- Aug 2020
Universal Institutions of Humanity
Contextualize: This passage is from a piece written (separate from but in reference) to reading the Epic of Gilgamesh. The work alludes to Gilgamesh's understanding of human fear of death puts fear into categories of institutions (generally religious tradition) that divides the order of man from nature itself. These traditions historically have either held a greater distance from the outer natural world or have centered around and incorporated it (indigenous peoples).
Relate: Willemien Otten, in her book, 'Thinking Nature and the Nature of Thinking', approaches the division between nature and the institutions of man from a religious perspective, focusing mostly on the boundary of divinity written about in this passage (matrimony and burial as a part of a larger Divinity). She writes that religion has always "had trouble finding a proper role for nature" (therefore dividing it from human condition). She writes "...it seemed, as the order of nature, could only survive by repressing its more animal-like instinctual impulses. Otten describes human order as repressing nature, religion (Christianity) specifically, sought to tame nature in Genesis's divine imposition. Otten then states that in her more theophanic alternative view, nature will emerge not as rival to creation but as an anchor for it. Otten alludes to philospher, Eriugena's understanding of nature, describing 'natura' as dynamic and flexible- whereas, before, orthodox understanding of Divinity positioned God's providence over the spatiotemporal creation in which human history exists. In his work, Periphyseon, Eriugena gives emphasis enough to nature that it develops towards the divine, softening boundary between man and the natural.
Eriugena seems to make the natural world into a more mental concept that allows man to incorporate it into religion (including matrimony and burial). This does not necessarily oppose the boundary between nature and man within Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh talks about the human condition as it is (all within the mind) and therefore either encourages relationship between man and earth or encourages a more fearful mindset.
Though conceptualizing nature allows for destruction or neglect on beings that are not human, human ability to wrap one's mind around a force that is otherwise intimidating in actuality, may allow for coexistence despite the boundary.
Otten later references Emerson's thought of nature is more so use of nature in human psychology to dissect the human soul.
Otten, Willemien. Thinking Nature and the Nature of Thinking: From Eriugena to Emerson. Cultural Memory in the Present, 2020.