March 25th, 2020.
I rewrite the text of my logical ballerina “Nature” locked inside a house, although the truth is that there is no corner of space that is not infinite in size, especially if there are loved ones in that space. Visible or invisible. Love amplifies and beautifies the space.
The State, supported even by its for him inalienable army, and also in practically all the minds that feed it and are fed by it, does not allow me to leave this house, except for reasons of force majeure. Not even to go to the inhuman mountains. I’m not even allowed to wander through “Nature”; because it seems that an element, a creature, of that (of “Nature”) called coronavirus, could be a serious threat to millions of humans beings, and ultimately for our current model of civilisation.
That creature (the coronavirus) is invisible to our naked eyes, but, once seen with our artificial instruments [See “Machine”], it could be said that it is a kind of micro-planet, or a geometric micro-monster, from which emerge something like flames of solid, still fire, or horns, or perhaps teeth, or hooks: biological tools with which that “thing” tries to grip us and get life in our body so as to reproduce itself. To be everything. Every single thing wants to be everything.
Is the coronavirus a kind of demon? Is it natural? Is it good/bad? Morally neutral? Can only human beings be good or bad? Are we not also Nature, or part of it at least? Are we not also governed to the depths of our molecular entrails by the same laws that structure the viruses, the flight of birds at dawn or the mathematical perfection of Saturn’s rings? How is it possible that, being part of this planet’s biomass, we are accused (self-accused indeed) of being a lethal threat to the allegedly sacred structure of such mass?
From some models of mind is being vehemently asserted that the human species is a virus for this planet, whom they ascribe conscience and, furthermore, a sacred mixture of purity and goodness, threatened both, apparently, for us, the humans. And that paramount thing, “the conscious planet”, is said to be getting mad, increasingly mad, and reacting with the deadly fury of the Old Testament’s god. Are we then a conscious virus? A free thinking/acting virus? Has that “Planet-God” created us with its own matter, out of its own sacred flesh? Made that spheric Creator a great mistake creating us? Does now that enraged/moralistic God want to repair his biological/historical error, and ruthlessly tear out that page (the page were we were written) from his cosmic novel and dissolve us in its own flesh so that, finally, that sacred sphere (the planet Earth, that conscious god) can go on flying around the solar star, now once again pure, biologically diverse and balanced, free from the moral and physical human-pandemic?
Is it possible to attribute responsibility, therefore freedom, to that virus (to the human virus)? Is there freedom in one part, only one, of that interpenetrated amalgam of matter that is said to be the biomass? Can we thing that biomass as something with parts, something divisible?
Let’s go on philosophising. Is the coronavirus natural? Isn’t it also natural the flow of thoughts that now come to my mind and cause this tapping of my fingers on the keyboard of my laptop?
What the hell is Nature? What the hell is the coronavirus?
Humanity today, as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic, is compulsively self-inoculating various narratives, many of them authentic demonologies. Theories about Evil. And the point is that every single demonology does always presuppose (and also trigger) a very high level of fear and stupidity. Philosophy, which is the absolute antithesis of fear and stupidity, can help us to look though the fabric of those blinding linguistic secretions, those plastics of words, which in many cases could ruin the most beautiful and wild and pure oceans of our mind.
Anyway, I think we are facing a new, vertiginous turn of that powerful symbol that the ancient Chinese philosophy called Taijitu: the one that explains the Yin-Yang dynamic [See “Yin-Yang”]. A new configuration of lights and shadows awaits us (all shadows have an intense light inside; and all lights have an intense shadow inside). Definitely new beauties await us ahead. Great new works of cosmic art. New opportunities to experience that “marvelled amazement” that Ibn Arabi considered characteristic of the great philosophers: a marvelled amazement that can certainly be felt while contemplating this incredible -and terrifying- creature of “Nature”:
“Nature”. From the Greek “Physis”. From the Latin “Natura”.
A name, a logical ballerina, with whom, since I left the wisdom of my eery childhood, my mind has believed that it could catch something that was out there, there in front, and behind, and around, (and inside?) me, causing me great sensations. “Loving nature”. I have always loved her madly. And I still love her the same way. She (is it female?) has provided me with moments that, by themselves, have justified the very fact of living. But Nature has also provided me with terrible moments. Some time ago, it even came close to killing me: to digest me, to transform me in its -powerful, fascinating, sacred, ruthless- alchemy workshop. I remember the dreadful beauty of the rocks and the mosses and the sky and the water that accompanied me, all of them impassive, while I was dying of hypothermia in a natural place of sublime beauty. I was saved by a miracle. Or did I really die? Are miracles part of Nature, or are they something that comes from beyond Nature? Is Nature the ultimate reality? Is Nature absolutely subdued to dictatorial rules? Is she therefore not free, not really creative?
Nature. What do we love when we love that of “Nature”? Is it the same as loving God (understood as infinite freedom and creativity)? What the hell is that of Nature? Does it have an essence? Does it make sense to practice an ontology of Nature?
Many of the thinkers that the canonical narrative of Western philosophy calls “the pre-Socratics” titled their works thus: “On Nature”. In general, they wanted to offer phrases powerful enough to symbolized the whole: To say what is there, in its most all-encompassing set, and in its most intimate composition.
“Nature”. How is it possible that she makes us feel so much beauty, and so much horror, at the same time? It could be said, from the model of the mind of some thinkers, that she has, she owns, ourselves. And that she also owns those thinkers, together with their own theories about Nature. We are facing an extreme, inevitable religiosity. A religious link -completely immune to the lack of faith – between the human being and the rest of the reality.
This text is headed by a well-known painting by Caspar David Friedrich in which a human being is depicted contemplating “Nature”. But it could also be said that the painting simply shows Nature (human being included). Or even more: it could be said that “Nature” is also the set formed by that painting, its oils, the canvas, the frame … and the interior oils of the painter’s fantasy … and also these phrases you read now (like waves of symbols wetting your retina) … and also the psychic oils that paint the lenses though which you read and feel this text.
What is “Nature”? What is not? Is it the whole Being? Is the philosophical thought about “Nature” also part of “Nature”?
Nature. Nature. Some thinkers have considered this concept as contrary to “Culture” (the sophists of ancient Greece, or the Taoists, among others).
The fundamental insight that I will try to express in this text is the following:
“Nature” is something artificial. It is, paradoxically, a cultural product: an ideological-metaphysical option among many others that human thought has been generating and proposing. “Nature” is a legend, a spell, as are all the dances of all the logical ballerinas who gasp inside this boundless dictionary. “Nature” is the character -almost always not anthropic- of a story: a fantasy, like anything that wants to present itself as not infinitely mysterious. Still, I think it is worth living into that legend. Perhaps legends are also “natural”, just as the algae and cetaceans that vibrate, dream and are dreamed of in the oceans of this planet.
Before developing this insight in more detail, I think it could be useful to make the following journey:
1.- Difference between “nature”, in lowercase, as the essence of things, and “Nature”, in capitals, as organised set, as cosmos (complexum omnium substantiarum). Ontology would be the philosophical discipline that studies the “what” of each thing, its “essence”, its “substance”: its “nature” (lowercase). On the other hand, “Nature” (in capitals) would be, from some models of mind, everything that exists (or a region, a part, of that whole): a whole, or part of the whole, that would be determined by time, space and causality, always under the yoke of deterministic laws (or mathematical statistics, if the proposals of Heisemberg are accepted). That “Nature” would be studied and mastered by the so-called Science (Physics, Biology, Chemistry, etc.) Thus, from this worldview (from this spell) the essence (the “nature”) of everything would be “Nature” itself -now again in capital letters- as that spell describes them: lawlike, causal, made up of inert pieces -or energies, or laws-, pointless, but surprisingly capable of manufacturing life, intelligence, consciousness… and even models of herself.
2.- Indo-Aryan civilisation. The four phases of life. As Nikhilananda points out in the introduction to his edition of the Upanisad (Ramakrishna Vivekananda Center, New York 1949, p. 4), the Veda offers a model of life that, in its third phase of time, would open up the human being to “the jungle” (to wilderness could be said today). This is scheduled for the moment when the first gray hairs have already appeared in our heads and our skin has wrinkled (and our children are already adults). Out of that Indian jungle, out of the wild borders of that civilisation, emerged some sacred revelations, which are know as the Aranyaka. And from theses galaxies of texts were derived, in many cases, the mighty Upanisad. Human beings retiring to “Nature” in order to contemplate Brahman (the Absolute), once the moral and religious noise of their civilisation has been calmed (not completely extinguished thought). Nature as a privileged place for the contemplation of the Absolute. Many people have confessed to me that only in Nature have they been able to feel something that, perhaps, could be really exceptional, religious, sacred, or mystical if you like. Some people feel the same in the body -natural, right?- of another person, thanks to what we call, very schematically, “sex”.
3.- German romanticism. It was, among other things, a poetic war to free “Nature” from the ontological stocks that materialistic scientism had manufactured in order to reduce that “thing” that makes us feel so much into a machinery of dead pieces (atoms, molecules ) shaken by blind and unconscious laws. Against this useful, only useful, momentarily useful, poeticization of what exists and involves the human being, the romantics would have wanted to recover the mystery, the Magic, the non-human consciousness, ineffability, freedom, creativity, sacrality: They would have wanted to make an urgent, passionate, voluptuous mouth-to-mouth method of resuscitation to all the fairies whose chest had been pierced by the pins of scientistic materialism. I recommend the extraordinary book Romanticism, of Rüdiger Safranski.
4.- Ludwig Feuerbach: The essence of religion. Feuerbach began this historic work by affirming that the entity distinct and independent of the human essence or God, the entity that does not possess human essence, human properties and human individuality is not other, actually, that Nature. But, surprisingly, Feuerbach seems to be as incapable of grasping and defining Nature as theologians are of grasping and defining God, and he confess that it is just a general term, a word used by humans in order to designate things different from himself and from his own human-productions.
The war of the poets to configure and, later, to calm down, the Kósmos Noetós of the human mind. For Feuerbach “Nature” is the absolutely real. There is nothing else. There is no room for the “supernatural”. But the point is that we are not clarified what it is the natural.
5.- Environmentalism. I think that this controversial book should be read and critically, dispassionately analyzed: Bjorn Lomborg: The Skeptical Ecologist. Lomborg argues in this work that the planet we live on is not as bad as most environmental movements claim. On the contrary: it is getting better, more and more people are living better in it, which would not mean that there are no problems that need urgent solutions. Lomborg supports his ideas on official reports issued by international organizations. I have no resources, at the moment, to value this work. But I think it should be read, as praxis, as workout, for a philosophical attitude that should always be attentive to the possibility that things are not as they seem: a respectful, and analytical, and courageous, questioning the unquestioned.
And now, I convey the core ideas that the dancer “Nature” provokes in my mind:
1.- I have already repeated it throughout this short text: I have felt great things there. Really big. But “there, where”? I answer -I answer myself-: it has been in solitary places, very open, little or not at all transformed by the human being. It didn’t matter if it was a forest, a desert, a mountain, a river or a wild beach (or a wild human, erotic body). Why there? I can think of some aceptable answers: the quantity and purity of oxygen; the psychic decontamination; the deactivation of civil surveillance… I dont know. Perhaps these are places where the logical algae of civilisation does not roar (that psychic network, those almost metaphysical noises that emanate from human communities and their works). I insist: I do not know.
2.- In any case, it is simply an ideological (or metaphysical) option to sustain the dualism that ontologically separates man from Nature: a metaphysics that is surprisingly implicit in the environmentalism. Thus, from naturalism it would be possible to reduce everything -everything- including the human being and his dreams, to Nature. There would be no struggle between man and Nature. The human being would not be the only possible evil within the natural order: the only threat to the sacred balance of Nature. The“anti-ecological” behaviour of the human being would be as natural and as harmonious as a spring rain or the first buds of chestnut trees.
3.- Nature, as anticipated at the beginning of this text, is a cultural product. A fantasy. A word with which others such as God or Tao or Brahman (words that, on the other hand, could never say anything about its object) have been replaced.
A non-ideological, non-confined look at what we call “Nature” shows us the magic, the brutal beauty -the sacrality- of any form of existence. Ours included.