Healing Our Relationship With Mother Earth
Humankind’s relationship with its home planet has been crying out to be healed for a very long time. A most commendable contribution was made by Vivienne de Watteville in her travelogue ‘Speak to the Earth’, first published by Methuen in 1935. At the age of twenty-eight, Vivienne spent five months in Africa. She went with the intention of befriending and photographing the animals, instead of shooting them, which was the fashion in those days. This book is one of the most deeply moving and inspiring ones I have come across and I would like to share a few extracts from it with you here.
In her closing paragraphs p.328-329 Vivienne has the following message from Mother Earth for humankind. Words in square brackets are my additions: ‘At the root of all our lives is a great and terrifying loneliness, from which first or last there is no escape [the only relief we can find from it lies within]. Yet, by going out [into the wilderness] to meet it halfway, one discovers that its terrors are illusory. Solitude is an ally; there is nothing to fear, for truly ‘Nature never did betray the heart that loves her’. With infinite and loving patience she reassured me over and over – with symbols brighter than words: ‘You are not a stranger walking the Earth to clutch at this friendship or that, [or] to be comforted. As surely as you will return to me at last, so surely while you live am I interwoven with every fibre [of my being with yours].
‘You are never lost or alone, so long as you can claim kinship with everything that is. You are no more alone than the river is alone or the mountains are alone or anything in the Universe, for you are part of the whole and not a single unit of nothing, aimlessly drifting. Don’t build up the walls of loneliness about your spirit. Keep flowing, so that every day you can come out and meet yourself in the sky’s reflection or the dew lying in petals or any other natural thing. Renew yourself in these things; identify yourself with them; for all is fashioned from the same material, shaped by the same inspiration and animated by the same life breath.’
‘Earth and spirit proclaim with a thousand tongues the unity of the spirit. It is not life, nor fate, nor providence that is unkind, but we ourselves who persist in dividing instead of uniting. The same love of dividing that makes us cut ourselves into fifty religious sects, all seeking one and the same Truth; or that makes for the sifting and sorting into different social layers; or divides us into different political parties; or nation versus nation.
‘It is this same mania for dividing and separating that finally revenges itself upon the individual. Yet we are – after all – only superficially divided. Spirit will ever be like mercury, ready to run together again at the first opportunity. Nature may [seem to] be cruel contradiction – life for ever warring against life – but her ultimate message is the friendship of God. Secure in that friendship, we cannot be afraid. Life is the glorious experiment, and death the great adventure, when the mists shall at last lift long enough for us to see clearly [again].’
Page 314: ‘The Divine law, the Divine force and the Divine protection are all there, but the idea is too big for most of us to grasp. [It is like] The frog trying to give an idea of the size of a bull, and bursting with the effort. Our [earthly] minds being the size of frogs, the fear of bursting compels us to reduce everything else to the size of frogs also. It is a great simplification, but the things themselves remain the size of bulls or elephants or Himalayas, and it is only the link between them and our own vision that is needed. [The realisation that we all are spirit, and that the elephant, you and me, all things and beings are God is that link.]’
The adventures, as well as her impressions and insights Vivienne shares with us in her book are as valid, topical and poignant today, as they are sure to have been when they were written. For example on p.302: ‘Earth’s teaching [during Vivienne’s time in Africa] was always that the inevitable must be endured. It is our own fault if we suffer more than our due of pain, because we rebel against it; or dwell too much upon the thought of it.’
Page 288: ‘Returning to myself again – that circumscribed little prison – I thought: on the one hand I am nothing; on the other I am fire, strength, love itself, because I also am IT. As a single individual, [I am] less than the dust; as a part of the whole, [I am] strong as the hills and endless as the stars. Each of us is revolving like one of those spheres in space, moving at his own speed, carrying with them the atmosphere of their own thoughts and individuality. Things from without filter through, but not without some measure taking the colour of this atmosphere, or being distorted by it. To hear, see and feel them truly, it is necessary to project a part of oneself outside the mist and the hum of these revolutions, into the utter stillness of space.’
Page 319: ‘The things round me were ever trying to tell me something more, gently toppling over theory and leading me back to first principles. Not philosophy but simplicity. I missed much, for nothing is harder than to unlearn one’s preconceived ideas. [Ideally,] One should start [each day] off fresh without any. Things may be quite different from what they seem or from how we see them. As Montaingne wrote: ‘When I play with my cat to amuse her, how do I know that it is not she who is trying to amuse me?’
Charlotte Bronte was a natural philosopher, if ever there was one. She was born 21. April 1816, a Sun Taurus who – by the time she wrote ‘Shirley’ had learnt her Sun sign’s main lesson, the one of ownership. For example on page 522: ‘I believe – I daily find it proved – that we can get nothing in this world worth keeping, not so much as a principle or a conviction, except out of purifying flame or through strengthening peril. We err, we fall, we are humbled; then we walk more carefully. We greedily eat and drink poison out of the gilded cup of vice or from the beggar’s wallet of avarice. We are sickened, degraded; everything good in us rebels against us; our souls rise bitterly indignant against our bodies; there is a period of civil war; if the soul has strength, it conquers and rules thereafter.’ That is as beautiful a description of the struggle between the human small earthly self and its counterpart, our Highest of God Self, as ever came my way.
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