The Mongols and their closeness to Nature

Among the many admirable traits we find in the 13th century Mongols is a rare ability to live not against Nature, but in and with her in a cooperative way. This part of their legacy is something we must take a closer look at. Chances are, we humans will have to develop our societies in such a way that we avoid over-urbanization and alienation from our environment. We need to learn, that is re-learn, to harmonize with the principles of our Mother Earth. Also in this respect, the Mongols have something precious to teach and give us.

As mentioned elsewhere, in the physical and spiritual origins of the Mongols there is a preponderance of elements from the Taiga regions of Siberia. It is characteristic of people who have come from the forests to feel a high degree of reverence for Nature. This is to be explained by the intrinsic meaning of of the forest, or so to speak, the soul of the forest, and its effect upon people who live in this environment. The forest is a place where green plants, herbs and trees grow up from Mother Earth, symbolizing and representing healing, growth, and regeneration. Wildlife is sheltered by the protective, motherly presence of the forest goddesses. Invariably, within ancient cultures around the world the forest is seen as feminine, protective and motherly, and people who have strong connections to the forest region tend to venerate these aspects of Nature in a very high degree. Such a setup creates a culture that is predisposed towards a profound reverence for and a protective "mothering" approach towards biological life and its countless interrelated and forever interdependent ecosystems.

As will be understood, this closeness to Nature is characteristic of every natural people, thus the Mongols certainly were and are marked by it. In the words of the Danish traveller, Henning Haslund-Christensen, "The Mongol does not count any spot of Earth his own, because everything is the property of Heaven." This attitude bespeaks an awareness of the inviolable interconnectedness in Universe, a humbly pantheistic approach vastly different from the modern Western one, wherein conquest of and control over Nature has been the proclaimed aim, with less than fortunate results. The consequences of human disunion from Earth have become increasingly visible in the modern world, and there is a growing general consensus that life on Tellus is imperiled by human trespasses upon this living entity. Instead of separating ourselves from life, we must instead be able to consciously choose to be part of Nature and enjoy it in cooperation, harmony and Love. Speaking of the Earth forces in this context, since the world is presently in acute need of regeneration, it follows that a renewed emphasis on them is needed to alleviate and heal the many societal ills and environmental crises brought about by inconsideration for the very fundament of life, which according to the Old Siberians and Mongols as well as every natural people is the Earth Mother, in the West often referred to by her Greek name Gaea, from whom all earthly living things spring. In this worldview, the totality of all diverse forms of life on our planet is considered a precious entity whose well-being must not be disturbed by its human inhabitants. 

It merits mention that a lot of modern people in Western societies are likely to balk at this disclosure of a powerful Mongolian attachment to the female principles dominant in the regions of North, the Siberian dark and cold Tundra and Taiga whence the Mongols originated.  Understandably, the impression that the Mongols were ultra-masculinistic people has been created by their being so redoubtable warriors, as masculine aspects have in much of popular belief become closely associated with violence. This has obfuscated and set up barriers to an understanding of the Mongols and their spiritual nature. Two moments must be brought forward in this context: Firstly; it is a relatively recent and mistaken belief that masculine principles act in most respects violently, and are the only capable of destruction, whereas feminine principles represent absolute goodness. One only need to recall the fierce rancor and violence shown by the supremely female, albeit not exactly delicate epiphanies of Kali and Lilith to realize this and understand the infinite complexity behind habitually simplified good/evil dichotomies. Further, according to Asian and Mongolian spiritual lore, the feminine principle is the most merciless one, due to its intuitive flexibility, which imparts invincibility. Secondly; we ought to understand that what gave the Mongols the advantage over their contemporaries was precisely the Mongolian sensitive intuition, their flexible mentality and concomitant practical adaptability in all their undertakings. This made them superior to the more purely masculine, and hence less intuitive, Turkic and Persian peoples in the Southern areas of Asia, to say nothing about their adversaries in the West.

Western common notions of the intrinsic meanings of the masculine and feminine principles are often way too simplified to encompass their full significance. It will be the most precise approach to interpret the female and male forces in terms of complementarities, each of which capable of acting out countless different behaviors and propelling equally countless results and outcomes, but then always in accordance with their archetypal modi of operation. It is not a question of good and evil, but rather of different ways and, one might say, formulas. In the human realm as in Universe at large, initiatory action is as indispensable as reception, tenderness is as necessary as vehemence, feeling is as important as thinking. Typically these tendencies order themselves in feminine and masculine modes of behavior and expression. It is salutary to bear in mind that they are complementary and need to come together and find an equipoise. If they are divorced, what has for many centuries been the case in the Western world of mental rationalism, the resultant imbalance leads to severely detrimental effects. Together in union, these two principles lead to conception, that is the birth of new life. The significant point being conveyed here is that even though the Mongols evince an undying dedication to excellence and achievement which at least partially can be ascribed to impetus from masculine forces, they simultaneously carry within them their Siberian heritage which is the fundament of their work and Purpose in this world. Accordingly, the Secret history of The Mongols unequivocally places the origin of the wolf and the deer; the mythical ancestors of all Mongols, in the deep, cold and dark forests of Siberia. Also, this couple consists of one very female deer and the male, but intrinsically feminine wolf. This, together with their strong forest tradition tells us that the Mongol element is well equipped to provide a spiritual basis for a healthy benevolent and considerate approach to Nature and ourselves, since invaluable elements that have for centuries been missing from human communities in large parts of the world are prominent in the Mongolian spiritual heritage. Here is something to delve into for all those who pay interest in, feel sympathy for, or have a connection to the Mongols. 

Philosophically, we may elaborate further upon the abovementioned split between our mental and intuitive faculties and subsequent over-emphasis on the rational, which in many human cultures and communities has led to an emotional distance from the animate natural surroundings that living beings are supposed to inhabit and harmonize with. This estrangement from Nature has been apparent in human history since the divorce between the rational and the intuitive mind gradually took place in the Western world during the 1600's, with the ascendancy of rationalistic philosophical thought whose foremost proponents are perhaps Descartes and Bacon. This tradition professed to guide mankind towards domination over Nature, and its premises sprang out from a purified rational thinking from which intuitive experience, non-mental perception and age-old spiritual insights and wisdom had been intentionally purged. This attitude was now increasingly hailed as the only proper human state of mind. Consistently the intuitive and emotional experience, that sentience which is the true hallmark of all living beings, now became relegated to an inferior position and considered unsound and "irrational." Unfortunately, this outlook signified a jeopardous split between our intuitive and emotional sides on one side and our mental and rational faculties on the other. Without collaboration between these two, either side will prove destructive in its isolated form. Abundant corroboration of this has been provided throughout history, and as a very strong accentuation of the rational mind implies imbalance in favor of masculine principles, it follows that the antidote is an increase of influence from the feminine element. That would lead to the acquisition of a sensible ecological ethics, spawning a greater willingness to listen to Nature and Mother Earth instead of imposing human will upon her.

To put it into other words, we need to cooperate with Universe instead of constantly being in the position of trying to conquer Nature.

This realization has as could be expected found its philosophical expressions. Evolutionary biology has demonstrated that the formation of organisms and species in the juvenile universe historically involves even more intricate mechanisms than earlier imagined. Thus, some have tried to arrive at moral norms or even derive political lessons from these natural phenomena. Notably the American Lynn Margulis has, from her standpoint of being a professional geneticist specializing in the evolution of organisms, advanced the view that symbiotic mechanisms, rather than the working of natural selection by competition, are the major factors that induce growth and development in life forms. This she does by substantiating that cell organelles of eukaryotes (nucleated cells) originally originated by reciprocal exchange of the genomes of two different types of bacteria, something which shows the existence of an evolutionary mechanism, often called symbiogenesis, whereby genetic material from one organism can be combined with and incorporated into another, and give rise to a wholly new, third organism. Around this she then puts together a line of argument in which she dismisses the significance and working of the competitive elements in Universe. She and other workers in the field should be credited for their work to elucidate the important fact that mechanisms as mutation, competition and selection is but one aspect of the workings and principles guiding all life. At the same time there is always a ditch on either side of the road. No ethical values can justifiably be ascribed to the categories "symbiosis" and "competition," and neither the adherents of the so-called "Social Darwinism" nor the extreme egalitarianism hit their mark, since both ideological positions fail to comprehend the true complexity of Nature and its meaning and function. Moreover, both cooperation and competition are indeed present and performing a function in Universe. They are meant to co-exist and cooperate, and we are well advised to bear in mind that our linguistic categories fail to fully cover the subtleties involved here. To infer that one mechanism is more fruitful or important than the other is both unscientific, unreasonable and outright wrong when both are functional necessities. Moreover, "cooperation" is the underlying theme that encompasses also every past, present and future instance of what we call "competition." Otherwise, Cosmos could not have come from Chaos, let alone be maintained. In reality, cooperation and competition has occurred and occurs every second in time: Selective and competitive mechanisms and principles are incessantly at work together with cooperative ones everywhere in Universe, and they are so at the very same time. It is the human proclivity towards the construction of dichotomies that deceives many into believing in a mutually exclusive nature of the typical modes of behavior described by the linguistic categories "cooperation" and "competition." Polarities and apparent contradictions are far from evil manifestations, they are fruitful reflections of the grand principle of complementarity. Realizing this, we should be wary of creating new fallacies and fixations in place of old ones, because such obfuscation always impedes our understanding of the Universe.

Regarding the abovementioned discoveries, they more than anything, beautifully proves the co-existence of both complementarities. Even if organisms have originally emerged from the fusion of bacteria, this does not invalidate or negate competition, quite the contrary. First; because subsequent evolution of organisms involved natural selection and competition, and much more significantly, because the very first encounter between two participants in any union must imply a selection, and this, even if we assume it to be mysteriously premeditated by an Universal Consciousness, necessarily entailing the competitive exclusion of other potential symbiotic partners. Rather than contradicting the competitive element in Universe, the discoveries of evolutionary biology have given it a more solid standing, by albeit perhaps unwittingly making clear that mutation and sexual reproduction are by no means prerequisites to competition. The symbiotic combination of two organisms must greatly have enhanced their chances of competitive success against other competing life forms, so this symbiotic action can equally well be seen as more akin to the formation of alliances in a victorious war than anything else. Additionally, in the same way as 99% of all species that ever appeared on Earth have gone physically extinct as a result of their being outcompeted in selective processes, innumerable attempts at symbiosis must have miscarried, and led to the demise of one or both partners. Even in the instances where symbiosis proved successful, the first moment of symbiosis must have been characterized by all the eventful symptoms of one organism invading another, with much initial havoc and destruction as a result before balance or equilibrium is established between what, through trial and error, eventually came out as the most successful arrangement, whether the outcome became a symbiosis, an annihilation of one of the parties, or a fruitful equilibrium between the two organisms. More often than not, the third alternative, which could upon a closer and more profound look actually be called "cooperation from a distance," or perhaps equally fitting "competition from a distance" applied. Thus, we see how the different principles that also reflect themselves in human wars and in friendly societal organization alike are mirrored even at the microscopic level in the universe. This affirms the correctness of the Old Mongolian world-view in which the Principles permeating all of Universe influence and govern all its constituents, from the smallest organism to the largest galaxies. In conclusion, it has been incontrovertibly shown that even on the molecular level the most fierce competition exists, but that it nevertheless has a genuine fundament of cooperation. Both are indeed quintessential to Universe, which means that the prejudiced concentration on one facet to the exclusion of another has its root in illusions of the human mind. Hence, old and traditional dichotomies are entirely unwarranted and should be discarded. 

Positively, the most fruitful approach to this question is to endeavor to maintain a balance of the separate yet complementary and thus cooperating forces in our philosophical, social and political systems, something that would free us from illusions of our separation from Nature and also dispel our axioms of a human "right" to trespass too heavily upon our living environment and our own human nature. Because we have no right to violate our Mother Nature. Our birthright and natural inclination would be to harmonize with her. This insight should also be the accepted common denominator for all those who feel responsibility towards Life. 

It is incontrovertible that after the breakthrough of Cartesian dualistic philosophy and the scientific discoveries of the Newtonian period, humanity inclined towards the wildly preposterous aim of conquering Mother Earth herself. Although human as well as natural history tends to be one of punctuated equilibria, such a manner of thinking is entirely unjustifiable. It is senseless and above all destructive to use our intellectual abilities and scientific artifacts in the service of short-sighted desires of greedy exploitation, megalomanic delusions of omnipotence and separation from Nature. Feminine forces of nature are capable of counterbalancing this type of mentality, and must be invited to do so. At the same time, a vigorous, healthy life-force marked by a yearning towards excellence, a quality by which the Old Mongols are distinguished, is a virtuous component of existence that should be included in our ideals. It devolves upon humanity as our obligation to find our place in a balanced and harmonious relationship with the living world wherein we are partakers, all the more so because our high intelligence implies greater accountability for our actions and priorities. A profound reverence for Mother Earth in all her aspects is a prerequisite to responsible living, and this is what humanity, across all cultures, should reestablish. Because we are animate beings, we instinctively know about our belonging to the living world of Nature. Man therefore has the opportunity to experience how wonderful and satisfying it is to live in concert with her, provided that we truly listen to the subtle voices that call us towards Life. 

It has for long been almost universally acknowledged that pollution of the earth, water and air of the planet's biosphere presents a danger of the highest magnitude. Nearly equally widespread is the realization that deforestation, the erosion brought about by modern, intensive methods of agriculture and overpopulation are other expressions of something being tragically and alarmingly wrong. This overpopulation has seldom been understood for what it is, that is something that bespeaks the lamentable anthropocentrism from which many human cultures have suffered for long. However, the reasons why Mankind has for so long tolerated these symptoms of human distance from the living world to which we intrinsically belong, run deep. This long-lasting acceptance of Homo Sapiens' contamination, overpopulation and frequently destructive activity on Earth stems mainly from a lifestyle in which people are prevented from living in natural settings. In truth, if humans are to become spiritually aware of our connection to Nature and Mother Earth, it is necessary to adopt a lifestyle different from the urbanized one that large numbers of people have been pressed into ever since the Industrial Revolution. To live in man-made megacities removes people from the all-important direct contact with natural surroundings. This in turn leads to alienation from the true, pulsating life in ourselves and in the environment. As a consequence, the environment as well as the human body itself will be reduced and degenerate unless another path is consciously chosen. It is a dangerous psychological process that deprives humans of the deep feeling of belonging to and togetherness with the living natural world. The only solution is to consciously seek the beauty of closeness to Nature, in our surroundings, in our political priorities and practical actions, in our souls. In other words: We must use our intuition for guidance in our lives. 

Moreover, it is not only the physical nature of humans that is in danger of degeneration in a lifestyle which is shielded and distanced from Nature. As a matter of fact, the human intelligence itself is the product of all the rivalry, competition, and necessity of responding to the often dangerous challenges in nature. Therefore to reject nature on account of her alleged "cruelty" is not merely a gross misunderstanding, it means to repudiate our own origin and the prerequisites to the development and maintenance of excellent qualities. Peace, in its most extreme expression of physical, mental and psychological sedentariness, means motionlessness, stagnation, decay and finally death. Only resistance and challenge, from our environment as well as from our competitors, can foster development and true excellence. Competition, rivalry, cooperation and solidarity are in equal degree the results of that resistance, all imposed by necessity. Altruism and compassion are inborn, instinctive qualities crucial to survival and well-being, as is the competitive urge. 

Back in the 1200's, the Mongols already had formulated an explicit criticism of the detrimental effects of civilized life, a stand that would be a thousand times more relevant in our era. Let there be no doubt that the feminine aspects of Earth are a main repository of much-needed powers of healing, growth and renewal. Let us try if we can see, revere and absorb the female forces of Siberia and let them assist us in our own path towards development of global, nay, universal consciousness, environmental awareness as well as the interhuman compassion and intuitive responsibility required to keep in our collective mind the understanding that we are part of Nature, that we are all children of the Great Mother Earth, whose manifestation in Mongolian is Etugen-eke. 

A crucial element in this understanding is our realization that Nature is not "cruel." Due to human desire for comfort, many members of the species homo sapiens have come to believe that cruelty is a "natural" thing. This distorted picture is then contrasted with the so-called "human" values. In fact, in wide circles "human" has become a customary synonym for everything "good," whereas only humans can be genuinely cruel and devastating, what is evidenced by human destruction of the environment as well as of the human body itself. In all probability, the notion that humans ought to remove themselves from Nature stems from a genetically coded inclination to save energy. When our forebears lived in a harsh environment, it was necessary to be very economical with the use of our resources, and rest and save energy when possible. Then, during the historical period when humans developed societies wherein they removed the immediate and visible need for strenuous activity, they continued to seek comfort. Under these new conditions, this desire for comfort becomes not a wise strategy for energy conservation, but rather a destructive search for passivity, which leads to degeneration for those humans who fail to develop a lifestyle in which a sufficient element of powerful intensity in all respects is maintained and developed. Here an interesting side of the human intellect is being expressed: Frequently the repudiation of Nature is given elaborate mental and theoretical justification, and whole anthropocentric systems of thought have been built up to rationalize and defend ideas which carry what is a de facto contempt for the very same Nature we are a part of. 

It is of the utmost importance to comprehend these mechanisms, and to understand the necessity of harmonizing with Nature. In this context we must likewise bear in mind that this healthy condition entails the strong presence of a large number of components, facets and qualities that by some thought systems and fashions that have emerged in modern human societies unfortunately have come to be regarded "unpleasant" or outright "brutal" and "primitive," but which are actually the building blocks of life itself. 

We need to ask these questions without urban prejudices: Do so many humans really have to live in sedentary societies like cities and megacities? Do humans have a universal right to modify vast areas of the world into man-made cultures where the humans reign alone at the expense of all other life forms? Does the world belong to what we call humanity? Could it be that a life in an overpopulated, wholly human-made and -dominated environment characterized by technology taking over a considerable number of practical, or worse biological functions, if unchecked deprives us of abilities that enhances and indeed are prerequisites to a pulsating, intense life? Could it be that would create a richer and happier existence for us as well as for other forms of life by instead striving to combine the realm of science and technology with our "primitive" animal qualities and abilities? It may be to our advantage to discard the urbane, sedentary lifestyle and move forward to a rural life wherein the demands and requirements of an active way of life under more "natural" conditions determine the evolution and formation of our characteristics. This will ensure future development and retaining of animal abilities which make life intense and joyous. Moreover, it would also set us in a position where we intuitively sense that our genuine home is not above or beyond, but in Nature. 

Naturally, the knowledge that all cells with nuclei - eukaryotes - and the life forms they have built, have sprung from bacteria and thus are indeed our first ancestors, is instrumental in teaching us that humans like all other life forms are forever part of Nature and ought not to try to put ourselves in a position outside it, whether in the way we treat the ecosystems or in our lifestyle. One very deep implication of the insight that the ancestors of all "advanced" life forms are "simple" bacteria, is of course that many of the ideas humans have nurtured throughout history, ideas about human uniqueness and alleged "right" to modify and mold Nature and ourselves in the picture of what are in reality misconceptions, should be discarded. Nature is neither cruel nor our enemy.

Above all, going against Nature in a short-sighted Pollyannaish enthusiasm, leading to hubris, over the products and technological innovations of the human mind, is both unwarranted and ruinous. Therefore, humans need to respect the natural way in the way they think, behave and live. In order for that to happen, it is necessary to discard many of the notions of human uniqueness and to seriously question the validity of anthropocentric philosophies that have tended to obscure and distort our self-understanding, and to justify human irreverence for and estrangement from Mother Nature. Instead we need to realize that the animal phenomena, the joy of intensity, all the wonderful experiences, perceptions and sensations that distinguish a living being are every bit as valuable and worthy of being sought and enjoyed by humans as what is often mistakenly being positively characterized as the "civilized" or "advanced" behaviors, qualities, circumstances and conditions, or perhaps even much more so. It is our inalienable birthright to enjoy a lively, energetic animal life in all its intensity. Then it is up to us to make that choice. Such a choice entails a more active lifestyle in which every kind of outdoor activity and spending as much time in rural areas as possible are important elements. 

Who knows, it may be that if and when humans as a group thoroughly question the urbanized lifestyle and find out that a new and more "animal" way to live is the best one, it will also prove the most effective cure against societal ills like crime, violence and a number of psychological disturbances that have long haunted modern Man. 

Lastly: There are times when our visual sensory experience is the most effective means to convey a message. If you follow this link, you will find nature images which may tell you something about Nature, in a quiet, pleasant but nevertheless very clear and unmistakable way. 

Pictorial message 

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Last Updated February 24, 2000 by Per Inge Oestmoen