The two of them were towards the front of the procession and among the first to arrive at the foursome tree, where the hawthorn was now in bloom with tiny white flowers. Fion went straight up to look at the tree with curiosity, seeing the branches of the four elements mingled together. It was miraculous to see how the hawthorn stem, the ivy and the holly grew directly out of the rock, twisting together as they fought their way into the freedom of the air. The mistletoe hung from the higher branches of the tree, making up the four – the sign of completeness, as Margaret had said. Her words made him think that nature itself may be like a book which can be read, if you know how. Each living thing had a meaning to tell you, and you couldn’t arrive at it simply through reasoning. This was where her approach to knowledge differed so radically from what Fion had always been taught in science classes. Her way seemed to be about “knowing” rather than “knowledge”. And what was the difference? He had much to learn from her yet, he reflected. Or, perhaps to be more precise, much to learn from the tree?
Behind the Mountain, Chapter 4
The foursome tree really exists, in a mountain area of southern Europe. It is a remarkable sight, displaying exactly what Fion sees in the book. The roots of the hawthorn, holly and ivy grow from the solid rock and the mistletoe hangs in the upper branches where all four are entangled. Cattle and horses graze in the wide grasslands all around, and a chain of snowy peaks extends along the southern horizon. This open area is the Ras, as the book names it, for the summer grazing of livestock.
The significance of the four is built into the ancient Pythagorean symbol of the tetraktys, the triangular arrangement of the building blocks of creation, shown here. These can be visualised as the digits 1 through to 0, from which an infinity of numbers can be obtained.
While on the one hand representative of the ascent of the human spirit towards the One, the configuration also shows the pattern of descent from undivided spirit into the unfolding of matter, space and time. The One first divides, then extends, and finally has the potential to open out into three-dimensional structures such as the pyramid and the cube.
Arising out of these forms and relationships come the elements of harmonics and proportion, so that wherever we find resonance and meaning can be traced back to these fundamentals. Nature is indeed a book that can be read, as Fion discovers, through “knowing” rather than through “knowledge”.