|MANY PHILOSOPHERS FOUND MOTHER NATURE AS A PATH TO MODERN SPIRITUALITY|
1. THE PHILOSOPHY OF NATURE, THE ECOLOGY AND FRANCIS OF ASSISI
Although the Cartesian-Kantian epistemological position has been the dominant paradigm of the "modern" Aristotelic-Newtonist-Materialistic mind, it has not been the only one, for at almost precisely the same time that the Enlightenment reached its philosophical climax in Kant, a radically different epistemological post-modern vision began to emerge from the Platonic-Agustinian-Romantic perspective, first visible in Francis of Assisi, then in Goethe with his study of natural forms, developed in new directions by Schiller, Schelling, Hegel, Coleridge, and Emerson, and articulated within the past century by Rudolf Steiner.
|NEWTON: THE ROOTS OF MATERIALISM|
Today, Francis of Assisi is considered by the Catholic Church to be the Patron Saint of ecology. This participatory path, developed in different ways by Francis of Assisi, Goethe, Hegel, Steiner, and others, can be understood not as a regression to naiveparticipation mystique, but as the dialectical synthesis of the long evolution from the primordial undifferentiated consciousness through the dualistic alienation. It incorporates the postmodern understanding of knowledge and yet goes beyond it.
|FRANCIS OF ASSISI: THE ROOTS OF MODERN ECOLOGY|
The word "environment" adds a human dimension to the concept of ecology. It brings out the particular interaction of the human being with his habitat. The resilience of Francis of Assisi as a symbol adds a particular brand of mysticism in a church that by the end of the thirteenth century had become increasingly and militantly institutional. Francis is an example of an even today too modern mentality far from the media of our politicians and our ruling class. That the birds still sing the day after an atomic explosion, is a very franciscan observation that encloses an ancestral wisdom about resilience. Today, our tortuous relationship with our environment is more an ethical than a technical one. Our approach, the way we choose to interact with Nature, is the most important consideration for the future, not the scientific word ecology.
The attitude we take towards the creatures of Nature will invite us (or not) to face that part of the global responsibility which each person bears due to his participation, to whatever degree, in the social and economic life of our species. This participation, though scientific proof is still lacking, should bear an awareness of the consequences of atmospheric pollution caused by the chemical, radioactive, plastic, and oil industries that are released into the air. And this awareness must be promoted. Governments are strongly urged to enforce corrective measures against the main culprits such as energy producers, transport systems and urban developers, so as to avert potential catastrophes. In today's world, our consciousness of our relationship to the elements of Nature is often subdued, relegated somewhere to the deep recesses of our awareness.
2. A MODERN PATH TO SPIRITUALITY: CANTICLE OF THE CREATURES OR OF THE SUN
Francis of Assisi lived life very close to the ground, enmeshed in the natural world where he found the glories of God revealed. His ascetic lifestyle, physically rough, sharpened his appreciation of sensual reality which he sublimated into mystical experience.
|FRANCIS OF ASSISI CANTICLE OF CREATURES COLLAGE|
|SAN DAMIANO CRUCIFIX SPOKE TO FRANCIS OF ASSISI|
Canticle of Creatures or of the Sun, is Francis of Assisi's most famous song, summing up his incredible relationship to the natural world, and arriving, as it does, at the end of his life, it highlights the central importance of Nature in his spirituality. Written when he was frail, sick, and blind, he recalled the glories of Nature and their lessons for him throughout his life, identifying them in his inimitably religious style as images of the divine.
The current political interpretation of its Canticle of Creatures is rather out of place in our time. Some read the Canticle as a protest against man's domination of the environment, proposing a radical equality among all creatures, and they also overlook its undeniably theocentric structure. No doubt, the text has a strong cosmic quality which is part, however, of a theocentric structure that descends from the Almighty through the Universe and the elements down to the stones, the flowers, and the rivers to come back again into God. A path to rebirth.
Christmas, the symbol of rebirth, was Francis' favorite day. Once, when the Solemnity of the Lord's Nativity fell on a Friday, one of the friars, Brother Morico, said that the friars should not eat meat and should fast. Francis replied, "You sin, Brother, calling the day on which the child was born to us a day of fast. It is my wish that even the walls should eat meat on such a day, and if they cannot, they should be smeared with meat on the outside" (from the Second Life of St. Francis of Assisi by Friar Thomas of Celano). We can imagine the walls smeared with meat, all to celebrate the birth of the Son of God as a man. Francis uses the image of meat (flesh) to highlight the Incarnation.
To those inspired by the teachings of Francis of Assisi, a peace guaranteed by atom bombs or nuclear missiles is unthinkable, a betrayal of Christ, but also of the countless millions of human beings victims of malnutrition, poverty, and hunger; all of them beings made in image and likeness of God.
|CAN WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION GUARANTEE PEACE?|
In the centuries following the death of Francis of Assisi, a world of religious pilgrimage and miracle play, so characteristic of medieval time, gave way to a new form of learning: the humanism, the centralized governments, the scientific investigation, and the expanding horizons (both physical and mental) of the Renaissance.
AN IMPORTANT ELEMENT IN RENAISSANCE SCIENCE IS TO UNDERSTAND THAT ARGUMENT FROM ANALOGY FORESHADOWS SCIENTIFIC INQUIRY. IF X WERE LIKE Y, THEN INFORMATION ABOUT HOW GOD CREATED MAN AND THE UNIVERSE COULD BE INFERRED, INCLUDING THE BELIEF THAT MAN (THE MICROCOSM) WAS IN MINIATURE LIKE THE UNIVERSE (THE MACROCOSM). NOTE THE FIGURE OF SPEECH THAT CAME FROM THIS COMPARISON TODAY CALLED FRACTAL.
SOME LINGUISTS BELIEVE THAT THE MIND HAS CERTAIN INNATE PROPERTIES, ONE OF WHICH IS THE ABILITY TO REASON IN TERMS OF BINARIES OR OPPOSITES: X -- Y. THE TECHNICAL NAME FOR THIS PROCESS IS THE CORRESPONDENCE THEORY, IN WHICH THE LARGER UNIT (MACROCOSM, I.E. UNIVERSE) "CORRESPONDS" TO THE SMALLER UNIT (MICROCOSM). THUS:
RIVER CORRESPONDS TO BLOOD
AIR CORRESPONDS TO BREATH
LAW CORRESPONDS TO REASON
DISORDER CORRESPONDS TO PASSION
IT CAN BE OBSERVED FROM THESE PRE-SCIENTIFIC ANALOGIES THAT RENAISSANCE THEORIES OF THE UNIVERSE SUGGEST A DIVINE PROVIDENCE WHO, LIKE A KING, CREATES AN ORDERED WORLD, BUT MAN WHO ALLOWS PASSION TO DOMINATE REASON CAN SOMETIMES DISRUPT THAT GOOD ORDER. SHAKESPEARE GIVES EXPRESSION TO THIS CONCEPT IN ULYSSES' SPEECH ON "ORDER AND DEGREE" FROM HIS TROILUS AND CRESSIDA.
AMBIENT SYMPHONY BY ZERO PROJECT
Assisi was hit by two devastating earthquakes, that shook Umbria in September 1997. But the recovery and restoration have been remarkable, although much remains to be done. Massive damage was caused to many historical sites, but the major attraction, the Basilica di San Francesco, reopened less than 2 years later. Cities take centuries to grow, but they can die in the relative blink of an eye. Work on the church of Assisi was started in 1228, the year of Francis's canonisation, and constructed slowly over the next 300 years.
Giotto's fresco series, completed in 1295, is the most famous work of art, but there are plenty of other priceless works in both the Upper and the Lower Church attributed to Cimabue and Simone Martini, among others. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) quickly put in to help salvage the damaged artworks. In Assisi, some 70 per cent of the town's buildings were evacuated because of safety fears.