Michael Marder discusses the paradox of “excessive heat” that, on the one hand, signals the ardency of faith and the love of God and, on the other, the effect of sin configured as ariditas (dryness), undoing viriditas (the greening green, a self-refreshing power of creation).
Michael Marder is IKERBASQUE Research Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of the Basque Country (UPV-EHU), Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain. His writings span the fields of phenomenology, political thought, and environmental philosophy.
I'm very happy to welcome Michael Marder to the Center. And before we begin, let me give a special thanks to the Center's staff for making this event and Michael's visit possible. And please, if you wouldn't mind, just confirm that your cell phone is silenced. Thank you. I will do the same when I return to my seat.
So I have the distinct honor and pleasure of welcoming Professor Michael Marder tonight. He is the IKERBASQUE-- did I say that right? IKERBASQUE Research Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of the Basque Country in Spain. His writings span the fields of phenomenology, political thought, and environmental philosophy. Much of his philosophical work has focused on building philosophies that consider plants as beings with their own distinct form of subjectivity-- what he calls in his book by the same title Plant-Thinking.
He's the author of a staggering number of books, including no less than five on plants. Is that right? Perhaps more. I commend three to your attention, the three I have had a chance to look through. First, Plant-Thinking, in which he lays out his philosophy of vegetal life. Second, The Philosopher's Plant, which is a history of philosophy told through in their encounters with plants, real or imagined. And finally, The Chernobyl Herbarium, which is a really stunning book. It is a series of 30 meditations on plants that have grown up in the soil of Chernobyl in the wake of that disaster. Michael's meditations are paired with artistic renditions of these plants based on their radioactive signature. Michael also has books on fire and on dust, which are both great interest to me. I look forward to reading those as well.
So the lecture this evening falls into one of the Center's programming threads entitled Matter and Spirit: Ecology and the Non-human Turn. So forgive me, for those of you who have been to a number of the talks in this series, but I'm going to read the description of this series. Which, it's almost liturgical for me now in these gatherings that I read this paragraph. I've made a few changes. OK.
But for those of you who are new, this is an ongoing series. We're in our third year of it. And I owe a great deal of thanks to Mary Balkon, who runs our animism reading group, and to Terry Tempest Williams, our writer in residence, for helping me think of wonderful people to invite to this series, including Michael.
Recent work in the humanities and the social sciences has generated new interest in the age old religious question of the relationship between matter and spirit, and its relevance for the environmental crisis we now face. On the one hand, vibrant materialists, such as the political theorist Jane Bennett, asked us to revise our view of matter as an inert object we manipulate-- and invite us to think instead of the vibrancy of non-human and allegedly inanimate things. That is, to think about their agency and creativity. This, she promises, will cultivate a different ecological sensibility, and different sorts of political interventions in the environmental crisis.
On the other hand, anthropologists have revived interest in spirits, and their interactions with humans, taking these spirit phenomena seriously if not literally as occasions to widen our notion of agency. Perhaps humans are just one expression of a more widely distributed agency-- an agency that is spread across the full spectrum of the alleged antonymy between matter and spirit. Richard Grusin of the Center for 21st century studies calls this de-centering of the human the non-human turn.
Could it be that by shifting our focus away from the human to the non-human, or perhaps better, following David Abraham, the more-than-human, we might actually summon an ecological imagination that better safeguards humans precisely by displacing them from the center of all our inquiry. We hazard to guess that questions such as these might help us to reinvigorate our thinking about religion and ecology.
Now there's a certain poetry in the fact that Michael is with us this evening. The first speaker in this series, two years ago almost to this month, I think maybe to this month, was Eduardo Koen, author of the groundbreaking work How Forests Think. Now Michael Marder is asking us again to consider whether and how plants think, and how we can perhaps think plants in such a way as to let them be, in all their obscurity, and alterity, at the edge of our phenomenal register.
This evening, however, Michael's lecture is on a topic, well, that is of interest to me, and many of our colleagues here at the Divinity School-- it's called Ardencies-- St. Hildegard's Blazing Plants. In it, he will formulate the paradox of excessive heat that on the one hand signals the ardency of faith and love of God, and on the other hand the effect of sin configured as ariditas or dryness-- undoing ariditas, or the greening green, a self refreshing power of creation.
So the difference between these two kinds of excessive heat is folded into the material distinction between the woods and wood. While timber, wood, is dry and ready to go up in flames, the woods, living trees, are anything but inert matter ready to be incinerated. Paradoxically, though, he will argue, the woods themselves are always already ablaze. They are heat, which Hildegard associates with spirit. In these trees, solar energy is not only captured and detained, but perpetually transformed in an ongoing elemental conversation with water, the earth, and the atmosphere.
So I'm sure you're eager to hear from Michael, and less from me. Hear him unfold this paradox and its promise. So without further ado, please join me in welcoming Michael Marder.
Thank you very much, Charlie, for this generous introduction. It's a pleasure to be here. And I'm very grateful, both to you, and to Ariella for making this visit possible, and making everything so seamless.
Now this talk that I'm going to give tonight is a part of a larger book project that is titled Green Mass, the ecological theology of St. Hildegard of Bingen. And this titled green mass is already a kind of paradox in and of itself. Because on the one hand, mass is obviously a liturgical service in a church. So I follow in this, something like Rhapsody in Blue by Gershwin. Right? And on the other hand, mass is the most material thing imaginable. It's the heaviness of matter, so that plants are the biggest, and the most sizable biomass on Earth, as we know. And green mass would describe that plant biomass.
And the way this expression combines the most spiritual and the most material I think is symptomatic of the way Hildegard thinks and feels her way through the world. And a part of this, I'm going to try to develop today in relation to her thinking, and her discourse around fire.
And then at the end of the talk, there will be a small surprise that they won't divulge for now. But let it just be mentioned that there will be something else going on once the talk ends, and before the questions begin.
The world is a play of fire, which is itself an interplay of the two powers, the two potentialities that have been so important in the history of Judeo-Christian theology, and less obviously, philosophy. Light and heat, illumination and ardor, accessible through visual and tactile impressions. This play and this interplay are as dangerous as they are indispensable for the drama of existence. Warmth is life giving, while extreme heat may be life depriving. Intense light blinds, and darkness does too. Light without heat is sterile. Heat without light, all consuming.
The ecological and theological standoff, the dead heat of viriditas and ariditas, these two poles that Hildegard is constantly navigating. Viriditas, the self refreshing power of creation, which she associates with plants, but that really suffuses creation as a whole. And that is linked to greenness, to greening, and greenness, as the word itself indicates. And ariditas, this dryness, the scorching heat and dryness that are the effect of sin. This theological and ecological standoff pivots on the degrees of fire, on whether it is just right, too much, or too little to sustain life in the physical and spiritual senses that Hildegard merges into a physical-spiritual sense.
When you get right down to it, ariditas has never been only a metaphor. It hastens global warming, which expresses it, landing at a climatic body. Dry, scorching, deadening heat wells up as a result of persistent violations suffered by viriditas, and its vegetal mediation or modifications of solar fire that refresh existence. Deforestation and desertification. Ariditas is the negation of viriditas. Or, more chillingly, as its negative manifestation in a devastation that waxes creative, particularly compared to destruction. These are the vicious and menacing repercussions of playing with fire-- of the play and the interplay of fire.
Now from the standpoint of Hildegard's pyrology, global warming is concurrent with a certain global cooling-- with entropy, the dissipation of spirit's warmth, its seepage out of the world. In the third vision, recorded in Scivias, the globe that is the earth floats on the heat released by a sparkling flame raging under it. And I quote, "And the glow at times raised itself up so that much fire flew to it. And thereby, its flames lasted longer. And sometimes, it sank downward, and great cold came over it." End quote.
Both in terms of its causes and effects, the extreme heat of ariditas coincides with the frigid dearth of spirit, the world no longer in touch with itself at the height of its globalizing integration. The rises and the falls of the globe reflecting on the grand scale, the rises and falls of a soul inspired by fire, are the physical movements that reflect the fluctuations of the globe's properly spiritual connection to the divine, and that are that very connection. That the mass of the globe does not mechanically fall, but undergoes a series of ascents and descents evinces a surplus ingrained into physical reality over physics and its laws.
The surplus is spiritual. It is spirit. When one loses sight of the spiritual surplus, entropy is the sole conceivable future. The intolerable heat of global warming accords with a global cooling, then.
While its manifestation in, and as fire is a staple theme in Judaism and Christianity, not to mention non-Western traditions such as Hinduism. And it is ubiquitous in Hildegard writings as well. Turned up to the highest potency, the fire of God remains judicious and discerning beyond the limits of discernment we tend to associate with human understanding. So to quote Hildegard, "God consumes by the fire of his vengeance all those who are outside the true faith. And those within the Catholic faith, he purifies by the fire of his consolation." End quote.
The light of divine judgment accompanies the heat that, minutely adjusted to each singular case, either flares up and burns, or purifies and consoles. The culmination of the two powers' union is the figure of Christ, the son of justice, Sol Justitiae, with the, in Hildegard's words, with the brilliance of bringing love of such great glory, that every creature is illuminated by the brightness of his light.
Now all of this seems to be very much in line with the tradition that Hildegard inscribes herself in. But what is, I would claim, unique to Hildegard is a tendency to moderate the brilliance and glory of fiery divinity with darkness and shadows. Now you will object that, in this also, she does not swerve very far from the tradition of Christian mysticism, going back to the beginnings of apophatic theology in Pseudo-Dionysius. And Augustin, with his interior god. Or forward, to Meister Eckhart's Nothingness. And John of the Cross with his Dark Nights.
In congruence with a mystical fascination with darkness, Hildegard pinpoints, in a vision I have been citing from just now, a dark fire, tenebrosus ignis, underlying the uneven flame responsible for the rises and falls of the globe, the peaks and valleys of spiritual history. So besides this fire, the spirit on which the globe floats, there is also still deeper below it, this dark fire. She admits that the dark tenebrous fire provoked such a feeling of horror in her, that she could not look at it.
Hildegard's interpretation of her emotional response as a reaction to the vilest acts of the devil embodied in dark fire falls short of convincing, though, I think. Below the flame dynamically supporting the globe, the position of tenebrosus ignis, which burns but sheds no light, hints at how it may be more fundamental still than the world's igneous, brilliant, and hot spiritual foundations.
And obscure disaster may happen at any moment. Indeed, it has always already happened, and is simply prevented from breaking through by the fire of spirit interposed between it and the world. The globe's lowering brings it ever closer to that ever present disaster. And I cannot help but remark on how this dark fire, dark because it is not even accessible to vision, is so reminiscent of nuclear materials, and nuclear energy.
Nevertheless, dark fire is not Hildegard preferred vehicle for moderating the brilliance and glory of divine flames. Her mysticism is that of small d darkness not of capital D Darkness. She does not shy away from the shadows that, dancing with light, put into relief, or highlight the play of fire, its interplay with itself. Together, the luminosity of shadows and the obscurity of radiance bring about the enlivening light and warmth in an ecological twist on the theological tradition. So what does that look like, exactly? Right? You might ask.
In their evolutionary rotation, turning literally inside out, Mary's womb becomes a source of light concentrated in the blossom that grows from it. I cite from Symphonia, Hildegard's hymns. "And your womb illuminated all creatures with a beautiful flower." Right, in her analogies, in her vegetal analogies for Jesus and Mary, Mary is the greenest branch, and Jesus is a radiant flower growing on it. From a dark space of bodily interiority, the Virgin womb passes into a place of luminosity, in part because the other power of fiery it belongs with is not the heat of fallen desire by divine warmth.
As Hildegard formulates it in another hymn, I quote, "God delighted in you when he set within you the embrace of his warmth." End quote. But what is within you is actually outside. The inside has never been inside. You are outside yourself. There is no deep interiority in Mary's vegetal constitution, which is why her womb fully exposed can blossom. It's a completely different version of the Virgin birth than the one we tend to think about because this birth is vegetal and not animal. In an animal birth, there is a separation from the source, from the mother. In the vegetal birth, and the generation of a flower, there is really no separation between the branch that carries it and the flower itself. I think Hildegard is hinting at the spiritual significance of this biological difference between the two modes of generation-- that are also I think behind the scenes very important to Plato, but we can discuss this later on, if you wish.
Centuries later, Goethe will espy in flowers the objectifications of light, their diverse colors falling at different points of the light spectrum. Flowering is the expression of spirit and matter, for Goethe as well.
The journey of a perpetually modified metamorphosing leaf from the dense darkness of the soil toward the sun and air, which, to a certain extent, the bright petals capture objectively.
For Hildegard, Christ the flower is light prior to its objectification. In him or through him, she spots the renaissance of light, the rebirth of light itself. Old Lady Savior, she exclaims in one of the hymns, you who bore a new light for humankind. And that light, I remind you, is a flower, right, a radiant flower.
The lighting up of the world thanks to this event in the history of spirit complements the rising of the globe due to an increase in the heat of the subtending fire, likewise attributed to the birth of Jesus. Remarkably, the event for which fire serves as a catalyst does not come to a crescendo in the blinding celestial glow. It unfolds into a plant.
The flower that gathers into itself the two powers of fire manages to reverse the phenomena of vegetal nature. It turns back the process of photosynthesis. In as much as it is the source of light and heat as opposed to their recipient, as in usual vegetation, the flower outshines the sun. This movement against nature in nature is the movement of spirit and, at the same time, of an ecological theology, a kind of an imminent transcendence within nature.
We would commit a grave error if we were to assume that the event of Christ's birth is that of matters subsequent spiritualization. And that therefore, human vegetal divine matter materia is in itself obscure until it is clarified by the flower in birds.
Hildegard calls Mary lucida materia-- luminous matter, a characterization she confirms by invoking the virgin's own brightness, claritas. Aside from sequent years, the Supreme Father took note of the virgin's brightness. In Jesus, her brightness takes the form of a flower, which is precisely described as marvelously bright.
It is brightness vegetalized, nourished and nourishing together with the warmth with which it is born in the unity of fire's dual power. What does it mean for brightness to be vegetal or floral even? At the very least, it means that it is not absolute, not absolved from its relation with shadows and murkiness.
Vegetal brightness is finite, despite its divine provenance. A living light is not only light, as it mingles with cool umbrage and with warmth. Spiritual matter is shot through with clarity. A living light is stitched of luminous shadows.
This is Hildegard's expression-- luminous shadows, luce de umbra. Indeed, luminous shadows are a privileged observation spot for the patriarchs and the prophets to behold, I quote, "a keen and living light, biding in a branch, that blossomed alone from the entrance of light, taking root." End quote.
Sheer plant imminence. From a vegetal site of luminous shadows, the prophets and the patriarchs analogize to the roots are perceiving the glow of Christ the flower or on Mary the branch. The soil and the root are illuminated.
The shadows are luminous. But they keep a smattering of obscurity. Their shadowiness required for plants to grow, and growing with the plants themselves.
The opposite of a living light-- what is that? It is the light that is either dead or deadening, scorching. Although the walls of Jerusalem gleam with living stones, as Hildegard puts it, the city's foundations are made with scorching stones. The inorganic foundations of the Celestial City breathe with unendurable heat, while the walls erected upon them grow plant-like with stones that are alive.
In retrospect, thinking a little bit more about this, I think she is hinting at the relation between Judaism and Christianity here very much in this period because whenever stones appear, that's usually a reference to Judaism, the mineral kind of foundation of the law, of the exterior law.
But here, the stones are either gleaming and living or scorching. So they are not cold, in any case. The light of Jerusalem, too, parts ways with luminous shadows and vegetal brightness. A light never darkens, she says. It floods from a metaphysical abyss between matter and spirit, between dark density and transparent luminosity.
Translated into the language of fire, metaphysics builds itself up on the distinction between inorganic, unbridled, potentially unlimited heat and light, on the one hand. And the reception of these signature powers of fire within the limits that demarcate to life, on the other.
For light never darkened, matter and mother, the one as the other, and both digitalized. And we have a trace of that, both in Spanish and Portuguese, in madera, or madeira, which, of course, referred to madre, or matter, in Latin, that link between matter and wood and mother.
The wood and woods, as well as the greenest branch. All of that is tied together and is thought of as darkness never lit from the standpoint of metaphysics. Matter is dark, darkness never lit. And then it's associated with femininity, with plants, and all of that.
And in the matrix of luminous matter, on the other hand, vegetality is spirit in which the moist freshness of viriditas is mixed with the slowly burning fire of a life. Jerusalem, in its turn, is split down the middle between these metaphysical and non-metaphysical constructions of its stones.
Now, Hildegard posits semantic equivalence in saying that Mary's womb lights up and that the greenest branch, which is Mary herself, blossoms with a flower of redemption. This is not flowery language, poetically inspired religious rhetoric divorced from reality, but the visionary in all senses of the word braid, where fire and vegetality intertwine.
In Scivias Hildegard sums up the burning bright illuminated lucid nature of Mary when she notes that her virginity was glorious, gloriosa. The scriptural attribute of God's glory, glory, is fire. So glory in God's glory in the scriptures is usually fiery.
And so what Hildegard is doing is she is alluding to Mary's divination here. If she, too, is glorious. In the field of Hildegard's vision, this process, however, occurs via vegetativa, through plants.
I quote, "So that when the Son of God too in virginal chastity showed marvelous splendor and rendered virginity fecund, virginity became glorious." Unquote. The fecundity of virginity is indicated by the bright flower growing or glowing on the greenest branch. Jesus's splendor, or better his glare, fulgor, the word she uses, that expresses rather than ushers in the flaming existence of Mary. So this radiant flower is not the beginning of a radiant matter, but an expression-- completion of the expression of something that is already there in Mary herself.
The branch is aglow. And the flower is only a belated confirmation of its brightness. So what or who is this matter or mother, wood or the woods, on fire? Fiery is how Hildegard qualifies spirit, for instance, in a hymn, "Oh, Fiery Spirit, Praise To You."
To say that a branch and the flower are fiery is to spiritualize matter. The woods and wood burning without being reduced to ashes. And in this, she is recovering a certain Aristotelian tradition. It's Aristotle who gave us the word matter.
Well, matter, we're saying this in Latin. But the Greek xyla is, like many other words that Aristotle coded for philosophy, is a very common word for wood and the woods. There is a kind of indeterminacy there. It can be either timber or the living woods themselves.
And this was the prototype for matter, for this more abstract term in Aristotle. I think here there is a kind of recovery of that tradition going on, but with a very interesting twist in relation to fire.
So to say that the branch and the flower are fiery is to spiritualize matter. The woods and wood burning without being reduced to ashes. Of course, the biblical story of the burning bush comes to mind, one of God's apparitions before Moses.
And the story shimmers in a different light and exudes another kind of heat than the conflagration of metaphysical indestructibility. If the blaze is the burning of the bush itself, without a match taken into it, if this flame is what makes it green and full of life, then spirit as fire is in matter, and it is matter.
The branch and its flower are on fire because they are fire. The burning bush is suitable for a divine operation for the same reason that virginal brightness welcomes the entrance of light taking root. In their materiality, they are already of spirit, which they receive into themselves.
Our matter, or mother, wood or the woods, on fire is matter hardly distinguishable from energy. A mother who is also using classical Aristotelian terms, a father, right, because Aristotle actually codes matter and energy in these polar terms that Hildegard, this gathering together, through the reference to fire.
The woods may certainly burn, as they do more and more frequently and devastatingly in the age of global warming, when the spark is enough to ignite them in extremely dry conditions. But in themselves, they are already fire. The heat and the light of the sun captured, transformed, and perhaps decelerated.
So my hypothesis is that fire can be quick or slow. We're not dealing with its presence or absence, but with two different temporalities of fire. In the melange of Heraclitus and quantum physics, we might say that the world of matter would take to be stable is mostly made of a slow fire, while what we readily identify as a raging fire, as the solid burst of energy, is quick.
Vegetation is slow fire in the winding series of negotiations with a quick solar blaze. Our world is a footnote to these negotiations.
We are still pursuing the hypothesis as startling as it's almost self-evident that plants are not only nourished by solar fire in the process of photosynthesis. But that they are this fire modified, refracted, rethought, reinvented. Curiously, though, the portion of vegetal psychophysiology that Hildegard develops and that concentrates the ardor of fire is the root. So there is an inversion here that we also see in Plato, obviously.
What concentrates the ardor of fire is the root. The universal root of all, in her words. That is the Holy Spirit. So the Holy Spirit is analogized to the root here.
This too is an aspect of Hildegard's revolutionary technique, upturning and eminently recoding natural processes. If, as she sings in her symphonia, viriditas is rooted in the sun, rooted in the sun, then its roots are soaked with solar heat, engrossed in the sun without leaving any distance that would enable a visual relation to its energy.
The association of roots with darkness is troubled, and yet it remains undisturbed. Troubled, because they are immersed in the sun rather than the Earth. Undisturbed, because they are related to another power of fire, to the thermal power, which is neither bright nor dim, but of another order than that of visual representations.
It is from the place of concealment in the open of vegetal exposure, even in the thick of underground existence, that fire spreads, is propagated as though by bulbs or rhizomes, with strange mycorrhiza of mediators developing around its edges.
Now the kingship of plants and fire goes both ways. Plants are modified solar blaze. And fire is a growing, metamorphosing, and decaying plant. The roots of the fire plant extend to areas previously untouched by them. Fire spreads from spirit to spirit, as if by contagion.
And again, this is not something unique to Hildegard. It is ever present in the Judeo-Christian tradition. But I think that the unique twist she gives to this is the vegetal term, the spreading of fire from spirit to spirit, as if by contagion, but spread through the roots themselves.
The igneous spirit of symphonia is such that, I quote, "human minds catch fire from you." In Scivias, it is the kindler of the hearts of the faithful. The root of the spiritual plant, of a plant that is spirit, nestles either in our minds or in our hearts. And it takes root precisely by catching fire, by setting its new supports on fire.
But rather than dry wood to be ignited, the human psyche, that the heart and the mind metonymize, is the fertile soil in which the plant of fire grows, and which grows with it, imbibing its heat. Psychic life is the element, indeed an ecosystem, that welcomes its spreading roots.
Vegetal modifications of solar fire becoming less and less abstract right before our eyes. In their every cell, plants celebrate the marriage of heat and moisture, of a blaze tempered with and abiding in the humid earth. Assuming that these physical qualities signifies spirit and the body respectively, something that Hildegard explicitly affirms in her Physica.
Plants are the embodiments of embodiment, the green incarnations of incarnation. Our psyches, however, occupy the position of a moist and cool body, vis-a-vis the Holy Spirit that extends its hot roots in them. The soul, in Hildegard, is a mobile hinge that turns up or down, depending on whether it is received by the body or whether it accepts the spark of the Holy Spirit, just as the body receives the soul.
Viriditas is this temporary fire that burns all the better the less dryness it encounters on its path. That the Holy Spirit is fire without any flaw of aridity, as Hildegard puts it in one of her visions, does not imply that it is a perfect pure fire. On the contrary, without any flaw of aridity, its virtue is that it is fire and not fire. Fire and life giving moisture, or simply life.
As kinds of fire, the plant and the Holy Spirit are subject to the test to which everything is put. And I quote, "spirit is to be tested by spirit, flesh by flesh, Earth by air, fire by water." Unquote. Being tested by the same spirit by spirit, flesh by flesh, does not contradict being tested by the other, by Earth, by air, fire, by water. This non-contradiction is life.
In what modality should we hear the verb to test, provare, though? Does it not suggest that the tested must engage in an interminable dialogue with the testing, with itself, or with the other? With itself as other to itself.
Fire is a lasting dialogue with what is on fire. With what following a myriad tempos and rhythms, it heats and lights up. And what changes it, too, for instance, by painting it in shades of green or drawing a singular figure within its universal medium. Fire probes and is probed by what it ignites, by itself as the other.
Now the transformations of fire that return in one way or another to Heraclitus are reversible. Fire is one among the things to be tested. But it is also the tester, as in the case of gold that must be tested in it, as Hildegard puts it.
The testing of gold is, as Marx would have reminded us, a probing of the universal equivalent of a material mediator, which, by bordering on an abstraction, puts disparate things in relations of commensurability. Sparkling in gold is the inverse image of the Holy Spirit. Whereas gold, a posteriori facilitates an abstract equation of concrete entities, the Holy Spirit, the flaming root of all in Hildegard, is the a priori shared source of everything concrete, of things growing with each other and with it. Coming from above or from below, fire is the universal test of universality, not exempt from the exigencies of being tested as to its capacity to give or renew life.
Now if fire in Hildegard's view is the universal tester, the human is a universal testee. And I think this is incredible what she says here. I quote, "the human should be examined more than all other creatures. And he should be tested through all creatures." Humans should be examined more than all other creatures and he should be tested through all creatures.
The testing of the human is akin to that of gold. They are the universal equivalence due to their status of the universal exception. Tested through all creatures, humanity is really tested through the Holy Spirit, responsible for the creaturely allness, their shared root ablaze with life, which is to say that the bottom, humanity is tested through fire, like gold.
But I would suggest in concluding this talk, another may be more modest and ecologically sound reading of this test to which humanity should be put. And by the way, if we say that the human exception is such that the human should be tested more than all other creatures, it's a kind of perverse anthropocentrism, right, that the human is at the center here, but not as the pinnacle of creation. But in fact, as someone who should bear the brunt of it and the burden of it.
The test to which a human being is put in every creature is a test by fire, the fire of life itself, lit by and difficult to tell apart from the Holy Spirit. And so I think the questions that the theological and ecological questions of this test are, is one tempted to extinguish creaturely existence by handing it over to spiritualist cold, to Nihilism, as environmental destruction, to burn it up in the conflagration of ariditas.
Or, on the contrary, to nourish the heat of life's root with one's own mind and heart, the sublime soil wherein this root may grow and gain strength. To fall into a temptation of extinguishing vital fire, the temptation associated with ariditas is to rebel against the Holy Spirit and the universality of the life it inspires. That is how a human, and more consequentially humanity at large, fail the test by fire. That is how we all fail in the age said to be of global warming.