A new heaven, a new earth

A short eco-extremist reflection on Pentecost

Emitte Spiritum tuum et creabuntur; Et renovabis faciem terrae. ( Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created. And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.)

“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth. For the first heaven and the first earth was gone…”

(Apocalypse, 21:1)

The Christian ideal for nature is the Garden: Nature at the service of Man. In the Christian vision, Man is the apex of visible creation, slightly below the angels. In fact, Man is the Union between visible and invisible creation (the realm of Angels and spirits). For Man, unlike the brute animal, has both a mortal body and an immortal soul: through his intellect he becomes all things intentionally, that is, immaterially. To have an idea of an object in my head, I become that object, or rather, I take into myself the perfections placed into it by the Creator. It is for this reason that God becomes Man: to join visible and invisible creation in Jesus Christ. And learning of this plan before Time began, it is the reason that the fallen angels revolted against God. 

With the Fall of Man through his disobedience to God, Nature becomes uncooperative and resists Man. Man dies, women suffer in childbirth, and all must earn their bread by the sweat of their brow. Nature, being inferior to Man, rebels against Man, just as Man rebels against God. Thus, one essential aspect of the Church (ἐκκλησία or assembly in Greek) was the restoration of Creation as renewed in the God-Man Jesus. According to Christian theology, the Church comes into being fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, on what is now the feast of Pentecost, when the Holy Ghost descends on Jesus’ followers as a great wind and in tongues of fire. Here is a traditional icon of Pentecost according to early Christian art:

Notice the crowned figure in the middle: that represents the Cosmos. In the Mystery of the Church, we find the New Creation reordered to obey Man just as Man obeys God. This was foreshadowed in the Gospels themselves, when Jesus calms the winds during a storm: “But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!” (Matthew 8:27) Similarly, throughout the history of Christian asceticism and sanctity, figures like St. Francis of Assisi and Seraphim of Sarov could tame and feed wild beasts out of their hands. Jesus and his holiest followers thus were seen as foreshadowing a return to the Garden of Eden in this life, where the lion lies down with the lamb and swords are beaten into plowshares.

Enter then this map:


Now, I am the first to laugh at the foolishness of the high priests of the hyper-civilized, but when they all seem to be speaking the same words of doom, that gives me pause. Having gone into so much Christian theology above, what needs to be said is that Christianity had to cast off its superstitious chrysalis to become the secular techno-industrial capitalism it is today, and only in that manner has it realized the dream of writers of the Bible: the complete transformation of nature, the destruction of entire regions and the emergence of others, etc. The world becomes warmer, the sea levels rise, some places become deserts, others fertile, and the spirits of the Earth are silenced. Perhaps it is a bit too convenient, a “just-so story”, to blame ecocide on first century Christian writers who could not possibly foresee the massive death and destruction that their ideological progeny would unleash on the Earth. Nevertheless, the inclination to think of a “new heaven and new earth” when looking at this map is irresistible to me in this instance.

No doubt, for some, this presents an opportunity. Climate refugees already appear to be a reality. New cities in Antarctica will no doubt be a profitable enterprise for developers. According to this map, even the “re-wilders” will have many abandoned areas to live out their hunter-gatherer future primitive, while the rest of techno-industrial civilization continues its march toward a transhuman future. Indeed, we could say that, in maps such as these, techno-industrial civilization is already thinking about the “next step”. Far from collapsing, it will just pick up and start again. It’s possible though not absolutely certain. No doubt this scenario will also entail a massive culling of humanity. But like an automated factory, techno-industrial civilization only needs enough humans to supervise the machines, and that number gets smaller and smaller each year.

The most a-moral position here is the typical justification that “nature is change”. No environment is static, the Earth and the cosmos have gone through a myriad of changes throughout their existence. This will be no different. It occurred at an accelerated pace this time, certainly, but there is no reason to get worked up over it. After all, the Good of Man is the only good, and as long as that is maximized, it doesn’t matter how many deserts had to be made and how many species killed. In the end, to the victors belong the spoils.

The one thing that the hyper-civilized forget is that the war is never over. Unlike with the primitivist, it is not enough for the eco-extremist to merely be left alone in his “re-wilded” enclave to prepare to wage a (continuously deferred) war against civilization in the future. We of that perspective look at that map with nothing but disgust and see in it as well the Christian hyper-civilized desire to re-make Wild Nature in its own image. We reject the Garden, we reject the Heavenly Jerusalem to be constructed in western Antarctica, we reject the idea that all of the flora and fauna of the Earth, as well as mountains, valleys, and rivers, are merely the “collateral damage” that techno-industrial civilization inflicts to preserve itself. Someone will answer for this, someone will pay. The revolt against the Garden, against the God-Man, began when Lucifer fell from Heaven, and it is the War that the eco-extremists continue, with Wild Nature at their side.

After God created Adam, who was alone, He said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone’ (Gen. 2:18). He then created a woman for Adam, from the earth, as He had created Adam himself, and called her Lilith. Adam and Lilith began to fight. She said, ‘I will not lie below,’ and he said, ‘I will not lie beneath you, but only on top. For you are fit only to be in the bottom position, while I am to be in the superior one.’ Lilith responded, ‘We are equal to each other inasmuch as we were both created from the earth.’ But they would not listen to one another. When Lilith saw this, she pronounced the Ineffable Name and flew away into the air. Adam stood in prayer before his Creator: ‘Sovereign of the universe!’ he said, ‘the woman you gave me has run away.’

The Alphabet of ben Sira


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