Thursday, July 26, 2007

Nature's Wound


Climate change has now become a global issue. What do we understand by Change, and how does it relate to our respect for nature ? The “Book of Changes” or “I Ching” uses a complex system of images to relate three domains—Nature, the Individual person, and the whole community, which includes the way that the whole state is functioning. What is experienced as outer, objective nature, and what we are conscious of as inner subjective nature, are bound together in a mutual relationship.

Change is an essential coefficient in what we call “transformation”. The philosopher, artist and scientist Goethe was particularly concerned with processes in nature which govern the changing structures of natural forms. Gregory Bateson also addresses these questions in his work on Mind and Nature. What we are terming “consciousness” spans a world of phenomena which reaches far beyond the human mind. The human mind is affected by changes that have their origin in the cosmos, and reversely the framework of the human mind affects our whole physical environment.

The poet Gerald Manley Hopkins coined the word “Inscape” by which he meant an inner landscape, which is at one level a reflection of the world we perceive outside in nature, but in another sense is a principle of inner conscious ordering that affects our very way of seeing. There is also a link between this “inscape” and the very structure of language, which was the intuition that Gerard Manley Hopkins referred to when talking about “instress”. In stress, according to him was an aspect of the way in which human language responds to rhythm, which governs the patterns of nature, and also change. It is this mysterious instress that lies at the heart of poetry. The poetic vision, which arises out of the creative imagination, is determined by instress. Instress effects the way that language is structured, by providing the spoken word with a recitative rhythm. This concept is probably close to what Indian aestheticians like Ananda Vardhana (9th Cent.) called “Dhwani” or Resonance. This principle of resonance is a kind of empathy, whereby the human heart responds to external stimuli. This in fact constitutes what one might term the aesthetic experience.

The famous modern Indian philosopher from Mysore, called Prof. M. Hiriyanna, in his well known book “Art Experience” notes that there is a link, in Indian metaphysics, between this sense of resonance between the human heart and the rest of creation, and what was understood as an experience of the innermost Self, or Atma vidya. It is not possible in these notes to explore in any depth what we might call a spiritual experience, and the very nature of aesthetic delight (ananda), but I feel it is important to not e that for a profoundly spiritual artist like Gerard Manley Hopkins, drawing from the wisdom that he found in his own Celtic tradition, his poetic vocation was very much tied up with his spiritual aspirations. I have also tried to see a link between the poetic vision of Gerard Manley Hopkins and that of the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore, who presents his view of his understanding of art in a series of lectures that are published as “Personality”
This term “Personality” in the thought of Tagore relates to a deep sense of “self” which is not the ego, but lies at the level of an inner Self, which is a Divine Presence.

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