Years ago I toyed with the idea of adapting my thesis and publishing it as a book. But, being naturally lazy, I've never gotten around to it. Blogging suits me better - just publishing whatever I'm in the mood to publish on any given day.
But lately, I've been revisiting my thesis, titled "Nature Symbols - Wisdom and Healing." I'm thinking of publishing it on-line, with a link from this page. In today's climate of renewed Christian zeitgeist, I think it may be a contribution. What happened to me is, I had a very Christo-centric spirituality based essentially on personal mystical experiences, and re-inforced by bible-based interpretations, as well as Christian cultural heritage. Over time, in my in-scape, I began to experience Christ as a flower, Christ as a fountain, Christ as a serpent, Christ as the sun, and I realized that nature is deeply embedded in our psyches. I was also dealing with my husband's and my infertility problem, and was very much aware of the depth, tenacity and power of biological drives. Nature deeply embedded in our bodies. So I wrote my theological thesis about this, and my school, the Franciscan School of Theology, accepted it. (I would have loved to continue on for a ph.d. on the subject of interweaving of nature-symbols into European Christian iconography, but funds, and prior education did not allow.)
Anyway, here is a passage from the intro to my thesis, that I particularly love:
"The poetic evocation of the four basic elements: water, fire, air and earth, is typical of the (psyche's) quest for its own unity. Mother Earth is only a symbol of an inner totality, the totality of those origins and unconscious roots that sustain and nourish us in the form of basic psychic energies and structures. Mother Earth is an archetypal image of the unconscious and symbolizes the whole obscure life of the soul. A fraternal communion with all creatures, represents a unitive grasp of reality. The spiritual life cannot be built above, and in abstraction from nature: neither can it be built in independence of the obscure region of our being and in contempt for our cosmic and psychic roots." (from Eloi Le Clerc, "The Canticle of Creatures, Symbols of Union," Francsican Herald Press, 1977)
Later I studied chinese medicine, indian spirituality and some native american spirituality, and the four (or sometimes five) elements are incorporated into ritual activity, for example. But, personally, I see the Earth as a symbol of psychic totality in several ways: it contains all the potentials for our experience (including transcendent or 'spiritual' experience, as the buddhists and hindus aver when they say 'the precious human body' because of its capacity for conscious experience of transcendence, for kundalini awakening and completion), and because it provides a language for artists and spiritual teachers.
I feel a tremendous love for the earth as an icon of wisdom, a field of experience, and I certainly don't view it as 'fallen.' Nor do I view humanity as 'fallen.' I feel that the earth has its own wisdom, and it's a wisdom for humanity as well. Like the Ayurveds of India, or the early Stoics of the West (Greece, how 'west' is that?), or Leo Tolstoy in 'War and Peace,' I propose a life of wisdom as the way to go.
The Stoics felt that wisdom is something we 'come to' at some point in our lives, and until then we can't expect people to be guided by wisdom, or to value wisdom. Maybe up until that point some other 'method' is needed: like religion. India has a good system for understanding the disparity in human pursuits/lifestyles, that is less pejorative than the sin/righteousness model of the west, at least in theory. Kama, artha, dharma and moksha, are the four legitimate goals of life: kama (pleasure), artha (accumulation of wealth, which is to be used, I might add, to support huge numbers of people), dharma (focus on duty, right-action), and moksha (liberation from all of these, contentment found through spiritual realization).
I love LeClerc's language and expressions: "the whole obscure life of the soul," and "a fraternal communion with all creatures, represents a unitive grasp of reality." Very Franciscan.