have consciousness?
And therein, in that one-word answer, lies all the fractally folded and refolded answers to life, the universe, and everything.
Fen Druadìn (they/them) is anamchara, storyteller, dragon, student of trees, and a breaker of generational curses.
Fen's mission here is to love and remember themself completely, connect deeply with the world, and help others do the same for themselves.
Fen connects deeply with the universe through their relationship with a sacred land in the Appalachians of North Carolina, and shares messages here and elsewhere. When not in the woods, they can be found on Facebook and Patreon.
If you feel led and are able, you can support Fen's work in any of these ways:
You can also contribute to the work of reconnecting with yourself and the world in any or all of these ways:
Stand in front of a mirror, look in your eyes, and say, "I love you." Repeat daily for as long as it takes
Send your love to the trees and stones and water and Earth
Spend time in quiet meditation with a plant or stone person, and listen for messages
Clean up litter in your neighborhood and/or engage in other acts of environmental restoration
Build a personal relationship with the plants and animals in your area by spending time with them and listening for their messages and responding to their needs
Reconnect with your own strength and power and truth via meditative practice such as yoga, guided meditation, chanting, drumming, dance, or any other tool that feels right and helps you ground and connect
Engage in this community and/or other communities committed to re-establishing our right relationship with ourselves and the earth
Wherever you are, on your journey and in your life, may you be well, may you be at peace, and may you always find the next good step.