A lot of emotion has been released by the horrific threat of fracking which is facing much of England.
I have seen this not just on the front line of the battle at Balcombe, and in meetings like the one in my home town this week when a new anti-fracking group was formed, but even in casual conversations on the subject over a cup of coffee or a pint of beer.
People just can’t believe that the countryside they love could be reduced to industrialised wastelands, that their water supplies could be contaminated, their air and soil polluted, their peace shattered, even the darkness of the rural night destroyed by the flares of thousands of gas and oil wells across the fields, woodlands and Downs.
There is also emotion around the role of the authorities in all this. How is it that these fracking companies are not only being allowed to do this, but even encouraged to do so by way of tax breaks? How is it that the police, supposedly protectors of the public, have been sent in to protect the polluters from that public? How is it that these individuals in uniform are willing to surrender that individuality, turn their back on all sense of right and wrong, in order to impose by sheer force the rule of greed?
Of course, none of this is new. All over the world people are living in devastated environments, forced off their land by the power of corporations and the corrupt puppet governments they use to get their way.
Even here in Sussex, fracking is not the only threat. Massive house-building programmes threaten to urbanise huge parts of the county, new roads are planned to service the requirements of business, a second runway is planned for Gatwick Airport – again at the demand of the same money interests.
On top of the many physical effects of all this destruction (rebranded as “development”!) being lined up for us, there are serious and long-lasting psychological effects.
Being surrounded by countryside is, quite simply, good for our state of mind and essential for our own inner development and insight, for our sense of who we are and how we are connected to the universe.
Frithjof Schuon says as much when, in Gnosis: Divine Wisdom, he argues that higher forms of contemplation depend on an outer environment of beauty.
He adds: “It is not without reason that the beauty in question should be the beauty of virgin nature rather than of temples: for nature reflects something spontaneous and unlimited, something also timeless which fully corresponds to the altogether primordial freedom of the pure Intellect.”
We can see that inspiration in the mystic heights reached by Victorian writer Richard Jefferies*, who ended his days here in Sussex.
Take this passage from The Story of My Heart, for instance, in which he describes a walk on the Downs: “Having drunk deeply of the heaven above and felt the most glorious beauty of the day, and remembering the old, old sea, which (as it seemed to me) was but yonder at the edge, I now became lost, and absorbed into the being or existence of the universe.
“I felt down deep into the earth under, and high above into the sky, and farther still to the sun and stars. Still farther beyond the stars into the hollow of space, and losing thus my separateness of being came to seem like a part of the whole.”
Cut off still further from nature, and the spiritual union to the cosmos which it offers, what sort of people will we become?
The “economic bonanza” future of concrete and chemicals being forced upon us by the capitalist mafia will reduce future generations to a condition of unmitigated misery.
With no beauty to contemplate, no joys of nature to feed their souls, they will be left as bitter and as toxic as the air they will have to breathe.
From there on, it can only ever be a spiralling descent into increasing dissatisfaction, alienation and disconnection from the primal pleasure of being alive in this world we inherited.
I have no doubt that much of the emotion currently being triggered by the fracking nightmare is, in truth, an expression of a much deeper realisation – the realisation that we cannot go on this way.
We have to do away with the taboo of all taboos and say that we can no longer allow ourselves to be led into the abyss by this endless pursuit of Progress.
Gradually, more and more people are coming to understand that “economic growth” is neither necessary nor desirable for anyone but the crooks who profit from it.
What do we value in life? Clean air, fresh water, good food, sunshine, health, friendship, the beauty of nature.
What are we told we should value? Money, profit, greed, war, destruction, exploitation, cowed obedience to authority.
So how do we find ourselves in a situation where a minority of selfish sociopaths have the power to impose their twisted death-cult vision of the future on the rest of us?
On what does that power ultimately rest? Is it real or illusory? How much of it is in our own minds?
We need to deepen our unity with nature and take on its timeless spontaneity and primordial freedom, so that we might shake off the tyranny of this sick industrial civilization and find our way back to health and life.
* A Celebration of Richard Jefferies is being held by the Worthing Downlanders on Saturday August 10. Meet at entrance to Broadwater Cemetery, South Farm Road, Worthing, 2pm. Free for members, £5 to join on day.
You are so right to mention Richard Jefferies. He was very much a Sussex writer, living in Brighton from 1882 to1884, and later in Crowborough before dying at Goring-on-Sea in 1887. The Story of My Heart, which attempted to awaken a real HUMAN spirituality (not one based on gods and heavens), was written at Brighton. The book also makes a vigorous attack on the Victorian money culture which has expanded into today’s heartless corporate environment that you describe.