The Soul of the Earth
Nature worship: across India you’ll find little shrines under trees and every district has a sacred hill and a sacred grove. So Tagore is right in that there’s lingering memory of harmony with the non-human world. However, that memory hasn’t stopped us from cutting down forests, polluting our rivers and driving out wildlife. Nietzsche famously said “God is dead!” but that slogan needs to be updated for our planetary age: “Nature is dead!”
Tagore was an interesting man - he was a universalist and a humanist, but also a deeply religious person. His religiosity was very much rooted in his own experience. He grew up in an upper caste Brahmin family with deep links to the Empire (his grandfather died in London), which meant that he had access to all kinds of religious traditions. Tagore was exposed to both Vedic and Tantric rituals and given the family properties in East Bengal, he would have had lots of encounters with Muslims. And he was educated by Christian missionaries, so he learned about Christianity from them.
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That form of unrestrained and ecumenical religiosity combined with a scientific outlook is inaccessible in the modern era - and (I am guessing) was last seen in Europe in someone like Pascal. Even in India, Tagore’s Hindu religious expression is hard to pull off today. It’s easy to be a fundamentalist, it’s harder to be a traditionalist and it’s more or less impossible to be a creative spiritualist, i.e., someone who takes their religious tradition as inspiration, not as set in stone.
For example, he writes:
While it’s possible to draw a line connecting these thoughts with the original texts of the Hindu tradition (Tagore cites the Gayatri mantra as inspiration), it’s also possible to read them in a straightforward way as an expression of nature mysticism.
It’s a religion not of the eyes, but of the feet.
What do I mean by that? A religion of the eyes is a religion of distance, with divinity recedes from our ken, lying beyond the horizon, beyond the stars, beyond the big bang where time and space are yet to begin. A religion of the feet brings divinity closer and closer until there’s no separation left between the two.
The eye/foot dichotomy has nothing to do with official religious labels. A Christian can easily be one or the other and so can a Buddhist. Like with everything else, the eye dominates the modern era. Both religious forms have their dark side: eye-religion runs the risk of losing the religion bit. Those whose eyes have fallen regard the world around them as dead matter whose only value lies in its use for human purposes. Foot religion can easily become hedonism (which ain’t that bad - I prefer body worship to machine worship myself). Combine the two and you get Miami Beach.