Most of my life I’ve suspected there was more to this world than meets the eye. Now, having lived a few years and done some close investigating, I know that the amount we cannot see or touch is simply staggering.
Yet in recent centuries in societies that trace their origins to Europe, the invisible power of life supporting all of visible nature has fallen out of favor. A retreat from spirit transformed that generous source of life from a power deserving reverence into a force to be controlled by human beings. God was banished from both nature and human reason.
Four hundred years ago there were good reasons for the exile—hopeful, liberating reasons. Reasons that had to do with people discovering grandeur and predictability in the natural world and coming to trust that natural order more than the God mediated by religious authorities.
But even hopeful developments can have unintended consequences. And the retreat from spirit has led over centuries not to greater respect for the natural world but to greater exploitation of it. Lopping God off the top of the authority pyramid has allowed powers of money or privilege to fill the void. The result, which we are living in today, is a world where the survival of life as we know it hangs in the balance.
At a time when we teeter on the brink of ecological disaster, people need spiritual resources for repairing human relations with the web of life. Yet of the four major religions followed by more than 75 percent of the world’s people—Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism—none focuses first and foremost on helping people back to center by helping them understand their place in the natural world. Each of these religions has the potential to do so, but none of them arose from that need. Some of them even forcefully suppressed the nature-based spiritualities of others, especially Indigenous peoples.
My first blog, This Lively Earth, often touched on themes of nature and spirituality. (Complete archives are here.) My book Kissed by a Fox: And Other Stories of Friendship in Nature (Counterpoint, 2012) continued the journey.
Here I want to go further. To be bold about spirituality in nature. To not concede the matter-spirit split of Western thought and instead start from a place where visible and invisible are joined. Nature-Spirit. All-That-Is, both seen and unseen. The whole view.
In this new blog, I hope to inspire reflection about nature and self and spirit. To show how nature spiritualities can support modern people. Even skeptical people. But I wish also to challenge skeptical materialism, not by dogmatically reasserting the existence of God, but by reaching toward other conceptions of the unseen altogether. Most of all, I hope to help bring nature spirituality out from its esoteric shadows into public view.
Modern people need nature spirituality. Right now—when the natural world is being eroded. We need spiritual resources precisely because the ecological crisis rests on a foundation of devaluing the less-tangible dimensions of life.
But we’re not the only ones who need nature spirituality. All our more-than-human neighbors need us to shift course as soon as we can. To revalue the generous cradle of life, the world that gave us birth. To measure our relationships with other Earth-creatures, not by numerical values of “ecosystem services,” but by how well we dance with our neighbors—how fully we reciprocate for their generous gifts, how much we enjoy their company, how carefully we restitch the fabric of life and retie the ties binding humans to all others.
Nature-Spirit. Down-to-Earth reflections on matters visible and invisible. I hope you’ll join me.