Forests are made for weary men,
That they may find their soul again.
And little leaves are hung on trees
To whisper of old memories.
And trails with cedar shadows black
Are placed there just to lead men back
Past all the pitfalls of success
To boyhoods faith and happiness.
Far from the city’s craft and fraud,
O Forest, lead me back to God!
—Mary Carolyn Davies
There are thousands of poems that rejoice the spiritual quality of nature. Vistas of snow-capped mountains, flowing rivers, dark forests and golden plains inspire awe and stir spiritual feelings in the human soul. The scent of a flower, thick green grass, or the touch of the waters of a cool lake impart wonderment and sensuality.The infinite roof of stars and clouded skies elicit human writing that extols their beauty from authors of every nation and creed.
Authors and readers the world over appreciate the sensual spirituality of the natural world. It is a sacred dimension that can be felt by everyone. It allows a soul to respond to the natural world, from a child wishing on a star, to old age.
Nature brings us closer to a sense of an immaterial reality, a higher power, an integral oneness in nature that connects its myriad forms with us – if we care to let it. From the earliest roots of mankind, when perhaps forces of nature were closer to our existence and perception, we have known this spirit and this transcendental oneness. It can be simply by our senses interfacing with the experience of nature.
We humans are shielded by the trappings of civilization from the truly wild world. The act of becoming naked – Naturism – can bring us closer to spirit and can amplify our experience of it. In the splash of water, or the feeling of an evening breeze on the skin, naked, the capacity of perception is awakened and amplified. Naked, we can gain a sense of something more, a sense of belonging in and to nature and hence to a realization of the connectedness of it all. What could be more fundamental to us than to experience this world in a body opened to all sensuality? What greater universe can be known, than to know it with every input, so as to recognize the greater sense and oneness.
There are extremely common natural experiences, documented for millennia from ancient rock art to modern literature. Clothed, we are isolated from the universe. Naked our bodies connect us.
If there is the human tendency to experience transcendental connectedness through nakedness, if the natural world is well recognized by literature and other arts, then why do Western and other societies bear such manifest prejudices and misapprehensions about nakedness?
Those of us who are open to and sense the life force naked, surely have a right to do so, because we choose in the context of our beliefs and experiences. If society requires a wall of fabric between our interior world of thought and the exterior world of experience, then this deliberately dulls the perception of nature and impoverishes the soul. To deny us inner knowledge through contact with the world, is to deny our humanity and our spiritual imperative.
Yet everywhere, there are laws that deny us this freedom, in stark contrast to the freedom to worship and practice afforded to established religions. With no proof that any significant damage is done to anyone by the sight of a bared body, why then is emancipation and liberal expression not extended to nudity and naturism?
In the context I describe above, naturism has many of the attributes of religiousness and spirituality which are constitutionally protected as rights. Why is naturism, a benign desire for nakedness as a spiritual portal to uplifting transcendental experience, not permitted and protected by those same laws? Why is it possible for narrow minded governments to offend against those rights of people who seek simply to be naked at will? Why are naturists censured by the narrow minded and self-referential beliefs by some that nakedness is somehow either bad, or offends others?
In the United States, to legislate against a religion, or spiritual practice, the burden of proof of a State’s reasoning for such a law must be clearly established and rigorously shown to be true before transgression upon a religion’s tenets, or practices can be allowed. This principle does not seem to apply in the case of naturism, where no State has shown, or proven, a reason for an anti-nudity law. There is nothing other than the opinion of a small number of legislators, based on a few religious social mores and a vacuous perception, without clear, quantitative evidence of social insecurity about nakedness. There is often nothing more than a disproven opinion that human children are harmed by seeing other members of their own species without coverings.
As practiced by the overwhelming majority of naturists, naturism is entirely benign to the rest of the social order.
Anti-nudity law is hegemony. It is enforcement of certain moral or religious beliefs upon everyone. Naturists and their friends have need to demand the crystal-clear evidence for prohibitive laws. If none is forthcoming, then they must decry the legislators for their legal bigotry. Naturists of all religions need to show society its hypocrisy in this respect. We all need to demand equal rights of protection of spiritual belief and practice.
The uplifting experience of nature while naked is inherent in our being and links us to a better knowledge of our place in the universe. It shouldn’t be difficult to understand that any law restricting this is a violation of our human rights.
Call this a manifesto if you like. Of course, this aspect of naturism doesn’t fit everyone’s experiences. But I do think that it is time that this concept hits the courts for a challenge of all the anti-body laws.