The Church of the Living Tree

Do no harm.

     The Church of the Living Tree worships the Tree as the image of God.  We understand God as all of Life.  We do not postulate any role as the Creator of the Universe, nor do we concern ourselves with teleological questions - these matters being considered outside the scope of our knowledge or concern.  

     It is all Life which we worship as God (specifically, but not necessarily limited to, the entire field of life energy on Earth, including plants and animals as well as all human beings), and choose to represent it in the image of a Tree, not only to express our humility that there is more to God than man, but also to express our reverence for the role which the Tree has played during most of Life’s career, and its critical importance right now, and for the future of Life.  

     We regard Trees as primary and indispensable pillars of the life force on this planet, and any regard to the health of that life force must begin with the cultivation of Trees.  The loss of the Trees represents the greatest single mistake the human race has made in its entire history.  The burning off of millions of years’ worth of fossil fuels in the last century, for example, pales in comparison with the loss of the Trees.  For thousands of years the human race has asserted its dominance over the rest of life by destroying its environment, and, both directly and indirectly, killing off other species of plants and animals, not realizing that when all of the birds and fish and Trees are gone, the human race can not long survive.  The biological health of the planet has been declining so rapidly that nothing short of an immediate turn around in planetary consciousness can reverse the slide towards the extinction of life.  

     Our primate ancestors were vegetarian, living in Trees and eating fruits and nuts.  The change to a diet of animal flesh, and the resulting changes in lifestyle, have not only caused an increase in disease, a decline in general health, and an increase in aggressive behavior and warfare, but the destruction of the biological resources of life itself.  

     The pattern of destruction starts with cutting down the Trees, and then raising animals who graze away what’s left, keeping the land under constant biological stress until the last of the land’s life force is consumed.  Most of the topsoil the world over has now been lost, and the thin membrane of the biosphere which covers the globe is being stretched thinner every day.  The biological health of the planet is plunging rapidly towards the bleakness of toxic deserts, which will sooner or later become unable to support life.  

     Trees literally hold the Earth together, their roots extending sometimes hundreds of feet into the Earth’s crust, pulling up minerals, nutrients, and water from below, as well as sheltering the ground surface from above, so that animals and smaller plants and even people can develop a habitat supported by Trees.  It is not surprising to me that northern California, for example, is beginning to dry up; when the Trees are gone, the earth can no longer hold onto the water -- the winter rains simply erode the topsoil, and the springs dry up under the heat of the summer sun.  

     Therefore, the particular goal and purpose of the Church of the Living Tree is to defend and protect the Trees which still remain on this Earth, to plant more Trees by the millions of acres all over the Earth, and to evolve patterns of human lifestyles that will support Trees rather than exploit and destroy them.  

     Half of all trees harvested are chipped up for the pulp mills; half of all landfills are composed of paper products.  One of the first projects of the Church of the Living Tree will be to set up the Alternative Fiber Paper Mill to begin producing paper with no wood content at all, so that the trees that remain to us may be relieved of their greatest oppressor.  Timber companies want you to think that they are felling Trees to build houses and fine furniture, but the sad truth is that ever greater percentages of timber harvests are just being chipped up for the pulp mills so that our mailboxes can be stuffed full of junk mail.  A paper mill to a tree is like a glue factory to a horse.  

     Some plants can be cultivated for the fiber as a primary crop, as in fiber hemp, Cannabis sativa, and kenaf, Hibiscus cannabinus.  Both of these are fast growing annuals that produce enormous quantities of high quality fiber in a single season.  Other fiber may be recycled from agricultural by-products, such as rice straw, or from scraps from the garment industry, or rags and discards from other sources.  

     While the health of the Trees represents our primary concern, we understand the necessity of modifying human patterns of interaction with the Earth in order to evolve a sustainable lifestyle in which all forms of life can live in harmony.  Some evolutionary trends that we want to promote include voluntary simplicity leading to a low impact lifestyle, and local, decentralized political and economic communities which will manage their own affairs: services, schools, health care, social assistance, and environmental consciousness.  Simplicity should be the watchword of tax reform also: The entire whirlwind of tax lawyers, forms, loopholes, and endless paperwork for individuals and businesses should be replaced with a uniform land tax for revenue, supplemented by taxes on resource depletion for environmental control.  

     The problems of maintaining international peace and stability can never be resolved until some sort of international judicial body be established to arbitrate disputes and safeguard environmental integrity.  In order for this to be effective, it must be related to a holding company for military equipment.  Eventually, once this transition has taken place, inter-State warfare would be history; all disputes would be settled by the arbitration of this world court and enforced by its own military holdings.  Separate states would eventually maintain no more than local police forces to deal with local problems, while the international military establishment would gradually subside into a very modest presence that would rarely be used.  The benefits of this evolution are obvious: in the first place, the devastations of warfare (including the present potential to destroy all life overnight ~ the nuclear component of which may well be destroying all life slowly in any case) would be eliminated, but, in addition, the savings involved by reducing the military establishments of every sovereign state would be enormous, leading to an immediate and very real “peace dividend.”

     On the other hand, there is a problem with the idea of international authority: how to empower such an authority and how to prevent the abuse of that power.  Our conclusion is that the issue is really one of the most important roles for religion.  The Church of the Living Tree suggests the founding of a Seminary to cultivate a consciousness in which the concerns of the human race are subordinated to the concerns of the Biosphere as a whole, symbolized by our reverence for the Tree as the most important and most endangered support of the Biosphere.  This Seminary will be designed to maintain the final judicial authority protecting the environment of life.  

     All of these ideas and projects are related, directly or indirectly, to our central purpose: support for the health of the Biosphere as a whole, starting with the Trees, and including animals and human beings.  To further this goal, we are looking for donations of land all over the world, permanently dedicated to the Trees, particularly land whose life force has been depleted through misuse of one sort or another.  We will establish volunteer communities of people who share our commitment to re-planting the Trees and restoring the land to fertility.  We are interested in evolving alternative, low-impact lifestyles based upon a new paradigm: non-profit communities whose members live simple lives on permanent land trusts without the hassles of economic transactions, or paper work of any kind.  

     Projects of restoration may take many years and several phases.  Preliminary work may involve the cleaning up of any toxic debris, and the care and maintenance of water systems.  The next step would be to establish primary anchor Trees and shelter belts.  Eventually we will attempt to introduce a variety of valuable Trees, according to the potential of the land.  At the same time, complimentary programs of inter-cropping while the Trees are young, and other integrated land use (sustainable and organic) may be employed to accompany and augment the restoration of the Trees, and serve the communities that care for them.  

     Cultivating annual crops to feed to animals, and then eating the animals, has been shown to be a very inefficient and unhealthy lifestyle; we will expect to provide most of our food from Tree crops, supplemented by our own gardens.  Once the land has been restored to fertility, it will support life comfortably, providing an alternative social environment where people can live a simple life on the land, free of the whole complex burden of survival which characterizes life for most residents of the modern jungle.  

     It may be possible for a large part of the world’s population to live on these “free farms,” free of economic competition and stress.  Of course, this lifestyle would not be for everyone; the present structure of free market economics must be free to continue world wide without other interference than taxation on resource depletion (carefully scaled to attain targets of control).  However, the free farm alternative will allow people to opt for a simple life rather than forcing them into unproductive or counter-productive economic activity just to survive (e.g., theft, drug dealing, swindles, manufacture and promotion of useless products, the industries of confusion, the inefficiencies of insurance scams, and countless other parasites on a healthy economy).  

     If you are concerned that the land you have lived on and worked so hard for might be sold, logged, liquidated, partitioned, developed, or otherwise exploited by some future heir or purchaser, you might want to consider dedicating it to the Trees as a permanent trust under the care of The Church of the Living Tree.  If you have no land of your own, plant Trees, and otherwise support the local ecology wherever you are.  Or, alternatively, volunteer your services personally as a member of a free farm community to restore Tree cover and fertility to the lands in our care.  Families are welcome, including children of all ages.  Volunteers are not paid, but all expenses, including housing and food, will be provided as our resources permit.  

     The Church of the Living Tree has little formal structure and makes no demands upon its members.  All Tree-spirits everywhere who share our goals and interests are encouraged to work with us, or to pursue the same goals independently, according to their inclination.  No particular forms of religious activity are required of members, but we might suggest at least that spiritual gatherings take place in a grove of living Trees rather than in enclosed buildings of wood or stone.  Whenever we wish to feel close to God, we want to go into the forest, close to the comforting shelter of the Trees, especially the oldest and the largest, with the deepest roots and the highest crowns.  We do not want to hear sermons or even music ~ silence feels more appropriate to us while we sit, passive and receptive, that we might be able to hear the messages which God might have for us, and not be drowning them out with our own noise, full of our own importance.  

     And if you wish to celebrate a holiday at Christmas time, please do not kill any Trees; perhaps you will choose a living Tree to decorate and honor with your celebrations.  If no other Trees are available to you, and there is no place for you to plant a Tree, you might cultivate a living Tree in a pot, in order to receive spiritual inspiration from it.  

John R.  Stahl, Founder,
The Church of the Living Tree

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