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Love And Will
Meditation And Recollection
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
Light And Darkness
Man And Nature
Mystic Intuition And Reason
Mystic Receptivity
Nature Mysticism And The Race
Nature Not Symbolic
Nature, And The Absolute
Poetry And Nature Mysticism
Rivers And Death
Rivers And Life
Seasons, Vegetation, Animals
Springs And Wells
Still Waters
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

Nature Mysticism And The Race

The fundamental postulates and principles of a consistent
Nature Mysticism have now been expounded with a fullness
sufficient to allow of a soberly enthusiastic study of the detail of
our subject. Let it be noted, however, that though a detailed
application of general conclusions is henceforth to be the main
business, there will be no forsaking of the broadly human
standpoint. For it has been shown, more especially in the
chapter on poetry, that the nature-mystic does not arrogate to
himself any unique place among his fellows, nor seek to enjoy,
in esoteric isolation, modes of experience denied to the mass of
humanity. Wordsworth, for instance, though a prince among
modern mystics, appealed with confidence to his countrymen at
large: his "we" was in constant evidence--and an ever-growing
multitude of nature-lovers responds to his appeal. That is to say,
the faculty of intuition he demands is to be found, in varying
degrees, latent at least, if not evolved, in the normal human
being. The gifted seer seizes and interprets what his less gifted
brother obscurely feels. Can we trace this mystic power of
nature on the scale of history at large? If the power is real, it
should be possible to recognise its grander workings. Moreover,
a wide outlook will help us to avoid exaggerations, preciosities,
and fanaticisms.

Here, then, is our starting-point for detailed study. If it be true
that all normal members of the race share in varying degrees the
faculty of mystic intuition, then nature must have had a
moulding effect not only on certain gifted individuals, but on
the character and destiny of whole communities, peoples, and
empires. As behind the language of the Greeks there were
age-long promptings of subconscious metaphysics, so behind the
aesthetic and spiritual development of this remarkable people
there must have been age-long promptings of subconscious
mystical intuitions stimulated by the influences of natural
phenomena. The moulding force of the immanent ideas, and of
the inner life of things, is, for the race at large, and for certain
peoples in particular, continuous, cumulative, massive. True, it
takes effect chiefly in the sphere of the subconscious. But he
will be a poor student of history who fails to reckon with those
subtler forces which, though obscure in their action, often
extend so widely and go so deep.

An eloquent evidence of nature's power to mould is to be found
in the contrasted characteristics of the great religions. The hardy
peoples of northwestern Europe were nurtured under stormy
skies, were girt in by stern, avalanche-swept mountains, and
struggled strenuously against the hardships of rigorous and
lengthy winters. What wonder that they filled their heaven with
_Sturm und Drang_--with titanic conflicts of the gods--and
heard it echoing with the whirl of hunting, the riot of feasting,
and the clang of battle? Their religion was strenuous as their
lives--free and fierce--yet tinged with a melancholy that
promised rich developments.

The favoured Greeks of classical times, "ever delicately
walking on most pellucid air," or rocked on the isle-strown
waters of the sapphire AEgaean, expanded their soul-life in an
environment teeming with light and colour, with harmony and
form. For them, therefore, Apollo bent his burnished bow and
launched his myriad shafts of gold; Aphrodite embodied visions
of foam-born beauty; Athene stood forth in panoply of reason
and restraint. Nature herself lured them to evolve ideals of law
and order, of disciplined thought and perfectly proportioned art.
What wonder that, prompted by mystic impulses and visions,
they purged their inherited religion of its grosser features, and
made it a vehicle for philosophic thought and spiritual

Pass to the wandering children of the desert, cradled amid the
great silences of space and time, swallowed up of vastness.
Above them by day the burning vault of blue, by night the
wheeling galaxies--around them the trackless levels of a thirsty
land. Such influences sank deep into their souls, and imparted
depth and intensity to their views of the source and meaning of
that vastness. Nor can we wonder that in such an environment,
the premonitions of the spiritual unity of existence, that were
stirring in many hearts, found special sustenance.

Let it be clearly understood that in the striking and
unmistakable illustrations just adduced, there is no mere
question of the influences of physical environment on social
organisation or economic development--though these also react
in a thousand ways upon ideas and ideals--but a question of
moulding spiritual concepts by the direct influence of the ideas
and impulses manifested in external nature. Man's soul was in
constant, if generally subconscious, communion with his
material environment, and his thinking was thereby largely
coloured and fashioned. And if the kind and quality of the
influence vary from age to age, and from people to people, it is
not the less continuously potent. The complexities of modern
life, the interminglings of civilisations, tend to obscure its
manifestations; science, wrongly pursued, seems hostile to
continued vigour. But underneath the play of the cross-currents
on the surface, is the resistless swing of the tide.

An illustration of another class is found in Max Mueller's
brilliant lectures on "Physical Religion," the chief theme of
which is the development of Agni, the Vedic god of fire. The
starting-point was the sensuous perception of the physical
qualities of fire. The Idea and the will immanent in these
qualities gradually raised men's thoughts from the material to
the spiritual, until the Eastern world attained to what Max
Mueller calls "a precious line from the Veda"--"He who above
the gods was the One God"--composed at least one thousand
years before the Christian era. It was not the result of a
supernatural revelation, but a natural outcome of man's thoughts
guided and moulded by impressions of outward phenomena.
That is to say, as Max Mueller observes, there was nothing in it
artificial--simply that which man could not help saying, being
what he was and seeing what he saw.

In the instances just advanced, the broad principle is most
assuredly established that nature has a definite and continuous
effect upon the development of man's conduct and thought. And
as a consequence of this, we may affirm that Wordsworth's
experience is true, in its measure, of all normal members of the
race who are in touch with nature:

"Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods
And mountains; and of all that we behold
Of this green earth; both what they half create
And what perceive; well pleased to recognise
In nature and the language of the sense,
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being."

Why, even old Dr. Johnson in his Dictionary days would write
to his friend Langton, in Lincolnshire: "I shall delight to hear
the ocean roar, or see the stars twinkle, in the company of men
to whom Nature does not spread her volumes or utter her voice
in vain." And let us observe, that the naturalness of his feeling
keeps him to the simplest, almost monosyllabic, English!

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Previous: The Beautiful And The Ugly

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