Trees and Flowers
The Machine Will Never Triumph, part thirty-three
There is the organic connection, like leaves that belong to a tree
and there is the mechanical connection, like leaves that are cast upon the
Winds of heaven fan the leaves of the tree like flames and tunes,
but winds of heaven are mills of God to the fallen leaves
grinding them small to humus, on earth’s nether mill-stone.1
A person cannot be healthy on a sick planet. All living things are connected, organically. People who live lives in organic connection with all other living things will also have an organic connection to the Divine, and the Gods will cause those people to have fiery souls. On the other hand, mechanical connections, such as the Internet or factory systems, are ground down to dust by the Gods. People who connect consciously and psychically to the trees, animals, and cosmos become fiery and rise closer to the Gods, but people who don’t, but embrace mechanical connections, become wet and soggy like fallen leaves, and, as Heraclitus states “For souls it is death to become water, for water it is death to become earth[.]”2
A newly fallen leaf that has been taken up by the wind may be in motion, just as a factory is in motion, but the leaf is dead, separated from its source of life. Similarly, we have become separated from our sources of life in the cosmos, and are experiencing spiritual death. To truly live, one does not need to be in perpetual motion, but to have deep roots to a place. As Lawrence writes:
Men are still part of the Tree of Life, and the roots go down to the centre of the earth. Loose leaves, and aeroplanes, blow away on the wind, in what they call freedom. But the Tree of Life has fixed, deep, gripping roots.
It may be you need to be drawn down, down, till you send roots into the deep places again. Then you can send up the sap and the leaves back to the sky, later. […]
[M]en […] are like trees, forests that the white men felled in their coming. But the roots of the trees are deep and alive and forever sending up new shoots. And each new shoot that comes up overthrows a Spanish church or an American factory. And soon the dark forest will rise again, and shake the Spanish buildings from the face of America.
All that matters […] are the roots that reach down beyond all destruction. The roots and the life are there. What else it needs is the word, for the forest to begin to rise again—And some man among men must speak the word.3
We focus so much on growing upward, but we can’t because we are uprooted. First we must send down deep roots and develop organic connections to the earth. We have uprooted the trees and ourselves, but as Lawrence states, the trees can demolish the great modern buildings, which symbolize progress, and we can be tree-like, sending down roots and sending up shoots that bring the house down and start the world living again. We cannot plot nor plan this, but must let things develop organically. Plants and animals don’t grow up according to a plan, but are a miracle, which are unexplainable and organically ebb and flow with the flux of creation. We think we know what things are when we discover their genetic codes, but we know nothing. All we know is but a surface illusion, what the Hindus call maya, but the real truth can never be grasped, at least not by the mind. Lawrence puts this as follows:
There can be no ideal goal for human life. Any ideal goal means mechanization, materialism, and nullity. There is no pulling open the buds to see what the blossom will be. Leaves must unroll, buds swell and open, and then the blossom. And even after that, when the flower dies and the leaves fall, still we shall not know. There will be more leaves, more buds, more blossoms: and again, a blossom is an unfolding of the creative unknown. Impossible, utterly impossible to preconceive the unrevealed blossom. You cannot foretell it, from the last blossom. We know the flower of today, but the flower of tomorrow is all beyond us. Only in the material-mechanical world can man foresee, foreknow, calculate, and establish laws.4
Nature is not some static thing to be studied. The cosmos is not a finite systems of planets and stars. And life is not an amalgamation of amino acids. Life is a miracle, and the entire cosmos is alive and constantly changing. Life is a paradox and that is part of the miracle: one Fire, many Gods; unity of being, primordial flux. Let us leave off trying to understand, and instead learn to feel, since we will learn more from getting in touch with a blade of grass than we would from studying mounds of science textbooks. Klages writes:
The elemental vision signals rebirth; within us, the element recalls its limitlessness amid the primordial flux, as element and flux devour themselves anew: the winds, the trees, and the stars now speak. Through immeasurably distant ages, death and birth greet the soul of man in the wavering blade of grass, and they hear the dark inner night of the blood of man in the falling rain, as it trickles through the leaves outside.5
People are like leaves, fluttering and gay on the bush of the globe,
or they are like leaves, rustling thick, in crowds, on the floor of the
And the thick, fallen crowds crackle and crumble under the milling of the
the winds of change that will not be still
the breath of life.
But the living leaves in the breath of the wind are more lively
they glisten and shake.6
People are either in touch with the flux of life, or they are machine-like and are among the living dead. Most people today are ground small by the mills of the Gods, but the sun-men and their followers—those who worship life and the Gods—are joyful, and nothing, not even great catastrophes, can perturb them, since they know that life will always triumph. Getting into direct contact with the Gods, the primordial Fire, or even a blade of grass is too difficult for most men, so they need symbols. All religions have symbols that can lead us to the Divine, but ancient symbols had a more direct connection to our mother earth, and, as such, can be more beneficial in leading people towards the truth. Modern socialization has made men and even children resistant to spiritual truths, and historical errors combined with modern propaganda have tainted the symbols of the major religions, so we should reinvigorate the ancient pagan symbols to help guide people back to the Divine. Lawrence makes the following passionate plea:
I wish the Teutonic world would once more think in terms of Thor and Wotan, and the tree Igdrasil. And I wish the Druidic world would see, honestly, that in the mistletoe is their mystery, and that they themselves are the Tuatha De Danaan, alive, but submerged. And a new Hermes should come back to the Mediterranean, and a new Ashtaroth to Tunis; and Mithras again to Persia, and Brahma unbroken to India, and the oldest of dragons to China.—[C]ould we not meet, with sure souls, the other great aristocrats of the world, the First Man of Wotan and the First Woman of Freya, First Lord of Hermes, and the Lady of Astarte, the Best-Born of Brahma, and the Son of the Greatest Dragon? I tell you, […] then the earth might rejoice, when the First Lords of the West met the First Lords of South and East, in the Valley of the Soul. Ah, the earth has Valleys of the Soul, that are not cities of commerce and industry. And the mystery is one mystery, but men must see it differently. The hibiscus and the thistle and the gentian all flower on the Tree of Life, but in the world they are far apart: and must be. […] So it is. The men and women of the earth are not manufactured goods, to be interchangeable. But the Tree of Life is one tree, as we know when our souls open in the last blossoming. We can’t change ourselves, and we don’t want to. But when our souls open out in the final blossoming, then as blossoms we share one mystery with all blossoms, beyond the knowledge of any leaves and stems and roots: something transcendent.7
As Lawrence declares, life is beyond any metaphysical system. Pluralism, non-dualism, and other systems are just that, namely systems. They may contain some truths, but they are fingers pointing at the moon. Reality is both much simpler and more complex: there is unity in every multiplicity, and multiplicity in every unity. Rather than trying to understand this, we should try to feel and experience this, which would put us directly in touch with the primordial flux.
Trees in the Garden
Ah in the thunder air
how still the trees are!
And the lime-tree, lovely and tall, every leaf silent
hardly looses even a last breath of perfume.
And the ghostly, creamy coloured little tree of leaves
white, ivory white among the rambling greens
how evanescent, variegated elder, she hesitates on the green grass
as if, in another moment, she would disappear
with all her grace of foam!
And the larch that is only a column, it goes up too tall to see:
and the balsam-pines that are blue with the grey-blue blueness of things
from the sea,
and the young copper beech, its leaves red-rosey at the ends
how still they are together, they stand so still
in the thunder air, all strangers to one another
as the green grass glows upwards, strangers in the silent garden.8
Trees and other plants are alive, very much alive. Though their life may be different from animal life, it is still life, and it is from the Gods. From the flower that blooms for a single summer, to the bristlecone pine that was born two-thousand years before Homer and still lives today, plants are full of being and have much to teach us. We progress more each day down the path we have chosen, the path of destruction, but things can be different. People may no longer believe in the old Gods, and even belief in the newer religions, such as Christianity and Islam, is waning, but there is another source of sacred wisdom left on this planet, namely the trees. There are still trees that have witnessed the Navajo tribal drum prior to the arrival of the white men, and trees that witnessed the return of Ulysses to Ithaca. Listening to the trees, with all their life and spirit, can teach us much. As Lawrence writes:
He lay and watched tall cypresses breathing and communicating, faintly moving and as it were walking in the small wind. And his soul seemed to leave him and to go far away, far back, perhaps, to where life was all different and time passed otherwise than time passes now. As in clairvoyance he perceived it: that our life is only a fragment of the shell of life. That there has been and will be life, human life such as we do not begin to conceive. Much that is life has passed away from men, leaving us all mere bits. In the dark, mindful silence and inflection of the cypress trees, lost races, lost language, lost human ways of feeling and of knowing. Men have known as we can no more know, have felt as we can no more feel. Great life-realities gone into the darkness. But the cypresses commemorate. In the afternoon, Aaron felt the cypresses rising dark about him, like so many high visitants from an old, lost, lost subtle world, where men had the wonder of demons about them, the aura of demons, such as still clings to the cypresses, in Tuscany.9
The Gods have a two-fold reality: they exist in the cosmos, real and tangible, and they also exist in the breast of every man. All people contain Artemis, Dionysus, Skaði, and Thor within their souls. The Gods are not just archetypes, for they do exist, concretely, but they are also archetypes, just like the Islamic ninety-nine names of Allah. Since we all contain the Gods within, we all contain the archetype of Pan; therefore Pan the deathless has never died, and we can harness his power to connect to the world around us, particularly the trees. Lawrence makes this clear as follows:
In the days before man got too-much separated off from the universe, he was Pan, along with all the rest.
As a tree still is. A strong-willed, powerful thing-in-itself, reaching up and reaching down. With a powerful will of its own it thrusts green hands and huge limbs at the light above, and sends huge legs and gripping toes down, down between the earth and rocks, to the earth’s middle.10
You wonder why life is so hard today? You wonder why everything is inverted? It is because of the way we humans have treated our mother earth, the air, the water, and the soil. And, it is because of our relentless push toward a “greatness” that only makes us smaller by destroying plant and animal life. The mice and monkeys that are vivisected have as much right to life as we do, and the trees we cut down, home of elves and fairies, are a magical source of life and wonder, which we deplete each and every day. You want a renewal? Let’s start with the trees; let’s start by planting new sacred groves and honoring all the Gods, including their newest prophets, such as the Christ and Mohammed. Trees, as Lawrence declares, are life-givers:
[W]e live beneath it, without noticing. Yet sometimes, when one suddenly looks far up and sees those wild doves there, or when one glances quickly at the inhuman-human hammering of a wood-pecker, one realises that the tree is asserting itself as much as I am. It gives out life, as I give out life. Our two lives meet and cross one another, unknowingly: the tree’s life penetrates my life, and my life, the tree’s. We cannot live near one another, as we do, without affecting one another.
The tree gathers up earth-power from the dark bowels of the earth, and a roaming sky-glitter from above. And all unto itself, which is a tree, woody, enormous, slow but unyielding with life, bristling with acquisitive energy, obscurely radiating some of its great strength.
It vibrates its presence into my soul, and I am with Pan.11
To be with Pan, to be Pan, is to be at one with all things, and is a joyful experience beyond all else. But, instead, we hew, we hack, and we sunder. We are the sunderers. As Gerard Manley Hopkins writes:
My aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled,
Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun,
All felled, felled, are all felled;
Of a fresh and following folded rank
Not spared, not one
That dandled a sandalled
Shadow that swam or sank
On meadow and river and wind-wandering weed-winding bank.
O if we but knew what we do
When we delve or hew—
Hack and rack the growing green!
Since country is so tender
To touch, her being so slender,
That, like this sleek and seeing ball
But a prick will make no eye at all,
Where we, even where we mean
To mend her we end her,
When we hew or delve:
After-comers cannot guess the beauty been.
Ten or twelve, only ten or twelve
Strokes of havoc unselve
The sweet especial scene,
Rural scene, a rural scene,
Sweet especial rural scene.12
Hopkins is so clear and visionary, and we all should take his words to heart: “even where we mean / To mend her we end her.” There is no mending of nature utilizing the tools of the Machine. Green technology sounds like a solution, but it will ultimately solve nothing. Instead, we must turn away from the most pernicious technology and embrace a primitive lifestyle. In the process, we will lose many modern conveniences, but we would gain life, vitality, and spirituality to an extent not known for a thousand years. It all starts with a change in attitude. If we choose to be sundered from nature, our lives will be meaningless, but if we penetrate deeply into the mysteries of nature, nature’s mysteries will penetrate us deeply. Lawrence writes of this as follows:
I have become conscious of the tree, and of its interpenetration into my life. […] I am conscious that it helps to change me, vitally. I am even conscious that shivers of energy cross my living plasm, from the tree, and I become a degree more like unto the tree, more bristling and turpentiney, in Pan. And the tree gets a certain shade and alertness of my life, within itself.
Of course, if I like to cut myself off, and say it is all bunk, a tree is merely so much lumber not yet sawn, then in a great measure I shall be cut off. So much depends on one’s attitude. One can shut many, many doors of receptivity in one’s self: or one can open many doors that are shut.
I prefer to open my doors to the coming of the tree. Its raw earth-power and its raw sky-power, its resinous erectness and resistance, its sharpness of hissing needles and relentlessness of roots, all that goes to the primitive savageness of a pine tree, goes also to the strength of man.
Give me of your power, then, oh tree! And I will give you of mine.13
Rather than trying to dominate nature, we should give way to the flow of creation, and, at times, let nature dominate us. “[T]rees seem so much bigger than me, so much stronger in life, prowling silent around. I seem to feel them moving and thinking and prowling, and they overwhelm me. Ah well, the only thing is to give way to them.”14 Giving way to the tree or to a man of the sun is not a way of losing power but of gaining power. Our spiritual powerlessness today comes from our hubris. Gods are always greater than we are. We have lost touch with the Gods, but plants and animals are full of the god-stuff; therefore coming into contact with the natural world in an organic way puts us into communion with the power and glory of the Gods.
Trees are not just vital living beings, homes of mystical creatures, and conduits to the Gods of the cosmos; they are, in fact, Gods. But, how can they be Gods if they die, for a God never dies? A God may never die, but its manifestation may change or disappear. Trees are all manifestations of the living Gods. Even the Christian R. S. Thomas had the one, serious, mystical experience of his life next to a tree. The ancients were smarter than moderns give them credit for, and it is time we all should start worshiping trees. As Lawrence writes:
I come to understand tree worship. All the old Aryans worshipped the tree. My ancestors. The tree of Life. The tree of knowledge[…] This marvellous vast individual without a face, without lips or eyes or heart. This towering creature that never had a face. Here am I between his toes like a pea-bug, and him noiselessly over-reaching me. And I feel his great blood-jet surging. And he has no eyes. But he turns two ways. He thrusts himself tremendously down to the middle earth, where dead men sink in darkness, in the damp, dense undersoil, and he turns himself about in high air. Whereas we have eyes on one side of our head only, and only grow upwards[…] I worship it[…] [T]hey are my only shelter and strength. I lose myself among the trees. I am so glad to be with them in their silent, intent passion, and their great lust. They feed my soul.15
You may smell the breath of the gods in the common roses,
and feel the splendour of the gods go through you, even as you see the
green-fly on the stems,
in the summer morning:
or you may not.
If you don’t then don’t pretend you do—
but if you don’t, you are suffering from an amnesia
of the senses:
you are like to die of malnutrition of the senses:
and your sensual atrophy
will at last send you insane.16
Our bodies, when viewed correctly, are conduits for the Gods. All of our senses can drive us heaven-ward. The Gods show themselves in the great oaks, roses, and mountain lions, but also in worms, weeds—there is no such thing as “weeds” for the Gods, just as there was not for the ancients—and poisonous mushrooms. The Gods are in all and are all. As soon as you get to know your self, you can come into living contact with the Gods, and be a God yourself. All our desire to be god-like has made us less god-like than ever. Selflessness, devotion, faith, and oneness are paths to godliness. As William Blake writes:
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.17
All humans, just as all other creatures, were originally able to come into living touch with things. The change away from oneness happened gradually at first, then at an accelerating pace, until we came to the present era when people started to view the sun as a ball of gas, and living creatures as nothing more than minerals and proteins. Lawrence charts the descent of man as follows:
Now an automatic establishment of the psyche must, like the building of a machine, proceed according to some definite fixed scheme, based on certain fixed principles. And it is here that ideals and ideas enter. They are the machine-plan and the machine-principles of an automatized psyche.
So, humanity proceeds to derange itself, to automatize itself from the mental consciousness. It is a process of derangement, just as the fixing of the will upon any other primary process is a derangement. It is a long, slow development into madness[…] True, we must all develop into mental consciousness. But mental-consciousness is not a goal; it is a cul-de-sac. It provides us only with endless appliances which we can use for the all-too-difficult business of coming to our spontaneous-creative fullness of being. It provides us with means to adjust ourselves to the external universe. It gives us further means for subduing the external, materio-mechanical universe to our great end of creative life. And it gives us plain indications of how to avoid falling into automatism, hints for the applying of the will, the loosening of false, automatic fixations, the brave adherence to a profound soul-impulse. This is the use of mind—a great indicator and instrument. The mind as author and director of life is anathema.18
As Lawrence makes clear, and contrary to the misconceptions of his commentators, he is not anti-mind, but he is against the way we moderns now utilize our minds. The mind is a great gift of the Gods, and used right it can help us to get into touch with things, but used wrongly it can make us into vile machine-like creatures that have automatic—as opposed to spontaneous—consciousness. For the one who utilizes his mind rightly, all the universe, the entire cosmos, all of creation, time itself, and the change of the seasons puts one in touch with the Gods and the God beyond the Gods, namely the Heraclitean Fire. Klages states this beautifully as follows:
In summertime, the heavenly sky extends itself above our earth like a canopy. Palely gleaming stars are suspended from the shining dome, and the sickle moon dips low behind the horizon. No longer do the colors that radiate distance blossom in the western twilight. Warm and bright are the streaming rains that soon shroud the heavens. Now everything belongs to Gaia. It is the time when she feasts upon heat, electricity, and light. The ardent sun is sinking into her maternal waters…The Heraclitean fire sets out on his voyage from the universe to the earth.
In wintertime, the depths of nocturnal space are stirred. Through the violet-black wilderness of darkness roll the images of the stars. The cold, twinkling whiteness of the moon seems somehow drab; and, lost in the universe between the shifting constellations, Gaia plummets into the eternal night. The slanting sun sinks through a distance that seems as if it had been drained of its blood. At the North Pole, the Aurora Borealis blazes brightly. So we see that the earth is but a reeling ball thrown into the Uranian abyss. And as earth’s fiery core thrusts outwards, the Heraclitean essence streams downwards.19
Flowers and Men.
Flowers achieve their own floweriness, and it is a miracle.
Men don’t achieve their own manhood, alas, oh alas! alas!
All I want of you, men and women,
all I want of you
is that you shall achieve your beauty
as the flowers do.
Oh leave off saying I want you to be savages.
Tell me, is the gentian savage, at the top of its coarse stem?
Oh what in you can answer to this blueness?
Tell me! tell me! is there in you a beauty to compare to the gentian and the
or to the honeysuckle at evening now
pouring out his breath.20
It is not hard, oh it is not hard to be alive. No. All one must do to be a man alive is to simply be true to one’s self. Simple, really, but seemingly the hardest thing of all. All one needs to do in order to start on a spiritual path is to be true to his or her inner soul the same way a gentian or daffodil is true to its inner soul. Today we are so tame. Perhaps that is why we refuse to get into touch with our souls, perhaps that is why we are so afraid to even acknowledge the existence of a soul. But each and every one of us doesn’t just have, but is a soul, and that soul is wild, and free, and fiery. As Lawrence writes:
The soul of a man is a dark forest. The Hercynian Wood that scared the Romans so, and out of which came the white-skinned hordes of the next civilisation.
Who knows what will come out of the soul of man! The soul of man is a dark vast forest, with wild life in it21
Blake, William. Complete Writings. Edited by Geoffrey Keynes. London: Oxford University Press, 1972.
Hopkins, Gerard Manley. The Major Works. Edited by Catherine Phillips. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
Kahn, Charles H. The Art and Thought of Heraclitus. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979.
Klages, Ludwig. Cosmogonic Reflections. Translated by Joseph D. Pryce. London: Arktos, 2015.
Lawrence, D. H. Aaron’s Rod. Edited by Mara Kalnins. New York: Penguin Books, 1995.
———. Mornings in Mexico and Other Essays. Edited by Virginia Crosswhite Hyde. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
———. 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.
———. Studies in Classic American Literature. Edited by Ezra Greenspan, Lindeth Vasey, and John Worthen. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
———. The Plumed Serpent. Edited by L. D. Clark. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
———. 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), 529.
Charles H. Kahn, The Art and Thought of Heraclitus (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), 75.
D. H. Lawrence, The Plumed Serpent, ed. L. D. Clark (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 80.
D. H. Lawrence, Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine and Other Essays, ed. Michael Herbert (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 79–80.
Ludwig Klages, Cosmogonic Reflections, trans. Joseph D. Pryce (London: Arktos, 2015), 131.
Lawrence, The Poems, 1:530.
Lawrence, The Plumed Serpent, 248–49.
Lawrence, The Poems, 1:557.
D. H. Lawrence, Aaron’s Rod, ed. Mara Kalnins (New York: Penguin Books, 1995), 265.
D. H. Lawrence, Mornings in Mexico and Other Essays, ed. Virginia Crosswhite Hyde (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 157.
Gerard Manley Hopkins, The Major Works, ed. Catherine Phillips (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 142–43.
Lawrence, Mornings in Mexico and Other Essays, 158–59.
D. H. Lawrence, Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious and Fantasia of the Unconscious, ed. Bruce Steele (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 85.
Lawrence, The Poems, 1:565.
William Blake, Complete Writings, ed. Geoffrey Keynes (London: Oxford University Press, 1972), 431.
Lawrence, Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious and Fantasia of the Unconscious, 43.
Klages, Cosmogonic Reflections, 47–48.
Lawrence, The Poems, 1:593.
D. H. Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature, ed. Ezra Greenspan, Lindeth Vasey, and John Worthen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 21.