Forest in Phylosophy and History

By Liliana Usvat


Life wants to breathe. We breathe more freely when there are other forms of life which can breathe around us.


Forests and spirituality are intimately connected. Ancient people knew about this connection and cherished and cultivated it. Their spirit was nourished because their wisdom told them where the true sources of nourishment lay.

Forests are places which make us reflect on our existence. Their ecosystem, so unique and so holistic, make us wonder whether we should also try to be in harmony with the world as an ant in the forest is in harmony with the tree leafs.

Forests are a source of joy and refreshment on a sunny day, in ways that the human sould cannot utter in words. They were here long before we came into existence and will be long after we are gone. They are the guardians of existence.  Forests is part of us. They are our best philosopher friend and we should take good care of them. They bring out our inner self. And that can only be a good thing.

Philosophical Question


If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” (Bishop Barkley) is a philosophical thought experiment that raises questions regarding observation and knowledge of reality.

According to substance theory, a substance is distinct from its properties, while according to bundle theory, an object is merely its sense data. The definition of sound, simplified, is a hearable noise. The tree will make a sound, even if nobody heard it. The definition states that sound is a hearable noise. So the tree could have been heard, though nobody was around to do so.


Sacred Forests

Prior to the industrial revolution that changed the very roots of society, humanity lived in greater harmony with the earth. This is reflected most clearly by our past connection to trees. The world over, trees were venerated and held as symbols of fertility, wisdom, power and renewal. Across cultures and continents, the mythologies of ancient civilizations had at their core a Cosmic Tree or Tree of Life that explained our earthly existence.

Ancient people were intimate with their surroundings. They so often weaved themselves into the tapestry of life surrounding them so exquisitely that we can only admire their sensitivity and their wisdom. They had a very special understanding of the places, the locus genius of their territory.

Forests were of course of great importance to ancient people, and almost everywhere in the world trees grow, some forests were to be protected, and never desecrated. In the seminal book of Sir James Frazer The Golden Bough (1935), we have an impressive and eloquent evidence of how people, from the paleolithic era onwards went on about preserving and worshipping their forests; how they set out certain forests as sacred. “In them no axe may be laid to any tree, no branch broken, no firewoood gathered, no grass burnt; and animals which have taken refuge there may not be molested.”

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In the sacred groves and forests of ancient Greece, particular species of trees were dedicated to particular gods. Oaks were in the domain of Zeus, willows of Hera, olives of Athena, the laural of Apollo, pines of Pan, vine of Dionysus. But this identification was not rigid. The ancient Greeks were generous and flexible people. In various localities, due to specific traditions, different trees could be dedicated to different deities. On the island oif Lesbos, for instance, there was an apple grove dedicated to Aphrodite.


Many of the sacred groves contained springs and streams and sometimes lakes. The pollution of these springs and lakes was absolutely forbidden. There was usually a total ban on fishing, with the exception of priests. It was believed that whoever would fish in the lake Poseidon and would catch fish would be turned into the fish called fisher.


The tradition of sacred groves and forests was maintained by the ancient people throughout the world. Sacred groves in India are as ancient as the civilization itself. Indeed they go back to the prehistoric, pre-agricultural times. While the idea and the existence of sacred forests and groves did not survive in the West–as we have progressively become a secular society–those groves survived in India until recent times.


However, with the weakening of the religious structure of beliefs, the very idea, and hence the existence of the sacred groves and forests have been undermined in India. Yet there are still some sacred groves in India–left, particularly among tribal people.

Buddha and the Forest

For Buddha. the forest was “a peculiar organism of unlimited kindness and benevolence that makes no demands for its sustenance and extends generously the products of its life activity; it affords protection to all beings, offering shade even to the axeman who destroys it.”

Native Americans and the Forest

The native Americans or American Indians have been particularly sensitive to the quality of places. For them, to worship a mountain or a brook or a forest was quite a natural thing, for every plant, every tree as well as Mother Earth and Father Heaven were imbued with a spirit.

The Spiritual Purpose of Trees


With their roots in the Earth, and their crowns in the Heavens, trees connect these two planes of existence, integrating what is above with what is below. On an energetic level, trees perform the spiritual purpose of assisting all beings to evolve to a higher state of consciousness.

Modern science is slowly concurring with the truths of the mystics, taught to us down through the ages: everything in the universe is energy. “Everything” encompasses all things, be they mental, emotional, physical or spiritual. This energy can be measured by the number of vibrations (frequencies) emitted per second. The faster the rate of frequency, the higher is the vibration of the particle, thought, word or emotion. Unconditional love, forgiveness and joy for instance vibrate at very high frequencies whereas the vibrations of fear, blame and hatred are very low.

Trees Affect us on an Energetic Basis

That trees affect us on an energetic basis is not a new notion – this we know instinctively and experience after a walk in a forest – generally we are calmer and more relaxed than when we entered it.


It is no coincidence that many spiritual masters such as Jesus Christ chose to offer their teachings under the canopy of trees or that Buddha reached enlightenment beneath a tree.

Some trees are calming and relaxing. Others are stimulating and energizing. Each tree specie has a unique set of qualities and characteristics that it imparts to the wider environment.

In the past the sick and infirm were laid beneath the canopy of such healing trees to be renewed by the abundance of life-force found there. Often these highly energized areas became sites for future healing centres.

Collectively, the forests of the world create a vast network of interlinking energy. Like a giant globe of golden light surrounding the planet, it supports and balances the earth’s ecosphere and provides etheric nourishment to assist all beings to co-exist in greater harmony. Large old trees act as anchors to ground this energy. Such trees are conduits of universal energy on a huge scale and, in addition, these older trees hold the vibrational templates for the younger ones.


However, through the extensive and ongoing logging of these once vast natural forests, the protective quality of this mantle of energy is being severely weakened. The results of this are all too painfully apparent – stress, strife and suffering – from the micro to the macro levels.

Protecting what remains of the natural forests is paramount for our and the Earth’s continued physical and spiritual well being – as is the planting of trees – lots of them! 

Blog 68- 365


About lilianausvat

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