Nature Spirits Described Through History

“Each person possesses within himself [and herself] the powers and latent faculties necessary to become aware of a multi-dimensional universe.”  — Paracelsus

Rebel Western scientists Paracelsus and Rudolph Steiner were included in a fascinating book published in 1997 by Peter Tompkins, titled The Secret Life of Nature: Living in Harmony with the Hidden World of Nature Spirits from Fairies to Quarks.[1]  

Paracelsus was born in the Swiss canton of Schwyz in 1490, where he was given the impressive (and maybe to those with Western sensibilities humorous) birth name Phillipus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim.  A contemporary of Martin Luther, he became an alchemist, which means he was born into a family of means, as alchemy was taught only within a secret society, pledged to keep those secrets within the structure of power. Paracelsus broke from at least part of that structure.

According to Tompkins, Paracelsus may have been a greater reformer than Martin Luther, as he tackled not only religion but medicine and physics as well.  In his society, academic writing was done exclusively in Latin, for one’s fellow academicians to approve or disapprove, with no involvement of common people.  Paracelsus flaunted this tradition and wrote a treatise on nature spirits in the common German vernacular used by his local community, making his thoughts available to all.  For centuries afterward, his work was used as a primary source for innumerable writings by others.

Paracelsus gathered his data by going straight to his source, nature, in which he steeped himself deeply.  Then he asked non-academicians such as herbalists, faith healers, gypsies, hermits, witches and anyone else who claimed knowledge of the healing arts – aside from doctors – what they knew.  He discovered that their lore had a form and structure which matched his own experiences with intelligent forces in nature.

The rebel alchemist defined these spiritual intelligences as “elementals,” which he divided into beings working in the categories of earth (gnomes), water (sprites), air (sylphs) and fire (salamanders).  They all perform the tasks that we in the “First World” today call “forces of nature” and primitive people and other mystics call spirits of mountain, sea, storm, etc.

If these ideas weren’t radical enough, Paracelsus publicly burned the books of Galen, whose writings had held the course of medicine in a highly rational track for over twelve-hundred years, and the works of Avicenna, a Persian physician whose textbook was a standard in Europe for the previous couple hundred years.  He further scandalized his fellow doctors and academicians by telling them that “each person possesses within himself the powers and latent faculties necessary to become aware of a multi-dimensional universe.”

This radical truth, that humans have the potential to perceive a multi-dimensional universe, we still wrestle with today – at least in First World cultures.

Four hundred years after Paracelsus, in the same Swiss canton of Schwyz, Rudolph Steiner expanded Paracelsus’ work with lectures on the role of nature intelligences in the growth and development of all the kingdoms of nature:  mineral, vegetable, animal, and human.

Steiner was born in 1847, in Croatia, a village so remote that nature was a powerful force for him as a child.  He became highly clairvoyant in his young years and convinced of a world beyond that which his parents could conceive.  To master both worlds and communicate about the one to the other, he trained himself thoroughly at the Technical University of Vienna in physics, mathematics, biology, chemistry, optics, botany, and anatomy, and then gained a doctoral degree in philosophy.  His doctoral thesis was that clairvoyance – the practice of seeing into other realms – would have to be integrated into the scientific approach if “the half-truths of materialism were not to drag the world into a materialist and mechanistic disaster.”  (Tompkins 111)

Steiner continued writing prolifically about the spiritual realms and defining a “spiritual science,” in which nature beings conduct the symphony of life, which includes everything in creation, including humans and their psychic powers.  Everything flows according to patterns passed down by higher intelligent beings – everything a manifestation of the Creation.

According to Steiner, if we ignore the nature beings connected to the higher beings, we cut ourselves off from understanding anything real, including our own health and how to heal.  Alternatively, understanding our relationship to the other realms, Steiner encourages, will assure our individual and collective survival.

Steiner explained that information moves through everything alive, including things Western science defines as “not alive,” such as rocks, rivers and sky.  Communication between the upper and lower worlds, he said, is conveyed by nature beings through leaves, petals, trunks and roots to beings who live underground, sometimes called gnomes, who traverse that realm as freely as we move through air.

Specifically, in spring and summer, plants gather secrets from the “extra-terrestrial” universe and sink them deep into the ground of the Earth, where they are absorbed by the spirits living there.  In autumn and winter, gnomes, in particular, carry in full consciousness the ideas of the cosmos and translate them to every rock and mineral in the earth and to the roots of plants.

Any element of nature can convey the extra-terrestrial wisdom to humans, including gnomes, though those beings, in particular, don’t have the greatest respect for humans and often laugh at us, stuck as we are in our rational concepts which frame and limit what we can perceive.

Today, our culture struggles with the concept of beings and vehicles outside our accepted paradigm, because we’ve been trained, since long before Galen, since Hippocrates, to perceive only the materialistic world, authorized by Science, and to deny all else.

According to Steiner, mankind’s “Fall” came about when we denied our ability to communicate with nature intelligences, which communicate with extra-terrestrial wisdom, and thereby cut off our communication with the highest intelligence of Creation.  Our destiny, though, he claimed, was to expand our minds beyond contact with nature beings, to the intelligences above them, after which we would begin to take responsibility for managing and designing material life on this plane.

Of course, many in the halls of Science and Academia would say that this is exactly what they are about; and they would deny any role in cutting us off from wisdom.  It was their materialistic “half truths,” though, that Paracelsus warned would lead us to disaster.

Arrogantly, Western science today labels “primitive” any contemporary or ancient culture which contends that spirits exist throughout the natural world and can communicate with humans.  So when Harvard psychiatrist John E. Mack, working with experiencers of alien contact, dared to consider the worldviews of shamans from the jungles of Africa and rainforests of South America to help him understand a phenomenon that had shattered his worldview, he was met with formidable hostility and ridicule, particularly from Harvard.  The shamans, on the other hand, told him, “We were wondering when you white people would begin to get it.”

As someone who has experienced the profoundly destructive ways of science (as a CIA mind control subject as a child) and who has also experienced the healing powers of nature in a “shamanic initiation” (which also included apparently alien contact), I can’t help but ask the next hottest contemporary questions:  What about the stuff we call evil?  Are some of the spiritual hierarchies not working for our best interests?  Are some of the aliens “good guys” and others “bad guys”?

My inclination for the last few years has been to assume that alien beings are trans-dimensional (aka spiritual) beings, some of them working in our best interests, and some of them seeming to work against us.  And it’s our very important work today to discern which is which.

How they look might not help with discernment.  According to Paracelsus and Steiner, and all the mystics they consulted and who’ve followed them through the centuries, these beings can take any form they want, often choosing a pattern pre-existing in the mind of the person who views them.

I’ve always understood that, so I was keenly interested to see what else Rudolph Steiner had to say on this key question of discernment.  Like many other spiritual philosophers, Steiner refused to categorize things we call evil as evil.  Rather, he said, certain hierarchies of intelligence above us, called angels in the Western world, devas in the Hindu, chose to deviate from the program of perfection by which they’d always been limited and allow themselves free will and thereby allow humans this possibility too.  It opened up transformative possibilities for Creation, but with a risk.  And we’ve seen this risk played out nearly to completion, it seems, in today’s world of nuclear bombs, multiple wars, ongoing slavery, global child sex industries, mind control, global economic thievery, and more.

It is into this world, beginning quite clearly with the advent of atomic bombs, that these apparently trans-dimensional vehicles and beings have suddenly come in great numbers into human awareness.  The question in my mind has always been:  Are they responding to the horrors we’ve unleashed, hoping to mitigate or correct them, or are they orchestrating them?

The execution of wide-spread death, according to the rational Western mind, might be depicted as the ultimate evil.  But death, to Steiner’s mind, is only a recycling of soul back to higher life forms, providing the souls powerful instruction, with no need to name anything evil.

The shamans who came to Mack were also ambivalent about the nature of ET beings.  For instance, the mantindane (African name for grays) were often seen as unwelcome “troublemakers,” but essential for waking up an individual in a shamanic initiation.  So, if we also can accept a less polarizing view of trouble, death, and suffering, we might also perceive our contemporary experience as Mack did:  a “wake-up call to humanity,” or a “consciousness program for the spiritually impaired.”

Many cultures throughout time have told stories of spiritual beings who were liars or “tricksters” – the Celtic Loki, Native American Heyoka, Greek Cupid.  These spirits and all the rest, according to the Greek Dionysus, student of Plato, fill space in “realm upon realm.”  One of Dionysus’ students, Paul of Tarsus, told his followers, and it is now recorded in the New Testament, “You must learn to discern the spirits.”

Steiner might say we must learn to discern the subtle aspects of nature and science, those hidden since Hippocrates’ words were deemed the only truth, with all else relegated to old wives’ tales and superstition:  we must learn to discern the intelligences manifesting in and thereby creating and maintaining every aspect of life from storms to daisies to human life with its glories of music and dance and art and love and wars and all else – far too much intelligence to ignore.

Today, as we watch the world unfold in dramas few want to believe, strange shapes appear in they sky, change colors and morph into different forms.  People from every walk of life, from Peruvian tribes to American Presidents, pilots, police officers and movie stars, report things we’ve come to call flying saucers and alien beings.

Hippocrates put a lid on this for well over two millennia, and now that lid just won’t stay down.  Gardeners in Findhorn have been talking to devas for decades, churches spring up around old teachings of Swedenborg and Blavatsky, books by Blake and Goethe enjoy a renaissance, and Christians reconsider Jesus’ response to his followers amazement at his miracles, that we would “do all these things and more.”

Multi-dimensional reality is forcing itself into the minds of Earth inhabitants, perhaps contrary to the wishes of those in Earthly “rational” structures of power.  Books like The Secret Life of Nature help blow the lid off things, along with those beings we call alien.

Are some of the aliens in league with structures of power, such as our governments?  Undoubtedly.  Are others trying to wake us out of our educated and entertained enchantment?  I’m sure of this also.

But it’s far more nuanced than a simple good-versus-evil drama.  Our personal, spiritual and collective work is to discern these elements – elemental beings, if you will, and all the dynamics between them, between them and us, around us and including us.  Whether they are tricksters and liars, or purely helpers, or both, they challenge us to wake up, discern, and dodge or dance with them into our next evolution.


[1] Tompkins is also author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller The Secret Life of Plants.

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