In my mind the beauty of solitude and our relationship with nature has never been so wonderfully expressed than in many Chinese and Japanese paintings over the last few centuries. The image of a single figure dwarfed amongst the landscape is very evocative.
In the picture included with this article, by Fukuda Kodōjin (1865–1944), you can just make out the figure of a man at the base of the painting. It fully expresses how I feel when out in the countryside. The experience is one of melting into the landscape and becoming just another part of the scenery. In truth, we are as much a part of nature’s unfolding as a tree or a flower, but we also have a mind to embrace the Universe. The trend of modern society is to alienate ourselves from the natural world and to actually use it to our advantage, but not in a positive way. This is because our mind is absorbed by the illusions we have created to uphold our identity in an ever-changing material world. The lower aspects of our nature have created this world, devoid of any Spirituality. Even exoteric religion has departed from the Spiritual into mere lip service or blind fanaticism.
HP Blavatsky writes: “Ancient civilizations have never sacrificed Nature to speculation, but holding it as divine, have honoured her natural beauties by erection of works of art, such as our modern electric civilization could never produce even in dream.”
The painting also conveys tranquillity. It is in solitude that we can retire within, free from the constant physical and mental bombardment we get in the towns and cities. It is hard to hear the Voice of the Silence amidst the noisy society that fears look within. It is possible, but nature provides us with a chance to ‘recharge our batteries’ and return to our day to day lives with renewed inspiration. When we are out in the wilds we have the feeling that we are exactly where we should be. We feel at home at last. It is a return to sanity, to the innocence we have lost. And the whole of existence is a journey back home in a Spiritual sense.
Henry David Thoreau writes: “I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least – and it is commonly more than that – sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.”
Not many of us have the leisure or opportunity to do that, but it is important to get out into nature as much as possible and to be alone there. With a companion, we tend to talk and are distracted. There will be time to share and time to be by ourselves.
Perhaps the mountains in the picture symbolise the path that lies ahead, the trials that we face, but also the promise of reaching great heights. The beauty forever leads us on, giving us the inspiration to overcome obstacles to reach our goal. It’s possible we may find the ‘goal’ to be just the beginning of the next stage of an ongoing pilgrimage.
In Theosophical teaching when we reached the human stage we develop self-consciousness and gained the ability to appreciate beauty in whatever form it takes.
Thomas Edison states: “The best thinking has been done in solitude. The worst has been done in turmoil.”
Of course, ultimately solitude is an inward process, a state of consciousness and is something that is obtainable anywhere if we retire within ourselves. We can also seek solitude in our houses, rooms or even in a crowd. But the advantage of being out in the natural world is that we are slipping effortlessly into a domain that belongs to our true being as denizens of this planet earth, and through this, we gain empathy with all our fellow sentient beings. This will help us to understand the preciousness of life and lead us towards realising the Oneness of all things. It is a disassociation with the natural world that hardens so many hearts against it.
It is much more satisfying to feel the healing power of the natural world and to learn to read the book of nature. Also to actually commune with the environment. We are in our indigenous surroundings and our minds are calmed by the harmonious vibrations of sound, sight and smell. Sensual but uplifting and providing the pure alchemical ingredients to reach beyond the senses. If we exchange the cacophony of the city for the serenity of nature.
One of the recommendations of the Theosophical Masters to gain illumination is “silence for certain periods of time to enable nature herself to speak to him who comes to her for information. “
If one takes this advice and develop sympathy and compassion for all living things they will be rewarded a thousandfold, even if they do not seek a reward!