The alchemist Paracelsus believed, like many alchemists of his time, that man and the world are created together out of the four elements: earth, water, air, and fire. The elements that exist in the world also exist in the human body in the same proportion. If you take water, for example, it constitutes about 70% of the body in an adult human being. Similarly, 70% of the earth’s surface is made up of water. The five senses work with the same physical and chemical laws the govern the world. Our ability to relate to the world as our home rely on the facts that the same forces that work in the world also work within the human body.
Another way that we connect to the earth is through our soul. The human soul is threefold. The senses and nervous system manifest themselves in our thinking. The will is experienced through digestion and our deeds in the world. Breathing keeps a constant balance between these two poles. Through our nervous system and especially the senses sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch we take the world into our soul. Through our will, our soul expresses itself in the world. Through breathing, we take in a part of the earth and give out a part of ourselves, keeping a balance between our soul and the soul of the earth.
The experience of connectedness between the soul of the world and the human soul was expressed in the fact that the tribe healer was more than the medicine man. He had knowledge about the human body and medicinal plants hence he was the scientist. He was the artist that expressed himself in the world through creation (will). And he was the priest representing the rhythmic system. His role was not so much in healing diseases once they occurred but more in eliminating diseases by keeping the balance between world and human. He knew of medicinal plants in the woods and meadows that surrounded the village and was able to create relationships between the elementals that lived in the plants and the villagers. He knew the appropriate religious ceremony for each occasion, thus maintaining the balance between the tribe and the environment.
As part of the development of human consciousness toward individuality, science was separated from art and religion. This separation led to the development of the modern sciences of chemistry, physics, and mathematics, but also to the development of the entire western civilization.
One of my most profound experiences in visiting museums like the Metropolitan Museum in NY, or the Philadelphia Museum of Art, is not so much in looking at famous pictures or sculptures but more in looking at tools, furniture, fabrics etc that people used in their everyday life in the past. Up until the end of the 19th century, craftsmen were taking a lot of care in creating each and every object. There were no two objects that were exactly the same in their choice of materials, colors, shapes, decoration. The attention that was given to details expressed love of the laws of beauty and harmony in the world. The industrial revolution was a huge step in creating lines of production that allowed most people to have houses, furniture, cars, etc. In the past, the craftsman was an artist. Today, manufacturing is much more related to economy. While I value our ability to provide goods to the growing population, I sometimes ask myself if we did not go too far with that impulse. It makes me think that we are willing to compromise on the quality of what we purchase to some extent because prices are so low that we can always throw away and buy again. In a society that worships the individual, it is interesting to observe and try to understand a phenomenon like chain stores which sell furniture, clothing etc all over the world that create a uniform world. People in the Middle-east, Europe and America are wearing the same clothing, furnishing their houses with the same furniture, driving the same cars etc. How does this globalization process influence our relationship with the earth and its varied landscape?
Our culture today puts a lot of emphasis on ourselves as individuals. The emphasis on individualism combined with the separation between science, art and religion leads to an experience of isolation in the human soul. This tendency manifests itself in a threefold way.
Modern medicine prolonged the life span of human beings. Cures have been found for many diseases. We are now able to transplant body organs and create body parts. While all these practices may save your life, they also affect your soul. We don’t identify ourselves with our soul, but with our physical body. The result is that we identify our “I” as an object that fills space, not as an activity. The more we experience ourselves as objects, the more we will perceive the world as an object.
In the realm of life processes, we see a growing tendency to turn away from the world into virtual reality. We spend more time in front of the computer. Some of us have more friends on Facebook than in real life, not to mention the rising of reality shows on TV. We furnish our houses with furniture that disguises itself as wood, and we wear clothing that is made out of recycled plastic and not real, breathing fabric. The line between what is real life and what is an imitation is blurred.
The 20th century brought the development of psychology. The number of different psychological treatments and different kinds of workshops and literature about healing our mental wounds and self-improvement are surging. In recent years, more and more people are looking for ways to connect to themselves which has lead to a surge of spiritual practices such as yoga, meditation, Kabbalah, Buddhism, Sufism etc.
To create a connection between our soul and the soul of the world we need to change not just what we are doing but also the way we are doing it. We need to bring the scientist, the healer, and the priest back together within ourselves.
It does not matter if I run a biodynamic farm, clean the bathroom, or cook a meal. If I work out of love for my work and with attention to detail, beauty, and harmony, than science, art and religion will come together and the world becomes a better place. What weaves together the thinking, feeling and willing is the “I”. By strengthening our individual “I” we strengthen the “I” of the world.
For us to do a good work we need to be connected to our purpose in life. Here lies the secret of the connection between our “I”, our Karma, and the world. When we live our karma fully we serve a need in the world. It is my experience that when I have the courage to do what needs to be done, then the world will create the right condition to support me.
Goethe describes it:
“When a man’s healthy nature works as a whole, when he feels himself to be living in the world as in a great and beautiful and worthy whole, when this harmony brings him a pure free joy, then the universe, if it could come to be aware of its own self, would cry out in exultation at having reached its goal and would marvel at the height which its own being and becoming had attained”.
In each and every one of us, the entire creation is reflected. If we lose contact with ourselves we will lose contact with the world and vice versa. If we lose contact with the world, we will lose contact first and foremost with ourselves.
If we are to create a new and hopeful future for man and the world then we need not just change our behavior, but also change our attitude. Recycling, growing organic or even biodynamic vegetables, using green energy etc are all good practices. You can do all those things and still perceive the earth as a material resource. We need to create a new relationship with the world, a relationship that is based on our experience of the world as a living being. When we buy and sell land as a commodity then we are treating the land as a material resource that belongs to someone. If the land is a living being we should talk about it in terms of guardianship, or caring for it. In the past, the path of initiation was to go away from society to the temple, monastery, a cave and so on. Today’s path of initiation is within the world. We always need to be mindful of the way we treat the earth. Our path of initiation is deeply connected to the everyday routines that maintain our life, our homes, our food our relationships, our cultural and spiritual life.