GREAT PAN RETURNS
ALVIN BOYD KUHN, P.H. D.
* Do not remove this disclaimer. This piece by Alvin Boyd Kuhn was electronically typed and edited by Juan Schoch for, among other things [the following being a side note], educational research purposes of that contained in his library. I was the first out of billions of people on this planet to introduce the material of Alvin Boyd Kuhn on the internet starting in 1995. I was studying a book (The Problem of Good and Evil) among other materials authored by Ralph M. DeBit (aka Vitvan “one who knows”) who at one time collaborated with A. K. Mozumdar and who himself (Vitvan) in the mid to latter stages of his life and teachings was greatly influenced by the life and works of Alfred Korzybski. In the book Vitvan lists Kuhn’s work Shadow of the Third Century as one that should be consulted for further study in regards to the Dark Ages into which the world was plunged and from which we have not yet emerged. How did I come into contact with the works of Vitvan? I had been studying material of Jane Roberts and belonged to an e-mail list on the internet between the time-span of 1993-94 that discussed the material of Jane Roberts, etc. and at one point we had a “dream meeting” where everyone would report their dreams back to the list. The dream I had which I relayed back to the list symbolically represented what would happen after the dream (as I don’t know if it was at night or during the morning before waking that I had the dream.) In the dream I was in at some apartment type complex that was three stories high. I was trying to elude people who were chasing after me (they were not nice people). On the ground level I ran into a door and there were barking, snarling dogs (like black Dobermans) that wanted to attack me. I proceeded to get out of there and ran up the stairs to the next levels and on the top level I saw that there was a big tree. I jumped over the railing into the tree. I happened to go to a used bookstore near the town where my parents live and I found a bunch of lectures and a couple books of Vitvan’s. One of the lectures was on the Tree of Life and the dream of the levels represented the different levels of being at the bottom of which lies the so-called animalistic/elementalistic nature or tendencies (this information was contained in the lectures). Upon acquiring and reading Shadow of the Third Century which was referenced in the Problem of Good and Evil I was compelled to begin making the work of Alvin Boyd Kuhn available for the first time on the internet. It has been many years and through some helps of certain individuals I am now able to bring to you Great Pan Returns by Alvin Boyd Kuhn. As you may or may not be aware right now I am fighting to save a heinously-neglected-and-denied-true-rehabilitation human life in my state of Florida, a life that there has been attempted murder against on several occasions and which is continuing. Puzzle pieces have been put together and through other later events perpetrated against this individual, various cases were opened, pertinent authorities notified of the crimes and much evidence provided yet they do nothing but deny that anything is wrong or do not respond at all. I am outraged at the various officials in my state and of my country for their total cover-up and non-addressing of that which I have brought before them and I hope that someone will help me seek true justice by providing the funds necessary to combat this corruptness of our public servants and help me to get this individual (Terri Schindler Schiavo) out of the hands of those attempting to kill her and back on the road to her recovery among those who truly love, want to help her and can help her. So much for the fake “new age” trickster/faker/huckster who is trying to help her estranged, conflict-of-interest, etc. husband to commit attempted murder, may he and the other lawyers make recompense to Terri and her blood family for all the damage/injury they have caused by their participation in trying to make Terri dead. Simply because they are lawyers they think they are above the law. This cannot and should not be allowed to stand. email@example.com
The human being finds himself conscious of his existence in a world of a certain kind. Under the necessity of relating himself harmoniously and happily in that world he conditions his life as best he can. In his natural endeavour to fathom the significance of his situation in this cosmic environment, his mind — as exercised upon the problem by the most astute and brilliant philosophical thinkers — has ever striven to probe the terms of this relationship to his world. His hope has ever been that his findings might empower him to adjust himself in the most commodious and felicitous manner to the universe whose life he participates in and obviously from which he derives his physical existence. It is therefore startling to realize that the best of man’s philosophical efforts directed upon the solution of this fundamental inquiry have not yet produced an answer acceptable for veracity and completeness.
Philosophers are still wrestling with the question of man’s relationship to his physical habitat, primarily concerned, of course, with the terms of his physical relationship to it but also with the profound significance of his intellectual understanding of it. In a matter so immediately basic as this, the inquiry forces the human mind to consider the most profound questions confronting thought, involving the ultimate meaning of life and the universe.
In the immediate purview arises the question: is man a being independent of his environing universe or is he, in view of his dependence upon the earth for sustenance, even for the breath of life, an integral portion of that universe, one with its life and processes?
In philosophy, theology and anthropology, human intelligence is ever insistently challenged to determine how closely man’s life is linked to the world of
physical nature; whether and to what extent his being is congenitally, integrally bound in with nature, or is only incidentally cast in with it, as by fortuitous circumstances in the play of forces exterior to his own life. The problem might be phrased in the form: is man himself a portion of that nature which the living world outside him manifests, or is he, a Son of God, spiritual in ultimate composition, only casually and incidentally plunged into temporary and unessential proximity to it, immersed in and dependent on it?
The astute Greeks, drawing basic enlightenment from the wells of intelligence of ancient Egypt, set man sharply apart from what they called physis, or Nature, and scrutinized and expounded his life in relation to it. Man, they asserted, is a being of a dual constitution. In one half of his selfhood he is a creature of the universal world life, by virtue of which he lives in a body and subsists with other living bodies; in the other half he is a soul or spirit, coming here from another world of non-physical order, and having to deal with it as an extraneous and alien condition. Indeed, so far from rating it as a world kindred to man’s own life, congenital and homogeneous with it, they characterized it as a region whose influences were hostile to the interests of human souls, as they tended to smother out the finer, more subtly activated energies of a higher consciousness. In Greek philosophy this strain of ideology rang so loudly that man’s physical body, an aggregate of elements of physis, was dramatized as the prison house, dungeon, grave, and tomb of the divine soul.
One of the verses of the Chaldean Oracles proclaims (the soul-character in the drama speaking): “I am a child of earth and the starry skies, but my race is of heaven alone.” Attracted to earth by reason of its incorporation in a body of flesh, the soul thus asserts its inalienable selfhood as a product of heaven and its imperishable essences of real being. It might have elaborated the statement by saying: “I am a child of the primordial empyreal spirit-fire; my essential nature, which has given me birth, sustains me and renders me eternal, but I periodically link myself to physis, on a convenient planet, in order to acquire mastery of the energies of atomic matter. To become coadjutor with God in his creation, I must gain conscious control of the universal power embosomed in physis. Therefore I am, in a body and for a time, a child of earth.”
Approaching it from the human side, Wordsworth chants:
To her fair words did nature link,
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.
From the tone of this verse and all his poems it is patent that the poet allies human nature very definitely with the order of physical nature, a theme which will come prominently into the centre of the discussion here. But his envisagement of the kinship is through the spectroscope of the aesthetic, though it verges at times into the area of intellectual perception.
It may be timely to say here that while the aesthetic, what might even be termed the emotional, rapport between man and nature has been powerfully registered by people of refined sensibilities, another and even deeper communion of the human mind — that of the intellect with nature — has never been capably and with full force consummated. It is in large measure the succinct purpose of this work to formulate the basic principia of this science of the mind’s vision of the “wisdom and spirit of the universe”, as Wordsworth phrases it. Our theme is the concordance of the mind of man with the Mind that gave generation, structure and order to the cosmos. The study is designed to crown the feeling kinship between humanity and nature with its apical glory of intellectual perception of the relationship, thus demonstrating on the highest and most unassailable level the unity of man with nature.
Both by analogy and actuality, as surely as a plant in the garden or a tree in the forest is a child of the earth on its physical side and a child of heaven on the side of its minor grade of consciousness, so man is, as the Chaldean Oracles report, a child of earth and the starry skies. If by virtue of his link with physis he is “of the earth, earthy”, no less is he, by virtue of his progeneration from the mind of God, a child of the starry skies. As a tree is nourished by earth and water for its physical sustenance, and is thus earth-born and earth-natured, but also is animated by the life-giving energies of growth derived from air and sun-fire, so is man sustained in bodily subsistence by the two lower elements, earth and water (his body being seven-eighths water and one-eighth earthy or mineral constituency); while his consciousness is the product of the two higher elements, ever symbolical of spirit — air for mind and fire for spirit-soul.
The words in nearly all languages used to denote mind or soul have invariably been those for air, wind, breath; while the universal symbol of spirit has been the sun or its light and fire. Through body man is bound to earth; through mind-soul-spirit, three modifications of the one divine ray of his conscious selfhood, he is free to roam the heavens of higher being. As says Plato: “Through body it (man) is an animal; through intellect it is a god.” And Heraclitus defines man in the terms of Greek philosophy as “a god imprisoned in a body of earth and water.”
Here, definitely, are the ground works for the study of the relation of the human race to its natural tenement-house — the earth, deep in the soil of which his spirit ego has sunk its roots. Numberless religious movements have, in exaltation of spirit and derogation of matter, glorified his spiritual being while degrading and denouncing the material environment of his existence. But this has been a sad miscarriage of intellectual faculty, an unnatural distortion of the law of polarity by which the positive node of spirit must be exactly counterbalanced by the negative node of matter, if both forces together are to generate new cycles of life. Instead of straining to transplant the ego-souls of its devotees out of the mires of the earth, the more fully to partake of the joys of the spiritual skies, as so many misguided religious upsurgings have endeavoured to do, and to elevate it in transcendental rhapsodies of hypothecated spiritual consciousness, the devotional enterprise should have been to infiltrate the ground of our natural life with the magical root-sap of the overshadowing divine impregnation (germination). Through the projected radiations of divine force, which as individual units are called souls, the energy of God-mind plunges its roots deep into the body of matter, there to inseminate and transmute its atomic sub-potencies with the inoculation of its more dynamic spiritual energies.
As the dominant aim of this essay is, in effect, to demonstrate that nature is the type of truth, nature types will be utilized throughout as the means of elucidation of all points. One such that is fundamental is the relation of a seed to the soul in which it is buried for germination. The soul is the matter that is to fulfil the cosmic function of mater, mother of life. The seed is a nucleus of active life in potential latent form — nature’s achievement of which is close to her most miraculous performance. Only God, or Life, can fold up an eighty-foot high oak tree and pack it in all its parts in a tiny acorn — and open and unfold it to full size again. If this is not life’s deepest mystery, one could hardly think of a greater.
Here we have the two modes of all being, spirit (in potentiality) and matter. Matter, say the Greeks, is nothing, is privation. Detached from spirit it is non-entity, non-being, helpless and sheer negation. Only when impregnated by spirit, which links it to consciousness, can it participate in real being and contribute to the order of the cosmos. Alone, it is primal chaos. As feminine to spirit it is in the Scriptures the Great Harlot, unproductive; and in Gnostic philosophy produces the “Great Abortion”.
“Nature Unaided Fails” is the caption of much philosophical exegesis of the ancient arcane science. As any mother, matter-nature must be impregnated by the germ of creative spiritual potency if she is to give birth to life’s eternal child, divine consciousness. She must be subjected to cohabitation with her eternal polar twin, Father Spirit, to become fruitful of new being. Father God and Mother Nature must meet as seminal seed and ovum, if Life is to carry forward its program of ever-increasing, ever more abundant regeneration of itself. For the achievement of her destiny matter is like the young maiden, awaiting the coming of her lover, the soul, to make fruitful of new life.
As all phenomenalistic manifestation in the realm of created life is thus the product of the interrelation of the two forces, positive (spiritual) and negative (material) of the universal polarity of being — the one as father, the other as mother — it is a simple axiom of truth that all study of phenomena in the living order must be oriented to its objective by the implications and the terms of this prime datum. The whole living process is generated and determined by the play of the polarity. Therefore, the principles governing polarity supply the keys to all understanding of the active moving order.
To any one who will look at phenomena, polarity is indubitable as the sunrise. In not a single item of living nature — and, yes, beyond nature in the realm of mind — does polarity fail to register its ubiquitous operation. Doubtless the first principium of all truth comprehensible to the human intellect is the predication of the One Existent and All-pervading Life Force, the parent of all manifestation and both Alpha and Omega of all universal creation. From it, all manifestation emanates and back to it all returns. But concomitant with this one existence is the law of polarity, since as unity Being could not bring itself into manifestation. If Life maintained its complete unity, since in that state it cannot separate itself as subject to perceive itself as object, there could be no manifestation, for manifestation demands the showing or appearing of something. As long as Life remains ensconced in total unity, neither objectivity nor subjectivity can arise to take position opposite one another, thus withholding in blankness the terms of consciousness.
Every sally of Life in periodic rhythm from non-being out into conscious existence is preluded by the cosmic self-partition of the One Absolute into the dichotomy of positive and negative force, as in the first verse of Genesis: In the beginning the gods bifurcated being into the heavens of spirit and the earth of matter. Consciousness could effectuate its primal ideas for creation, since then it had matter with which to build. Ever a Oneness, embracing all division indissolubly within itself in paradoxical fashion, yet in polarity it could manipulate the opposing forces of a duality, to bring creation to pass.
Polarity, then, is not only our starting point but is also the principle of understanding all that proceeds in the order of creation. If this is established, we have only to look for the comprehension of the relation of man to nature and observe the operation of the two opposing, but mutually integrated, forces of mind and the physical world in their relation of polarity. Modern psychology is engrossed in the study of the conscious factor in the human psychic duality in relation to the opposite unconscious element. In precisely like fashion the task of the human mind is that of studying the relation of conscious positivity in man, the highest sentient being of conscious capability, to the objectivity of the world of matter, the opposing unconscious element.
It is at once apparent that, if normative principles can be discerned and formulated with reliable consistency, the law of analogy should enable intelligence to apply the principles so discovered in the case of the one to the understanding of the living procedure in the other. As the solar system and the atom mutually “explain” each other by analogy, so it ought to be possible for human intelligence to discover the intimate relation of the near-divine intellect of man to the mute message and silent voice of nature.
Granted that the task is ambitious and formidable, if the effort is exerted in the proper direction and governed by a clear envisagement of the principles involved, the first clear vision of all phases of man’s relation to nature should be definitely attainable. Also, a vast and fundamentally crucial phase of racial consciousness, which hitherto has been a field of sporadic, random, nebulous activity of feeling and motivation, may at last be surveyed and its phenomena organized under the code of the observed principles now revealed as operative in the domain. It may not be too presumptuous a claim that the whole relationship of man to nature may be formulated with a consistency and precision that would entitle it to the categorization of “science”.
It is clear that the basic situation, out of which all problems in the field spring, is the relation of mind or consciousness to matter. Subsidiary phases of it are the relation of mind to the human or animal being — to body; and of man to nature, or in general, of human life to the world. Lying so near to the roots of life, the problem has been the subject of reflection and of effort at elucidation by virtually every philosophical thinker. Particularly in ancient days it loomed on the horizon of the thought-world as almost the sole element of the speculative enterprise needing primary exposition. More than one philosophical work put out by the line of early Greek philosophers bore the title De Rerum Natura, Concerning the Nature of Things; or De Vita Naturae, Concerning the Life of Nature.
No work on philosophy presumed that the life of man could be intelligently envisaged apart from his relation to the gods who ranked above him in the scale of beings, and to nature, in which his life was physically grounded. Indeed, it becomes notably clear that when the Greek mind essayed to evaluate the position and significance of man in the order of creation it was deemed necessary above all else to establish the terms of his relationship to physis, or nature. For it is both obvious and inevitable that the earliest human reflection upon the nature and meaning of man’s life should have considered him in no sense other than as an integral element in the order of this physis. The abstractions and particularizations of thought were not likely to segregate man in any sharp and distinctive manner from the life of the world, since it was seen that he was its child along with all other creatures, and in general lived under the same laws as all other entities subsisting here. Later stages of subtlety and sophistication of mind were to bring that arbitrary line of distinction. Man was obviously a “higher” being than the clod and the stone, the tree and the beast, yet he was the product of the same four elements of earth, water, air and fire, which constituted them. He subsisted on these elements as did the lower creatures and was born, lived and died as they did, and in the same milieu.
To understand man, therefore, it was necessary to understand nature, for it was intuitively discerned that the laws that governed physis likewise governed his life. Certainly by his body, he was corporately a part of nature itself. Whatever other realm of being to which he might conceivably appertain by right of a spiritual endowment, it was undeniable that “through body he was an animal,” as Plato asserted, and had to be studied for his behaviour at the level of any other earthly animal species. Hence it is readily understandable why the Greek philosophy considered man as integrated in the world of physis.
The later development of this theme will elaborate another — and higher — form of Greek philosophical conception of man’s relation to nature, not stopping at his bodily allocation to the domain of nature, but hypothesizing another relationship at the level of the rational intelligence.
Humanity’s relationship to nature can be distinguished at three levels. First, there is the immediate attachment of one’s life to nature through the body. This subsists wholly in the domain of the natural forces, being composed of natural elements. This linkage is purely physical.
By definition, physical nature appertains to those materials, faculties and forces lying below the level of the rational self-consciousness in living entities. In the broadest general sense, therefore, it may be said that the study of man in this phase of his relationship to nature lies in the field of physiology, and natural science, having nothing to do directly with the cognitive function of the mind. It has to be realized, however, that in this analytical effort it is probably rash to run the lines of distinction arbitrarily through what is in the end a total and indivisible unity.
Life is certainly integral in all its diversity of manifestation, and its principles are uniform in operation. Beyond question, it is structurally organic. Nevertheless, for purposes of understanding, the human mind revels in dissecting, as it were, the components of the whole assemblage if only for the satisfaction of seeing how it performs its given function.
The positing of polarity itself is a legitimate distinction of elements in a composite. We must surely distinguish consciousness from lifeless matter. And once that division is made, the gamut of gradations in the manifestation of living energies furnishes the mind with the necessary data for the understanding of phenomena.
The supreme function of mind is to effect a synthesis of all the parts in the infinite diversity of natural objects and processes. But synthesis must be preceded by analysis. Our creative mind has the task of putting together what God has separated out of his original unit wholeness; and if there is to be a re-assemblage of the parts, these must at least be seen as parts, and named and classified in their individuality.
For the security of his existence, man has to discriminate sharply among the numberless things he encounters. One of the great paradoxes of Life is the maintenance of unity — total oneness — in all the multiplicity of an incredibly pluralistic universe. Nevertheless, the creatures of Life must differentiate among the constituent units which, by their very difference compose the unity. We must drink water and not sulphuric acid; eat bread and not clay. The multiple parts of the organic whole maintain the unity in blessedness when associated with each other in the most harmonious way; if wrongly related, they disrupt the order and balance.
There is, then, the purely physical linkage of man with nature. Secondly, there is the aesthetic. This is the response to nature’s forms and influences through the human susceptibilities of feeling. The body, with its brain and nervous equipment, again enters this realm, but only mediately as providing the mechanism of the conscious registration. It is a relation of nature to consciousness, and the impact of nature upon consciousness is that of nature’s objective forms upon the feelings and sensibilities of homo sentiens.
Man has been placed on this planet to carry on his life in the milieu of nature. It is inevitable that nature should exert upon him her influences, salutary or pernicious — and this from the bare fact of his relation of dependence upon and immersion in nature.
This impact of the physical world upon human life has been observed, analyzed and theorized upon throughout the history of civilization. Its influences exerted upon first the body, then the mind or soul of the human, have been meticulously catalogued. Anthropology, sociology and every branch of humanistic science have digested all the particulars of the physical side of the influence; it has been the métier of philosophy to trace the effect of nature upon humanity’s ideological postures, intellectually conceptualized. But it has been the province of poetic inspiration to catch and register the high elevations of the feeling response to nature — the third linkage.
Whether as pure feeling, or thought exalted and illuminated by feeling, it is the soul of poetry that responds in deepest sentiency to the aura of beauty with which nature suffuses the mind-soul of the mortal living amid her charms. This form of nature’s influence on mankind has been delineated by many philosophers in religion, the mystical tendency most signally exemplified by St. Francis of Assisi, but experienced to a degree by most mystics, has drawn contemplatives into a close rapport with nature. From nature, as they have declared, have been born some of their most exalted realizations of their oneness with the Oversoul of the world.
Seclusion in mountain fastnesses or forest retreats has ever been looked upon as the most favourable condition for the successful pursuit of the contemplative life. The quietude of the forest, the beauty of the scenery, have been held conducive to the free play of the mystical afflatus as these things exert a soothing influence upon the psyche.
Perhaps supreme among the philosophers in the elucidation of this afflatus has been the Neoplatonic Plotinus. His was a masterly exposition of the character and force of nature’s influence in this area of human affectability. Nearly all poets of deep sensitivity have breathed the breath of nature into the body of their effusions. Indeed, it is not extravagant to say that natural Truth, perceived and delineated through mystical rhapsodies and visions of supreme beauty, is pretty near to being the soul of poetry.
Poetry abounds ubiquitously in tropes and figures based on nature. By instinct the poetic mind discerns in natural phenomena the suggestive paradigms or modes of both intellectual conceptions and universal truths. The mind that tries to portray thoughts and feelings of deep character is forced to go to nature to find living forms to represent them in words. Or, these logical ideas find themselves almost intuitionally dramatized by their contratypes in nature’s world.
Nature is at all times the handmaid of poetic figurism, supplying a suggestive analogue for every emotion or concept. When Tennyson says that “like summer tempest came her tears” he simply finds it easiest to coy nature’s ready dramatization of this human emotional upsurge.
Nature is thus intellectually suggestive of luminous images of Truth. But beyond that, or perhaps through its very efficacy, it also becomes morally — sometimes spiritually — ennobling. The poet Wordsworth stands out as a notable exponent and artist. John Ruskin traced the salutary and beneficent effects of the beauties of nature upon character and morals most forcefully and significantly. Nor can we overlook Goethe when the theme is the recognition of the rapport between nature and the human mind. In fact, the whole great movement of German romantic idealism of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries drew its motivation and vision from a deep perception of the kinship of the mind with nature.
Philo, the outstanding Jewish philosopher of the early period, expounded the four levels at which the mind is capable of apprehending truth: (a) the literal-historical-factual; (b) the ethical-emotional; (c) the allegorical-mental; and (d) the anagogical-spiritual. In contemplation we realize that the mind likewise perceives nature at the same four levels and in the same four forms. First we see her forms and phenomena, in simple objectivity. Then we view them with closer attention and receive the impression of a feeling nature, arousing sentiments of beauty, tenderness, goodness. At a higher pitch of consciousness we catch the shadowy intimations of sublime truth, as Wordsworth so royally describes them, by the working of the mind’s instinctive sense of analogical identity of the seen with the unseen. And, lastly, we can at rare moments be swept with a veritable inundation of light and truth as to be lifted high into the realm of pure ideality and cosmic vision of reality itself.
It seems obvious that the ancient sages, notably the Egyptian Hermes, dubbed by the Greeks Trismegistus, “Thrice Greatest”, possessed the essential keys to the art of reading God’s thoughts in his creation. They primarily sought to pictorialize the rudiments of cosmic truth by means of parallels with the simplest forms of natural phenomena and the life habitudes of living things, animal and vegetable. That is, to the Egyptian sage, every object and phenomenon in the natural world was a pictograph of some aspect of truth, some principle of verity and reality. He looked at nature superficially with the eye of physical vision but, as if he were equipped with a spiritual X-ray perception, he looked at nature seeing not its superficies but the forms and figures of truth deep within its interior. Using externals as signs, through them he read an inner story of a purely intellectual or abstract nature. He not only saw what they were, but what they meant.
To Hermes nature presented a world of objects but he perused it as a world of meaning. Every salient characteristic in the life-behaviour of insect, worm, plant or animal phrased some idyll of living truth. Every manifestation in the lower world dramatized a play of life’s surging purpose to manifest itself in the open field of being — on to becoming. It had planted itself in the garden of matter and was irrepressibly straining to rise out of the ground and display itself in the brightness of its beauty. To the Egyptian, whom James Breasted in his History of Egypt says was an ardent lover of nature, the outdoor world was not a soulless world of growing things, but a living entity, expressing the message of the Cosmic Mind that had engendered its production.
It is probably true, then, to say that the savants of the ancient Egyptian religious culture reacted to the divine display of beauty in nature not only with strong aesthetic-emotional sympathies, but also with an incitement to intellectual reflection that must have rendered nature diaphanous to analogical presentation. That is to say, they had come to discern the patterns, the archetypes of the universal Logos which nature, shadow-like, presented to their minds. The intellectuality of their response to nature is evident from a perusal of the great texts of the pyramids, tombs and temples. For here nature is called upon to furnish the paradigms that structuralize and objectivize truth. The animal types; gods with animal heads; symbols from vegetation; solar, stellar, and lunar movements and positions; the inundation and subsidence of the Nile waters; all these testify to the concern of the Egyptian mind with the elements and the phenomena of the circling year.
It may be a truism to say that early man, from the sheer lack of mechanical devices, lived far closer to nature than civilized man lives today. Therefore he was in closer harmony with her moods and developed a sensitive kinship with her spirit. Doubtless this rapport was registered to his consciousness through the channels of purely physical contiguity at first, then through the sensibilities and emotions. Still, the intimations of intellectual conceptuality would often project themselves out into his reflective musings.
Let any person of quiet, speculative tendency — a Thoreau, for instance — live in a setting of close association with the earth and woods, and his mind will be taking lessons in morality and philosophy with every observation of natural events. This would have been the case with people of the middle and lower ranks of culture; but it seems evident that the hierophants of the arcane mysteries had gone far enough into the elaboration of a methodology for intellectualizing the phenomena of nature as to entitle their formulations to the term “science”. It may have been formalized in principles accurate and dependable enough to be classified as the science of semantics and the most authentic semantics of all — those of nature.
Nowhere, perhaps, can there be found a delineation of the four grades of conscious receptivity to nature’s influence so clearly demarcated as in the poetry of that supreme English lover of nature, William Wordsworth. The first mode of his response to nature of course came early in youth. Nature’s impress was then directly through sensuous repercussion. The “beautiful forms” encountered in woodland, meadow, hill and stream, stirred each its proper response of feeling in the tender susceptibilities of the young mind.
In youth’s keen eye the livelong day was
The sun at morning and the stars at
The world of earth was for the child, as nobody has ever so sublimely portrayed it as has Wordsworth in his majestic poem “On the Intimations of Immortality” from Recollections of Early Childhood. His words were made iridescent with the aura of celestial light that lingers about the consciousness of the child. In that scintillant glow, all nature’s sights and sounds, her moods and tones, affected the senses of childhood with a freshness, fragrancy and poignancy that is never experienced in later years. Ruskin tells of his pristine rapture at his first sight of a towering mountain in childhood.
Ancient tradition carries the universal legend of a Golden Age in the childhood of humanity, during which the races of men lived in close affinity with nature; the gods still held converse with earth’s children; and peace and happiness reigned. Like its individual members the race itself felt bathed in the accompanying afterglow that carried a little way out of heaven with them as they left it. Then, life on earth tingled with novelty and every natural object and phenomenon spoke to the unsophisticated consciousness a message most directly cogent for the well-being of the denizens of their domain. The world was all Arcady, and life flowed in rhythm with the tides and the seasons. Nature’s moods and operations were ever matters of prime concern to her human protégés and they stamped their significance deep upon sentient souls.
This great nature was the universal mother of all that lived, and to her loving heart, as the child to its mother did the children of men look for all the benison that life had to offer. Mankind nestled on her wide bosom and fed at her generous breasts. Nature was the Great Mother goddess — Isis, Myletta, Venus, Cybele, Ishtar, Maya, Mary, Juno — coeval wife and sister of the great god, without whose feminine material powers no god could achieve his creative work. An inscription at the base of the beautiful statue of Isis found at Sais is the goddess’ proclamation of her function: “I am the goddess Isis, the mother of all that lives. No man hath lifted my robe and the fruit I bore was Helios.” (Helios — the sun.) This can mean nothing other than that the stupendous light and power of the suns are the progeny begotten in her capacious cosmic womb.
This was the great mother who gave birth to all the myriad forms of earth life, nourishing every creature as long as no man had lifted her robe and wantonly violated the secret sanctity of her motherhood. Kindly she was, Alma Mater, and lavishly fecund, blessing all her progeny with unstinted plenty, rearing them in unbounded vigour of life, until in the course of ages there came a breed of her children who with great cunning tore wide open the texture of her robe mystery and disclosed for the first time the mighty secret of the fruit of her womb — her giant son, Helios, the potent fire of the sun. Now, her sanctity violated, her chastity despoiled, her body torn with ravishment, she may no longer be able to shield her children from the consequence of their insatiable lust for knowledge of her nature and may have to let their wantonness itself blot them from the earth to preserve the harmony of the universe.
While modern philosophy effervesces in pointless and profitless speculation the sage Hermes of Egypt could announce the incontestable truths of universal being:
“As all things are from One, by the mediation of One, so all things have
their birth from the One Thing by adaptations. The Sun is its Father, the
Moon its Mother, the Wind carried it in its belly, its Nurse is the Earth. This
is the father of all perfection, or consummation of the whole world. Its
power is integrating if it be burned into earth.
“Thou shalt separate the earth from the fire, the subtle from the gross,
suavely and with great ingenuity. It ascends from earth to heaven, and
descends again to earth and receives the power of the superiors and of
the inferiors. So thou hast the glory of the whole world; therefore let all
obscurity flee before thee. This is the strong force of all forces,
overcoming every subtle and penetrating every solid thing. So the world
was created. Hence were all wonderful adaptations, of which this is the
manner. Therefore am I called Hermes Trismegistus, having the three
parts of the philosophy of the whole world. What I have to tell is completed
concerning the operation of the Sun.”
Here was supernal truth of the cosmic being, stated in the terms of natural obviousness which no man, be he never so artful in sophistry, might gainsay. Before truth could be “spiritual” to man’s higher sensitivities it had first, as St. Paul says, to be “natural”. In humanity’s child-mind nature could stand in no manner of hostile relation to the intrinsic total interest of earth’s children. Only with the rank exuberance of growth of conscious intelligence in the adolescence of the race; with the subtlety of self-interest driven to eternal prying, came the conception of nature’s enmity to human welfare. Nature’s influence was held as beneficent, never malignant. Matter bore no stigma of evil, nor were the powers of the total creative effort relegated to conditionless and timeless being, as Eastern thought so insistently asserted, but were accepted as indigenous and local in all visible processes. The power of life is fathered in the heavens, but only in the bosom of earth, in the womb of Mother Nature, can it be nurtured into the beauty and glory of a new miracle of life.
As nature was the mother of all things, the sun power was the creative force she generated, and by it the gods created all that was made. The spiritual divinities united their intellectual energies with the manifold forms of her giant force; and the union bred the living creatures whose activities carried on the work of creation. For mind is potent to lay hold of matter and use its atomic-dynamic force to mold into shape its divine archetypal conceptions. These first thought forms of the cosmic noumenon projected forth from the centre of the great universal Mind and carried by initial thrust “as far as to the last of things” as the Greek philosophers said. Thrilled out into space, wafted on the energies of the uttered Voice of the Creator, they came at last to rest at the points where their emanative momentum was slowed and ultimately stopped by the resistance of inert matter. Thus stabilized with matter, from the marriage of the two great polarized forces a new generation of life was achieved.
Thus was the universe created by the Word of the God power. The vibration pierced to the core of the germinal potency slumbering in the womb of matter and aroused it to activity to obey the dictates of Mind. Where the vibratory impulses of spirit and matter met each other at a point of neutralization was established a “plane” of life, a stabilization of immovability amid the raging of chaos, where seeds of life, implanted in matter, could have time and favourable conditions for germination and growth. Thus, said Hermes, were the worlds established.
That which the polarized energies of mind and matter created was the All. And the All was Pan (Greek: all). Distilled out of first, the fire-mist, then the vapourous elements, then the water, the precipitated sediments became solid rock when pressed under great oceans. The mighty power became in mythical symbol the goat-footed god disporting himself with his pipe in sylvan dell. As figure of a living totality, Pan was dual in nature, for the manifested universe is mind and substance wedded in a balance of consciousness and its instrument or embodiment. Without this equilibration of energies, no existence and no growth are possible. His double constitution was indicated by his being one half man and one half animal; as man embodying the psycho-spiritual powers of consciousness, as animal manifesting the sheer force of primal nature — again illustrating the polar activity of spirit and matter. The duality of Pan’s nature was further represented by his cloven goat-hoof. But why goat?
Here, as in so much other myth and symbol, the modern mind is confronted with riddles and enigmas in the face of which it seems to stand totally inept and helpless. This necessitates the effort to unravel the tangled web of much of the ancient mystery of myth, allegory, symbol, drama, number-graph and astrological pictographology. For without a competent grasp of the schematicism of these recondite ruses of cryptic representation of the basic verities, no elucidation of the astounding truth emblemed in the arcane literature of the ancient world is possible at all.
If the world of today is to rekindle the ancient light of a supernal intelligence, bedimmed almost to the point of complete extinction by the crassness of the Western mind over some twenty centuries, it will have to reconstruct and reconstitute the lost language of poetic symbology and natural imagery. For it was in this idyllic spirit that the profound lore of cosmic truth was expressed. It is a conservative statement to assert that the modern world has lost the intelligence, the subtle perspicacity to read with discernment this astonishing message of light and truth, the great wisdom-scripture of past ages.
To the perception of early man the thought was surely not implausible that, as the larger unit of the solar system was animated, vivified and ensouled by the power of a central dynamo — the sun, so by analogy it could be supposed that the life of man was similarly ruled by its proportionate fragment of that same power. Ancient philosophy postulated as the first principle of a true anthropological science the existence of a little divine “sun” within the nucleus of each man. This particle of indestructible essence of the mind-power of the One Thing was at once the source, the dynamo and the innermost Self of the entity in which it was lodged for a season. And this “little sun”, this ray, this spark of the Infinite God-fire, like its father luminary in the sky, also circled through the “heavens” of its organic system, the body of man. It covered the circuit of four “seasons” — sense, emotion, thought and spiritual perception — and aggregated to itself the twelve divine powers.
Man was thus an epitome of the cosmos. He was himself a solar system with a sun of divine intelligence projecting its fiery energies of thought into the matrix of bodily matter. Strangely, ancient mythology proclaimed the divine soul unit in man to be the progeny of two mothers, named in Egypt Isis and Nephthys. Isis generated the Christ-child in the womb of conception; Nephthys gave him physical birth. The first was indeed the “virgin mother”, matter in its inchoate, inorganic form; matter ethereal, subatomic, invisible — pure essence and not yet substance. The second mother was matter in its matured development when it could be impregnated by the solar ray of the God-mind and in the fullness of time bring forth the solar Son, or Sun.
In circling the twelve “houses”, the upper six of which represented the heaven world, or disembodied existence, the lower six the cycles of immersion of soul-units in physical forms, the spiritual soul of man came in its lowest point of descent to the nethermost house of the Zodiac, Capricorn. The Zodiac prefigured the total cycle of the soul’s evolutionary journey, starting with its spiritual conception in June at the summit of its heavenly ascent; the September equinox represented its actual impregnation of matter; and the December solstice marked its point of deepest immersion in body-matter. The descent from June to December could be called its period of incubation, and in terms of cosmic operation its involutionary phase. At the nadir of its descent it would swing about the pivot of the solstice and begin its return to the empyrean and the “Father’s palace” out of which it had sallied forth in the beginning, this being its evolutionary phase or arc. The solstice, then, was the point of turning about from the darkness of inert matter to return to the light of spirit.
So evident was this that the solstice itself was named cardo solis, the hinge of the sun. As depicted in the Zodiac the winter solstice was the hinge or pivot at which the solar power, sunk to its lowest grade of inertness, slowly swung around in the sluggish sea of dense matter and having finally swiveled about, began its climb back to the heavens of spirit.
It is of staggering significance that in the Hebrew religious heritage coming down from Ancient Egypt, this solstitial point of pivoting from involution to evolution was named Mount Sinai. (From the Egyptian seni (sheni), senai, which Massey translates as “point of turning to return”.
A brilliant new light by which to examine the Hebrew Old Testament is thus available to us. The Mount Sinai on which God descended to meet and commune with man is discerned to mean the earth itself. The December solstice of the cosmic cycle was poetized as the dark night and the cold winter of soul’s evolutionary journey. The Christ Son (sun) was thus born at the winter solstice in all ancient religions. Christianity, in swinging away from the allegorical to the literal-historical rendering of scriptures missed the esoteric significance of the earlier typification, or confused it with the final birth of the soul out of its body-tomb, which is its “resurrection from the dead” at Easter.
The birth of the Son of God, then, was on March 25. But in the year 345 A.D., a decree of Pope Julian II ordered that the Christians might be in harmony with the followers of Mithras and of Bacchus, who commemorated the rebirth of the Divine Sun at the winter solstice.
Another indication of the allegorical association of the divine birth with the solstice is the item of Christ’s nativity in a stable. This symbol is a most apt illustration of the subtlety of ancient poetic allegorism. It might be thought of in relation to the adjective “stable”, especially when considering the proportion of light to darkness in the period of a day. Though light is at its shortest diurnal duration and feeblest strength, and darkness is at its longest stretch, nevertheless, for the extent of some ten days of the solstice the two are completely “stabilized” relative to each other. They are locked, as it were, in the grip of a power by which their two forces can interchange influences, fructify each other’s life and generate out of the union the newborn Son of Light. At any rate, the germ of divine consciousness, slumbering in the matrix of the body, is quickened out of its condition of inertness, virtual “deadness”, at the solstice, and awakened to the exertion necessary to effect deliverance from matter’s womb and to begin a new cycle of growth that will eventuate in the summit of spiritual glory at Easter morn.
So the Christ-Messiah is reborn at the solstice of winter in the “stable” relation between his two parents, spirit and matter. A chapter in the apocryphal Protevangelion, a gospel ascribed to James, depicts the allegorism focused on the night of December 24, on which Joseph goes forth from the village of Bethlehem to find a midwife for Mary. It is dramatized as a time when birds in the air stopped in the midst of their flight; men seated around a table suddenly ceased eating, holding their forks with food before their mouths, their lips opened to receive food but they put nothing in”; a shepherd poised to smite his sheep but his hand was immovable above his head; kids putting their mouths to the water of a river, but not drinking. With this flourish of allegorism so openly flaunted in the book’s thirteenth chapter, it is not difficult to determine why the Protevangelion was not voted into the canon of the Christian New Testament. Its obvious representation of the Nativity as a poetization of solstitial motionlessness being all too glaring evidence of the nonhistoricity of the birth event.
What is recorded as the oldest known Christmas carol, dated in the fifth century A.D., sings — in Latin — of the Christ, the Virgin’s Son, a solis natus cardine, “born from the hinge of the sun”. The solstice, as the Sinai, the turntable in the roundhouse of evolution, the pivot on which nuclearized soul-divinity swings around the lower terminus of its involutionary descent, is here delineated as the place at which the interlocking of the powers of spirit and body give birth to the Son of God.
Now, precisely at the solstice stands the house of Capricorn, the “Goat’s Horn”. The Zodiac itself seems to be a fathomless fount of amazing significances. The selection of the goat as beast-figure for the solstice period can be found to yield certain points of appositeness in fairly suggestive ways. Contrary to the superficial knowledge of most present-day astrologers, the animal here depicted was not the domestic goat, but the sea-goat. It was either an animal now extinct or perhaps altogether chimerical, though there appears to be a small sea animal meeting the traditional description. At any rate its sea character in time was forgotten and the animal symbol that came to be so largely featured in Saturnalian, Bacchic and other ritualistic ceremonialism was definitely the farm animal, the common goat.
Most, if not all the Zodiacal signs have a dual character or symbolical significance. It may be then, that the figure of the sea-goat was chosen as appropriate to represent the first life of spirit units sunken deep in the element of water, out of which they would later in development emerge for continued evolution in the air and on land. This would indeed depict the actuality of the progression of life upward through the biological stream from initial inception in sea water to transition at some period to land and air environment. It is astonishing to note how exactly the human foetus, recapitulating this order in its briefer cycle of birth and growth, is born out of a sac of water into the air. So the ancient analogists said that man, or the seed of consciousness ensconced within him, begins to unfold at the level of sense and emotion, typified respectively by earth and water. Later, he graduates into the kingdom of mind and spirit, whose respective types are air and fire.
These type-elements, it must be realized, are not merely abstract symbols, but were themselves quite literal analogues of the conscious powers they were used to adumbrate; sense arising through an earth-body basically compounded of earth elements; emotion showing itself as unstable as water and fluctuating as readily; thought as invisible and tenuous as air; and spirit being a fiery potency able to build or destroy its habitations.
The fitness of the symbols for the conscious powers is further attested by the challenging fact that for every possible relationship observable in the mutual interactions of the four elements upon each other, commensurable and parallel phenomena can be noticed in the four conscious grades. Thus, as a change in air will effect changes in water, so a change in thought will give rise to changes in emotions, calming or perturbing them. Fire and air tend under natural conditions to rise; earth and water fall ordinarily by gravity. So spirit and mind culturally uplift man; whereas sense and emotion, if they do not directly drag him down, hold him at a lower level. Man’s conscious life, the sages said, was thus the nursery bed and the battle ground of two opposite and moving forces. Morality, they said, nay, spirituality, was the product of the soul’s maintaining as nearly as possible an even balance between the two pairs of opposing influences. Morality, the Greek philosophers expounded, consists in keeping a balance between the elements in nature, each constraining the other nearest it in a position and activity adapted to facilitate life’s course of experience and growth in an even state and settled composure. When sense, emotion, mind and spirit blended their vibrations in harmony, there was joy, beauty and peace in the household of the soul. When either expression sounded its note out of tune, there was discord and anger.
The primary, or fundamental significance of the sign of Capricorn, based on its position at the nadir of soul’s descent in the Zodiac, with all the implications of the winter solstice sharply accentuated, was the life of consciousness functioning germinally in matter impregnating mindless energy with seminal mind. Pan, as deity, was the operation of consciousness at the potential levels of sensation and emotion. Not his was the activity of consciousness at the high pitch of thought and spirituality. Pan was the god of nature. Pan was nature. Yet he was the potential of all mind and spirit power. Furthermore, he was the outer concrete expression of cosmic mind and spirit, but manifested in the physical world. So he was virtually the body itself of All-Being, the mind and soul of the Creator being as mind ever must be, veiled to outward sight, as the human body both manifests and veils the animating spirit that vivifies it. Apt is Pope’s sententious couplet:
“All things consist of one stupendous Whole, Of whom the body Nature is,
and God the soul.”
Nature then, is the body of God, and man can divine the soul of God only from its external manifestation in the body. But archaic man could no more doubt the existence of God — doubt that this living body of cosmos was animated by a soul — than he could doubt the activity of a man’s mind if he saw the man’s body fully demonstrating its operation. The actions of the body bespeak a directing intelligence.
All nature is an epiphany. It exhibits the creative power expressing itself in its work. The frame and movement of the activity disclose the ideas of the mind and mover: they reveal divine mind.
Pan is therefore nature; but he is more than nature. He is not nature detached and divorced from cosmic mind, but nature expressing cosmic mind. Pan is that mind made manifest in its created works.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his
handy work. Day unto day uttereth speech and night unto night sheweth
knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not
heard.” — Psalms, xix, 1-3.
The perpetration of that direst of all doctrinal fatalities, the condemnation of the natural world, is the crux of the failure of the world’s religious philosophy. The failure is due to a false and unbalanced idea that nature, matter, is hostile to the spirit; and that for the soul’s exaltation and salvation the world-body and the man-body must be thwarted in its instincts — despised, mortified and crushed underfoot. This mistake ranks with two or three other false notions that have arisen in religions to stultify the sanity of human reason, as one of the titanic tragedies in the conceptual life of historical man. That matter is evil; that body and its sensational faculties are the source of corruption for the soul; that the pleasures of the body are the soul’s damnation; that the natural world is to be abhorred; that the life of nature is pitched at the level of cosmic baseness — all this foul characterization of nature has been elevated into accepted principles of religious philosophy.
All religious philosophies save perhaps the hedonistic have embodied it. East has shared it equally with the west. Religion has ever unctuously stressed the cult of abhorrence of nature, the world and the flesh. This note has perhaps been pressed to its extreme emphasis in Hindu philosophy, wherein the very presence of the soul in body is decried and escape from the body is held the supreme accomplishment.
The rise, sweep and unmitigated accentuation of this contempt for the natural world bespoke the failure of human intelligence to grasp and hold securely and in balance the burden of the primeval divine teachings. Never did these sage deliverances scorn or revile nature. In every way they held the life of man up to nature and indeed built their philosophical systems on the kinship of man with nature — more particularly on the third level of Philo’s four forms of man’s relation to it, the analogical-intellectual.
Man, who found his life planted in the midst of the garden of nature, by innate and spontaneous sensitivity felt his life to be an integrated part of his environing natural order. He never regarded himself as an alien inhabitant of a world out of harmony with him, unfit for him, much less hostile to him. Wherever thought went deeper, the human found indeed his life mirrored in that of the world. The rhythms and periodicities of his existence were concomitant and commensurate with those of the world and nature. The tides of change that brought autumn death and spring rebirth to vegetation and animals also brought him to birth and would similarly end his existence. Nature, which was sometimes dour and dreary, sometimes sunny, matched his moods of happy elation and depression.
At that stage he lived in closest touch and most harmonious rapport with nature’s forces and influences. For not yet had come that development of mental power by which he could rationalize a gulf between himself and her. Not alien were he and nature to each other, but merely twins, born of the same One Life.
So, from the earliest times there was no breach between the operations of man’s incipient mental genius and the processes of nature. There was no possibility that his reflections on natural phenomena could ever turn his mind to a posture of hostility in the world, or fix nature in his thought as anything other than beneficent towards his existence. Did she not supply him with his sustenance, shelter and apparel? Did he not see her forces making for plenty, for comfort, for his delight, even though at times her energies swept him with violence and threatened his extinction? He saw himself as a child, the ward of nature. He therefore lived with her companionably, at home in her household, supported by her unfailing bounty.
It was his youth. His future mental capabilities had not yet unfolded to elevate him into a world of rational interests which shifted the focus of his consciousness above and away from nature. Gradually, the harmonious rapport was broken, rendering him oblivious of her manifestations, insensitive to her moods.
Yet, in the counsels of cosmic purpose it was destined that his relation to his earth mother should implant in his subconscious self the archai, the structure forms of cosmic ideation, so that when in the upward sweep of evolution his conscious intellectual faculties unfolded, he would possess the cardinal principles of eternal verity. His intimate association with nature was to be, no less, the kindergarten training in, or rather an absorption of, the first principles of truth. From nature and her demonstrations he was to be made familiar with rudimentary being. Contrary as it may ring in the ears of the general philosopher, nature was to indoctrinate the racial consciousness with the canons of truth for the guidance and illumination of the developing rational faculty in man’s unfoldment of divine genius.
This, in fact, was the purpose for which the hosts of God’s young children-souls were sent into this world from their empyreal home. They had come in their evolution to the point at which the germs of mind needed to be developed. This step could only be taken by their embodiment in the highest animal forms on earth. In them their lives would be lived amid the objectivized forms of truth expressed in the world creation at the physical level. In this strategic position, they would be so innately a part of the order of real being that they could not escape having its modes, its laws and habitudes ineradicably stamped upon their inner nature and thus woven into the texture of their own being.
This function of nature in the economy of the evolution of consciousness is the cardinal item that both religion and philosophy have lost sight of. The pedagogical power and function of nature has been ignored, touched on only inadvertently at any time. No competent rationale of the evolutionary procedure is possible without incorporating the instructive and enlightening office of nature in the scheme of life.
Decried as a false teacher, an illusory and deceptive mentor, nature is, on the contrary, man’s one true instructor. She cannot instruct wrongly, for she is the infallible spokesman for truth. Indeed, she is the living truth itself. When we see what God hath wrought, we behold what God hath thought. For the world’s objects are his divine archetypal ideas, generated primordially in his creative mind, but finally crystallized, “frozen”, hardened in physical matter.
When one looks at natural objects, one is gazing upon what were at one time only gossamer idealities in the divine mind. God had stamped upon matter the die of his primal cogitation; the mold hardened under the involutionary process, which can be thought of as analogous to a reduction of cosmic temperature.
The almost identical relationship between “think” and “thing” is seldom recognized. All things are, in the first instance, “thinks”. Nature is the open book of God-thought, but unreadable until the true science of semantics is cultivated — a science lost since ancient days.
Every natural object, phenomenon or process is the definitive analogue of a canon of truth, a law of Being. All nature is truth in the composite and, most significantly for our objective here, the natural law prevails also in the spiritual world. For law is universal, not one thing in the natural sphere and something contradictory in the spiritual. There is in fact but one Law, and both the natural and spiritual obey it and express it, but at two different levels. The one is a reflected image of the other.
This perception was a basic formula for the guidance of ancient sages in their efforts to find and then to delineate truth. All truths can be discerned, appraised, and finally tested against the forms, the paradigms held up by nature. As Emerson has put it: “Man stands midway between the inner spirit and the outer matter. He sees that the one is the image and reflection of the other, that the world is a mirror of the soul, and he becomes a priest and interpreter of nature thereby.”
One of the most forceful enunciations of the ancient philosophy upon this vital item is the citation found in the Talmud, drawn no doubt from remote high founts of wisdom: “If thou wilt know the invisible, open wide thine eyes on the visible.” Mightily significant is this expression of truth because it shouts rebuke to thousands of theologians and philosophers who virtually assert that for the vision of truth the gaze must be turned away from the visible world to pursue the phantoms of truth in the hazy, nebulous world of the invisible.
The present essay is in no sense a brief for a philosophy of nature that presupposes or contemplates, much less demands, human participation in the life of nature only at the level at which nature expresses life. It is not contended that humanity should live at the level of consciousness of the mineral, the plant or the animal. Mankind must pursue its mode of existence at its own level and grade, which on the side of consciousness reaches one whole dimension above the range of even the highest animal. And it must even surpass that if it would realize its evolutionary destiny.
A philosophy expounding man’s proper relation to nature does not for a moment envisage the lowering of human nature to function on the plane of physical nature. This would be to urge that the human should have no interests to pursue, no faculties to cultivate above the instinctive functions of his body where, be it good philosophy or bad, he ineluctably must function. The body part of man must function in the plane of nature. For indeed it is an animal, and its well-being is maintained under the laws which govern the animal. As Plato defined the human order, “Through body man is an animal; through intellect a god.” Or, as Heraclitus defined the race, “Man is a god imprisoned in a body of earth and water.” By body man appertains to the realm of physis. But by the endowment or the capability of mind and soul and their higher potencies of consciousness, man can range far beyond the instincts of the animal. He can partake of the miracles of a world open to the sentiency of being enlarged by the powers of a higher dimension of consciousness and live his life in a world of experience that would be beyond miracle to the animal.
But though man, for his sheer physical safety and well-being, must learn how to relate his life to the powers of nature, and the adequacy with which he can perfect this relationship is the measure or determinant of the happiness of his life on earth, our effort here has no immediate concern with the physical adaptation of our life to the world. That is the work of physiology, nutrition, science and industry. The concern is with man’s mental correlation of his life with nature.
In the superficial view of the practical person of ordinary mentality no value could be discovered in an intellectual relationship with the world that could compare in importance to the practique of man’s bodily relationship to nature. What we think of our relation to nature can matter infinitely less, in the opinion of the “average” person of our civilization. And from one quite solid point of view, this judgement of the common mind is unimpeachable.
Man, however, is more than animal body. He is divine soul, actual or potential, and always striding from unrealized potentiality to actualized power. Above and beyond all ground-elements of the relationship is the posture of the mind of man toward his environment, a posture which, inspired and supported by the keenest insights and most sublimated intuitions, will orient the human in such a glow of luminous intelligence as to crown his mortal existence ultimately with the ecstatic joys of a beatific vision of blessedness. It will bring him close to what Spinoza must have described in the skies of elevated contemplation when he announced that the supreme achievement of the human consciousness was to be found in the “intellectual love of God”.
Scores of saintly mystics have expostulated and rhapsodized over the entranced communion of the soul with the being of God, but little or no emphasis was accorded the play of the intellect in the experience of transcendancy. Always it was the feeling rapport of the soul with the Oversoul, or the All-Soul. But Spinoza so far kept his feet firmly on human reality as to have included in the high moment the exaltation of the mind along with the exuberance of the emotions.
It will be contended here that the supreme apotheosis of the human mind capable of being generated out of his relation to nature can come only by way of a combined interfusion of the powers of both the feelings and the intellect. In this combination the intellect adds, as it were, the light of vision of meaning to the warmth of the glow of feeling.
The ancient sages were most apt in tropes based on analogies with natural forces, and among the most felicitous was their poetization of Divine Love as the heat of cosmic power, and of Divine Intellect as the light of that shining power. One need not withhold the conclusion that for the perfection of the powers of the soul, the union of both Love and Wisdom is the indispensable prerequisite.
Our theme, then, is the light of comprehension of meaning, the significance of relations, the articulated play of forces and elements in the drama of life and consciousness which can be gained by the human intellect. One can feel the soothing influences of nature through purely sensual channels — the comfort of body, beauty displayed to the eye, the communication of outer “mood” to inner “mood”. The agreeable and harmonious kinship can be sensed. But only by the intellect, and that in its higher realms of intuition, can the message of meaning in all its forms of the exuberant nature that mothers and nourishes us, body and soul, be dialectically understood and rationalized. Our exalted theme is the intellectual vision of nature.
The enterprise has significance in a historical perspective. In the third and fourth centuries of the Christian era, when the besom of early Christian frenzy generated by the conversion of the dramatized Christos into the carnalized Jesus of Nazareth upset the balance of philosophical intelligence, the exultant cry went up from the mouths of religious zealotry, “Great Pan is Dead!” Yes, Jesus, embodying in his single flesh all the power and glory of the cosmos, mind and body, had, they believed ended the reign of nature and would henceforth rule the life of man. No more would man live under the law of the flesh, the interests of the world, the temptation of the pride and glory of life. Jesus, releasing the principle of Divine Love, would kill out the passional nature, purify the temple of the body, and seat Love on the throne of mortal life. And, tragically, as far as a human fixation of thought can kill out an element affecting mortal life, yes, Great Pan was dead!
The religious mind severed its benignant association with nature: the body of man himself, his inseparable link with nature, was brought under the ban of all beneficent peace and function in life; pious religiosity demanded its mortification, its crushing by ascetic denial of its normal needs; the outer world of vegetation, earth, sea, sky, was given no chance to register its salutary efficacies on the spirit; all matter was held as a malignant diabolism. The soul was left to wage its battle for poise, balance and beatitude in the unreal purlieus of jaundiced theologies and extravaganzas of perfervid, mystical hallucinations.
All too truly, Great Pan was dead. And dead, too, were all the benignant influences which mankind was naturally designed to receive from his wholesome ministrations both to the mind and the soul.
It needs only a scanning of the pages of European history covering the centuries following Pan’s deposition from his throne in ancient thought to register the cataclysmic consequences of his ousting from his place in the human mind. The influence of Pan in the counsels of the mind is a balancing one. He holds in proper equilibrium the tendencies of the mind to levitate consciousness into the airy region of phantasy and psychotic unreality. He exerts his energies to hold man’s feet firmly on the ground, so that if he soars aloft into ethereal skies he can still maintain his balance. With this steadying ballast lost, the ship of religious pietism was swept at furious rate out upon the seas of third-century fanaticism. Over the hallucinations of expectation the coming of the Messiah and the end of the world the ship tossed wildly on wave after wave, carrying its crew and passengers into every extravagance of folly and passion until, in later days, they erupted into frenzies of the most barbarious inhumanities known to history.
Great Pan had been killed, as far as Christian civilization was concerned. The religious mind went raging into furies of dementia and hallucination. And not yet has the sylvan deity been restored to his legitimate place in the councils of human understanding. Lost and forgotten is the true science of Pan’s efficacious office in the economy of life. With all its brilliance to discover the springs of power in nature’s mighty pulse, the modern mind still stands agape at nature, with eyes blind to her revelations, and stolidly inept to read her legible script. A new age of enlightenment awaits the “recovery of sight to the blind” and the appearance of a great light “to them that sat in darkness” as Isaiah expresses it.