Continued from Aranyaka Part 2.
If I were to invent a religion, it would be centered on forest immersion. It need not be a highly social alliance of souls, because silence and solitude are like vestments of immersion. Other critical components of the Order would be creativity, play, liberality and education.
This new religion is wrapped around a core understanding that there are not two natures, human and non-human. There is one Nature and we are part of it. Forest immersion can make this knowledge holistic, both visceral and intellectual, drawn from the primordial biophilia in human nature, and from burgeoning modern science on the topic.
Adherence to this religion calls for daily walking through forest or field, ideally twice or more per day, at least 40 minutes at a time, ideally 90 minutes or more. That would be merely casual adherence.
You never know what may happen during deeper immersion, if you let go of the usual tight grip on yourself and let “wild mind” roll. For instance, here’s Thoreau doing it (in one of a thousand possible ways):
I took a walk on Spaulding’s Farm the other afternoon. I saw the setting sun lighting up the opposite side of a stately pine wood. Its golden rays straggled into the aisles of the wood as into some noble hall. I was impressed as if some ancient and altogether admirable and shining family had settled there in that part of the land called Concord, unknown to me—to whom the sun was servant—who had not gone into society in the village—who had not been called on. I saw their park, their pleasure-ground, beyond through the wood, in Spaulding’s cranberry-meadow. The pines furnished them with gables as they grew. Their house was not obvious to vision; the trees grew through it. I do not know whether I heard the sounds of a suppressed hilarity or not. They seemed to recline on the sunbeams. They have sons and daughters. They are quite well. The farmer’s cart-path, which leads directly through their hall, does not in the least put them out, as the muddy bottom of a pool is sometimes seen through the reflected skies. They never heard of Spaulding, and do not know that he is their neighbor—notwithstanding I heard him whistle as he drove his team through the house. Nothing can equal the serenity of their lives. Their coat-of-arms is simply a lichen. I saw it painted on the pines and oaks. Their attics were in the tops of the trees. They are of no politics. There was no noise of labor. I did not perceive that they were weaving or spinning. Yet I did detect, when the wind lulled and hearing was done away, the finest imaginable sweet musical hum—as of a distant hive in May—which perchance was the sound of their thinking. They had no idle thoughts, and no one without could see their work, for their industry was not as in knots and excrescences embayed.
But I find it difficult to remember them. They fade irrevocably out of my mind even now while I speak, and endeavor to recall them and recollect myself. It is only after a long and serious effort to recollect my best thoughts that I become again aware of their cohabitancy. If it were not for such families as this, I think I should move out of Concord.
— from Thoreau’s greatest essay (sez me), Walking (PDF), published in The Atlantic, June 1862 issue, a month after Thoreau’s death.
Like I said, letting go. Letting imagination play.
No matter how often I read this favorite Thoreau essay, I always have to read this “forest family” passage two or three times. Sometimes great nature writers shove their pens right through my head. It’s like being speared by Shakespeare in these lines, long ago adopted as the anthem — hymn? — of Balsamea:
And this, our life,
Exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees,
Books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stone,
And good in everything.
–from As You Like It
What can I say? “Amen, Brother!”
A highly devout adherent of FIR (Forest Immersion Religion — kidding — I’d come up with a better name than that! or would I?) — perhaps a monk or one in training — likely often walks the woods barefoot or naked or in some simple garb, such as a loincloth. One of my old favorite philosophers, Ramana Maharshi, actually never wore anything else. Almost never; I did see him in a wrap once.
I’m not kidding.
Why do you think he did that? Try it for a while to see if you can figure it out. I mean, try it on long walks in the woods, of course.
His disciples said: “When will you appear to us, and when will we see you?”
Jesus said: “When you undress without being ashamed and take your clothes and put them under your feet like little children and trample on them, then you will see the son of the Living One, and you will not be afraid.”
– Saying 37, Gospel of Thomas, Nag Hammadi Library
If you take Jesus literally here, in Balsamea the best season for it is mid-August to late-October. Bugs are less bothersome with each passing week during that time.
FIR has no requirements in this matter of attire, but it knows who its real devotees are, the ones on their way to ordainment. Or to hell, depending on who you ask.
Getting back to the essences of the new religion …
Nature is not matter only, she is also spirit. Were that not so, the only source of spirit would be human reason. … There is nothing without spirit, for spirit seems to be the inside of things. … Whether that is our own psyche or the psyche of the universe we don’t know, but if one touches the earth one cannot avoid the spirit. … The primitives are tremendously afraid of doing the wrong thing, of not being polite to the spirits; in certain places they have to bow, or to whisper something to propitiate a certain ghost; they have to pay attention. We never pay attention, so we probably offend the spirits of things all the time, and because we have not been polite they will be against us, and this leads us more and more into a kind of dissociation from our own nature. –Carl G. Jung, as quoted by Meredith Sabini in The Earth Has a Soul; The Nature Writings of C.G. Jung, pp. 80-82. [emphases mine]
Scribbling my Aranyaka nature doodle on the ground was a way to pay attention. Scribblement writing does it, too. Research, study, photography, all immersive attention.
Allowing myself a vision or imagination of the Hindu forest goddess Aranyani is a way to pay attention to what I can’t put into any scribblement, because it’s beyond expression, beyond grasp. What self-respecting religion stays within the realm of grasp? So with Aranyaniism.
But I have it on professional authority that I’m not delusional, and I don’t believe in the supernatural. Experience of Aranyani is my imagination at work (mostly play), and scribblement pays attention to that, too.
End of Aranyaka Part 3 — Part 4 (the last) coming soon
(they’re getting shorter!)
— Return to Part 2 —