Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand.
Little flower—but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.
(Alfred, Lord Tennyson)
A child born into slavery, growing up during and after the Civil War, George Washington Carver wandered the fields and forests of Moses Carver’s Missouri plantation. Out in the brush young George created a miniature botanical garden of wild plants—plants cared for with such a healing touch and so skillfully protected from insect and disease that George soon came to be known as “the plant doctor.”
It was here, in the natural world, that George developed his intimate relationship with God, Whom he ever after lovingly called “Mr. Creator.” All his discoveries in plant science—in finding beneficial uses for the humble peanut and sweet potato, discoveries that revolutionized the agriculture of the South at a time when cotton monoculture had depleted the soil and reduced small farmers to a grim and losing battle simply to feed their families—all these discoveries were not discoveries at all, but answered prayers. And the temple in which he prayed was his laboratory, which he called God’s Little Workshop. Here no books were allowed, only silent inner communion—the soul of this devotee of God in Nature carrying on a loving conversation with Mr. Creator: “Here I talk to the peanut and the sweet potato and the clays of the hills, and they talk back to me.”
“How do I talk to a little flower? Through it I talk to The Infinite. . . . There are certain things, often very little things, like the peanut, the little piece of clay, the little flower, that cause you to look within—and then it is that you see into the soul of things . . . you can reach out and look into them and suddenly find that you are taking hold of the things that lift you up and carry you along and make people love you and give you the joy of life and the joy of living and the joy of having come into the place God has for you, and the exuberance of filling that place in life.”
All his life Dr. Carver rose at four o’clock to go into the woods for his conversation with God: “There He gives me my orders for the day. Alone there with things I love most I gather specimens and study the great lessons Nature is so eager to teach us all. When people are still asleep I hear God best and learn my plan. . . . After my morning’s talk with God I go into my laboratory and begin to carry out His wishes for the day.”
The secret of his communion with the natural world was love—love for God, and love for God in each particular form, flower or peanut or clay: “Anything will give up its secrets if you love it enough. Not only have I found that when I talk to the little flower or little peanut it will give up its secrets, but I have found that when I silently commune with people they give up their secrets too—if you love them enough.”
To the end of his life Dr. Carver’s heart was wide open to meet new friends, human and plant: to pause in his busy life to greet an unfamiliar flower or wayside weed, his gentle fingers reaching out caressingly to touch and commune with the plant’s inner essence, his soul reaching out in loving recognition of a kindred spirit.
Kindred spirits among human plants became lifelong friends—fellow laborers in God’s service to mankind, a fellowship of souls who knew that it was God’s inspiration, God’s power, working through them: “It is not we little men that do the work, but our beloved Creator working through us.” Dr. Carver’s spiritual family included many of the spiritual giants of his time: Mahatma Gandhi, Thomas Edison, Booker T. Washington. Wherever he went, Dr. Carver recognized his own. These spiritual intimates he called his “boys.” Between Dr. Carver and his “boys” was that sacred divine friendship Yoganandaji had with his close disciples: with Rajarshi, Dr. Lewis, Kamala, Durgama, Luther Burbank, Swamiji. “I do know there are people who are like flowers,” Dr. Carver once said, “just as simply in touch with God and as incarnate with His spirit as the flowers; and I do know that there is no greater thrill than one can get from reaching out and touching these great souls.”
Dr. Carver’s “boys,” whatever their field of service—science, education, missionary work—would tune in to their beloved friend at four o’clock during his daily conversation with Mr. Creator, and would often be flooded with divine joy—and with practical inspiration for their work for God.
Near the end of his life, Dr. Carver looked into the time ahead: “Last night as I rode to the auditorium I was holding a little white flower in my hand all the way, and in the silence while we rode, I was talking to it and it was talking to me. It told me some wonderful things. And the flowers have never failed to tell me the truth. It told me that there is going to be a great spiritual awakening in the world, and it is going to come from plain, simple people who know—not merely believe, but actually know—that God answers prayer.”
I looked at a flower,” Yoganandaji writes, “and prayed: suddenly, O Father, I beheld Thee hiding there. It exuded to me the perfume of Thy presence. I saw the blush of Thy purity coloring its petals. It was the gold of Thy wisdom that shone in its heart. Thine all-embracing, upholding power filled its delicate calyx. The mystery of life and immortality lay in the pollen—lifted by the bee when it tasted Thy sweetness. Oh teach me Thy wonders of Creation, which are hinted at in even the tiniest roadside weed.”
In divine friendship,
For Ananda’s “Thank You, God” Tithing