The Sacred View of Nature
Today I want to reflect on another aspect of the sacred aspects that can be present(ed) by the beauty, the fearless, the mysteries and the power of Nature.
Let’s start saying that Science, in a first glance, can be summarized as the study of the natural world that by historical and traditions time could have different religious significance, descriptions and very specific perspectives.
But before proceeding further I need to make clear what I mean for nature. For me it does not represent only the bucolic landscapes and the amazing areas of Earth unsullied by civilization like the Amazonian Forest, the Savanna or the arctic lichen forests compositions. By nature I mean what our mind and senses can view and feel in toto, including the entire Universe and all living beings as a miracle of balance and chemical perfection. In fact, the conceptualization of nature has varied in different cultures throughout the ages and by specific cultures that sometimes added a religious view to nature.
It is very important to remind that some religions will sanctify its main aspects by the presence of deity that can belong or not to nature. The point here is that there is not a single precise meaning for “sacred” when we talk about nature, because during times many different cultures interpreted its sacredness in a variety of ways.
However there are some important aspects that can minimize deviation, such as the sense of meaning that nature shield, a sort of divine presence infusion, the perception of aliveness, the view of the interconnections among things and matters and the connection that we as human have with all living beings around us and the rest of nature that we have to safeguard and respect understanding its varieties.
One of the mostly common recurring themes on the sacred aspects of nature is the sense of nature as something alive, avoiding to be inert, objectified, categorically framed in a predefined sense. The aliveness of nature is related to this idea of interconnection present between all things that ancient tribes communicate, and see as a sort of experience that lead people to the concept of sacred capable to can give a sense of readiness to perceive the beauty of things when they are bounded together as a perfect manufactured weave. In J. E. Carrol Twobears I found an example taken from Native American religious philosophy about this process of mutual associations and personal awareness on the sacred aspects of nature.
What I am trying to communicate here is that the awareness of the sacred is an experience, not an hypothesis or some sort of demonstrated conclusion. But what is this that sacredness of everything like? It is a way of seeing in and through and beyond each individual things to perceive the relatedness and interconnection of each thing to everything else. Finding sacred is not to have a theory about the origins of things or to apprehend their usefulness for us, but to witness the miraculous reality and the unfolding aliveness of everything a being connected together of all real entities. This awareness of the mysterious ground of being that is manifested in the eruption of each remarkable things is the experience of the sacred.
There is another interesting idea that arise from these reflections, setting its origin in the Greek ancient philosophical frame where the aliveness of nature was gathered with the soul and mind of the beautiful nature as the balance and the order in the cosmos, as Aristotle says, imposing order first upon itself and then upon everything belonging to it. Here, the main concept was that the cosmos and the whole word of nature were not only alive but also intelligent.
Then was the turn of other conceptualizations of nature, sacred and perfect, to became part of traditions, even religious one when the Christians developed a sense of aliveness and power of nature warranted by God. A source of love, vigor, fertility and health that before being manlike was felt in the Earth as true and sacred power.
There is a beautiful example of this sense of existence in nature – or even Earth though by its holy and sacred features – found in the words of the mystic Irish poet known in the early XX century with the pseudonym of AE:
I think of Earth as the floor of a cathedral where altar and presence are everywhere. This reverence came to me as a boy listening to the voice of birds one colored evening of summer, and I felt a certitude that the same spirit was in all […] So the lover of Earth will be trance in some spiritual communion, or will find his being overflowing into the being of the elements or become aware that they are breathing their life into his own […] Earth may suddenly blaze about him with supernatural light in some lonely spot amid the hills, and he will find he stands as the prophet in a place that is holy ground.
What is worth to underline here is that another important dimension of the sacredness of nature concern is the meaningfulness of its creatures and the magical equilibrium between them at the beginning of the chaos. A symbolic content is represented when AE speaks about appearances that, in his view, serve as bridge to overcome the surface and gain the apprehension of different levels of meaning. These deeper level may be inherent solely within nature itself or reflect some transcendent idea that can be easily manifested by its beauty and multiple dimensions and diversity of matters and objects that are visible to us. But maybe these ones are receptacles of an exterior force that differentiate them from a first belonging milieu, covered with new meaning and values. AE remarks that point, saying that “nature includes not only what impresses the eyes as color or forms, but also inner dimensions. The world is no mere surface reality but a living cosmos that we can gradually learn to see. This force may reside in the substance of the object or in its form”.
During history many civilizations developed a greater attention to details when the argument world view needed to be addressed in some sort of sophisticated analysis of the philosophical aspects related to this brighter and broader idea of nature. As to say traditional metaphysics sees the Universe not as a multitude of facts or opaques objects each possessing a completely independent reality of its own, but as myriads of symbols reflecting reality. In this frame the light possessed by the intellect – sacred in its essence and protected by revelation – seep through the opaqueness of the facts or objects encountered so they can gain a new transparency or even shaded color.
Here the sacred view of nature is associated with a sense of interconnections that bound all thing, when divine presence and/or other sources of order can give to the relationship between nature and humanity/living beings its meaningfulness and presence priority. This is a metaphysical view of nature when the indivisible cosmic organism can be displayed even by a range of different scale of internal forms, when each gave rise to the next higher level by virtue of the potentiality infused in it by the immanent principle of the totality. These aspects describe nature as a dynamic organismic system despite an all-embracing living animal. It illustrate all the interdependent forms related by some sort dialectical aliveness that arise with the exploration of details differentiation visible during many cultures and times. And by that a sacred view of nature, even not easily defined , can be understood if we think that all things in the world and their totality are fragments of a still greater whole that needs the participation of the faith to be operate in the world, starting from the developments that will lead nature its prior importance and preservation.