To the wu shamans, and later Daoists and Ch’an Buddhists (whose sentiments can still be found in present day Chinese culture, such as in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Chinese Astrology), the separation between consciousness and landscape did not exist. They did not need the term because the very need to announce in spiritual posturing that one is in relations with the greater environment was self-evident, redundant, and unnecessary. It would be unfathomable to NOT see the world as a place where we belong. There is nothing to own, nothing is “ownable”.
Universal consciousness was and is assumed much like how it’s supposed that humans are conscious (because the important question is are we? Look at how we behave! The hubris in thinking we are qualified to decide if nature is conscious!). Negative space is as important as positive space. What is Unseen does not equate to absence or something missing. In fact, the very concept of the holy Absence is also seen as a primordial connection to Void or Source.
Why are wise people, mystics, and even present-day biohackers so drawn to mountainscapes? The I Ching, the ancient Chinese oracle, considers the Mountain as a form that is most tied to generative vision, and because we are the company we keep, it was believed (and still believed) that spending time with the imposing mass, along with those who dwell there — mist, tea trees, dragons — would rub off.
A mountain looks out far, very far. Mountains stand apart, unafraid to be who they are, and to be visible being themselves. If you were to turn your head upside down when viewing a mountain, you’ll notice that the shape inverts, and the sky, seen as the negative space, takes on the mountain landscape, and the mountain becomes the “background”. These forms are introspective teachers on identity, how to see the world, how to see ourselves, stories inviting our participation, our ambitions and the plans to reach them. If you’re lacking clarity in your life, and desire stability as your ground quakes, shakes, and crumbles, spend time with Mountain. They will help you find your voice and show you what comes next.
You’re serene by a lake, and that’s because you’re among the chillest of companies. Rushes and tall grasses, dragonflies, chirping birds, and water lilies stimulate an appreciation of aesthetics, pleasure, and socializing. Soft living was not invented by humans, but by lakes. If you’re finding yourself roughened by what life has brought on, always responding to the latest urgency or crisis, time spent with Lake will soothe you. Lakes are also a common site where psychic skills, such as psychic smelling (clairolfactance) and clairvoyance can be activated or recharged.
Fire is at once about self-cultivation and belonging, and to the Daoists, this combination is reflected in ritual. In this way, ritual is not meant to be done exclusively in isolation, but in community and collaboration, humans and more-than-humans. It’s Fire that fuels and sustains, the Sun is Fire, and our placement at once wondrous and miraculous – any closer we’d fry, any further away from this star and we’d freeze. The immediate experience with Fire teaches us about our primal aspects and our vitality, close and far, and the just-right-touch of heat. If you’re looking to put intention into words, essence into form, Fire is your ally. Whether it’s a candle or campfire, spend time by him.
For those who say that every [insert music genre] song sounds the same as every other song from that same genre, they obviously don’t know that genre. The world is filled with multiplicity. Ocean reminds us of this. Remarkably different than Lake, Ocean is one both of remembrance and forgetting, a place where we can deny and then reconcile with those denials. We can insist on saying the Ocean shimmer and glimmers, and that all is well, and we can also plunge in and discover she’s an abyss that cannot be defined or contained. Ocean’s uncontainable quality makes her also unknowable. And we are much the same. I have resisted this in my own life, and have been humbly shown otherwise, again and again. Instead of insisting that I know myself, I have yielded to the oceanic within me: I am more than one thing; I am unknowable; I possess no identity other than that I am always becoming. If you’re in the in-between, the death and beginning, the I-don’t-know-anymores, spend time by the Ocean.
If you’re desiring to learn how to work with the Five Elements according to your composition, consider booking a Five Elements Zodiac Reading with me, where I can support your self-inquiry or gain clarity on what’s ahead through Chinese Astrology – or take my Mystery Mentorship Wood + Metal Module.
Animist spirit medium, creative, and founder of Ceremonie