We are surrounded by the presence of holiness. As the world spins, the creative forces of beginnings swim in the realm of inspiration and possibility. Inspired art is all around us. It is in every rock, flower, plant, mountain and the biology of stoic observations in science. The great ones see holiness in the animate but the truly gifted saints and poets see it in the inanimate as well.
Two people in particular come to mind when it comes to recognizing this presence in all we encounter: Herman Hesse, the Nobel Prize winning author, and Pierre Teilhard deChardin, the legendary Jesuit scientist and theologian.
I read it in the work of Herman Hesse, the German mystical author, who wrote about spiritual themes throughout his life. Hesse is known for the revolutionary works “Siddartha”, “Steppenwolf”, “Narcisiss and Goldmund”, Journey to the East” and “Beneath the Wheel” to name a few. I haven’t visited his work in a long time, but I happened upon a writing titled “Trees”.
In this essay, Hesse relates how trees are “penetrating preachers”. He says he admires the ones that can “stand alone”. Hesse writes:
“Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured”.
Like humans, Hesse recognizes the spirit within as he expresses the voice of the tree – “a holy presence is hidden in me, a spark, a thought. I am life from the eternal life”.
Some might say that this is a pantheistic view of the world, but the great theologian Pierre Teilhard deChardin would argue this is pan-en-theist thought. God is not just present in Nature, God is working “in and through” creation. Creation is a process of evolving and coming into being so that the Creator can fully realize Himself through His creation. It’s in all creation throughout the universe.
Although humans are recognized as the stewards of the earth due to a higher level of consciousness, de Chardin challenges humans to recognize the power of humility in seeing the power of God through science and the elements of fire, water, earth and air that continue to artfully design our experience.
“In the divine milieu all elements of the universe touch each other by that which is most inward and ultimate in them. There they concentrate, little by little, all that is purest and most attractive in them without loss and without danger of subsequent corruption”.
Both men realize there is forces at work in the subtle expressions of creation. Both men realize the potential to experience wonder in profound ways through science and nature.
Some people feel that religion and science are mutually exclusive, but these men knew that each discipline is working its magic on us through deep questioning and fulfilling implicit expression of oneness in existence.
Personifying a tree, Hesse writes:
“I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.
When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent”.
We are caught up in this network of all abiding Oneness. We are linked to the breath of life that orders itself out of chaotic splendor. We nurse our understanding by exploring nature’s great healing properties, but we can also be healed by its restorative poetry of conscious awareness.
In the words of deChardin:
“Blessed be you, mighty matter, irresistible march of evolution, reality ever newborn; you who, by constantly shattering our mental categories, force us to go ever further and further in our pursuit of the truth”.
In the words of Hesse, “When we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and quickness and childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness”.
photo by Claire Beasley