I hope I have adequately communicated my thesis that the presence of God in nature continues to have power to minister grace to us, especially the graces of healing and wisdom, through the symbols from nature within our ownl psyches. Eloi Leclerc asks,
“In the age of atomic energy, what is the point of stopping to contemplate the four basic elements of the ancients: earth, water, fire and air, as though they were still to be regarded as the roots of beings? If the Canticle were indeed only a poetic celebration of an archaic world system, it would indeed be difficult to pay it much attention. (But) it is the anthropological dimension of the Canticle and of the Desert Meditation that is still important for us. The real human problems are the same despite all our scientific and technological achievements. They are the problems that arise from man’s relations to his fellow men, to himself, and to the mystery of existence. We must admit, that it is easier for men to set foot on the moon, than to accept the ‘Other’ and open themselves to Being in its totality.”
Being-in-its-totality must be free to choose its instruments and media, the forms its communication will take. If God chooses to use natural symbols, rather than traditionally religious symbols - if God chooses to use our imaginations, rather than printed material, objects or images provided by others - we can only consent.
The Four Elements, and other images from nature, now ‘immortalized’ in our psyches, are not incongruent with our Christian tradition. In fact, they have nourished us all along. But I especially love them because for me, as for LeClerc, they indicate something very Christian, very incarnational; namely, that “There are no longer two domains. There is no longer a world above and a world below, a luminous world of the spirit and a dark world of nature. The Most High himself is present at the roots of reality and flourishes in all things. The kingdom of God is no longer another world set over against our present world, but is at the heart of even the most ordinary, humdrum existence; it is a transforming power dwelling at the core of our present life.”
As a final postscript or epilogue, I would like to include a passage from Susan Griffins’ book Woman And Nature. For me, this passage epitomizes a material spirituality, full of eros and light.
“And yet the blackbird does not fly in us but is somewhere else free of our minds, and now even free of our sight, flying in the path of her own will, she wrote, the ink from her pen flowing on this paper, her words, she thought, having nothing to do with this bird, except, she thought, as she breathes in the air this bird flies through, except, she thought, as the grass needs the body of the bird to pass its seeds, as the earth needs the grass, as we are made from this earth, she said, and the sunlight in the grass enters the body of the bird, enters us, she wrote on this paper, and the sunlight is pouring into my eyes from your eyes. Your eyes. Your eyes. The sun is in your eyes. I have made you smile. Your lips part. The sunlight is in your mouth. Have I made the sun come into your mouth? I put my mouth on yours. To cover that light. To breathe it in. My tongue inside your mouth, your lips on my tongue, my body filled with light, filled with light, with light, shuddering, you make me shudder. You make the movement of the earth come into me, you fill me, you fill me with sound, is that my voice crying out? The sunlight in you is making my breath sing, sing your name, your name to you, beautiful one, I could kiss your bones, put my teeth in you, white gleam, whiteness, I chew, beautiful one. I am in you, I am filled with light inside you, I have no boundary, the light has extinguished my skin, I am perished in light, light filling you, shining through you, carrying you out, through the roofs of our mouths, the sky, the clouds, bursting. raining, raining free, falling piece by piece, dispersed over this earth, into the soil, deep, deeper into you, into the least hair on the deepest root in this earth, into the green heart flowing, into the green leaves and they grow, they grow into a profusion, moss, fern, and they bloom, cosmos, and they bloom cyclamen, in your ears, in our ears, calling their names, this sound from my throat echoing, my breath in your ears, your eyes, your eyes continuing to see, continuing, your eyes telling, telling the light, the light. And she wrote, when I let this bird fly to her own purpose, when this bird flies in the path of his own will, the light from this bird enters my body, and when I see the beautiful arc of her flight, I love this bird, when I see, the arc of her flight, I fly with her, enter her with my mind, leave myself, die for an instant, live in the body of this bird whom I cannot live without, as part of the body of the bird will enter my daughter’s body, because I know I am made from this earth, as my mother’s hands were made from this earth, as her dreams came from this earth and alll that I know, I know in this earth, the body of the bird, this pen, this paper, these hands, this tongue speaking, all that I know speaks to me through this earth and I long to tell you, you who are earth too, and listen as we speak to each other of what we know: the light is in us.”