Digging Into Deep Ecology {Sacred, Spiritual Nature}

This quest for more insight into the spiritual realm of nature led me to Discussion Course on Exploring Deep Ecology, published by the Northwest Earth Institute, as a kind of study guide.

The central motivation in the lives of most proponents of deep ecology is a spiritual connection with nature. John Muir, best known for his efforts to save the redwoods, describes his path toward this connection: “I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out until sundown –  for going out, I discovered, was actually going in.” The more he explored, the more he realized the interconnectivity of this relationship. “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”

Rachael Carson, Silent Spring author, acknowledged the spiritual power in nature and maintained that humans have a moral obligation toward it. The careless destruction of mountains, forests, rivers, birds, and wildlife goes directly against this obligation, with no ethical justification behind it.

Naturalist Aldo Leopold, in writing of his native Wisconsin, perceived the world as an ecosystem like any other living beings, and not somehow more important. English scientist James Lovelock expanded on this theme with his own Gaian hypothesis {referring to the name Gaia, Goddess of the Earth}. According to him, the world is a living organism in which many species compose the whole. When humans live in harmony with the natural world, we all feel spiritually nourished. But when humans break this bond and exploit the planet’s natural resources, regardless of the long-term consequences, we lose that intimate connection with the Earth community, resulting in spiritual alienation.

Catholic priest and spiritual teacher Matthew Fox, in his book Resurgence, presents a quote from Meister Eckhart, German theologian from the Middle Ages: “You need a silent heart to listen to the wisdom of the wind and the wisdom of the trees and the wisdom of the waters and the soil. We have lost the sense of silence in our obsessively verbal culture.” And this was written in the early 1300’s. Fox also references quotes from Gregory Bateman’s book Steps to the Ecology of Mind, which allude to a consciousness of the Earth: “…the Earth has been keeping a ledger about the ozone layer, the pollution of the atmosphere, and the deforestation.” Bateson then analyzes the three main threats to human survival: technological progress, over-population, and errors in the values and attitudes of the Western culture.

Scientist and writer Fritjof Capra comment that deep ecological awareness recognizes the fundamental interdependence of everything.

All of us -individuals and cultures – are embedded in and dependent on the processes of nature.


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