The Man Who Planted Trees

Translation from french by Peter Doyle

In order for the character of a human being to reveal truly exceptional qualities, we must have the good fortune to observe its action over a long period of years. If this action is devoid of all selfishness, if the idea that directs it is one of unqualified generosity, if it is absolutely certain that it has not sought recompense anywhere, and if moreover it has left visible marks on the world, then we are unquestionably dealing with an unforgettable character.

About forty years ago I went on a long hike, through hills absolutely unknown to tourists, in that very old region where the Alps penetrate into Provence.
This region is bounded to the south-east and south by the middle course of the Durance, between Sisteron and Mirabeau; to the north by the upper course of the Drôme, from its source down to Die; to the west by the plains of Comtat Venaissin and the outskirts of Mont Ventoux. It includes all the northern part of the Département of Basses-Alpes, the south of Drôme and a little enclave of Vaucluse.
At the time I undertook my long walk through this deserted region, it consisted of barren and monotonous lands, at about 1200 to 1300 meters above sea level. Nothing grew there except wild lavender.
I was crossing this country at its widest part, and after walking for three days, I found myself in the most complete desolation. I was camped next to the skeleton of an abandoned village. I had used the last of my water the day before and I needed to find more. Even though they were in ruins, these houses all huddled together and looking like an old wasps’ nest made me think that there must at one time have been a spring or a well there. There was indeed a spring, but it was dry. The five or six roofless houses, ravaged by sun and wind, and the small chapel with its tumble-down belfry, were arrayed like the houses and chapels of living villages, but all life had disappeared.

It was a beautiful June day with plenty of sun, but on these shelterless lands, high up in the sky, the wind whistled with an unendurable brutality. Its growling in the carcasses of the houses was like that of a wild beast disturbed during its meal.
I had to move my camp. After five hours of walking, I still hadn’t found water, and nothing gave me hope of finding any. Everywhere there was the same dryness, the same stiff, woody plants. I thought I saw in the distance a small black silhouette. On a chance I headed towards it. It was a shepherd. Thirty lambs or so were resting near him on the scorching ground.
He gave me a drink from his gourd and a little later he led me to his shepherd’s cottage, tucked down in an undulation of the plateau. He drew his water – excellent – from a natural hole, very deep, above which he had installed a rudimentary windlass.

This man spoke little. This is common among those who live alone, but he seemed sure of himself, and confident in this assurance, which seemed remarkable in this land shorn of everything. He lived not in a cabin but in a real house of stone, from the looks of which it was clear that his own labor had restored the ruins he had found on his arrival. His roof was solid and water-tight. The wind struck against the roof tiles with the sound of the sea crashing on the beach.
His household was in order, his dishes washed, his floor swept, his rifle greased; his soup boiled over the fire; I noticed then that he was also freshly shaven, that all his buttons were solidly sewn, and that his clothes were mended with such care as to make the patches invisible.
He shared his soup with me, and when afterwards I offered him my tobacco pouch, he told me that he didn’t smoke. His dog, as silent as he, was friendly without being fawning.

It had been agreed immediately that I would pass the night there, the closest village being still more than a day and a half farther on. Furthermore, I understood perfectly well the character of the rare villages of that region. There are four or five of them dispersed far from one another on the flanks of the hills, in groves of white oaks at the very ends of roads passable by carriage. They are inhabited by woodcutters who make charcoal. They are places where the living is poor. The families, pressed together in close quarters by a climate that is exceedingly harsh, in summer as well as in winter, struggle ever more selfishly against each other. Irrational contention grows beyond all bounds, fueled by a continuous struggle to escape from that place. The men carry their charcoal to the cities in their trucks, and then return. The most solid qualities crack under this perpetual Scottish shower. The women stir up bitterness. There is competition over everything, from the sale of charcoal to the benches at church. The virtues fight amongst themselves, the vices fight amongst themselves, and there is a ceaseless general combat between the vices and the virtues. On top of all that, the equally ceaseless wind irritates the nerves. There are epidemics of suicides and numerous cases of insanity, almost always murderous.

The shepherd, who did not smoke, took out a bag and poured a pile of acorns out onto the table. He began to examine them one after another with a great deal of attention, separating the good ones from the bad. I smoked my pipe. I offered to help him, but he told me it was his own business. Indeed, seeing the care that he devoted to this job, I did not insist. This was our whole conversation. When he had in the good pile a fair number of acorns, he counted them out into packets of ten. In doing this he eliminated some more of the acorns, discarding the smaller ones and those that that showed even the slightest crack, for he examined them very closely. When he had before him one hundred perfect acorns he stopped, and we went to bed.
The company of this man brought me a feeling of peace. I asked him the next morning if I might stay and rest the whole day with him. He found that perfectly natural. Or more exactly, he gave me the impression that nothing could disturb him. This rest was not absolutely necessary to me, but I was intrigued and I wanted to find out more about this man. He let out his flock and took them to the pasture. Before leaving, he soaked in a bucket of water the little sack containing the acorns that he had so carefully chosen and counted.

I noted that he carried as a sort of walking stick an iron rod as thick as his thumb and about one and a half meters long. I set off like someone out for a stroll, following a route parallel to his. His sheep pasture lay at the bottom of a small valley. He left his flock in the charge of his dog and climbed up towards the spot where I was standing. I was afraid that he was coming to reproach me for my indiscretion, but not at all : It was his own route and he invited me to come along with him if I had nothing better to do. He continued on another two hundred meters up the hill.
Having arrived at the place he had been heading for, he begin to pound his iron rod into the ground. This made a hole in which he placed an acorn, whereupon he covered over the hole again. He was planting oak trees. I asked him if the land belonged to him. He answered no. Did he know whose land it was? He did not know. He supposed that it was communal land, or perhaps it belonged to someone who did not care about it. He himself did not care to know who the owners were. In this way he planted his one hundred acorns with great care.

After the noon meal, he began once more to pick over his acorns. I must have put enough insistence into my questions, because he answered them. For three years now he had been planting trees in this solitary way. He had planted one hundred thousand. Of these one hundred thousand, twenty thousand had come up. He counted on losing another half of them to rodents and to everything else that is unpredictable in the designs of Providence. That left ten thousand oaks that would grow in this place where before there was nothing.
It was at this moment that I began to wonder about his age. He was clearly more than fifty. Fifty-five, he told me. His name was Elzéard Bouffier. He had owned a farm in the plains, where he lived most of his life. He had lost his only son, and then his wife. He had retired into this solitude, where he took pleasure in living slowly, with his flock of sheep and his dog. He had concluded that this country was dying for lack of trees. He added that, having nothing more important to do, he had resolved to remedy the situation.
Leading as I did at the time a solitary life, despite my youth, I knew how to treat the souls of solitary people with delicacy. Still, I made a mistake. It was precisely my youth that forced me to imagine the future in my own terms, including a certain search for happiness. I told him that in thirty years these ten thousand trees would be magnificent. He replied very simply that, if God gave him life, in thirty years he would have planted so many other trees that these ten thousand would be like a drop of water in the ocean.
He had also begun to study the propagation of beeches. and he had near his house a nursery filled with seedlings grown from beechnuts. His little wards, which he had protected from his sheep by a screen fence, were growing beautifully. He was also considering birches for the valley bottoms where, he told me, moisture lay slumbering just a few meters beneath the surface of the soil.
We parted the next day.

The next year the war of 14 came, in which I was engaged for five years. An infantryman could hardly think about trees. To tell the truth, the whole business hadn’t made a very deep impression on me; I took it to be a hobby, like a stamp collection, and forgot about it.
With the war behind me, I found myself with a small demobilization bonus and a great desire to breathe a little pure air. Without any preconceived notion beyond that, I struck out again along the trail through that deserted country.
The land had not changed. Nonetheless, beyond that dead village I perceived in the distance a sort of gray fog that covered the hills like a carpet. Ever since the day before I had been thinking about the shepherd who planted trees. « Ten thousand oaks, I had said to myself, must really take up a lot of space. »
I had seen too many people die during those five years not to be able to imagine easily the death of Elzéard Bouffier, especially since when a man is twenty he thinks of a man of fifty as an old codger for whom nothing remains but to die. He was not dead. In fact, he was very spry. He had changed his job. He only had four sheep now, but to make up for this he had about a hundred beehives. He had gotten rid of the sheep because they threatened his crop of trees. He told me (as indeed I could see for myself) that the war had not disturbed him at all. He had continued imperturbably with his planting.
The oaks of 1910 were now ten years old and were taller than me and than him. The spectacle was impressive. I was literally speechless and, as he didn’t speak himself, we passed the whole day in silence, walking through his forest. It was in three sections, eleven kilometers long overall and, at its widest point, three kilometers wide. When I considered that this had all sprung from the hands and from the soul of this one man – without technical aids – , it struck me that men could be as effective as God in domains other than destruction.
He had followed his idea, and the beeches that reached up to my shoulders and extending as far as the eye could see bore witness to it. The oaks were now good and thick, and had passed the age where they were at the mercy of rodents; as for the designs of Providence, to destroy the work that had been created would henceforth require a cyclone. He showed me admirable stands of birches that dated from five years ago, that is to say from 1915, when I had been fighting at Verdun. He had planted them in the valley bottoms where he had suspected, correctly, that there was water close to the surface. They were as tender as young girls, and very determined.
This creation had the air, moreover, of working by a chain reaction. He had not troubled about it; he went on obstinately with his simple task. But, in going back down to the village, I saw water running in streams that, within living memory, had always been dry. It was the most striking revival that he had shown me. These streams had borne water before, in ancient days. Certain of the sad villages that I spoke of at the beginning of my account had been built on the sites of ancient Gallo-Roman villages, of which there still remained traces; archeologists digging there had found fishhooks in places where in more recent times cisterns were required in order to have a little water.
The wind had also been at work, dispersing certain seeds. As the water reappeared, so too did willows, osiers, meadows, gardens, flowers, and a certain reason to live.
But the transformation had taken place so slowly that it had been taken for granted, without provoking surprise. The hunters who climbed the hills in search of hares or wild boars had noticed the spreading of the little trees, but they set it down to the natural spitefulness of the earth. That is why no one had touched the work of this man. If they had suspected him, they would have tried to thwart him. But he never came under suspicion : Who among the villagers or the administrators would ever have suspected that anyone could show such obstinacy in carrying out this magnificent act of generosity?

Beginning in 1920 I never let more than a year go by without paying a visit to Elzéard Bouffier. I never saw him waver or doubt, though God alone can tell when God’s own hand is in a thing! I have said nothing of his disappointments, but you can easily imagine that, for such an accomplishment, it was necessary to conquer adversity; that, to assure the victory of such a passion, it was necessary to fight against despair. One year he had planted ten thousand maples. They all died. The next year,he gave up on maples and went back to beeches, which did even better than the oaks.
To get a true idea of this exceptional character, one must not forget that he worked in total solitude; so total that, toward the end of his life, he lost the habit of talking. Or maybe he just didn’t see the need for it.

In 1933 he received the visit of an astonished forest ranger. This functionary ordered him to cease building fires outdoors, for fear of endangering this natural forest. It was the first time, this naive man told him, that a forest had been observed to grow up entirely on its own. At the time of this incident, he was thinking of planting beeches at a spot twelve kilometers from his house. To avoid the coming and going – because at the time he was seventy-five years old – he planned to build a cabin of stone out where he was doing his planting. This he did the next year.

In 1935, a veritable administrative delegation went to examine this « natural forest ». There was an important personage from Waters and Forests, a deputy, and some technicians. Many useless words were spoken. It was decided to do something, but luckily nothing was done, except for one truly useful thing : placing the forest under the protection of the State and forbidding anyone from coming there to make charcoal. For it was impossible not to be taken with the beauty of these young trees in full health. And the forest exercised its seductive powers even on the deputy himself.
I had a friend among the chief foresters who were with the delegation. I explained the mystery to him. One day the next week, we went off together to look for Elzéard Bouffier, We found him hard at work, twenty kilometers away from the place where the inspection had taken place.
This chief forester was not my friend for nothing. He understood the value of things. He knew how to remain silent. I offered up some eggs I had brought with me as a gift. We split our snack three ways, and then passed several hours in mute contemplation of the landscape.
The hillside whence we had come was covered with trees six or seven meters high. I remembered the look of the place in 1913 : a desert… The peaceful and steady labor, the vibrant highland air, his frugality, and above all, the serenity of his soul had given the old man a kind of solemn good health. He was an athlete of God. I asked myself how many hectares he had yet to cover with trees.
Before leaving, my friend made a simple suggestion concerning certain species of trees to which the terrain seemed to be particularly well suited. He was not insistent. « For the very good reason, » he told me afterwards, « that this fellow knows a lot more about this sort of thing than I do. » After another hour of walking, this thought having travelled along with him, he added : « He knows a lot more about this sort of thing than anybody – and he has found a jolly good way of being happy ! »
It was thanks to the efforts of this chief forester that the forest was protected, and with it, the happiness of this man. He designated three forest rangers for their protection, and terrorized them to such an extent that they remained indifferent to any jugs of wine that the woodcutters might offer as bribes.

The forest did not run any grave risks except during the war of 1939. Then automobiles were being run on wood alcohol, and there was never enough wood. They began to cut some of the stands of the oaks of 1910, but the trees stood so far from any useful road that the enterprise turned out to be bad from a financial point of view, and was soon abandoned. The shepherd never knew anything about it. He was thirty kilometers away, peacefully continuing his task, as untroubled by the war of 39 as he had been of the war of 14.

I saw Elzéard Bouffier for the last time in June of 1945. He was then eighty-seven years old. I had once more set off along my trail through the wilderness, only to find that now, in spite of the shambles in which the war had left the whole country, there was a motor coach running between the valley of the Durance and the mountain. I set down to this relatively rapid means of transportation the fact that I no longer recognized the landmarks I knew from my earlier visits. It also seemed that the route was taking me through entirely new places. I had to ask the name of a village to be sure that I was indeed passing through that same region, once so ruined and desolate. The coach set me down at Vergons. In 1913, this hamlet of ten or twelve houses had had three inhabitants. They were savages, hating each other, and earning their living by trapping : Physically and morally, they resembled prehistoric men . The nettles devoured the abandoned houses that surrounded them. Their lives were without hope, it was only a matter of waiting for death to come : a situation that hardly predisposes one to virtue.
All that had changed, even to the air itself. In place of the dry, brutal gusts that had greeted me long ago, a gentle breeze whispered to me, bearing sweet odors. A sound like that of running water came from the heights above : It was the sound of the wind in the trees. And most astonishing of all, I heard the sound of real water running into a pool. I saw that they had built a fountain, that it was full of water, and what touched me most, that next to it they had planted a lime-tree that must be at least four years old, already grown thick, an incontestable symbol of resurrection.

Furthermore, Vergons showed the signs of labors for which hope is a requirement : Hope must therefore have returned. They had cleared out the ruins, knocked down the broken walls, and rebuilt five houses. The hamlet now counted twenty-eight inhabitants, including four young families. The new houses, freshly plastered, were surrounded by gardens that bore, mixed in with each other but still carefully laid out, vegetables and flowers, cabbages and rosebushes, leeks and gueules-de-loup, celery and anemones. It was now a place where anyone would be glad to live.
From there I continued on foot. The war from which we had just barely emerged had not permitted life to vanish completely, and now Lazarus was out of his tomb. On the lower flanks of the mountain, I saw small fields of barley and rye; in the bottoms of the narrow valleys, meadowlands were just turning green.
It has taken only the eight years that now separate us from that time for the whole country around there to blossom with splendor and ease. On the site of the ruins I had seen in 1913 there are now well-kept farms, the sign of a happy and comfortable life. The old springs, fed by rain and snow now that are now retained by the forests, have once again begun to flow. The brooks have been channelled. Beside each farm, amid groves of maples, the pools of fountains are bordered by carpets of fresh mint. Little by little, the villages have been rebuilt. Yuppies have come from the plains, where land is expensive, bringing with them youth, movement, and a spirit of adventure. Walking along the roads you will meet men and women in full health, and boys and girls who know how to laugh, and who have regained the taste for the traditional rustic festivals. Counting both the previous inhabitants of the area, now unrecognizable from living in plenty, and the new arrivals, more than ten thousand persons owe their happiness to Elzéard Bouffier.

When I consider that a single man, relying only on his own simple physical and moral resources, was able to transform a desert into this land of Canaan, I am convinced that despite everything, the human condition is truly admirable. But when I take into account the constancy, the greatness of soul, and the selfless dedication that was needed to bring about this transformation, I am filled with an immense respect for this old, uncultured peasant who knew how to bring about a work worthy of God.

Elzéard Bouffier died peacefully in 1947 at the hospice in Banon.


Even if I walk in the light, I am not the light.

Even if I am a taut stringed lute, I am not the lute player

Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī

Seeing Michael Dowd give a discussion on his work to prevent the catastrophe of global climate change was interesting. He appeared at my local Unitarian Universalism church. Dowd outlined a “new” movement where people of all faiths are coming together with Science and scientists to discuss and hopefully combat climate change.

Religious naturalism is an approach to spirituality that is devoid of supernaturalism. The focus is on the religious attributes of the universe/nature, the understanding of it and our response to it (interpretive, spiritual and moral). These provide for the development of an eco-morality. Although it has an ancient heritage in many philosophical cultures, this modern movement is currently not well defined. Theistic or nontheistic religious naturalism is a basic theological perspective of liberal religion and religious humanism, according to some sources.

Religious naturalism is concerned about the meaning of life, but it is equally interested in living daily life in a rational, happy way. An alternative, more anthropocentric approach, is to look at it as answering the question: “What is the meaning of one’s life and does it have a purpose?” It is an approach to understanding the natural world in a religious way and does not offer a detailed system of beliefs or rituals. Religious naturalism also attempts to amalgamate the scientific examination of reality with the subjective sensory experiences of spirituality and aesthetics. As such, it is a combination of objectivity with religious emotional feelings and the aesthetic insights supplied by art, music and literature. It is a promising form of contemporary religious ethics and pluralism responding to the challenges of late modern religious transformations and ecological peril. In so doing, it is emerging as an increasingly plausible and potentially rewarding form of religious moral life consistent with the insights of the natural sciences.


This is a very adimarable goal. I enjoyed Dowd’s talk, until he started discussing Humanism. Dowd himself and his wife, Connie Barlow, are partners and Co authors. Both have spent more than a decade on the road discussing their views, books and the problem of the scientific community in our modern lives.

Dowd himself admits he is a preacher, an ordained minister. Connie is described as an author of “popular science” books. Popular science books, the term doesn’t bode well.

Dowd outlined the need to view reality with reverence and the physical as sacred.


The outer world of earthly existence corresponds in all its details to the inner world of man’s soul, and there is a similar correspondence between the Garden of the Heart and the Garden of the Soul, but these are only two particular  instances of the general truth that all the different domains in the Universe correspond to each other in that each is an image of the Universe itself. 

–Martin Lings, THE SYMBOL


(“The top is like the below”)



Now, this is great. Of course reality is sacred as is the very ground beneath my feet. Dowd admirably preaches and teaches a philosophy of reality as sacred. Hardly news to me or anyone with an ounce of sanity, in my opinion.

For Dowd, reality, or God as he interchangeably calls or labels things, is sacred and must be treated as such. Reverence for all, in order to prevent climate change… Dowd outlines this by dismissing God, destroying any notion of the supernatural and proposes that observation is our savior and will enable the unification of science and religion. Of course this is overly simplistic and not something I could get behind.

Not that scientific and aesthetic understanding is not necessary –but it should do its work faithfully and immerse itself and disappear in the truth of the relation which surpasses understanding and embraces what is understandable.

–Martin Buber (I And Thou)

By discarding the divine for:

“reality” is divine, but only that which is
” observable” we are being dishonest. By dishonest that is, to me it is dishonest.

Observation only works due to assumptions.

Assumptions include a shared language, for example if we are discussing chickens it is assumed we are discussing chickens that all have two legs and two wings, in reality what if the chicken is deformed? In a real sense this means we are assuming like and like. We are assuming that 1 (chicken) plus 1 (chicken) is 2 (chickens)…. Assuming that both chickens are equal. Which in the real world they would not be.

Observation only works due to an agreed upon yardstick. To quote Dowd

“You don’t have to believe in the sea, it’s just there.”
No, you are wrong Mr Dowd. The sea is only the sea because we agree it is the sea. If we measured using an electromagnetic measuring device, for example, we may have problems separating the sea from nearby rivers. In turn, if we change our yard stick a drop of rainwater is the sea. Benoit Mandelbrot demonstrates this in his essay on the coastline of Britain, demonstrating it is of infinite length, measuring from rocks, stones, sand… atoms etc.


The work of Werner Karl Heisenberg famously explored the problem of light being a particle and a wave, though I understand to some modern physicists the solution is that it’s a wave. At the subatomic level we can only measure where something is or its velocity, not both. To summarize Heisenberg we can simply say the
“observed and observer are inseparable ”

This means any observation is a compromise as it is fully changed by being observed. People may counter this by saying this is only at the subatomic level. Again though, it depends on our yard stick. There are numerous ways and means that demonstrate this phenomenon of the inseparable nature of observation. In the end, it is just a complex way if stating observation is dependent upon perspective and perception. For example if we only studied the sky at night we could learn many things, during the day, yet other things, at both times we observe the sky.

Every experiment destroys some of the knowledge of the system

which was obtained by previous experiments.

“Critique of the Physical Concepts of the Corpuscular Theory” in The Physical Principles of the Quantum Theory (1930) as translated by Carl Eckhart and Frank C. Hoyt, p. 20; also in “The Uncertainty Principle” in The World of Mathematics : A Small Library of the Literature of Mathematics (1956) by James Roy Newman, p. 105

This isnt to mention other things like Godel’s incompleteness theorem, that demonstrates that the only logical conclusion of logic is that logic doesn’t work.

A statement sometimes known as Gödel’s second incompleteness theorem states that if number theory is consistent, then a proof of this fact does not exist using the methods of first-order predicate calculus. Stated more colloquially, any formal system that is interesting enough to formulate its own consistency can prove its own consistency iff it is inconsistent.

At a basic level, if we started to discuss Star Wars with a dog, the dog would not understand who Darth Vader is…. sadly humanists are assuming that through observation we can understand reality, just as a dog can one day discuss Luke Skywalker. Uh, no….

But the cult of the intellect knows no bounds.

The point where we seperate from our origins…or the divine/God.

It is this type of world along with its overriding orientation and pursuits which we have destroyed. Our society is man-made, not a divine order. It is one in fact which represents a projection of the human mind that has cut its links with the divine and with the earth; and in so far that it has any ideals these are purely temporal and finite and concern only the terrestrial welfare of its members.


To a humanist mindset and many other similar groups (notably modern scientific pantheists for example) throwing out the divine makes perfect sense. If logic, observation, bar charts and other intellectual tools won’t cover reality then anything else is garbage, to the humanist (collectively humanists but each and every group with this mindset).

I am reminded by the recent book/TV show where Stephen Hawkins disproves God. All these groups seem to have one thing in common, an overly simplified verging on puerile understanding or concept of God. The science may or may not be remarkable, advanced and inspiring, but the understanding of the sacred is childlike at best. Hawkins demonstrated this very adequately in his television appearance, in his defense I have not, nor do I intend to read his book.

If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up til he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.

–William Blake (The Marriage of Heaven and Hell)

Dowd, like Hawkins touches upon God, largely only in a puerile simplistic manner, the sky daddy playing chess. This overly simplistic image betrays a lack of perspective or genuine lack of investigation into the nature of God. As such, there is no place beyond the observable, the logical or even beyond the physical. As such we, to this modernist mindset, are merely dogs learning about Star Wars, one day able through language and concept to discuss the finer points of Star Wars.

Of course the talk was only an hour or so long, and I have not actually read his books, so my understanding may be limited.

Language of course fails us every time. Modernists use mathematics to overcome this.

The problem with secular liberals, as distinct from traditionalist liberals and traditionalist conservatives, is that they insist on inventing reality by denying any higher truth than themselves. They deny the natural law of holistic education, including the metalaw of holistic haqq, which is to be sought heuristic ally and holistically not created by human fiat.

By claiming the source of truth they deny the essence of anything and anything, because without essence everything is relative and truth cannot exist. If everything is relavistic, there is no purpose, then the practice of human responsibilities and the corresponding and resulting human rights has no logical basis.

The denial of any reality beyond the power of personal preference is the source of all totalitarian ideologies, beginning with the liberal logic of the French Revolution, which produced Communism, Fascism, and both Zionist and Muslim Statism today, where the sovereign state or global caliphate claims divinity based on top-down political process of might makes right.

 The Metalaw of Holistic Haqq: Toward a Just Third Way beyond Capitalism and Socialism in the Holy Land
by Robert Dickson Crane


In conclusion, Dowd and other humanists make giant compromises. Dowd does however stress the urgency of climate change. His concepts work for the ignorant i.e. those expecting the rapture, denying evolution, biblical aging of the planet and other ridiculous literalisms that demonstrate once again observer and observed change things; as literalisms as found in modern times, never existed in the ancient world. However, Dowd is educating the small of understanding, the ones that arguably need to be spoon fed understanding. His goals are also good ones. However, I don’t agree with all his political leanings. Sadly, I think Dowd’s allusions fit well at my church amongst the right people (which may or may not be a good thing depending on your perspective). I enjoyed his conclusions i.e. live in harmony with the earth or die, it is not all doom and gloom, we may do better in regards to combating climate change.


yet the crisis itself is not first of all an ecological crisis. It is not first of all a
crisis concerning our environment. It is first of all a crisis concerning the way we think. We are treating our planet in an inhuman, God-forsaken manner because we see things in an inhuman and God-forsaken way. How we see the world depends above all upon how we see ourselves. Our model of the universe – our worldview – is based upon the model we have of ourselves, upon our own self image. Unless our own evaluation of ourselves, and of what constitutes the true nature of our being, changes, the way we treat the world around us will not change either. The industrial and technological inferno we have produced around us, and by means of which we are now devastating our world, is not something that has come about accidentally. On the contrary, it is a direct consequence
of our allowing ourselves to be dominated by a certain paradigm of thought that impels us to look upon ourselves as little more than two-legged animals whose destiny and needs can best be fulfilled through the pursuit of social, political and economic self-interest. And to correspond with this self-image we have invented a worldview in which nature is seen as an impersonal commodity, a soulless source of food, raw materials, wealth,
power and so on, which we think we are entitled to abuse by means of any scientific and mechanical technique we can devise and produce, in order to satisfy our self-interest. Having in our own minds de-sanctified ourselves, we have de-sanctified nature as well.

Our contemporary secular scientific mentality goes hand-in-hand with a
corresponding and increased erosion in us of the sense of the sacred. We do not have any respect, let alone reverence, for the world of nature because we do not fundamentally have any respect, let alone reverence, for ourselves. It is because we have lost the sense of our own reality that we have lost the sense of every other reality as well. It is because we cripple and mutilate ourselves that we cripple and mutilate everything else as well. Our contemporary crisis is really our own depravity writ large.

So the only real answer to this crisis is to stop depraving ourselves. It is to
recover a sense of our true identity and dignity, of our creation in the image of God, of our self image as sacred beings. Once we repossess a sense of our own holiness, we will recover a sense of the holiness of the world about us as well and we will then act towards the world about us with the awe and humility that we should possess when we enter a sacred shrine, a temple of love and beauty in which we are to worship and adore the Creator. Without a sense of the holy – that everything that lives is holy – and without
humility towards the whole – towards man, towards nature and to God Himself Who is beyond both man and nature, their transcendent source and origin – we will simply proceed headlong along the course to self-destruction to which we are now committed and which is our own choosing and for which we are entirely responsible.

Philip Sherrard (1922-1995)
(The Rape of Man & Nature: An Inquiry Into the Origins and Consequences of Modern Science)

There are practically no athiests among traditional farmers, even in England –a country whose main “intellectual” export right now is atheism. Also in a country like France, which is known for its secularism, where only 11% of people go to church and 40% of people are agnostics and atheists, if you were to go to the French countryside and talk to a farmer who produces that wonderful French cheese you eat for lunch, there are hardly any athiests among them. To do something that is close to God’s world is to participate in a sense in things which are natural, and thereby to circumvent the illusion of the absence of God which the modern world has created, an illusion upon which the modern world is based.

–Seyyed Hossein Nasr

The process of secularization of the microcosm resulted in one impoverishment after another of the human reality. First, the depletion of the angelic content of the microcosm helped transform the three dimensional traditional man into the two dimensional modern man. Since traditional psychology is closely related to angelology the transformation resulted in the disappearance of the idea of the soul from modern science wheras its reality at various ontological levels was affirmed in the traditional sciences. Not only that, the soul served as a key scientific concept in traditional sciences. For example, in Islamic science, we encounter the development of scientific concepts of plant, animal, rational and even universal souls. Second, the human reality became further reduced when two-dimensional man comprising body and mind was transformed into a living organism with a mechanistic body and mind largely determined by the brain. Mechanization of the human body was only one side of the coin of mechanization of the cosmos, the other being the better known mechanization of the macrocosm. The reduction of human reality reached its extreme end when every aspect and dimension of it, including consciousness, is visualized as being entirely determined by matter and physical processes.

–Osman Bakar (From secular science to sacred science: The need for a transformation, sacred web 33)

The traditional man is defined by its three essential components, namely body, soul and spirit. In the constitution of modern man the combined reality of soul and spirit has shrunk to what is called mind, a fused reality without a sacred meaning and significance.

Zen emptiness is not the emptiness of nothingness, but the emptiness of fullness in which this equation takes place: zero=infinity. The Godhead is no other than this equation. In other words when God as Creator came out of the Godhead he did not leave the Godhead behind. He has the Godhead with him all along while engaging in the work of creation. Creation is continuous, going on till the end of time, which really has no ending and therefore no beginning. For creation is out of inexhaustible nothingness.


–Thomas Merton



THE universe is God’s book,
And he to whom the vision of the Divine
Has been vouchsafed
Reads therein and understands.
Substance is its consonants and accidents its vowels,
And different creatures are its signs and pauses.
The first verse is “Universal Reason,”
The second “Universal Soul,” the “verse of light,”
And this is as a brightly shining lamp.
The third is the “Highest heavens,
The fourth “The Throne.”
After there are seven transcendent spheres,
The “chapter of the seven limbs,”
And forms of the four elements,
Then Nature’s three kingdoms
Whose verses none can count.
And last of all came down the soul of man



“The world was created with ten utterances.

But could God not have created her with a single utterance?

Rather, it is to teach you how precious the earth is,

and how much reward for those who cherish her and how great the consequences for those who abuse her”


— Babylonian Talmud, Avot 5:1





Sometimes you really feel the presence of God in the world, and in your life, And sometimes, you have trouble accessing that sense of Divine Presence. Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi calls God “The Great Cosmic Flasher.” More ancient rabbis put it this way: “The Sacred Wellspring (God) is both revealed and concealed. “God is always present, and at times that presence is conspicuous, and at times mysterious. But never absent.

-Sefer Ha’Zohar, (Vol 1, f39b)


Ten Spheres


When you train yourself to hear the voice of God in everything, you attain the quintessence of the human spirit. Usually the mind conceals the divine thoroughly by imagining that there is a separate mental power that constructs the mental images. But by training yourself to hear the voice of God in everything, the voice reveals itself to your mind as well. Then the right in mind, you discover revelation.

–Daniel C Matt: The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism




To find the Tao, there is nowhere you need to search.

If it is nit inside you, it is not the Tao



Embracing the Way, you become embraced;
Breathing gently, you become newborn;
Clearing your mind, you become clear;
Nurturing your children, you become impartial;
Opening your heart, you become accepted;
Accepting the world, you embrace the Way.

Bearing and nurturing,
Creating but not owning,
Giving without demanding,
This is harmony.

–Tao Te Chin (10)


If I had no choice about the age in which I was to live, I nevertheless have a choice about the attitude I take and about the way and the extent of my participation in its living ongoing events. To choose the world is not then merely a pious admission that the world is acceptable because it comes from the hand of God. It is first of all an acceptance of a task and a vocation in the world, in history and in time. In my time, which is the present. To choose the world is to choose to do the work I am capable of doing, in collaboration with my brother and sister, to make the world better, more free, more just, more livable, more human. And it has now become transparently obvious that mere automatic “rejection of the world” and “contempt for the world” is in fact not a choice but an evasion of choice. The person, who pretends that he can turn his back on Auschwitz or Viet Nam and acts as if they were not there, is simply bluffing.

–Thomas Merton. Contemplation in A World of Action


I need to become better at caring for living things. I’m good enough with words and concepts, objects and designs. Things become more alive when you start working with yogurt, beansprouts, yeast-bread (‘specially with the chance to feed people!). And the seedlings for herbs, vegetables and flower gardens. Nursery work wil be good. With the plants grows intuition, sensitivity and concern for other beings, patience, tolerance, devotion, responsibility –abilities to be a radiance of love.

Passionate animal nature can be transformed into a beautiful tenderness and compassion. When you have animals, yopu can’t ignore or leave them, you have to be consistent in caring for them. It’s more than just ‘doing the chores’; it’s being sensitive to their emotional needs as well.

Plants need some stability. They get too shocked and stunted if you transplant them too much.

–Miriam Baum


To pray, therefore, is to infuse the blood with one Master-Desire, one Master-Thought, one Master-Will. It is so to attune the self as to become in perfect harmony with whatever you pray for.

This planet’s atmosphere, mirrored in all details within your hearts, is billowing with vagrant memories of all the things it witnessed since its birth.

No word or deed; no wish or sigh; no passing thought or transient dream; no breath of man or beast; no shadow, no illusion but ply in it their mystic courses till this very day, and shall so ply them till the end of Time. Attune your hearts to anyone of these, and it shall surely dash to play upon the strings.

You need no lip or tongue for praying. But rather do you need a silent, wakeful heart, A Master-Wish, a Master-Thought, and above all, a Master-Will that neither doubts nor hesitates. For words are of no avail except the heart be resent and awake, the tongue had better go to sleep, or hide behind sealed lips.

Nor have you any need of temples to pray in.

Whoever cannot find a temple in his heart, the same can never find his heart in any temple.

Yet this I say to you and to the ones like you, but not to every man. For most men are derelict as yet. They feel the need of praying, but know not the way. They cannot pray except with words, and they can fin no words except you put them in their mouths. And they are lost and awed when made to roam the vastness of their hearts, but soothed and comforted within the walls of temples and in the herds of creatures like themselves.

Let them erect their temples. Let them chant out their prayers.

But you and every man I charge to pray for Understanding. To hunger after anything but that is never to be filled.

Remember that the key to Life is the Creative Word. The key to the Creative Word is Love. The key to Love is Understanding. Fill up your hearts with these and spare your tongues the pain of many words, and save your minds the weight of many prayers, and free your hearts from bondage to all gods who would enslave you with a gift; who would caress you with one hand only to smite you with the other; who are content and kindly when you praise them, but wrathful and revengeful when reproached; who would not hear you save you call, and would not give you save you beg; and having given you, too oft regret the giving; whose incense is your tear; whose glory is your shame.

Aye, free your hearts of all these gods that you may find in them the only God who, having filled you with Himself, would have you ever full.

–The Book of Mirdad


“In reality, none of our possessions and none of the beings we are attached to belong to us indefinitely. We are constantly at risk of losing them, and when we do lose them we must call upon all those forces within us that are able to help us endure the loss. These forces are found in light, disinterested love, humility and sacrifice. So why not seek them immediately and consciously? It’s difficult, when everything is going well, to convince humans they should concentrate on what is essential in order to prepare themselves for the ordeals to come. For they will come, that is certain; no one is spared. So do not wait for poverty, illness or misfortune to arrive before you seek spiritual direction. If you are already well armed, not only will you overcome them, you will also be strengthened by them.”

–Omraam Mikhaël Aïvanhov

O heart!

When will you stop trying to hide
From Him in Whose realm you abide?
Where do you think to find relief
When there is no relief beside?

–Rafael Alejandro Jara.

The beings of appearance are like those in a dream.

By their personal karma, they are bound as individuals.

They wander among samsara’s many joys and sorrows.

Though their nature is suchness that is egoless

Still these unknowing children fixate I and ego,

And so samsara’s torments are ever on the rise.


–Commentary of “The Great Perfection” (Dzogchen, Tibetan Buddhism,)



If we are really to help the living world-order to which we belong, what animals need is not for us to be nice to them: it is in large measure the ‘negative’ gift of leaving them alone, of granting them their place and honoring them with a recognition outside our own activities. And as the global crisis deepens, it might be a truth worth pondering that, in the end, no amount of legislation will work to save the earth unless we transform our attitude. It is of little use trying to improve our ecological performance if we still retain the assumption that things are usable and dispensable. Ultimately, only recognition of their intrinsic values, their sacredness, is sufficient. Unless we undertake to purify our seas and rivers ‘for the sake of the water,’ and not just our own use, we shall only be postponing not resolving the most urgent problem of our time.

–Andrew Welburn



When Christ -in renewing the Law of Sinai, which he came to “fulfill” and not to “destroy” – teaches the love of God, he distinguishes between “heart”, “soul”, “strength”( Torah: “might”), and “mind”; this “love” thus excludes no faculty that unites with God, and it cannot be merely one term of an opposition, as when love and knowledge confront each other. If by the word “love” the Torah and Gospel express above all the idea of “union” or “desire for “union”, they make it clear by the adjectives that follow, that this tendency includes diverse modes in keeping with the diversity of man’s nature; hence it is necessary to say, not that love alone draws towards God, but rather that only what draws towards God is love.

–Frithjof Schuon (Gnosis divine Wisdom)





I am in everything, I bear the skies, I am the foundation, I support the earth, I am the Light that shines forth, that gives joy to the souls.

I am the life of the world: I am the milk that is in all trees: I am the sweet water that is beneath the sons of matter.


–Manichaean Psalm Book


Wheel of Life (Samsara):

Already well-established in India before the time of the Buddha was the psychological system known as The Wheel of Samsara, or The Cycle of Existence, or The Path of Transmigration. It is depicted as a circle divided like a pie into six realms, each having numerous subdivisions. Following Shakyamuni’s enlightenment, four more realms outside the bounds and bonds of samsara were recognized: those who hear the Dharma (sravakas); those who understand the Dharma (pratyekabuddhas); bodhisattvas; and Buddhas.


Saṃsāra, the Sanskrit and Pāli term for “continuous movement” or “continuous flowing” refers in Buddhism to the concept of a cycle of birth (jāti) and consequent decay and death (jarāmaraṇa), in which all beings in the universe participate and which can only be escaped through enlightenment. Saṃsāra is associated with suffering and is generally considered the antithesis of nirvāṇa or nibbāna.