[Nature-Worship & Elementals]
Theosophist, January, 1880
Article selection from “Nature Worship”, by H.H.D. | Note by H.P.B.
What the philosophic poet [Wordsworth] beautifully observes [See The Excursion, 1814] by way of a description and explanation of Nature Worship among the Greeks, may equally be said of our Indian Aryans and other nations. In the early infancy of man, in the pleasant and innocent morning and spring of Humanity, Imagination is warmest and brightest, fancy soars highest and ranges over the widest regions of nature and thought, the appreciation of the Beauty and sublimity in the natural phenomena is keenest . . .
In those very early, pre-historic ages, man is, as it were, just heralded in the world. Everywhere there is novelty for him and that gives a strange charm to existence. . . .
In every direction that he [Man] turned his glancing, searching eye, incomprehensible Infinity, or inconceivable Greatness was all that he perceived.
He saw dark, frowning, giant-like mountains, rugged, raising their proud heads high above the clouds, and spreading their arms far beyond his ken. He observed the wavy clouds about their shoulders, ever and anon shaken by fitful currents of winds, and he imagined those clouds to be their wings. . . . The sky he saw overcast with dark, lowering clouds, thunders roll, lightnings flash and cleave the thickest clouds, and the war of elements rages furiously: waters falling down in torrents. He read in all these the hand of superhuman agencies. . . .
And here we have the oft-recorded myths, the rich materials of the Poetry of the very general Rig Veda and other hymns detailing the combats of Indra, Divaspati, Dyaus, Zeus, Jupiter, on the one side, and Vritra, Ahi and a host of other demons, Rakshas, on the other, the marutas, the storm-gods, along standing by the side of their Lord, when all else desert him—and his final victory! . . .
The Sun-God withdraws himself to repose, imparting his glory every evening to Agni the constant companion . . . Dark Night with her bright retinue of planets, stars, and constellations, appears; and just heralds the sweet and mild-faced moon. . . .
The youthful Dawn, announcing her glorious lord Surya brings fresh warmth and vigour, light and life. . . . [etc., etc.]
And under all these circumstances he [Man] has the painful cognition of his helpless plight. He is convinced of the fact that his gods are mild and severe as occasion suits them or permits; that they too are endowed with the same feelings, emotions, sensations, motives as himself. . . .
His ambition rises, rebellious spirit sprouts forth. Can he not get the spark of that Promethean fire to melt the unyeilding adamantine shackles of superstition and ignorance, that weight heavy upon him? Can he not be independent and free? . . .
The mind thus awakened by curiosity, by investigation, and enlightened by observation and experience, penetrated right through the mysteries of nature. And they were known to him and were embodied into science . . .
The dreams of Imagination have now been relalized; fables are now proved facts. The giant Intellect of man has converted the denizens of Olympus—of Meru of old—the powers and forces of nature, into his ready, pliant, and obedient ministers and agents. They drive his mills, work the machines of his contrivance, drag his vehicles, saw planks of wood for him, drudge at his various manufactories, and thus perform many an admirable and useful service. Thus Wind, Water, and Fire are humbled and forced to do the service of menials! Their sting of mischief has been removed, their destructive force assuaged for a while. . . . [etc., etc.]
Editor’s Note: We have not been willing to interrupt the rhythmic flow of our correspondent’s language with any commentaries of our own, but must add a word of supplement. The outward phase of the idea of nature-worship he has succinctly and eloquently traced. But he, in common with most modern scholars, completely ignores one chief factor. We allude to the experience, once so common among men, now so comparatively rare, of a world of real beings, whose abode is in the four elements, beings with probable though as yet ill-defined powers, and a perceptible existence. We are sorry for those who will pity us for making this admission; but fact is fact, science or no science. The realization of this inner world of the Elementals dates back to the beginning of our race, and has been embalmed in the verse of poets and preserved in the religious and historical records of the world. Granted that the perception of phenomena developed nature-worship, yet, unless our materialistic friends admit that the range of these phenomena included experiences with the spirits of the elements and the higher and noble realities of Psychology, it would trouble them to account for the universality of belief in the various races of the Unseen Universe.
Why should but one of the elements, namely, earth, be so densely populated, and fire, water, air, etc., be deemed empty voids, uninhabited by their own beings—the “viewless races,” as the great Bulwer-Lytton called them? Is this partiality of nature a logical hypothesis of science? Who that observes the marvellous adaptations of the organs of sense and the natures of beings to their environment, dares say that these elementals do not exist, until he is well assured that the perceptive faculties of our bodies are capable of apprehending all the secret things of this and other worlds? Why may not the spirits of the kingdoms of earth, air, fire and water be non-existent to us—and we to them—only because neither has the organs to see or feel the other? Another aspect of this subject was treated in our December issue.—ED. THEOS. [H.P.B.]