Torrents of pelting rain pour down on my windscreen. The windscreen wiper cannot catch the floods of water. I am forced to slow down. Through a veil of pouring water, the road is only partially visible. The windscreen wiper fights the forces of nature at a frantic pace. I have to slow down once more.
Scraps of thoughts race through my head. I am coming back from a week of hiking with about 30 friends in the Westerwald (Germany). During these days, in conversations and reflections, we deeply considered our relationship to nature and to the world soul. Images rise up of our hikes. Often, in the middle of the forest, we unexpectedly came across paths of devastation. Where just a week before moss-covered paths had led through lush greenery, we found a muddy landscape ploughed through by deep tyre tracks. Everywhere lay masses of naked spruce trunks: felled, delimbed, stacked. The path was barely recognisable. An entire forest area had been desecrated in an almost unbearable way. This causes me a sharp pain.
On the motorway I see a long line of oncoming fire engines. There are several dozen flashing blue crew cars – on their way to their places of operation in the Sauerland, where – as in the Eifel, in southern Bavaria and in Saxony – devastating torrential rains have caused the streams and rivers to burst their banks. Many houses were swept away, villages and towns flooded with masses of mud, animals and people lost their lives. The fire engines driving in a long line one behind the other let me string together the chain of events this year:
Corona pandemic – massive forest dieback – frequent heavy downpours – periods of heat and drought of unprecedented magnitude.
Global warming with its devastating effects is no longer just an “abstract” event that we learn about from the media. It is now happening right on our doorstep. A prominent politician said on TV: “We will resist the forces of nature with all our might!”
This gives expression to the very mindset that has created this imbalance, namely the belief that we are separate from the world, from nature, that we can rise above it, dominate it.
We are part of nature
The Californian Sufi teacher Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee declares:
The world is not at all a problem to be solved, but a living being to which we also belong. It is a part of ourselves, and we are a part of its suffering wholeness. There can be no healing unless we get to the bottom of our idea of detachment. And the deepest part of our detachment from creation is that we have forgotten its sacred nature, which is also our sacred nature.
I am facing a great challenge. If I no longer want to perceive nature, the forest, as something separate, something opposed to me, I have to engage myself in a completely different way, I have to try to enter into an inner relationship with the creatures of nature, to extend my sensory antennae wide in contemplative perception. In unintentional observation, I can delve into the secrets of stones, plants and animals, even establish an inner connection with them.
A new way of perceiving
Thus, I can perceive something in a plant that I have never noticed before. Its colours glow much more intensely when I take the plant deep inside me, its hairs and fibres resemble fine rays of light. It is like diving into an “other world” that is not our everyday world.
And the sensation can arise in me as if the plant were looking back, as if it wanted to know who is devoting himself so intensively to it, as if it also wanted to enter into a deep connection with me.
Observer and observed flow into each other. I am then in a finer, ethereal dimension, so that I no longer look at the plant only with physiological eyes, but with “ethereal eyes” (as Rudolf Steiner expresses it). Like acts on like. With the etheric senses, the etheric body of the plant becomes visible.
The sacred in nature
I realise: we have forgotten the sacred nature of creation, which is also our own sacred nature. Science, technology, and a world-weary spirituality have robbed us of the original connection with the spiritual dimension of life – the connection between our soul and the soul of the world. We have forgotten that we are all part of one living and spiritual being, the world-soul.
Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499) saw the world-soul at work everywhere and paraphrased it with the following words:
The soul is all things together […]
and since it is in the centre of all things
it possesses the powers of all these things.
And since it is the true connection of all things,
it passes into one without leaving the others […].
Therefore, it is rightly called the centre of nature,
the pivot of all things,
the face of all things, and the nexus
and the hub of the universe.
Jan van Rijckenborgh described the consoling, healing power of the world-soul in his book The Chinese Gnosis.
The light of nature and the light of the spirit
The true alchemists recognised the creative power at the core of nature. They recognised the light hidden in matter and in the forces of nature. They called it the Lumen Naturae, a sacred essence in the fabric of creation, which they sought to liberate through experimentation and imagination.
This light, hidden in matter, emanates from the world-soul and connects with the Lumen Dei, the divine light that radiates from the highest spheres of the transcendent spirit.
The world-soul, the Anima Mundi, is the divine spark in matter, the universal sparkling fire in the light of nature, which carries the heavenly spirit within itself as the highest consciousness.
Our natural light is part of the light of the world-soul. We can participate in the alchemical, soul process of renewal. We can release the light of our inner spark. It can connect with the Lumen Dei, with the light of the highest spirit.
Then the „lead“ – which symbolises our current state – is transformed into „gold“, the immanent divine spark and the transcendent divine light unite, and the divine spirit can reveal itself through us human beings.