The Need for Roots
The Machine Will Never Triumph, part forty-four
People who complain of loneliness must have lost something
lost some living connection with the cosmos, out of themselves,
lost their life-flow
like a plant whose roots are cut.
And they are crying like plants whose roots are cut.
But the presence of other people will not give them new, rooted
it will only make them forget.
The thing to do is in solitude slowly and painfully put forth new roots
into the unknown, and take root by oneself.1
Few things in life are needed more than roots. Lawrence, Heidegger, and Simone Weil all knew that a person cannot live from just food and things, but needs vital connections to place and people. Only through a deep connection to the land will one come into contact with the spirit of that place. Whatever the vicissitudes of life, family, home, and soil are bedrocks upon which the human life is founded. Without blood and soil a man is nothing. A person may wish to reach up to the Gods, but one cannot reach up until he sends roots down. Meeting new people, surrounding oneself with people is not making roots. Family comes later, friends come later. All modern men are uprooted, so the man alone must overcome his fears, and send down roots deeply into the soil of mystery. Only then may shoots spring up in a state of wonder. Our mother earth is where we must be planted, organically. Once one has sent down roots, other people, in a community of rooted men and women, may nourish us and help us to grow. Finally, the sun sheds its light upon us, raising us up to the Gods, where they may shower us with divine love.
All of this was known to all peoples throughout history, yet we moderns are ignorant of these simple truths. Our entire lives are barren and uprooted. As Heidegger writes:
Everything is functioning. That is precisely what is strange [unheimlich], that it is functioning, and that technology increasingly tears humans away from the earth and uproots them. […] I was just recently alarmed when I saw the pictures of the earth taken from the moon. We do not need an atomic bomb at all; the uprooting of humans has already taken place. We only have purely technological relationships anymore.2
We really have no need for wars and genocide any longer, since the entire project of modernity is a colossal war against the human soul. Even for one who has a house and friends, these are not organic, rooted relationships, but artificial, machine-like interactions. All of this because, like Icarus, we are full of hubris and try to be like Gods. We spend so much time thinking about and engineering plans for trips to Mars, but we are incapable of simple, vital, organic relationships here and now on earth. As Lawrence makes clear, we moderns are such fools:
We are so silly, trying to invent devices and machines for flying off from the surface of the earth. Instead of realizing that for us the deep satisfaction lies not in escaping, but in getting into the perfect circuit of the earth’s terrestrial magnetism. Not in breaking away. What is the good of trying to break away from one’s own? What is the good of a tree desiring to fly like a bird in the sky, when a bird is rooted in the earth as surely as a tree is? Nay, the bird is only the topmost leaf of the tree, fluttering in the high air, but attached as close to the tree as any other leaf.3
A bird is a bird and so long as its soul is contained within the bird-body, it will always be a bird and have no desire to be anything other than what it is. What fools we humans are! We are never happy with the great gift and miracle of life, but instead always strive to be something different, and, in the end, destroy ourselves, like Icarus.
Evil is homeless.
Evil has no home,
only evil has no home,
not even the home of demoniacal hell.
Hell is the home of souls lost in darkness,
even as heaven is the home of souls lost in light.
And like Persephone, or Attis
there are souls that are at home in both homes.
Not like grey Dante, colour-blind
to the scarlet and purple flowers at the doors of hell.
evil has no dwelling-place
the grey vulture, the grey hyaena, corpse-eaters
they dwell in the outskirt fringes of nowhere
where the grey twilight of evil sets in.
And men that sit in machines
among spinning wheels, in an apotheosis of wheels
sit in the grey mist of movement which moves not
and going which goes not
and doing which does not
and being which is not;
that is, they sit and are evil, in evil,
grey evil, which has no path, and shows neither light nor dark
and has no home—no home anywhere.4
Our modern society is prone to evil because of its rootlessness. A rooted society is far more protected from evil. When tribes started expanding beyond their boundaries they stirred up evil, and formed empires that cultivated great evils. Hell, unlike the theological proclamations of the orthodox, is not a place of punishment, but a place of abandonment. Hell is not hot and fiery, but cold and dark. Hell is where uprooted and lost souls go to wander for a time in darkness. But Hell of Greek mythology is not evil. There are Gods who make Hell their home, and there is good in Hell, good such as the beautiful dark gentians of Hades and Persephone. And Hell is not eternal. All lost souls eventually find their way Home. But, true evil is nothingness, and those souls who are not just uprooted, but who have given up life in a Faustian bargain with the Machine will taste the pure evil of nothingness at the end of their days. Just as the great Gods have the sun-men as their representatives on earth, so evil is represented by the Machine, its machines and networks, and the people who have chosen to be enslaved to it at the cost of their souls. After death, the lover of the Gods attains bliss, the uprooted go to Hell for a time, but the evil man in the machine will never have a home, not even Hell, which is a great punishment, indeed, since a home is everything, as it reminds us of our divine home. As Heidegger states: “I know that, according to our human experience and history, everything essential and great has arisen solely out of the fact that humans had a home and were rooted in a tradition.”5 Without homes and traditions, men are bound to get hooked in by and tied up in machines.
As for hopes for the future, good may only come through the rise of great rooted men. Coming into contact with the Gods is not enough. Gaia, our great earth-mother is also a Goddess. One can never become a sun-man simply through the spirit, nor through a knowledge of the Fire that is in all, but beyond all. To become a sun-man, one must also have deep, organic roots that pulse down deeply out of the soul. As Lawrence writes:
The purest lesson our era has taught is that man, at his highest, is an individual, single, isolate, alone, in direct soul-communication with the unknown God, which prompts within him.
This lesson, however, puts us in danger of conceit, especially spiritual conceit.
In his supreme being, man is alone, isolate, nakedly himself, in contact only with the unknown God.
This is our way of expressing Nirvana.
But just as a tree is only perfect in blossom because it has groping roots, so is man only perfected in his individual being by his groping, pulsing unison with mankind. The unknown God is within, at the quick. But this quick must send down roots into the great flesh of mankind.
In short, the “spirit” has got a lesson to learn: the lesson of its own limitation. This is for the individual. And the infinite, which is Man writ large, or Humanity, has a still bitterer lesson to learn. It is the individual alone who can save humanity alive. But the greatest of great individuals must have deep, throbbing roots down in the dark red soil of the living flesh of humanity. Which is the bitter pill which Buddhists and all advocates of pure Spirit must swallow.
In short, man, even the greatest man, does not live only by his spirit and his pure contact with the Godhead—for example, Nirvana. Blessed are the pure in heart, Blessed are the poor in spirit. He is forced to live in vivid rapport with the mass of men. If he denies this, he cuts his roots. He intermingles as the roots of a tree interpenetrate the fat, rock-ribbed earth.6
This is perhaps why so many moderns who cannot be atheists are drawn to deformed forms of Buddhism, since it emphasizes the spirit at the expense of the soul. Religions, such as certain forms of Buddhism, Vedanta, and austere forms of Western mysticism, that emphasize the spirit or mind and a wholly transcendent Godhead, to the exclusion of physicality, love, and life are wrong. Both religious and irreligious uprootedness is a sin. The Gods love us, and they don’t desire that we hate our lives, nor our bodies. Our bodies are good, and the earth we walk on is good. There are Gods everywhere and if we will only come to know the earth, air, water, and sun, we may come to know the Gods. The idea of God has become stagnant. Even some of the great mystics, such as Meister Eckhart, put forth an unappealing version of a God that we may never know. This conceit leads to the death of faith. We need a new, vital relation to the Divine in all its forms. We need to come to know and love all the Gods, higher and lower alike, in all their physical manifestations, and we must also strive to form connections with nature, since the great Fire that pulses through all things is present in every atom. Lawrence passionately writes:
That is part of our destiny. As a thinking being, man is destined to seek God and to form some conception of Life. And since the invisible God cannot be conceived, and since Life is always more than any idea, behold, from the human conception of God and of Life a great deal is of necessity left out. And this God whom we have left out, and this Life that we have shut out from our living must in the end turn against us and rend us. It is our destiny.
Nothing will alter it. When the Unknown God whom we ignore turns savagely to rend us, from the darkness of oblivion; and when the Life that we exclude from our living turns to poison and madness in our veins: then there is only one thing left to do. We have to struggle for a new glimpse of God and Life. We have to struggle down to the heart of things, where the everlasting flame is, and kindle ourselves another beam of light. In short, we have to make another bitter adventure in pulsating thought, far, far to the one central pole of energy. We have to germinate inside us, between our undaunted mind and our reckless, genuine passions, a new germ. The germ of a new idea. A new germ of God-knowledge, or Life-knowledge. But a new germ.7
Heidegger, Martin. The Heidegger Reader. Edited by Günter Figal. Translated by Jerome Veith. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009.
Lawrence, D. H. Kangaroo. Melbourne: The Text Publishing Company, 2018.
———. Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious and Fantasia of the Unconscious. Edited by Bruce Steele. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
———. Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine and Other Essays. Edited by Michael Herbert. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
———. The Poems. Edited by Christopher Pollnitz. Vol. 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013.
D. H. Lawrence, The Poems, ed. Christopher Pollnitz, vol. 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 525.
Martin Heidegger, The Heidegger Reader, ed. Günter Figal, trans. Jerome Veith (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009), 325.
D. H. Lawrence, Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious and Fantasia of the Unconscious, ed. Bruce Steele (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 166–67.
Lawrence, The Poems, 1:625.
Heidegger, The Heidegger Reader, 325.
D. H. Lawrence, Kangaroo (Melbourne: The Text Publishing Company, 2018), 347.
D. H. Lawrence, Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine and Other Essays, ed. Michael Herbert (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 208–9.