- A Lament Over Frankenstein, Nature De-Natured: A Deep Ecology with Sacred Seed
I. Sacred Seed: Nature Natured
Seeds are our sacred ancestors. Ruining a seed means hurting your soul!
My maternal grandparents lived in a small farming village in Korea when I was a five-year-old kindergartener. I visited my grandfather’s house almost every weekend. Both of my grandparents welcomed my visit; my coming was their great joy. I really loved to visit my grandfather’s house. My grandfather was a Confucian scholar and a farmer who believed farming is sacred work. From him, I began to learn my first lessons in foods and farming (seeds, soil, rice, labor, etc.). Every year after harvest, my grandfather dried some seeds of bailey and corn for the next year. Once, while sitting on a straw mat used for drying bailey seeds, I played with some seeds by making images with them. My grandfather became unusually furious at me for playing with the seeds. He scolded me, “Seeds are our sacred ancestors. Ruining a seed means hurting your soul! Your parents have wrongly taught you.” I was saddened but learned that I should treasure seeds as the sacred. At harvest, I was so excited to see the golden waves of rice, corns, and baileys. I was so curious about the secret of a seed that remembers its parental plants and grows like them from a tiny grain. In my eyes, my grandfather seemed to be a magician who created miracles through his farming.
When I looked at a bailey seed and split it in two, I found no mother plant but grain powder. What is the secret of a seed? It seems to be the whole world enfolding itself, condensed into a seed. As my grandfather taught me, “Seeds are our sacred ancestors.” Just as the world is not merely the machinery of molecules and atoms driven by mechanical laws, so too the seed is not simply biochemical machinery driven by a group of genetic codes. Every seed contains the potential to save the world. Each seed is a mirror and guardian of the planetary future. Each seed is the ecology that can sustain the economy. This is why seeds are sacred and why they are traditionally believed to be miraculous in indigenous circles.1
The premier ecstatic naturalist Robert S. Corrington finds the sacred within nature; like my grandfather, he sees the “sacred within the seed.” He locates [End Page 70] the sacred among complexes of nature and explains that “nature is genus of which the sacred is a species. Of course, strictly speaking, nature is beyond all genera and cannot be located within a higher genus. In more dynamic terms, the sacred is an eject from nature and not some kind of personal creator out of nothing.”2 Thus, in his deep pantheistic view, the sacred is located in the seed. For him, the seed is sacred.
Through learning and teaching East Asian philosophies for years, I have come to realize that the secret and the sacredness of a seed is indeed Life, the fecundity. According to the East Asian cosmology of yin-yang, life continues through harmony of yin-yang. In an ancient Chinese medical text, the “Ten Questions” begins with a dialogue between the legendary sage kings Yao and Shun:
Yao asked Shun: “In Under-heaven, what is the most valuable?” Shun replied: “Life is most valuable.” Yao said: “How can life be cultivated?” Shun said: “Investigate Yin and Yang.”3
The Classic of Change (I-Ching, 易經) explains yin-yang as the two vital forces of life that make up everything that exists and that determine all the formation and transformation that occur in the universe. The ancient Chinese thinkers observed the world around them. They realized that the natural world and the human world are intimately connected and constantly changing.4 In Dao De Jing (道德經, The Classic of the Way and Its Virtue), Lao Tzu explains how things come into existence via the circulation of yin-yang,
The Way gave birth to one. One gave birth to two. Two gave birth to three. Three gave birth to all things. All things...