Faith in the Earth

Earth and the Deity
This year I have a special note for Earth Day and it is that a new spiritual beginning is starting which has thus far not been noticed. More and more I realize that the old religions have started to take note of how truly beautiful the Earth is, and how we all must come to understand that Earth is God’s finest creation in some ways. Yes we live on Earth, and yes humans are the subject of most religious texts, but we have all come to realize that human beings without the Earth just cannot be. As much as God may have loved humanity, he most certainly meant that humanity must love and get along with his own supreme creation, Earth.

Today as I was coming back from a morning trip I listened to the news on the Radio. Suddenly a group of Catholic nuns came on the Air and offered a prayer of sorts for the Earth. Though they mentioned Genesis and how God gave humankind dominion over the world he created-at least as far as we know the world he created for us which may not certainly be exclusive, there is enough in the bible to indicate that we must be respectful of the Earth, and love the Earth. The group of nuns promised their love for the Earth and asked their listeners, and all Catholics to respect and love the Earth. (Meanwhile the radio station was certain to disavow any responsibility for whatever the nuns were saying.)

Well, so what is the news in this? To be honest, all my life I have sensed a conflict between the Christian church and the naturalists, and again to be honest, it has put some resistance in my heart, for the Church! All my life, I have trusted nature. To me there is no beauty greater than Nature’s. For me, anyone who says they love God, but that God is not nature is to me not able to grasp the truth. For me the truth has always been, and always will be, that Nature is God. If the Earth and Sky are beautiful, and pure, they are also truth, and are the body of God. For me, there can be no separation of God, or for that matter Christ and Nature. Christ loved God, his father, but his father, was supreme Nature, and he loved Nature. At least this is what I am capable of believing. And I cannot believe in a God that is separate to Nature. God and Nature must be one and inseparable.

So for the first time in a long time I heard something quite encouraging this morning. The Catholics(though I am not Catholic) represent a very large and well established segment of Christians. If these nuns can come on the air and openly declare their love of nature, and their love of Earth, I am encouraged. They perhaps are now “officially” coming to the point where they too can love the Earth equally with God. Perhaps they too, “officially” can accept the Earth and all of Nature, as being really one with God, an Emphanisis (manifestation) so to speak ,of the holy living force that pervades all of existence.

Moreover, I have hints that others are moving in this direction also. There is seemingly amongst all the world’s major religions a growing feeling it seems to me of the importance of Earth; the importance and truth of Nature. I will not say that the major religions are identifying God with Nature as I do personally, but it seems all, whether they be priests, or rabbis, or imams, or Buddhists, or Hindus all seem to be growing more certain of the necessity of directing their sacred love towards not only the Deities they acknowledge and worship, but towards Nature, which is, if nothing more, the vessel by which the holy living spirit in all religions, is attained.

The Ancients
The ancients were of course more closely associated with Nature. Their gods were in fact Natural, or sometimes human principles personified. And from that basic understanding, the Greeks, as one example, moved to a more mundane, practical understanding of these natural principles that were deified by their priests, in the formation of science and philosophy. In reality this was the evolution of the concept of the Deity.

When Christianity was born, there seemed to be a form of competition between the religion of the Greeks and Romans and the new Christians; and thus the Christians tended to dissociate themselves from Nature. After all Christ was seen as having lived in the tomb and at that time the Church seemed to base its beliefs on the sacred life within the tomb, away from passing, irreverent time that keeps nothing alive from ultimate corruption and death. The promise of resurrection was for the early Christians within the tomb where Jesus lay and rose into heaven. That is the promise for all Christians: namely that one day, they too will rise into heaven from the dark tomb where only death remains. These Christians believed that they have been saved, and that one day, they too will ascend into the eternal, and become with the supreme living force that forever abides in the world. So this in itself led the early Christians to turn away from nature and its passing, fading, alluring, though ultimately deceptive beauty.

Of course there was the Platonic past and his own-Plato’s tendency- to dismiss or belittle the passing beauty and temporary truth of nature in favor of the permanence of the “world beyond” and this too I think led the Church away from the beauty of nature.

Further, it is likely that the Egyptian civilization, from which the founding Judaism was seen to arise , since Moses was an Egyptian prince, and the Jews were in some sense fledgling Egyptians, at least they would have seemed as such to the early Christians, would serve as a source of power and leverage for the early Christians. Since the early Christians were no doubt involved in a number of intellectual battles with the elder Greeks and their once formidable religion, which was now decayed by Roman pragmatism. That Judaism in some ways derived from the older civilizations of Egypt and Babylon added a sense of credence that maybe this “new” religion, Christianity had yet more sturdy foundations than did the Greek religion. After all the early Christians knew that the Greek civilization, high and mighty as it was a few hundred years before, was indeed preceded by the great eastern civilizations and in some ways based on those civilizations, or aided by those civilizations. No less an authority than Aeschylus said so in his play the “Egyptians” and so there was an affinity towards the elder civilizations and their practices.

But these practices of the Christians were often antithetical to nature. Like the Egyptian priests of old, the new religion too tended to lean towards the worship of the grave, forsaking the present for the timeless destiny, when the dead would awaken in great triumph with their Lord. Indeed, Plato, the greatest mind of the ancient world, had paved the way with his belief in a perfect “great beyond” in favor of this imperfect temporary world. Thus the Christians had in many ways forsaken the Natural world as the place of the devil, the place of evil, the place where Jesus himself found and was tempted by the devil. The unpredictable Natural world of the Greeks, which now was in ruin, was to be replaced by the “cultured vine” of the Jews, as Paul would say.

This attitude would eventually overcome all resistance and become the foundation of Byzantium which ruled for a thousand years and was probably the chief impetus to the rise of Mohammed, whose teachings would one day replace it. But the underlying attitude towards nature, seems indeed to have heavily influenced Mohammed as well. For though the Muslims viewed God as ultimate master all movement, they also tended to think that most of the time a human being would be tested by nature in his or her devotion to the supreme God the totality of all living force.

My Memories
As a child I remember going to church and hearing a line in a chorus that puzzled me. The chorus went something like this “and Jesus will use the Earth as his footstool to ascend to heaven” and when I heard this line, I asked my father what this meant and he simply told me that Jesus would ascend into heaven by stepping on the Earth. But deep down it always troubled me that the Earth was treated as unimportant to Jesus, or worse yet as something to be overcome or dismissed. Indeed, there seemed never any good news for nature. Nature was shut out in the dark tomb like the vault of the Church. At least so it seemed to me.

As I grew older I realized that many people, especially in the past, thought of Nature as something wild and untamed and thus something to be feared and avoided. My own father, I remember, often had the attitude that the wild was not something to love, but something to shelter one’s self from. Yet as someone who grew up, and lived, in large cities I felt the exact reverse. I longed for the Natural which I considered always a healing energy that humanity could never live without, and must never live without. But it would seem that for us, we who live in a time when we can put great distances between ourselves and the natural environment, would indeed long for the pristine wild, whereas those in the past who could not do the same, and for whom Nature was always a single step away, if that, the safety and predictability of the city, the “polis” of civilized, sheltered life , away from the frightening uncertainty of the wilderness, was by far the most desirable way of life for any reasonable person of faith.

Thus the Christian church, in the early days, was certain to long for the warmth, and order of the civilized, family life. As also , still battling the pagans, and their natural beliefs, it made Nature antithetical to the ideals of the church. For this reason there seemed to be much against nature in the literature and the practice of the early Christian church. This sentiment was not very much changed over the two millennia because there was simply no reason to change it. Up until the modern era, nature was still supreme, and nature was still responsible for some very bad events in the lives of the faithful.

Most Religions Seemed Averse to Nature
But it makes sense also that this sentiment might apply to the other religions as well. Since all people were facing the dangers of the exposed world, they were all most likely pushed into a “civilized” worship of their deities within the shelter of their temples and mosques.

Thus the major religions most likely, to some degree or other would have some difficulty coming to a positive interpretation of the natural in favor of an idealistic , separate, immaterial world in which their deities could exist unsullied by the rudeness and sometimes base coarseness of the wilderness, and the wildlife within it.

To be sure there was always a holy feeling associated with the beauty of Nature. This is why most of the famous shrines of the major religions tend to be located around some of the more remarkable natural settings. Such as for example Mount Sinai located in the wilderness of the beautiful desert, even if forbidding for example. Or the monasteries located on Mount Athos. No better example of the primordial entanglement of natural beauty and deity could be given than Aires’ rock in Australia. But all these could be tolerated at a distance. They were places where God, in some sense conquered nature, or ascended above nature and left there a beauty meant to signify that ascendancy. But these places were merely the exception in most cases. Civilized life , in itself, was by its very design a shelter from the vagaries of nature.

This is not to say that there were never any rebellions against the notion of a corrupt nature. The Renaissance is the greatest and most long lasting of these rebellions. A rebellion that one might argue never stopped. Philosophers, at times, throughout the ages, would argue the beauty and ultimate salvation of Nature, but more often than not, as with Kant and Hegel, would themselves degenerate to a dark repudiation of the objective truth for some special esoteric formula that explained Nature in human ways. No matter how hard Science tried to set the objective world stand on its own, Philosophy, would at last view determine that only the esoteric language of humanity could ever be the source of reason for Nature, as well as God. The world was anthropocentric, just like God. Anything having a different language than the one we could fashion, was mere appearance and not to be taken seriously.

Though I don’t want to insist on this point, for in the end, anything anyone might say will always be subject to the variation of the real world, in the end, the view seemed to prevail that Nature was not to be trusted. It was not divine. It was an illusion.

Attitudes are Changing
Today, however, things have changed. We have all the shelter we need and realize that this shelter has a tendency to become dirty. Here in our big cities insincerity and waste products resulting from “civilized” life can be as antithetical to religious purity as nature ever was or could be. With the rising temperature and constant reminder that our climate may well have been affected by the pollution of our “civilized” life, the tendency now is for a reawakening of the natural within religious worship.

Even bad things that happen, are often viewed as the “Wrath of God” by extreme religious personalities. Though one might argue that is no progress, in reality I think it is. I believe that most disastrous events in the past were more probably to be explained as a corruption of Godly purpose, whereas these days, at least, it’s seen as the willful intent of God, by the most extreme religious personalities. Though, again some of you might question this assertion and its merit for mention, I would respond that these extremist religious commentators are often like barometers of the weather. They predict the general attitude to soon emerge. In this case, though it is nonsense to think that God is punishing us, at least there is the tendency to believe that God is not separate from Nature.

The truth is emerging that Nature is indeed synonymous with God in effect. Nature is the most authentic manifestation of the deity. The order and reason of Nature to many is undeniably sentient in some sense. Our present Global Warming problems could indeed be due to a “reaction” to the enormous amounts of pollution that are now causing the Earth to “react” in a negative way. Some have in the past, seen a certain living order to the Earth from a scientific perspective-the Gaia theory . Yet, when we say that there is a living order in some part or all of Nature, we are in some ways implying the existence of life in the Natural being and that life is always indicative of a belief in a deity.

Increasingly, most sects of the major religions seem inclined to think of God as being intimately connected with Nature, even if not the same as Nature, and this in itself is a great leap forward for these religions. It allows for them to communicate honestly with greater numbers of people, and makes it easier for these religions to more easily base the reasoning of their beliefs on everyday existence. Moreover an existence everyone on Earth shares , therefore, the Natural existence which is universal.

This development, if it could gather momentum, could lead eventually to a sort of agreement within the major religions that though the details of the deity may be interpreted differently, in essence all share the same world of God. Nature, the most supreme manifestation of God, is universal. A Christian can just as easily as a Jewish , or Muslim, or Hindu, or Buddhist follower agree that the foundation of the deity is really the same, whatever the details may be-and indeed, only the Deity can know why there must be differences amongst us. Yes, these details are not unimportant, and I in no way wish to imply that they are unimportant. The “details” of religious belief are in fact the essence of the belief system enacted by Muslim, Buddhist, Jew, Christian, Hindu or any other, but there is an open door through which all can at least communicate, and that door is sacred Nature; especially since it is becoming obvious to all, no matter their religious order, that without cooperation, we are not likely to survive as a species at this point in time.

Thus, for me, Earth day was a revelation of a different sort this year. For once in my life I found a way to connect the Christian faith of my father, and mother to the Earth and do so without reservation. I also , for perhaps the first time, saw an opening through which peace might proceed between all “naturalists” no matter their religious affiliation, for all religious orders must come to agree that Earth, Sun, Moon, and Stars- these are indeed sacred to all, and must be so, for if the Deity is not to be found in these, the most majestic beings of Nature, then how can we maintain the omnipresence of the divine spirit? We can all agree on that, and that may well be a common sacred starting place for the common spiritual evolution of civilization.

Post Script
You might ask why I have gone down this spiritual path today. Why have I delved into religious aspects? What is the point of going from my last post, difficult and technical at best, to this, a spiritual proclamation? Because, in the end, all our motives for science and truth descend from this basic instinct to seek the higher knowledge-the higher truth and rationality of God. This is not mysterious, not strange, not difficult to understand. From time immemorial humanity has tried to understand the supreme principles of Nature and has through most of that time-in most cases – come to the conclusion that Deity is the supreme principle of Nature’s order. But as if not satisfied with that alone, science came to be a kind of extension of the holy study of God. To those who would say Deity is a matter of faith, I would answer that so is the number system[1], yet all of science is based on some formulation of the mathematical J

Copyright 2012

——————————————————————————–

[1] Since when does one plus one equal two? Only if one has faith that the numbers refer to something qualitatively equal since you can never actually prove that two objects are exactly equal.

Leave a Reply