Nature, Theophany and the Rehabilitation of Consciousness
by David Catherine
We have more degrees but less sense; more knowledge but less judgements; more experts but more problems; more medicines, but less healthiness. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but we have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbour. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we have less communication. We have become long on quantity but short on quality. These are the times of fast foods, but slow digestion; tall man, but short character; steep profits, but shallow relationships. It is a time when there is much in the window, but nothing in the room.
We live in a time of immense social, psychological and environmental change. Enrapt by politically heroic (and yet unsustainable) solutions; multi-national research bias; “PowerPoint” presentation charts (aspiring to ninety-degree trend-lines); new “World Records” on “BREAKING NEWS!”; precision-guided missiles; broadband uploads / downloads on hyper-threaded CPUs (with “the world at our fingertips”); “think-tank” video conferencing; post-human bio-technology; “Scientifically Proven!”; “NEW!”; “NOW!”; “WOW!”; “Wi-Fi” mobile connectivity; “That’s Entertainment!”; “must-have” manufactured needs; Celebrity TV; Pop-Quiz Game-Show; high-speed car chases with guns blazing; “Wrestle Mania;” “Da Vinci” porcelain veneers; “heroin-chic” anorexia on fashion cat-walks; silicone sunsets on Miami Beaches – and munching on a cheeseburger delivered by a clown in a yellow and red costume, to the theme tune of “We are the Champions” – it seems as though we are sufficiently desensitized to the extreme realities that surround us.
“What-eh-va!” is fast becoming our most admired and most broadcast catchphrase. If the corporate boardroom doesn’t get to us first, we can be sure that the product packaging or the metrosexual fashion-police will. No-thanks to the latest in pop-psychology, it is clear that hyper-entertainment and hedonism are gaining ground as prescription for our current malaise; regular doses of this medication are enough to distract anyone who might sense any madness in global affairs. It appears we are so high on “YES!” we have forgotten the value of “No.”
Having worked in environmental support and observed the wanton destruction of nature and its associated ecosystems (intricate feed-back systems integral to human survival on earth), I am undoubtedly concerned as to the future of all things natural on this planet. However, I am equally concerned about human perception, the paradigms or technologies that shape our perception, and the degree to which this perception impinges on the outer world. Like many others I have come to realize that an ecologically “sustainable” future cannot be achieved merely through Environmental Law, Protected-Area Management and the rehabilitation of degraded ecosystems. Parallel to these undeniably important and laudable disciplines, it is essential that we move towards an understanding and rehabilitation of consciousness – the reality of which will be briefly discussed in the introductory chapter that follows. If, according to the most progressive fields of study, human consciousness is shown to be interconnected and interdependent with the natural world and thus natural order, then a significant part of the ecological crisis – if not the primary cause – is the way in which we view the natural environment; how we perceive of, or ascribe value to, nature and cosmos.
Thus, ecological stability is invariably related to the degree of ontological stabilityand integrationwithin human consciousness. It is within this context of globalization, a deteriorating natural environment and a crisis of consciousness, that “Nature, Theophany and the Rehabilitation of Consciousness” [hereafter referred to as NTRC] has been produced. NTRC is a continuation on themes already developed in the works of Seyyed Hossein Nasr (In the Beginning was Consciousness; Religion and the Order of Nature), Martin Lings (Symbol and Archetype: A Study of the Meaning of Existence), Tom Cheetham (Green Man, Earth Angel: The Prophetic Tradition and the Battle for the Soul of the World), William Anderson (Green Man: The Archetype of Our Oneness with the Earth), René Guenon (Fundamental Symbols); Frithjof Schuon (various works) and – as relates to the cosmology of self and soul – Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri (The Journey of the Self; Witnessing Perfection).
NTRC is not intended to be a polished thesis – in fact the author is not an academic – it aims to bring awareness to certain contemporary issues and to stimulate discussion on the themes presented. In appealing to a wide spectrum of readers, there may be some who feel the work fails to effectively address ecological issues, owing to the inclusion of spiritual, metaphysical or mythical principles; or conversely that it fails to honour the Divine Absolute by expounding secular ecosystemic thought (or is perceived as promoting ‘pantheist’ ideals). There is no satisfactory answer, other than (for the scholars), “We are all still learning;” and (for the religious), “We are all returning.” In order to highlight the essential reality of divine order, it has become necessary to use terms such as “supra-sensory,” “meta-historical,” “supra-rational,” “trans-personal,” etc.
Please note that this is not an attempt to repudiate the senses, historical record, the rational mind, or the personal self; neither is it to imply that the divine order is a distant and/or disconnected state. On the contrary, prophetic tradition speaks of divine presence and has indicated that the “Ground of Being” (i.e. pure consciousness) is “nearer to [us] than [our] jugular vein.” On this point, the perceived distancing factor between the conditioned self and the unconditioned Spirit is considered proportionate to the degree of “egotism” of the self.9 If an image in a mirror seems vague or impossible to discern, this may be due to the extent of the layers of dust obscuring the image / mirror. To polish the mirror or to clarify the lens of perception is to bring into view and into proximity, that which was thought to be far. Hence, human proximity or remoteness to the divine reality must be considered from a qualitative perspective and not reduced to a quantitative “nearness” or “distance.”
- Cosmological order
Cosmological order, and thus the order of nature, has long since been considered as sacred theophany (The Book of Nature) by the saints, sages and prophets of Divine Order. Seyyed Hossein Nasr defines theophany as, “a symbolic showing of God [i.e. the Divine Attributes] in the mirror of created form.” Since humans are considered to be the barzakh (interspace) between the heavens and the earth – as well as being the stewards of cosmological order – one can only conclude that an ecological depreciation must reflect a distortion in human perception/behaviour: a failure to attain correct cognition of who we are, where we are, where we come from, and how we should behave on this currently fragile planet.
“Nature, Theophany and the Rehabilitation of Consciousness” [NTRC] explores human society’s alienation from, and disregard for, natural order and the resulting ecological /
climatological crisis that has ensued.
Expounding on concepts and principles of theophany, interconnectedness, interdependence, equilibrium and harmony, NTRC argues that roots of our various socioenvironmental crises lie primarily in a (human) crisis of consciousness. In
order to resolve our ecological dilemmas, therefore, we cannot simply rely on the
enforcement of environmental legislation and a rehabilitation of degraded ecosystems: parallel to these commendable disciplines, we need to move towards an understanding and rehabilitation of consciousness itself.
This includes developing a knowledge of self that is attuned to Divine Presence, that is
ontologically transformative, and thus ultimately grounded in the unified Divine Absolute:
Pure Consciousness (rûh al-quddûs) – the sacred centre of Being. In light of the necessity of this ontological recognition (dhikr) and alignment (Islam), it can be deduced that it will not be possible to find any political, social, religious or ecological reconciliation, if we cannot first learn to reconcile our personal, limited, conditioned self (nafs), with the trans-personal, eternal, unbounded and unconditioned Spirit (rûh): the prototypical pattern for any and all reconciliation. God-willing.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Creation, Symbol and Archetype
The Nature and Purpose of Existence-The Cosmology of the Self -The Journey of the Self – Symbol and Archetype
Interconnectedness, Equilibrium and the Green Signature
The Green Signature
Nature, Theophany and the Rehabilitation of Consciousness
The Ecological Crisis – The Psychological Crisis -The Essential Self
In Search of the Green Man
The Mother Goddess and her Son / Lover – Dionysus & Skanda-Murukan – Khidr-The Green Man in Europe – The Quest for the Green Woman
The Green Lion, the Philosopher’s Vitriol and the Emerald Grail