An eco-no to evil – the mindful tree

In ‘The Roots of Christian Mysticism’ by Olivier Clement there is a fragment of a quote from Paul Claudel talking about the art of Japanese painters. This is in a chapter entitled The Glory of God Hidden in His Creatures and the quote says ‘for them, the visible world was a perpetual allusion to Wisdom, like that great tree which, with unutterable majesty, says No to evil for us’ (p.223).

Paul Claudel apparently had a profound conversion to Catholicism at the age of 18. I can’t be sure what great tree he is talking about, but the tree that sprung to my mind was the mysterious tree ‘of the knowledge of good and evil’ (Genesis 2:17).

What struck me about what Claudel might be helping us to understand is why this mysterious tree is there in Genesis. Maybe it is called the tree of the knowlege of good and evil, to help us say No to evil – it is an eco-No. Claudel also said in La Ville, ‘A pure eye and a fixed gaze see every object becoming transparent in front of them'(p.222, Clement).

The great tree is there in Genesis to help us say No to evil, and perhaps that embodied Wisdom is in every tree. If we looked at any tree attentively enough, we might see the ‘No’ of God written in each leaf, the No to evil.

One of the great evils, therefore, is how we treat trees and the rest of Creation. The obvious example is the continued destruction of the rain forest. It seems that the eco-No was there in the beginning. Wisdom sits in the tree, and we need to notice it.

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