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Love And Will
Meditation And Recollection
Self-adjustment
The First Form Of Contemplation
The Mystical Life
The Preparation Of The Mystic
The Second Form Of Contemplation
The Third Form Of Contemplation
The World Of Reality
What Is Mysticism?
Anaximenes And The Air
Animism, Ancient And Modern
Brooks And Streams
Development And Discipline Of Intuition
Earth, Mountains, And Plains
Fire And The Sun
Heracleitus And The Cosmic Fire
Introductory
Light And Darkness
Man And Nature
Mystic Intuition And Reason
Mystic Receptivity
Mythology
Nature Mysticism And The Race
Nature Not Symbolic
Nature, And The Absolute
Poetry And Nature Mysticism
Pragmatic
Rivers And Death
Rivers And Life
Seasons, Vegetation, Animals
Springs And Wells
Still Waters
Thales
The Beautiful And The Ugly
The Charge Of Anthropomorphism
The Expanse Of Heaven--colour
The Immanent Idea
The Moon--a Special Problem
The Ocean
The Waters Under The Earth
Will And Consciousness In Nature
Winds And Clouds



Earth, Mountains, And Plains








And thus the three great nature-philosophers of the old world,
Thales, Anaximenes, and Heracleitus, have been our guides, so
to speak, in surveying the most striking phenomena of water,
air, and fire. The fourth member of the ancient group of
"elements" has received but incidental treatment. Obviously it
could hardly be otherwise, especially within the limits which
such a study as this imposes. The varied and wondrous forms of
vegetable and animal life have likewise made but brief and
transient appearances; but this omission has been due to a
definite intention expressed at the outset. It may nevertheless be
well, before concluding, to cast a glance over the rich provinces
which still lie open to the nature-mystic for further discovery
and research.

The more striking features of the landscape have always
arrested attention and stimulated the mystic sense. The peculiar
influence of heights has been noted at an earlier stage, though
but cursorily. Much might be said of the enormous effect of
mountain scenery. The most direct form of nature-feeling finds
expression in Scott and Byron; and the description of crags,
ravines, peaks and gorges, bulks largely in their writings.
Typical are these lines from "Manfred":

"Ye crags upon whose extreme edge
I stand, and on the torrent's brink beneath
Behold the tall pines dwindled as to shrubs
In dizziness of distance."

or Shelley with his

"Eagle-baffling mountain
Black, wintry, dead, unmeasured, without herb,
Insect, or beast, or shape, or sound of life."

Indeed there are few poets, even those who are chiefly
concerned with man and his doings, who do not often turn to
mountain scenery at least for similes. And it could not be
otherwise; for the immanent ideas here manifested are
self-assertive in character and specially rich in number and
variety. As it has been well expressed, nature's pulse here seems
to beat more quickly. In olden days the high places of the earth
associated themselves with myths of gods and Titans. Fully
representative of the world of to-day, Tennyson asks:

"Hast thou no voice, O Peak,
That standest high above all?"

And his answer turns on the mystic bonds that bind the deep
and the height into a cycle of interdependent activities.

"The deep has power on the height,
And the height has power on the deep.
A deep below the deep
And a height beyond the height!
Our hearing is not hearing,
And our seeing is not sight."

Or Morris gives the mysticism a more personal turn:

"Oh, snows so pure! oh, peaks so high!
I lift to you a hopeless eye,
I see your icy ramparts drawn
Between the sleepers and the dawn;
I see you when the sun has set
Flush with the dying daylight yet.
. . .
Oh, snows so pure! oh, peaks so high!
I shall not reach you till I die."

And now that modern geology is revealing to us more and more
of the origin and structure of the mountain ranges of the world,
and telling us more and more of the wondrous materials which
go to their building, the field for mysticism is being widely
extended.

Different, but hardly less powerful, is the influence of hill
scenery--whether they

"in the distance lie
Blue and yielding as the sky,"

or whether their gentle slopes are climbed and their delicate
beauties seen close at hand. As Ruskin has averred, even the
simplest rise can suggest the mountain; but it also has a mystic
charm of its own, complementary to that of the sheltered vale,
which is exquisite alike in its natural simplicity, and in its
response to the labours of man, where some

"kneeling hamlet drains
The chalice of the grapes of God."

But though the influence of mountains, hills, ravines, and vales,
is obvious even to the superficial enquirer, it should not obscure
for us the very real, if less potent influence of lowlands, plains,
and deserts. More especially subtle in its effect upon the spirit
of man, is the loneliness of wildernesses, the prairies, the
pampas, the tundras, the Saharas. The Greek Pan was essentially
a god of the wild, unploughed surfaces of the earth. Hence,
also, the frequent conjunction of the wilderness and silent
meditation and ascetic discipline. Schopenhauer suggests
that one secret of the spell of mountain scenery is the
permanence of the sky-line. Shall we say that one secret of the
solitary place is the turning in of the human spirit upon itself
because of the sameness of the permanent sky-line?

The effect of scenery upon religion was treated of in illustration
of the general principle of Nature Mysticism--the kinship of
man and his physical environment. No less marked has been the
effect of scenery upon art. The theme is now somewhat well
worn, but its true significance is seldom apprehended. For if art
is concerned with the realm of the ideal, or rather, perhaps, with
the real in its more ideal aspects, then it follows that whatever
has an influence on art has an influence on the spiritual
development of the people among whom any particular mode or
school of art may-establish itself. An interesting phase of such
influence is found in Geikie's suggestion as to the presence of
the humorous element in the myths and legends of northern
Europe. "The grotesque contours" (he says) "of many craggy
slopes where, in the upstanding pinnacles of naked rock, an
active imagination sees forms of men and of animals in endless
whimsical repetitions, may sometimes have suggested the
particular form of the ludicrous which appears in the popular
legend. But the natural instinct of humour which saw physical
features in a comic light, and threw a playful human interest
over the whole face of nature, was a distinctively. Teutonic
characteristic." There opens out here an unexplored region for
original research. Taking the nature-mystic's mode of
experience as a basis for enquiry, how far is the comic a purely
subjective affair, concerned only, as Bergson contends, with
man, and only found in external phenomena by virtue of their
reflecting his affairs; or how far has it a place of its own in the
universe at large?

To conclude this slight sketch of the Nature Mysticism of the
solid earth, let us bring together an ancient and a recent
expression of the emotion these purely terrestrial phenomena
can arouse. There is one of the Homeric hymns which is
addressed to "the Earth, Mother of All." Its beginning and its
ending are as follows (in Shelley's translation):

"O universal mother, who dost keep
From everlasting thy foundations deep,
Eldest of things, Great Earth, I sing of thee.
. . .
Mother of gods, thou wife of starry Heaven,
Farewell! be thou propitious."

Is there not a living continuity between the emotional element
in that grand old hymn and the strong full modern sentiment in
this concluding stanza of Brown's "Alma Mater"?

"O mother Earth, by the bright sky above thee,
I love thee, O, I love thee!
So let me leave thee never,
But cling to thee for ever,
And hover round thy mountains,
And flutter round thy fountains,
And pry into thy roses fresh and red;
And blush in all thy blushes,
And flush in all thy flushes,
And watch when thou art sleeping,
And weep when thou art weeping,
And be carried with thy motion,
As the rivers and the ocean,
As the great rocks and the trees are--
O mother, this were glorious life,
This were not to be dead.
O mother Earth, by the bright sky above thee,
I love thee, O, I love thee! "





Next: Seasons, Vegetation, Animals

Previous: The Moon--a Special Problem



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