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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