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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



Pragmatic








The programme laid down in the introductory chapter has been
fulfilled. There has been no attempt to make any single section,
much less the study as a whole, a complete or exhaustive
exposition of its subject matter. The purpose throughout has
been to bring to light the fundamental principles of Nature
Mysticism, to consider the validity of the main criticisms to
which they are subjected, and to illustrate some of their most
typical applications. A formal summary of the conclusions
reached would be tedious and unnecessary. But it may be well
to show that even when brought to the tests imposed by the
reigning Pragmatism, the nature-mystic can justify his existence
and can proselytise with a good conscience.

"Back to the country"--a cry often heard, though generally with
a significance almost wholly economic, or at any rate utilitarian.
It gives expression to the growing conviction that the life of
great cities is too artificial and specialised to permit of a healthy
all-round development of their populations. From the eugenic
point of view, physique is lowered. From the economic point of
view, large areas are deprived of their healthy independence by
the disturbance of the balance of production as between town
and country. Each of these considerations is evidently of
sufficient seriousness to arouse widespread apprehension.

But there is the nature-mystic's view of the situation which,
when really attained, is seen to be of no less importance, though
it is too often left in comparative obscurity. It is easily
approached from the purely aesthetic side. The city may
develop a quick and precocious intelligence, but it is at the cost
of eliminating a rich range of experiences which should be the
heritage of all normal human beings. In the city, the mind tends
to be immersed in a restricted and specialised round of duties
and pleasures, and loses "natural" tone. While, on the one hand,
there is over-stimulation of certain modes of sensation, others
are largely or wholly atrophied. The finest susceptibilities
decay. The eye and ear, the most delicate avenues of the soul,
are deprived of their native stimulants. In short, city conditions
unduly inhibit the natural development of many elements of the
higher self.

The evils thus briefly touched upon are undoubtedly forcing
themselves more and more into notice, and are evoking much
philanthropic thought and activity. They are more especially
bewailed by many who, themselves lovers of art and lovers of
nature, keenly appreciate the loss sustained, and the danger
incurred. Ruskin's teachings have affected the views and lives
of thousands who have never read his books. Those who have
penetrated most deeply into the play of aesthetic cause and
effect, well know that the very existence of truly great and
creative art is at stake. Science, literature, politics, and a
thousand specialised distractions tend to "saturate our limited
attention," and to absorb our energies, to the detriment of our
feeling for nature and of our enjoyment of her beauties. And yet
it is only by keeping in living touch with nature that fine art can
renew its inspiration or scale the heights.

There is, of course, the counter peril of an unhealthy
aestheticism, marked by an assumption of susceptibility which
is insufferable. Feeling, ostensibly expended upon external
beauty, can become an odious form of self-admiration; and
priggishness is the least of the diseases that will ensue. For with
the loss of spontaneity and freshness in the feeling there goes
mortification of the feeling itself. Still, this danger is not
general, and is therefore less noteworthy. It may safely be left to
the healing remedies instinctively applied by common sense.

The nature-mystic, however, does not linger long on the merely
aesthetic plane. He goes deeper down to the heart of things, and
holds that to lose touch with nature is to lose touch with Reality
as manifested in nature. It is sad, he declares, to miss the pure
enjoyment of forms and colours, of sounds and scents; it is
sadder to miss the experience of communing with the spirit
embodied in these external phenomena. For it is not mere lack
of education of the senses that must then be lamented (though
that is lack enough!) but the stunting of the soul-life that ensues
on divorce from nature, and from the great store of primal and
fundamental ideas which are immanent therein. The loss may
thus become, not simply sad, but tragic.

And the weightiness of these considerations is not diminished
when we relate them to the special needs of the day. Our time is
one of deep unrest--showing itself in religion and ethics, in
literature and art, in politics and economics. Unrest manifests
itself in what we have learnt to call "the social question." How
shall civilisation regain and increase its healthy restfulness?
Unless a cure be found, there will be disaster ahead. Democracy
has brought with it great hopes; it also stirs unwonted fears. The
people at large must be lifted on to a higher plane of living; they
must win for themselves wider horizons; they must kindle their
imaginations, and allow play to their non-egoistic and nobler
emotions. How better secure these ends than by bringing "the
masses" into touch with the elemental forces and phenomena
of nature? "Democracy" (says Walt Whitman) "most of all
affiliates with the open air, is sunny and hardy and sane only
with Nature--just as much as Art is. Something is required to
temper both--to check them, restrain them from excess,
morbidity. . . . I conceive of no flourishing and heroic elements
of Democracy . . . without the Nature element forming a main
part--to be its health-element and beauty-element--to really
underlie the whole politics, sanity, religion, and art of the New
World." Yes, converse with Nature--even the simplest form of
converse--has a steadying effect, and brings that kind of quiet
happiness which has for its companions good-will and delicate
sympathy. To sever oneself from such converse is to induce
selfishness, boorishness (veneered or un-veneered), and
inhumanity. The influence of nature means development; the
lack of that influence means revolution.

Hence Wordsworth's invitation has its social, as well as its
individual bearings:

"Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books,
Or surely you'll grow double!
. . .
One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.

Sweet is the lore which
Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things
We murder to dissect.

Enough of Science and of Art;
Close up those barren leaves;
Come forth and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives."

So Emerson, of the man who can yield himself to nature's
influences. "And this is the reward: that the ideal shall be real
to thee, and the impressions of the actual world shall fall like
summer rain, copious but not troublesome, to thy invulnerable
essence." So, once again, Matthew Arnold in his striking
sonnet, "Quiet Work":

"One lesson, Nature, let me learn of thee,
One lesson which in every wind is blown,
One lesson of two duties kept at one
Though the loud world proclaim their enmity--
Of toil unsevered from tranquillity,
Of labour that in lasting fruit outgrows
Far noisier schemes, accomplished in repose,
Too great for haste, too high for rivalry.
Yes, while on earth a thousand discords ring,
Man's senseless uproar mingling with his toil,
Still do thy quiet ministers move on,
Their glorious tasks in silence perfecting:
Still working, blaming still our vain turmoil,
Labourers that shall not fail when man is gone."

It is in nature, then, and in her subtle but potent workings on the
human soul that we shall find at least one antidote for the undue
and portentous tension of our day. To say this is not to
depreciate science, but to put it in its rightful setting. Nor is it
to depreciate culture, but to bring it into due perspective, and to
vitalise it. Nor is it to depreciate art, but to endow it with glow,
with variety, with loyalty to truth.

According to Pope, the proper study of mankind is man. How
shallow, how harmful such a dictum! Contrast Kant's deeper
insight. "Two things fill me with awe--the starry heaven
without, and the moral law within." That famous apophthegm
leads us nearer to the saving truth. For it contemplates man, not
in his isolation, but as placed in a marvellous physical
environment: to understand one you must understand the other
also. Add the thought expressed in the fundamental principle of
Nature Mysticism--the thought that nature is spiritually akin to
ourselves--and we see that the proper study of mankind is
human nature as a part of a living whole.

But the nature-mystic is not content to "study." He desires to
hold communion with the spirit and the life which he feels and
knows to be manifested in external nature. For him there is no
such thing as "brute" matter, nor even such a thing as "mere"
beauty. He hears deep calling unto deep--the life within to the
life without--and he responds.






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