The Theology of Wind
September 11, 2019
To the best of our knowledge it is only living things – some of them – which possess volition of movement. Most plants don’t possess this; most animals do possess it.
The most advanced of the animal kingdom possess beyond this the gift of deliberative movement – we can consider in detail what we are aiming to do and then do it.
Apart from these exceptions, the rest of the Creation reacts in a kind of Newtonian way to forces placed upon it by other forces – equal and opposite reactions etc.
We consider that animals and plants were once not on the earth – hence once not within the Creation – so we can assume that once upon a time there were no volitional objects in Creation – no animals or plants.
So we would have a situation where there is movement but only reactive movement, in the way that something more greatly impelled forces out of the way another lesser item which in its turn moves away another item lesser than itself, and so on.
Our present mainline theory about origins, of all things including movement, is The Big Bang which we assume began and sustains this reactive movement; and it is a theory which tends to support a belief in deterministic unpacking of time. In older less sophisticated days God was the assured designated The Prime Mover; that is, He is the agency which set in motion everything and keeps it moving from day to day.
The two ideas Big Bang and God remain compatible however – but maybe not the deterministic offshoot of The Big Bang theory
I am talking here today about just one phenomenon in this reactive non-living movement of things, that mad mêlée which the philosopher of ancient times, Heraclitus, called ‘constant flux’; and this phenomenon I am talking about is the wind.
Wind as we experience it in weather on earth – nothing fancy.
It’s a well-experienced and accepted psychological truth for most people that to be outside in gentle to moderate winds, it adds to our lives as being enlivening and seeming to bring nature more alive. This might be just a perception and the enlivening feeling of wind upon us then would be a sort of fallacious experience, in the way we naturally interpret it in our less conscious apprehensions.
But nonetheless the illusion, if it is an illusion, is complete for us. For us to see a young tree swaying and its leaves atremble, nodding as it were to acknowledge the breeze, and to make patent to observers ‘here I am, alive’ is a warming kind of sight and sound to enjoy. On the other hand a tarpaulin, say, being shaken by wind and flapping and crackling may be somewhat stimulating; but it does lack that essential ingredient of it being vitally alive.
(Oddly enough washing drying on the line in a stiff wind, and flailing everywhere – imagine a man’s formal white shirt agoing and the arms joggling in the breeze – has some semblance of life even though not (now, if cotton) alive)
This added ingredient of apprehending vitality is supplied by ourselves; and it comes from a place in us where deep down we feel kinship with other living things of all kinds. A tarpaulin on the other hand, we sense, we assume, is dead, and therefore to our minds, it is inert, mere given ‘thereness’.
Whereas a sapling tree is more than a mere given ‘thereness’ to our understandings. It is an item we feel or sense or assume has vitality, a dynamic and counter-entropic thrust which it uses to develop itself into a mature plant – not exactly consciousness - which by the way I would not rule out - but a something, a germ within which directs, not mere growth, but growth ‘into’. That is, into a mature form and structure, a physiology and anatomy peculiar to its species are contained somehow within the young plant from the very beginning. Maybe even before it was created a seed?
“…thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well”
We tend to dismiss this idea of a germ or even a spirit of the mature living thing beforehand to or else in its first early form and shape, by hauling onto the stage talk about genes, genomes, and DNA, and such, thus proclaiming the mystery and miracle of being alive, somewhat a damp squib.
DNA, genomes, genes do not sufficiently fill out the understanding of how and why, in our case a sapling tree, but for every living thing also, each type of plant and animal takes its own shape and form, nor do these concepts explain sufficiently the directing force behind this taking shape and form.
“God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.”
In fact it is merely assumed, at best by accepting correlations, that one strand, one bit of DNA code pulls this bell and another that bell as it were – and that’s your lot!
(Likewise here I should note the present ascendency in our days of neuroscience; which is little more than a Janet and John, pull here, push there, to get the candy bar, kind of science. This is not a kneejerk reaction by me! I know what knobs turn on and tune our TV, all of them; but what electricity is that drives it other than invisible energy – another man-made statement that helps kill the mystery – who might say?)
But there is also that most essential acting in unison, in concert, a living thing to its very narrowest parts performs in every place in its growth, which cannot be explained away by all or any of the various tools and items which medical and zoological and botanical sciences can label and stitch together to provide a ‘how it works’ map for each type of living thing.
The forces which direct these metaphysical ‘templates’ or ‘designs’ or whatever you want to call them, these forces how they work where they come from and whereabouts they subsist, are not known to us; perhaps cannot be known to us who are confined inside, and so embroiled in the vortex of being. At best our reasoning is able to deduce for us that they must of necessity exist; but there is no direct empirical clue to their situations.
But wind is a little different. Wind is pneuma, wind is ruach, and it is associated with the spirit; of God, and is within people, gifted to them by God. Wind is spoken of by The Lord Jesus – he uses the apparent waywardness of wind blowing to compare the actions of The Holy Spirit:
“The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”
Wind is also ‘the breath of God’; that which he breathed into Adam the first man to bring him to life and endow him with spirit. The Hebrews understood wind or ‘ruach’, to be God’s breath, carrying God’s Spirit, as being an agency of The Word in the world – as in:
“…the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”
The fuller text here, from the first verses of the first chapter of The Book of Genesis, reads:
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”
And here I hope you can see that what I have been saying earlier about ‘shape and form’ is so old that it is present here at the very beginning of The Bible.
“…the earth was without form, and void…"
Something was lacking. There was no shape or form to things; a chaos of perplexing amorphous randomness. Something was needed to give shape and form by God, to material existence in the state it was when God first began Creating; and so He spoke and said:
“Let there be light: and there was light”
Light then is the fundamental ingredient, antecedent, to all form and shape. It was by way of light He has Created, that on the sixth day of Creation God:
“… saw every thing that He had made, and, behold, it was very good.”
(AN IMPORTANT NOTE: Please understand that I am not trying to persuade you here into an acceptance of The Book of Genesis and its description of how Creation began. I am using that marvellous description in Genesis 1 in order to try to show to you, by illustration and example, how the Hebrews thought of wind and spirit and light and form; and from what I have said previously above here about our sapling tree swaying in the wind, etc, I am trying to show you emphatically how our own senses and perceptions about wind etc and its effects on living things, are in major ways not very much different, at least at a lower level of our consciousness, to how the Hebrews’ saw these things.)
Let’s talk now a little more about wind as weather. Wind is perhaps elucidated by suggesting that it is the passing of air from one place to another. Furthermore wind is air displacing other air. Air is displaced when the force or pressure of air coming into a place is greater than the force or pressure of air that is presently in that place. The present air begins exiting its place because it is being displaced by the air incoming. In basic terms that’s about it as far as I can see.
However displaced air has to go somewhere – either to a ‘more vacant’ space or else to build up under pressure into a smaller volume than previously - or perhaps a combination of these? Thus air is moving around, and unless it has a source from which energy that makes it move is being absorbed by it, thus providing impetus for continued movements, it seems inevitable that air as wind would otherwise gradually ease down and halt altogether. All would be still.
“The sedge has withered from the lake; and no birds sing.”
The major, by far, input of energy to the air of course comes from sunlight. And doesn’t this seem appropriate after what we noted about Genesis and God seeing need for light as a prerequisite to shape and form?
But this amorphous and ever-fleeting movement of air, mostly all due to sunlight, and we call it wind, may not seem to have to do at all with shape and form; but maybe we are not seeing deeply enough just yet?
The winds carry clouds, and clouds bring us rain, and rain grows our crops, and waters our land; fills our reservoirs, washes away our wastes; much that is needful for our lives to continue in wellbeing. Winds being driven here there everywhere by light coming from the sun are an important very necessary part of our dependencies on nature; on our being assured of nature retaining its shape and form as we know it, and thereby providing for us as we hope for.
(This is the whole environmental question of climate change under the magnifying glass. Do tell me The Bible is not relevant.)
The light of the sun, our chief source of light then is the source of all these things when traced backwards cause by cause. It’s fitting then that light should be prior to form and shape and given pre-eminence by God in His Creation commands to shape ‘formless and void’ matter.
Out of light comes order, shape, and form; both in fact on earth for us all, and more importantly in terms of God’s wisdom and care, portrayed to us, messaged to us, by God via ‘His Light’.
I won’t say the obvious, but leave you to figure Whom I might mean