In the state of Tamil Nadu, in the south of India, stands a mountain covered in rocks, called Arunachala. It is four and a quarter hours southwest of Madras (Chennai), in the Eastern Ghats. A very sacred mountain, Arunachala is considered to be Lord Shiva Himself, not just his abode, but the God Himself.
The great Saint Ramana Maharshi, during a visionary experience at the age of 16, went to live there. He never left and spent his life at Arunachala, visited over time by many thousands of devotees. He was very fond of animals. Today, as well as his own grave, there are the graves of several of his favorite animals; including a cow named Lakshmi and a raven that he had rescued.
To ancient peoples, the world of nature was not made up of inanimate beings – or of beings less than ourselves.
Everything was alive and had a spirit and a presence.
The mountains were gods, the rivers goddesses.
The lakes, the oceans, the trees, the deserts, the forests – everything was living and conscious. Also, all the beings of the sky were alive – the sun, the planets, the moon, all the stars.
Life was present in every aspect of the universe. The sacred rocks were living entities.
All the animals – the fish, the whales, the bears, the lions, foxes, deer, all the birds, also the ants, the bees, the butterflies and all the insects.
We can see this perception still in the older (and wiser) belief systems of the world: Hinduism, Buddhism, Shinto, Taoism, in the world views of Native Americans.
Because ancient peoples saw and understood the spiritual essence of all of nature, there was reverence and respect for nature. Human beings took only what they needed for survival – and nothing more. They were respectful and not greedy. They listened to the voices and to the laws of nature. They were aware of the sacred beings of life. Because of this awareness, they did not destroy the planet earth.
Today, though we consider ourselves, in the modern world, to be much wiser, we are in fact, very ignorant. We see nature through blind eyes, not recognizing the living essence, the majesty, and the awareness of nature and the earth herself.
It is through this blindness and stupidity, that we destroy nature – through greed and oblivion.
No amount of calculating carbon footprints in a futile effort to save ourselves is going to work.
We must focus, not on ourselves, but on the ineffable beauty and life of nature herself.
To put it simply, we must go back to worshipping nature – to feeling a sense of reverence for the earth. We belong to the earth. It is only by returning to that sense of the sacred that we will be able to save the earth – and perhaps ourselves as well.
“Perhaps the relevant stage is not the real world at all – but rather the world of fantasy, of art, of stories, of myth – myth is the best way to express it – this is the world of the spirit – of magical life.
“The “real” world, meaning the physical world – is not real at all – it is going, going, gone – on the way out – it is dead – a stream of images — and only the ethereal world of meanings and relevance is actually real or relevant. It continues.”
As the wise William Shakespeare wrote, in MacBeth:
Sometimes one must pray for rain for days and even years.
God Is not limited by our time frame. He/She does not abhor death – beyond death there is peace and even joy.
God exists within, around, and beyond the universe. A small part of God is the universe. The spiritual exists – it is unseen because it is not a material thing. It is spiritual. The physical world comes into being – but unfortunately, the physical world then sometimes runs amuck in all directions all by itself – and hence there is pain and evil – because of the separation and alienation from the spiritual.
The physical universe comes into being when a division takes place. Suddenly, there is more than one. There are two. This second entity may not really be real because only the One is real (think of the Hindu concept of maya). Yet physical reality has appearances – Newton’s apple falls to the ground — in the sunlight, it is red; it is heavy, and it falls; one can watch it fall and hear it hit the ground. To us, it is solid and real, one can even taste it. It manifests as physical. Yet it is missing something; it is not spirit, though spirit may be within it and may dwell within it – and may even be trapped within it – according to the concepts of the gnostics.
Because there is division – there arises incompleteness – a lack of wholeness. If you divide the train from the engine, something important is missing. Some essential things have been left out. From this lack arise the deficiencies of the physical universe – pain, suffering, harm, death, illness, and evil. These arise from and are the consequence of the separation – the division that has taken place in order to bring about the universe – the separation (leading to alienation) between the spiritual and the physical. The wildflower is very beautiful, but after summer is done, there is no ongoing source of life and nourishment, and the flower dies. The life within it has gone. It cannot exist apart from the source of life which sustains it. (I do not mean that dead flowers are not beautiful; certainly they are, but theirs is a different beauty.)
When the physical universe – especially as the world of nature – is still inhabited by spirit – still in touch with its essence and its soul – it has profound beauty – the flowers, the majestic rocks, the ocean waves in their endless patterns, the grace of animals and plants. (The ocean and the rocks are also alive.)
The living beings of nature are subject to pain because of the separation that brought them into existence as separate beings – no longer entirely whole – apart from the original unity – which is God. The farther removed one is from the spiritual – the greater the chasm – the more prone is the physical world to suffering and disaster.
With the arising of the mental plane (which can be useful, but which is mostly an agent of disruption), there is further separation and further evil – such as we see in the modern human world. – war, chaos, hatred, injustice, disease, tyranny, and cruelty – and an irrepressible drive to rise above and dominate the earth. But, one may say, these things have always existed. But think for a moment – that is not so. Think of the innocence of deer, of flowers, of the rolling hills – who all existed before human beings. The natural world can be dramatic, even destructive, but it is not cruel. Even tigers are not cruel; they kill only when they are hungry or to feed their young, out of fear or defence sometimes, but never out of malice. The tiger is as innocent as the deer.
Only human beings have the capacity for intentional cruelty, and cruelty is intentional – the word itself implies intent. As human beings, it is our task to leave behind the tyranny we exert over the natural world – and instead to bring about a re-unification of the physical with the spiritual – in union – to re-unite that which has drifted – or exploded — apart. We must learn to perceive once again the true reality of the natural world – it is inhabited by spirit. Nature is an expression of God.
The mistaken assertion, espoused in the Old Testament that “man was made in the image of God” is a false teaching and goes along with much of the rest of the Old Testament that portrays God as a tyrannical being. If you don’t think so, you may not have read it lately. Parts of the Old Testament are soaringly beautiful – such as some of the psalms and parts of Isaiah – these express the true wisdom of these people, but the rest was written by somebody else. It all contrasts sharply with the portrayal in the New Testament of Jesus as a teacher of love and kindness. The Old Testament prophets spent quite a lot of time persecuting the Canaanites who followed the old religion and were always going up into the hills to worship trees — as if worshipping trees were a horrible thing to do. Unfortunately, much of the underpinning philosophy of our culture derives in part from the dominance expressed in the Old Testament. We have lost sight of this, but it is so.
Worshipping trees, who are sacred beings, is actually quite a good thing to do.
Nature is a part of God, and when we are able to become ourselves a part of this truth – truly able to perceive it – then we perceive the original peace of the unity of the two halves that seemed to have been split apart (though this was always an illusion). The physical and the spiritual will be brought together again – will be one. This is the mystical truth. It can be glimpsed distantly – intellectually. It can only truly be seen mystically.
This is the truth of mystics the world over. We can discover this by looking to the ancient worldviews – the knowledge in the traditions of the ancient land of India, the cosmic understanding of indigenous and tribal peoples all over the earth. They hold the remnants of truth that our modern world has left behind and destroyed. We must once again look to them for the truth – and salvation.
The genocide of the earth’s native peoples – like the war against nature (it is the same war) — has been a scourge attempting to kill truth and beauty in order to make way for a force, alien to nature, that seeks only dominance.
It has run its course. Many of those who might once have perpetrated the lies supporting this war have now turned against it.
For those ancient peoples of the earth who have guarded fundamental truths over so many eons – for them, along with their brothers and sisters of the natural world, and the earth itself, there will come again the brightness of the light and the dawn ahead.