Suchness and Spirit

Muddy Sugarbush, oil painting by Roger Vincent Jasaitis, copyright 2013,
Muddy Sugarbush

Suchness is an interesting word. It comes to us from Buddhism and means; the true nature of things or ultimate reality. This word gets at the heart of what motivates me to create art. My attempt to render the suchness or spirit in creation.

The way that nature and Spirit (or God) are related has a long history in the worlds religions and is sometimes controversial. Buddha’s ideas go back to the 5th century BCE and so predate Christianity. I have recently become aware of the early Celtic Christian writings on nature and God.

Pelagius was a 4th century Celtic Christian monk that wrote; Look at the animals roaming the forest: God’s spirit dwells within them. Look at the birds flying across the sky: God’s spirit dwells within them. Look at the tiny insects crawling in the grass: God’s spirit dwells within them. Look at the fish in the river and sea: God’s spirit dwells within them.  There is no creature on earth in whom God is absent….When God pronounced that his creation was good, it was not only that his hand had fashioned every creature; it was that his breath had brought every creature to life. Look too at the great trees of the forest: look at the wild flowers and the grass in the fields; look even at your crops. God’s spirit is present within all plants as well. The presence of God’s spirit in all living things is what makes them beautiful: and if we look with God’s eyes, nothing on the earth is ugly. He saw God as the life in life. A panentheism of God present in all creation.

Later in the 9th century a Celtic Christian philosopher named John Scotus Eriugena (his name means; John the Irishman from Ireland) in his writings on Saint John says; God is in all things, the essence of life; God has not created everything out of nothing, but out of his own essence, out of his very life. This the light that is in all things, “the light which is the light of angels, the light of created universe, the light indeed of all visible and invisible existence.

I am reminded by that last sentence of that Buddhist blessing that mentions all possible existences. As a historical note, Pelagius was excommunicated from the Catholic Church for his ideas and Eriugena’s writings were banned by the Pope in the 10th century. This makes me wonder about George Fox (the founder of Quakerism) and his ideas on reviving primitive Christianity in the 1650’s and his tenet of recognising that of God in every one. These ideas were heresy in his time but they reach back to over a 1000 years before him.

Ultimately this idea of seeing God and the spirit in nature is an ongoing discernment for many religions. I have been aware for some time now that my life’s work is to try to depict this spirit present in all things, this essence of life. You can see my art at

3 thoughts on “Suchness and Spirit

  1. halbooks 04/25/2013 / 1:47 pm

    So interesting and well-stated Roger
    Every day there is something about this earth
    To appreciate and thank God for.
    Sometimes it’s a matter I stopping and opening your eyes! It is a beautiful sunny day here with no humidity! Ah!

  2. Roger Vincent Jasaitis 04/29/2013 / 9:51 am

    And this thought from New Jersey Quaker John Woolman 1720-1742 … true religion consisted in an inward life, wherein the heart does love and reverence God the Creator, and learns to exercise true justice and goodness, not only toward all men, but also toward the brute creatures; that, as the mind was moved by an inward principle to love God as an invisible, incomprehensible Being, so, by the same principle, it was moved to love him in all his manifestations in the visible world; that, as by his breath the flame of life was kindled in all animal sensible creatures, to say we love God as unseen, and at the same time exercise cruelty toward the least creature moving by his life, or by life derived from him, was a contradiction in itself.

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