The state of raw nature is convulsive and terrible—there is little peace there. Nature rains down floods and fires even as it creates mountains and rivers. A mother seal is forced to leave its pup to die on the ice in order to survive, and it’s quite a thing to hear the pup screaming. Of course, there is a natural dignity to a lion, even as it rips the throat of an antelope. But in nature, big things eat little things — and we have been trying survive her poisonous snakes, ever since we lived in trees. Of course, there is nothing in nature to compare to the poison malevolence of the human snake.
The point is, the romantic view of nature as benevolent is a quite ridiculous concoction. We can only be romantic and talk about nature as ‘beautiful’ when we have forged enough distance to keep predators and plagues away. It’s good that we have toilets, houses, and walls to protect ‘the naked ape’. Eden does not mean a wild state of nature, without human consciousness. It means consciousness and nature exist in a state of dynamtic reciprocity—Paradise literally means ‘walled garden’. (Source: Jordan Peterson’s lectures on the subject: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ifi5KkXig3s)
What is the natural, ‘spontaneous’, human being? Perhaps a couch-potato or a serial killer. We can easily degenerate into ‘sub-humans’ if we just ‘go with the flow’ or let our lives go to seed. Of all the creatures we know, we are the only who can be lower than our own nature (there is no such thing as a sub-animal). But it is equally true that a human being can embody magnificence in every domain, that we can link ourselves to the angels of transcendental creativity—but that requires transcendental effort. We are, in potential, both the sublime angel and the malevolent demon.
Of course, getting ourselves back to the garden does not mean to tear down every sign of culture, as the hippies believed. It means, rather, a return to making gardens with our own hands and tools. Certainly, gardens are dependent on the wildness of nature, as much as inherited wisdom. When human beings impose their will on nature rapaciously, they tend to make artificial spaces, like some french gardens which resemble chessboards. It’s a question of balance between nature and civilized consciousness. Too much order and you have totalitarianism, too much spontaneous nature and you have a jungle of poisonous snakes.
Of course, Nietzsche was right when said, ‘We need chaos to give birth to a dancing star’ — in other words, we we need to have a source of primeval wildness to give birth to a living vision. Mother nature convulsively gives birth to all raw forms of being. The father culture draws diagrams, builds cities, reins in creation with language and invention. In all mythologies, there is the benevolent and the genocidal father, the all nourishing mother and the goddess and Kali with corpses in her jaws. Both of these possibilities stand at the nexus of creative consciousness.