Front Matter

      Half Title

      Associate Editors

      Assistant Editors

      Title Page

      Publisher Details


    Introducing Religion and Nature

    Religion and Nature Conundrums

    Defining Religion, Nature, and Nature Religion

    The Evolution of Interest in Religion and Nature

      Religion and Nature in the American Conservation Movement

      Religion and Nature from Seventeenth-Century Europe to the Environmental Age

      Religion and Nature in the Environmental Age

      World Religions and Environmentalism

      Nature Religions and Environmentalism

      Theories on the Natural Origins and Persistence of Religion

    Religion and Nature and the Future of Religion and Nature


    Acknowledgments and Description of the Genesis and Evolution of the Encyclopedia

    Reader’s Guide

    List of Contributors



    Abbey, Edward (1927–1989)

      Further Reading

    Aboriginal Art – Warlpiri

      Further Reading

    Aboriginal Dreaming (Australia)


      Caring for country



      Land is Law

      “White people ask us . . .”

      Past and future

      Further Reading

    Aboriginal Environmental Groups in Canada

      Further Reading

    Aboriginal Spirituality and the New Age in Australia

      Further Reading


      Further Reading

    Adams, Ansel (1902–1984)

      Further Reading

    Adams, Carol (1950–)

      Further Reading

    Aesthetics and Nature in China and Japan

      Chinese Aesthetics

      Japanese Aesthetics

      Further Reading (China)

      Further Reading (Japan)

    Aesthetics of Nature and the Sacred

      1. Natural Archetypes

      2. Sublime Nature

      3. Sacred Nature

      Further Reading

    African Earthkeeping Churches – Association of (Zimbabwe)

      Further Reading

    African Independent Churches (South Africa)

      Further Reading

    African Religions and Nature Conservation

      Further Reading

    Afrikaner Theology

      Further Reading


      Further Reading

    Albert the Great (ca. 1206–1280)

      Further Reading


      Further Reading

    Allen, Paula Gunn (1939–)

      Further Reading

    Alliance of Religion and Conservation (ARC)

      Further Reading

    Alpha Farm

      Further Reading

    Altars and Shrines

      Further Reading

    Altner, Günter (1936–)

      Further Reading


      Further Reading

    Amazonian Folktales

      Breakout Box: Mapinguari

      Further Reading

    American Indians as “First Ecologists”

      The Noble Indian in Nature

      The Skilled Woodcrafter

      The Ecological Indian from Earth Day to Today

      Further Reading

    Ammons, A.R. (1926–2001)

      Further Reading

    Amte, Baba (1914–)

      Further Reading

    Ananda Marga’s Tantric Neo-Humanism

      Further Reading


      Further Reading

    Anarcho-Primitivism and the Bible

      Further Reading

    Andean Traditions

      W’aka – The Pre-Colombian Andean Concept of the Sacred

      Andean Creation Myths

      Pacarinas – The Dawning Places of Andean People

      Andeans and the Living World

      Andean Strategies for Engaging Difference

      Andean Traditions Engage Christianity

      Andean Identity and Place

      The Living Mountains – The Sacred Center of Andean Life

      Further Reading

    Anima Mundi – The World Soul

      Further Reading

    Animal Liberation and Animal Rights

    Animal Liberation Front

    Animal Rights in the Jewish Tradition

      Rabbinic Theology

      Medieval Thought

      Modern Applications

      Further Reading


      Basic Tools and Conceptual Problems

        The Place of Inherited Conceptions



        Treatment of Other Animals

        Interlocking Oppressions

        Religions as Carriers of Views about Animals and their Habitat

        History of Scholarship on Religion and Animals

        Institutional Realities

      The World Religions



        The Abrahamic Traditions Generally




        Beyond the World Religions


      Further Reading

    Animals in African Legend and Ethiopian Scriptures

      Further Reading

    Animals in the Bible and Qur’an

      Further Reading


      History of Animism

      Evidence of Animism

      Consequences of Animism

      Further Reading

    Animism – A Contemporary Perspective

      Further Reading

    Animism – Humanity’s Original Religious Worldview

      Further Reading

    Anishnabeg Culture

      Further Reading

    Anthropic Principle

      Further Reading


      Further Reading

    Anthropology as a Source of Nature Religion

    Apocalypticism in Medieval Christianity

      Further Reading

      Further Reading

    Appiko Movement (India)

      Further Reading

    Aquinas, Thomas (1225?–1274)

      Further Reading


      Further Reading


      Further Reading

    Ariyaratne, Ahangamage Tudor (A.T.) (1931–)

      Further Reading

    Arrernte Increase Ceremonies (Central Australia)

      Further Reading


      Artistic Vision

      Sacred Geographies

      The Golden Section

      The Garden

      The Landscape in Painting

      The Earthwork

      Religious Landscapes as Architectonic Sites

      Art and Science

      UNESCO and the World Heritage List of Cultural Landscapes


      Further Reading

    Art of Living Foundation

      Human Values and Peace

      Spiritual Practices



        Breakout Box: Shankar, Sri Ravi on Consciousness, Nature, and the Art of Living

      Coming Together in Knowledge

      Service to Others

      Further Reading

    Asante Religion (Ghana)

      Inseparable Relationship with Nature

      Further Reading


      Further Reading


      Further Reading


      Further Reading

    Athavale, Pandurang Shastri (1920–)

      Further Reading


      Further Reading

    Au Sable Institute

      Further Reading

    Aurobindo, Sri (1872–1950)

      Further Reading


      Further Reading


      Further Reading

    Australian Poetry

      Further Reading


      Further Reading


      Further Reading

    Aztec Religion – Pre-Columbian

      1) Sacred Topography: From Mythic Origins to a New Center of the World

      2) Cosmology, Divination, and Calendar

      3) A Pantheon of Life-sustaining Forces and Divine Beings

      4) The Preservation of Nature Through Ritual and Sacrifice

      A Song of Sorrow – icnocuicatl

      5) Earth’s Vegetation, Plants and Flowers

      6) Underworld, Death and Tenochtitlan’s Final Destruction According to Aztec cosmology, all the “normal” dead – even the great kings – had to go to Mictlan, a subterranean place of unattractive afterlife with dark and rather frightening features. The inevitable destiny of this “mysterious land,” or “land of no return,” inspired many songs:

      Further Reading


    Back to the Land Movements

      Intellectual History


      Religious Resonances


      Historical and Sociological Dimensions

      Further Reading

    Bahá’í Faith

      Further Reading

    Bahá’í Faith and the United Nations

      Further Reading

    Bahuguna, Sunderlal (1927–)

      Further Reading

    Baltic Indigenous Religions

      Further Reading

    Bartholomew, Ecumenical Patriarch (1940–)

    Bartholomew in his own words

      Further Reading

    Bateson, Gregory (1904–1980)

      Further Reading

    Beat Generation Writers

      Further Reading

    Bennett, John G. (1897–1974)

      Further Reading

    Berman, Morris (1944–)

      Further Reading

    Berry, Thomas (1914–)

      Further Reading

      Breakout Box: SP Thomas Berry on Religion and Nature

    Berry, Wendell (1934–)

      Further Reading


      Further Reading

      Further Reading

    Biblical Foundations for Christian Stewardship

      Reciprocal Service Principle

      Earthkeeping Principle

      Fruitfulness Principle

      Sabbath Principle

      Peaceable Kingdom Principle

      Practice Principle

      Further Reading


      Further Reading

    Biocentric Religion – A Call for


      Further Reading

    Biodiversity and Religion in Equatorial Africa

      Further Reading

    Bioneers Conference


      Further Reading


      Further Reading

    Bioregionalism and the North American Bioregional Congress

      Further Reading

    Biosphere Reserves and World Heritage Sites

      Further Reading

    Birch, Charles (1918–)

      Further Reading

    Bishnoi (Rajasthan, India)

      Further Reading

    Bison Restoration and Native American Traditions

      Further Reading

    Black Elk (1863–1950)

      Further Reading

    Black Mesa (New Mexico)

      Further Reading

    Blackfoot Cosmos as Natural Philosophy

      Further Reading

    Blake, William (1757–1827)

      Further Reading

    Blavatsky, Helena Patrovna (1831–1891)

      Further Reading

    Boff, Leonardo (1938–)

      Further Reading

    Bohm, David (1917–1993)

      Further Reading

    Bon (Tibet)

      Further Reading

    Book of Nature

      Further Reading

    Boston Research Center for the 21st Century

      Further Reading

    Bougainville (Papua New Guinea)

      Further Reading

    Brazil and Contemporary Christianity

      Further Reading


      Western Breathwork: Holotropic Breathwork

      Breathwork Experiences

      Breathwork and Nature: Some Examples

      Further Reading

    Breeding and Contraception

      Further Reading


      Further Reading

    Britain (400–1100)

    Brook Farm

      Further Reading

      Further Reading

    Brower, David (1912–2000)

      Further Reading

    Brown, Vinson (1912–1991)

      Further Reading

    Buber, Martin (1878–1965)

      Further Reading


      Further Reading

    Buddhada¯sa Bhikkhu (1906–1993)

      Further Reading

    Buddhahood of Grasses and Trees

      Further Reading


      The Buddha and Early Buddhism

      Nature in the Biography of the Buddha

      Nature in Early Buddhism

      Postcanonical Developments in Mainstream Buddhism (“Hinayana” Schools)

      Early Indian Mahayana

      Further Reading

    Buddhism – East Asian

      Further Reading

    Buddhism – Engaged

      Further Reading

    Buddhism – North America

      Buddhist Environmental Philosophy

    Brief History

      Buddhist Environmental Activism


      Further Reading

    Buddhism – Tibetan

      Further Reading

    Burial Practices – Prehistoric

      Further Reading

    Burning Man

      Further Reading

    Burroughs, John (1837–1921)

      Further Reading

    Butala, Sharon (1940–)

      Further Reading


    California Institute of Integral Studies

      Further Reading

    Callenbach, Ernest (1929–)

    Callicott, J. Baird (1941–)

      Further Reading

    Campbell, Joseph (1904–1987)

      Further Reading


      Further Reading

    Canadian Nature Writing

      Further Reading

    Candomblé of Brazil

      Breakout Box: P Orixá Iroko

      Further Reading

      Further Reading

    Cannibalism – Paleolithic

      Further Reading

    Capra, Fritjof (1939–)

      Further Reading

    Caribbean Cultures

      Nature in Taino Myth and Ritual

      Christianity, Slavery, and Sugar

      Nature in Afro-Caribbean Religions


      Further Reading

    Carson, Rachel (1907–1964)

      Further Reading

    Cartesian Dualism

    Casas, Bartolomé de las (1485–1566)

      Further Reading

    Castaneda, Carlos (1925/31?–1998)

      Further Reading

    Cathedral Forests and the Felling of Sacred Groves

      Further Reading

    Cathedral of St. John the Divine

      Further Reading

    Caves – Sacred (Thailand)

      Further Reading

    Celestine Prophecy

      Humankind’s Destiny and the New Age

      Spiritual Consciousness Change and Biocultural Diversity

      Oracles, Intuitions, and Dreams

      Between the Times

      Further Reading

    Celtic Christianity

      Further Reading

    Celtic Spirituality

      Sources and Speculation

      Art and Artifacts

      Sacred Sites

      The Celtic Calendar

      Celtic Spirituality and Environmental Action


      Further Reading

    Centre for Human Ecology (Edinburgh, Scotland)

      Further Reading

    Cetacean Spirituality

      Further Reading


      Further Reading


      Further Reading

    Chaos, Creation and the Winter Garden

      Further Reading

    Chávez, César (1927–1993) – and the United Farm Workers

      Further Reading

    Chinese Environmentalism

      A Chinese Perception of Nature?

      Environmental NGOs and Chinese Religion

      Further Reading

    Chinese Traditional Concepts of Nature

      The Essentials of Chinese Religion

      Religion and Nature


      Conservation and the Impact of the West

      A Note on Chinese Religion

      Further Reading

    Chipko Movement

    Christ, Carol P. (1945–)

      Further Reading

      Further Reading

    Christian Art

      Further Reading

    Christian Camp Meetings

      Further Reading

    Christian Environmentalism in Kenya

      Further Readings

    Christian Fellowship Church (Solomon Islands)

      Further Reading

    A Christian Friend of the Earth

      Religious Basis for Environmental Stewardship

      The Great Creation

      Love Thy Neighbor

      What can religious organizations do about the environmental crisis?


    Christian Nature Writing

      Further Reading

    Christian Theology and the Fall

      Further Reading

    Christianity – Eastern versus Western

      Further Reading

    Christianity (1) – Introduction

      Further Reading

    Christianity (2) – Jesus

      What Would Jesus Drive?

    Christianity (3) – New Testament

      Synoptic Gospels

      The Gospel of John


      The Apostle Paul




      Further Reading

    Christianity (4) – Early Church (Fathers and Councils)

      Further Reading

    Christianity (5) – Medieval

      Further Reading

    Christianity (6a) – Roman Catholicism

      Further Reading

    Christianity (6b1) – Christian Orthodoxy

      Breakout Box: Eastern Orthodox Monasticism

        Further Reading

      Breakout Box: Orthodox Spirituality

        Further Reading

      Further Reading

    Christianity (6b2) – Greek Orthodox

      Further Reading

      Breakout Box: Common Declaration on the Environment: Common Declaration of John Paul II and The Ecumenical Patriarch His Holiness Bartholomew I

    Christianity (6c1) – Reformation Traditions (Lutheranism and Calvinism)

      Further Reading

    Christianity (6c2) – Calvin, John (1509– 1564) and the Reformed Tradition

      Breakout Box Begins: The Reformed Tradition in its Own Words John Calvin

      Jonathan Edwards

      Abraham Kuyper

      Further Reading

      Further Reading

    Christianity (6c3) – Anabaptist/Mennonite Traditions (Reformation Traditions)

      David Kline on Amish Agriculture

      Further Reading

      Further Reading

    Christianity (6c4) – Anglicanism

      Further Reading

    Christianity (6c5) – Methodism

      Further Reading

    Christianity (7a) – Theology and Ecology (Contemporary Introduction)

      Further Reading

    Christianity (7b) – Political Theology

      Further Reading

    Christianity (7c) – Liberation Theology

      Further Reading

    Christianity (7d) – Feminist Theology

      Further Reading

    Christianity (7e) – Creation Spirituality

      Further Reading

    Christianity (7f) – Process Theology


      Social Ethics


      Criticisms and Responses

      Further Reading

    Christianity (7g) – Womanism

      Further Reading

    Christianity (7h) – Natural Theology

      Further Reading

    Christianity (7i) – An Evangelical Perspective on Faith and Nature

      Further Reading

    Christianity (8) – Ecumenical Movement International

      Further Reading

    Christianity (9) – Christianity’s Ecological Reformation

      Further Reading

    Christianity and Animals

      Further Reading

    Christianity and Nature Symbolism

      Further Reading

    Christianity and Sustainable Communities

      Further Reading

    Christianity in Europe

      Further Reading


    Church of All Worlds

      Further Reading

    Church of Euthanasia

    Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

      Further Reading

    Church of Nazareth Baptists (KwaZuluNatal, South Africa)

      Further Reading

    Cihuacoatl – Aztec Snakewoman

      Further Reading

    Circle Sanctuary

      Further Reading

    Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies

    Cobb, John B., Jr. (1925–)

      Breakout Box Begins: SP The Making of an Earthist Christian

      Further Reading

      Further Reading

    Cognitive Ethology, Social Morality, and Ethics

      Further Reading

    Columbia River Watershed Pastoral Letter

      Further Reading

    Commons and Christian Ethics

      Historical Views

      Recent Christian Theological Evocations

      Further Reading

    Community Supported Agriculture

      Further Reading

    Complexity Theory

      Further Reading

    Composting substance. While Midler found in it her place in the universe, many environmentalists use it as a central symbol for the cycle of nature.


      Historical Development

      Major Thinkers and Texts

      Confucian Relationality and Nature

      Further Reading

    Confucianism and Environmental Ethics

      Further Reading de Bary, William Theodore and Irene Bloom, eds. Sources of Chinese Tradition, vol. 1. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999 (1960).

    Congo River Basin

      Further Reading

    Conservation Biology

      Further Reading

    Con-spirando Women’s Collective (Santiago, Chile)


      Further Reading

    Coronado, Rodney

    Corrington, Robert S. (1950–)

      Further Reading


      Religion, Ecology, and Cosmology among Indigenous and Traditional Cultures

      Cosmologies in a Globalized World


      Further Reading

    The Council of All Beings



      The Mourning


      Speaking for Other Life Forms

      Reflections and Applications

      Further Reading

    Covenant of the Unitarian Universalist Pagans

      Further Reading

    Cowboy Spirituality

      Further Reading

    Creation Myths of the Ancient World



      Greece and Rome

      Further Reading

    Creation Story in the Hebrew Bible

      Further Reading

    Creationism and Creation Science

      Further Reading

    Creation’s Fate in the New Testament

      Further Reading

    Creatures’ Release in Chinese Buddhism

      Further Reading

    Cronon, William

    Crop Circles

      Further Reading

    Cuero, Delfina (1900–1972)

      Further Reading

    Cusa, Nicholas of (1401–1464)

      Further Reading


      Further Reading


    Dalai Lama (1935–)

      Further Reading

    Daly, Mary (1928–)

      Further Reading


      Further Reading


      Table 1: Five Phases

      Correlative Thinking

      Nature in Daoist Community

      Nature and the Body

      Contemporary Daoist Cultivation


      Further Reading

    Darré, Walther (1895–1953)

      Further Reading

    Darwin, Charles (1809–1882)

      Darwin’s Views of Nature

      Darwin’s Religious Views

      General Reactions to Darwinism

      Religious Reactions to Darwinism

      Further Reading

    Death and Afterlife in Robinson Jeffers and Edward Abbey


      Further Reading

    Deep Ecology

      Further Reading

    Deep Ecology, Institute for

      Further Reading

    Deere, Phillip (1926–1985)

      Further Reading


      Further Reading

    Deloria, Vine, Jr. (1933–)

      Further Reading

    Delphic Oracle

      Further Reading


      Further Reading

    Depth Ecology

    Desana Indians (Northwest Amazon)

    Descartes, René (1596–1650) and the Problem of Cartesian Dualism

      Further Reading

    Desert Writers (Western United States)

      Further Reading

    Devi, Savitri (1905–1982)

      Further Reading

    Devils Tower, Mato Tipi, or Bear’s Lodge (Wyoming)

      Further Reading

    Dharma – Hindu

    Dharma and Moksha

      Further Reading


      Further Reading

    Diggers and Levellers

      The Diggers’ Song

      Further Reading

      Further Reading

    Dillard, Annie (1945–)

      Further Reading

    Diola (West Africa)

      Further Reading


      Further Reading


      Further Reading

    Disney Worlds at War

      Disneyland (California)

      Disney World (Florida)

      Disney Movies in the Animal Kingdom

      Disney Wars

      Further Reading

    Divine Waters of the Oru-Igbo (Southeastern Nigeria)

      The Mother Water Goddess in Igbo Cosmology

      Water Priesthood

      Owu, Agugu and Omerife, the Art and Ritual of Balancing People and Nature

      Sacred Groves

      Totem Animals and Other Creatures

      Behavioral Codes

      Further Reading

    Dogs in the Abrahamic Traditions

      Further Reading

    Dogs in the Islamic Tradition

    Dolphins and New Age Religion

      Further Reading

    Domanski, Don (1950–)

      Further Reading


      Further Reading

    Donga Tribe

      Further Reading

    Dragon Environmental Network (United Kingdom)

      Further Reading

    Druids and Druidry

      Further Reading

    Drums and Drumming

      Further Reading


      SP Dualism – A Perspective

      Further Reading

    Dualist Heresies

      The Cathars

      Later Developments of Dualism

      Further Reading


    Earth Bible

    Breakout Section: Eco-justice Hermeneutics

    Breakout Section: Heavenism

    Earth Charter

      Further Reading

    Earth First! and the Earth Liberation Front

      Earth First!

      The Earth Liberation Front


      Further Reading

    Earth Liberation Front

    Earth Ministry

      Further Reading

    Earth Mysteries

      Further Reading

    EarthSpirit Community

      Further Reading


      Further Reading


      Further Reading

    Ecofeminism and Biblical Interpretation

      Further Reading

    Ecofeminism – Historic and International Evolution

      Further Reading

    Eco-justice in Theology and Ethics

      Stepping into an Ecumenical Stream

      Coordinated Environmental Engagement by U.S. Churches In the United States the ecumenical environmental response has involved five emphases:

      Cultivating quality Eco-theology and Ethics

      Fostering sustainable food systems and lifestyles

      Advocating responsible energy and climate change policies

      Community organizing for environmental justice

      Developing leadership for earth community ministry

      Concluding Observations

      Further Reading


      Further Reading


    Ecological Anthropology

      Further Reading

    Ecology and Religion

      Further Reading


      Further Reading


      Further Reading


      Further Reading


      Further Reading

    Ecosophy T

      Further Reading [supplied by editors]

    ECOtherapy (by Hans Andeweg & Rijk Bols)


      Further Reading

    Ecotopian Reflections

    Ecotopia – The European Experience

      Further Reading

    Eden and other Gardens

      Further Reading

    Eden’s Ecology

      Further Reading

    Egypt – Ancient

      Further Reading

    Egypt – Pre-Islamic

      Further Reading

    Ehrenfeld, David (1938–)

      Further Reading

    Ehrlich, Gretel (1946–)

      Further Reading

    Einstein, Albert (1879–1955)

      Further Reading

    Eiseley, Loren (1907–1977)

      Further Reading

    Eisler, Riane (1931–)

      Further Reading


      Further Reading

    Eleventh Commandment Fellowship

      Further Reading

    Eliade, Mircea (1907–1986)

      Further Reading

    Ellul, Jacques (1912–1994)

      Further Reading

    Elves and Land Spirits in Pagan Norse Religion

      Further Reading

    Emerson, Ralph Waldo (1803–1882)

      Further Reading

    Emissaries of Divine Light

      Further Reading


      Further Reading

    Environmental Ethics

      From Leopold to Earth Day

      Environmental Ethics beyond the First Earth Day (1970)

        Ecocentrism and Deep Ecology become focal points of debate

      Animal Welfare Ethics add to the ferment

      Environmental Ethics Debates from Earth Day 1980 and Beyond

      1) Ecofeminism

      2) Social philosophy

      3) The social construction of nature

      4) Science and religious environmental ethics

      5) The relationship between environmental values and practices


      Further Reading

    Environmental History

    Environmental Justice and Environmental Racism

      Further Reading

    Environmental Sabbath

      Further Reading

    Epic of Evolution

      Breakout Box Begins: P Epic Ritual

      Further Reading

      Further Reading

    Esalen Institute

      Further Reading

    Estés, Clarissa Pinkola (1945–)

      Further Reading

    Ethics and Sustainability Dialogue Group


      Further Reading


      Further Reading

    Etsheni Sacred Stones

      Further Reading

    Evangelical Environmental Network

      Further Reading

    Evola, Julius (1898–1974)

      Further Reading

    Evolutionary Biology, Religion, and Stewardship

      Further Reading

    Evolutionary Evangelism

      Further Reading

    Explorer Petroglyphs (Western United States)

      Further Reading


    Faerie Faith in Scotland

      Further Reading

      Breakout Section: The Rotting Tree Faerie

      The Fall

      Further Reading

    The Family (Children of God)

      Further Reading

    Fantasy Literature

      Further Reading

    The Farm

      Further Reading


      Conceptual Problems and Premises

      Samples of Fascism’s Specious Affinity with a Religion of Nature

      The Dance of Shiva

      Further Reading

    Fauna Cabala


      Dung Beetles



      Garden Snails

      Fairy Wrens



    Feminist Spirituality Movement

      Further Reading


      Further Reading


      Further Reading

    Fertility and Abortion

      Religion Defined

    Fertility as Blessing or Blight

      How Many is Too Much?

      Family Planning and Religion

      Further Reading

    Fertility and Secularization


      Contrasting Theories

      Empirical Evidence

      Table 1: Religion and Fertility in the US General Social Survey


      Further Reading

    Findhorn Foundation/Community (Scotland)

      Dorothy Maclean (1920–)

      Further Reading

      Further Reading


      The Primal Worship of Fire

      Ceremonial Fires

      Fire as Divine Manifestation

      The Fire of Heaven and Hell

      Fire as Purgatory and Apocalypse

      Fire and Religion

      Further Reading


      Supernatural beliefs and reason in the pursuit of fish

      Resource management, conservation, and fishing

      Further Reading

    Fisk, Pliny (1944–)

      Further Reading


    Fly Fishing the rural economy.

      Further Reading

      Further Reading

    Foreman, Dave

    Forum on Religion and Ecology

    Fox, Matthew (1940–)

      Further Reading

    Francis of Assisi (ca. 1181–1226)

      Further Reading

    Frazer, Sir James

    Freeport (West Papua, Indonesia)

      Further Reading

    Freud, Sigmund (1856–1939)

      Further Reading

    Friends – Religious Society of (Quakers)

      Further Reading

    Friends of the Earth


      Further Reading


      Further Reading

    Fuller, Buckminster (1895–1983)

      Further Reading



      Further Reading

    Gaia Foundation and Earth Community Network

      Further Reading

    Gaian Mass

      Further Reading

    Gaian Pilgrimage

      Further Reading

    Gandhi, Mohandas (1869–1948)

      Further Reading

    Gardening and Nature Spirituality

      Further Reading

      Gardens in Islam

      Further Reading

    Gebara, Ivone (1944–)

      Further Reading

    Genealogy and Spiritualities of Place (Australia)

      Further Reading

    Genesis Farm

      Further Reading


      Further Reading


      Further Reading

    Ghost Dance

      Further Reading

      Gimbutas, Marija (1921–1994)

      Further Reading

    Glacken, Clarence James (1909–1989)

      Further Reading


      Further Reading


      Further Reading

    G-O Road (Northern California)

      Further Reading

    Goddesses – History of

      Further Reading

    Golden Dawn

      Further Reading

    Goodall, Jane (1934–)

      Further Reading

    Gordon, Aharon David (1856–1922)

      Further Reading

    Gore, Albert Jr.

    Gorman, Paul


      Further Reading

    Graves, Robert von Ranke (1895–1985)

      Further Reading

    Greco-Roman World

      Archaic and Classical Age (Eighth–Fourth Century B.C.E.)


      Early Greek philosophers, sophists, and scientists (sixth–fifth century B.C.E.)

      Plato and Aristotle

      Hellenistic Times (Third–First Century B.C.E.)

      Hellenistic literature

      Philosophy – Stoics

      Philosophy – Epicureans


      Imperial Times (First Century B.C.E.–Second Century C.E.)




      Late Antiquity (Second Century–Sixth Century)




      Further Reading

    Greece – Classical

      Further Reading

    Greek Landscape

      Further Reading

    Greek Paganism

      Further Reading

    Green Death Movement

      Further Reading

    Green Man

      Further Reading

    Green Politics

      Further Reading

    Green Sisters Movement

      Further Reading


      Further Reading

    Griffin, Susan (1943–)

      Further Reading

    Grim, John

    Grof, Christina and Stanislov

    Gulen, Fethullah (1938–)

      Further Reading

    Gurdjieff, Georges Ivanovitch (1866?–1949)

      Further Reading

    Gush Emunim

      The Sacrality of the Land

      The Full Biblical Patrimony

      Further Reading


    Haeckel, Ernst (1834–1919)

      Further Reading

    Hardy, Thomas (1840–1928)

      Further Reading

    Harjo, Joy (1951–)

      Further Reading

    Harmonic Convergence

      Further Reading

    Harmonic Convergence and the Spiritualization of the Biosphere

      Further Reading

    Harmony in Native North American Spiritual Traditions

      Further Reading

    Harner, Michael – and the Foundation for Shamanic Studies

      Further Reading

    Harris, Marvin (1927–2001)

      Further Reading

    Hasidism and Nature Mysticism

      Further Reading

    Haudenosaunee Confederacy

      Further Reading


      Further Reading

    Heathenry – Ásatrú

      Breakout Box: Seidr

      Further Reading

      Further Reading

    Hebrew Bible

      Further Reading

    Hegel, G.W. Friedrich (1770–1831)

      Further Reading

    Heidegger, Martin (1889–1976)

      Further Reading

    Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179)

      Further Reading



      Early Sanskrit Texts



      Ages of Time

      Dharma and Artha Texts and Practices as Environmental Resources

      Aspects of Nature

      Sacred Animals

      Sacred Mountains and Rivers

      Sacred Forests, Trees, and Groves

      The Eight Cardinal Directions and Building Structures

      Planets and Stars

      Hindu Philosophical Systems

      Liberation of the Soul Is through its Extrication from Primordial Matter


      Theological Resources for Social Problems

      Environmental Activism in the Contemporary Period

      Women and Contemporary Environmental Action

      Indian Classical Dance and Environmental Action

      Further Reading

    Hinduism and Pollution

      River Ganga and the Clean Ganga Campaign

      Further Reading

      Further Reading


      Further Reading

    Hogan, Linda (1947–)

      Further Reading


      Further Reading


      Further Reading

    The Holocaust and the Environmental Crisis

    Holy Land in Native North America

      The White Man’s Law and the Sacred

      Further Reading

      Breakout Box: Homosexuality

      Breakout Box: SP Homosexuality and Science

        Further Reading

      Further Reading


    Hopi–Navajo Land Dispute


      Life and Land

      The Religious Factor: Hopi

      The Religious Factor: Navajo

      The Dispute and Relocation


      Further Reading

    Hopiland to the Rainforest Action Network

    From West Virginia to Hopiland

      The Hopi

      Hopiland as my Seed Time

      From Hopiland to the Rainforest Action Network

      Further Reading

    Hopkins, Gerard Manley (1844–1889)

      Further Reading


      World Creation and Predatory Forces

      Hunting and Shamanism

      Palm Groves and Natural Abundance

      Socio-cosmologies and Value Systems

      Further Reading

    Hudson River School Painters

    Hundredth Monkey

      Monkeys in the Field

      Further Reading

      Further Reading

      Hunting and the Origins of Religion


      The Hunter and the Prey

      Religion as a Consequence of the Hunt

      The Battle for Life and Death

      Further Reading

    Hunting Spirituality

      Further Reading

    Hunting Spirituality and Animism

      Further Reading

    Huxley, Aldous (1894–1963)

      Further Reading

    Hyenas – Spotted

      Further Reading


    Ibn Al-cArabi, Shaykh Muhyiddin (1165– 1240)

      Further Reading

    Ifá Divination

      Further Reading


      Further Reading


      Further Reading

      Indian Classical Dance

      Further Reading

    Indian Guides

      Further Reading

    Indian Shaker Religion

      Further Reading

    India’s Sacred Groves

      Table: Multiple reasons for sanctity of natural elements.

      Further Reading

    Indigenous Activism and Environmentalism in Latin America

      Further Reading

    Indigenous Environmental Network

      Guiding Principles

      The Need for Indigenous Organizing

      History of U.S. Indigenous Peoples and Colonization

      Biological Diversity and Indigenous Languages

      Clash in Sustaining Values

      Building Sustainable Communities

      Reevaluating Our Relationship to Our Sacred Mother Earth

      Indigenous Peoples Working Internationally

      Indigenous Peoples and the United Nations’ “World Summit on Sustainable Development”

      Indigenous Peoples Will Continue to Seek Global Transformation

      All My Relations

      Further Reading

    Indigenous Religions and Cultural Borrowing

      Further Reading

    Indra’s Net

      Further Reading

    Institute of Noetic Sciences

    Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility

    Interfaith Council for Environmental Stewardship

      Further Reading


      Further Reading


      Celtic Christianity and Celtic Culture

      Celtic Christianity and Brehon Law

      Protestant Ascendancy and the Land

      Religion, Gender and Nationalism

      Republic to Present

      Further Reading

    Ishimure, Michiko (1927–)

      Further Reading


      Further Reading

    Islam and Eco-Justice

      Tawhid Principle and the Environment

      The Moral Burdens/Dilemma of Human Viceregency

      Paths to Resolving the Moral Dilemma

      Population in Islamic Ecological Thought

      Summary and Conclusion

      Further Reading

    Islam and Environmental Ethics

      Further Reading

    Islam and Environmentalism in Iran

      Non-Government Organizations

      Women’s Involvement

      ENGOs and the Government

      Further Reading

    Islam and Post-Anthropocentrism

      Further Reading

    Islam, Animals, and Vegetarianism

      Further Reading

    Islam on Man and Nature

      Humankind – A Special Creation

      The Hadith and Shari’a on Man and Nature

      Further Reading

      Position – As an Inheritor or Viceregent


      To seek knowledge

      To ward off evil by good deeds

      To do justice

      To establish balance

      To improve the society

      Nature – An Islamic Perspective

      Natural Resources

      Equitable Distribution

      Judicious Use



      Further Reading

    Islamic Basis for Environmental Protection

      The Ethical Foundations of the Qur’an

      Tawhid – The Unity Principle

    Fitrah – The Creation Principle

      Mizan – The Balance Principle

      Khalifa – The Responsibility Principle

      Institutions and Accountability

      Further Reading

    Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences

    Islamic Foundation for Science and Environment

    Islamic Law

      Further Reading

    Israel and Environmentalism

      Environmental History Prior to the Foundation of Modern Israel

      The Establishment of Israel, Rapid Development and Nature Protection

      Pollution in the Holy Land

      Religion and the Environmental Movement in Israel

    Izzi Dien, Mawil Y. (1948–)

      Further Reading

      Further Reading

Front Matter

Half Title

The Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature

Associate Editors

David Landis Barnhill University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

Christopher Key Chapple Loyola Marymount University

Richard C. Foltz University of Florida

Matthew Glass University of Guelph Canada

Rebecca Kneale Gould Middlebury College

Graham Harvey The Open University United Kingdom

Lois Ann Lorentzen University of San Francisco

Anna Peterson University of Florida

Sarah M. Pike

California State University, Chico

Lynn Ross-Bryant University of Colorado

Leslie E. Sponsel University of Hawai’i

Graham St John University of Queensland Australia

Kocku von Stuckrad University of Amsterdam The Netherlands

Sarah McFarland Taylor Northwestern University

Garry W. Trompf University of Sydney Australia

Assistant Editors

Sigurd Bergmann

Norwegian University of Science and Technology


Penelope S. Bernard Rhodes University South Africa

Lisle Dalton Hartwick College

Rosalind Hackett University of Tennessee

Harry Hahne

Golden Gate Theological Seminary

Sian Hall

Rhodes University South Africa

Knut A. Jacobsen University of Bergen Norway

Arne Kalland University of Oslo Norway

Laurel Kearns Drew University

Vasilios N. Makrides University of Erfurt Germany

Timothy Miller University of Kansas

James A. Nash

Boston University School of Theology

Celia Nyamweru

St Lawrence University

Terry Rey

Florida International University

David Seidenberg Maon Study Circle

Title Page

The Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature

Bron R. Taylor


The University of Florida

Jeffrey Kaplan

Consulting Editor

The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

Executive Editors

Laura Hobgood
Oster Southwestern University
Austin, Texas

Adrian Ivakhiv
University of Vermont
Burlington, Vermont

Michael York
Bath Spa University
Bath, United Kingdom

Thoemmes Continnum
A Continuum imprint
London – New York

Publisher Details

First published in 2005 by
Thoemmes Continuum 11 Great George Street Bristol BS1 5RR, England

The Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature 2 Volumes: ISBN 1 84371 138 9

Thoemmes Continuum, 2005

British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data

A CIP record of this title is available from the British Library

Typeset in Rotis Serif and Rotis Sans by RefineCatch Ltd, Bungay, Suffolk.

Printed and bound in the UK by Antony Rowe Ltd. This book is printed on acid-free paper, sewn, and cased in a durable buckram cloth.


Introducing Religion and Nature

What are the relationships between human beings, their diverse religions, and the Earth’s living systems?

The question animating this encyclopedia can be simply put. The answers to it, however, are difficult and complex, intertwined with and complicated by a host of cultural, environmental, and religious variables. This encyclopedia represents an effort to explore this question in a way that illuminates these relationships without oversimplifying the dynamic relations between human beings, their religions, and the natural environment.

This introduction and the “readers guide” that follows it provide a map to this terrain. The introduction explains the questions that gave rise to this project, describes the approach taken and rationale for editorial judgments made along the way, spotlights some of the volume’s most important entries, and speculates about the future of nature-related religion as well as the increasingly interdisciplinary scholarly field that has emerged to track it. The “Readers Guide,” located after this introduction, should not be missed, for it describes the different types of entries included in the encyclopedia and explains how to use it.

Religion and Nature Conundrums

In the second half of the twentieth century, as environmental alarm grew and intensified, so did concern about the possible role of religion in nature. Much of this concern has involved a hope for a “greening” of religion; in other words, it envisioned religion promoting environmentally responsible behavior. So fervent has this preoccupation become that, since the early 1970s, “green” has become a synonym for “environmental” in its original adjectival form, and it has now also mutated into verb and adverb, regularly deployed to signal environmentally protective action. Indeed, the term “green” will be used throughout these volumes to convey environmental concern, awareness, or action.

Curiosity regarding the relationships between human culture, religion, and the wider natural world, however, goes far beyond the question as to whether religions are naturally green, turning green, or herbicidal. The kinds of questions that arise from the nexus of religion and nature are many and diverse – but they have not always been in scholarly focus, a fact that this encyclopedia seeks to remedy.

In the Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature (ERN) we set forth a dozen analytical categories, both while pursuing entries and while guiding contributors, hoping this would arouse discussion and debate in a number of areas that had received too little critical scrutiny. Additionally, the aim was to foster a more nuanced analysis in areas that had already drawn significant attention. We asked prospective writers to illuminate the following questions, grouped into a dozen analytical categories, to the fullest extent possible, given their relevance to the specific subject matter in focus:

1. How have ecosystems shaped human consciousness, behavior, and history, in general, and religions and their environment-related behaviors in particular, if they have?

2. What are the perceptions and beliefs of the world’s religions toward the Earth’s living systems in general and toward individual organisms in particular? In what ways have these traditions promoted ecologically beneficent or destructive lifeways? Are some religions intrinsically greener than others?

3. Are religions being transformed in the face of growing environmental concern, and if so, how? To what extent do expressed beliefs about duties toward nature cohere with behaviors toward it?

4. Do various religions have internal and external resources for, or barriers to, the kind of transformations that are widely considered necessary if humans are to achieve ecologically sustainable societies? If they can be, what are the effective ways in which greener religions have been and can be encouraged?

5. How are various and different religions, from old and established to new and emergent, influencing one another as people struggle to address – and to make sense of – their environmental predicaments? How are contemporary environmental understandings influencing religion? Are ecological understandings more influential on religions than the other way around?

6. To what extent (if at all) can contemporary environmental movements be considered religious? If they are religious, should we consider all of the resourcerelated conflicts in which they are engaged to be religious struggles?

7. What are the reciprocal influences between nature and religion in interhuman conflict and violence? Does natural resource scarcity play a significant role in this regard, intensifying conflicts and the likelihood of religion-and-nature-related violence? Yet more specifically, what are the reciprocal influences between apocalyptic or millenarian religions, and environmental sciences, which are producing increasingly alarming prognostications?

8. What are the relationships among religious ideas, breeding, and population growth and decline? How is this related to other questions listed here?

9. How are the sciences integrated into contemporary nature-related religion and ethics? Is it possible for religions to consecrate scientific narratives, such as evolution, in such a way as to invent religions with no supernatural dimension? If so, can we still call such worldviews and perceptions religious?

10. With regard to nature religions, here defined as religions that consider nature to be sacred: What are the “spiritual epistemologies,” the perceptions in nature, the sources and cultural constructions, which have shaped them? And how and to what extent are political ideologies integrated into the nature-religion stew?

11. What are the impacts of “globalization” on naturerelated religion and behavior; specifically, what are the processes, pathways, and limits to crossfertilization within and among different religions and regions in our increasingly interconnected world? Are there any patterns or tendencies emerging globally in contemporary Earth-related spirituality and religion?

12. If, indeed, there are patterns and tendencies, how are the people involved in nature-related religion and spiritualities reshaping not only the religious terrain, but also the political and ecological landscape around the world?

Readers interested in such questions should find much of interest in these volumes.

The remainder of this introduction explores the emerging fields related to religion and nature that have variously been dubbed “religion and ecology,” “ecological anthropology,” “cultural ecology,” and “environmental history.” The discussion of these fields and subfields includes several dimensions:

1. It provides and examines working definitions for terms that were critical to the framing of the project, including “religion,” “nature,” and “nature religion.”

2. It explores the genesis and evolution of interest in “religion and nature,” both among religionists and scholars. This section focuses first on the American Conservation Movement, and secondly on seventeenth-century Europe and on developments up to the Environmental Age (shorthand in this introduction for the age of environmental awareness that emerged forcefully in the 1960s). It then spotlights the religion and nature debates during this period, including developments among “world religions,” “nature religions,” and in theories purporting to explain the natural origins and persistence of religion.

3. A concluding section overviews some of the ways in which this encyclopedia begins to address the future of religion, nature, and the understandings of these relationships.

Defining Religion, Nature, and Nature Religion

From the beginning of this project, the objective has been to encourage robust debate and to explore the widest possible range of phenomena related to the relationships between religion, nature, and culture. This leads inevitably to the very beginnings of the scholarly study of religion, for long and lively debates regarding what constitutes religion have often been deeply connected to discussions about the role nature plays in it. Because even this definitional terrain has been contested, in constructing this encyclopedia the aim has been to avoid excluding by definitional fiat some of the very phenomena and perspectives that are under discussion. Despite this reluctance to impose a definition of religion on the overall endeavor, however, any study has to be guided by a consistent set of standards and has to be clear about its subject matter. This terminological section, therefore, explains the operational definition of religion that has informed the construction of these volumes. It also clarifies other terms critical for this study, such as “spirituality,” “nature,” and “nature religion.”

One reason for this terminological interlude is that in contemporary parlance, people increasingly replace the term “religion” with “spirituality” when trying to express what moves them most deeply. Nowhere is the preference for the term “spirituality” over “religion” more prevalent than among those engaged in nature-based or naturefocused religion.

A number of scholars have noted and sought to understand the distinction between the terms spirituality and religion, and the preference many contemporary people express for the former over the latter. In one seminal study, the sociologist of religion Wade Clark Roof found that for many, “to be religious conveys an institutional connotation [while] to be spiritual . . . is more personal and empowering and has to do with the deepest motivations in life” (Roof 1993: 76–7). A number of subsequent empirical studies supported Roof’s analysis and found ample evidence that many people understood the distinction as Roof had described it and considered themselves spiritual but not religious. In survey research conducted by Daniel Helminiak, for example, 19 percent of respondents called themselves spiritual. For these people, religion “implies a social and political organization with structures, rules, officials, [and] dues [while] spirituality refers only to the sense of the transcendent, which organized religions carry and are supposed to foster” (Helminiak 1996: 33). Another study similarly found that “religiousness is increasingly characterized as ‘narrow and institutional,’ and spirituality . . . as ‘personal and subjective’ ” (Zinnbauer et al. 1997: 563).

The distinction between religion as “organized” and “institutional” and spirituality as involving one’s deepest moral values and most profound life experiences is probably the most commonly understood difference between the two terms. But there are additional idea clusters that often are more closely associated with spirituality than religion; and these ideas tend to be closely connected with nature and a sense of its value and sacredness.

Given its commonplace connection with environmental concerns, when considering nature-related religion, it is important to include what some people call spirituality. This is not to say that scholars and other observers must maintain the same understanding of the distinction between spirituality and religion that has emerged in popular consciousness. Most of those who consider themselves to be spiritual can be considered religious by an external observer, for they generally believe that life has meaning and that there is a sacred dimension to the universe.

Some argue that religion requires belief in divine beings and supernatural realities, however, and insist that even profoundly meaningful experiences and strong moral commitments cannot count as religion in the absence of such beliefs. An entry on the “Anthropology of Religion” by Jonathan Z. Smith and William Scott Green in The HarperCollins Dictionary of Religion asserts, for example, that religion is best defined as “a system of beliefs and practices that are relative to superhuman beings” (1995: 893). They argue that such a restrictive definition is best because it “moves away from defining religion as some special kind of experience or worldview” and excludes “quasi-religious religious movements” such as Nazism, Marxism, or Nationalism (1995: 893–4).

While the desire to exclude such movements as religions is understandable, to strictly enforce this definition would be unduly restrictive. It would eliminate some forms of Buddhism, for example, as well as a wide variety of people who consider themselves to be deeply spiritual and who regularly rely on terms like “the sacred” to describe their understanding of the universe or their places in it, but who do not believe in divine beings or supernatural realities. In short, such a restrictive definition of religion would preclude consideration of much naturerelated religiosity.

By way of contrast, the framing of this encyclopedia was influenced more by religion scholar David Chidester’s reflections on the sometimes violent debates and struggles over understandings and definitions of religion. Chidester acknowledges that some working definition of religion is required for its study. But he also argues that because the term “religion has been a contested category, a single, incontestable definition of religion cannot simply be established by academic fiat” (Chidester 1996b: 254). He proposes, instead, a self-consciously vague definition: religion is “that dimension of human experience engaged with sacred norms” (1987: 4).

Chidester acknowledges that some will consider such a definition not only vague but circular, but contends that vagueness can be an asset when trying to understand the diversity of religion. Vagueness is certainly a virtue when studying nature-related religion, partly because there are so many forms of it. Circularity may be inevitable. Chidester asserts, “A descriptive approach to the study of religion requires a circular definition of the sacred: Whatever someone holds to be sacred is sacred.” He concludes that the task of religious studies, therefore, “is to describe and interpret sacred norms that are actually held by individuals, communities, and historical traditions” (1987: 4). This encyclopedia is premised similarly, for to adopt a more restrictive definition would exclude a variety of actors who regularly deploy metaphors of the sacred to describe their deepest spiritual and moral convictions. Moreover, some substantive definitions of religion (which specify things that constitute religion, such as myths, beliefs in divine beings, symbols, rites and ethics) as well as functional ones (which describe how religions operate and influence and/or are influenced by nature and culture), create restrictive lenses that make it impossible for them to apprehend some forms of nature spirituality. So to adopt such definitions would preclude from discussion much of what The Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature set out to illuminate.

Filling out further his understanding of religion as an engagement with the sacred, however this is understood, Chidester adds, what people hold to be sacred tends to have two important characteristics: ultimate meaning and transcendent power . . . Religion is not simply a concern with the meaning of human life, but it is also an engagement with the transcendent powers, forces, and processes that human beings have perceived to impinge on their lives (1987: 4).

Such a flexible understanding of religion provides a good starting point for this encyclopedia’s inquiry into the connections between nature, religion, and culture. The only part of Chidester’s definition that we might need occasionally to set aside is the nebulous term “transcendent” – at least if this evokes a sense of something supernatural or somehow beyond the observable and sensible world – for much nature-based spirituality involves a perception of the sacred as immanent.

From the outset, then, an open operational definition, adapted from Chidester’s, has informed the construction of this encyclopedia. It understands religion as “that dimen- sion of human experience engaged with sacred norms, which are related to transformative forces and powers and which people consider to be dangerous and/or beneficent and/or meaningful in some ultimate way.” For many, this meaningfulness and the sacred norms associated with it have much to do with nature. And nature itself, another problematic term that also has inspired robust discussion, can be for our purposes understood simply: Nature is that world which includes – but at the same time is perceived to be largely beyond – our human bodies, and which confronts us daily with its apparent otherness.

With such minimalist definitions of religion and nature in mind, how then are we to understand them when they are combined into the term “nature religion”? Here also there is no scholarly consensus, as illustrated in the entry on NATURE RELIGION itself, as well as in my own entry on “Nature Religion” in The Encyclopedia of Religion (Taylor 2005). (Encyclopedia entries mentioned in this introduction are indicated by SMALL CAPITAL LETTERS, as in the previous sentence.) But in contemporary parlance there does seem to be a strong tendency to define as nature religion any religiosity that considers nature to be sacred (extraordinarily powerful in both dangerous and beneficial ways) and worthy of reverent care. This is the simple definition that I will employ in this introduction as shorthand for what I have sometimes called “nature-as-sacred” religion.

This encyclopedia’s contributors have not, however, been bound to my own usage of the term in this introduction. Catherine Albanese, for example, in NATURE RELIGION IN THE UNITED STATES, which builds upon her influential book Nature Religion in America (1990), understands the term more broadly. For Albanese, nature religion is a trope for all religious phenomena in which nature is an important religious symbol or conceptual resource, whether or not nature is considered sacred. Careful readers will be alert to the different ways contributors in this encyclopedia may use the same terminology.

In sum, the definitions that shaped the construction of this encyclopedia, and this introduction and reader’s guide, were adopted for strategic reasons. The aim in finding simple and inclusive definitions of “religion” and “nature” has been to invite the widest variety of perspectives to engage the meaning and relationships that inhere to the human religious encounter with nature. The aim in defining nature religion as “nature-as-sacred” religion (in this introduction only) has been to distinguish it from “the natural dimension of religion,” an apt phrase borrowed from Albanese that I use to represent the entire “religion and nature” or “religion and ecology” field (Albanese

1990: 6). Understanding this wider, natural dimension of religion is certainly as important as understanding religions that consider nature to be sacred. The rest of this introduction and the diversity of entries that follow make this clear.

The Evolution of Interest in Religion and Nature

This overview of the genesis and evolution of interest in religion and nature covers a lot of territory and is necessarily selective. While impressionistic, it does describe the major trends and tendencies characteristic of the religion and nature discussion. It is divided into three sections.

The first section is focused on the United States between the mid-nineteenth century and the age of environmentalism which, despite the presence of conservationists and conservation thinkers before this period, cannot be said to have arrived until the 1960s. This section introduces the important role that differing perspectives on religion and nature played in the rise of environmentalism globally. The second section focuses on the evolution of nature and religion-related thinking among intellectuals, especially since the seventeenth century in Europe, and it follows these streams into the 1960s. This section explores the ways “nature religions” were understood before and after the Darwinian revolution, and suggests some ways in which evolutionary theory transformed the religion and nature debate, both for intellectuals and wider publics. Introducing these two streams sets the stage for an introduction to the perspectives and debates surrounding religion and nature during the age of environmentalism. Taken together, this overview illuminates trends that are likely to continue and thus it poses questions about the future of religion and nature.

Religion and Nature in the American Conservation Movement

When analyzing the ways and reasons people have thought about the relationships between religion and nature, it is wise to consider not only the cultural, but also the environmental context. This is certainly true when we examine the emergence of the conservation movement, and its intersections with perspectives on religion and nature.

By the mid-nineteenth century, largely for building construction and the production of “pig iron,” deforestation in the United States had begun to evoke environmental alarm. This led to a survey in the Federal Census of 1880 that documented the dramatic decline of American forests. Meanwhile, the fossil-fuel age had begun with the first pumping of petroleum from the ground in 1859

(by Edwin L. Drake in Pennsylvania) and the invention of practical and useful twoand four-stroke internal combustion engines in Europe (in 1875 and 1876). These developments led to the automobile age, which for all practical purposes began in 1885.

The invention of the internal combustion motor was accompanied by a dramatic increase in self-conscious reflection on the role that religion plays in shaping environments. This occurred in no small part because the alteration (and degradation) of the world’s environments intensified and accelerated rapidly as humans developed and wielded ever-more powerful petroleum-fueled power tools as they reshaped ecosystems and their own, built environments.

Not coincidentally, this was also a period when ROMANTICISM and other nature-related spiritualities, birthed first in Europe, as well as the modern conservation movement, were germinating on American ground. The artist Frederick Edwin Church, for example, painted “Twilight in the Wilderness” (1860) inspiring the so-called Hudson School and generations of painters and later photographers (see ART), including the twentieth-century photographer ANSEL ADAMS, who depicted the sublime that he found in the American landscape. The American naturalist and political writer HENRY DAVID THOREAU, who was also a leading figure in the religious movement known as TRANSCENDENTALISM, wrote Walden in 1854. He included in it a now-famous aphorism, “in wildness is the preservation of the world” and believed that nature not only has intrinsic value but provides the source of spiritual truth. Thoreau kindled the WILDERNESS RELIGION that found fertile ground in America and provided a spiritual basis for conservation. In The Maine Woods (1864) Thoreau called for the establishment of national forest preserves, helping to set the stage for the National Park movement and the BIOSPHERE RESERVES AND WORLD HERITAGE SITES that would follow. In that very year, the American President Abraham Lincoln protected California’s spectacular Yosemite Valley, which eventually expanded in size and became one of the world’s first national parks.

Thoreau influenced JOHN MUIR, the Scottish-born nature mystic who, after growing up on a Wisconsin farm and hiking to the Gulf of Mexico as a young man, eventually wandered his way to California in 1868. Muir became one of the first Europeans to explore Yosemite and the rest of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. He found in them a sacred place where he could hear the “divine music” of nature, even giving RALPH WALDO EMERSON, Thoreau’s Transcendentalist mentor, a tour of Yosemite Valley in 1871. Muir was, however, bitterly disappointed by Emerson’s unwillingness to linger and listen to the valley’s sacred voices. In 1892 Muir founded the SIERRA CLUB to prevent the desecration of these mountains by insensitive humans.

In the early twentieth century an archetypal battle was joined between John Muir and GIFFORD PINCHOT. At this time Muir was America’s foremost representative of an ethic of “nature preservation.” He would also become the spiritual godfather of the international National Park movement, which was founded significantly on perceptions of the sacredness of natural systems. Pinchot served as the first Chief Forester of the United States between 1899 and 1910. He influentially espoused a utilitarian environmental ethic of fair and responsible use of nature for the benefit of all citizens, present and future.

Pinchot, like many politically progressive Christians of his day in North America, had been decisively influenced by its “Social Gospel” movement, a largely liberal expression of Christianity that sought to apply Christian principles to the social problems of the day. Consequently Pinchot sought to promote “the conservation of natural resources” (bringing the phrase into common parlance) partly to aid the poor and partly to promote democratic ideals against powerful corporate interests, which he believed unwisely despoiled the country’s natural heritage. Although Muir and Pinchot initially became friends, based in part on their mutual passion for the outdoors, Pinchot’s utilitarian ethic and Muir’s preservationist one were incompatible. Their competing values led them, inexorably, into an epic struggle over which management philosophy, with its attendant religious underpinnings, would guide policies related to public wildlands.

Muir considered the grazing of sheep in Yosemite, and later, plans to dam Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy Valley, for example, to be desecrating acts. Pinchot became a powerful federal official who successfully promoted grazing and dam building. Muir denounced Pinchot as an agent of desecration asserting that there was “no holier temple” than Hetch Hetchy Valley. Pinchot thought Muir had failed to apprehend the religious duty to develop natural resources for the good of humankind. The historian Roderick Nash called the Hetch Hetchy controversy a “spiritual watershed” in American environmental history. This watershed demonstrated that a “wilderness cult” had become an important political force in American environmental politics (Nash 1967: 181). (See also WILDERNESS SOCIETY, MARSHALL, ROBERT and LEOPOLD, ALDO.) In sub- sequent decades such WILDERNESS RELIGION would remain potent and lead to bitter land-based conflicts all around the world. Indeed, as the preservationist national parks model spread, often alongside and competing with management models that promoted a utilitarian, “multiple use” doctrine for public lands, the cultural divide between the competing ethical and religious orientations represented by Muir and Pinchot appeared to go global.

There were many other dimensions to such religionrelated land-use disputes, however, including the typical deracination (displacement from their original habitats), sometimes by genocide, of the peoples already living on lands designated “public” by nation-states. These people often had their own religious claims and connections to these lands. So as the demand to protect natural places intensified around the world, it involved more than a dispute between the spiritual biocentrism (life-centered ethics) of John Muir and the utilitarian anthropocentrism (human-centered ethics) of Gifford Pinchot. Whether in view or hidden from sight, the resulting disputes often, if not always, intertwined with disputes related to power, ethnicity, class, and nationality (see MANIFEST DESTINY). These controversies were inevitably mixed in with diverse and competing understandings regarding how properly to understand the sacred dimensions of life, and where the sacred might be most powerfully located.

Some of the peoples who survived deracination as the result of the global expansion of nation-states would eventually claim a right to their original lands and landbased spiritual traditions. This trend further complicated the complex relationships between political, natural, and cultural systems. The disputes between Muir and Pinchot were repeated in the years that followed; and to these were added disputes between their spiritual progeny and those who later condemned both conservationist and preservationist movements for promoting an imperial project that harmed the inhabitants of lands immorally, if not illegally, declared public. In the United States and many other countries that established national parks, as environmental degradation continued, movements arose in resistance to them. Such conflicts provided one more tributary to the growing of scholarly interest in religion, nature, and culture.

Religion and Nature from Seventeenth-Century Europe to the Environmental Age

Curiosity about the relationships between nature, religion, and culture, of course, predated the modern conservation era. Much of this resulted from the encounter between anthropological observers and indigenous people, and much of this occurred (from the mid-nineteenth century onward) in a Darwinian context involving an effort to understand the ways in which religions emerged, and changed, through the processes of biological evolution. Put differently, a central question was: How and why did religion evolve from the natural habitats from which humans themselves evolved?

Many answers have been proposed, and these have often been grounded largely upon analyses of the religions of indigenous peoples. In many indigenous societies, the elements or forces of nature are believed to be inspirited and in reciprocal moral relationships in which there are two-way ethical obligations between non-human and human beings. In the eighteenth century such perceptions were labeled, for the first time, NATURE RELIGION and TOTEMISM (which postulated early religion as involving a felt sense of spiritual connection or kinship relationship between human and nonhuman beings). In the late nineteenth century the anthropologist E.B. Tylor coined the term ANIMISM as a trope for beliefs that the natural world is inspirited. Many early anthropologists considered Totemism and/or Animism to be an early if not the original religious form. Tylor and many other anthropologists and intellectuals observing (or imagining) indigenous societies also considered their religions to be “primitive,” and expected such perceptions and practices to wither away as Western civilization expanded.

Over the past few centuries a variety of terms have been used which capture the family resemblances found in the spiritualities of many indigenous societies, as well as contemporary forms of religious valuation of nature, including “natural religion,” “nature worship,” “nature mysticism,” “Earth religion,” PAGANISM and PANTHEISM (belief that the Earth, or even the universe, is divine). Whatever the terms of reference (and readers will do well to consult the specific entries on these terms for their various and often contested, specific definitions), nature religion has been controversial, whether it is that of wilderness aficionados, indigenous people, or pagans. Here we can introduce this rich and contested terrain only by underscoring a few central tendencies, pivotal figures, and watershed moments in the unfolding cultural ferment over religion and nature. In-depth treatments are scattered, of course, throughout the encyclopedia.

In mainstream occidental (Western) culture, which was shaped decisively by the monotheistic, Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), the tendency has been to view what we are calling nature religions (in general) and paganism (in particular) as primitive, regressive, or even evil. (See PAGANISM: A JEWISH PERSPECTIVE, for one example). One way or another, these critics have viewed nature religions negatively as having failed to apprehend or as having willfully rejected a true theocentric understanding of the universe as God-created. According to this point of view, nature religions perilously worship the created order or elements of it rather than the creator God.

Such criticisms came not only from monotheistic conservatives but also from some of the Western world’s greatest thinkers. The German philosopher FRIEDRICH HEGEL, for example, advanced an idealistic philosophy that considered nature religions primitive because of their failure to apprehend the divine spirit moving through the dialectical process of history.

There were strong countercurrents, however, to the general tendency to view nature religions negatively. The cultural movement known as ROMANTICISM, already mentioned as an influence on the American conservation movement, emerged as a strong social force in the eighteenth century. Inspired in large measure by the French philosopher JEAN-JACQUES ROUSSEAU (1712–1778), Romanticism was further developed and popularized by a number of literary figures including Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834) in England and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) in Germany. Those philosophers who labored to develop a compelling PHILOSOPHY OF NATURE also played a major role in the influence of Romanticism, both in Europe and America.

The Romantics rejected destructive, dualistic and reductionistic worldviews, which they considered to be a central feature of Western civilization. For Rousseau, and many dissenters to the occidental mainstream before and since, indigenous peoples and their nature religions were not primitive but noble, providing models for an egalitarian and humane way of life, one that was immune from the avarice and strife characteristic of the dominant European cultures. (See ROMANTICISM AND INDIGENOUS PEOPLES and NOBLE SAVAGE.)

It was into this social milieu, in which views about nature religion were already polarized, that CHARLES DARWIN introduced On the Origin of Species in 1859. The work elaborated the nascent theory of evolution that had already begun to emerge, perhaps most significantly, by specifying natural selection as its central process. The theory soon made its own, decisive impact.

For many, evolutionary theory disenchanted (took the spirits out of) the world. Generations of scholars after Darwin came to view religions as originating in misperceptions that natural forces were animated or alive. A close friend of Darwin, John Lubbock, initiated such reflection in The Origin of Civilization and the Primitive Condition of Man (1870), citing as evidence Darwin’s observation that dogs mistake inanimate objects for living beings. Lubbock asserted that religion had its origin in a similar misapprehension by early humans.

In the next century an explosion of critically important scholarly works appeared. Most wrestled with what they took to be the natural origins of religion, or with “natural religion,” or with what they considered to be the “worship of nature,” or with the symbolic importance and function of natural symbols in human cultural and religious life. Among the most important were J.F. McLennan’s articles on “The Worship of Animals and Plants” (1869–1870),

E.B. Tylor’s Primitive Culture (1871), F. Max Müller’s Natural Religion (1888), Robertson Smith’s Lectures on the Religion of the Semites (1889), Baldwin Spencer and F.J. Gillen’s Native Tribes of Central Australia (1899), Emile Durkheim’s Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (1912), James G. Frazer’s Totemism and Exogamy (1910) and The Worship of Nature (1926), Mircea Eliade’s Patterns in Comparative Religion (1958) and The Sacred and the Profane (1959), Claude Lévi-Strauss’s Totemism (1962, translation 1969), Victor Turner’s Forest of Symbols (1967), and Mary Douglas’s Purity and Danger (1966) and Natural Symbols (1970).

Among the high points in these works were E.B. Tylor’s invention of the term animism as a name for indigenous nature religion and a corresponding theory to explain how it came into existence; and FRIEDRICH MAX MÜLLER’s historiography which traced the origin of Indo-European religion to religious metaphors and symbolism grounded in the natural environment, especially the sky and sun. Sir James Frazer, who had been decisively influenced by both of these figures, added his own theories that the personification and “worship of nature” was the common root of all religion and that the remnants of pagan religion can be discerned in European folk culture. Quoting Frazer provides a feeling for the ethos prevalent among these early anthropologists.

[By] the worship of nature, I mean . . . the worship of natural phenomena conceived as animated, conscious, and endowed with both the power and the will to benefit or injure mankind. Conceived as such they are naturally objects of human awe and fear

. . . to the mind of primitive man these natural phenomena assume the character of formidable and dangerous spirits whose anger it is his wish to avoid, and whose favour it is his interest to conciliate. To attain these desirable ends he resorts to the same means of conciliation which he employs towards human beings on whose goodwill he happens to be dependent; he proffers requests to them, and he makes them presents; in other words, he prays and sacrifices to them; in short, he worships them. Thus what we may call the worship of nature is based on the personification of natural phenomena (Frazer 1926: 17).

Reflecting the influence of the evolutionary perspective, Frazer thought that nature religions were anthropomorphic superstitions and would naturally be supplanted, first by polytheism, then by monotheism. He also believed that this was part of a “slow and gradual” process that was leading inexorably among civilized peoples to the “despiritualization of the universe” (Frazer 1926: 9). Many anthropological theorists during the nineteenth and early twentieth century seemed to agree that the nature religion characteristic of early humans and the world’s remaining “primitives” would eventually be supplanted either with monotheistic forms or no religion at all. Many of these early anthropologists were, therefore, also early proponents of the secularization thesis, which generally expects the decline of religion.

MIRCEA ELIADE drew on much of this earlier scholarship when publishing his seminal works in the 1950s and early 1960s, but in contrast to much of it, he maintained a subtle, positive evaluation of religion, including nature religion. At the heart of his theory lay his belief that early religion was grounded in a perception that a “sacred” reality exists that is different from everyday, “profane” realities, and that it manifests itself at special times and places, usually through natural entities and places. Indeed, for Eliade, the sacred/profane dichotomy was at the center of all religious perception. Moreover, for Eliade, the recognition of the sacred has something fundamental to do with what it means to be human.

Although Eliade’s theory was sharply criticized in the latter half of the twentieth century, his exhaustive comparative scholarship helped to establish that, in the history of religions, natural systems and objects are intimately involved in the perception of the sacred, and that this is an important aspect of religious life. Symbolic anthropologists, including Claude Lévi-Strauss (in some minds), Victor Turner, and Mary Douglas, for their part, scrutinized the functions of natural symbols in religion and culture, making provocative suggestions as to why nature draws human attention in a religious way.

Clearly, while there have been many competing perspectives about the relationships between religion and nature, some generalizations can be made. Many people have considered forces and entities in nature to have their own powers, spiritual integrity, or divinity, and have considered plants and animals, as well as certain earthly and celestial places, to be sacred. Certainly, these kinds of beliefs have often enjoined specific ritual and ethical obligations. Undoubtedly, the forces and entities of nature have been important and sometimes central religious symbols that work for people and their cultures in one way or another. Even when these entities and forces are not themselves considered divine, sacred, or even personal, they can point or provide access to divine beings or powers that are beyond ordinary perception. In sum, to borrow an expression from Claude Lévi-Strauss who first used it when reflecting, more narrowly, about animals in the history of religion, nature, from the most distant reaches of the imagined universe, to the middle of the Earth, is religiously “good to think.”

Religion and Nature in the Environmental Age

This brief review brings us up to the 1960s, the cusp of the age of environmental awareness and concern, which was symbolically inaugurated with the celebration of the first Earth Day in 1970. This was a period characterized by an explosion of interest in religion and nature, although such interest was not new. What was novel was a widespread and rapidly growing alarm about environmental deterioration, which for some added an apocalyptic urgency to the quest to determine whether religion was to blame or might provide an antidote. If so, the question naturally followed, of what sort would such an antidote be?

A multitude of entries in this encyclopedia explore this period and its competing perspectives. Here we will outline the main streams of discussion from this period to the present, noting especially how the environmental consequences of religious belief and practice came to the fore- front of the discussion for the first time. Discussion of the main issues and questions that were engaged are listed in the following three subsections.

World Religions and Environmentalism

In 1967 CLARENCE GLACKEN published Traces on the Rhodian Shore: Nature and Culture in Western Thought from Ancient Times to the End of the Eighteenth Century. It was the most important historical overview of the complicated and ambiguous relationships between religion and nature in the Western world. Especially detailed in its analysis of Classical culture (including its pagan dimensions and long-term cultural echoes) and Christianity, it brought the reader right up to the advent of the Darwinian age. Donald Worster in Nature’s Economy: A History of Ecological Ideas (1977, second edition 1994) continued the story up and into the age of ecology. This work helped inspire further scholarly investigation during the 1960s and 1970s of the environmental impacts brought on by Western culture and its philosophical, religious, and scientific underpinnings. Taken together, these works portray (sometimes in an oversimplified manner) an epic struggle in Western culture between organicist and mechanist worldviews – and concomitantly – between those who view the natural world as somehow sacred and having intrinsic value, and those who view the Earth as a way station to a heavenly realm beyond the Earth, or, who viewed life on Earth in a utilitarian way, as having value only in its usefulness to human ends. A common dialectic in these works, as seen in the growing body of literature that followed, was the notion that religious ideas were decisive variables in human culture, and thus, they were either culprit or savior with regard to environmental and social well-being.

It was during the decade between the publication of Glacken’s and Worster’s works (1967 and 1977) that ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS sprang forth as a distinct subdiscipline in philosophy. While there were many factors that led to this outpouring of ethical interest in nature, a short article by the historian Lynn White became a lightning rod for much of the subsequent discussion. Indeed, the LYNN WHITE THESIS became well known and played a significant role in the intense scrutiny that would soon be focused on the environmental values and practices that inhere to the so-called “world religions.” (“World religions” is shorthand for Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Daoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and sometimes Jainism, which are commonly considered of major importance either because of their antiquity, influence, transnational character, or large number of adherents.)

Published in 1967 in the widely read journal Science, White’s article contended that monotheistic, occidental religions, especially Christianity, fostered anti-nature ideas and behaviors. His most striking and influential claim, however, may have been: “Since the roots of our

[environmental] trouble[s] are so largely religious, the remedy must also be essentially religious” (White 1967: 1207). Although others had expressed such views long before he did, the increasing receptivity in America to non-Western religious beliefs that accompanied the 1960s cultural upheavals, combined with the simultaneous growth of environmental alarm, made the ground fertile for the reception and debate of such views. Much of the environmental alarm was precipitated by RACHEL CARSON – an American scientist who was motivated by her own deep, spiritual connections to nature – whose Silent Spring (1962) warned about the environmentally devastating consequences of industrial pollution and pesticide use. With such works fueling environmental anxieties, White’s assertions quickly engendered several types of response, both among scholars and the wider public.

From those already acquainted with such arguments, there was often hearty agreement. Some had already been influenced by Romantic thought, or by historical analyses such as Perry Miller’s classic work, Errand into the Wilder- ness (1956), which analyzed the Puritans’ encounter with wild nature in America, or Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1958), which found in religious ideas the roots of capitalism’s voracious appetite for nature’s resources. White’s thesis also inculcated or reinforced beliefs that were becoming more prevalent in America, that religions originating in Asia, or nature religions including those of indigenous societies, were spiritually and ethically superior to those which had come to predominate in the Western world. This was ironic, for White thought there were currents in the Christian tradition that could provide solid ground for environmental ethics.

Those in the monotheistic, Abrahamic traditions, who encountered such perspectives, tended to respond in one of three ways: either apologetically, arguing that properly understood, their traditions were environmentally sensitive; in a confessional way, acknowledging that there were truths to such criticisms and that internal religious reform should be undertaken to make their religions environmentally responsible; or with indifference, viewing the criticisms, and environmental concern, as of minor if any importance to their religious faith. This latter response ironically provided evidence for the critical aspects of White’s thesis.

These types of responses came from both laypeople and scholars. Scholarly experts in sacred texts, both those religiously committed and uncommitted to the traditions associated with them, began investigating these texts and other evidence about their traditions for their explicit or implicit environmental values.

Before long, the soul searching White’s thesis helped to precipitate within occidental religions began to be taken up by devotees and scholars of religions originating in Asia. This occurred, in part, because of certain scholarly reactions to White’s thesis. The geographer Yi Fu Tuan, for example, pointed out in an influential article published in 1968, that deforestation was prevalent before the advent of Christianity. Moreover, he asserted, in China there was great abuse of the land before Western civilization could influence it.

Following Tuan, gradually, more scholars began to ask, “Why has environmental decline been so pronounced in Asia if, as had become widely believed, Asian religions promote environmental responsibility?” Just as White’s thesis had precipitated apologetic, confessional, and indifferent reactions within the world’s Abrahamic traditions, the diverse reactions to White’s thesis triggered similar reactions among religionists and scholars engaged with Asian religions.

In the case of both Western and Asian religions, religious studies scholars played a significant role in the efforts to understand the environmental strengths and weaknesses of their traditions. Scholars of religion have often played twin roles as observers and participants in the religions they study, of course, so it is unsurprising that, in the face of newly perceived environmental challenges, they would play a role in rethinking the traditions’ responsibilities in the light of them. Quite a number of them, indeed, became directly involved in efforts to push the traditions they were analyzing toward ethics that take environmental sustainability as a central objective. The many, diverse entries exploring the world’s religious traditions describe in substantial detail the emergence of efforts to turn the world’s major religious traditions green. The role of religion scholars in these efforts is reviewed in


What is perhaps most remarkable about these efforts is how rapidly the environment became a centerpiece of moral concern for substantial numbers of religious practitioners, and scholars engaged with the world’s major religious traditions. More empirical work is needed to understand the extent to which and in what ways environmental values have been influencing practitioners of the world’s dominant religions. Early efforts by social scientists to understand these trends, and the challenges they face as they seek to do so, are assessed in SOCIAL SCIENCE ON RELIGION AND NATURE.

Nature Religions and Environmentalism

In addition to the view that Asian religions provide an antidote to the West’s environmental destructiveness, nature religions have been offered as alternatives which foster environmentally sensitive values and behaviors. While indigenous societies have been foremost in mind in this regard, paganism, whether newly invented or revitalized from what can be reconstructed of a pre-Christian past (or both), has also been considered by some to offer an environmentally sensitive alternative. In this light or sense, a variety of new religious movements, recreational practices, scientific endeavor, and other professional work, can also be understood as nature religions.

As was the case in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, during the age of ecology, anthropology was a major contributor to the debates. But the tendency to view negatively such cultures was decisively reversed as some anthropologists began to ask questions from an evolutionary perspective. The most important of these was whether religion in general (and the religions of indigenous societies in particular) served to enhance the survival of the human organism. Put differently, they asked: Does religion help the human species to adapt successfully to its natural habitats, and if so, under what circumstances?

The answer that many came to was that the taboos, ethical mores, and rituals that accompany religious worldviews often evolve in such a way that the religion promotes environmental health and thus individual reproduction and group survival.

This kind of perspective can be briefly illustrated. In the mid-twentieth century, the anthropologist Julian Steward, whose own work in “cultural ecology” was based foremost on his analyses of the relationships between indigenous peoples of western North America’s Great Basin, argued that human culture represents an ecological adaptation of a group to its specific environment. He asserted that such adaptation always involved the effort to harness and control energy. The anthropologist Leslie White, who like Steward based his perspective on studies of North American Indians, also considered social evolution to involve the effort to harness and control energy. In the 1960s, MARVIN HARRIS followed their lead, especially spotlighting the role of religion. He found, for example, that the myth of the sacred cow in India confers on the human cultures of South Asia material and ecological advantages. The myth functioned in an ecologically adaptive manner, he argued, by helping to maintain the nutrient cycles necessary for India’s agro-ecosystems, thus maintaining the carrying capacity of the land. An often cited quote from Harris conveys his perspective:

Beliefs and rituals that appear to the nonanthropological observer as wholly irrational, whimsical, and even maladaptive have been shown to possess important positive functions and to be the dependent variable of recurrent adaptive processes (1971: 556).

ROY RAPPAPORT was another anthropologist who began publishing in the mid-1960s, including his path-breaking book, Pigs for the Ancestors: Ritual in the Ecology of a New Guinea People (1968). His arguments had affinities with Steward and Harris, but his focus was on how religious rituals and symbol systems can function in ecologically adaptive ways. Indeed, for Rappaport, “Religious rituals

. . . are . . . neither more nor less than part of the behavioral repertoire employed by an aggregate of organisms in adjusting to its environment” (Rappaport 1979: 28).

For such theorists, religions evolve and function to help people create successful adaptations to their diverse environmental niches. Moreover, naturalistic evolutionary assumptions (rather than the supernaturalistic beliefs of their adherents) are sufficient for understanding the complex relationships between religions and ecosystems. Such a theoretical perspective, it is important to note, is the opposite of the idealistic premises informing much of the rest of the religion-and-nature discussion, which has tended to assume that religious ideas are the driving force behind environmental changes.

Steward, White, Harris, and Rappaport are considered pioneers of the fields variously called “cultural ecology,” “ecological anthropology,” and “historical ecology.” Sometimes dismissed as “environmental determinists” by their critics, in their own distinct ways, they brought evolution forcefully back into the analysis of human/ ecosystem relationships by insisting that, while there certainly are reciprocal influences between human beings and the natural world, the ways human beings and their religious cultures are shaped by nature and its evolutionary processes should not be forgotten.

ETHNOBOTANY is another sub-field of anthropology that was influenced by and contributed to analyses of ecological adaptation. Its roots can be traced to early twentieth-century efforts to document the uses of plants by indigenous peoples. By mid-century, however, its focus had expanded to an analysis of the ways in which plants are used in traditional societies to promote the health of people, their cultures, and environments. Ethnobotany has been interested in the way plants are used to effect healing and facilitate connection and harmony with divine realities, as well as (sometimes) in the ecosystem changes brought on by such uses.

Ethnobotany became a major tributary to a related but broader line of anthropological inquiry into “indigenous knowledge systems” and TRADITIONAL ECOLOGICAL KNOWLEDGE, which is a subset of such knowledge systems. Here the focus was on the entire corpus of ecological knowledge gained by a people in adapting to their environments over time. Quite often, this analysis attended to the ways in which religious beliefs and practices become intertwined with such knowledge and inseparable from it. Leading figures in ethnobotany and in the analysis of traditional ecological knowledge included Harold Conklin, Richard Schultes, Darrell Posey, William Balée, Gerardo ReichelDolmatoff, and Stephen Lansing. In various ways and drawing on research among different peoples, they asserted that religious beliefs in general, including those having to do with the spiritual importance or power of plants, animals, and sacred places, can lead to practices that maintained the integrity of the ecosystems to which they belonged. A large volume edited by Darrel Posey entitled Cultural and Spiritual Values of Biodiversity (1999), which was published by the United Nations Environmental Programme, shows the growing influence of such analysis.

For many of the anthropologists investigating religion/ environment relationships in indigenous cultures, it was irrelevant whether indigenous people accurately perceived dimensions of experience outside of the powers of ordinary observation (such as divine spirits in natural entities). Some analysts of such systems, however, based on experiences they had while living among indigenous peoples and participating in their lifeways and ceremonies, became convinced that there were important spiritual truths expressed by their worldviews and practices. For those moved spiritually by these cultures there was value in them beyond their ability to foster environmentally sustainable lifeways.

The preceding developments, leading to the conclusion that the worldviews of indigenous cultures promote environmentally sustainable lifeways, represented a remarkable shift in the understanding of such peoples. But this change did not go unchallenged. Critics including Shepard Kretch argued that these sorts of perspectives – which purported to find ecological sensitivity embedded in cultures living in relatively close proximity to natural ecosystems – actually expressed an unfounded and romantic (and often denigrating) view of indigenous people. Some such critics complained that tropes of the “ecological Indian” perpetuate views of indigenous people as primitive and unable to think scientifically. The use of plants and animals in traditional medicines, which has contributed significantly to the dramatic decline of some species, was used as evidence to question assertions that indigenous, nature-oriented religions are adaptive, rather than maladaptive, with regard to ecosystem viability.

This introduction to the lively debates about indigenous societies and their nature religions can be followed up in a number of entries (and the cross-references in them), including AMERICAN INDIANS AS “FIRST ECOLOGISTS,” ANTHROPOLOGY, ANTHROPOLOGY AS A SOURCE OF NATURE RELIGION, ECOLOGY AND RELIGION, ECOLOGICAL ANTHROPOLOGY, ETHNOBOTANY, RELIGIOUS ENVIRONMENTALIST PARADIGM, and TRADITIONAL ECOLOGICAL KNOWLEDGE.

PAGANISM, including WICCA, HEATHENRY, and DRUIDRY, to name a few types, is another form of nature religion that has also enjoyed a positive reappraisal during the age of ecology. Contemporary Paganism is now often labeled “neo-paganism” to contrast current forms with Classical ones, or to indicate that such spirituality has been undergoing a process that involves (depending on the analysis) either revitalization (based on formerly underground and suppressed knowledge), or imaginative reconstruction (based on what can be surmised about pre-monotheistic religions through archeological and historical research). Much of this new religious production draws directly on (sometimes discredited) scholarly work. James Frazer’s belief that remnants of pagan worldviews and lifeways can be discerned in the folk customs of Europe provided pagans a sourcebook in folk culture for the construction of their religions. The poet and literary figure ROBERT VON RANKE GRAVES in The White Goddess (1948) offered an influential work subsequently used by many pagans to construct their own goddess-centered, Earth-revering spirituality. And the archeologist Marija Gimbutas – who controversially claimed in the 1980s and 1990s that a goddess-centered culture, which honored women and the Earth, existed in much of Eastern Europe prior to the invasion of a bellicose and patriarchal Indo-European society – provided what for many pagans was an inspiring vision of the potential to reestablish egalitarian, Earth-revering, pagan culture.

Indeed, toward the end of the twentieth century, a growing number of scholars who identified themselves as pagan were involved in the diverse efforts to make viable religious options out of these traditions. A part of this endeavor has involved assertions that paganism holds nature sacred and therefore has inherent reason to promote its protection and reverent care. This kind of perspective proliferated as did the number of tabloids, magazines, journals, and books devoted to analyzing, and promoting, contemporary paganism.

Paganism thus became an attractive religious alternative for some non-indigenous moderns, perhaps especially environmentally concerned ones, who value indigenous religious cultures for their environmental values, but either found them largely inaccessible, or chose not to borrow from them because of the often strongly asserted view that efforts to “borrow” from indigenous peoples actually constitute cultural theft. (Various perspectives in this regard are discussed in INDIGENOUS RELIGIONS AND CULTURAL BORROWING.) Paganism also sometimes shares ideas and members, and certainly has some affinities, with those environmental movements that expressly consider nature to be sacred, such as BIOREGIONALISM, DEEP ECOLOGY, ECOFEMINISM, ECOPSYCHOLOGY, and RADICAL ENVIRONMENTALISM. Partici- pants in these movements usually view both indigenous and pagan religions as environmentally salutary and often link their own identity to such spirituality.

A growing number of scientists, including those pioneering the fields of CONSERVATION BIOLOGY and RESTORATION ECOLOGY, and those promoting RELIGIOUS NATURALISM, share a central, common denominator belief in nature religions regarding the sacredness of life. Unlike many of the other forms of nature religion, they tend to stress the sacrality of the evolutionary processes that produce biological diversity. Participants in such scientific professions often view their work as a spiritual practice. Some of these have been influenced by those who, like the religion scholar

THOMAS BERRY, believe that science-grounded cosmological and evolutionary narratives should be understood as sacred narratives, and that so understood, they will promote reverence-for-life ethics. The entomologist EDWARD O. WILSON’s apt phase for the grandeur of the evolutionary process, which he called the “EPIC OF EVOLUTION”; the “GAIA” theory, which was developed by atmospheric scientist JAMES LOVELOCK and conceives of the biosphere as a selfregulating organism; as well as CHAOS and COMPLEXITY THEORY, which draw on advanced cosmological science and reinforce metaphysics of interdependence, have all been used to express this kind of spirituality.

Such science has contributed, through EVOLUTIONARY EVANGELISM and ritual processes such as the COUNCIL OF ALL BEINGS, to efforts to resacralize the human perception of the Earth. Indeed, scientific narratives reverencing cosmological and biological evolution are increasingly being grafted onto existing world religions. They are also emerging as new religious forms, independent of the longstanding religious traditions. Some such scientific nature religion, while relying on metaphors of the sacred to describe feelings of belonging and attachment to the biosphere, sometimes also self-consciously express a nonsupernaturalistic worldview.

Whether they retain or eschew supernaturalism, sacralized evolutionary narratives are proving influential in international venues – perhaps most significantly through the EARTH CHARTER initiative and during the UNITED NATION’s “EARTH SUMMITS” – in which belief in evolution and a reverence for life are increasingly affirmed. These sorts of religious developments suggest some of the directions that nature religion may continue to move in the future.

Many NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS and forms of NEW AGE spirituality also qualify as nature religions, including religiosity related to ASTROLOGY, CROP CIRCLES, DOLPHINS, SATANISM, THE COUNCIL OF ALL BEINGS, THE HARMONIC CONVERGENCE, THE MEN’S MOVEMENT, and UFOs and EXTRA TERRESTRIALS. A wide variety of recreational and other practices that might not seem at first glance to have anything to do with nature spirituality can on close observation also qualify, such as


GARDENING, and even attendance at MOTION PICTURES and THEME PARKS. As was the case with PAGANISM, during the environmental age, these diverse practices and forms of spirituality have increasingly taken on green characteristics, which are then, to an uncertain degree, integrated into worldviews and ethics.

The New Age movement has contributed significantly to the spiritualities and ritualizing of other nature religions, including paganism and radical environmentalism, to name just two. The reciprocal influences among nonmainstream religious subcultures have begun to draw more scholarly attention, as for example in The Cultic Milieu: Oppositional Subcultures in an Age of Globaliza- tion (Kaplan and Lööw 2002). Such an analysis is pertinent to the examination of much nature-related religious production, as can be seen in PAGAN FESTIVALS, NEW AGE, and the CELESTINE PROPHESY, among other entries.

Like most religions, nature religions carve out their religious identity in contrast (indeed often in selfconscious opposition) to other religious perspectives and interests. Participants in nature religions tend especially to criticize other religions for their environmental failings. Nature religions themselves, as we have seen, have long been criticized as misguided, primitive, and dangerous. Beginning in the 1980s they have also sometimes been charged with being violence-prone and criticized for promoting ethnic nationalism, and even racism and Fascism. (See also NEO-PAGANISM AND ETHNIC NATIONALISM IN EASTERN EUROPE.)

In the age of ecology, then, it is clear that nature religions received a mixed reception, both denigrated as regressive and lauded for promoting environmental sensitivity. While scholars and laypeople continued to express both points of view and the issue may have become more polarized, it is also true that significant growth toward more positive views occurred. Indeed, as illustrated in RELIGIOUS ENVIRONMENTALIST PARADIGM, an increasing number of scholars express a Rousseau-like belief in the superiority of those societies that can be characterized as having intimate spiritual relationships with nature; especially when such societies are compared to those with otherworldly cosmologies and/or which privilege science-based epistemologies.

Theories on the Natural Origins and Persistence of Religion

A third important area of discussion regarding the relationships between religion and nature intensified during the age of ecology. It reprised the effort to uncover the origins and persistence of religious and ethical systems, by examining both biological and cultural evolution.

Like James Frazer, who viewed religion as a product of evolution grounded in an anthropomorphism that personifies natural phenomena, these newer theories continued to be reductionistic; they implicitly or explicitly discounted what believers consider to be the “truths” involved. While such evolutionary theories were inevitably speculative in nature, the newer ones had the advantage of being able to draw on new fields such as evolutionary psychology and cognitive science, as well as on a much more sophisticated and critical body of ethnographic data.

Edward Wilson began his career as an entomologist and became, by the end of the twentieth century, one of America’s best-known scientists, in part due to his work on biological diversity and because of the growing concern about losses to it. But in 1984 he published Biophilia: The Human Bond with Other Species, in which he articulated an important theory that purported to explain the origins of the human love for nature. His thinking along these lines was an outgrowth of his broader theory on the origins of ethical systems, published as Sociobiology (in 1975). This theory asserted that affective, spiritual, and moral sentiments all evolve from evolutionary processes because they favor individual and collective survival. Ethics in general and environmental values in particular, therefore, are the natural result of human organisms finding their ecological niche and adapting to their environment. Wilson’s ideas stimulated much of the subsequent discussion over the possibility of an evolutionary root of religion, ethics, and environmental concern.

Among the most important works to follow were Stewart Guthrie’s Faces in The Clouds: A New Theory of Religion (1993), Pascal Boyer’s The Naturalness of Religious Ideas: A Cognitive Theory of Religion (1994) and Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought (2002), Walter Burkert’s Creation of the Sacred: Tracks of Biology in Early Religions (1996), V.S. Ramachandran and Sandra Blakeslee’s Phantoms in the Brain (1998), David Sloan Wilson’s Darwin’s Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society (2002), and Scott Atran’s In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion (2002).

Guthrie sounded much like Frazer, drawing on cognitive science and psychology to argue that religion is, essentially, anthropomorphism, resulting from the human penchant to explain realities by attributing them to something other than human agency. According to Guthrie, humans opt for such beliefs unconsciously, for the most part, but they do so for what are ultimately rational reasons, for if the belief is correct, then there is much to gain from it and little to lose if the belief is unfounded.

Boyer, Burkert, and Atran agreed with much of Guthrie’s analysis, tracing religiosity, at least in part, to the existential challenges that come with the uncertainties of life, and a corresponding tendency to anthropomorphize natural entities and forces. Boyer lucidly explained the logic behind such human cognitive tendencies. Boyer argued, in summarizing a number of studies including a doctoral dissertation by Justin Barrett, that it is natural to invent agent-like . . . gods and spirits [because] our agency detection systems are biased toward over-detection. Our evolutionary heritage is that of organisms that must deal with both predators and prey. In either situation, it is far more advantageous to overdetect agency than to underdetect it. The expense of false positives (seeing agents where there are none) is minimal, if we can abandon these misguided intuitions. In contrast, the cost of not detecting agents when they are actually around (either predator or prey) could be very high (Boyer 2001: 145; [See also


David Sloan Wilson takes a similar approach to these theorists, drawing on evolutionary and cognitive science, agreeing that religion is a product of evolution and that the religious beliefs of its practitioners are fallacious. Like them, he sees survival value in the tendencies that spur religion. He concluded, however, in a way that seemed to echo Edward O. Wilson’s arguably more positive view of religion: religion promotes individual and collective fitness by providing values that promote cooperative behaviors that in turn enhance the prospects for survival. This point of view resembles that of Edward Wilson’s later work, in which he expressed hope that new religious forms and values would evolve that would be grounded in science and promote environmental conservation.

The theorists introduced here agree that nature plays a major, if not the decisive role in shaping human culture, religion, and survival strategies. But they disagree about many of the particulars – for example, about whether religion is ecologically adaptive, maladaptive, both, or neither. Moreover, they face strong criticisms from scholars who believe they overemphasize the influence of nature on people and their societies, and neglect the importance of human agency and the power of culture. The archeologist Jacques Cauvin, for one important example, disputes those who claim to have revealed environmental or materialist causes for the shift from foraging lifeways and animistic spiritualities to agriculture and theistic religions. In The Birth of the Gods and the Origins of Agriculture (2000), he claimed that archeological evidence proves that belief in gods predated the agricultural revolution. He deduced from this his conclusion that those who believe theistic religion is a product (or an adaptation related to) the domestication of plants and animals, cannot muster compelling supporting evidence.

The body of research available as data for those exploring such issues has grown rapidly. Discussion and debate will continue over the origins, persistence, or “natural decline” of religion, as well as over its possible ecological functions. New lines of inquiry may play increasingly important roles. Just as cognitive science exploring human consciousness has spurred further debate, ethology (the study of animal cognition and behavior) is also beginning to make some interesting if speculative suggestions. In this encyclopedia, for example, JANE GOODALL reflects on the possibility of a kind of nature-related PRIMATE SPIRITUALITY, based on her observations of chimpanzee behavior near jungle waterfalls, and Mark Beckoff, in COGNITIVE ETHOLOGY, SOCIAL MORALITY, AND ETHICS, argues that such science may well revolutionize human understandings of both religion and ethics, extending both beyond humankind.

While there is a robust debate under way among the various theorists and perspectives which is here only briefly introduced, it is critical to remember that these perspectives are not mutually exclusive. There may be strong “natural” inclinations to religious perception, as well as maladaptive and/or adaptive functions of such religions, for example. With regard to the possible ecological functions of religion, it would be wise to remember, as Gustavo Benavides suggests in ECOLOGY AND RELIGION, that “adaptation is a process rather than a state.” Therefore, it is important to analyze both maladaptive and adaptive religious phenomena, and even more importantly for environmental conservation, to determine the circumstances under which religion might shift from maladaptive to adaptive forms.

Religion and Nature and the Future of Religion and Nature

Shortly before his death in 1975, the British historian Arnold Toynbee argued

The present threat to mankind’s survival can be removed only by a revolutionary change of heart in individual human beings. This change of heart must be inspired by religion in order to generate the will power needed for putting arduous new ideals into practice (Porritt 1984: 211; for the original quote see Toynbee and Ikeda 1976: 37).

Jonathan Porritt, who paraphrased Toynbee in this quote, was a prominent member of the International Green Party movement in the 1970s and went on to lead Friends of the Earth (UK) in 1984. Porritt’s subsequent comment on Toynbee’s view illustrates a common understanding about religion found within green subcultures all around the world:

I would accept this analysis, and would argue therefore that some kind of spiritual commitment, or religion in its true meaning (namely, the reconnection between each of us and the source of all life), is a fundamental part of the transformation that ecologists are talking about (Porritt 1984: 211).

Obviously, Lynn White was not the only one who was convinced that religion was a decisive factor in the environmental past and that it could play an equally important role in the future. For his part, Toynbee thought that humankind needed a new religion that respected natural systems and that such a religion would resemble pantheism. Moreover, such a religion would have more in common with Buddhism than with historical monotheism, which he thought (again like White) was especially responsible for environmental decline.

Such views, that religion could be both a cause and a solution to environmental decline, precipitated much of the ferment over religion and nature throughout the environmental age. It certainly led to efforts to awaken the world’s predominant religious traditions to an understanding that the protection of the Earth and its living systems should be considered a “sacred trust” (as the EARTH CHARTER ecumenically put it). This idealistic assumption, that religious ideas can shape environmental behavior, has also inspired many efforts to revitalize or invent nature religions, all of which in one way or another consider nature to be sacred, and deduce from this perception a reverence-for-life ethic. It is not easy to answer whether this idealistic perspective is correct; this introduction and many of the entries to which it points demonstrate how complicated such an assessment can be. It may well be that those who argue that religion is an important or decisive variable in the ways in which human beings relate to the Earth’s living systems are simply exaggerating the importance of religious ideas when it comes to their influence on environment-related behavior.

If those who think that religion is a decisive or important variable in the human impact on nature are correct, however, or even on the right track and in need only of minor correction, then the inquiry into the relationships between people and Earth’s living systems is not merely an intellectual exercise. The answers, however murky, might illuminate the paths to an environmentally sustainable, and perhaps even a socially just future. The answers might just suggest promising ways to think about the proper relationships between people and other forms of life, and inspire actions in concert with them. Although many engaged in the religion-and-nature field hope for such a payoff, the diverse and contested approaches to religion and nature revealed in this encyclopedia suggest that any consensus will be difficult to achieve.

In addition to questions about whether and to what extent religion has shaped or might shape environments (negatively or positively), this encyclopedia introduces and addresses a battery of additional conundrums. These include questions along a path less often traveled during the debates over religion and ecology: especially questions regarding the impact of nature, and different natures for that matter, on human consciousness in general and on religion (and religion-inspired environmental practices) in particular.

Perhaps these sorts of questions, while fundamentally scientific in nature, are themselves a reflection of new ethical forms that began to flower in the wake of Darwinian thought. These values are quite easily deduced from an evolutionary worldview, which promotes a sense of kinship grounded in an understanding that all life shares a common ancestor and came into existence through the same survival struggle. These values displace human beings from an isolated place, alone at the center of moral concern. Perhaps these scientific questions, in reciprocal production with new forms of religious thought, will shape the religious hybrids that will come to characterize most the religious future. Perhaps these hybrids will prove adaptive, facilitating the survival not only of the human community, but also of the wider community of life, upon which humans depend. If so, this exceptionally interesting species, Homo sapiens sapiens, might yet live up to its lofty (if self-designated and highly ironic) name.


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Acknowledgments and Description of the Genesis and Evolution of the Encyclopedia

The idea for this encyclopedia was hatched by Jeffrey Kaplan who suggested it to me over lunch during the American Academy of Religion meeting in San Francisco in November, 1997. He became interested in the relationships between religion and nature when noting some interesting similarities in the nature spiritualities that could be found within two distinct, radical subcultures in Europe and America, that of the racist right, which he had been studying for years, and radical environmentalism, a movement with which I had conducted extensive field work. He knew I had been focusing broadly on “religion and nature” and thought that given his extensive work with major reference works – including his own Encyclo- pedia of White Power (2000) and as a graduate student assisting in the production of The Fundamentalism Project (Marty and Appleby 1991–1995) – that we could produce a valuable reference work. I agreed and began to work up a prospective list of entries.

It was obvious from the outset that the field was very broad and that to do it justice we would need to reach widely across disciplinary lines. During the next two years we brainstormed over 400 entries and contributors, began issuing invitations to those we hoped would agree to be associate or assistant editors, secured a publisher, and brought Sean Connors on board to develop a beautiful website for introducing and administering the project, which was set up at Connors became a web guru in the subsequent years, and I am grateful he stuck through this project. He did so graciously despite many pressures, and moreover, has put in a significant amount of pro bono time.

A number of scholars were invited to a November 1998 meeting in Boston, immediately before the American Academy of Religion meeting, to think about the project. The night before, during a conversation over what name would be best for the encyclopedia, of many options, “religion and nature” was offered up, and it quickly appeared to provide the broadest trope for the project, superior therefore to the more common “religion and ecology” appellation. The next day some twenty scholars joined in a day-long discussion of the breadth and framing of the project, as well as its specific entries and contributors. From there we developed lists of cooperating editors and an additional list of entries to pursue. After the meeting the amalgamated list was distributed to all of those then involved in the project. These scholars were then asked what entries, contributors, and perspectives were missing. Throughout the project, I invited newly identified contributors to consult the online lists of entries (which could be sorted and reviewed in a number of ways) and suggest how we could strengthen it. This encyclopedia has, therefore, been shaped by a snowball methodology. Snowball it did, to nearly 1000 entries and over 500 contributors.

Throughout the project we sought to provide broad coverage of the subject matter, both chronologically and with regard to religious type, geographical region, and a number of other themes (such as science, religion, and nature). With the enthusiastic help of the University of Tennessee’s Rosalind Hackett, who served as conference chair for the 2000 International Association for the History of Religions in Durban, South Africa, I convened a series of sessions on religion and nature. These sessions helped to ensure that the African continent would not be neglected, and led to many valuable connections. I also had many meetings and a great deal of correspondence with all of the collaborating editors and many of the encyclopedia’s contributors. I followed up every suggestion that seemed promising.

This is not to say that the encyclopedia succeeded at being comprehensive – there are some regions where I failed to find able and willing contributors; North Africa west of Egypt and Antarctica come immediately to mind as examples. We did cover more ground than I thought would be possible at the outset, however. It turned out that there are many scholars who, when asked, can analyze religion and nature in the regions or traditions or periods they are most familiar with, even if they had not previously focused their view in this direction. Nevertheless, some readers will no doubt wonder why one subject and not another was covered. There may be justifiable criticisms along these lines, although most of the subjects likely to be identified as missing were probably pursued without success. More importantly, however, is the recognition that today no reference work can be entirely comprehensive, so perhaps a better test of an encyclopedia’s efficacy is its success at demarcating the territory to be covered and analyzing carefully a representative sample of the phenomena in question.

One incurs many debts in orchestrating a scholarly project like this and I wish to acknowledge the many and sometimes extraordinary contributions that have been made. First, I would like to thank those I have, in agreement with Consulting Editor Jeffrey Kaplan, designated Executive, Associate and Assistant Editors. These decisions were based on their overall contributions to the project. Associate Editors played significant roles in shaping a sub-area in the encyclopedia, often helping to identify entries and recruit contributors and providing peer reviews of entries in their own areas of expertise, as well as making substantial contributions of their own to it. Assistant Editors provided significant assistance in recommending entries and/or recruiting contributors, sometimes played a role in reviewing submissions, and usually contributed their own entries. They are listed immediately after the title page of this encyclopedia. Three scholars who deserve special recognition have been designated Executive Editors: Michael York, Adrian Ivakhiv, and Laura Hobgood-Oster. They have done everything the other editors have done but more of it, and always in an exceptionally good-natured and timely manner.

Many of the 518 contributors, in addition to their own writing, provided suggestions and leads which enriched the project significantly. I cannot remember where all such good ideas came from, but wish to thank those who provided them. I would also like to thank those contributors who, at one point or another, went out of their way to find a prospective contributor, a bibliographical reference, or provided a peer review of one or more entries. These extra efforts represented extraordinary kindness, which I will not forget. Every standard entry in this encyclopedia was fully peer reviewed, not only by Jeffrey Kaplan and myself, but by one or more scholars familiar with the subject under scrutiny. I also wish to thank the fine scholars who reviewed and helped me improve my own contributions to this encyclopedia, including Sarah McFarland Taylor, Becky Gould, Sarah Pike, Graham Harvey, Arne Kalland, Michael York, Adrian Ivakhiv, Michael Zimmerman, Curt Meine, Ron Engel, Les Sponsel, Stephen Humphrey, and Anna Peterson. Having such friends and colleagues is one of the great rewards of this kind of collaborative scholarship.

I would like to thank the pioneers of the emerging scholarly fields which have most often been labeled “environmental ethics” and “religion and ecology.” Some of these figures have entries about them, for their contributions have been seminal. Many others (but not all who could have been mentioned) appear in RELIGIOUS STUDIES AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERN, ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS, or other entries. These scholars provided the foundational work that made this project possible, and in some ways timely and necessary. They were the ones who raised many of the questions that are probed in these pages.

I also need to thank a number of student assistants who have assisted in this project, often for short periods of time, but without whom this encyclopedia would not have been completed as promptly as it was. A number of these were involved with the Environmental Studies program at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, where I was before I moved to the University of Florida (in 2002) to help develop a graduate program that has an emphasis in Religion and Nature. Now settled in, I have had the able assistance of several exceptional graduate students, Todd Best, Gavin Van Horn, Luke Johnson, and Bridgette O’Brien, who handled, with scrupulous attention to detail, many of the production tasks. I have also, already, learned a great deal from my new colleagues in Florida, including through their contributions to this encyclopedia; eight faculty members and three graduate students have contributed articles to it.

As is usually the case, the greatest debts of gratitude that accumulate during a scholarly project are to those who have suffered the most from it. I wish to underscore, therefore, my gratitude to Jeffrey Kaplan for seeing through this project. Over its course it more than doubled in size. Despite this unwelcome increase in workload, he read nearly every entry (sometimes several times). With his broad, history of religion training, he made regular and substantial contributions to its quality. I am grateful, as well, to Jeff’s wife, Eva. She has been remarkably gracious considering the hours this project has consumed that might otherwise have been more family focused. Finally to my children, Anders, Kaarin, and Kelsey, and to my wife Beth, I owe the greatest measure of thanks, for their long forbearance and support, which affords me the luxury of pursuing the issues engaged in these pages.

Bron Taylor, The University of Florida

Reader’s Guide

This encyclopedia explores the conundrums addressed in the volume’s introduction and it does so by examining a wide variety of religion-and-nature-related phenomena. It also does so in a variety of ways, including through its three distinct entry genres.

Scholarly entries have been written in a standard encyclopedia genre in which the premium has been to introduce a theme, historical period or event, region, tradition, group, or individual, while analyzing its relevance to the overall discussion in a scholarly and balanced way. With these fully peer-reviewed entries, care has been taken to provide readers with sufficient information and recommended readings to enable independent follow-up and further research.

Scholarly Perspectives entries, which are demarcated and are denoted by the symbol SP , afford prominent figures an opportunity to reflect on the religion and nature field in a more personal and reflective way, or their authors may advance an argument in a way that would be atypical in a standard, scholarly encyclopedia entry.

Practitioner entries, which are also demarcated by the symbol P are written by individuals actively engaged in one or another form of nature-related spirituality. They further illuminate the ferment over religion and nature by providing wide latitude for religious practitioners who are interested in religion and nature to express themselves in their own words.

Most entries are easy to find alphabetically. Some that are closely related to longer ones are nestled adjacent to them in “sidebar” entries, which are enclosed in a lined box. Sidebars are designed to illuminate or otherwise extend the discussion in the associated entry.

Because website locations are notoriously ephemeral, unless direct quotes are taken from them they have not been included in the further reading sections. The many groups and individuals discussed in these volumes can, of course, be easily found through internet search engines. The website associated with this project, which is located at, has links to many of the groups noted in the text, as well as to supplementary information related to many of the entries. This information includes graphics, photographs, music, non-English bibliographic resources, and bibliographic information available after the encyclopedia was published. Readers will be able to learn more by visiting this website in the future, which is intended to be periodically updated.

Cross-references follow most entries. These do more than point to directly related entries; they provide contrasts and sometimes unexpected comparative reference points. In this introduction, cross-references are indicated by SMALL CAPS in the text, as are the cross-references in two entries that were written to complement the introduction: ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS and RELIGIOUS STUDIES AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERN.

Indeed, after reading the introduction most readers would do well to begin with these two entries, adding


SCIENCE ON RELIGION AND NATURE for an overview of anthropological and other social scientific approaches to understanding the religion/nature/culture nexus. Combined with the adjoining encyclopedia introduction, these entries provide a broad introduction to the religion and nature field.

Of course, some will prefer to begin immediately by paging through the volumes and reading entries that strike their interest, then following the cross-references at the end of each entry. Another approach would be to page through the general index and read entries clustered there, for example, by religion or region. Alternatively, one could follow a particular figure of interest through many entries where she or he might be mentioned, an approach that would illuminate that individual’s contributions and influence. The work can be read in other ways as well – regional overviews first, or all the entries on specific traditions or themes. It could also be read chronologically, starting with our entries on PALEOLITHIC RELIGIONS and then those exploring ancient civilizations, for example, before moving to later periods. Another way to start would be to turn to the volume’s list of contributors and read the entries written by writers with whom one is already familiar. The voices in the Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature include some of the world’s environmental, religious, and scholarly luminaries, as well as a wide variety of scholars and religious practitioners from around the world. For many of the contributors, English is not their first language, and their writing reflects some of the grammatical conventions of their mother tongues. We have edited such entries lightly, and hopefully, have retained the sense as well as the feel for the original submission.

The approaches to this work will, little doubt, be as numerous and diverse as the contributors to it and the readers of it.

List of Contributors

Khaled Abou El Fadl University of California, Los Angeles, Law School
David Abram Alliance for Wild Ethics
Carol J. Adams Richardson, Texas
Julius O. Adekunle Monmouth University
Kaveh L. Afrasiabi Albion College
Ahmed Afzaal Drew University
Safia Aggarwal Center for Applied Biodiversity Science at Conservation International
Ali Ahmad Bayero University Nigeria
Catherine L. Albanese University of California, Santa Barbara
Thomas G. Alexander Brigham Young University
Kelly D. Alley Auburn University
Nawal Ammar Kent State University
JoAllyn Archambault Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History
Jose Argüelles Valum Votan, Foundation for the Law of Time
Kaj Århem Göteborg University Sweden
Ellen L. Arnold East Carolina University
Philip P. Arnold Syracuse University
Shawn Arthur Boston University
David Backes University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
Paul G. Bahn Contributing Editor, Archaeology and Advisory Editor, Antiquity United Kingdom
William Sims Bainbridge Washington, D.C.
Don Baker University of British Columbia Canada
Karen Baker-Fletcher Southern Methodist University
Peter W. Bakken Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies
William Balée Tulane University
Connie Barlow
David Landis Barnhill University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Ara Barsam University of Oxford United Kingdom
Brian Bartlett Saint Mary’s University Canada
Libby Bassett Project on Religion and Human Rights
Tom Baugh Summerville, Georgia
Robert M. Baum Iowa State University
John Baumann University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Marc Bekoff University of Colorado
Franca Bellarsi Université Libre de Bruxelles Belgium
Gustavo Benavides Villanova University
David H Bennett Australian Academy of the Humanities Australia
Robert W. Benson Loyola Law School, Los Angeles
Helen A. Berger West Chester University of Pennsylvania
Sigurd Bergmann Norwegian University of Science and Technology Norway
Fikret Berkes Natural Resources Institute, University of Manitoba Canada
Penelope S. Bernard Rhodes University South Africa
Edwin Bernbaum Sacred Mountains Program, The Mountain Institute
Evan Berry University of California, Santa Barbara
Thomas Berry Greensboro, North Carolina
Steven Best University of Texas, El Paso
Sharon V. Betcher Vancouver School of Theology Canada
Santikaro Bhikkhu Liberation Park (Missouri)
Brent Blackwelder Friends of the Earth United States
Jenny Blain Sheffield Hallam University United Kingdom
John Blair The Queen’s College, Oxford United Kingdom
J. David Bleich Cardozo School of Law
Ben Bohane Pacific Weekly Australia
George D. Bond Northwestern University
Marion Bowman The Open University United Kingdom
Veronica Brady University of Western Australia
Susan Power Bratton Baylor University
Morgan Brent Chaminade University
Harald Beyer Broch University of Oslo Norway
Paul Custodio Bube Lyon College
Rogene A. Buchholz Loyola University New Orleans
Raymond A. Bucko Creighton University
Gina Buijs University of Zululand South Africa
Douglas Burton-Christie Loyola Marymount University
H. James Byers Millian Byers Associates
Ernest Callenbach Berkeley, California
J. Baird Callicott University of North Texas
Heidi Campbell University of Edinburgh United Kingdom
Jane Caputi Florida Atlantic University
Adrian Castro Miami, Florida
Maria G. Cattell Hillside Haven Sculpture Gardens
Joseph G. Champ Colorado State University
David W. Chappell Soka University of America
Christopher Key Chapple Loyola Marymount University
David Chidester University of Cape Town South Africa
Jamsheed K. Choksy Indiana University
John Chryssavgis Boston, Massachusetts
John P. Clark City College, Loyola University (New Orleans)
Richard O. Clemmer University of Denver
Chas S. Clifton Colorado State University-Pueblo
John B. Cobb, Jr. Claremont School of Theology
Jane Coffey New York City
Juan Cole University of Michigan
Karen Colligan-Taylor University of Alaska Fairbanks
Ernst M. Conradie University of the Western Cape South Africa
Jonathan Cook Yale University
Robert S. Corrington Drew University
Harold Coward University of Victoria Canada
Elaine Craddock Southwestern University
C.A. Cranston University of Tasmania Australia
Harriet Crawford Institute of Archaeology, University College London United Kingdom
Paul Jerome Croce Stetson University
Helen Crovetto Independent Scholar
Mary Currier Pueblo Community College (Colorado)
Patrick Curry London, United Kingdom
Arthur Dahl International Environment Forum Switzerland
Lisle Dalton Hartwick College
Inus (M.L.) Daneel Boston University School of Theology
Barbara Darling-Smith Wheaton College (Norton, Massachusetts)
Susan M. Darlington Hampshire College
John Davis Naropa University
Mark Davis Australian Broadcasting Commission
Richard Davis Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
Barbara Jane Davy Concordia University (Montreal) Canada
Jan Dawson Southwestern University
Filip De Boeck Catholic University of Leuven Belgium
Mahinda Deegalle Bath Spa University College United Kingdom
Vine Deloria, Jr. University of Colorado
Raymond J. DeMallie Indiana University
Calvin B. DeWitt University of Wisconsin-Madison and Au Sable Institute
of Environmental Studies
Laura E. Donaldson Cornell University
William G. Doty The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa
Michael Dowd
Brad Draper Santa Fe, New Mexico
Julian Droogan The University of Sydney Australia
Ulrich Duchrow Heidelberg University, Kairos Europa Germany
Meredith Dudley Tulane University
Vilius Rudra Dundzila Truman College
Meghan Dunn Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Jim Dwyer California State University, Chico
Heater Eaton St Paul College
Felicity Edwards Rhodes University South Africa
Evan Eisenberg New York City
Robert Ellwood University of Southern California
Heather Elmatti Lake Sumter Community College
Anne Elvey Monash University
JeDon A. Emenhiser Humboldt State University
J. Ronald Engel Meadville/Lombard Theological School
Mikhail Epstein Emory University
Shaneen Fantin University of Queensland Australia
Paul Faulstich Pitzer College
Louis E. Fenech University of Northern Iowa
Anne Ferlat Bath Spa University College United Kingdom
Andrew Fiala University of Wisconsin, Green Bay
David N. Field Africa University Zimbabwe
Stephen L. Field Trinity University (San Antonio, Texas)
Robert Melchior Figueroa Colgate University
Martha L. Finch Southwest Missouri State University
Andy Fisher Psychotherapist Canada
Richard C. Foltz University of Florida
Selena Fox
Circle Sanctuary
Nick Freeman Bath, United Kingdom
William French Loyola University of Chicago
Urte Undine Frömming Institut für Ethnologie, Freie Universität Germany
Robert C. Fuller Bradley University
Betsy Gaines Bozeman, Montana
Juan Carlos Galeano Florida State University
Virginia Garrard-Burnett University of Texas
Joel Geffen University of California, Santa Barbara
Manfred Gerstenfeld Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs Israel
Peter H. Gilmore Church of Satan
Samson Gitau University of Nairobi Kenya
Matthew Glass University of Guelph Canada
Stephen D. Glazier University of Nebraska-Lincoln
James M. Glover Southern Illinois University, Carbondale
Ann Grodzins Gold Syracuse University
Tom Goldtooth Indigenous Environmental Network
Carlos Valério A. Gomes University of Florida
Jane Goodall Jane Goodall Institute
Ursula Goodenough Washington University (St Louis, Missouri)
Roger S. Gottlieb
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Rebecca Kneale Gould Middlebury College
Marion Grau Church Divinity School of the Pacific
Arthur Green Brandeis University
Niels Henrik Gregersen University of Aarhus Denmark
Roger Griffin Oxford Brookes University United Kingdom
Wendy Griffin California State University, Long Beach
Ronald L. Grimes Wilfrid Laurier University Canada
Frik Grobbelaar Rustler’s Valley South Africa
Rita M. Gross University of Wisconsin, Eau Clare
Richard A. Grounds Euchee (Yuchi) Language Project
Andreas Gruenschloss University of Göttingen Germany
Sigridur Gudmarsdottir Drew University
Christine E. Gudorf Florida International University
Mathias Guenther Wilfrid Laurier University (Waterloo, Ontario) Canada
Roxanne Kamayani Gupta Albright College
Norman Habel Flinders University of South Australia
David L. Haberman Indiana University (Bloomington)
Ruben L.F. Habito Southern Methodist University
Rosalind Hackett University of Tennessee
Heidi Hadsell
Hartford Seminary
Harry Hahne Golden Gate Theological Seminary
John R. Hale University of Louisville
Sian Hall Rhodes University South Africa
Max O. Hallman Merced College
William David Hammond-Tooke University of the Witwatersrand South Africa
Ian Hancock University of Texas
Jesse Wolf Hardin The Earthen Spirituality Project
Adrian Harris Dragon Environmental Network United Kingdom
Paul Harrison World Pantheist Movement
John Hart Boston University School of Theology
Graham Harvey The Open University United Kingdom
Veronica Hatutasi University of Sidney Australia
Randy Hayes Rainforest Action Network
Jennifer Heath Boulder, Colorado
Marguerite Helmers University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Martin Henig Institute of Archaeology, University of Oxford United Kingdom
Glenn Hening Groundswell Society
Nimachia Hernandez University of California, Berkeley
Dieter T. Hessel Program on Ecology, Justice and Faith
Anne Hill Serpentine Music, University of Creation Spirituality
Robert Hinshaw Daimon Verlag Publishers Switzerland
Laura Hobgood-Oster Southwestern University
Dorothy L. Hodgson Rutgers University
Götz Hoeppe
Freie Universität Berlin Germany
Steven J. Holmes Roslindale, Massachusetts
Stewart M. Hoover University of Colorado
Liz Hosken The Gaia Foundation United Kingdom
Richard Hoskins Bath Spa University College United Kingdom
Nancy J. Hudson University of Toledo
Kirk Huffman Vanuatu Cultural Centre and the Australian Museum Vanuatu and Australia
J. Donald Hughes University of Denver
Lynne Hume The University of Queensland Australia
Michael Llewellyn Humphreys Drew University
Richard Hunt Kirkwood Community College
Edvard Hviding University of Bergen Norway
Peter Illyn Restoring Eden
Matthew Immergut Drew University
Timothy Ingalsbee University of Oregon
Shaya Isenberg University of Florida
Adrian Ivakhiv University of Vermont
Christopher Ives Stonehill College
Knut A. Jacobsen University of Bergen Norway
George A. James University of North Texas
William Closson James Queen’s University at Kingston Canada
Maria Jansdotter Karlstad University Sweden
David Jasper University of Glasgow United Kingdom
David Jeffreys University College London Institute of Archaeology United Kingdom
Sabine Jell-Bahlsen San Antonio, Texas
Molly Jensen Southwestern University
Tim Jensen University of Southern Denmark Denmark
Xu Jianchu Center for Biodiversity and Indigenous Knowledge People’s Republic of China
David Johns Portland State University
Elizabeth Johnson University of Sydney Australia
Greg Johnson Franklin & Marshall College
William R. Jordan III The New Academy for Nature and Culture
Arne Kalland University of Oslo Norway
Jeffrey Kaplan University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
George Karamanolis Keble College (Oxford) Greece
James Karman California State University, Chico
Joseph Kasof University of California, Irvine
Sadamichi Kato Nagoya University Japan
Stephanie Kaza University of Vermont
Laurel Kearns Drew University
Will Keepin Satyana Institute
Stephen R. Kellert Yale University
Justin Kenrick University of Glasgow United Kingdom
Stephen A. Kent University of Alberta Canada
Richard Kerridge Bath Spa University United Kingdom
Fazlun M. Khalid Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences United Kingdom
James P. Kiernan University of Natal South Africa
Sallie B. King James Madison University
Marda Kirn University of Colorado
Leeona Klippstein Spirit of the Sage Council
Maureen Korp St Paul University and Carleton University
Kenneth Kraft Lehigh University
James Kraus Chaminade University (Hawai’i)
Shepard Krech III Brown University
Andrea A. Kresge University of Colorado
P. Krishna Krishnamurti Foundation India India
Heinz Kuckertz South Africa
Satish Kumar Director of Programmes, Schumacher College and Editor
of Resurgence United Kingdom
László Kürti University of Miskolc Hungary
John Laband University of Natal South Africa
Winona LaDuke Anishinaabe, White Earth Reservation and Honor the Earth
Vinay Lal University of California, Los Angeles
Katherine Langton Former member, Findhorn Foundation and New Findhorn Association
David K. Larsen University of Chicago
Marty Laubach Covenant of the Unitarian Universalist Pagans and Marshall University
Frédéric Laugrand Université Laval Québec, Canada
Gary Lease University of California, Santa Cruz
Berel Dov Lerner Western Galilee College Israel
Andy Letcher King Alfred’s College Winchester, United Kingdom
Mags Liddy Gluaiseacht, Ireland
Andrew Light New York University
Dennis Lishka University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Roland Littlewood University College London United Kingdom
Michael Lodahl Point Loma Nazarene University
Deryck O. Lodrick University of California, Berkeley
Jack Loeffler Santa Fe, New Mexico
Beverley Lomer Florida Atlantic University
Mark C. Long Keene State College
Lois Ann Lorentzen University of San Francisco
Johannes Loubser New South Associates, Inc.
James Lovelock Green College, University of Oxford United Kingdom
Abdur-Razzaq Lubis Independent Scholar/Activist Malaysia
Phillip Charles Lucas Stetson University
Ralph H. Lutts Goddard College
Dana Lyons Bellingham, Washington
Oren Lyons State University of New York, Buffalo
Iain S. Maclean James Madison University
Joanna Macy Berkeley, California
Lisa Maria Madera Emory University
Sabina Magliocco California State University, Northridge
Fiona Magowan Adelaide University Australia
Daniel C. Maguire Marquette University
Harry O. Maier Vancouver School of Theology Canada
Vasilios N. Makrides University of Erfurt Germany
Susan Martens Wageningen University The Netherlands
James B. Martin-Schramm Luther College
Freya Mathews La Trobe University Australia
Tilar J. Mazzeo Colby College
Gathuru Mburu Kenya Green Belt Movement Kenya
Judy McAllister Findhorn Foundation United Kingdom
Kate McCarthy California State University, Chico
Mary A. McCay Loyola University of New Orleans
Jay McDaniel Hendrix College
Sean McDonagh Columban Missionary Priest Ireland and the Philippines
Sallie McFague Vancouver School of Theology Canada
Michael Vincent McGinnis Santa Ynez Watershed
Davianna Pomaika’i McGregor University of Hawai’i, Manoa
Mark McGuire Cornell University
Alastair McIntosh Centre for Human Ecology Scotland, United Kingdom
Michael McKenzie Keuka College
Bill McKibben Vermont
Jay Mechling University of California, Davis
Curt Meine Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters
Paul Memmott University of Queensland Australia
Sophia Menache University of Haifa Israel
Eduardo Mendieta State University of New York, Stony Brook
Kathryn Miles Unity College of Maine
James Miller Queen’s University Canada
Timothy Miller University of Kansas
Seth Mirsky Santa Clara University
Yotaro Miyamoto Kansai University Japan
Jean Molesky-Poz University of San Francisco
Jürgen Moltmann Tübingen University Germany
Patricia Monaghan DePaul University
Bruce Monserud University of Florida
Victor Montejo University of California, Davis
Michael D. Moore Wilfrid Laurier University Canada
John Morton La Trobe University Australia
Michael Moynihan Portland State University
Leina Mpoke Kenya
Isabel Mukonyora University of Virginia
Jane Mulcock University of Western Australia
Patrick D. Murphy Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Ched Myers Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries
Arne Naess University of Oslo Norway
Vasudha Narayanan University of Florida
James A. Nash Boston University School of Theology
Poranee Natadecha-Sponsel Chaminade University (Honolulu)
Ricardo A. Navarro CESTA and Friends of the Earth International El Salvador
D. Keith Naylor Occidental College
Michael P. Nelson University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
William Nichols Denison University
Daniel C. Noel (Deceased 2003)
Richard Noll DeSales University
Helena Norberg-Hodge International Society for Ecology and Culture United Kingdom
Tumani Nyajeka Interdenominational Theological Center
Celia Nyamweru St Lawrence University
Becky O’Brien University of Colorado
Tara O’Leary Centre for Human Ecology Scotland, United Kingdom
Max Oelschlaeger Northern Arizona University
Oyeronke Olajubu University Of Ilorin Nigeria
Asenath Omwega Kenya
Beverly Ortiz California State University, Hayward
David Orton Green Web Canada
John Osborne Art of Living Foundation
Sven Ouzman National Museum South Africa
Ibrahim Ozdemir Ankara University Turkey
Jordan Paper York University (Toronto) and University of Victoria (British Columbia) Canada
Robert Papini KwaMuhle Museum and Durban Metro Local History Museums South Africa
Mohammad Aslam Parvaiz Islamic Foundation for Science and Environment India
Cathrien de Pater
Rhenen The Netherlands
Joanne Pearson Cardiff University United Kingdom
David Pecotic University of Sydney Australia
Kusumita P. Pedersen St Francis College, Brooklyn
Juha Pentikäinen University of Helsinki Finland
David Petersen San Juan Mountains, Colorado
Anna Peterson University of Florida
Brandt Gustav Peterson University of Texas at Austin
Mark C.E. Peterson University of Wisconsin Colleges
Daniel J. Philippon University of Minnesota
Sarah M. Pike California State University, Chico
Sarah Pinnock Trinity University
Alexandra Plows University of Wales Bangor United Kingdom
Mario Poceski University of Florida
Amanda Porterfield University of Wyoming
Paula J. Posas Alexandria, Virginia
Grant Potts University of Pennsylvania
John Powers Australian National University
Frans Prins Natal Museum South Africa
James D. Proctor University of California, Santa Barbara
Daniel Quinn Houston, Texas
Selva J. Raj Albion College
Susan Elizabeth Ramírez Texas Christian University
Richard O. Randolph Saint Paul School of Theology
Shelagh Ranger Oxford, United Kingdom
Terence Ranger University of Zimbabwe Zimbabwe
Larry Rasmussen Union Theology Seminary
Shishir R. Raval North Carolina State University
Kay A. Read DePaul University
Calvin Redekop Conrad Grebel Gollege Canada
Elizabeth Reichel University of Wales United Kingdom
Mary Judith Ress Con-spirando Collective Chile
Terry Rey Florida International University
Xavier Ricard Lanata Collège de France and Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) Peru
Keith Richmond Monash University Australia
Joerg Rieger Southern Methodist University
Marguerite Rigoglioso California Institute of Integral Studies
Laura Rival University of Oxford United Kingdom
Catherine M. Roach The University of Alabama
Richard H. Roberts Universities of Lancaster and Stirling United Kingdom
Steven C. Rockefeller Middlebury College
Holmes Rolston, III Colorado State University
Deborah Bird Rose The Australian National University
Jean E. Rosenfeld University of California at Los Angeles
Sandra B. Rosenthal Loyola University New Orleans
Nicole Roskos Drew University
Eric B. Ross Institute of Social Studies, The Hague The Netherlands
Lynn Ross-Bryant University of Colorado
David Rothenberg New Jersey Institute of Technology
Loyal Rue Luther College
Håkan Rydving University of Bergen Norway
Scott C. Sabin Floresta USA
Jone Salomonsen University of Oslo Norway
Richard C. Salter Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Mercedes Cros Sandoval Miami, Florida
H. Paul Santmire Watertown, Maryland
Zeki Saritoprak John Carroll University (Cleveland, Ohio)
Most Rev. Peter K. Sarpong Catholic Archbishop of Kumasi Ghana
Jame Schaefer Marquette University
Stephen Bede Scharper University of Toronto Canada
Judith Schlehe Institut für Völkerkunde, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Germany
Sigrid Schmidt Germany
Lambert Schmithausen University of Hamburg Germany
Nancy Schwartz University of Northern Iowa
Richard Schwartz College of Staten Island
Susan L. Scott Water Stories Project Canada
Estuardo Secaira The Nature Conservancy (Guatemala) Guatemala
John Seed Rainforest Information Centre Australia
David Seidenberg Maon Study Circle
Rebecca Self Hill University of Colorado
Kim Selling University of Sydney Australia
John Senior Rhodes University South Africa
Lynda Sexson Montana State University
Myra Shackley Nottingham Trent University United Kingdom
Cybelle Shattuck Kalamazoo College
Victor A. Shnirelman Russian Academy of Sciences Russia
David Shorter Wesleyan University
Leanne Simpson Trent University Canada
Andrea Smith The University of Michigan
J. Andy Smith, III Earth Ethics
B.W. Smith University of the Witwatersrand South Africa
Keith Harmon Snow Williamsburg, Massachusetts
Samuel D. Snyder University of Florida
Eleni Sotiriu University of Erfurt Germany
Daniel T. Spencer Drake University
Thomas Splain The Gregorian University Rome, Italy
Leslie E. Sponsel University of Hawai’i
Graham St John University of Queensland Australia
Mary Zeiss Stange Skidmore College
Joan Steigerwald York University Canada
Naomi Steinberg Redwood Rabbis
William Steiner United States Geological Survey Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center
Dale Stover University of Nebraska
Virginia Straus Boston Research Center for the 21st Century
Michael F. Strmiska Miyazaki International College Japan
Craig S. Strobel ConSpiritu: A Center for Earth*Spirit*Arts*Justice
Kocku von Stuckrad University of Amsterdam The Netherlands
Gary Suttle Pantheist Association for Nature
Donald K. Swearer Swarthmore College
Will Sweetman University of Otago New Zealand
Alexandra Szalay Adelaide, Australia
Alon Tal, The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies Israel
Bron R. Taylor University of Florida
Sarah McFarland Taylor Northwestern University
Andy Thomas Southern Circular Research United Kingdom
N.C. Thomas Anthroposophical Society United Kingdom
Gene Thursby University of Florida
Hava Tirosh-Samuelson Arizona State University
J. Terry Todd Drew University
Brian Tokav Institute for Social Ecology
Friedegard Tomasetti University of Sydney Australia
Des Tramacchi University of Queensland Australia
Geo Athena Trevarthen University of Edinburgh and the Centre for Human Ecology United Kingdom
Garry W. Trompf University of Sydney Australia
Mary Evelyn Tucker Bucknell University
Masen Uliss University of California, Santa Barbara
Hugh B. Urban Ohio State University
Gavin Van Horn University of Florida
Louke van Wensveen Loyola Marymount University
Manuel Vasquez University of Florida
Phra Paisal Visalo Wat Pasukato, Thailand
Robert Voeks California State University, Fullerton
Paul Waldau Tufts University
Deward E. Walker, Jr. University of Colorado
Faith M. Walker Monash University Australia
Derek Wall Goldsmiths College
Mark I. Wallace Swarthmore College
Richard H. Wallace University of Florida
Robert J. Wallis Sheffield Hallam University United Kingdom
Jacob Wanyama Kenya
Paul Wapner American University
Faith Warner Brookes University United Kingdom
Captain Paul Watson Sea Shepard Conservation Society
Hattie Wells Kykeon Herbalisation United Kingdom
Richard E. Wentz Arizona State University
James L. Wescoat, Jr. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Sarah Whedon University of California, Santa Barbara
Dolores Whelan Education for Changing Times Ireland
David Gordon White University of California, Santa Barbara
Gavin Whitelaw Natal Museum & University of KwaZulu-Natal South Africa
Elspeth Whitney University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Matt Wiebe University of New Mexico
Jane Williams-Hogan Bryn Athyn College
David Sloan Wilson Binghamton University
Paul Wise Michigan State University
Akiva Wolff Jerusalem College of Technology Israel
Mick Womersley Unity College
Harold Wood Universal Pantheist Society
Fiona Worthington The Gaia Foundation United Kingdom
Phoebe Wray The Center for Action on Endangered Species
Bill Wylie-Kellermann The Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education
Michael York Bath Spa University United Kingdom
Michael Zimmerman Tulane University


The earth holds manifold treasures in secret places; wealth, jewels, and gold shall she give to me.

She bestows wealth liberally; let that kindly goddess bestow wealth upon us! (44)

Your snowy mountain heights, and your forests, O earth, shall be kind to us!

The brown, the black, the red, the multi-colored, the firm earth that is protected by Indra,

I have settled upon, not suppressed, not slain, not wounded. (11)

(Hymns of the Atharva Veda, tr. Maurice Bloomfield, University of Oxford Press, 1897).

The gentle Way of the universe appears to be empty, yet its usefulness is inexhaustible . . .

It harmonizes all things

And unites them as one integral whole.

Dao Te Ching, 4

The virtue of the universe is wholeness It regards all things as equal

The virtue of the sage is wholeness He too regards all things as equal

Dao Te Ching, 5

When people lack a sense of pure spiritual piety Toward natural life, then awful things happen in their life. Therefore, respect where you dwell.

Dao Te Ching, 72

God made wild beasts of every kind and cattle of every kind, and all kinds of creeping things of the earth.

And God saw that this was good.

Genesis 1:25 (New Jewish Publication Society Translation, 1985)


Abbey, Edward (1927–1989)

Edward Abbey spent many seasons in the wilderness as fire lookout, back-country ranger, explorer, river rat, selfstyled “follower of the truth no matter where it leads.” He was the author of twenty-one books and scores of articles that collectively express his lifelong commitment to the principles of anarchism, and his deep, abiding love for the flow of Nature. With the publication of his classic book of essays, Desert Solitaire in 1967, he became recognized as both a gifted writer and an outspoken advocate for the natural environment. And with the publication of his bestknown novel The Monkey Wrench Gang in 1975, Abbey became the earliest and perhaps most influential voice of the newly awakened radical environmental movement.

Abbey was born on 29 January 1927 and grew up in rural northwestern Pennsylvania which he felt imposed upon him a sense of intellectual and spiritual myopia. He required the vast, arid landscape of the American Southwest wherein his mind and soul were free to soar as he explored the hidden slot canyons, climbed countless mountains, ran exquisite rivers, and hiked the boundless Colorado Plateau and Basin and Range provinces. He arrived in New Mexico shortly after World War II equipped with a brilliant mind, a powerful sense of intuition, and a finely honed body well suited for any adventure. He loved to read, write, listen to great music, make love to beautiful women (“I never made love to a women I didn’t love, at least a little bit”), and wander the back country alone, or with a good friend or two. He placed supreme value on friendship, honor, and a lifetime free to explore the mysteries of nature.

While both an undergraduate and post-graduate student at the University of New Mexico, Abbey was mentored by Professor Archie Bahm who specialized in Chinese philosophy. Professor Bahm introduced Abbey to the works of Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu, Daoist philosophers in whose works Abbey was able to perceive the wellsprings of anarchism.

In May, 1951, Abbey was invited to speak on anarchist philosophy at the University of New Mexico by Professor Bahm. In this lecture, the notes from which I have in my collection of Abbey papers, Abbey provided early evidence of what would become his great philosophical contribution to Western culture, a meld of anarchism and radical environmentalism. He went on in the lecture to define many types of anarchism and styled himself a barefooted anarchist.

I hate cement. I have never seen a sunflower grow in cement. Nor a child.

Now even Aristotle recognized the vegetative element in man. It is that which enables us to grow. A man is a plant, fundamentally, and if he is to grow he must grow like a cottonwood, upward and outward, exfoliating in air and light, his head in the clouds, perhaps, but his feet rooted in Mother Earth. Now if we insist on sealing ourselves off from the Earth below by cement and asphalt and iron and other dead and sterile substances, and from the sun above by a dense layer of smoke, soot, poisonous gases, skyscrapers, helicopters, I do not think we will survive as human beings...

For these reasons, I must advocate bare-footed anarchism, anti-urban, anti-industrial, anti-housing development, anti-land improvement anarchism. I look forward to that happy day when shoes will become obsolete and all of us can run around squelching our toes in the mud of April (Author’s lecture notes).

Ultimately, Abbey was awarded a master’s degree in philosophy. His thesis was entitled “The Morality of Violence” and focused on the points of view of five libertarian or anarchist thinkers including Proudhon, Bakunin, Godwin, Sorel and Kropotkin. He remained a self-proclaimed anarchist throughout his life, an anarchist at large within the flow of Nature.

Edward Abbey was a great outdoorsman. Much of his writing was inspired by recollections of wandering through desert wildernesses where encounters with fellow humans were infrequent. He told me that once, while living in Death Valley, he had what he regarded to be a natural mystical experience wherein he perceived himself to be integrated within the natural world around him, able to perceive an interconnective energy between all animate and inanimate objects, all the while immersed in a level of joy never to be repeated during his lifetime. His quest to return to this state of consciousness is revealed on page six of the original edition of Desert Solitaire published in 1967.

The personification of the natural is exactly the tendency I wish to suppress in myself . . . I want to be able to look at and into a juniper tree, a piece of quartz, a vulture, a spider, and see it as it is in itself, devoid of all humanly ascribed qualities . . . I dream of a hard and brutal mysticism in which the naked self merges with a non-human world and yet somehow survives still intact, individual, separate.

In 1975, Abbey delivered a lecture entitled “In Defense of Wilderness” at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which I recorded and subsequently excerpted for my biographical memoir of Abbey entitled Adventures with Ed: A Portrait of Abbey. This lecture includes one of Abbey’s more imaginative speculations on the nature of reality.

Is it not possible that rocks, hills and mountains, and the great physical body of the Earth itself may enjoy a sentience, a form of consciousness which we humans cannot perceive only because of the vastly different time scales involved? . . . Say that a mountain takes 5,000,000 of our human or solar years to complete a single thought. But what a grand thought that single thought must be. If only we could tune in on it. The classic philosophers of both east and west have tried for 5,000 years more or less to convince us that Mind is the basic reality, maybe the only reality and that our bodies, the Earth and the entire universe is no more than a thought in the mind of God. But consider an alternative hypothesis. That Buddha, Plato, Einstein and we are all thoughts in the minds of mountains, or that humanity is a long, long thought in the mind of the Earth. That we are the means by which the Earth, and perhaps the universe becomes conscious of itself. I tell you that God, if there is a god, may be the end, not the origin of this process. If so, then our relationship to Earth is something like that of our minds to our bodies. They are interdependent. We cannot exploit or abuse our bodies without peril to our mental health and our survival . . . As mind is to body, so is humanity to Earth. We cannot dishonor one without dishonoring and destroying ourselves (Loeffler 2000: 127–8).

On 1 January 1983, Ed Abbey and I returned to his home in the Sonoran Desert after a camping trip in the Superstition Mountains of southern Arizona. Abbey had recently learned that he was afflicted with the malaise that would ultimately claim his life. I recorded Abbey reflecting on the nature of religion in today’s technocratic world, which is included in my book, Headed Upstream: Conversations with Iconoclasts.

I regard the invention of monotheism and the otherworldly God as a great setback for human life . . . Once we took the gods out of nature, out of the hills and forests around us and made all those little gods into one great god up in the sky, somewhere in outer space, why about then human beings, particularly

Europeans, began to focus our attention on transcendental values, a transcendental deity, which led to a corresponding contempt for nature and the world which feeds and supports us. From that point of view, I think the (American) Indians and most traditional cultures had a much wiser world view, in that they invested every aspect of the world around them – all of nature – animal life, plant life, the landscape itself, with gods, with deity. In other words, everything was divine in some way or another. Pantheism probably led to a much wiser way of life, more capable of surviving over long periods of time.

. . . Call me a pantheist. If there is such a thing as divinity . . . then it must exist in everything, and not simply be localized in one supernatural figure beyond time and space. Either everything is divine, or nothing is. All partake of the universal divinity – the scorpion and the packrat, the Junebug and the pismire. Even human beings. All or nothing, now or never, here and now (Loeffler 1989: 14–15).

Abbey thoroughly believed in living life to its fullest and confronting the truth fearlessly. The following also appears in Headed Upstream.

An adventurous human life should be enough for anybody, and should free us from the childish hankering for immortality . . . If this life here and now on this splendid planet we call Earth is not good enough for us, then what possible pleasure or satisfaction or happiness could we find in some sort of transcendental, eternal existence beyond time and space? Eternity, in that sense, beyond time, could be nothing but a moment, a flash, and we probably experience that brilliant flash of eternity at the moment of death. Then we should get the hell out of the way, with our bodies decently planted in the Earth to nourish other forms of life – weeds, flowers, shrubs, trees . . . which support the ongoing human pageant – the lives of our children. That seems good enough for me . . . I think the desire for immortality is based on . . . a terrible fear of dying, fear of death, which comes from not having fully lived. If your life has been wasted, then naturally you’re going to hate giving it up. If you’ve led a cowardly, or paltry, or tedious, or uneventful life, then as you near the end of it, you’re going to cling like a drowning man to whatever kind of semi-life medical technology can offer you . . . Better by far to fall off a rock while climbing a cliff, or to die in battle (Loeffler 1989: 17–18).

For Edward Abbey, sauntering through landscapes both known and especially unknown was among life’s greatest pleasures. We sauntered together for many miles over the course of many years, and the act of walking and musing resulted in countless hours of boundless conversation. Often Abbey reflected on the meaning of existence. We discussed the role of the anarchist as environmentalist, and Abbey clearly revealed his belief that every species including the human species has a right to existence, but that the human species has no greater right than any other. He determined that the voices of other species, indeed that of the entire biotic community, were not being heard by humanity. Thus he concluded that humans sensitive to the miracle of life must assume responsibility for defending habitat against encroachers from within what he called “the military-industrial complex and their lackeys in government.”

He regarded sabotage against the tools of governmental and industrial terrorism as a supremely ethical act. He clearly differentiated between terrorism and sabotage, proclaiming that everything from the military strafing of villages in Vietnam to the chaining of trees to clear land for cattle grazing were acts of terrorism against life. Committing acts of sabotage against tools of terrorism was required if habitats were to be defended against indiscriminate pillagers who pursued growth for the sake of growth, a condition he regarded as the ideology of the cancer cell.

Abbey believed that causing harm to fellow humans was to be avoided unless one’s self, family or friends were being threatened. He advocated sabotage but warned that under no circumstances must people be harmed as a result of sabotage. In a word, eco-terrorists are those engaged in acts of terrorism against the natural environment, and definitely not those who are defending the environment against the onslaught of eco-terrorism.

Abbey believed in the evidence of the five bodily senses. He believed in protecting every freedom that allowed his intellect to soar. He regarded himself as an absolute egalitarian. He also intuited a sense of the numinous in nature, and although he rarely wrote about that, it was not an uncommon topic for conversation. He was not frivolous in his speculations, but as with any intelligent philosopher, he constantly sought the underlying meaning of existence. He experienced one episode with a hallucinogen, LSD. It was an uncomfortable experience, not at all illuminating. He frequently reiterated that the only time he felt close to that numinous quality was after he had been camping for a minimum of ten days, or enough time for the flow of Nature to purge the “white noise” generated by day-to-day existence within the materialistic technocracy of American culture.

Abbey loved the natural world, and felt himself “out of synch” with the time into which he had been born. He told me he would have been at home in the Pleistocene as a hunter-gatherer; or as a Plains Indian riding bareback through the early nineteenth century. He regarded the advent of agriculture as the beginning of serfdom and slavery. He contended that more harm had been wrought by the plowshare than the sword.

Abbey’s great contribution to philosophy was the meld of anarchism and environmentalism. These two distinct philosophic persuasions conjoined in his mind. On the one hand, the anarchists Proudhon, Bakunin and Kropotkin defined that spirit of resistance to government, human hierarchy and deadly immersion in the status quo that Abbey practiced his life long. On the other hand, Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Robinson Jeffers and David Brower forwarded an environmentalist point of view that also prevailed in Abbey’s mind from an early age. With the publication of his novel, The Monkey Wrench Gang, he brought these two philosophic themes together. He told me that it was in this novel that he actually found his voice, a voice that must never be stilled.

Abbey believed that unless the current juggernaut of “growth for the sake of growth” can be forestalled, the higher vertebrates including the human species are in grave jeopardy of extinction. He calls for a much higher ideal wherein recognition of the sacred quality of life within habitat sets the standard for the human endeavor. A few days before his death, he gave a final speech before a gathering of Earth First! members, exhorting them to keep the faith with courage and dignity.

Edward Abbey died on 14 March 1989 at the age of 62 years and 45 days in his writing cabin in the Sonoran Desert west of Tucson. He lies buried in a desert wildness far from any human community. His grave is marked with a single stone that bears his name, the dates of his birth and death, and his epitaph, which reads, “No Comment.”

Jack Loeffler

Further Reading

Abbey, Edward. Confessions of a Barbarian: Selections from the Journals of Edward Abbey, 1951–1989. David Petersen, ed. New York: Little Brown & Co., 1994.

Abbey, Edward. Earth Apples: The Poetry of Edward Abbey. David Petersen, ed. New York: St. Martin’s, 1994.

Abbey, Edward. Hayduke Lives. Boston: Little, & Brown, 1990.

Abbey, Edward. One Life at a Time, Please. New York: Henry Holt, 1988.

Abbey, Edward. The Fool’s Progress. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1988.

Abbey, Edward. Slumgullion Stew: An Abbey Reader. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1984

Abbey, Edward. Beyond the Wall. New York: Holt, Rinehart

& Winston, 1984.

Abbey, Edward. Down the River. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1982.

Abbey, Edward. Good News. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1980. Abbey, Edward. Abbey’s Road. New York: E.P. Dutton,


Abbey, Edward with David Muench. Desert Images. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1978.

Abbey, Edward with John Blaustein. The Hidden Canyon.

New York: Viking Press, 1977.

Abbey, Edward. The Journey Home. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1977.

Abbey, Edward. The Monkey Wrench Gang. Philadelphia:

J.P. Lippincott Co., 1975.

Abbey, Edward with Ernst Haas. Cactus Country. New York: Time-Life Books, 1973.

Abbey, Edward with Philip Hyde. Slickrock. San Francisco: Sierra Club, 1971.

Abbey, Edward. Black Sun. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1971.

Abbey, Edward with Eliot Porter. Appalachian Wilderness.

New York: E.P. Dutton, 1970.

Abbey, Edward. Desert Solitaire. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1968.

Abbey, Edward. Fire on the Mountain. New York: Dial Press, 1962.

Abbey, Edward. The Brave Cowboy. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1956.

Abbey, Edward. Jonathon Troy. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1954.

Bishop, James Jr. Epitaph for a Desert Anarchist: The Life and Legacy of Edward Abbey. Carmichael, CA: Touchstone, 1994.

Cahalan, James. Edward Abbey: A Life. Phoenix: University of Arizona, 2001.

Loeffler, Jack. Adventures with Ed: A Portrait of Abbey. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2000.

Loeffler, Jack. Headed Upstream: Interviews with Iconoclasts. Richmond, VA: Harbinger House, 1989.

See also: Anarchism; Death and Afterlife in Robinson Jeffers & Edward Abbey; Deep Ecology; Earth First! and the Earth Liberation Front; Pantheism; Radical Environmentalism.

Aboriginal Art – Warlpiri

Indigenous Australians produce rich and diverse art expressive of their relationships with the land and the cosmos. By way of example, this entry focuses on Warlpiri graphic art of the Western Desert region of Australia.

The Dreaming is the most powerful mechanism through which Warlpiri organize and understand the significance of places. The Dreaming has various levels of meaning: it is the mythological realm of totemic Ancestors; it is the embodiment of metaphysical potency in the land; it is the “Law” to which humans must conform; and it is the spiritual identity of the individual.

The Warlpiri conceive of landscape as a manifestation of the Dreaming. Like other Australian Aboriginal peoples, Warlpiri tell of a realm in which the Earth and animals do not exist in their present forms. In this realm, mythological ancestors emerge from a featureless Earth, transform it, and create the landscape. The clouds and hills, billabongs, grasses, and trees are created during this period, as are animals, and kinship patterns, taboos, and other tribal laws. When the ancestors complete their creative wanderings they change into Spirit Beings, and they continue to dwell in special places within the land.

The landscape is understood by Warlpiri as being criss-crossed with mythological tracks, each with an accompanying mythic narrative, song-cycle, dance enactment, and ritual caretakers. Each of these Dreaming tracks consists of a series of sacred sites and the paths between these sites. The myths associated with these tracks recount the actions of the ancestors; their subsistence activities, their fights, their love making, their ceremonies, etc.

Warlpiri art and myth can best be understood in terms of places, for it is the landscape which provides the most obvious and enduring evidence of Dreaming occurrences. But for Warlpiri, land is more than simple evidence, it is the actual transfiguration of Ancestral Being. The Land is the Dreaming. Each myth has an accompanying graphic map and a song, which refer to incidents and places associated with the Ancestors. To Warlpiri, myth, graphic design, and song reinforce each other and share in the virtue of the Dreaming.

Warlpiri art is concerned with mapping the mythological landscape. Paintings function as Dreaming maps of important places and events; charting the travels of totemic ancestors, and depicting sacred places they create. The paintings being done by Warlpiri today belong to a class of Aboriginal art that has come to be known as the Western Desert Style. The canvas paintings, executed in acrylics, are enmeshed in the larger system of Warlpiri social, political, religious, and ecological values. Derived from traditional designs, they are expressive of Warlpiri emotion, purpose, and place within the landscape.

The visual style of Warlpiri art replicates the narrative style of Warlpiri myth. Myths recount ancestral travels through the country; paintings depict these travels and the sites associated with them. This narrative style is evident in the interconnected circles and lines that are so prevalent in Warlpiri paintings. The circle/line composition is widely used to illustrate the journeys of Ancestral Beings and the places that they create; the sites represented by circles, the paths connecting the sites represented by lines. This site/ path structure graphically maps the Dreaming and iconically illustrates the movements of Ancestral Beings across the land. It provides a structure that links Dreaming events to geographical places and life experiences.

The line motif reflects Warlpiri mobility and the emphasis on movement across the country. It illustrates travels through the landscape and depicts the tracks of Ancestral Beings. Conversely, circles are used to depict places. The symmetry of Warlpiri art assists in the ordering of experience and space. Through symmetrical compositions, Warlpiri impose a structure on phenomena that may otherwise lack this quality.

Every Warlpiri graphic design represents both an identifiable locality and its mythological association, but the knowledge to interpret the design is gained only through synthetic understanding of the Dreaming and the land. Dreaming maps, however, are not just about farremoved myths. They signify, among other things, aspects of cultural ecology around which society is organized. They are expressive of kinship rules, rights to resources, ecological and sacred knowledge, and other elements of social and environmental organization.

Paintings recall the ancestral landscape and map the interdependent relationship between humans and natural systems. In “reading” paintings, Warlpiri interpret that land and their place within it. Warlpiri paintings are rooted in specific locales, and metaphorically relate to the ancestors who created those places. Graphic designs illustrate the way in which Warlpiri view themselves within the context of the world and its origins.

Paul Faulstich

Further Reading

Faulstich, Paul. “ ‘You Read I’m This Country’: Landscape, Self, and Art in an Aboriginal Community.” In Roger Rose and Philip Dark, eds. Artistic Heritage in a Changing Pacific. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press; Bathurst: Crawford House Press Pty Ltd., 1993, 149–61.

Munn, Nancy. Warlpiri Iconography: Graphic Representa- tion and Cultural Symbolism in a Central Australian Society. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1973.

Sutton, Peter, ed. Dreamings: The Art of Aboriginal Australia. New York: The Asia Society Galleries, 1988. See also: Aboriginal Dreaming (Australia); Art; Rock Art – Australian Aboriginal; Rock Art – Batwa/Pygmies (Central Africa); Rock Art – Chewa (Central Africa); Rock Art – Hadzabe/Sandawe (Eastern Africa); Rock Art – Northern Sotho (Southern Africa); Rock Art – Sintu; Rock Art – Western United States; San (Bushmen) Apocalpytic

Rock Art.

Aboriginal Dreaming (Australia)

The concept of the “Dreaming,” or “Dreamtime,” is the great gift that Aboriginal Australians bring to world spirituality. Dreaming celebrates the joy and plenitude of the living world. At the heart of Dreaming is life – its emergence, its growth and nurturance, its interactions and organization, its connections and continuities.

The power that created the world is neither dead nor confined to the past. Creation stories vary across the continent, but hold as shared concepts of origin the travels and actions of the great creative ancestral beings, or Dreamings, who walked the land and sea. All through their travels, the Dreamings brought into being the differences that matter. Foundational creation concerns that which endures.

The Australian continent is well covered with the tracks of the Dreamings: walking, slithering, crawling, flying, swimming, chasing, hunting, weeping, dying, giving birth. They were performing rituals, distributing the plants and marking the zones of animal distributions, making the landforms and water, and making the relationships between one place and another, one species and another. They were leaving parts or essences of themselves; they would look back in sorrow; and then continue traveling, changing languages, changing songs, changing identity. They were changing shape from animal to human and back to animal again, and they were becoming ancestral to particular animals and particular humans. Through their creative actions they demarcated a world of difference. And they made the patterns and connections that crosscut difference.

Dreaming men and women, whatever their species, created a gendered landscape. Land and sea do not privilege women to the exclusion of men, and while gendered places may speak to opposition, they speak also to dialogue. Gendered place locates women and men separately as well as together.

One side of Dreaming is that which creates and endures, and the other side is this ephemeral world: the living things, the relationships between and among them, the waters that support their lives, the cultural forms of action and knowledge that sustain the created world. Aboriginal people’s daily lives, as well as their ritual and other forms of care, unfold in an ecological poetics of connection. The work of creation continues to happen in the world precisely through the ephemeral. Both daily and ritual work seeks to ensure the continuous flourishing of ephemeral life. Dreaming is thus actualized in present time; the perduring life of creation is carried in contemporary time and place by ephemeral life forms. Aboriginal religious practice intensifies the experience of life, placing ultimate value in the living systems and life processes that sustain this, the created world.


Dreamings established countries. A country is small enough to accommodate face-to-face groups of people and large enough to sustain their lives; it is politically autonomous in respect of other, structurally equivalent countries, and at the same time is interdependent with other countries. Each country is itself the focus and source of law and life practice. To use the philosopher’s term, one’s country is a nourishing terrain, a place that gives and receives life.

Country is multi-dimensional – it consists of people, animals, plants, Dreamings, underground, Earth, soils, minerals and waters, surface water, and air. There is sea country and land country; in some areas people talk about sky country. Country has origins and a future; it exists both in and through time. I use the term “eco-place” to speak to a locatedness that is not human-centered and that is attentive to the complexities of life in a given place. Each country (land or sea) contains a plurality of sites, and the sites are connected by tracks; the tracks are also ceremonies that work across bounded countries. The system of eco-places thus situates sites within countries; equally importantly the tracks are connectivities. Dreaming geography elaborates the intersecting and crosscutting patterns of connection between eco-places.

Country in Aboriginal English is not only a common noun but also a proper noun. People talk about country in the same way that they would talk about a person: they speak to country, sing to country, visit country, worry about country, feel sorry for country, and long for country. People say that country knows, hears, smells, takes notice, takes care, is sorry or happy. Country is a living entity with a yesterday, today and tomorrow, with a consciousness, and a will toward life. Because of this richness, country is home, and peace; nourishment for body, mind, and spirit; heart’s ease.

Caring for country

My teacher Hobbles Danaiyarri, who belonged to the savanna region on the desert fringe in the Northern Territory, offered a succinct explanation of his people’s responsibilities toward land: “Before white people, Aboriginal people were just walking around organizing the country.”

Research into how Aboriginal people organize the country is still quite new. Looking at the continent as a whole, it is now evident that Aboriginal people’s fire ecology is responsible for the open grasslands that covered much of the continent, for the preservation of specific stands of fire sensitive vegetation and remnant rainforests, and for the maintenance of a mosaic of micro-ecological niches which enable a rich diversity of life forms to flourish. Animal and plant life was sustained through habitat diversity and through a range of protections that include preservation of breeding sites and refugia, and the imposition of food taboos.

Aboriginal ecological poetics are sensual. People say that their country calls them into action: they know the messages, they listen, smell, see, understand, and respond. When people are away from country they know well they experience sensory deprivation that feels like loss, banality, and inertness of spirit. One of my teachers, Kathy Deveraux, whose home is in the paperbark swamps of the north, described the experience of coming home: “You see the birds, you see the country, and your senses come back to you. You know what to do and where to go.”

Ecological poetics cluster around practices of knowledgeable care. Many people have an encyclopedic knowledge of the plants and animals of their country, of the habitat requirements of plants and animals, of how to interpret the tracks and other traces of life in the land, of signs and seasons, and of the communities of symbiosis that enable life to flourish through the generations. April Bright, another paperbark person, explained the responsibility to burn: “The country tells you when and where to burn . . . If we don’t burn our country every year, we are not looking after our country” (Bright 1995: 59).

Care of country expresses two major propositions concerning the flourishing of life in this created world. The first is that a country and its people take care of each other. This proposition emphasizes place and proximity in the organization of care, and asserts that relationships of care are reciprocal. To take care of one’s country is to take care of the conditions whereby country can continue to provide sustenance for living things, including the people who belong to (and take care of) the place. The second proposition is that those who destroy their country ultimately destroy themselves.

Local, fine-grained detailed knowledge is transmitted in the pedagogy of daily life, in myth and story, in song, ceremony and the visual arts. The conventional Western division between pragmatic action and religious action falls down completely in practices of care. One of the bestdocumented examples of the convergence of pragmatic action and mythico-religious action is the Dreaming track of the red kangaroo (Macropus rufus) in Central Australia. This track traverses some of the toughest desert country in the world, and the sacred sites coincide with the most favored areas for kangaroos. In particular, there is a strong correlation between Red Kangaroo Dreaming sites and the permanent waters that are the sources of fresh herbage during drought. The red kangaroo requires fresh green herbage; after rains the animals forage widely, but in drought they must rely on localized areas. As the sites are protected, so too are the kangaroos at these sites. These are places to which living things retreat during periods of stress, and in which hunting is forbidden.


There are numerous types of totemism within Australia, and all express a non-random relationship between a particular person and particular other species or other aspects of the natural world. Clan totemism is widespread; it links group, ancestral/Dreaming species, and country (sites and, often, tracks). According to Strehlow’s key analysis of Aranda societies in the Central Australian desert, each clan is associated with a number of totemic beings, with one of which the clan is most intimately associated and for which it bears a central responsibility. Each clan is a set of descendants of a Dreaming ancestor.

A set of clans comprises a regional ritual community, and that regional group is also a community of social and ecological reproduction. It is a community made up of politically autonomous groups, each of which is responsible for the well-being of several species and of the other groups. The system is one of interdependence – the rain people, for example, make rain for everybody, humans and non-humans, and they depend on others to fulfill their responsibilities. The kangaroo people depend on the rain people for water, and take responsibilities for kangaroos. Their actions benefit everybody, including kangaroos.

Not only in Central Australia, but across the whole continent, there are similar structures of interdependence, restraint, control of sanctuaries, protection of permanent waters, refugia, breeding sites, and selective burning for the preservation of certain plant communities and other fire-sensitive areas.


Ceremony invigorates creation. Dreamings traveled, and they stopped, and now they remain fixed in place, except in ceremony. The work of ceremony draws the Dreamings into direct contact. In many parts of Australia, ceremony brings the Dreamings up from their underground or underwater sites and brings them into the surface world again. People sing and dance the tracks of major Dreamings, and as they do so they charge up the fertility, patterning and connectedness of the created world.

Many of the ceremonies are “increase rituals.” These rituals aim toward the regeneration of a particular species, but as the ethnobotanist Peter Latz points out, people are not attempting to initiate uncontrolled increase. The goal is to maintain the levels of resources within their country. In his studies in Central Australia Peter Latz concludes that increase ceremonies were carried out for each of the important food plants and animal species utilized by desert people. To promote the well-being of animals and plants it is necessary that the appropriate rituals be performed by the correct people (that is, the people whose totem or Dreaming that species is or whose country it is through other forms of relationship). Sites repeat across the landscape, so that the well-being of any one species does not depend solely on one site but is linked to people in many places, all of whom carry out their responsibilities. The mosaic patterning of habitat diversity and connection is also the pattern of human groups in regional associations.

Land is Law

Indigenous knowledge systems and systems based on Western scientific tradition have often been seen as the most distant poles on a continuum that ranges from “myth” to “fact.” Recent analysis undermines this dichotomy, and research in Australia shows that indigenous ecological knowledge on this continent is detailed, localized, and well grounded in empirical observations. Moreover, indigenous knowledge is embedded within a system of ethics that is oriented toward long-term productivity.

The ecological poetics of Dreaming concern life’s continuity and ability to flourish. Dreaming thus constitutes laws of existence and guides for behavior. Both metaphysical and ecological, Dreaming configures human life within the context of creation and continuity.

The Aboriginal philosopher Mary Graham writes that indigenous cultures of land and place are based on two axioms: the land is the law; and you are not alone in the world. These two axioms can be heard as an indigenous ethic and practice of connectivity. The second axiom – you are not alone – situates humanity as participant in a larger living system. The first – land is law – requires humanity to work with rather than against nature. The purpose of law is the purpose of Dreaming: to sustain a world in which life flourishes.

“White people ask us . . .”

One of the best Aborigional explanations of Dreaming is by Mussolini Harvey:

White people ask us all the time, what is Dreaming? This is a hard question because Dreaming is a really big thing for Aboriginal people. The Dreamings made our Law. This Law is the way we live, our rules. This Law is our ceremonies, our songs, our stories; all of these things came from the Dreaming.

The Dreamings are our ancestors, no matter if they are fish, birds, men, women, animals, wind or rain . . . All things in our country have Law, they have ceremony and song, and they have people who are related to them...

In our ceremonies we wear marks on our bodies, they come from the Dreaming too . . . When we wear that Dreaming mark we . . . are keeping the country and the Dreaming alive. That is the most important thing . . . (in Bradley 1988: xi–xi).

Past and future

Mussolini Harvey’s statement that Dreaming law cannot change fits well with archeological evidence. The best contemporary dating techniques indicate that Aboriginal people have been in Australia for at least 60,000 years, and the archeological record shows long periods of apparent stability. This was the continent of huntergatherers; it was the only continent inhabited solely by people whose way of life depended on “organizing the country” without domesticating plants and animals. It was thus unique, and Aboriginal Dreaming may fairly be said to constitute one of the most deeply developed religions emergent from this particular way of being human.

Many Aboriginal people claim that they have the oldest continuous religious tradition extant on Earth. This claim rests primarily on evidence from the rock art of Arnhem Land. In this vast body of religious art, the sequence reveals a moment at which the Rainbow Snake is unambiguously identifiable. As the Rainbow Snake is of continuing and extreme significance, continuity is asserted. Experts’ views on dates vary considerably, and at this time the dating is based on inference rather than technology, so it has not yet been possible to offer objective evidence. A widely shared view is that the Rainbow Snake images date from the period of sea-level rise following the last glaciation, and thus could be about 8000–9000 years old. Rainbow Snakes in this ancient art are nearly identical to those that are painted on bark and canvas in Arnhem Land today, as prehistorian Darrell Lewis (1988) shows in his monograph on Arnhem Land rock art.

Claims for the antiquity and continuity of Aboriginal religious traditions are balanced by current evidence of the flexibility and contemporary viability of these same traditions. In spite of nearly two centuries of predictions that Aboriginal people were dying out, losing their culture, losing their traditions, and assimilating into “white” society, Aboriginal Dreaming is alive and well all over Australia.

Flexibility has been demonstrated most profoundly in encounters between Dreaming and Christianity. While many of these encounters have been extremely painful, particularly when missionaries were involved in breaking up families, suppressing indigenous culture, and forcibly requiring people to abandon their traditional religious practices, the resilience of indigenous religion has facilitated an astonishing measure of cultural survival. Rather than abandoning their traditions, in many parts of Australia Aboriginal people found ways to accommodate Christian teachings within Dreaming. In the process of accommodation they indigenized Christianity, bringing it into country, locating it in sacred sites, connecting it directly with the Dreamings and people of each country. Australia is now marked not only with indigenous Dreaming action, but also with exogenous activity: the footprints of Jesus, remnants of Arks, the hill where Ned Kelly landed his boat, and similar sites offer the prospect that colonizing action is being transformed into Dreaming geography.

In addition to indigenizing Christianity and colonial culture, Aboriginal religious practice is, in some areas, now indigenizing “settler” Australians. Aboriginal spiritual leaders working in contexts of decolonization open their sacred sites to non-indigenous people, share the teachings, accede to a variety of religious practices within their sacred sites, and seek to impart their modes of belonging to people whose roots are elsewhere. Non-indigenous people who are welcomed into indigenous sites are themselves spiritual seekers who are looking for less oppressive ways of settling into Australia.

Working with the view that the violence and racism of conquest scar the oppressor as well as the oppressed, some indigenous spiritual leaders organize intercultural events within which they assist in healing the pain of colonization for all the participants.

The idea of caring for country has been adopted from indigenous people and has become a national slogan directed toward developing an Australian environmental conscience. Indigenous practices of care in upholding biological diversity are taken as models for sustainable human life in Australia. An emergent movement of spiritual revitalization emphasizes the land as the source of social and spiritual recovery. Aboriginal leaders in this movement see non-Aboriginal Australians’ alienation from the land as a spiritual void that can be healed.

The future of Dreaming is thus predicated on the poetics of its long history: the mutually life-affirming relationships between people and country, among people and other living things, and between past and present. Increasingly, Dreaming Law is generating life-affirming relationships between settler and indigenous peoples and is offering a spiritual and ecological template for the future.

Deborah Bird Rose

Further Reading

Bright, April. “Burn Grass.” In Deborah Rose, ed. Country in Flames; Proceedings of the 1994 Symposium on Biodiversity and Fire in North Australia. Biodiversity Unit, Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, and the North Australia Research Unit, Canberra & Darwin, 1995, 59–62.

Graham, Mary. “Some Thoughts about the Philosophical Underpinnings of Aboriginal World Views.” World Views: Environment, Culture, Religion 3:2 (1999),


Harvey, Mussolini. In John Bradley. Yanyuwa Country: The Yanyuwa People of Borroloola Tell the History of Their Land. Richmond: Greenhouse Publications, 1988.

Latz, Peter. Bushfires and Bushtucker: Aboriginal Plant Use in Central Australia. Alice Springs: IAD Press, 1995.

Levinas, Emmanuel. The Levinas Reader. S. Hand, ed.

Oxford: Basil Blackwell, Ltd, 1989.

Lewis, Darrell. The Rock Paintings of Arnhem Land, Australia: Social, Ecological and Material Culture Change in the Post-Glacial Period. Oxford: BAR International Series 415, 1988.

Newsome, A.E. “The Eco-Mythology of the Red Kangaroo in Central Australia.” Mankind 12:4 (1980), 327–34.

Rose, Deborah. Nourishing Terrains: Australian Aboriginal Views of Landscape and Wilderness. Canberra: Australian Heritage Commission, 1996.

Scott, Colin. “Science for the West, Myth for the Rest? The Case of James Bay Cree Knowledge Construction.” In

L. Nader, ed. Naked Science, Anthropological Inquiry into Boundaries, Power and Knowledge. New York: Routledge, 1996, 69–86.

Strehlow, T.G.H. “Geography and the Totemic Landscape in Central Australia: A Functional Study.” In R. Berndt, ed. Australian Aboriginal Anthropology. Nedlands: University of Western Australia Press, 1970.

See also: Aboriginal Art; Aboriginal Spirituality and the New Age in Australia; Australia; Indigenous Religions and Cultural Borrowing; Rock Art – Australian Aboriginal.

Aboriginal Environmental Groups in Canada

Indigenous peoples in Canada have been active in protecting their territories from exploitation for centuries. Fighting to protect indigenous land rights and selfdetermination is synonymous with environmental protection for many Aboriginal people, since the land and creation provide the foundation for their languages, spirituality, knowledge systems, and traditional forms of governance. Aboriginal cultures in Canada view the “environment” quite broadly, as a concept that encompasses relationships between the physical and spiritual worlds, inter-relationship and interdependency between humans, plants and animals and our own internal environments. This broad view relates issues around health and healing, decolonization, resistance, governance, language and self-determination to the land. These issues, often viewed outside of the concept of “environment” from a Western perspective, are included in Aboriginal environmental perspectives.

Aboriginal nations are often on the front lines when it comes to dealing with environmental devastation and their nations have employed a diversity of strategies to promote environmental protection including public education, legal action, engaging in scientific research, alliance building with non-Aboriginal environmental groups, and direct action, to name a few. The Innu nation has worked hard to protect their lands from the impacts of mining, road building, potential forestry development and low-level military flight-testing. The Grand Council of Crees has educated Canadians and Americans about the devastating impacts of hydro-electric development and unsustainable forestry practices on Cree lands. The Interior Alliance, composed of the Southern Carrier, St’at’imc, Secwepemec, Nlaka’pamux and Okanagan nations, has been a prominent voice raising the environmental impacts of large-scale tourist development in the Canadian media, in addition to outlining the potential impacts of recent trade agreements on their rights and their lands. In Nunavut, the Inuit Tapirisat has documented the impacts of contamination on Inuit communities and the Arctic environment in addition to sounding alarms about startling changes in their climate and ecosystem as a result of global warming.

Many Aboriginal people consider themselves the original caretakers of Mother Earth, and feel they have a responsibility to work to protect and heal the land from centuries of exploitation. At the local level, several communities have initiated local environmental groups concerned with issues impacting the land. The Grassy Narrows Environmental Group has worked to protect their territory in northern Ontario from industrial logging and to heal their lands from the devastating impacts of mercury contamination. The Kanawake Environmental Program developed a successful community recycling program on their territory near Montreal. The Pictou Landing First Nation in Nova Scotia is operating the first Forest Stewardship Council certified woodlot in Canada. These projects have succeeded despite numerous barriers. It is often difficult for Aboriginal communities in Canada to initiate these projects because they are not afforded any core funding for environmental protection from the Department of Indian Affairs. It is still quite difficult to attract necessary financial support from other government departments and private foundations, leaving the economically poorest communities in Canada with few financial resources to deal with the enormous environmental issues they face.

One of the first Aboriginal environmental organizations in Canada formed in response to extreme industrial contamination in the Mohawk Territory of Akwesasne. The Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment (ATFE) was created in 1987 as a community-based, grass-roots organization, to address the environmental problems facing the Mohawk Nation community of Akwesasne. The “mission of the Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment is to conserve, preserve, protect and restore the environment, natural and cultural resources within the Mohawk Territory of Akwesasne.” The task force founded the Kaniatarowanen’neh Research Institute to conduct environmental research as well as launching advocacy campaigns to promote the clean-up of toxic waste sites adjacent to the community created by industry. The ATFE is also involved in environmental education initiatives as well as promoting the development of sustainable economic initiatives at the community level. Similar work is carried on at the confederacy level by the Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force (HETF), composed of representatives from 15 Haudenosaunee communities in Canada and the United States (HETF, nd).

At the national level, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) under the current leadership of Matthew Coon Come has continued to emphasize the importance of the environment despite massive government funding cuts. The AFN is currently involved in the development of the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act, and the proposed Species at Risk and Marine Conservation Areas Acts, in addition to participating in the development of amendments to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. The Congress of Aboriginal peoples, representing Métis and off-reserve Aboriginal peoples, works to address environmental issues impacting urban Aboriginal people and Métis communities.

The Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources (CIER) is another organization active at the national level. CIER is an Aboriginal-controlled non-profit organization based in Winnipeg, Manitoba and is dedicated to the protection, preservation and renewal of Mother Earth. Founded in 1994, CIER was created to implement environmental-capacity-building initiatives in First Nations by developing necessary research, education and technical resources to enable communities to address the environmental issues facing their communities. To this end, CIER operates the First Nations Environment and Education Program for Aboriginal youth from across Canada educating their youth in indigenous and western scientific environmental perspectives. CIER also operates Winds and Voices Environmental Services, offering Aboriginal environmental consulting to organizations from across Canada. In addition to advocating for Aboriginal peoples and the environment at national and international levels, CIER has also created an innovative green office space demonstrating that it is possible to promote indigenous environmental values in contemporary times and in urban environments.

Aboriginal environmental organizations are also committed to sharing information and building alliances with other environmental and social justice groups. The First Nations Environmental Network (FNEN), affiliated with the Canadian Environmental Network, is a national organization of indigenous nations, individuals, and nonprofit groups working on environmental issues. They are committed to protecting, defending, and restoring the balance of all life by respecting and honoring traditional indigenous values. They operate as a network, linking grassroots indigenous peoples nationally and internationally to lend support to the variety of environmental issues facing indigenous peoples.

The Boreal Forest Network (BFN), the North American Affiliate of the Taiga Rescue Network, is a network of environmental groups, indigenous peoples and individuals working together to protect, restore and promote the sustainable use of North America’s remaining boreal forest, in addition to ensuring that indigenous rights are respected and there is local control of forest resources. Given that 80 percent of the people living in North America’s boreal forests are indigenous peoples, the participation of indigenous nations within the network has been an important force facing policy and decision making within the network.

Leanne Simpson (Anishinaabe Kwe)

Further Reading

Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force. Words That Come Before All Else: Environmental Philosophies of the Haudenosaunee. Cornwall Island, ON: Native North American Traveling College, n.d.

LaDuke, Winona. All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life. Cambridge: South End Press, 1999.

Sellers, Patricia, Rodney C. McDonald and Ardythe Wilson. “Healing the Land: Canada’s Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources Helps First Nations Protect and Restore the Environment.” Winds of Change (Spring 2001), 36–8.

See also: American Indians as “First Ecologists”; Haudenosaunee Confederacy; Indigenous Activism and Environmentalism in Latin America; Indigenous Environmental Network; Law, Religion, and Native American Lands.

Aboriginal Spirituality and the New Age in Australia

Australian Aboriginal religious traditions are the focus of some interest in the international alternative health and spirituality movement, better known as the “New Age.” This interest emerges from and reflects a wider pattern in “Western” thought that imagines contemporary indigenous peoples as embodying a primal human relationship to the natural world. Within this framework, the “West” tends to be associated with a set of cultural attitudes that reduce natural landscapes to mere resources for economic exploitation, while indigenous peoples are characterized as the guardians of true ecological and, therefore, spiritual wisdom. This link between spirituality and knowledge of the natural world can be traced throughout the history of European thought. It is clearly evident, for example, in the eighteenth-century work of Jean Jacques Rousseau, who wrote about the “Noble Savage,” and in nineteenthcentury Romanticism, which celebrated all that was “natural” in the face of ever-increasing industrialization.

Although many Aboriginal people live in cities and rural towns, and although the Australian continent is environmentally diverse, New Age representations of Aboriginal culture tend to focus on spiritual connections with the central desert region. One of the most well-known New Age accounts of Aboriginal spirituality is Marlo Morgan’s novel, Mutant Message Down Under. This popular story, originally published as non-fiction, introduces a group whom Morgan refers to as the “Real People.” The members of this central Australian “tribe” have had no contact with non-Aboriginal Australians and embody, according to Morgan, all that is wise and good in human- kind. Her narrative explains that the Real People have chosen to “leave Planet Earth” because damage to the environment is making it increasingly uninhabitable for them (1994: 148). Before they disappear, however, the Real People decide to pass their ecological and spiritual wisdom on to a white American woman (Morgan) so that she can carry their “message” to the rest of the world; the message being that non-indigenous people (mutants) must become more spiritually aware and less destructive of the natural environment. Similarly Lynn Andrews’ book, Crystal Woman, tells of the author’s spiritual journey to central Australia where she meets an elderly Aboriginal woman, a “shamaness,” who shares her wisdom with the white, American “apprentice.” In Andrews’ story, however, the American heroine heals the Aboriginal community she visits and paves the way for its members to join forces with indigenous peoples throughout the world. Although Andrews and Morgan both claim that their stories are true, their accounts are more representative of the themes that inform New Age discourses than of the experiences and concerns commonly reported by Aboriginal people themselves.

Other well-known New Age texts that focus on Aboriginal spirituality are Robert Lawlor’s Voices of the First Day and the collection of books by James Cowan, most especially The Elements of the Aborigine Tradition. Unlike the volumes by Morgan and Andrews, these are clearly presented as non-fiction and offer seemingly authoritative descriptions of Aboriginal culture. However, like Morgan and Andrews, their interpretations are idiosyncratic and highly contested outside of the New Age community.

It is possible to argue that there has been a greater curiosity about Aboriginal spirituality in European and American New Age communities, especially in the healing powers attributed to didjeridu music, than in the Australian context, where interest in the spiritual traditions of indigenous North Americans has often been more visible. Research on the alternative health and spirituality movement in Australia, however, does indicate that Aboriginal imagery is occasionally incorporated into New Age workshops and rituals, often in combination with images from other indigenous cultures. There have also been several Australian versions of New Age vision quests, based on Native American models. These have focused on stories, images and places associated with Aboriginal cultures and have tended to take the form of pilgrimages, for nonAboriginal people, to places of spiritual significance to Aboriginal communities. These “quests” often start in a capital city and involve an overland journey into Central Australia.

Aboriginal sacred sites, most especially Uluru in the center of Australia, are commonly believed, by many New Age thinkers, to constitute important components of a magnetic energy grid that spans the entire planet. Many New Age believers gathered at Uluru on 16 August 1987 to participate in the Harmonic Convergence, a global event that involved thousands of people traveling to sacred sites around the world to meditate on universal peace. The traditional Aboriginal owners later discouraged New Age gatherings at Uluru, claiming that New Age visitors failed to respect their requests for privacy and sensitivity.

Aboriginal reactions to New Age interest in their religious beliefs and practices, like those of other indigenous peoples, vary widely. It is possible to identify three general overlapping categories of response. Some Aboriginal people actively accommodate the New Age. These individuals believe that there is potential for the Aboriginal community to benefit from such attention. The HarperCollins edition of Marlo Morgan’s book, for example, originally included a written endorsement by Burnam Burnam, an Aboriginal man who felt that the story rightfully represented Aboriginal people as “regal and majestic.” Other Aboriginal elders have also argued that sharing their spiritual traditions with non-Aboriginal people is a way of encouraging greater levels of understanding and appreciation of their cultures, thus furthering Aboriginal struggles for land rights and social justice. Another category includes Aboriginal people who themselves adopt New Age beliefs and practices and merge them with traditional Aboriginal spirituality. Some of these people, such as Tjanara Goreng-Goreng, an Aboriginal woman from Queensland, have run workshops in Australia and overseas for non-Aboriginal people interested in Aboriginal spirituality and New Age philosophies. While Goreng-Goreng clearly asserts that there are many things she would never share with non-Aboriginal people, she also feels that it is important to build spiritual and social bridges between indigenous and non-indigenous groups in Australia and around the world.

A third category of response includes those who are strongly opposed to New Age “appropriations” of Aboriginal cultural imagery and actively protest against them. Robert Eggington, the Chairman of an Aboriginal arts advisory committee based in Western Australia, has promoted a “declaration against the continued spiritual colonization” of Aboriginal people and has led a long-term campaign against Marlo Morgan for what many believe are her blatant misrepresentations of Aboriginal cultures.

Commentators and indigenous activists worldwide argue, along similar lines to Eggington, that New Age interest in and use of indigenous spiritual and cultural imagery represents the ongoing colonization of indigenous peoples. Aboriginal lawyer, Larissa Behrendt (1998) draws attention to the ways in which romantic representations of indigenous people, such as those favored by the alternative health and spirituality movement, can have real disadvantages for Aboriginal people in their daily lives. She suggests that those Aboriginal individuals and groups who do not fit New Age stereotypes of “traditional” indigenous culture can suffer discrimination resulting from accusations that they are not “authentic” or “real.” Such challenges to individual and group identity can have serious political consequences for indigenous minorities.

One of the criticisms often directed, by Aboriginal people and their supporters, at participants in the New Age movement who profess an interest in Aboriginal spirituality, is that this interest often fails to acknowledge the links between religious beliefs and other less esoteric cultural traditions. For example, in an interview with researchers Denise Cuthbert and Michelle Grossman, Helena Gulash, an Aboriginal woman from Queensland, drew attention to Aboriginal attitudes to the restriction of religious knowledge. She explained that Aboriginal culture was not “an open book” and that there were certain things that were only appropriate for people to learn at specific times in their lives (1997: 51–2). Gulash pointed out that many New Age believers were unwilling to accept or respect such restrictions. She also indicated that while people involved in the New Age movement were often very eager for Aboriginal people to “share” their spiritual wisdom they tended to be less interested in learning about “the human level of things,” or in “developing connections” with the Aboriginal community (1997: 61). Gulash also claimed that there had been “very little practical help forthcoming or offered from the New Age movement to actually help [Aboriginal people] get [their] land back” (1997: 56), a struggle that is constantly identified as being essential to the ongoing survival of Aboriginal communities and cultures. There is, however, enormous diversity within the alternative health and spirituality movement, and degrees of individual commitment to matching spiritual “rhetoric” with lifestyle change and political and environmental activism vary considerably. While some people want to “honor” indigenous people without supporting them, others are eager to become more involved in indigenous issues. Occasionally this desire may even result in a move away from some of the assumptions promoted in mainstream New Age discourses.

New Age interests in indigenous belief systems sometimes overlap with those of people involved in the environmentalist movement. Jane Jacobs, a lecturer in geography and environmental studies, explained that “the spiritualism and holistic visions associated with land-based indigenous cultures have an obvious appeal” (1994: 305) to ecofeminists and deep ecologists. She argued that although these “Western” groups tend to emphasize the seemingly universal values of Aboriginal cultures at the expense of the particular characteristics that make them unique and valuable to their places of origin, opportunities also exist for Aboriginal people to benefit from such interest. Jacobs told the story of a group of Aboriginal women (Arrernte) from Australia’s Northern Territory who managed to gain crucial financial and political support from feminist and environmentalist groups around the world for their campaign against the destruction of a sacred women’s site by government developers. Their cause was successful partly because the traditional Aboriginal owners promoted the site as a place of importance for all Australian women, not just for Aboriginal women – even if non-Aboriginal people were unaware of it. Jacobs believed that by universalizing the value of their site these Aboriginal women were able to gain the active support of non-Aboriginal “counter-cultural” groups.

The New Age movement is especially vulnerable to accusations of cultural appropriation because of its emphasis on “picking and mixing” elements of many different spiritual traditions to create belief systems tailored to the interests and concerns of individual participants. However, New Age use of indigenous imagery cannot be understood apart from the currency that same imagery has in the wider society. Although the borrowing of cultural imagery, ideas or behaviors always has the potential to cause harm or offense to some groups, it is also a takenfor-granted practice in both indigenous and nonindigenous societies. New Age representations of and interests in Aboriginal people must be understood within the cultural context from which they emerge. However, they must also be understood within their political contexts and due consideration must be given to their possible consequences for “real-life” communities.

Jane Mulcock

Further Reading

Andrews, Lynn. Crystal Woman. New York: Warner Books, 1987.

Behrendt, Larissa. “In Your Dreams: Cultural Appropriation, Popular Culture and Colonialism.” Law, Text, Culture 4:1 (1998), 256–79.

Cowan, James. The Elements of the Aborigine Tradition.

Dorset: Element Books, 1992.

Cuthbert, Denise and Michelle Grossman. “Crossing Cultures: An Interview with Helena Gulash.” Hecate 23:2 (1997), 48–66.

Hume, Lynne. “The Dreaming in Contemporary Aboriginal Australia.” In Graham Harvey, ed. Indigenous Religions: A Reader. London and New York: Cassell, 2000, 125–38.

Jacobs, Jane. “Earth Honouring: Western Desires and Indigenous Knowledges.” Meanjin 53:2 (1994),


Lawlor, Robert. Voices of the First Day. Vermont: Inner Traditions, 1991.

Morgan, Marlo. Mutant Message Down Under. New York: HarperCollins, 1994.

Pecotic, David. “Three Aboriginal Responses to New Age Religion: A Textual Interpretation.” Australian Review of Religious Studies 14:1 (2001).

See also: Indigenous Religions and Cultural Borrowing; New Age.


Almost all environmental problems – pollution, overconsumption of limited resources, global climate change, destruction of non-human species, habitat, and land – are results of humans exceeding the carrying capacity of the planet. While part of the solution to these problems involves changing behaviors so that we might “walk more lightly” on the Earth, a central strategy to saving the Earth involves curbing population growth. Although education, increased rights of women, and a more just distribution of economic resources are essential to long-term population control, family planning has been an important policy with regard to short-term efforts to curb population growth. And effective family planning practices have almost always included inexpensive access to abortion, particularly where access to and effectiveness of other forms of contraception are limited. Consequently, the religious and ethical issues surrounding abortion become important in the religious and ethical discussion of environmental sustainability.

Daniel Maguire observes that when it comes to overpopulation, “Religion has been part of the problem” (2001: 149). Whether it is the biblical injunction to be fruitful and multiply, the Vedic view that a woman should marry before puberty so as not to waste any opportunity to become pregnant, or the Confucian ideal that status comes from numerous offspring, virtually all the traditional religions of the world have promoted increased fertility rather than limited family size. Concomitant to the promotion of fertility, many traditional religions are associated with teachings that explicitly condemn abortion. Of the world’s religions, Christianity, in particular, especially in its Roman Catholic and conservative evangelical Protestant forms, has taken the strongest stand against abortion, not only by teaching the view in its churches, but also by promoting political activism to make abortion illegal for anyone, Christian or not. Hindu, Buddhist, and Islamic religious bodies have often spoken out against abortion, though they have been less likely to promote the view as social policy. However, conservative Islamic nations allied themselves with the Vatican to oppose United Nations initiatives supportive of family planning and abortion at conferences in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and Cairo in 1994 (Maguire 2001: 31). A survey of the teachings of these traditional religions, (see Steffan 1996), suggests that opposition – or at least resistance – to abortion, is rooted in a common conviction, namely, that all life, even fetal life, is sacred.

Ironically, the very concern with the sacredness of all life found in the world’s traditional religions, has increasingly been recognized by various environmentalists as an important resource for supporting environmentalism, even deep ecology and ecofeminism (see Barnhill and Gottlieb, Deep Ecology and World Religions). Put simply, the recognition that all life is sacred, whether that is understood in terms of the intrinsic goodness of all creatures who are valued by their creator or in terms of a divine aspect present in every thing, supports the conviction of biocentric ethics that recognizes all living creatures have value in themselves apart from human use. However, if various forms of environmentalism share the view that all life is sacred or intrinsically valuable, then does this imply that deep ecologists and ecofeminists, among others, should oppose abortion for the same reasons that many traditional religions have apparently opposed abortion? Indeed, some critics have asserted as much. Janet Biehl has argued that for ecofeminists to be consistent, they must “oppose abortion on the grounds that it is destructive to ‘life’ ”(Biehl in Clausen 1991: 346). Even though Clausen dismisses Biehl’s claim as “indiscriminate” and not a view held by ecofeminists, there does seem to be a moral ambiguity about abortion that warrants examination. After all, the biocentric affirmation of the intrinsic value (or sacred status) of non-human life, by implication, raises the intrinsic value or sacred status of incipient human life or fetal life as well. Indeed, it does not appear to matter whether the fetus is understood as human or less than human, for if all living things are sacred, then fetuses count as sacred too. While Biehl’s assertion may not represent the de facto views of ecofeminists and other biocentric environmentalists, it would seem that if we ignore or dismiss the intrinsic value or sacredness of fetal life, that we run the risk of trivializing the intrinsic value of nonhuman life. Is there, then, a way to talk about the intrinsic value or sacred worth of fetal life that still allows for the practice of abortion as one means of family planning, or does a consistent biocentrism ultimately lead to opposition to abortion? At this point, Daniel Maguire suggests that religion might “be part of the solution” (2001: 149).

Maguire points out that in spite of the stereotype that traditional religions are anti-abortion, a more careful survey indicates that the major world religions have actually had a more nuanced assessment of the practice of abortion. Even in the Roman Catholic expression of Christianity, the strong anti-abortion stance of the Church is a relatively new development, and it is not universally affirmed by theologians. The official theologian of the Catholic Church, Thomas Aquinas, did not consider the fetus to have a human soul for at least forty days after conception (if male – ninety days if female). The fifteenthcentury Saint Antoninus and seventeenth-century Jesuit theologian Thomas Sanchez allowed that abortions were permissible to save the life of the mother (Maguire 2001: 37–8). As late as the first half of the nineteenth century, the Vatican distinguished between abortions that were homicides (when the fetus was fully formed) and those that were not. Of course, Maguire is not arguing that the Catholic Church has ever been supportive of abortion on demand, but he is pointing out that the Church’s teaching has reflected an ambiguity about the nature of the fetus; even when abortion was condemned in the earlier tradition, it was not usually viewed as homicide. Although, current papal teaching does condemn all abortion as homicide, there is, nonetheless, among today’s Catholic theologians, a wide range of perspectives on abortion that can claim to be rooted in the tradition.

Maguire and others provide parallel analyses of nonChristian religions that indicate that abortion, even where it was seen as undesirable, was also viewed as permissible under certain circumstances, ranging from health of the mother to the psychological and economic well-being of the family and the sustainability of the community. Perhaps the most interesting example of how a traditional religion has dealt with the moral ambiguity surrounding abortion is found in Japanese Buddhism. In spite of the “First Precept of Buddhism,” namely, “Do not kill, but rather preserve and cherish all life,” which for many Buddhists entails vegetarianism, abortion is a fairly important means of birth control among Japanese Buddhists. Indeed, many have credited Japan’s liberal laws on abortion as the major reason for Japan’s success in curbing its population growth. There is an obvious tension between Buddhist principle and practice here.

One way that Japanese Buddhists have dealt with this tension is through a ritual called mizuko kuyo¯ , a term which has been translated as “water child” or “liquid life” ritual. In this ritual, a person who has had an abortion (or miscarriage or stillbirth) performs a ceremony similar to that of honoring one’s ancestors, but along with memorializing the aborted fetus, the person in effect apologizes to the mizuko or “water child” for not having the opportunity to be born (see LaFleur 1996: 218–25 for a fuller description of various forms of mizuko kuyo¯ ). The ritual provides a means to assuage guilt, or more positively, to maintain one’s sense of humanity. According to LaFleur, the ritual is a pivotal way that Japanese Buddhists have dealt with the morality of aborting a life with sacred value: “through this ritual their moral options are not limited to either categorically forbidding abortion or, at the exact opposite pole, treating the fetus as so much inert matter to be dispensed with guiltlessly” (LaFleur 1996: 224). Elsewhere,

LaFleur argues that mizuko kuyo¯ provides another option [to viewing the fetus as either fully human or as entirely non-human], however, one which may be both more accurate and more useful, namely that of seeing the fetus as an ambiguous entity, neither exactly human nor adequately rendered as a mere thing. What interests many of us in the Japanese case is that in Japan, at least by persons wanting to bring religious values into the equation, the fetus is described largely in terms of this ambiguity (LaFleur 1998: 388).

In short, the sacredness of human life is honored without being absolutized.

These examples from traditional religions demonstrate that while it is wrong to say that these religions unequivocally oppose family planning efforts that include abortion, it is true that they see abortion as morally problematic. Even Maguire’s liberal reading of Roman Catholic tradition acknowledges that a newly developed fetus has some value, and the rite of mizuko reminds the practitioner that the death of the fetus is a real loss. Although recognizing that abortion is morally problematic might seem to point back to anthropocentricism, that very recognition also affirms that there is something sacred at stake. What is implied for a biocentric ethics is that while the affirmation of the intrinsic value of all life does not preclude abortion as one means of family planning and population control, it does encourage us to seek less harmful alternatives wherever those are feasible.

Paul Custodio Bube

Further Reading

Barnhill, David Landis and Roger S. Gottlieb. Deep Ecology and World Religions. Albany: SUNY Press, 2001.

Clausen, Jan. “Rethinking the World.” Nation 253:9 (23 September 1991), 344–7.

LaFleur, William R. “Abortion, Ambiguity, and Exorcism: A Review Essay Based on Helen Hardacre’s Marketing the Menacing Fetus in Japan.” Journal of Buddhist Ethics 5 (1998).

LaFleur, William R. “Mizuko Kuyo¯ : Abortion Ritual in Japan.” In Lloyd Steffen, ed. Abortion: A Reader. Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press, 1996.

Maguire, Daniel. Sacred Choices: The Right to Contraception and Abortion in Ten World Religions. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001.

Steffen, Lloyd, ed. Abortion: A Reader. Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press, 1996.

See also: Breeding and Contraception; Fertility and Abortion; Fertility and Secularization; Judaism and the Population Crisis; Population and Consumption – Contemporary Religious Responses; Population, Consumption, and Christian Ethics.

Adams, Ansel (1902–1984)

A renowned American photographer and conservationist, Adams fused his passions for photography and nature into stunning black-and-white images of the American West, and in the process became one of the best-known and most honored lensmen in the world.

Unchurched, yet deeply religious, Adams viewed nature as sacred and California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains as his cathedral. According to photography scholar John

Stzarkowski, “The thing that Adams most wanted to do as an artist was to photograph his mountains as a holy place” (Starkowski in Adams 1994: 26).

Adams’ belief in the sanctity of nature derived from several sources. His father introduced him to Walt Whitman, Henry David Thoreau, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Whitman’s pantheism, Thoreau’s faith in nature, and Emerson’s transcendental view of God in nature set well with him.

On a mountain outing in 1925, Adams carried a copy of English poet Edward Carpenter’s Toward Democracy. The book extolled nature as the ultimate source of spiritual insight.

When Ansel Adams read Carpenter among the granite peaks of the Sierra Nevada, it was the perfect combination of a time and a place, a set of ideas and a receptive mind. Reading Carpenter helped to confirm his growing sense of the spiritual power of nature and its potential for the redemption of society (Spaulding 1995: 50).

The following year, Adams met the pantheist poet Robinson Jeffers and his wife Una at their home in Carmel. They became friends. Jeffers regarded the universe as divine, a vibrant whole, with all of its parts expressions of the same creative energy. Jeffers’ poetry deeply affected the photographer. Adams considered Jeffers a genius who “produced much of America’s greatest poetry . . . Jeffers was a prophet of our age” (Adams 1985: 86–7).

Intellectual debts aside, Adams’ greatest inspiration sprang from wild nature. He experienced natural wonders as symbols of spiritual life. Adams “stressed that people have a profoundly spiritual need for nature. It was this spiritual connection between the Earth and its inhabitants that Adams sought to express in his photographs” (Adams 1995: 8).

To make the connection, Adams consciously tried to convey the equivalent of what he saw and felt at the moment he released the shutter. He spent countless hours in his darkroom perfecting his images. Adams devised a “Zone System” to gain maximum tonal range from blackand-white film. He defined it as “a framework for understanding exposure and development, and visualizing their effect in advance” (Adams 1985: 311).

He called negatives “the score” and prints “the performance.” Adams altered the “straight reality” of his negatives by intensifying or subduing the dramatic play of light and shadow in his prints, thereby attaining his vision of nature’s grandeur.

Adams’ compositions drew criticism from some quarters because they excluded human beings and ignored environmental deterioration. He responded that his pictures always included two persons, the photographer and the viewer, and he chose to accent the positive in his work. Through his photography, Adams sought to lift people’s thoughts above material concerns:

We are now sufficiently advanced to consider resources other than materialistic, but they are tenuous, intangible, and vulnerable to misapplication. They are, in fact, the symbols of spiritual life – a vast impersonal pantheism – transcending the confused myths and prescriptions that are presumed to clarify ethical and moral conduct . . . In contemplation of the eternal incarnations of the spirit which vibrate in every mountain, leaf, and particle of Earth, in every cloud, stone, and flash of sunlight, we make new discoveries on the planes of ethical and humane discernment, approaching the new society at last, proportionate to nature . . . (Adams 1950: 50).

His ability to give viewers a sense of “the metaphysical implied by the physical” informs his best work, says art authority David Robertson. By evoking immanent divinity in his natural landscapes, Adams captures a transforming vision of a cosmic order that contains and maintains our world . . . No artist in Yosemite history has so effectively as Ansel Adams let us glimpse the majesty of this order; no other artist has so enabled us to sense its glory and partake of its power (Robertson 1984: 124).

To commemorate his legacy, Congress named a wilderness area south of Yosemite in his honor, and the U.S. Geological Survey demarked an 11,760 foot peak “Mount Ansel Adams.” His ashes were scattered on its slopes, becoming one with the mountains he loved and photographed so stunningly.

His images live on to stir deeper appreciation for wildlands and greater reverence for the natural world.

Garry Suttle

Further Reading

Adams, Ansel. “Seeing Nature with an Inner Eye.” Inter- national Wildlife 50 (October 1997). (Reprinted text from My Camera in the National Parks, 1950.)

Adams, Ansel. Ansel Adams: The National Park Service Photographs. Introduction by Alice Grey. New York: Artabras, Abbeville Press, 1995.

Adams, Ansel. Yosemite and the High Sierra. Andrea G. Stillman, ed. Introduction by John Stzarkowski. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1994.

Adams, Ansel (with Mary Street Alinder). An Autobiography. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1985.

Robertson, David. West of Eden: A History of the Art and Literature of Yosemite. Berkeley: Yosemite Natural History Association and Wilderness Press, 1984.

Spaulding, Jonathan. Ansel Adams and the American Landscape: A Biography. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.

See also: Jeffers, John Robinson; Thoreau, Henry David; Sierra Club; Whitman, Walt.

Adams, Carol (1950–)

Carol Adams has been the primary voice linking animal rights with feminism, particularly focusing on the religious dimensions of these issues. Her seemingly obvious yet incredibly controversial statement that “people with power have always eaten meat” points to the inherent sexism, racism, speciesism and violence of patriarchal culture. Adams has published close to 100 books and articles on issues of ecofeminism, domestic violence and the spirituality of vegetarianism. In addition, her work has been featured in the documentary “A Cow at My Table.”

Since the 1970s Adams has been an activist addressing issues of poverty, racism, sexism and animal rights. She received her Master of Divinity from Yale University Divinity School in 1976 and is an adjunct professor at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, in Dallas.

Adams’ seminal work, The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory (1990), suggests that animals are the absent referent in the act of meat eating. They also become the absent referent in images of women butchered, fragmented, or consumable. Thus a structure of overlapping but absent referents links violence against women and animals. Through the structure of the absent referent, patriarchal values become institutionalized. Presentations of this book are often accompanied by her widely acclaimed “Sexual Politics of Meat Slide Show” in which Adams visualizes the links between women and meat.

She also edited the volume Ecofeminism and the Sacred (1993), the first anthology to focus on ecofeminism and spirituality. Adams deliberately included essays that embody the diverse manifestations of ecofeminist spirituality. In various essays she analyzes the construction of bodies in feminism. She posits that self/other dualisms central to patriarchal thought lead to a feminizing or animalizing of all “others.” Thus all “others” can “naturally” be dominated.

She elaborates on the themes of compassionate spiritual practice in Meditations on the Inner Art of Vegetarianism: Spiritual Practices for the Body and Soul (2001). Central to her ecofeminist work is the shared embodiedness of all beings. Carol Adams’ provocative, ground-breaking insights into the interconnections between violence against human and nonhuman animals provides a powerful lens through which patriarchal culture can be viewed and critiqued.

Laura Hobgood-Oster

Further Reading

Adams, Carol. Meditations on the Inner Art of Vegetarianism: Spiritual Practices for the Body and Soul. New York: Lantern Books, 2001.

Adams, Carol. Neither Man nor Beast: Feminism in Defense of Animals. New York: Continuum, 1994.

Adams, Carol, ed. Ecofeminism and the Sacred. New York: Continuum, 1993.

Adams, Carol. The Sexual Politics of Meat: A FeministVegetarian Critical Theory. New York: Continuum, 1990.

Adams, Carol and Josephine Donovan. Animals and Women: Feminist Theoretical Exploration. Durham: Duke University Press, 1995.

See also: Animals; Christianity(8d) – Feminist Theology; Ecofeminism – Historic and International Evolution; Hunting Spirituality; Vegetarianism (various); Women and Animals.

Aesthetics and Nature in China and Japan

Chinese Aesthetics

Chinese aesthetics, influenced strongly by Daoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism, manifests a distinctive and complex view of nature. The basic assumption is that the world of phenomena manifests the Dao, the way of nature. The Dao is not a separate reality but rather the patterned processes of the natural world, or perhaps the disposition of the universe to act in a patterned, harmoniously interactive way. The human ideal is to understand the Dao and act in harmony with it.

This view of nature can appropriately be called “organic” for various reasons. First, all of reality is included. There is no separate, transcendent realm; heaven, Earth, and humans (the “Triad”) are all fully part of nature. Second, nature is self-creative. Rather than a separate creator who made the world in the past, nature by itself displays ongoing creation. Zaohua, the “Creative,” acts in spontaneous and unpredictable ways but is always skillful in creating the beauty and harmony of the natural world.

Third, all things – including rocks and water – have vitality, called in Chinese qi, literally the “breath” of life. Fourth, each phenomenon has an individual nature, and this consists not of some essence but of a distinctive power (de), spirit (shen), and pattern of growth. And finally, all phenomena are organically interrelated. The world is one continuous field of qi, with each phenomenon not a separate thing but rather a temporary form within it, like a whirlpool in a stream.

Art is the evocation of the spirit of phenomena, rather than a depiction of surface reality. Painters, for instance, are supposed to capture the specific qi or “spirit resonance” of things. If the artist does, then the painting itself will exhibit qi and be an instance of zaohua. The artist participates in nature’s creativity.

In order to accomplish this, the artist or poet must go through meditative practices that consist fundamentally of two things: removing the delusion of a separate self and the desires it produces, and concentrating upon the subject until there is a direct communion with it. That communion is described metaphorically in various ways, for instance, as “entering into” the rock or tree, or as allowing the phenomenon to enter into the artist, resulting in the “complete bamboo in the breast.” Literary treatises such as the The Poetic Exposition on Literature (Wen fu) by Lu Ji (261–303) and the The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons (Wenxin diaolong, ca. 523) by Liu Xie (465–522) spoke of a “spirit journey” in which the poet’s inner spirit roamed out into the world. Such communing with nature is possible because we are within nature’s field of qi and thus ontologically continuous with all other things.

Thus a major aesthetic concern was the relationship between self and nature, inner and outer. The Chinese saw nature as an ongoing dynamic of stimulus and response among all things, and humans were included in this. Emotions arise in reaction to circumstance, and from the earliest statement of poetics, the “Great Preface” to the Book of Song (Shi jing) [ca. first century], poetry was seen as a voicing of that response. It was assumed that there was a strong correlation between “scene” (jing) and “emotional response” (qing), and the great poet achieved a unity of the two.

Because humans are a part of nature, human culture is not seen as something separate from nature or unnatural. This was particularly stressed in the first chapter of The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons. The term for both literature and culture is wen. Originally the term meant the pattern a phenomenon makes (e.g., the particular sound a pine makes in the wind, the colors of a tiger, the shapes of a cloud). Human culture – literature and art in particular – is the wen of humans. The words written by a poet are essentially no different from the tracks a bird makes in sand. Culture is, thus, natural, but that naturalness is realized only if the person acts as nature does, with spontaneity according to one’s true inner nature rather than based on the desires of the ego-self.

This view gives humans a paradoxical status within nature. We are the only phenomena that fail to exhibit naturalness. However, humans also are given an exalted status within nature, for if an artist creates in a natural way, then the “mind of nature” is revealed and the transformations of nature are brought to “completion.” Thus we have a responsibility to act in a natural way. If we act on the basis of our personal desires or if we delude ourselves into thinking we are separate from nature, then nature’s transformations cannot reach fulfillment and disharmony results.

The notion of nature at work here is different from what we are used to in the West. Although there are numerous different meanings of our word “nature,” two meanings have been particularly influential. One we could call “dualistic”: nature is whatever humans have not created or manipulated. The opposite of this notion of nature would be “culture” or “human,” and a skyscraper or toxic waste would be considered unnatural. The second notion of nature we could call “monistic”: nature is whatever exists in our world. A skyscraper or toxic waste are in this sense natural, and the “natural” sciences can study them. Here the opposite of nature would be the “supernatural.” Chinese aesthetics is based on a third, “adverbial” notion of nature. As in the monistic notion of nature, humans are “essentially” a part of nature. However, existentially humans may act unnaturally if they don’t act spontaneously according to their nature. The opposite of this sense of the natural is the artificial, the forced, and inevitably the disharmonious. Thus human culture may or may not manifest the mind of nature. Essentially humans are natural, but existentially the natural is only a possibility. We must work to realize it.

Japanese Aesthetics

Japanese literary aesthetics are rooted in both Shinto and Buddhism. In Shinto, nature is characterized by places of spiritual power, mystery, and beauty. Moreover, the agricultural year is ritualized according to seasons, with special religious festivals celebrating the particular character of the season. Thus nature has places ritually set-off as divine and also involves a natural process of seasonal change that we are actively enmeshed in.

Buddhism offered a view of nature that emphasized impermanence and interrelationship. All things are transient and unstable, and they are radically interdependent. Reality is “empty” of the permanence and self-subsistent independence we normally associate with it. But as the Heart Sutra states, “emptiness is form and form is emptiness”: the phenomenal world is also ultimate reality, a vast dynamic field of interrelationships. The problem is that our delusion about permanence and discreteness involves a sense of separation from the world and leads to desires and attachments and thus suffering. The ideal is an experience of oneness with the world, a realization of its sacred nature, deep contentment, and a spontaneous way of acting devoid of desires.

The first major statement of Japanese poetics is the introduction to the Collection of Poems Ancient and Modern (Kokinwakshu¯ , ca. 920). It reflects the sense of intimate connection between humans and nature found in

Shinto and Chinese aesthetics. Poetry is a natural reaction to what is emotionally moving in a particular moment, with nature and love being the two main contexts for deep feeling. To be human is to be moved by nature’s beauty and to express one’s emotions, and thus poetry is as natural as a bird’s song. Artistic expression of emotion arose as a refinement and fulfillment of our natural movements.

A focus on nature, recognition of the transience of all things of beauty, and the ideal of tranquility formed the basis of many Japanese aesthetic ideals. The most fundamental aesthetic idea may be mono-no-aware, the “pathos of things.” It involves an exquisite sensitivity to impermanence, whether it is the falling of leaves or one’s own process of aging. A kind of sweet sorrow arises from the simultaneous affirmation of beauty and a recognition of its passing away. Included is a sense of acceptance, resulting in a tranquil sorrow that comes from seeing and conforming to the essential quality of life. Thus aware refers to both an objective condition of reality and an emotional state of mind.

Yu¯ gen (“mysterious depth”) is an ideal that was particularly prominent in the medieval period (1186–1603) when aesthetics were particularly influenced by Zen Buddhism. Although yu¯ gen was interpreted in various ways over the centuries, it generally refers to the inexhaustible richness of reality that defies human conception. The world has a dimension of mystery that we can only indirectly feel or intuit. Because of this sense of wonder and depth, yu¯ gen often is characterized by a feeling of sorrowful, calm yearning for a beauty that cannot be fully grasped. As the poet Fujiwara no Shunzei (1114–1204) stated, a deep intuition into yu¯ gen can be attained through shikan, “tranquility and insight,” a Buddhist form of meditation on the vast and ever-changing net of interrelationships that characterize the world. It is suggested in poetry by images that have reverberations of meaning that create an indefinable atmosphere. For Kamo no Cho¯ mei (1155– 1216), the profound subtlety of yu¯ gen can be found in an autumn evening when, looking up at a limitless sky empty of color, we are inexplicably moved to tears.

A different type of poetic idea that is relevant to the Japanese view of nature is hon’i (“poetic essences”). Plants and animals as well as famous scenes in nature tended to be associated with particular qualities. A tree, a bird, and a particular landscape were thought to have a kind of “true nature” that poets were expected to grasp and then suggest in their poetry. In most cases, these qualities were also linked to particular seasons. The poetic essence of the bird chidori (plover), for instance, is melancholy. This correlation stemmed from the sorrowful sound of its call and from being found along the coast, which was considered a place distant from the capital, thus suggesting loneliness. Because of its association with sadness and its tendency to flock during the desolation of winter, it is a “winter” image

(despite being a year-round resident of Japan). While those in the modern West might feel that this aesthetic puts artificial limitations on our responses to nature, to the traditional Japanese it is a way of recognizing the essential nature of things and cultivating a sensitivity that responds to their depth and subtlety.

David Landis Barnhill

Further Reading (China)

Bush, Susan and Hsio-yen Shih. Early Chinese Texts on Painting. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992.

Fuller, Michael A. “Pursuing the Complete Bamboo in the Breast: Reflections on a Classical Chinese Image for Immediacy.” Harvard Journal of Asian Studies 53:1 (1993), 5–23.

Liu, James J.Y. Chinese Theories of Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975.

Owen, Stephen. Readings in Chinese Literary Thought.

Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992.

Further Reading (Japan)

Konishi, Jin’ichi. A History of Japanese Literature, 3 vols.

Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984.

LaFleur, William R. The Karma of Words: Buddhism and the Literary Arts in Medieval Japan. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1983.

Miner, Earl, ed. Principles of Classical Japanese Literature.

Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985.

Miner, Earl, et al. The Princeton Companion to Classical Japanese Literature. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985.

See also: Matsuo Basho¯ ; Chinese Traditional Concepts of Nature; Confucianism; Confucianism and Environmental Ethics; Daoism; Japanese Gardens; Japanese Love of Nature; Rexroth, Kenneth Kawabata; Yasunari.

Aesthetics of Nature and the Sacred

1. Natural Archetypes

Confronting nature one experiences archetypes of the world – sun and sky, wind and rain, rivers and Earth, the everlasting hills, shores, seas, forests and grasslands, the fauna and flora. These represent – more literally represent, present again – the elemental forces of nature. They bear the signature of time and eternity, with an aura of ancient past subliminally there, processes timelessly recurring. A living landscape couples dynamism with antiquity and demands an order of aesthetic interpretation that one is unlikely to find in art and its artifacts.

The phenomenon of forests, for example, is so widespread, persistent, and diverse, spontaneously appearing almost wherever moisture and climatic conditions permit, that forests cannot be accidents or anomalies but rather must be a characteristic expression of the creative process. There is also the steppe and the veldt, the tundra and the sea, and these too have their power to arouse a sense of antiquity and of ongoing life.

Aesthetic experience of nature moves beholders with how the central goods of the biosphere – hydrologic cycles, photosynthesis, soil fertility, food chains, genetic codes, speciation, reproduction, succession – were in place long before humans arrived. Aesthetics is something that goes on in experiences of the human mind, but the dynamics and structures organizing natural history do not come out of the mind. Immersed in a nonhuman frame of reference, subjective though aesthetic experience may be, one makes contact with the natural certainties. At more depth, these are the timeless natural givens that support everything else.

On these scales humans are a late-coming novelty, and yet the only species that can behold and ponder this genesis, and that awareness too is aesthetically demanding. The challenge is to complement the natural dynamics, which have been ongoing over the millennia, with this novel emergent that comes into being when persons arrive, enjoy their unique presence, and search for the significance of life. “I went to the woods,” remarked Thoreau, “because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived” (Thoreau 1966: 61).

No one can live in bare woods alone; civilization too is, for humans, an essential fact of life. The town, however, is not so aboriginally archetypal. Were civilization to collapse, the Earth would revert to wildness, because this is the foundational ground. Such aesthetic power of nature stands in strong contrast to classical experience of art forms, religious though these arts often are. The creations of sculptors, painters, musicians, and craftsmen always betoken civilization. In nature, one is not dealing with art, artifact, artist; one has penetrated to the foundational ground.

In the heavens, there are stars, galaxies, celestial beauties, which are also required (as astronomers have discovered) for the construction of all but the simplest elements, and thus they are required for Earth and life. There are inanimate earthen kinds that nature generates over the epochs: mountains, canyons, rivers, estuaries, also stimulating aesthetically. But the miracle of Earth is that nature decorates this geomorphology with life. There are trees rising toward the sky, birds on the wing and beasts on the run, age after age, impelled by a genetic language two billion years old. There is struggle and adaptive fitness, energy and evolution inventing fertility and prowess. There is succession and speciation, muscle and fat, smell and appetite, law and form, structure and process. There is light and dark, life and death, the mystery of existence.

Once this was Eden with its tree of life, or the shoot growing out of the stump of Jesse, or the cedars of Lebanon clapping their hands in joy; today the experience is more science-based. Some aestheticians caution whether one should require much science here, since being moved by natural beauty is perennial and multi-cultural. Still, when the science is added, the science only intensifies this sense of life’s transient beauty sustained over chaos, life persisting in the midst of its perpetual perishing. A visit to these wilds contributes to the human sense of place in space and time, of duration, antiquity, continuity, to the human mystery of being the sole aesthetician in a kaleidoscopic universe. There one encounters “the types and symbols of Eternity” (William Wordsworth in Selincourt 1965: 536).

2. Sublime Nature

Encountering these outdoor archetypes humans reach the sense of the sublime. By contrast, few persons get goose pimples indoors; maybe in church, but infrequently in art museums, in shopping centers, or at the city park. The sublime invokes a category that was, in centuries past, important in aesthetics, but today many think it to have lapsed. Still, although the category is not currently fashionable, the sublime is perennial in encounter with nature because wherever people step to the edge of the familiar, everyday world, they risk encounter with grander, more provocative forces that touch heights and depths beyond normal experience, forces that transcend daily life and which both attract and threaten. Mountains, forests, canyons, seas – these are never very modern or postmodern, or even classical or pre-modern. They explode such categories and move beholders outside culture into fundamental nature.

Almost by definition, the sublime runs off scale. There is vertigo before vastness, magnitude, antiquity, power, elemental forces austere and fierce, enormously more beyond our limits. The forest’s roots, its radical origins, plunge down to depths one knows not where. The trees point upward along the mountain slope, which rises to join the sky, and the scene soars off to heights unknown. The frames and pedestals familiar to cultured aesthetic experience are gone. There is no choir, no organist seated at the console, no artist signature at the bottom of the painting, no gardener planting the oncoming season’s flowers. One encounters what was aboriginally there in its present incarnation.

In some realms of nature – awe-struck before the midnight sky, or watching a sunset over arctic ice, or deep in the Vishnu schist of the Grand Canyon in the Southwestern United States – beauty and power are yet lifeless. In a forest, however, the sublime and the beautiful are bound up with the struggle for life – windswept bristlecone pines along a ridge in California’s Sierra Nevada. The aesthetic challenge is conflict and resolution presented on these awesome scales. In the intensity of this conflict, there can often be religious yearning for life in another world, where the hunger, thirst, death of this one is transcended. But the earthen beauty remains nevertheless. The ancient Hebrews found green pastures in the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23). The desert languished, but sooner, later, always, there was rain: “The desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly” (Isa. 35:1–2).

Clouds, seashores, mountains, forests, even deserts are never ugly; they are only more or less beautiful; the scale runs from zero upward with no negative domain. Destroyed forests can be ugly – a burned, windthrown, or diseased forest. But even the ruined forest, regenerating itself, still has positive aesthetic properties. Trees rise to fill the empty place against the sky. A forest is filled with organisms that are marred and ragged – oaks with broken limbs, a crushed violet, the carcass of an elk. But these are only penultimately ugly; ultimately these are presence and symbol of life forever renewed before the winds that blast it. Consider the “flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more” (Ps. 103:15–16). “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; . . . I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Matt. 6:28–29).

Forests are full of shadows, and this is metaphorically as well as literally true. The darkness shadowing life is as much the source of beauty as is light or life. In some moods, nature is ugly, even evil (“fallen”), and the problem of justifying nature’s harshness has much troubled religious thought. Still, there are streams in the desert. Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. Yes, giants have fallen, and rotting logs fill the forest floor. See these cones: there is power in them enough to regenerate the forest for millennia. Put your hand in this humus from which the present forest rises – “the immeasurable height of woods decaying, never to be decayed” (William Wordsworth in Selincourt 1965: 536). The ugliness softens and is reset in somber beauty. When one remembers this regeneration of new life out of old on a scale of centuries and millennia, one knows the sense of the sublime.

3. Sacred Nature

When beauty transforms into the sublime, the aesthetic is elevated into the numinous. “Break forth into singing, O mountains, O forest, and every tree in it!” (Isa. 44:23). “The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly; the cedars of Lebanon which he planted” (Ps. 104:16). “The groves were God’s first temples” (William Cullen Bryant in Frazer 1994: 82–97). The forest is a kind of church. Trees pierce the sky, like cathedral spires. Light filters down, as through stained glass. The forest canopy is lofty, far above our heads. Forests, like sea and sky, invite transcending the human world and experiencing a comprehensive, embracing realm. Encounters with primordial nature often prove more provocative, perennial signs of this than many of the traditional, often outworn, symbols devised by the churches. Life regenerated is out there in nature; on such an Earth we may hope in beauty forever.

Parallel experiences are found in Asian faiths:

As I come along the mountain path, What a heart-warming surprise,

This cluster of dainty violets! (Basho¯)

Full moon, and under the trees Patterned shadows – how beautiful Alongside mine! (Baishitsu)

As with Christian longing for heaven beyond Earth and its struggles, the Asian faiths can also dwell on the dukkha, suffering, and unsatisfactoriness of this life, at times casting this aesthetic experience into doubt.

Aestheticians may protest that their experiences need not be religious (as some protested before that these experiences need not be scientific). Nevertheless, the line between aesthetic respect and reverence for nature is often crossed unawares, somewhere in the region of the sublime. Mountaintop experiences, the wind in the pines, a howling storm, a quiet snowfall in wintry woods, solitude in a grove of towering spruce, an overflight of honking geese – these generate “a sense sublime of something far more deeply interfused . . . a motion and spirit that impels . . . and rolls through all things. Therefore I am still a lover of the meadows and the woods, and mountains” (William Wordsworth in Selincourt 1965: 105). John Muir exclaimed, “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness” (in Wolfe 1938: 313).

Science secularizes nature, although historians will notice that Christian monotheism had already disenchanted nature. That might be thought to make secular nature less provocative of religious experience. But primordial nature has proved strangely resistant to being secularized in the etymological sense of that term, being reduced to “this present age” (Latin saeculum), or reduced to the merely “profane” (common, ordinary) either. Some features of nature mechanize well (planets in orbit; tectonic plates). But elsewhere there is too much that is organic, or, better, too much that is vital, or, better still, too much that is valuable.

When value is discovered there, as with the forest as spontaneously self-organizing, as generator of life, not merely as resource, but as Source of being, the forest starts to become a sacrament of something beyond, something ultimate in, with, and under these cathedral groves. Vital nature has a way of spontaneously reenchanting itself – a vast scene of sprouting, budding, leafing out, flowering, fruiting, passing away, passing life on. Forests are not haunted, but that does not mean that there is nothing haunting about forests. Perhaps the supernatural is gone, but here the natural can be supercharged with mystery. Science removes the little mysteries (how acorns make oaks which make acorns) to replace them with bigger ones (how the acorn-oak-acorn loop got established in the first place). Thanks to the biochemists, molecular biologists, geneticists, botanists, and ecologists, modern beholders know about how this green world works. But is this an account that demystifies what is going on?

Moses thought that the burning bush, not consumed, was quite a miracle. Modern naturalists hardly believe any more in that sort of supernatural miracle; science has made such stories incredible. What has it left instead? A self-organizing photosynthesis driving a life synthesis that has burned for millennia, life as a strange fire that outlasts the sticks that feed it. This is rather spirited behavior on the part of secular matter, “spirited” in the animated, root sense of a “breath” or “wind” that energizes this mysterious, vital metabolism. The bushes in the Sinai desert, the cedars of Lebanon – all such woody flora are hardly phenomena less marvelous even if one no longer wants to say that this is miraculous.

Indeed, in the original sense of “miracle” – a wondrous event, without regard to the question whether natural or supernatural – the phenomenon of photosynthesis with the continuing floral life it supports is the secular equivalent of the burning bush. The bush that Moses watched was an individual in a species line that had perpetuated itself for millennia, coping by the coding in its DNA, fueled by the sun, using cytochrome c molecules several billion years old, and surviving without being consumed.

To go back to the miracle that Moses saw, a bush that burned briefly without being consumed, would be to return to something several orders of magnitude less spectacular.

The current account from science is a naturalistic account, but this nature is quite spectacular stuff. The forest wilderness, Muir insisted, is a window into the universe. Science traces out some causes, which disappear rearward in deep time, and carry on a continuing genesis, and leave the beholder stuttering for meanings. The forest remains a kind of wonderland, a land that provokes wonder. The empirical phenomena about which there is absolutely no doubt need more explanation than the secular categories seem able to give.

Loren Eiseley, surveying evolutionary history, exclaims, “Nature itself is one vast miracle transcending the reality of night and nothingness” (1960: 71). Ernst Mayr, one of the most celebrated living biologists, impressed by the creativity in natural history, says, “Virtually all biologists are religious, in the deeper sense of this word, even though it may be a religion without revelation . . . The unknown and maybe unknowable instills in us a sense of humility and awe” (Mayr 1982: 81). The sublime is never really far from the religious. If anything at all on Earth is sacred, it must be this enthralling creativity that characterizes our home planet. Here an appropriate aesthetics becomes spiritually demanding.

Holmes Rolston, III

Further Reading

Carroll, Noël. “On Being Moved by Nature: Between Religion and Natural History.” In Salim Kemal and Ivan Gaskell, eds. Landscape, Natural Beauty and the Arts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993, 244–66.

Eiseley, Loren. The Firmament of Time. New York: Atheneum, 1960.

Frazer, James George. “The Worship of Trees.” In The Golden Bough. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994, 82–97.

Hepburn, Ronald W. “Landscape and the Metaphysical Imagination.” Environmental Values 5 (1996), 191–


Mayr, Ernst. The Growth of Biological Thought. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, Belnap Press, 1982.

Nicolson, Marjorie Hope. Mountain Gloom and Mountain Glory: The Development of the Aesthetics of the Infinite. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1959.

Rolston, Holmes, III. “Aesthetic Experience in Forests.” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 56 (1998), 157–66.

Rolston, Holmes, III. “Does Aesthetic Appreciation of Landscapes Need to be Science-Based?” British Journal of Aesthetics 35 (1995), 374–86.

Saito, Yuriko. “The Japanese Appreciation of Nature.”

British Journal of Aesthetics 25 (1985), 239–51.

Selincourt, Ernest De, ed. The Poetical Works of Words- worth. London: Oxford University Press, 1965.

Tuan, Yi-Fu. Passing Strange and Wonderful: Aesthetics, Nature, and Culture. Washington, D.C.: Island Press/ Shearwater Books, 1993.

Thoreau, Henry David. “Walden.” In Owen Thomas, ed. Walden and Civil Disobedience. New York:

W.W. Norton, 1966.

Wolfe, Linnie Marsh, ed. John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1938.

See also: Aesthetics and Nature in China and Japan; Jung, Carl Gustav.

African Earthkeeping Churches – Association of (Zimbabwe)

During his study of religious factors in Zimbabwe’s political liberation struggle (chimurenga), Professor M.L. Daneel became aware of a widespread need in African grassroots society in the Masvingo Province for effective engagement in the preservation of a fast deteriorating environment. After initial discussions with rural traditionalists and Christians it was decided to engage in a new liberation struggle, this time on behalf of God’s creation. Thus the “war of the trees” was declared; a war which targeted three environmental concerns: tree planting, wildlife conservation, and the protection of water resources; a war, moreover, which was to draw on similar sources of religious inspiration, as did the preIndependence chimurenga.

The “green army” of earthkeepers which came into being was composed of two sister organizations: AZTREC, the “Association of Zimbabwean Traditionalist Ecologists,” and the AAEC, “Association of African Earthkeeping Churches.” The former comprises traditionalist chiefs, clan elders, and spirit mediums who engage in environmental reform at the behest of the senior guardian ancestors of the land (varidzi venyika) and the oracular high-god cult at the Matopo hills. The latter is made up of some 150 to 180 African Initiated Churches (AICs), mainly of the prophetic or pentecostal type (i.e., Zionists and Apostles) that represent an estimated total of two million adherents throughout Zimbabwe.

Together the two sister organizations belong to a financially and tactically empowering agency called ZIRRCON (Zimbabwean Institute of Religious Research and Ecological Conservation) – an expanded version of Professor Daneel’s original empirical research unit. This body today represents the largest NGO for environmental reform at the rural grassroots of Zimbabwe. Some eight million trees have already been planted in several thousand woodlots since the inception of the movement in the period 1986 to 1988. Twelve main nurseries in various districts of the Masvingo Province each cultivate between 50,000 and 100,000 seedlings annually. Through AZTREC and the AAEC peasant communities are mobilized on a massive scale to establish their own woodlots near stable water points. Satellite nurseries for seedlings are also developed by women’s clubs, youth groups at schools, and AIC theological training centers. A great variety of trees are planted for commercial, religious, aesthetic, and ecologically-protective purposes. ZIRRCON and its sister organizations cultivate larger numbers of indigenous tree seedlings than any other institute in Zimbabwe.

The main “weapon” used by the AAEC in its quest for a liberated, rejuvenated creation is a eucharist of tree planting, popularly and aptly referred to by AIC participants as the maporesanyika (i.e., “Earth-healing”) ceremony. As a thoroughly contextualized sacrament in the African context, this ceremony represents a compelling challenge to African churches and the world Church, as regards Christian stewardship in creation.

The ceremony is always ecumenical in nature. Green fighters of numerous churches attend to provide momentum from a united platform. In addition, a contingent of traditionalist AZTREC members are invited to participate, in recognition of religious pluriformity in the struggle, as well as the concern for all of life, the entire Earth community. The liturgical sequence of the eucharist starts with the digging of holes and related preparations (e.g., fencing in the new woodlot, called “the Lord’s Acre”). The preparation of the Holy Communion table, with tree seedlings and sacramental elements standing side by side, is followed by song and dance in celebration of the renewal of God’s Earth. Leading AIC earthkeepers preach rousing sermons, the contents of which profile the emergence of an intuitive grassroots theology of the environment.

The sacrament itself is introduced by public confessions of ecological sins, such as random tree felling, causing soil erosion through riverbank cultivation and the use of sledges, etc., under the guidance of Spirit-filled prophets. Communicants then proceed to the communion table, seedling in hand, as if to draw creation symbolically into the inner circle of Christ, the Redeemer of all creation. As they move from the communion table to “the Lord’s Acre” the communicants further enact the ritual incorporation of Earth community in sacramental celebration by addressing the seedlings to be planted, as follows:

You, tree, my brother . . . my sister Today I plant you in this soil

I shall give water for your growth

Have good roots to keep the soil from eroding Have many branches and leaves so that we can sit in your shade breathe fresh air and find firewood.

Personalizing humans’ relations with nature in this manner fosters new attitudes of respect for the inanimate members of Earth-community and promotes sound after-care of the trees planted. In conclusion, a healing ceremony for afflicted earthkeepers is performed with laying-on of hands, sprinkling of holy water, and prayers to the tune of rhythmic dance and song. Thus the treeplanting sacrament integrates the healing of Earth and humans as witness of Christ’s good news to the world.

The AAEC’s tree-planting eucharist represents ecclesiological reorientation and change. Through repeated implementation of this sacrament the Church’s mission obtains a more comprehensive liberationist and ecological thrust. Whereas the Zionists and Apostles have always used the annual Paschal celebrations with their climactic eucharistic ceremonies as “launching pads” for wideranging missionary campaigns, the earthkeeping eucharist itself, in this instance, becomes the witnessing event, the proclamation of good news to all creation. It is enacted in nature and in the presence of non-Christian fellow fighters

(of AZTREC) in “the war of the trees.” The implication here is not that the classical mission mandate of Matthew 28:19, with its call for repentance, conversion, human salvation, and church formation is overridden. But mission in this context derives from and reenacts the healing ministry of Christ. It relates to the believer’s stewardship in service of all creation, as required in the Genesis story, and is strengthened by faith in Christ “in whom all things hang together” (Col. 1:17).

During a tree-planting eucharist Bishop Wapendama, leader of the “Signs of the Apostles Church,” preached about the church’s environmental mission as follows:

We are now deliverers of the stricken land . . . Deliverance, God says, lies in the trees. The task that Jesus has left us is the one of healing. We, the followers of Jesus have to continue with his healing ministry . . . So, let us all fight, clothing, healing the Earth with trees! It is our task to strengthen this mission with our [large] numbers of people. If all of us work with enthusiasm, we shall heal and clothe the entire land (Wapendama sermon, Signs of the Apostles Church headquarters in Masvingo district, November 1991).

In his call for engagement in the earthkeeping mission, Wapendama shows awareness of the fact that God is the one who initiates deliverance and restoration of the ravaged Earth. But he emphasizes that the responsibility to deliver the stricken Earth here and now lies with the Christian body of believers (i.e., the Church). Wapendama’s insights also reflect the understanding of African earthkeeping Christians that the Church’s mission involves much more than mere soul-saving. Through their Earthcare commitments they share a vision similar to the one held by Bishop Anastasios of Androussa, that “the whole world, not only humankind but the entire universe, has been called to share in the restoration that was accomplished by the redeeming work of Christ” (Androussa in Messer 1992: 69–70).

How then does the “green mission” affect the life and shape of an earthkeeping church? First, there is a noticeable shift of the healing focus at AIC church headquarters. The black “Jerusalems” of Zion are still healing colonies where the afflicted, the marginalized, and the poor can feel at home. But the concept hospitara now includes the connotation of “environmental hospital” to care for the wounded Earth. The “patient” is the denuded land; the “dispensary” becomes the nursery with its assortment of medicines (i.e., exotic, indigenous, and fruit-tree seedlings); and the entire church community becomes the healing agent under the guidance of the church’s principal Earth-healer. Second, in the context of the AAEC a new generation of iconic church leaders is emerging. They replace the first-generation icons, such as Bishop Mutendi of the Zion Christian Church and Prophet Johane Maranke of the vaPostori who featured as “black Messiahs” to their followers. Now, instead of a single leader mirroring the presence of the biblical Messiah in Africa’s rural society, the mode of operation is shifted to an entire group of “Jerusalems” enacting and proclaiming the grace and salvation implicit in Christ’s presence in the Creator’s neglected and abused world. Thereby the entire oikos is declared God’s “holy city.” Third, the AAEC’s afforestation programs have stimulated a need for the formulation and implementation of new ethical codes. Leading earthkeepers increasingly insist that the Church is an institution with legislative and disciplinary powers, the vehicle of uncompromising struggle as it discerns and opposes evil forces that feed on mindless exploitation of the limited resources of the Earth. In this mission the militant Church is at risk, prepared to be controversial, to suffer and sacrifice whatever discipleship in this realm requires.

The AAEC’s message of and struggle for liberation is holistic in nature. By virtually standing in embrace with trees at the communion table the earthkeeping communicants acknowledge Christ’s Lordship over all the Earth (Matt. 28:18). In this demonstration of respect to all “members” of Earth community the AICs substitute exploitive perceptions of human dominion over nature with a service of humble stewardship. At the same time this form of Earth-care underscores the empowerment of poor and marginalized people to make a contribution of such significance that it captures, for once, the imagination of the nation, the recognition of the government. It incorporates quality of being for the earthkeepers, their liberation from obscurity in remote rural areas of Zimbabwe, their overcoming of marginality and futility as news media repeatedly report on their work, and their liberation from the hopelessness of poverty as salaried nursery keepers and office workers; budding woodlots and smallscale income-generating projects at least revive some hope for a better future. Hence, the dehumanizing shackles of decades of colonial rule and the desecration of nature, caused largely by disproportionate land apportionment, are both shaken off in the quest for salvific healing for all life on Earth.

Inus (M.L.) Daneel

Further Reading

Carmody, John. Ecology and Religion – Toward a New Christian Theology of Nature. New York: Paulist Press, 1983.

Daneel, M.L. African Earthkeepers – Wholistic Interfaith Mission. New York: Orbis Books, 2001.

Daneel, M.L. “African Initiated Churches in Southern Africa: Protest Movements or Mission Churches.” In African Humanities Program, AH33. Boston: African Studies Center, 2000.

Daneel, M.L. Quest for Belonging – Introduction to a Study of African Independent Churches. Gweru: Mambo Press, 1987.

Gumbo, Mafuranhunzi. Guerrilla Snuff. Harare: Baobab Books, 1995.

Messer D.E. A Conspiracy of Goodness – Contemporary Images of Christian Mission. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1992.

Sundkler, B.G.M. Bantu Prophets in South Africa. London: Oxford University Press, 1961.

See also: African Independent Churches (South Africa); Masowe Wilderness Apostles; Zion Christian Church (South Africa).

African Independent Churches (South Africa)

The multitude and variety of churches that have arisen since the advent of Christianity in South Africa are commonly referred to in literature as African Independent Churches (AIC). Political correctness insists on the substitution of “indigenous” or “initiated” for “independent,” since the carving out of independence would imply an original dependence on missionary Christianity, whose parental claims might still be exercised. Neither one of the alternatives is, however, historically accurate. Whatever the label, an AIC more neutrally describes a religious association, exclusively African in membership, that is free from white administration and tutelage. First appearing at the close of the nineteenth century, these churches have historical roots that can be traced to developments early in the century, when white expansion northward from the Cape Colony began to overwhelm with its superior technology predominantly pastoral societies, turning them into vassals deprived of their land. Foremost in African experience of this invasion were the inroads of foreign missionary societies into indigenous culture and religious beliefs. It was in the gradual conversion of these societies into a Christian proletariat that the seeds of religious independence were planted.

The AICs in South Africa took two divergent forms arising from different sets of circumstances in the experience of the colonized: missionary discrimination and the repression of workers. The discriminatory practices of the missionaries produced churches called Ethiopian, the first of their kind appearing in 1892. Although they preached a Christian creed of egalitarianism, the missionaries were reluctant to promote black pastors to positions of responsibility and refused to interact with them as equals. The educated lower clergy eventually rebelled by establishing separate African churches in Johannesburg that were free from white control, but in all other respects were replicas of the parent bodies. Ethiopia was chosen as a rallying point because it was the biblical prototype of Africa and because contemporary Ethiopia embodied the ideal of political independence. In 1904, the first charismatic Zionist Church appeared among exploited farm workers in a remote rural area. As a response to conditions of near enslavement, the workers adopted a Pentecostal strain, imported from working-class America by a white missionary, which empowered them with the Holy Spirit to provide a novel form of healing that was neither scientific nor African.

Since the beginning of the twentieth century, the AICs have grown phenomenally and have spread geographically throughout southern Africa, following the migrant routes from the South African mines to present-day Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and Congo. Within South Africa alone, according to the official enumeration in 1990, AIC members constitute 30 percent of the total African population. Since they are most numerous in northeastern South Africa and heavily concentrated in the densely populated urban areas around Johannesburg and Durban, their proportional representation in these cities is in the region of 40 percent or beyond. There is an unmistakable correlation between AIC expansion and the transformation of rural migrants into a settled urban population. Although no exact figures are available, there is every indication that this development has favored the growth of Zionist rather than Ethiopian churches.

While retaining the doctrine and organization of their missionary forebears, the “Ethiopians” strive to project an image of Christian autonomy under black leadership. Typically, the ministry is moderately educated with some scriptural training, often by correspondence and ironically from Bible colleges established by the churches from which they originally seceded. Once strongly committed to African emancipation through alignment with nationalist movements, “Ethiopians” are now politically quiescent, respectable Christians with middle-class aspirations. They have not attracted much in the way of recent scholarly attention, but the available evidence suggests that they are in decline, with nothing distinctive to offer and unable to recruit replacements for their largely aging membership. A few of their leaders have achieved some prominence by claiming to be spokesmen for AICs in general, but without the support of the Zionist majority.

There are several thousand Zionist churches in existence at any time, some expanding while others decline, and new ones arising at a rate faster than those dying out. Nobody can claim to speak for Zionists in general because, lacking a semblance of central organization or an agreed canon of orthodoxy, they are characterized by wide variation of belief and by obsessive disunity. Many retain a sense of authenticity and orthodoxy by tracing historical links to the first Zionist foundation and by preserving certain tenets of the early founders. These groups take pride in calling themselves “Christian” Zionists and distance themselves from “new” Zionists, whose pretensions they disparage. “New” Zionists, some old in years of existence, are undoubtedly in the majority, if only because anyone inspired by a spiritual vision and prophetic message can set up a church and woo followers by borrowing selected elements of Zionism, mixing them with features of African religion and reconstructing these to fit the founder’s own esoteric design. Still other charismatic churches are not Zionist in any sense. Also of prophetic origin, these churches are attempts to adapt traditional religion to modern needs and are often led by several generations of a particular family. Some – for example the Zion Christian Church near Pietersburg, under the leadership of Lekyanyane, and the Nazareth Baptist Church outside of Durban, identified with Shembe – are spectacularly large, even though both churches exaggerate the size of their followings. Most Zionist churches are of very modest size because of an inherent tendency to segment and subdivide, to which even the large “traditionals” are not entirely immune.

While the range of differences expressed in Zionism defies generalization, some salient features may be singled out for comment, predominantly in connection with “Christian” Zionists. Most Zionist churches seek to ameliorate/alleviate the condition of the poor, with varying success. The two main strategies are economic uplift and healing. The first is an economic package blending a disciplined way of life, sobriety, abstemiousness, hard work, saving and mutual support. The maintenance of discipline is entrusted to a preaching hierarchy of preacher, who preaches to a local congregation and may recruit converts; an evangelist, who in addition to preaching has the right to baptize and process entry into full membership; a minister who has charge of one or more congregations; and a bishop, who oversees several ministers. These positions can be embellished at will by the addition of contingent offices. The preaching function draws on the Bible as a source of moral precept and exemplary precedent. At the “Christian” end of the Zionist spectrum, the preaching ranks are monopolized by married men; “newer” Zionists admit women to the ministry and there are even female bishops. The ministry, however, is unspecialized. Unwaged and without formal training, incumbents must work for a living and, since leaders are seldom more than barely literate, education is not a qualification for office. Apart from founding a church of one’s own, entitlement to office rests upon experience, endurance and an ability to recruit followers.

Healing draws on a different kind of expertise, that of the prophet; and here the difference between “Christian” and “new” becomes more manifest. Later strains of Zionism restored ancestors to their healing role, commonly in some form of partnership with the Holy Spirit, and prophets in their healing work derived their insights into the nature of illness and remedy from these twin sources. With this goes a marked tendency for prophetic healing to become the dominant or sole concern of these

“newer” churches, to the virtual exclusion of Biblecentered preaching. Prophet leadership then becomes the norm, with corresponding female ascendancy. The more conservative “Christian” Zionists recognize both male and female prophets, but male prophets are given a better hearing and all prophets are subordinate to the male preaching hierarchy. Healing power and prophetic insight are derived from the Holy Spirit alone and healing power is not divorced from preaching. Preachers are charged with drawing on the Bible to stir up the enthusiasm of the congregation and arouse the Holy Spirit among them, in such a way as to build up a wave of spiritual power that can be used by the prophet to heal the sick. A major concern is to alleviate the damage done to individuals by sorcery and to equip them with symbolic protective devices suffused with the power of communal prayer.

Zionists eschew the pharmacopoeia of traditional African healing specialists, who rely on potions and powders made from plant and animal ingredients, while equally rejecting the medicines available at modern pharmacies and other commercial outlets. Christian Zionists in particular rely almost exclusively on the healing properties of water, often fortified with the impress of a communal blessing. Water is ritually employed to regenerate, to renew and to purify in the motions both of external washing and of internal purging. The first major washing that a Zionist undergoes is that of baptism by triune immersion, ideally in ocean breakers or in a strong river current, performed by a minister or evangelist in the name of the Christian trinity. On numerous subsequent occasions during their lifetime, Zionists submit to repeated dunking by a prophet, invoking the Holy Spirit, for purposes of purification and renewal. The point about these exercises is that the water should be in motion, turbulent or surging, and charged with natural energy; an indication that the Spirit is active in these events. Less orthodox Zionists may credit ancestors with secondary influence on such occasions. All Zionists have recourse to water as an emetic and as a purgative to expel evil from a body in distress, for sorcery is manifest in its corporeal effects. Saltwater, to which a blessing is imparted, is used for this purpose, often with the addition of ashes. Zionist healers who lapse into the usage of traditional medicines are quietly cut off from Christian fellowship. The other natural agent in Zionist healing is wood. The staff that each Zionist carries is cut from trees growing close to water and is a conductor of personal spiritual vitality and healing power. The staff is explicitly referred to as a “weapon,” to be used in the unremitting battle with sorcery.

The Zionist AICs are churches of the poor and uneducated, seeking to meet the needs of the hard-pressed, for whom the primary appeal is the healing service. The attraction is greater for women, who outnumber men among members by at least two to one. They gain not only from healing attention and communal support, but also from marriage to a disciplined frugal breadwinner or, failing that, the possibility of converting a spouse into a reliable Zionist provider. Zionism, therefore, values and promotes the stability of the family unit in an urban environment not conducive to it, and it rewards good family men with status and office. The insistence on monogamous marriage and on premarital sexual abstinence, however much some individuals may succeed in slipping its constraints, means that Zionists are particularly well placed to survive the worst of the rampant AIDS epidemic. In general, Zionists do not confront AIDS as such. In common with many other Africans, they are prone to consider any such insidious wasting disease to be the outcome of sorcery, a malady that is mystically transmitted by malicious others, and to be treated on those terms. Should a church member contract the disease, he or she is assured of the compassionate support of a small caring community and will not be abandoned. Where Zionists really hold the advantage over AIDS is in their preventative measures, derived from their overall morally driven restrictive pattern of living. Their closed disciplined communities, within which faithfulness to a single marriage partner is enjoined and premarital sexual activity is proscribed, are consciously maintained to exclude spiritual contamination, but have the unintended consequence of erecting a cordon sanitaire against sexually transmitted diseases. While some of the youth may rebel against the restrictions and take their chances outside the fold, the majority who remain within are morally armed against the epidemic.

Economically, morally and therapeutically, for men and women alike, Zionist churches provide havens of safety and order in the perceived chaos of urban society. Set apart by their chosen lifestyle, Zionists are separated from normal patterns of association and, accordingly, behave as isolates in the workplace and other public spaces. Part of their refusal to participate fully in relations with outsiders, with whom they have little in common, is their consistent avoidance of any political activity. This apolitical stance did not endear them to the activists of the liberation struggle and it left them doubly exposed to the bitter street fighting between rival contenders for power in the preelection period. Paradoxically, it ultimately earned them a kind of political respectability, as party leaders went in search of votes among this very large constituency.

James P. Kiernan

Further Reading

Comaroff, Jean. Body of Power: Spirit of Resistance. The Culture and History of a South African People. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985.

Daneel, Marthinus L. Old and New in Shona Independent Churches, vol. 2. Gweru, Zimbabwe: Mambo Press, 1974.

Kiernan, James Patrick. The Production and Management of Therapeutic Power in Zionist Churches within a Zulu City. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1990.

Mohr, Matthias. Negotiating the Boundary: The Response of Kwamashu Zionists to a Volatile Political Climate. Hamburg: Lit-Verlag, 1996.

Sundkler, Bengt Gustaf Malcolm. Bantu Prophets in South Africa. London: Oxford University Press, 1976.

West, Martin Elgar. Bishops and Prophets in a Black City: African Independent Churches in Soweto, Johannesburg. Cape Town: David Philip, 1975.

See also: African Earthkeeping Churches – Association of (Zimbabwe); Church of Nazareth, KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa); Masowe Wilderness Apostles.

African Religions and Nature Conservation

Religions originating in Africa traditionally held an integrated cosmogony between the gods and nature. Indeed, although most African Traditional Religion(s) contain various aetiologies (the investigation in philosophical terms of causes and origins), the notion of a disjunction between the spiritual life and nature is entirely antithetical to African thought. While wariness of generalizations and parodying is important, it is nevertheless the case that it was with the advent of colonialism, and the concurrent importation of religions from outside the continent, that a breach between religion and nature first crept, then sped, and finally hurtled, into Africa. Traditionally, Africans, especially outside of the cities, were conscious of their natural environment. Nature conservation thus found its “natural” home in the beliefs and practices of African Religions.

Many African Traditional Religions (ATRs) contain myths about the creation of the world, and in most there is a belief in a creator God/god or gods. Such stories serve to explain why societies are the way they are; why the world around looks and functions the way it does; and often give an acknowledgement of the presence of good and evil. Almost without exception nature provides the centerpiece for such stories. Traditionally, the gods are all around: present in the nature of which people are a part. Therefore to respect the spiritual is to respect nature. The converse is equally true. The rape of the land is traditionally seen as a violation of the spirit world, and only to be undertaken at peril.

The inseparable link between religion and nature pervades traditional African religious life, and is therefore important in conservation. Where there are rivers we often find a god described in terms of water. Spiritual beliefs and practices thereby reflect the close link with water. Rain is vital and valued in all African societies, and occasionally the gods share the same name as, or cognate derivatives of, water itself. Thus the Didinga name for God is Tamukujen, and for rain tamu. Likewise, the Idowu use Owo, and the Maasai En-kai, for both God and rain. Sometimes rain is personified as a divinity or deity, for example, among the Elgeyo, Igbo, Suk, and Tonga peoples. Sometimes, as in the Akamba and the Tiv peoples, rain is seen as God’s saliva. All over Africa God is seen as rain giver, and everywhere there are thus rain makers. Bodies of water such as rivers, lakes, streams, and waterfalls are often associated with major deities or spirits and are thus held in great respect and revered. A good example of this is the famous Mami Water (Mother of Water) of West Africa.

For some peoples, such as the Lugbara and Langi, rocks are a manifestation of God. The Luvedu claim that God left his footprints on certain rocks that are still soft and visible. For the Akamba the first people came out of a rock that can still be seen today. Where the sky is readily visible, the gods may be described by celestial objects. The same is true of mountains, forests, plains, and rocks: examples of this may be seen among the Banyarwanda, Bari, Bavenda, Ingassana, Madi, and Sonjo. Sometimes God is described in terms of pastoralists, other times of cultivators. For example, for the Batammaliba of Togo and Benin, Kuiye is the God who lives in the mountains and savannah: a religious reflection of the immediate surrounding environment. Thus for the Ngombe peoples the dense rainforest is associated with God, and his name means “the everlasting One of the forest” or “the One who clears the forest” or “the One who began the forest.” Words associated with the gods thus reflect this link with nature. The creator God is variously described as “He of the big rainbow” (Chiuta); “Of the Water” (Chisumphi); “Of the Sky” (Mulungu). For the Galla of Ethiopia the sun is God’s eye; whilst for the Balese the sun is God’s right eye and the moon his left. Amongst the Ila of Zambia the sun signifies God’s eternity; and for the Fon of Ghana the moon has special significance in their rituals – and babies are brought out to be bathed in its light.

Thunder is likewise something spiritual: usually it is heard as God’s voice. For some, such as the Zulu and Gikuyu, it is the movement of God. For the Yoruba and Tiv it is an expression of God’s anger. Among the Banunu, Bateke, Batende, and Basengoli of the Congo thunder is traditionally seen as a fight between the sky giants. Amongst the Akan of Ghana, thunderbolts are God’s axes; but in many other ATRs the storms are governed by deities of the sky rather than the so-called high-God. Lightning is similarly spectacular in much of Africa. For the Gikuyu it is God’s weapon for clearing the way when moving from one sacred place to another. For many African peoples, lightning is a form of punishment.

Thus sacred sites, whether of water, rocks, trees, or mountains, exist in many African societies. This provides a natural cradle for conservation. Nature is both respected and revered. But this is not to say that Africans traditionally view the relationship between life and nature as perfect: far from it. Almost all understand the world around them to be disordered in some way. Nature is by no means perfect. Signs of slippage and decay are all around. One of the most common myths, with slight regional variations, describes the separation of Earth and sky. In the beginning, the sky and the Earth were close together, and people went back and forth to the sky by means of a rope ladder. When people died, the creator God brought them back to life again. In those times a woman needed to pound only one kernel of corn in her mortar to feed everyone. But once, a newly married woman, in a moment of impulsive greed, put more than a single kernel of corn into her mortar so that she could make more than the normal quantity of flour. Because of the extra corn in the mortar she had to lift her pestle higher to pound the extra corn. As she raised her pestle higher she hit God in the sky. God became angry and said, “Before you were always satisfied with a little food, but from now on you will always know hunger, even if you cultivate a great deal.” Then a sparrow flew by and cut the rope, and later a man died. People grieved because they had never before known a person to die, so they threw ashes on themselves as a sign of mourning.

There are many other similar myths that describe a state of disorder in the natural world. In all cases, however, it is important to remember that humans are seen as a part of nature, and also, therefore, as part of the disorder. ATRs do not place humans on a particular pedestal. Rather, spiritual well-being depends on a harmonic relationship with the gods and with the environment. Life is a unity, a web of relationships extending outwards with all that is around: humans, flora, fauna, and gods. Indeed, even to separate those terms, as if distinct categories, is to miss the point that in African religious life everything is interconnected. As such, if one part suffers, all do. South Africa’s independence movement leader, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, had a famous aphorism that African epistemology may be summarized as “I think, therefore we are” and is not to be limited to Homo sapiens, but applies to the entirety of nature.

Neither, therefore, are such beliefs in the origin of life and the place of the gods to be confined to the past. Indeed, their importance lies in their presence in everyday life. The stories live on, in part because they provide explanations for the current relationship between African religions and nature. In all these cases the essential element is the requirement to remain in harmony with nature and the spirits. There is no place here for a naive liberal hermeneutic, however. Africans kill animals as much in their everyday life for food as they do in their traditional rituals. But in traditional thought such actions were always characterized by mutual respect between human being and environment, by a deep sense of one’s own fragility, and by thanksgiving. Not only do Africans traditionally live in the present, but there is also an awareness that today’s hunter may become tomorrow’s prey. In the cycle of life nothing can be taken for granted, and every day is a day more than might be expected.

Many taboos exist in order to preserve this delicate balance between humans and nature: a balance believed to be in the hands of the gods and departed spirits who, therefore, need to be placated. In the Bandundu region of the Congo the spirits require a day of rest every fourth day, known as Mpika. No hunting is allowed on Mpika for it gives the forest a rest, allows animals a chance to hide, and acknowledges the dependence of all human beings on the gods for material well-being. A similar notion can be found in many African societies. Another example can be seen among Ghanaian fisherman who must also rest every fourth day to allow the sea a chance to rest alike. To break such a taboo would be to incur the wrath of the sea-god. In this we also find an example of the deep respect for the hunter’s prey. Nothing is taken for granted in the link with nature. To catch and kill, just as to cultivate, traditionally requires skill, cunning, and the blessing of the gods.

Taboos that have been generated by folkloric myths about animals have also in the past helped to preserve them. For example, there have been long-held taboos against the killing of bonobos. The Mondangu people of Wamba in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have a story that humans and bonobos once lived alongside each other in the forest, with both species going about their daily lives naked. Cloth was introduced into the village one day, but no bonobo was present. Consequently, the cloth was divided among those there. When the bonobo returned he asked for a piece of the cloth but there was none left. The bonobo sped off into the forest shouting that he hadn’t wanted to live in the village anyway, nor wear the cloth. But such stories of the “brotherly” heritage humans and bonobos share have been discounted as antiquated by many people, and the hunting of bonobos in this area has increased drastically over the last twenty years.

This breaking-down of taboos can be seen throughout Africa. Whilst there are complex reasons for taboo alteration, at least part of the reason for it can be attributed to the increasing loss of control Africans have over their environment. With the crippling dependency of African nations on other countries, natural conservation practices were at first marginalized, and then frequently discarded. The economic and population pressures facing most African countries severely limit the choice over which animal to hunt, or not to hunt. Without natural resources to turn to, there is little room for taboos to restrict killing, let alone for nature conservation.

Nowhere is the breaking of the link between religion and nature in traditional African life seen more than in the sense of place. Prior to the arrival of colonialists Africans saw themselves more as lodgers in the land than possessors. The notion of owning land was felt to run counter to the delicate balance between humans and the environ- ment which pervades ATRs. How, after all, can one “own” nature? In this traditionally held cosmogony, nature is seen as humanity’s neighbor, and the spirit world as its custodian who must be placated. But the God of Christianity and Islam who was brought to Africa by outsiders was theologically a God who was distinct from nature. Notwithstanding the desire of some African theologians to demonstrate monotheism retrospectively, the God brought by missionaries was, in some important respects, the opposite of the deities of ATRs: and it does traditional African beliefs an ill-service to pretend otherwise. For, although it is true that the creator God of many ATRs is distant and remote, less accessible than the spirits and intermediaries, nevertheless this God is still connected with the natural world – be it the sky, the fields, the forest, or the water. The God of Christianity and Islam imported to Africa was, crucially, ontologically different from the created order. The latent dualism of the Fall-redemption model inherent in both Western Christianity and Islam was alien to Africa. In ATRs the creator God is connected with, and a part of, the natural order. It is highly significant that the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo is absent from ATRs. In this sense God unconnected from the natural world is inconceivable. The implications for nature conservation in Africa have been marked. In much Christian theology, humans are seen as the custodian of the animal kingdom, which is a far cry from the “within nature” perspective of ATRs. Animals are no longer to be admired or, when hunted, revered and thanked, but clinically killed, processed and sold in a never-ending conveyor belt of consumerism.

Alongside the arrival of the imported religions came the now-relentless assault of modernity. In addition, the Christianity brought to the continent by missionaries came hand in glove with Western medicine and Western progress. Rather than a holistic view of human nature came an allopathic approach. The traditional African belief of an inextricable link between religion and nature now teeters on the verge of collapse. African Traditional Religions, once the bedrock of nature conservation, hewn out from the surrounds over hundreds of years, are undergoing dynamic, and occasionally terminal, change.

There is a bitter irony in that “nature conservation” is much promoted in the West when the main culprit of the depletion of the rainforests is unequivocally Western logging and mining companies. These mainly French, British and German companies, having exhausted the more accessible forests of Africa, now turn upon the remote regions of Central Africa to pillage the timber, making great gashes through the virgin forests, opening them up to wide-scale hunting. Consequently the bushmeat trade is booming. For example, by 1986, 80 percent of the rainforests of the Ivory Coast had been decimated by logging. African traditional beliefs and practices are no match for multinational companies in terms of power and influence.

In face of the onslaught, there seems little choice but to jump on the bandwagon and embrace commercialization. The lure of the lifestyle of the West, and its portrayal on television, has also taken its toll on religious beliefs and practices, which in turn has had consequences for attitudes to nature. There is such an imbalance in material wealth between the West and Africa that many Africans have been lured into assimilating Western values for their own. Traditional religious values replaced with Western values include new belief systems and ways of dealing with nature. In countries from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Liberia, hunting parties en masse are ransacking the forests of their animals, with no animal safe from the droves into trade or medicine. This has led to the phenomenon of so-called “silent forests,” where trees may be increasingly protected from the chainsaw but the forests are emptied of their fauna. Although Westernization can be partly attributable as a cause, the growing numbers of people are having an impact on wildlife, as is the opening of roads for logging and the huge monetary rewards people have found in the medicinal trade. The results for nature conservation on the continent are potentially catastrophic.

Faith Warner Richard Hoskins

Further Reading

Mazrui, Ali. “A Garden of Eden in Decay.” The Africans.

London: BBC Videos, 1986.

Mbiti, John. African Religions and Philosophy. Oxford: Heinemann, 1990.

Olupona, Jacob, ed. African Traditional Religions in Con- temporary Society. Minnesota: Paragon House, 1991.

Ray, Benjamin. African Religions: Symbol, Ritual, and Community. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2000.

See also: Kaphirintiwa – The Place of Creation (Central Africa)

Afrikaner Theology

In 1652, Dutch, German, and French colonists began arriving at the Cape of Good Hope to find a new place for themselves under the African sun. In the words of Afrikaans lyricist Johannes Kerkorrel: they came to ask for food and water and stayed for so much more. These groups of colonists later blended into the Afrikaner people, with its own history, language (Afrikaans), internal tensions, cultures and subcultures. The history of the Afrikaner people is filled with ambiguities. It is inseparable from the legacy of colonialism and slavery. As elsewhere in the world, European colonists subjugated the indigenous peoples with military and economic power. They conquered the land with determination, sweat, tears, blood and a Calvinist sense of calling. And then they fell in love with the land. Traditionally, Afrikaner people have a deep sense of rootedness in the land. Many Afrikaners are able to trace their ancestors back for up to twelve generations. Afrikaans poets such as Leipoldt and Boerneef express a deep love for the land in beautiful and humorous nature poetry.

After 1806, the colonial conquests of the Afrikaner people were overshadowed by those of the British. This led to a quest for political independence and further colonial conquests. The evils of British imperialism blinded most Afrikaner people to the evils of their own colonial conquests. The “Great Trek” of 1832, the formation of two Boer republics, the discovery of diamonds and gold and the Anglo-Boer war (1899–1902) followed. Together with the rise of Afrikaner nationalism, the apartheid era (1948–1994) represents a brief but tragic episode when Afrikaners managed to exercise political power yet again. The notion of “Afrikaners” is a highly contested one.

It is not necessarily the preferred self-description of all Afrikaans-speaking people of European descent. This category would also have to include many Afrikaansspeaking “colored” people who trace their complex biological and historical roots to the indigenous Khoi and San, Malay slaves, European colonists and Nguni tribes. The term “Afrikaner” is often used in a narrower sense to refer to those who maintain Afrikaner nationalist sentiments, or even more narrowly, to those who strive for political independence. It will be used here, somewhat imprecisely, in a broader sense (i.e., to refer to all people who were classified as “white” under apartheid rule and whose home language is Afrikaans).

Most Afrikaners belong to, or used to belong to, reformed churches of Dutch origin. The notion of “Afrikaner theology” is more complex though. In an important article on “The Roots and Fruits of Afrikaner Civil Religion,” David Bosch identified three dominant influences on the religious beliefs of Afrikaners. This includes the staunch Dutch Calvinism of Abraham Kuyper (who asserted that every inch of society must come under God’s reign), the deep pietism of Scottish and Dutch evangelicalism, and neo-Fichtean romantic nationalism. These streams were blended into what Bosch labeled “Afrikaner civil religion.”

Afrikaner theology should not be equated with apartheid theology that emerged in the 1930s in an attempt to legitimize the emerging socio-political dispensation at that time. The latter should be understood as one somewhat esoteric manifestation of the former. Apartheid theology was based on the notion of the divine orders of creation in the neo-Calvinist cosmology of Dooyeweerd and Stoker. It assumed that each order of creation was sovereign within its own context. The existence of different racial groups was treated as one of these orders of creation. The different races were ordained by God to be

“apart” from one another from the very beginning. They are not only distinct from one another; they should also be kept apart, hence the socio-political dispensation of apartheid/apartness.

Afrikaner theology, especially in its more recent forms, should be understood as a broad spectrum of reformed and often deeply evangelical theologies that emerged from these historical roots. In religion and in politics, Afrikaners have seldom been a homogeneous people.

What, then, is the relationship between Afrikaner theology and nature? A few comments will illustrate the moral ambiguities in this regard.

In many ways, the history of the Afrikaner people forms a trajectory in the interpretation of Genesis 1:28. The command to “subdue” and to “rule” over the Earth provided them with a strong sense of calling. Afrikaners became fruitful and multiplied and they literally subdued the land, its indigenous peoples, the slaves, and the oftenharsh agricultural conditions. They built dams to “tame” the rivers and to provide water for agriculture and new towns in a water-scarce country. They hunted the wildlife, some to the point of extinction. They felled indigenous trees (especially yellowwood and stinkwood) to provide timber for building material and furniture. They built roads and railways to gain access to remote areas. They planted crops in areas that were not suitable for agriculture. They occupied the land and marginalized the land claims of other peoples and of other living species. The way in which they ruled the land was not always compatible with their love for the land.

The disastrous environmental legacy of the apartheid period has been well documented. The creation of squalid urban townships has led to air and water pollution, a lack of sanitation and waste removal, contagious diseases and localized overpopulation. These conditions still affect the living conditions and health of millions of South Africans. Forced removals under apartheid led to a very high population density in former “homelands” or Bantustans. This created a vicious circle of poverty and malnutrition, overgrazing, deforestation, soil erosion, the disruption of river systems and further poverty. In addition, indigenous peoples were marginalized on land that was earmarked for nature conservation, game parks and eco-tourism (for the wealthy). The ideology and theology of apartheid allowed these conditions to deteriorate unabatedly for decades.

The command to rule over the Earth in Genesis 1:28 is indeed ambiguous. For many Afrikaners it has the more positive connotations of stewardship, of being the land’s caretakers, of “tending the garden,” of earthkeeping (Gen. 2:15). This has fostered an environmental ethos among Afrikaners where emphasis is placed on using resources wisely and frugally. Accordingly, the environmental “track record” of Afrikaner people, on the land that they have occupied, is quite satisfactory. This applies to the prudent use of farmland, numerous exemplary nature conservation projects and to urban landscaping. Indeed, Afrikaner people are rooted in the land and many are deeply committed to the land that they inhabit.

Traditionally, the self-understanding of Afrikaner people was expressed in the stereotype of a rugged but honest farmer who lives close to nature in a harsh environment. This sense of being close to “nature out there” has been retained in an urbanized context. Many Afrikaners families and the youth (who can afford it) spend their holidays and weekends closer to nature (e.g., at pristine beaches, on mountain and hiking trails, touring the countryside, on game safaris, on hunting and fishing expeditions, or on outstretched farms). The irony is that the environmental consequences of this quest to experience nature “out there” are seldom recognized. The longing for tranquility is also undermined by the quest for ever-greater adventure and excitement. As a result, this longing for nature does not manage to counter an increasingly consumerist culture but actually reinforces it.

The quest for experience and adventure has a religious parallel. Since 1994, many Afrikaner Christians have opted for an apolitical form of Christianity. Many, including those who remain within reformed churches, are lured toward more experiential forms of religious expression that are more and more influenced by Pentecostal spiritualities. This does not offer much hope to counter the greedy and vulgar forms of consumerism than seem to possess many Afrikaners and that can only alienate people from nature.

Ernst M. Conradie

Further Reading

Bosch, David J. “The Roots and Fruits of Afrikaner Civil Religion.” In J.W. Hofmeyer and W.S. Vorster, eds. New Faces of Africa. Pretoria: UNISA, 1984, 14–35.

Cock, Jacklyn and Eddie Koch, eds. Going Green: People, Politics and the Environment in South Africa. Cape Town: Oxford University Press, 1991.

See also: Christianity (6c1) – Reformation Traditions (Lutheranism and Calvinism); Christianity (6c2) – Calvin, John (1509–1564) and the Reformed Tradition; Masowe Wilderness Apostles.


Ahimsa, a Sanskrit word meaning “non-injury” and often known in the English language as “non-violence,” is a significant concept in several of the religions originating in South Asia. Ahimsa implies both not causing injuries to other living beings and not adopting an aggressive attitude. The early protagonists of ahimsa in ancient India, who probably lived in Bihar and the eastern part of Uttar Pradesh, directed their critique toward animal sacrifice.

The principle of non-injury, therefore, became generally recognized not so much as a critique of war but as an opposition to the institutionalized killing of animals. Hence in South Asia, ahimsa has especially been understood to regulate the relationship between humans and the living beings of nature and the discussions of ahimsa in the religious texts often concern the human–nature relationship.

In South Asian religions the borders between humans and other species are not absolute. Humans are reborn as animals and plants, animals and plants are reborn as humans. Other living beings are therefore in a fundamental way similar to humans. The religious foundation of ahimsa is the idea that the same life or consciousness principle (atman, purusha, jiva) is present in all living beings, that this life principle does not die when the body dies but is reborn in a new body, and that the new body in principle can belong to any species. Killing living beings, or causing others to kill them, stains the individual with moral impurities and will be punished after death. What kind of rebirth an individual gets, that is, if she is reborn as a human, an animal, as a plant, in hell, etc., is determined by karma, that is, the sum total of her acts, and by the rituals performed on her behalf.

Two classical traditions of ahimsa are found in South Asia; one considers ahimsa as an absolute value, the other considers ahimsa as the foremost duty (ahimsa paramod harma) but accepts justified violence. The first tradition is tied up with renunciation, asceticism and monasticism and is an ideal for monks and nuns in Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism. The second has dominated Hinduism (with the exception of its renunciant traditions).

Ahimsa is the religious motivation for vegetarianism, a custom more popular in India than in any other part of the world. Ahimsa problematized the human relationship to nature as food. Eating, a fundamental necessity in order to stay alive, is mainly based on killing other living beings (animals or plants) or having them killed for us by someone else. Most Jains, therefore, are vegetarians. Most Buddhists of the world are not vegetarians since Buddhism identifies karma strictly with intention (cetana). Hence eating meat not intentionally killed for oneself is not a moral fault, according to Buddhism. Western converts to Buddhism, however, are often vegetarians. Less than half of the Hindus are vegetarians, and although some Hindus would be disgusted by even the thought of eating meat, many consider eating meat a minor offence.

Because it is impossible to live without killing other living beings, the ultimate act of ahimsa is to avoid being reborn, that is, to attain moksha, ultimate salvation. Ahimsa is therefore not attainable in this world but is an ideal and a distant goal toward which one can progress. A sign that a person has progressed far in perfection of ahimsa is, according to the Yoga tradition, that his presence generates an absence of enmity (Yogasutra 2.35).

In the classical texts, examples of a lack of enmity in animals are used to illustrate the power of ahimsa of such a person. Wild animals become peaceful in the presence of such a yogin and the enmity between animals such as cat and mouse ceases.

Mahatma Gandhi believed in the dogma of Yoga that perfection in ahimsa begets a suspension of enmity in one’s surroundings. He expanded the meaning of ahimsa by having it include not only non-injury toward all living beings, but also service, love and humility. He also reformed ahimsa by transforming it into a political method of nonviolent resistance. Gandhi further interpreted ahimsa as the complete, and in fact as the only method, to realize God. Ahimsa for Gandhi meant a humble acceptance of the right of all life forms to flourish. He wrote: “So long as man does not of his own free will put himself last among his fellow creatures, there is no salvation for him. Ahimsa is the farthest limit of humility” (1957: 505).

A reinterpretation of the Gandhian tradition of ahimsa is at the foundation of the Deep Ecology tradition of contemporary environmentalism. Here ahimsa means an acceptance of the right of all living beings to flourish, and a willingness to defend with nonviolent means parts of nature such as rivers, waterfalls, forests and wilderness areas which by themselves are defenseless against human violence.

Knut A. Jacobsen

Further Reading

Gandhi, Mohandas K. An Autobiography: The Story of My Experience with Truth. Boston: Beacon Press, 1957.

Jacobsen, Knut A. Prakrti in Samkhya-Yoga: Material Principle, Religious Experience, Ethical Implications. New York: Peter Lang, 1999.

Jacobsen, Knut A. “The Institutionalization of the Ethics of ‘Non-Injury’ toward All ‘Beings’ in Ancient India.” Environmental Ethics 16 (1994), 287–301.

Naess, Arne. Ecology, Community and Lifestyle: Outline of an Ecosophy. David Rothenberg, tr. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

Tähtinen, Unto. Ahimsa: Non-Violence in Indian Tradition. Ahmedabad: Navajivan, 1983.

See also: Deep Ecology; Gandhi, Mohandas; Hinduism; India; Jataka Tales; Prakriti; Yoga and Ecology.

Albert the Great (ca. 1206–1280)

Best known as one of the first medieval philosophertheologians to clarify Christian teachings through the appropriation of Aristotelian philosophy, and as the teacher of Thomas Aquinas, Albert the Great (Albertus Magnus) was also a pioneering natural scientist. During the Middle Ages he gained a reputation on a par with Aristotle’s in physics, astronomy, chemistry, mineralogy, geography, human and animal physiology, zoology, and botany.

Albert was born near the river Danube, in Swabia (now Germany). While a student in Padua, he joined the Dominicans. His order assigned him numerous tasks that required travel, especially between Cologne, Paris, and Rome. As a mendicant priest, “Father Albert” traveled by foot and relied on the hospitality of farmers and villagers. Through observation and local inquiry he thoroughly familiarized himself with the flora and fauna of Western Europe, including its mountain ranges. (Once he arranged to have himself lowered over a cliff’s edge to check whether eagles indeed lay only one egg per season, as was the common belief.) His illustrated descriptions, classifications, and explanations (still largely untranslated from the Latin), form the first encyclopedic overview of European natural history.

Albert’s scientific work led contemporaries to object that he spent his time on matters irrelevant to salvation – or worse, on sorcery. However, Albert insisted that reason will not contradict revelation. Familiar with the parallel view of contemporary Muslim scholars, he had come to see the rational exploration of experiential data as an important avenue to knowing and serving the Creator.

Louke van Wensveen

Further Reading

Magnus, Albertus. On Animals: A Medieval Summa Zoologica. Kenneth F. Kitchell, Jr. and Irven M. Resnick, trs., eds. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.

See also: Animals; Animals in the Bible and Qur’an.


Alchemy in the West is chiefly understood as a European search, possibly from the first century developing initially in Hellenistic Egypt, for the philosopher’s stone (lapis philosophorum) or elixir of immortality. As the endeavor to transform chemicals and particularly base metals into gold, medieval alchemy became the springboard for modern chemistry. Alchemy itself underlies much religious development in general and is especially to be found in Daoism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Hermetic Christianity. Comprising both the more mundane effort to develop precious substances and the more esoteric concern of spiritual transformation, alchemy flourished in Greece during the second and third centuries and in the Arab world of the seventh and eighth centuries. It reentered Europe with the Moors of Spain in the tenth century where it was combined with various kabbalistic understandings.

Its peak occurred during the Renaissance in the works of Theophrastus Paracelsus (1493–1541), Giordano Bruno (1548–1600), John Dee (1527–1608), Jacob Boehme (1575–1624) and Robert Fludd (1574–1637). As a spiritual pursuit, alchemy became superseded by the development of chemistry as a physical science. It suffered not only through ecclesiastical opposition – even persecution – but also with the growth of rationalism as well as the replacement of its theory of the four elements (water, Earth, fire and air) as the building blocks of all tangible reality.

European alchemy traces its origins to Hermes Trismegistus, the legendary magician and astrologer. A product of the Platonic/Neoplatonic tradition, the hermetic arts adhered to the understanding of correspondence: as above, so below. Alchemy’s “Great Work,” accordingly, seeks to reconcile opposites and augment the divine harmony between heaven and Earth. As part of this pursuit, the alchemist attempts not only to transform something from lesser to greater value but also to find the panacea for disease and the ability to prolong life indefinitely. Consequently, in its heyday, the art of alchemy was both a medieval chemical science and a speculative philosophy. It consisted of three parts – each paralleling the supposed fundamental principles of all existence, namely, sal, sulphur and mercury. Sal, or what Fulcanelli termed “spagyrik,” Paracelsus’ spao (“I separate”) plus ageiro (“I combine”), concerns the preparation of remedies. Mercury refers to the alchemist’s spiritual development and his or her consequent ability to manipulate the physical realm. For Jung, this is the area that corresponds to depth psychology. Sulphur is correlated to the third phase of alchemy that seeks, through the Philosopher’s Stone, to rectify nature’s part in the Fall as Christ was able to redeem humanity. When all metals are changed into gold, the construction of the golden Jerusalem will be possible.

Despite its decline, the medieval understanding of alchemy has been transformed by Carl Jung (1875–1961) into a spiritual understanding that has come to permeate much of today’s magical and New Age practice. Recognizing alchemy as a projective system in which psychic configurations of the unconscious become understandable once mirrored in outer reality, Jung stressed the study of alchemy and astrology as vehicles for discovering archetypal components of the human psyche. Jung referred to individuation as the result of psychological insight and spiritual development that arise through understanding the magical qualities of matter and celestial bodies as unconscious psychical projections. In traditional alchemical drawings of Alchymya, the personification of alchemy, the figure is depicted holding the “Hermetic Vessel” that allegedly contains the key or “philosopher’s stone” to all mysteries. It is within this vessel that the “Great Work” is undertaken. For Jung, distinguishing between the prima material (primal substance) and the massa confusa (unconscious), the allegorical attempt to liberate gold represents the differentiation of the primal Self into consciousness. In other words, it is symbolic of bringing the Self to full realization and completion. Following the alchemical trajectory and rationalization, Jung felt that the perfected transmutation of the soul is achieved by the total union of opposites – a coming together that engenders the soul’s own metamorphosis. The emerald vessel and tablet belonging to Hermes Trismegistus have come to be identified with the Holy Grail which, in turn, has tended to fuse Arthurian legend with the art of alchemy. Apart from the modern esoteric and psychological interpretations of alchemy by Jung and others, it is important to recognize the fundamental contrast between alchemy and science. The former is religious to the extent that it proceeds from certain assumptions about nature. Modern sciences work instead, at least theoretically, with no intrinsic assumptions about nature but rather from verified laws and hypotheses based on these laws. But for alchemy, the “law of correspondence” upon which it traditionally operates presupposes an analogy between the macrocosm and microcosm, between the cosmos and the human being. From this, it follows that coordination exists between the planets, plants, metals and various regions within the human body. According to Paracelsus, certain gifted people who are in the “light of nature” are capable of discerning the signatures or signs that signify the synchronization between the different cosmic levels. The underlying assumption of alchemy is that the whole of nature is alive – including the metals which are believed to be growing within the womb of Mother Earth. For Basilius Valentinus, metals themselves desire to become gold and their transmutation by the alchemist through the Philosopher’s Stone is simply an acceleration of natural healing processes.

Alchemy has made a further comeback beyond Jung’s work with psychological archetypes. In its contemporary form there is a return to the correlation between physical processes of transformation and psychological/spiritual states of mind, but this is currently understood more in psychonautic terms, that is, the exploration of consciousness through ingestion, even combinations, of entheogens, hallucinogens or psychedelics. The basic assumption upon which the psychotropic community proceeds is the interconnectedness of all life and the universe. James Lovelock’s Gaia Hypothesis that considers the world to be a single living organism is one articulation of this assumption. Exploring the depths and the inner recesses of the mind is believed to be the corollary of cosmological reflection and philosophy – one that is supported and even encouraged by the “gifts” of nature. If contemporary alchemists no longer hold the world to be in a fallen state requiring redemption or transmutation, they nevertheless consider nature to be alive and intrinsically sacrosanct.

Michael York

Further Reading

Coudert, Allison. Alchemy: The Philosopher’s Stone.

Boulder: Shambhala, 1999.

Eliade, Mircea. The Forge and the Crucible: The Origin and Structure of Alchemy. London: Harper, 1971.

Gebelein, Helmut. Alchemie. Munich: Eugen Diederichs Verlag, 1996.

Godwin, Joscelyn. Harmonies of Heaven and Earth.

London: Thames and Hudson, 1987.

Jung, Carl Gustav. Psychology and Alchemy (Collected Works of Carl G. Jung, vol. 12, 1968).

Jung, Carl Gustav. Mysterium Coniunctionis: An Inquiry into the Separation and Synthesis of Psychic Opposites in Alchemy (Collected Works of Carl G. Jung, vol. 14, 1970).

Jung, Carl Gustav. Alchemical Studies (Collected Works of Carl G. Jung, vol. 13, 1983).

Read, John. Prelude to Chemistry: An Outline of Alchemy.

Cambridge, MA and London: MIT Press, 1966.

See also: Christianity (5) – Medieval Period; Gaia; Gaian Pilgrimage; Jung, Carl; Lovelock, James; Psychonauts; Western Esotericism.

Allen, Paula Gunn (1939–)

Paula Gunn Allen is a writer and literary critic. With a Laguna Pueblo/Sioux/Scotch mother and a LebaneseAmerican father, Allen focuses much of her writing and analyses on issues of identity. She is particularly engaged with the theme of recovering American Indian spiritual identity and values of harmony, peace, and cooperation.

The cosmology of the Laguna Pueblo is womancentered and Earth-affirming. The Great Goddess, sometimes called Grandmother Spider or Thought Woman, is the creator of all things – material and immaterial. The female-centered traditions of her mother’s cultural group, as well as the goddess-centered strands of Lebanese and Celtic Scots that make up the rest of her heritage, permeate Allen’s writing. In her novel, The Woman Who Owned the Shadows (1983), the “half-breed” protagonist finds a spiritual identity or home in the god-women traditions. Allen’s other writings continue this theme of the recovery of spiritual identity and renewed harmony.

In Spider Woman’s Granddaughters (1989), Allen recovers women-centered traditions by collecting the stories of various native women. Their stories, like her own, articulate the threats of colonizing patriarchal European culture, as well as the persistent hope for healing and enduring power of tribal understandings of reciprocity and right relationship – human, ecological, and spiritual.

Storytelling for Allen serves as a ritual map, or guide, in the recovery of native spiritual traditions. The spiritual recovery entails a renewed harmony with one’s body and with the rest of nature. In her brief essay “The Woman I Love is a Planet; the Planet I Love is a Tree” reprinted in Off the Reservation (1998), Allen describes spiritual harmony as honoring the gifts of the Earth and cherishing of bodies. She explains that the body “is not the dwelling place of the spirit – it is the spirit . . . it is life itself” (1998: 122).

Molly Jensen

Further Reading

Allen, Paula Gunn. Off the Reservation: Reflections on Boundary-Busting, Border-Crossing Loose Canons. Boston: Beacon Press, 1998.

Allen, Paula Gunn. Life is a Fatal Disease: Collected Poems 1962–1995. Albuquerque, NM: West End Press, 1997. Allen, Paula Gunn. Song of the Turtle: American Indian

Literature, 1974–1994. New York: Ballantine, 1996. Allen, Paula Gunn. Voice of the Turtle: American Indian

Literature, 1900–1970. New York: Ballantine Books, 1994.

Allen, Paula Gunn. Grandmothers of the Light: A Medicine Woman’s Sourcebook. Boston: Beacon Press, 1991.

Allen, Paula Gunn. Spider Woman’s Granddaughters: Traditional Tales and Contemporary Writing by Native American Women. New York: Fawcett Columbine, 1989.

Allen, Paula Gunn. Skins and Bones: Poems 1979–1988.

Albuquerque, NM: West End Press, 1988.

Allen, Paula Gunn. The Woman Who Owned the Shadows.

San Francisco: Spinsters/Aunt Lute, 1983.

Allen, Paula Gunn. The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions. Boston: Beacon Press, 1986.

Allen, Paula Gunn. Shadow Country. Los Angeles: American Indian Studies Center, University of California, 1982.

Allen, Paula Gunn. Coyote’s Daylight Trip. Albuquerque, NM: La Confluencia, 1978.

Allen, Paula Gunn. The Blind Lion: Poems. Berkeley, CA: Thorp Springs Press, 1974.

Allen, Paula Gunn and Carolyn Dunn Anderson, eds. Hozho Walking in Beauty: Native American Stories of Inspiration, Humor and Life. New York: Contemporary Books, 2001.

Alliance of Religion and Conservation (ARC)

One day in 1953 two men stood on the summit of Mt. Everest, Sir Edmund Hillary, a Western scientist, and Sherpa Tenzing, a Himalayan Buddhist. Separated as they were by culture and beliefs, they had together scaled the highest mountain in the world and had, for the first time in history, reached its summit. What they did speaks volumes for the real differences between them and their cultures. Edmund Hillary stuck a Union Jack, the flag of Great Britain, in the snow and claimed to have “conquered” Mt. Everest. Sherpa Tenzing sank to his knees and asked forgiveness of the gods of the mountain for having disturbed them.

This story told by Martin Palmer catches much of the spirit and rationale of The Alliance of Religion and Conservation (ARC), which in 1995 succeeded the WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) Network on Conservation and Religion, and extended the emphasis of the Network to support and develop practical projects.

The Network, launched in 1986 in Assisi, started out with representatives from five major religious traditions (Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Judaism). By 1995, when ARC took over from the Network, groups from four more religious traditions (Baha’i, Sikh, Jainism, and Daoism) had joined. By 2001 the members of ARC numbered eleven (Shintoism and Zoroastrianism having been added) and according to its latest newsletter ARC currently works with 41 different faith traditions within the mentioned major religious traditions. ARC’s aims are to assist and encourage evolution of practical, educational projects furthering the involvement of religions in caring for the natural environment, to assist and encourage the development of religious and ethical programs within conservation bodies, to assist and encourage events which bring together religion and conservation groups, to raise funds for these aims and to publish and promote materials exploring the links between religions and conservation.

Examples of projects are: reforestation and education programs to preserve the ancient pilgrimage sites of Vrindavan and Sri Jgannath Forests in India, programs of preservation of Huichol Indian sacred landscape and pilgrimage routes in Mexico, environmental surveys and educational programs to manage the needs of increased tourism of Daoist and Buddhist sacred mountains in China, a churchyard conservation project and a sacred land project in the UK, a Muslim environmental management of Misali Islan in Tanzania, protection (with the Maronite Church) of the Harisa forest in Lebanon, and projects for restoring the biodiversities of monasteries of Mount Athos (Greece), of Solan (France), and of Petrovka (Russia).

In addition to this, ARC supports a development dialogue between representatives of the member religious traditions and the World Bank, and like its predecessor, the Network on Religion and Conservation, ARC supports conferences and the issuing and evaluation of declarations on nature and conservation by the members.

In November 2000 another project, the Sacred Gifts, in which faith groups are invited to pledge, as Sacred Gifts, projects ranging from issues of climate change to marine conservation, was formally presented and celebrated in

Nepal. Climate change, ethical investments, toxics, forests, and sacred land have been identified as key areas for ARC-supported projects.

ARC is an independent foundation, a registered charity, sponsored by WWF-UK, WWF-International, MOA International and the Pilkington Foundation. The administration of ARC is headed by Martin Palmer, International Consultancy on Religion, Education & Culture (ICOREC).

Tim Jensen

Further Reading

Edwards, Joanne and Martin Palmer. Holy Ground.

London: Pilkington Press, 1997.

Jensen, Tim. “Forming ‘The Alliance of Religions and Conservation.’ ” In Darrell A. Posey, et al., eds. Cultural and Spiritual Values of Biodiversity. London: Intermediate Technologies (for United Nations Environment Programme), 1999, 492–9.

Jensen, Tim. “Religions and Conservation. A Survey.” In Finn Arler and Ingeborg Svennevig, eds. Cross- Cultural Protection of Nature and the Environment. Denmark: Odense University Press, 1997, 192–205.

News from ARC. Bulletin of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation is published annually for ARC by ICOREC.

Palmer, Martin, Anne Nash and Ivan Hattingh, eds. Faith and Nature. London: Rider, 1987.

See also: Mountaineering; Network on Conservation and Religion; World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

Alpha Farm

Located in the coastal range of central Oregon, the intentional community of Alpha Farm was founded in 1972. The community grows a substantial amount of its own food using completely organic growing methods, and attained certified organic status in January 2001. Income is shared collectively, and the community owns the land and buildings. Although Alpha members are occasionally employed at “outside” jobs or freelance work, most community work centers on the farm and communally owned enterprises such as Alpha-Bit, a cafe/bookstore/gift shop in nearby Mapleton.

Alpha community members claim a non-specific, nature-based spiritual self-identity. While the early days of Alpha were infused by language reflecting interest in a variety of spiritual influences, contemporary discourse implies an increasing unwillingness to paint themselves a particular religious color. Members emphasize a quest for harmony with a generalized “spirit,” choosing not to express this harmony through “god talk” or specific religious symbols, but instead utilizing nature-religionoriented themes.

Many residents of Alpha Farm claim the presence of “nature devas” on community land, an appropriation of a concept often credited to the Findhorn community. The land at Alpha functions both as a physical setting for the daily life of community members and as a spiritual context through acknowledgment of devic life. Nature devas are believed to be the architectural blueprints for the varieties of plant life on Earth, determinants of physical characteristics such as shape, smell, medicinal potential, etc. Nature spirits are the individualized conscious essence of particular plants, manifesting the archetypal blueprints in local environments. Both nature devas and nature spirits are open to communication with “sensitive” humans sharing the land. In exchange for the guidance and wisdom of nature devas and spirits, Alpha Farm has designated an isolated section of community land offlimits to humans, creating an undisturbed sanctuary for the nature intelligences. The prohibition on human intrusion into this area is considered an act of respect, a gift of isolation.

Nature religion as practiced at Alpha Farm is a practical strategy responding to what sociologists term the “chaos of modernity.” The creed is environmentalism, the rejection is not of worldly pleasures but the pressure of the modern world, the dogma is simplicity. This brand of nature religion is rooted in a feeling of activism, less theoretical than practical, less theological than lived.

Alpha Farm’s self-identified values include pacifism, feminism, voluntary simplicity, and the power of group process. Maintenance of the farm and community represents a strategy for the expression and manifestation of one’s individual spirituality in a communal context. The aphorism “work is love made visible,” utilized by the Bruderhof and other intentional communities, serves to self-identify Alpha Farm as part of the lineage of intentional communities in the United States.

Intentional communities like Alpha Farm represent the manifestation of a larger dissatisfaction with modern society. Communal life at Alpha Farm is practiced in a context of shared meaning: a lived response to materialism and consumerism; a consciousness of place catalyzed by a belief in conscious, sacred nature intelligences; and the embracing of a meaningful and sustainable alternative lifestyle.

John Baumann

Further Reading

Hawken, Paul. The Magic of Findhorn. New York: Harper & Row, 1975.

Zablocki, Benjamin. The Joyful Community. Baltimore: Penguin, 1971.

See also: Back to the Land Movements; Brook Farm; Farm, The; Findhorn Foundation/Community; Fruitlands; New Religious Movements; Tolstoy Farm.

Altars and Shrines

Altars and shrines are sacred spaces where the everyday world touches on and interacts with the divine. There, individuals and groups establish, negotiate and maintain relationships to the sacred. An altar is a surface where acts of worship are performed, while a shrine is a natural or human-made place made sacred by its associations with a holy personage or quality. Altars and shrines may be located in either public or private spaces. They have been important in many religions for thousands of years.

The earliest shrines were located in natural places such as caves and springs. Archeologists have found objects and paintings at these locations that suggest Paleolithic hunters were leaving offerings there. While we know little about the beliefs and practices of our early human ancestors, the leaving of offerings and sacrifices presupposes the existence of a reciprocal relationship between the devotee and the powers being worshipped or appeased: devotees assume that spirits feel and behave much like human beings, returning gifts with special favors such as good hunting and plentiful game. This aspect of religious behavior seems to be nearly universal, and is central to the development of shrines and altars.

Because early humans were completely dependent on the natural environment for survival, they considered natural forces, such as those associated with Earth and water, sacred, and made shrines in natural locations to maintain good relations with those forces. A number of religions have maintained this practice.

The Japanese ancestral religion known as Shinto, or “the way of the gods,” preserves this traditional relationship between humans and the natural world. In Shinto, the gods, or kami, which range from Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun, to local and ancestral spirits, are believed to dwell in remote natural places such as mountains, streams and forests. Early Japanese agriculturalists observed that water, which was necessary for rice cultivation, came down from the mountains in form of streams. They deduced that mountains and streams were sacred forces animated by kami; in order to ensure a successful rice harvest, the farmers needed to maintain good relations with the kami. Since the kami lived far away from the villages, the farmers built shrines so they could visit once a year during their festivals and receive offerings from their worshippers.

Today, each village and town has its Shinto shrine. Shrines are constructed to suggest a forest so that the visiting kami will feel more at home. Many Japanese visit these shrines at times of important transition – before a job interview, a significant exam, or upon the birth of a child – to ensure good luck. They purify themselves with water, then leave an offering, usually a coin, for the kami. Sometimes offerings of incense, food or flowers are left for the kami at natural shrines in the mountains or forests.

Some Japanese also keep home altars for ancestral kami that protect the patriline. While Japan has become an urban, industrialized culture, the shrines symbolize the continuing connection between humans and natural world, and a recognition of human dependence on nature. Anthropologist Conrad Arensberg, working in Ireland, discovered a connection between natural shrines and folk beliefs that served to maintain a clean environment and good community relations. Local farmers believed that certain trees, hills and streams belonged to the fairies, spiritual beings associated with specific locations. They told Arensberg that very bad luck would come to those who violated fairy sites by cutting down trees, planting or building on fairy land, or fouling water sources; such actions, they said, would offend the fairies, who would then punish the offender with misfortune. Arensberg reasoned that these beliefs kept farmers from overfarming the land and polluting their environment. The prohibition against dumping waste into streams also kept community relations harmonious. Much like some rituals, certain shrines and the practices associated with them can function to regulate relations between human com- munities and their environments.

Some new religious movements in North America and Europe use altars to reconnect with the sacred in nature. Neo-pagans often keep altars in their homes that serve to hold tools for rituals. Tools may include natural objects that reinforce the connection between practitioners and the sacred and symbolize aspects of the divine. For example, a neo-pagan altar usually holds natural objects to represent the elements air, fire, water and Earth, which are thought to correspond to the four cardinal directions and to be the principal elements of life. Neo-pagans may conceive of the Earth itself as a goddess; their altars often hold representations of her as well. For neo-pagans, the presence of these sacred objects represents their connection to the immanent divine in nature, and their respect and reverence for the planet and all life on it. In many cases, this translates into political and environmental activism.

Not all religions with natural shrines use them to preserve an ecologically friendly relationship between humans and their environment. A case in point is Hinduism. In rural India, many natural places and objects are considered dwelling places of the gods, and are treated as shrines. Local deities called yaksas and nagas are associated with trees and pools. Stones and Earth mounds are thought to contain the essence of Shiva, the lord of death and rebirth. Villagers may sprinkle these objects with water or smear them with kumkum, a red powder thought to convey blessings. They leave offerings of food, flowers, incense, and statues at these sites to propitiate the deities, which are considered both beneficent and potentially dangerous. However, after the puja, or celebration honoring a deity, is over, worshippers dump the offerings, including clay and plaster representations of the deities, into lakes, streams and rivers. Toxins from the decomposing garbage can cause the death of fish and other organisms that live in the water. Thus existence of natural altars and shrines within a culture is not always an indicator of increased environmental consciousness.

Sabina Magliocco

Further Reading

Arensberg, Conrad. The Irish Countryman: An Anthropo- logical Study. New York: Aldine-De Gruyter, 1979 (original edition 1937).

Magliocco, Sabina. Neopagan Sacred Art and Altars: Mak- ing Things Whole. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2002.

McMann, Jean. Altars and Icons: Sacred Spaces in Everyday Life. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1998.

Turner, Kay. Beautiful Necessity: The Art and Meaning of Women’s Altars. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1999.

See also: Sacred Space/Place; Trees – as Religious Architecture.

Altner, Günter (1936–)

German biologist and theologian Günter Altner was a pioneer in Europe for his interpretation of the environmental crisis as a radical challenge to change the understanding and praxis of (natural) science and to change the cultural self-understanding of our civilization and Christianity. He also founded the Institute for Applied Ecology in Freiburg.

Since 1974 Altner has argued for the need of an alternative epistemology for the perception and understanding of nature, and he has profiled such an alternative in dialogue with an impressive manifold of concepts such as ecological evolution theory, open-system-physics, nature philosophy, zoology semiotics and creation theology. One of Altner’s studies proposes the thesis that the European culture is characterized by an obvious “Verdrängung” of the fear of death. Technical progress gives humans the illusion of being able to escape from death. Love of life necessarily needs a consciousness of dying, he claims.

As environmental ethicist, Altner has drawn on Albert Schweitzer and developed a holistic ethics of respect for life. Schweitzer’s sentence “I want to live among others who want to live” was given a central significance for ethics by Altner in his solution of the conflict between anthropocentrism and bio/ecocentrism. The conflict between creatures struggling for their survival is real and serious. Creatures have to enter a discourse about their singular and common conditions of survival. Every one of them has to be given the chance to participate and to be heard. Common interests have to be identified. Nonhuman creatures have to be represented in the discourse. Life can never be qualified in a quantative hierarchy, as for example in utilitarian ethics, but: “All life is worth to live.” As a Christian theologian Altner interpreted the ecological challenge in light of the Cross, where nature revealed a civilization in crisis. The contribution of Christians and churches is to motivate a new integration of ecological, scientific, ethical, and religious concepts in the openness of the encounter of humanity and nature. “Creation” is understood by Altner as “an event of emergence in time” of which human beings are a part. Altner’s God is present in the midst of the suffering of creation where s/he acts as a Savior of life in its wholeness.

Altner has been influenced philosophically by Martin Heidegger, Georg Picht and Carl von Weizsäcker; ethically by A. Schweitzer; and theologically by Ernst Wolf,

J. Moltmann, and later by Teilhard de Chardin. One of his most interesting contributions to environmental ethics is the adaptation of the theory of “the semiotic circle” of life that has been developed by zoologist Jakob von Uexküll. Altner’s many contributions have strongly influenced environmental debates in German-speaking countries. To these he has contributed with humility and respect for the mystery of life and an open-minded anti-reductionist reflexivity with phenomenological, ethical, and ecotheological significance.

Sigurd Bergmann

Further Reading

Altner, Günter. The Nature of Human Behaviour. London: Allen and Unwin, 1976.

See also: Christianity (7b) – Political Theology; Heidegger, Martin; Schweitzer, Albert; Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre.


Because traditionally most indigenous societies in Amazonia think in monistic rather than dualistic terms, their biological, cultural, and spiritual ecologies coincide in many ways. Of course indigenes distinguish between ordinary and extraordinary phenomena. However, indigenes usually nurture a holistic view of their place in relation to nature and the supernatural. Most consider the human body to be the residence for several spirits. Many more spirits are thought to dwell in the mountains, forests, waters, and rocks of the local landscape which are often considered to be sacred places. Accordingly, the Amazon forest as habitat is a source of spiritual as well as physical sustenance.

The geographical region called Amazonia encompasses the Amazon river basin and adjacent areas such as the Orinoco. The largest portion of Amazonia is in Brazil, but it also extends into adjacent Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. Amazonia contains about 40 percent of the world’s rainforests, and within this natural cathedral many indigenes still practice their own religion.

A major consideration for understanding nature, culture, and religion in Amazonia is diversity within and between different environments and through space and time. Some 30,000 species of vascular plants occur in the various environments. Many types of forests are found, from wet, semi-deciduous, and dry; lowland, hill, and mountain; and seasonally flooded (varzea, igapo, or pirizal, depending on water conditions) to areas never inundated (terra firme). Other types of forest are characterized by distinctive concentrations of a special plant form like lianas, or a particular taxa like bamboo or babassu palms. Mangroves grow along muddy coasts where tides infuse saltwater. There are also many other types of environments, including savannahs (grasslands) and aquatic ecosystems (rivers, streams, lakes, and swamps). Distinctive ecosystems occur in northern Brazil and the Guayana Highlands on island-like land forms such as sandstone table mountains (tepuis) and granite outcrops or domes (inselbergs). These are often believed to be sacred places by locals with the result that the use of resources in and around them is greatly reduced, avoided, or even prohibited, thus in effect creating wildlife sanctuaries.

In Amazonia neither environments nor societies are primeval, pristine, static, and uniform. The initial colonization and subsequent economic development of Amazonia by indigenes themselves may extend back 10,000 years or more. Estimates vary, but in 1500, when Europeans started to explore the Amazon, there may have been one to six million people living in several hundred different cultures with distinctive languages. The first Europeans observed large population concentrations with hierarchical chiefdoms on Marajo Island in the mouth of the Amazon River and extending up stream along its floodplains and those of its major tributaries.

European contact devastated native societies along the major rivers through warfare, economic exploitation, slavery, new diseases and massive epidemics, Christian missionization, and so on. Massive depopulation as the result of introduced epidemics and other contact agencies reduced many populations by up to 90 percent or more. The systemic repercussions of depopulation throughout indigenous cultures must have severely challenged their worldviews and rendered them more susceptible to colonial forces such as missionaries. Those indigenes along the major rivers who survived, usually became caboclos, a mixture of indigenous, African, and European elements, biologically as well as culturally and religiously. Indigenes deep in the interior, especially in watersheds of distant tributaries above a series of rapids and falls where navigation was extremely difficult, were usually more likely to survive and retain their culture and religion, but did not completely escape external influences.

Recent scholarship tends to view prehistoric and historic societies in Amazonia as qualitatively different in culture, religion, demography, ecology, and environmental impact. Massive depopulation of indigenes with initial contact processes relieved economic pressure on the environment and nature rapidly recovered. Thus, subsequent Western explorers and colonists encountered something they imagined to be “wilderness” or an underpopulated and underexploited frontier.

Current intellectual fashions in anthropology, ecology, and related fields, debate the extent to which the forests of Amazonia are natural and/or anthropogenic. This reflects the dualistic thinking of most Westerners which constructs and imposes binary oppositions on phenomena such as nature/culture, animal/human, wild/domesticated, wilderness/garden, primitive/civilized, and natural/supernatural. However, many indigenous cultures challenge such dualisms. If indigenes are an integral and inseparable part of nature, then forest is garden and garden is forest. Of course, indigenes can distinguish between garden and forest, but most do not do so in terms of unnatural versus natural. An indigenous garden is no less natural than the massive underground chambers of leaf-cutter ants where they cultivate fungi from leaves as food. It is not that much different from a gap in the forest created by a tree fall from senility, a storm, landslide, river shift, or other natural cause. Indeed, human technology (ax, bush knife, and fire) is used to create the slash-and-burn garden or swidden, and plant species which local people consider useful are concentrated in it. However, fire is a natural force when it occurs from lightning or a volcano, and is not necessarily unnatural just because a human ignites and uses it. The plants in a swidden are not plastic, but natural, no matter to what degree they are domesticated, cultivated, and managed. In traditional swidden horticulture, the space in the forest is used only temporarily as a garden, and then gradually over a few decades nature recovers until it becomes indistinguishable from the surrounding forest.

Indigenous environmental impact is usually negligible to moderate, unless population and/or market pressures exceed the regenerative capacity of the forest, thereby creating patches of savanna in the forest or even contributing to local or regional deforestation. Swiddens are sustainable under traditional conditions – low population density, subsistence economy, and large reserves of forest for future gardens while old ones turn to fallow and eventually into forest. This is utterly unlike Western clear-cutting for conversion to pasture for cattle ranching, or flooding by dams for hydro-electric power, both to supply luxuries for distant cities at the expense of the local environment and people. However, the difference is not merely ecological and economic, it is also the difference between worldviews and associated attitudes and values. For most indigenes and many caboclos, nature is respected and revered as inhabited by spirits. For most other people entering Amazonia, nature is treated as merely object and commodity for economic exploitation.

When the indigenous hunter leaves his village or camp to go hunting in the forest, he believes that he experiences not only the ordinary plants and animals, but also the extraordinary. He thinks that the spirit guardians of the animals may allow him to kill certain prey for food, or even facilitate this by placing them in his path. As long as he enacts appropriate respect, reciprocity, and rituals, then he and his relatives will eat meat. However, if he or someone else disrupts the spiritual world of the forest, then the indigenes believe that there will be negative repercussions, the hunter or a member of his family or community will become sick or even die. Then the local shaman, a parttime religious specialist, attempts to restore balance and harmony to nature and society. He monitors the condition of the interpenetrating ecological, human, and spiritual communities, and tries to make adjustments through contacting helper spirits to mediate, usually with the assistance of tobacco or hallucinogenic plant substances like ayahuasca. Indigeneous Amazonians try to promote the survival and well-being of their community through an elaborate system of taboos, rituals, ceremonies, symbols, and associated oral traditions.

There is a tendency, for instance, among traditional indigenous societies in Amazonia to avoid or prohibit killing animals like the harpy eagle, jaguar, anaconda snake, river otter, and freshwater dolphin. In effect, even if only inadvertently, this recognizes the ecological role of these keystone species as top carnivores crucial in the regulation of prey populations. However, various combinations of carnivore and herbivore species are avoided or taboo among indigenous cultures. This may have a conservation effect, even if unintentional, by creating a mosaic of reserves freeing a somewhat different combination of species from predation pressure in each. Also among some societies, faunal taboos may channel hunting away from the less accessible and more vulnerable herbivore species, like tapir or deer, to those which provide a better cost/benefit ratio together with a more sustained yield, such as large rodents like the paca or capybara. Special places in the forest and in water bodies may be considered sacred, or the haunts of dangerous spirits, and avoided accordingly, thus, in effect, creating game sanctuaries.

Indigenous practices comprise no less of a system of land and natural resource use, management, conservation, and development than their Western counterparts, if racist and ethnocentric thinking is rejected. Furthermore, most traditional indigenous societies are usually sustainable and green in their beliefs, values, and practices. They have not only been tested, developed, and refined over many centuries or even millennia, but they are grounded religiously as well as pragmatically.

In 1500, Amazonia was not an endangered region, but it has progressively become so under the influences of colonialism, neocolonialism, industrialization, and globalization, especially in recent decades. By now change is simply unprecedented in its rate, scale, and repercussions. Today Amazonia is one of the world’s most endangered places in every respect, including ecologically, demographically, epidemiologically, technologically, economically, socially, culturally, and spiritually. It is as if industrial society were out to destroy one of the very things that might save it. Amazonia is generally viewed by industrial nations as one of the last frontiers on the planet with an untapped wealth of natural resources such as gold, minerals, oil, timber, and medicinal plants awaiting discovery and extraction to distant markets for quick profit. The myth of El Dorado persists, although in twentyfirst century form. Meanwhile, indigenous systems that have proven adaptive for centuries to millennia are being threatened, degraded, and even destroyed by maladaptive alien systems.

Leslie E. Sponsel

Further Reading

Descola, Philippe. In the Society of Nature: A Native Ecology of Amazonia. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Prance, Ghillean and Thomas E. Lovejoy, eds. Amazonia.

Oxford: Pergamon, 1985.

Reichel-Dolmatoff, Gerardo. Amazonian Cosmos: The Sexual and Religious Symbolism of the Tukano Indians. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971.

Seeger, Anthony. Nature and Society in Central Brazil: The Suya Indians of Mato Grosso. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981.

Slater, Candace. Entangled Edens: Visions of the Amazon.

Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.

Smith, Nigel J.H. The Enchanted Amazon Rain Forest: Stories from a Vanishing World. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1996.

Sponsel, Leslie E., ed. Indigenous Peoples and the Future of Amazonia: An Ecological Anthropology of an Endangered World. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press, 1995.

Sullivan, Lawrence E. Icanchu’s Drum: An Orientation to Meanings in South American Religions. New York: Macmillan, 1988.

See also: Amazonian Folktales; Ayahuasca; Huaorani; Indigenous Activism and Environmentalism in Latin America; Kogi (Northern Colombia); Rainforests (Central and South America); Reichel-Dolmatoff, Gerardo – and Ethnoecology in Colombia; Rubber Tappers; Shamanism – Ecuador; Shamanism – Traditional; Traditional Ecological

Knowledge; Tukanoan Indians (Northwest Amazonia); U’wa Indians (Colombia); World Conference of Indigenous Peoples (Kari Oca, Brazil); Yanomami.

Amazonian Folktales

In addition to the immense lore produced by indigenous groups in the Amazon, there also exists a large body of oral and written narratives produced by mestizo descendants of natives and multi-ethnic newcomers to the region who live in the forest and small settlements throughout Amazonia. While a few of the tales contain themes and characters related to life in an urban setting, the large majority articulate plot developments involving humans, supernatural animals and entities inhabiting the deep forest, rivers and lakes. These stories combine elements of the ecological cosmologies of native Amazonians, JudeoChristian and other Western themes, and historical transformations enacted by old and new inhabitants coming into the region since the arrival of colonialism.

While vividly manifesting and illustrating many aspects of Amazonian life, expectations, desires, and negotiations with the immediate environment, these oral narratives incorporate the presence of an array of magical plants and animals, enchanted places, spiritual beings living in the forests, and underwater and celestial realms. Voiced within notions of conservation and a socialized nature, these tales convey beliefs of regional indigenous cultures that perceive the human realm to be part of the environment, related to animals, trees and sacred places. The supernatural animals and magical entities play important roles in the tales by providing people with advice and knowledge of the forest. They have the power to reward or penalize humans according to their interaction with others and natural beings.

Many of the tales which illustrate such mythological importance of reciprocity and balance with nature are constructed with the fabric of direct experiences of fishermen, loggers, rubber tappers, hunters, intruders, and other forest dwellers. In accordance with the indigenous ecological cosmologies, central characters who make their living hunting or fishing may experience punishment from the guardian of the forest or from supernatural animals dwelling in the waters when they kill animals who are too young or when they slay too many. Plots also convey a prescribed visit to a shaman who serves as the mediator between human and supernatural domains. Many times he is a mestizo who lives in and serves the small settlements. Often the shaman advises a special penance to repair damage done by a careless individual. Charms and prayers from the shaman during a hallucinatory state, accompanied by tobacco smoke, may help to appease the spirit of the forest who is angry with the hunter or fisherman daring to disrupt the balance. It is not unusual to see the tales end with intruders dying from a spirit-sent disease that the shaman is unable to cure.

Among the lore surrounding entities who dwell in the rainforest, there are stories about those who serve as guardians. Plants and animals are believed to have mothers or spirits to defend them. The most feared by hunters, and known by many Amazonians, is a protean figure called Curupira in the Brazilian and Colombian Amazon and Chullachaqui or Shapshico in Peru. Chullachaqui means uneven foot and is frequently depicted in this manner. He is the protector of animals, frequently known to kidnap his victims or cause them to become lost in the forest. In order to find a lost hunter, relatives and friends must seek help from a shaman. With the help of tobacco or in many cases a hallucinogenic vine called Yagé, the shaman can locate the person. Many times he must explain that the hunter has been taken and punished for his disrespectful behavior or for disobeying the Curupira’s warning given directly or in the hunter’s dreams asking him not to kill young animals, go hunting during certain times, or enter forbidden realms.

Involving a composite of cultural themes, these tales also feature Christian morality and observances of certain sacred days. One example is the tale of the Mapinguari, a one-eyed hideous giant forest monkey and a greedy hunter who disobeys the sacred principle of resting on the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Disregarding advice, the hunter pushed into the forest to hunt on Sunday anyway claiming that “one must also eat on Sundays.” For this disobedience, he is punished with death. While gnawing the limbs of the hunter the Mapinguari affirms, “one must also eat on Sundays.”

These codes of conduct and attitudes of respect for nature show the powerful presence of indigenous cosmologies that view nature as a living being rather than an expendable commodity. Spirits, supernatural animals and characters who populate the air, rivers and lakes watch over behavior, and give power and advice to healers and shamans who constitute an integral part of this lore. Freshwater dolphins are considered extraordinary beings that live in modern and sophisticated underwater cities. They are believed to be able to turn into handsome men and sneak into riverbank settlements and charm women. Killing a dolphin and eating its meat is considered taboo by most Amazonian tribes. Characters in the tales who commit such actions are severely punished. Dolphins are able to grant good luck to fishermen and reveal places for good fishing. They also reprimand avaricious behavior when people overexploit certain fish in the lakes and rivers.

Riverine inhabitants tell countless stories about other animals whose guardians and “mothers” safeguard them by punishing abusive practices. Turtles, for example, whose eggs and meat are sought during the dry season are protected by Charapamama. The Anaconda, who along with the dolphins could be regarded as one of the most important mythological figures in all folk narratives in the region, undergoes a variety of transformations in the Amazonian imagination and plays important roles in the notion of respect for the landscape. In many tales the Anaconda also gives advice and healing powers and grants permission for fishing in certain areas. However the Anaconda can become furious and take the form of a Yacumama, a fantastic snake with eyes like the headlights of a truck, and produce an array of atmospheric phenomena tilting boats of greedy fisherman and people who trespass into her realm.

Amazonian folktales, with notions of natural beings who are sometimes rewarding and often vindictive, reflect influences of European and African traditions, as well as native Amazonian lore. Although Christian missionary work has altered Amazonian cultures, the overriding themes of a social relationship with nature continue. These ideas persist in the minds of natives, mestizos, loggers, fishermen and ordinary people in small settlements who articulate their daily lives, needs and expectations within frameworks of respect for nature. With deforestation and increasing need for commodities, new ideologies that seek to demystify nature have emerged.

As a result traditional lore is losing influence in some regions. Time is of the essence in the gathering, studying, recasting, and preservation of Amazonian folktales. Locals, anthropologists, scholars and writers are playing a key role in working with storytellers who are the keepers of the mythologized world. Amazonian populations have become more urban, with the presence of electric lamps, radio, TV, and vehicles even in the most remote areas. These new technologies and the ideas associated with them have in many ways disconnected people from trees, rivers, night and stars in the sky. Thus modern life and rational accounts are transforming imaginative explanations based on interactions with nature. Such factors draw the young from this lore which has served Amazonians not only as entertainment but also as a moral code which maintains the social balance between humankind and nature.

Juan Carlos Galeano

Breakout Box: Mapinguari

Near Tefé, on the banks of the Amazon river, there was a man who loved hunting so much that he’d go almost every day of the year. One Sunday he told his wife, “I’m going to a place where there is good hunting.”

“It would be better to wait until tomorrow,” his wife said. “It’s not good to hunt on Sunday.”

“One must also eat on Sundays,” the man said as he grabbed his rifle and left.

On his way to the forest, the man stopped by a neighbor’s house to invite him. The neighbor didn’t want to go and also told him, “It’s not good to hunt on Sundays.”

The hunter persuaded his neighbor by saying, “One must also eat on Sundays.”

The two men crossed a small river and walked for some time through the bush without finding anything. It was as if the animals had disappeared. Toward the end of the afternoon they were frightened by some terrifying screams followed by noise and footsteps. They thought it was a big man, but it was an animal, a black haired apelike creature with a turtle’s shell and one big green eye in the middle of its forehead. The men were afraid and the hunter started to shoot, but the bullets could not penetrate the shell. He kept shooting but to no avail.

The animal walked toward the hunter, grabbed him, and threw him to the ground with one of its enormous arms. The other man climbed a tree and watched in horror as the animal tore his friend apart. As it gnawed his friend’s arm it said, “One must also eat on Sundays.” Then gnawing a leg it repeated,

“One must also eat on Sundays.” After the creature devoured the hunter and walked away yawning, the man ran to the town and gave an account of his friend’s death. Some people tried to guess what kind of an animal could have eaten the hunter. “If it has only one green eye and its feet are as big as a pestle, it has to be the Mapinguari,” said the dead hunter’s cousin.

“Surely it didn’t eat you, don Luis, because you didn’t have a rifle,” added the others. One of the men, who knew a great deal, said the hunter could have saved his life if he had shot the creature in the belly button, “because that is where its heart is.” The people from the town were so outraged that they organized a search party and went hunting for the creature. They didn’t have to look too hard, because the Mapinguari had come back to lick and chew the bones of the hunter.

As soon as it saw the group of men, it attacked, wanting to eat them too. The men fired, not as their friend had done, but straight into its belly button to hit it in the heart. The Mapinguari, shrieking with rage, took off running and disappeared into the forest. Then the men gathered the uneaten bones of the hunter, put them in a sack, and took them back to town. His wife put the bones in a small coffin, and after she and her children mourned him for two nights, she took them to the cemetery. “If only he had heeded my warning,” sobbed the poor woman. They say that later she took her children to Manaus where the rest of her family lived.

Text taken from unpublished manuscript Amazonian Folktales, by Juan Carlos Galeano. Translated from the Spanish by Rebecca Ann Morgan and Kenneth Watson

Further Reading

Smith, Nigel J.H. The Enchanted Amazon Rain Forest. Stories from a Vanishing World. Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press, 1996.

Slater, Candace. The Dance of the Dolphin. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1994.

See also: Dolphins and New Age Religion.

American Indians as “First Ecologists”

The image of North American Indians as first ecologists, conservationists, and environmentalists, which can be called the Ecological Indian, became dominant in the 1960s. Today, many, including American Indians, accept it as an accurate representation of Indian behavior through time. Yet the image has deep intellectual roots and has gone through various iterations, from a generalized nature-dwelling noble indigenousness, through one emphasizing pragmatic skill in the environment, to today’s full-blown Ecological Indian.

The Noble Indian in Nature

From the moment they encountered indigenous people in the Western hemisphere, Europeans classified them in order to make them sensible. They made the exotic comprehensible with familiar categories. In the process they reduced men and women to stereotypes, to caricatures, noble or ignoble, benign or malignant, rational or irrational, human or cannibal – savages all. For centuries two polar images of Indians in the New World – noble and ignoble – have clashed. Until recently, the Ignoble Indian ruled; a menacing, malignant image construing the Indian in the extreme as a bloodthirsty, inhuman cannibal akin to the Wild Man of European folklore. In contrast, the Noble Indian (or Noble Savage), never entirely absent – the peaceful, carefree, unshackled human; the wise, dignified elder; the nostalgic romantic; the spiritual guide; the polished orator – was and is a benign, often romantic, image of people living innocent, vigorous, clean lives in a golden world of nature.

Columbus was first to ennoble the inhabitants of the New World when, on his second voyage, he wrote that he had found the Islands of the Blessed and its natural inhabitants – a place and people in the European imagination. His readers were not surprised – at least not those for whom several mythic places originating in pagan or Christian tradition were linked in the imagination and collectively expressed ideas of earthly paradise, eternal spring, or innocent life removed in space or time. An imagery traceable to these understandings remained potent long after Columbus as writers invoked ancients like Tacitus or various classical analogs like the Scythians to render intelligible the native people of the New World.

Over two centuries, the French were without peer in developing an imagery of nobleness. Best known was Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who presented savage life as simple, communal, happy, free, equal, and pure, and ensured that Noble Indians would rule the second half of the eighteenth century as allegorical America or in other genres. He and others mined the classics for ennobling thoughts that they applied unhesitatingly to the native people of the New World, and quickly linked the development of favorable virtues to “la pure Nature.” Many still considered their own (French) civilization superior to any developed by the children of nature in the New World; indigenous people came up wanting in faith, laws, and kings (ni foi, ni loi, ni roi). Ni foi meant, of course, that religion was barely worthy of the name (as had also been so for Columbus, who depicted Caribs as lacking in religion). Yet while they denigrated these aspects of indigenous culture and institutions they also seized on liberty and equal access to basic resources as characteristic of savage life and important virtues to emulate. Thus, contained in their observations of the New World was a critique of their home society. For example, Michel de Montaigne and Baron de Lahontan set the stage for Rousseau by lauding natural New Worlders and in the next breath condemning French society. Lahontan even invented a Huron Indian named Adario to critique the European scene and those who had stripped him of property. As one historian remarked, many used the New World as a stick with which to beat the Old.

The Skilled Woodcrafter

The nineteenth-century inheritors of the tradition of the Noble Indian in nature include not simply Romantic nature poets but James Fenimore Cooper, the best-selling author from the 1820s through the 1840s and arguably the most important figure in the nineteenth century for further development of such imagery. All manner of Indians can be found in Cooper’s works, especially the Leather-

-family:"Bookman Old Style";mso-font-width:95%'>stocking series, of which Last of the Mohicans is best known today. The most famous are dignified, firm, faultless, wise, graceful, sympathetic, intelligent, and reminiscent of classical sculpture in their bodily proportions. In his portrayal of Noble Indians, Cooper was strongly influenced by John Heckewelder, the Moravian missionary and relativist sympathetic to the Lenape and their history; indeed some criticized Cooper for unrealistically noble portraits “in the school of Heckewelder.”

Whereas for writers of an earlier day it was enough that Indians’ lives unfolded in “nature,” for Cooper what was weighty were Indian actions in nature; specifically, their skill in the forests and prairies. Cooper’s Indians demonstrated competence and even transcendent skill in nature. In contrast, non-Indians (except the protagonist Natty Bumpo) generally lacked such skills. Moreover, white men (except Natty) often wasted what they killed or otherwise were greedy. It is Natty, the conservationist, not some

Indian, who has something to say about the gluttony of whites and remarks, “Use, but don’t waste.” There is one notable exception: in forceful remarks in Last of the Mohicans, Magua, a Wyandotte Huron lumped with Mohawks and other Iroquois as “Mingoes,” states passionately that the Great Spirit gave Indians North America (“this island”), forested and full of game, but then he also granted whites “the nature of the pigeon” – that is, exploding numbers, tirelessness, and insatiable appetites suited to control over the Earth.

Magua, no Noble Indian, is one of the most infamous of Cooper’s arch-demons, which substantially muddied reception of his message about the Great Spirit or white people’s avarice. For authority one needed Natty himself, the protagonist of heroic proportions (in part from taking on the anti-conservationists of the frontier) and nature herself, heroine of unsurpassed dimensions. Cooper cast nature as sacred for Natty (not Magua), its sacramental quality deriving from God not indigenous animism. There are no such complications, however, when it comes to Cooper’s highly pragmatic image of indigenous skill and craft in nature, which in the mid-nineteenth century was shared even by writers who seldom had anything positive to say about Indians.

When he set out, at the turn of the twentieth century, to reproduce Cooper’s image of skill and craft in nature, Ernest Thompson Seton, a founder of the Boy Scout movement and first chief scout in America, ensured that the image did not die. Charismatic, a riveting speaker and fluid writer whose words reached millions, Seton placed the utmost emphasis on this aspect of Cooperian nobility – Indian skill in nature, which became known as woodcraft. In the 1890s, Seton formed the Woodcraft Indians, a boys’ group that spread and contained the seeds of the Boy Scouts. In time, Seton sought to combat degeneracy and build character and manhood in boys through proficiency in camping, hunting, fishing, mountaineering, boating, signaling, sports, and nature study. He sought to instill in each boy his version of Cooper’s Ideal Indian – a person who was kind, hospitable, cheerful, obedient, chaste, brave, honest, sober, thrifty, and provident; who held land, animals, and all property in common thereby checking greed and the accumulation of wealth (and division between rich and poor); and who condemned waste and those who took delight in slaughtering animals.

Seton’s appropriation of Cooper resulted in the domination, for almost one century, of an image of the Indian as the Skilled Woodcrafter (who increasingly practiced his craft safely in the past). This image flowered in the wake of sharp declines in numbers of buffaloes, white-tailed deer, turkeys, and beaver, and the extinction of the passenger pigeon; deforestation and the western creep of population and industrialization; and the birth of national parks and promotion of conservation through new organizations.

It flourished at the time of – and was in tune with – the progressive conservation movement.

Some traits of Seton’s Skilled Woodcrafter characteristic of Natty Bumpo rather than Cooper’s Indians – thriftiness, condemnation of waste – can probably be traced to the influence of Charles Eastman (also know as Ohiyesa), who was active in scouting circles at Seton’s time and consulted by Seton before the latter published his Ideal Indian character traits. Eastman was a Sioux Indian who took his maternal grandfather’s (the soldier-artist, Captain Seth Eastman) White Man’s Road to college and medical school, and for nearly forty years (1900–1940) was the most visible Native American writer and public speaker, producing best-selling books on his own life and Indian ways. Betraying the complexity in the origin of his ideas, he paid homage not just to his Dakota grandparents but to the nature poet Coleridge, and ceased publishing books after he became estranged from his wife, a skilled non-Indian writer from Boston and New York.

Eastman’s works (like Seton’s) ennobled Indians both by resurrecting romantic visions of lives long past and by emphasizing woodcraft. In the autobiographical Indian Boyhood, Eastman spoke about Indians as wild, free, students and children of nature, and masters of woodcraft, and about animals as friends who offered their bodies for sustenance. His relatives, he remarked, taught him to be a close observer of nature and a skilled hunter. He extolled their “spiritual communion” with brother-like animals. He depicted his early life with Indian relatives as natural, altruistic and reverent, and his current life in the company of whites as artificial, selfish, and materialistic. He sought to train Scouts in what he called the “School of Savagery” emulating Indian training in the “natural way.” One refrain in Eastman’s books – and found in Seton as well – contrasts conservation among Indians and whites: Eastman wrote that Indians killed animals from necessity while white people killed them wantonly for amusement or greedily until none remained. Lastly, Eastman, far more than anyone who preceded him, emphasized the sacral qualities of nature. Even though Eastman considered the Sun Dance barbaric, he extolled the “spiritual communion” that Indians established with animals that possess childlike (innocent) souls. He wrote about every act being a religious act and about sublime nature. A transitional figure, his influence cannot be overstated.

The Ecological Indian from Earth Day to Today

In both Seton and Eastman can be found the germ for the image of the Ecological Indian, which, in the late 1960searly 1970s, became the latest in a 500-year history of images ennobling the relationship between North American Indians and nature. The Ecological Indian is the original ecologist, conservationist, and environmentalist, who has always possessed an intuitive, natural attitude toward the living world. Its most famous rendition appeared in 1971: the Crying Indian (Iron Eyes Cody, a self-ascribed Cherokee actor) enlisted by Keep America Beautiful in an anti-litter campaign; an American Indian weeping because pollution is “a crying shame,” his direct gaze riveting viewers and shortly making, to use the language of advertising, over 15 billion people-impressions.

The Crying Indian is structurally reminiscent of Lahontan’s Adario in that he stands not alone but against

– against the non-ecological whiteman. The Crying Indian wept for history, for America shattered by European settlers and their successors, for animals hunted to extinction by people of European descent, for trashed, even burning, rivers, littered and scarred and even desecrated landscapes, oil-slicked and tarred seas, and other environmental horrors. The Crying Indian, an American Indian, was free from blame but non-Indians in his gaze were not. As Iron Eyes became iconic, American Indians henceforth became widespread symbols for environmental attitudes and the conservation cause.

Like the preceding images – the Noble Indian in Nature and the Skilled Woodcrafter – the Ecological Indian was the image for the times: an era of violent anti-war and civil rights protest, and of assassination and societal upheaval, but also unprecedented for bitter battles over environmental issues. In this period the language and science of ecology broke into public consciousness (and were conflated with environmentalism), environmental prophets like Rachel Carson gained fame and notoriety, as books appeared with titles speaking to America raped, explosive population growth, or Earth as a sinking ark. The first Earth Day (April 1970) drew the largest demonstration in American history, environmental problems were Time’s “Issue of the Year” in 1971, and the 1970s were the socalled Environmental Decade.

And as the deployment of the Crying Indian makes clear, Ecological Indians were marshaled to the support of environmental causes. Many in the countercultural movement moved back to the land in communal groups, seeking to reverse their alienation from nature. They turned their backs on Judeo-Christian anthropocentrism and biblical injunctions of dominion and rule over nature (even if one could find almost anything one looks for on humans and nature in the Old and New Testaments, or if adherents to these faiths have behaved in almost every conceivable way toward nature). Many consciously looked to American Indian lives for community, new aesthetics, and personal freedom; they wore beads, lived in tepees, and used tribal metaphors; they mined American Indian religions (and Zen Buddhism) for insight on sacramental qualities in nature. Theirs was a conscious critique of society; in them Lahontan and Rousseau were reborn.

One of the most important environmental organizations to emerge in this era, Greenpeace, was also the most visible for the convergence of environmentalism, critique of the social order, and the Ecological Indian. One Green- peace founder considered that its aim was to fulfill an American Indian prophecy of a time when people of different ethnic backgrounds would join forces to defend the Earth. They were Warriors of the Rainbow – the name was from a book on American Indian prophecy – who would stop the desecration of the Earth and, like Ecological Indians, preach love for animals and use only what is required for food or clothing. Greenpeace activists wore Red Power buttons, adopted a Northwest Coast killerwhale crest as a symbol, and were blessed by the Kwakwaka’wakw en route to protest in the Aleutians. Greenpeace was supported by the most famous Indian actor, Chief Dan George, and cursed by the most famous Indian fighter on the screen, John Wayne.

American Indians embraced the new shift in perception and actively helped construct the new image of themselves. In 1969, Indians who occupied Alcatraz Island not only sought justice on a number of issues but aimed (among other things) to form an Indian Center of Ecology in order to halt environmental destruction. The Iroquois, through the White Roots of Peace, advocated environmental education, and the Hopi spoke of the need to clean up the Earth else it would again be destroyed.

In Indian writing, a new canon emerged in which nature and the environment figured significantly and which contained an explicit critique of people of European descent and their culture. A concern for sacredness, beauty and harmony, and place and community is manifest in this literature. Among the most widely read works were Black Elk Speaks (originally published in 1932), in which Black Elk’s reminiscences were filtered (and sometimes created) by John Neihardt, whose goal was to live decently on Earth. Chief Seattle’s lament on environmental destruction became gospel for Indians and environmentalists. These and other works in the new canon, by Scott Momaday and others, were replete with images of nature, animism, and harmony in Indian relationships to the environment in contrast to the destructiveness of non-Indians. All this provided fertile soil for the image of the Ecological Indian. This imagery has remained virtually unchanged in the last forty years – but so has concern for the mounting human impact on the environment. The 20th Earth Day in 1990 was considered by some as the largest global demonstration ever, with over 100 million people marking the day in some way. First ozone depletion and now global warming have become worldwide concerns. Today there is worldwide concern over the role the United States will play in solving global environmental problems that to a large extent are of its own making.

Indigenous people generally and American Indians in particular continue to serve as symbols of a time when the human impact on the environment is perceived to have been negligible. In 1992, indigenous people participated critically in the Rio Earth Conference and today they loom large in discussions of the rainforest. Ecological Indians can be found in best-selling books, in film, and on television and video, on global Earth Summit stages, in the writings of historians, native people, ecofeminists, deep ecologists, and others. Most key texts in the new canon remain authoritative although Chief Seattle’s speech has deservedly lost its luster. The imagery that fell into place decades ago after centuries of rootedness in ennobling soil has proven to be remarkably resilient. And for many Indian people today, the Ecological Indian is an important aspect of their identity as Indian.

But is the fit, through time, between image and behavior a good one in North America? This important question, especially in a day when neither the enormous scale of transformation in the modern global environment nor the antiquity of the human role in environmental change, in North America or the world, should be in doubt, has been scrutinized elsewhere (for example, in human environmental impact). With respect to the two principal components of the image of the Ecological Indian, ecology and conservation, I have argued in The Ecological Indian: Myth and History that while ecological or systemic thought was surely widespread if always culturally framed, conservation was not. In fact, for the many indigenous people in North America who believed that if respected in proper fashion (respect having nothing to do with Western conservation biology), their prey would later be reborn or reincarnated so that they might again be killed, conservation as it came to be defined in the West was foreign and even senseless. Moreover, no matter what people’s beliefs or attitudes might have been, there were surely too few American Indians too thinly spread out to have made much of a lasting difference on lands and resources. The story, in other words, is far more complicated than simple stereotypes suggest.

Shepard Krech III

Further Reading

Berkhofer, Robert F., Jr. The White Man’s Indian: Images of the American Indian from Columbus to the Present. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978.

Denevan, William M. “The Pristine Myth: The Landscape of the Americas in 1492.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 82:3 (1992), 369–85.

Harkin, Michael E. and David Rich Lewis, eds. Perspectives on the Ecological Indian: Native Americans and the Environment. Lincoln, NE and Laramie, WY: University of Nebraska Press/American Heritage Center, 2004. Hunter, Robert. Warriors of the Rainbow: A Chronicle of the Greenpeace Movement. New York: Holt, Rinehart &

Winston, 1979.

Krech, Shepard, III. “Human Environmental Impact.” In Paul Demeny and Geoffrey McNicoll, eds. The Encyclopedia of Population, vols. 1–2. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2003, 1: 298–302.

Krech, Shepard, III. The Ecological Indian: Myth and History. New York: W.W. Norton, 1999.

Willoya, William and Vinson Brown. Warriors of the Rainbow: Strange and Prophetic Indian Dreams. Healdsburg, California: Naturegraph, 1962.

See also: Black Elk; Greenpeace; Indian Guides; Indigenous Environmental Network; Mother Earth; Noble Savage; Religious Environmentalist Paradigm; Savages; Scouting; Seattle (Sealth), Chief.

Ammons, A.R. (1926–2001)

For the American poet A.R. Ammons, divinity was an omnipresent force that flowed through everything in existence. In retracing the spiritual journeys of his verse, one finds elements of Christian asceticism, Buddhist renunciation, and Daoist affirmation – but it might be most accurate to describe the religious dimension of Ammons’ work as pantheistic. This poet’s world is aflame with a divine spark that appears “everywhere partial and entire . . . on the inside of everything and on the outside” (“Hymn”) (1986: 9), from the darkest depths of space to the teeming sub-layers of soil. Though such a universe might seem godless and uncaring, this would rest on a limited understanding of divinity. For Ammons, the whole world pulsates with power, its spirit dispersed across air, water, and Earth rather than withheld on a shadowy plane.

Like Emerson and Whitman, Ammons senses a primal, primary energy permeating and connecting everything – including the poet. “My nature singing in me is your nature singing,” his glorious ode “Singing & Doubling Together” proclaims (1986: 114). Each created form partakes of an original grace: “I know / there is / perfection in the being / of my being, / that I am / holy in amness / as stars or / paperclips” (“Come Prima”) (1971: 52). All life stems from a cosmic point of beginning, what ancient civilizations called the godhead. The interpenetration of matter is beautifully expressed in Ammons’ early poem “Interval”:

The world is bright after rain for rain washes death out of the land and hides it far beneath the soil and it returns again cleansed with life and so all is a circle and nothing is separable (1971: 36).

This ceaseless cycling is embodied (and disembodied) by the maggot, which “spurs the rate of change,” transfiguring organic matter so that it will someday return to live again (“Catalyst”) (1971: 110). Though every thing must pass away, the irreducible unity of the larger field is preserved: “Earth brings to grief / much in an hour that sang, leaped, swirled, / yet keeps a round / quiet turning, / beyond loss or gain, / beyond concern for the separate reach” (“Saliences”) (1986: 50).

The state of things is transience and flux – this is forever brought home to Ammons by his Virgil, the wind: vehicle of mere caprice, but also capable, through its powers of erosion and conveyance, of resisting fixity and hastening change. And so the poet’s efforts “to gather the stones of Earth / into one place” – a suitable metaphor for all our Sisyphean strivings for certitude – are constantly scattered by a wind which has “sown loose dreams / in my eyes / and telling unknown tongues / drawn me out beyond the land’s end” (“In the Wind My Rescue Is”) (1986: 5).

Yet, as one of Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus puts it, “Song is reality” (1986: 231). Even in foreknowledge of its evanescence, poetry follows its way ever onward. The writerly task, for Ammons, is to accept the world through language, rather than create it anew. Wallace Stevens placed his jar upon a hill in Tennessee and emphasized the heroic aspect of poetry, its refashioning of reality from raw materials. But the “Poetics” of Ammons “look for the forms / things want to come as” instead of shaping things into forms (1986: 61). His late book-length poem Garbage (1993) is an encomium to found treasures, gold gleaned from the cast-offs of civilization – and dedicated to “bacteria, tumblebugs, scavengers, wordsmiths,” all of whom busily rejigger the infinite forms of existence.

“New religions are surfaces,” Ammons writes in Garbage, “beliefs the shadows / of images trying to construe what needs no / belief . . .” (1993: 27). His poetry does not offer explanations for the mystery of life, but recapitulations of it. “Poems / are fingers, methods, / nets,

/ not what is or / was” (“Motion”) (1971: 146), a Zen-like approach that supplants explication with experience, however enigmatic. Accepting the world as a continuum carves out the space for affirmation, however difficult it is to affirm that “to be / you have to stop not-being and break / off from is to flowing” (“Guide”) (1986: 23).

For Ammons is no tranquil sage sitting cross-legged beneath a tree; at times he quails at the infinite breadth of a universe not actively ordered by a benevolent deity, but imbued with an ambiguous and often violent energy. There are, as Harold Bloom points out, moments of terror in this poetry. But, as spring succeeds each difficult winter in upstate New York, where Ammons taught for many years, affirmation emerges through these reckonings with mortality. In a long poem called “Hibernaculum,” Ammons cites a saying of St. Francis (If you give up everything, it’s all yours) and opines that nothingness, far from being failure’s puzzlement, is really the point of lovely liberation, when gloriously every object in and on Earth becomes just itself, total and marvelous in its exact scope able to exist without compromise out to the precise skin-limit of itself: it allows freedom to fall back from the thrust to the absolute into the world so manifold with things and beings . . . (1971: 379–80).

Even as it embraces life – “I want to get / around to where I can say I’m glad I was here, / even if I must go” (1993: 88) – Ammons’ poetry renounces egotism and the grand gesture. Emptying leads to fulfillment, affirmation comes from renunciation; “being is born of not being,” in the words of the Tao te Ching. “I have reached no conclusions, have erected no boundaries,” Ammons writes in “Corsons Inlet,” “no arranged terror: no forcing of image, plan, / or thought: / no propaganda, no humbling of reality to precept” (1986: 44). Coming to enjoy the autonomy of a given moment, the poet gives up any vain hope of freezing life’s procession at a standstill.

Ammons is a crucial poet for a spiritually hungry and environmentally impoverished era because his work places Homo sapiens not alone on a pedestal, but as one vessel of life force among countless others. In “Corsons Inlet,” he watches a flock of swallows preparing for fall migration and calls them “a congregation / rich with entropy” (1986: 45). The religious connotation is not unintentional. For Ammons, we are all “instruments of miracle” – participants in a great cosmic rite of life, death, and eternal change.

Jonathan Cook

Further Reading

Ammons, A.R. Garbage. New York: W.W. Norton, 1993. Ammons, A.R. The Selected Poems: Expanded Edition.

New York: W.W. Norton, 1986.

Ammons, A.R. The Collected Poems: 1951–1971. New York: W.W. Norton, 1971.

Bloom, Harold. “The Breaking of the Vessels.” In Figures of Capable Imagination. New York: Seabury Press, 1976.

Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke. Stephen Mitchell, tr. New York: Knopf, 1989.

See also: Emerson, Ralph Waldo; Thoreau, Henry David; Whitman, Walt.

Amte, Baba (1914–)

Baba Amte is one of India’s most inspiring advocates for the rights of the oppressed, a champion of social justice and environmental awareness. His most recognizable accomplishment is Anandwan, a center for the treatment and rehabilitation of lepers and other disabled people in Chandrapur District in the state of Maharashtra. He is also widely known for his leadership in the protest against the

Narmada Valley Project, the most expensive hydroelectric and irrigation venture ever attempted in India. Amte’s vision for India’s future was inspired by, among others, Mohandas K. Gandhi, Rabinbranath Tagore, and Sane Guruji, and by the life and teachings of Jesus.

Born Murlidar Devidas Amte on 26 December 1914, in Hinganghat, Wardha District in Maharashtra, the eldest son of a wealthy Brahmin family, his high school studies at a Christian institution in Nagpur acquainted him with the Bible. Later in his life he was to say, “I am a Hindu Brahmin, and a follower of Christ.” He states that to be a follower of Christ is not to be affiliated with particular religious institutions but to walk in the shadow of the cross, to follow the example of Jesus in crucifying one’s own life for the sake of others. This ideal together with the Hindu concepts of nishkana karma yoga, or selfless service without the expectation of reward, and the ideal of loka sangrahya, or responsibility for the uplift of the world, produced in him the strong motivation to address issues of moral gravity in the present world.

His commitment to walk in the shadow of the cross was challenged in his early thirties when, after rejecting a lucrative career in law, he served as President of the Worora Municipality. When the local sweepers union went on strike, he identified with their cause by collecting night soil from the town’s latrines for a period of nine months. On a rainy night while carrying a basket of night soil on his head, his frightful encounter with a forsaken man suffering through the final stages of leprosy put his life’s purpose into focus. After studying at the Calcutta School of Tropical Medicine he set up clinics in villages, providing treatment for over 4000 patients. In 1949 Amte founded a society called the Maharogi Sewa Samity, centered at the place he called Anandwan (the forest of joy). With heroic effort and a government grant of 50 acres of degraded land (later expanded by the grant of another 200 acres), the society, comprised mostly of leprosy patients, constructed a residential facility for the treatment and rehabilitation of lepers and a farm to support its activities. Eventually, Anandwan became a ministry by lepers to other disabled persons, and to the community at large.

In 1964 Baba Amte contracted spondylitis, a condition that has resulted in the progressive degeneration of his spine. During long periods of convalescence he formulated his vision of a new India, for which Anandwan was the inspiration and model. His vision is of the India advocated by Gandhi in which arrangements are set up not to address the greed of the few but the needs of all, where needs are met by working with nature rather than working to destroy it. He believed that if outcast people on outcast land could develop a self-sufficient community that could benefit others, then a healthy people should be able to do the same for India.

The most visible cause for which Baba Amte has been known in recent years is the Narmada Bachao Andolan

(Save the Narmada Movement). In 1987 he invited a gathering of the most distinguished environmentalists in India to discuss the Narmada Valley Project. At their meeting at Anandwan they concluded that this plan for the construction of 30 major, 15 medium, and 3000 minor dams on the Narmada River and its tributaries would benefit only a few people at the cost of the environment upon which 300,000 local, mostly tribal people, depended. For Amte, who from an early age had been impressed with the traditions of the tribal people of India, and especially for their reverence for nature, this was a morally intolerable undertaking. In 1989 he helped organize and, in spite of failing health, participated in a highly visible protest rally at Harsud, a town in the Narmada Valley to be submerged by the project. In Cry, The Beloved Narmada (1989), and other publications, Baba Amte argued that the result of the project would be ethnocide. On 6 March 1990, Baba Amte joined 10,000 protesters who blocked the national highway at Khalghat bridge over the Narmada for 28 hours. Here, with his wife, he resolved to settle among the tribal people in the Narmada Valley, where despite injuries from confrontations with police and repeated arrests he remains a tireless advocate for the poor and for environmental awareness.

For his work with lepers, with the disabled, with tribal people, and for the protection of the environment, Baba Amte has been the recipient of numerous awards both in India and abroad, including the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. In the speech he wrote for his son to deliver at the Templeton Award ceremony in London, he stated that his religion is his work and described his work as grounded in sraddha or faith and inspired by karuna or compassion.

George A. James

Further Reading

Matthay, Thomas. An Unbeaten Track: A Report on Anandvan, an Experience in Community Development. New Delhi: UNICEF, 1993.

Sale, Kirpatrick. Dwellers in the Land. New York: New Society Publishers, 1991.

Staffner, Hans. Baba Amte: A Vision of New India.

Mumbai: Popular Prakshan, 2000.

Turner, Graham. “The Eye of the Needle.” In Graham Turner. More Than Conquerors. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1976.

See also: Hinduism; India; Tehri Dam; Yamuna; Yoga and Ecology.

Ananda Marga’s Tantric Neo-Humanism

Ananda Marga is a contemporary Hindu Tantric sect with an international following of several million people. Their animaland plant-rights philosophy, called

Neo-Humanism, is based on a book of the same name written by P.R. Sarkar (1921–1990). He was the organization’s founder and wrote spiritual philosophy under the name of Shrii Shrii Anandamurti. The ideology of NeoHumanism is derived from a monistic religious belief that everything is a manifestation of Supreme Consciousness and should be treated as sacred. Sarkar said that the sentiment human beings share toward one another should be extended to include all animate and inanimate entities. He claimed that adopting this point of view would be an aid toward self-realization and establish its practitioners in universalism.

Neo-Humanism emphasizes intensive intellectual analysis and rationality. It encourages people to channel their limited social sentiments into an inclusive ideal termed Sama-samaja Tattva, the principle of Social Equality. Simultaneously, Sarkar encouraged people to fight against the social exploitation and dogmas linked to environmental degradation. He decried the destruction of the ecological balance between the human, plant and animal worlds as a result of deforestation. One of NeoHumanism’s principle tenets is that all entities have both “existential value” and “utility value.” Sarkar pointed out that many people fail to understand this and only work to preserve those entities that have some immediate utility value for them. He considered this both immoral and foolish, not to mention a direct result of human ignorance. One of his controversial assertions, which he elaborated on at length in his book, was the demonization of hypocritical and manipulative exploiters who were engaged in socially and spiritually destructive activities. He literally referred to them as “demons in human form.” Sarkar advised that such people be identified and reeducated, essentially along spiritual lines. But in other books of his, such as Problems of the Day and PROUT in a Nutshell – Part VIII, he stated that force might be necessary in order to control them. Because he approved the use of force in certain circumstances, some members of his organization interpreted that as a call to direct action.

Sarkar’s humanistic and environmental concerns are fully integrated into his socio-economic and political platform called the Progressive Utilization Theory, or PROUT. PROUT is concerned with a more equitable distribution of global wealth and the proper utilization of the physical, mental, and spiritual potential of every living being. Therefore, noted Liberation Theologian Leonardo Boff has supported Ananda Marga’s socio-economic ideas. But the organization has made many wary by calling for a political dictatorship of the self-realized or spiritually evolved.

Ananda Marga is not an apocalyptic sect; therefore its environmental concerns are not connected to a belief in our collective, impending doom. Its spirituality is based on a Hindu type of Tantrism. Despite this, Sarkar’s protectiveness with regard to animal and plant life did not hinge on the idea that human beings might be reincarnated into animal or plant bodies. He was a supporter of reincarnation theory, but he was of the opinion that once an entity achieved a human birth, it was, from an evolutionary point of view, very unlikely that such a being would once again return to an animal or plant form. His central concerns were the issues of a spiritually monistic philosophy and the social justice such a philosophy demanded.

Based on Sarkar’s writings, organizational members feel that time is of the essence in the fight to establish social justice. They believe that in many parts of the world today, exploited human beings are being crushed under the weight of capitalism and that it may very well be necessary to use force in order to check that trend. It is perhaps with a combined sense of that perceived injustice and a devotional concern for animal life that in the 1980s some of its members in northern England decided in favor of direct action. They planned and allegedly executed the release of animals involved in scientific experiments.

When the news of this direct action was written up in the newspapers, it sparked a debate within the organization about the policy of direct action compared to the slower process of reeducating the general public. Those in favor of the latter had some of Sarkar’s writings on their side and they also had hard practical experience. During the 1970s a radical faction of PROUT called the Universal PROUTists Revolutionary Federation engaged in acts of international political terrorism that were contrary to the official policy of both Ananda Marga and PROUT. In the most infamous act a member was jailed for a 1978 bombing of a Hilton Hotel in Sydney, Australia that killed three people.

During this time, Sarkar was imprisoned by Indira Gandhi’s government on charges that Ananda Margiis say were purely politically motivated. He was held for seven years and eventually exonerated by the Indian High Court. It seems the bombing was an agitation that aimed to secure his release from jail. The acts of terrorism had a negative impact on all branches of the organization. In the United States, Ananda Marga lost the support of federal financial funding in the form of CETA grants. “Community Education Technical Advocates” grants had been given to the workers of their permanent social service projects. Throughout the world, an organizational reputation for terrorism hampered both the propagation of their spiritual ideals as well as the establishment of their social service projects.

It is noteworthy that while the ideology of NeoHumanism originated on the Indian subcontinent those who elected to engage in direct action based on it were born in England. The vast majority of the organization’s spiritual practitioners express their Neo-Humanistic environmentalism in quieter ways. On a daily basis they personally perform bhuta yajina, service to the created universe. Ideally, this consists of services to plants and animals, but services to lesser-evolved, inanimate objects are also undertaken.

As part of an effort to introduce Neo-Humanism into society, Sarkar advocated that Ananda Margiis maintain a series of agrarian communities called Master Units. He placed a special emphasis on them during the last ten years of this life. By the early twenty-first century such communities had been established in India, Australia, Europe, South America, and the United States, although at that time, some entailed little more than land held in the organization’s name. In many of these communities, the ideals of Neo-Humanism, such as rural self-empowerment and economic self-sufficiency, have been practically implemented. The premier example among them was established at Ananda Nagar in the Purulia District of West Bengal. It showcases integrated farming techniques, water conservation projects, soil erosion counter measures, a two-phased afforestation program, alternative energy ideas, and a variety of related projects, all spearheaded by Sarkar.

It seems to have been Sarkar’s hope that the Master Units would serve as an example of alternative socioeconomic organization that would ultimately have political ramifications. In this regard he spoke about a type of bioregionalism tied to cultural and linguistic factors. He named those regions Samaj, which literally means “society.” They would be decentralized socio-economic areas. Dividing the world into Samaj, along natural ecological, cultural, and linguistic lines, was a visionary system. Sarkar viewed such bioregional politics to be more beneficial than today’s modern nation states.

Clearly the organization’s socio-spiritual doctrines have fostered environmentally sustainable behavior. But their association with violence and occasional acts of terrorism continues in the minds of many people. The crux of the matter is their stated willingness to use force against society’s “demons” in an effort to establish their concept of social justice. During his lifetime, Sarkar was not silent on the issue of terrorism. He stated that those who engaged in it had no understanding of his ideology. In the continuing debate over whether Hindu spiritual traditions promote or detract from ecological awareness and activism Ananda Marga represents affirmative evidence. The extent to which it will effectively promote its socio-economic and political objectives remains an open question.

Helen Crovetto

Further Reading

Sarkar, P.R. Ideal Farming. Part 2. Calcutta: Ananda Marga Pracaraka Samgha, 1990.

Sarkar, P.R. The Liberation of Intellect – Neo-Humanism. 2nd edn. Calcutta: Ananda Marga Pracaraka Samgha, 1983.

Sarkar, P.R. Problems of the Day. 4th edn. Calcutta: Ananda Marga Pracaraka Samgha, 1993.

Sarkar, P.R. PROUT in a Nutshell. Part VIII. Calcutta: Ananda Marga Pracaraka Samgha, 1987.

See also: Boff, Leonardo; Hinduism; India; Radical Environmentalism; Tantra.


The anarchist tradition has been sharply divided in its relationship to religion, spirituality and nature. On the one hand, the mainstream of Western anarchism has in general been atheist, anti-religious and anti-clerical, and has looked upon religion as a supernaturalist negation of the natural world. On the other hand, there is a long history of anarchistic thought and practice having strong spiritual or religious dimensions, and very often these have taken the form of nature spirituality. The following discussion will examine first the more familiar anti-religious perspective of modern Western anarchism, then various anarchist tendencies across history that have held a spiritual view of reality, and finally, some contemporary anarchist views that exhibit both standpoints.

Almost all the major European classical anarchist theorists opposed religion and defended a secularist, scientific and sometimes positivistic view of nature against what they saw as religious obscurantism and other-worldliness. Max Stirner (1806–1856), the major individualist anarchist theorist, dismissed religion as a belief in illusory “spooks” that undermined the individuality and selfdetermination of the individual. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809–1865), the first important social anarchist theorist, stated that the concept of God was contradictory to rational thought and to human freedom, and that social progress is proportional to the degree to which the concept is eliminated. The anarchist anti-religious viewpoint is perhaps most widely associated with political theorist and revolutionary Mikhail Bakunin (1813–1876), who proclaimed, “I reverse the phrase of Voltaire, and say that, if God really existed, it would be necessary to abolish him” (Bakunin 1970: 79–80).

For Bakunin, religion denigrates human nature and the world, and is a means of oppressing humanity. In his view, it is a negation of nature, since it exalts a supernatural and transcendent reality and devalues the material and natural. He claims that there is an objective naturalistic basis for religion: it arises essentially out of the human being’s feeling of absolute dependence on an eternal and omnipotent nature and out of primitive fear of its awe-inspiring powers. He contends that it begins with the attribution of this power to fetishes and ends with its concentration in an all-powerful God, which he sees as the reversal and magnification of the human image itself. Religion is thus essentially a misunderstanding of nature. The system of social domination makes use of this confusion to keep people in a state of subjection and submissiveness through the alliance between the coercive power of the state and the ideological power of the Church.

The large anarchist movements of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in general shared the atheism and anti-clericalism of its theoretical founders. The Bakuninists of the First International (International Working Men’s Association, 1864–1876) fought to make the workers’ movement officially anti-religious, and the large anarcho-syndicalist movements in southern Europe and Latin America defined themselves in part through their strong opposition to a generally reactionary and hierarchical Church and clergy. The Spanish Revolution (1936–1939), the most important event in the history of the anarchist movement, was marked by fierce opposition to the Church, to the extent of the desecration and burning of churches and harsh treatment of clergy. The Spanish anarchists largely shared Bakunin’s view that religion was based on a denial of the natural world. Yet a kind of nature spirituality emerged even within their milieu. This tendency was expressed in a cult of the natural, the romanticizing of nature, and practices such as health-consciousness, nudism and vegetarianism. In this regard, the movement was influenced by the anarchist philosopher-geographer Elisée Reclus (1830–1905), who developed a non-theistic but holistic and spiritual view of nature, advocated animal rights, and wrote of the sublime and inspirational qualities of the natural world.

When one turns to the positive relationship between anarchism and spirituality, one finds a wealth of evidence in many cultures of the world. Some have found one of the earliest anarchist philosophies of nature and human nature in the ancient Chinese classic, the Tao te Ching of Lao Tzu (ca. fourth century B.C.E). Daoism is the philosophy of the tao, or way, a term that refers both to the source of all being, and to the path of self-realization of all beings when they are allowed to act freely and spontaneously according to their nature. Lao Tzu presents a vision of nature and human society as an organic unityin-diversity in which the uniqueness and creative activity of each part of the whole are valued. The natural world is seen as a dynamic balance (symbolized through the complementary polarities of yin and yang) that produces order and harmony when not disrupted by human aggression and domination. Lao Tzu describes this natural harmony in poetic terms: “Heaven and Earth unite to drip sweet dew. Without the command of men, it drips evenly over all” (Lao Tzu 1963: 156). Coercive and authoritarian social institutions are shown to destroy natural balance and the generosity of nature and produce disaster not only for the surrounding natural world, but also within human society itself. The ideal society is depicted as a decentralized, egalitarian community in which all value the “Three Treasures” of compassion, simplicity, and humility. Lao Tzu was a harsh critic of the violent, hierarchical society of his own day, and laments the injustices and inequities that are created in human society by the pursuit of political and economic power. He declares that “[t]he Way of Heaven reduces whatever is excessive and supplements whatever is insufficient. The Way of Man is different. It reduces the insufficient to offer to the excessive” (Lao Tzu 1963: 174). For Lao Tzu, the pursuit of wealth, power and egoistic gratification must be rejected in favor of a way of life based on “non-action” or “actionless action” (wu-wei), by which is meant activity that is in accord with one’s own Tao or way, but which respects the ways of all others.

Despite these apparently anarchistic or libertarian tendencies in Lao Tzu’s thought, some have interpreted him as a defender of the traditional system of rule and even as an advocate of manipulation of the people for authoritarian purposes. For example, the eminent Chinese scholar D.C. Lau interprets the Tao te Ching as a rather eclectic collection of writings that has a primarily ethical rather than mystical or philosophical import, and which does not question the concept of political rule. In his view, passages concerning the sage or ruler apply to any follower of the Tao, but are also specific references to an enlightened and skillful “ruler,” in a quite literal sense. Social ecologists Murray Bookchin and Janet Biehl have contended that ancient Daoism is merely a form of regressive mysticism. They attacked the idea that the Tao te Ching has any anarchistic implications and contend that all references to rulership should be interpreted in an entirely literal sense.

The second great ancient Taoist philosopher, Chuang Tzu, has sometimes been seen as even more radically anarchistic than Lao Tzu and equally ecological in outlook. Chuang Tzu warned against the impulse to eliminate chaos and impose order on the world, which in his view leads ultimately to great destruction. He took a perspectivist position on knowledge and truth, and emphasized, often through humorous or ironic anecdotes, the fact that each being has its own good and perceives reality from its own ultimately incomparable point of view. He rejected human-centered views of reality and the tendency to project human meanings and values onto the natural world. Though the specifically political implications of Chuang Tzu’s thought are far from clear, his Daoism has been interpreted as one of the most consistently anarchistic critiques of the domination of humanity and nature and of the egocentric and anthropocentric mentality that underlies domination.

Some have also found a deeply anarchistic dimension in both ancient Buddhism and also in various schools in later Buddhist history. Original Buddhism as established by the founder Shakyamuni Buddha (ca. 563–463 B.C.E.) came out of a questioning of both the social order (the caste system) and the ideological basis (the authority of the Vedic scriptures) of ancient India. It also rejected the idea that any authority, whether a person or written document, could lead one to truth, and that it must instead be reached through direct personal experience. The central Buddhist idea of non-attachment can be given an anarchistic interpretation. Although historical Buddhism has been to varying degrees influenced by inegalitarian social institutions, its goal of non-attachment can be seen as an attack on the foundation of political, economic and patriarchal domination in the desire to aggrandize an illusory ego-self. According to such an interpretation, the ideal of the sangha or spiritual community is seen as an anarchistic concept of association based on compassion and recognition of true need, rather than on economic and political power and coercive force. Similarly, Buddhist mindfulness, an awakened awareness of present experience, is seen as implying a sensitivity to the realities of nature and human experience, as opposed to appropriating and objectifying forms of consciousness. The Buddhist tradition is vast, and has been developed in many directions, but it is not difficult to discover in the Buddhist concepts of awakened mind, non-attachment, and compassion an implicit critique of material consumption and accumulation, coercive laws, and bureaucratic and technocratic forms of social organization.

Nagarjuna (ca. second century) is often considered the most important Buddhist philosopher since Shakyamuni Buddha. Indeed, he can plausibly be interpreted as the most theoretically anarchistic thinker in the history of philosophy. His radically destructive or deconstructive dialectic reveals the contradictions in any formulation of truth or attribution of substantiality to any being. The only “truth” for Nagarjuna consists not in ideas or propositions, all of which lead to contradiction, but rather in the practice of universal compassion and nonattachment. His rejection of the imposition of dualistic and objectifying categories on an internally related and “dependently arising” reality can be seen as an affirmation of the non-objectifiable wholeness and self-creativity of being and nature.

The anarchist tendencies in Buddhism were developed furthest and synthesized with certain aspects of Daoism in the Chinese Ch’an (meditation) School of Buddhism and in its Japanese version, Zen. Zen questions all authorities, including political, intellectual and spiritual ones, and insists on the absolute priority of direct personal experience. Lin-Chi (Rinzai) (d. 866) the founder of Ch’an, is known for his shocking admonition, “Whether you’re facing inward or facing outward, whatever you meet up with, just kill it! If you meet a Buddha, kill the Buddha. If you meet a patriarch, kill the patriarch!” This iconoclastic maxim is a classic Zen statement of the radically anarchistic view that none of our concepts of substantial realities (including even our most exalted concepts) can capture the nature of an ever-changing reality that constantly surpasses all categories and preconceptions. Inherent in this outlook is a deep respect for the integrity of nature and a desire to allow nature to express itself without human domination. Zen painting and poetry (much in the tradition of Daoist art) are noted for their focus on nature and on the numinous power of things themselves.

Anarchistic forms of spirituality have not been limited to Asian traditions, but have also emerged periodically through the history of Western religion. The Joachimite tendency in medieval Christianity is perhaps the most striking example. Joachim of Fiore spoke of the “Third Age” of world history, the Age of the Holy Spirit, which would supersede the rule of law and authority and usher in the reign of universal freedom and love. The Movement of the Free Spirit, which emerged out of the Joachimite and millenarian traditions, is often considered the most anarchistic tendency within medieval and early modern Christianity. The movement originated in the thirteenth century and spread widely across central and Western Europe during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Its most radical tendencies rejected the established Church, the state, law, private property and marriage. Its social outlook was at times a rather curious combination of a radically anarchistic quest for freedom and an elitism that justified an instrumental view of non-members and of things in nature, and a ruthless destructiveness toward all who stood in its way. Nevertheless, it often strongly affirmed nature and the natural. The Adamite tendency in particular saw believers as existing in a “natural,” prefallen condition, and others spoke of exercising “natural freedom” and following “natural desires.” They practiced nudism and free love, held property in common, and waged relentless war against their surrounding enemies. The anarchistic interpretation of the Free Spirit is best known from Norman Cohn’s classic work, The Pursuit of the Millennium. The Free Spirit also plays an important role in anarchist theorist Fredy Perlman’s critique of civilization, Against History, and Situationist Raoul Vaneigem devoted an entire book to the movement.

A more recent expression of an anarchistic spirituality within the Christian tradition is the radical religious vision of Romantic poet William Blake (1757–1827). Blake stressed the sacredness of nature, its organic qualities, and the need for humane treatment of other beings. He was one of the most important early rebels against the mechanistic, objectivist, reductionist worldview that came out of Newtonian science. His rejection of the dominant mechanistic worldview is encapsulated in his well-known plea, “may God us keep / From Single vision and Newton’s sleep!” (Blake 1988: 722). His attack on the patriarchal authoritarian God and a spiritually degraded world, and his creation of a new radically utopian mythology can be interpreted as an anarchistic critique of the state, early capitalism, and any ideology or social imaginary based on hierarchy, domination, and the repression of desire, the body, and nature.

Although nineteenthand early twentieth-century European anarchism was generally anti-religious, even there one finds a more overt religious tendency, primarily under the influence of the famous novelist and pacifist anarchist Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910). Tolstoy’s conception of God was not the naively anthropomorphic image that other anarchists attacked, but referred rather to the whole of reality and truth. Furthermore, he believed that the true essence of Christianity is found not in a transcendent Supreme Being or an afterlife with rewards and punishments, but rather in Jesus’ teaching of universal love. For Tolstoy, an acceptance of this teaching satisfies the human longing for meaning in purpose in life, and has farreaching implications for one’s relationship to both society and nature. First, it results in a dedication to complete nonviolence in society, including an absolute anarchistic rejection of participation in the state, which Tolstoy saw as the most monstrous form of organized violence and coercion. Furthermore, it requires a nonviolent stance toward the whole of nature, a refusal to inflict suffering on sentient beings, and a practice of ethical vegetarianism.

Another important nineteenth-century literary figure in whose work anarchist themes intersect with a spirituality of nature is Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862). In his essay “Civil Disobedience,” Thoreau proclaimed the priority of individual conscience over political authority, asserting his view that “that government is best which governs least” and consequently “that government is best which governs not at all.” He refused to pay his taxes to the state on the anarchist secessionist principle that he could not recognize as his own government one that was also the slave’s government. Although Thoreau’s philosophical and religious perspective is usually associated with American “Transcendentalism,” it can also be seen as an anarchistic spirituality with affinities to aspects of Daoist, Buddhist and indigenous traditions. Thoreau is best known for his eloquent expression in Walden of such themes as the love of and communion with nature, the affirmation of life, compassion for all living beings, and the ills of a materialistic society that is alienated from the natural world and enslaved by its own possessions. His spirituality is perhaps best expressed in the essay on “Walking,” which contains his famous statement that “in Wildness is the preservation of the world.” Thoreau links wildness, freedom, sacredness, and “the gospel according to this moment,” an idea much in the spirit of Buddhist mindfulness. His concern for and celebration of the particularities of place link him to later bioregional thought, and contain an implicit critique of political and economistic conceptions of reality.

The renowned anarchist geographer Peter Kropotkin has often been looked to as the major source of ecological ideas among the classical anarchist theorists. His concepts of the importance of mutual aid, spontaneity and diversity in both the natural world and in human society have been important in introducing ecological concepts into social thought. However, Kropotkin was in many ways carrying on the work of his predecessor, the nineteenth-century French geographer and revolutionary Elisée Reclus, who had already developed a profoundly ecological philosophy and social theory. Reclus is one of the most important figures in the development of an anarchistic ecological philosophy and spirituality.

Reclus came out of a tradition of radical Protestant religious dissent, his father having been a minister of a socalled “free church” that broke with the Reformed Church. Though he rejected theism, his anarchism can in some ways be seen as a continuation of his religious tradition. Central to his philosophy was a belief in universal love, which in his view must be extended to all human beings, to other sentient beings, and to nature as a whole. His deep respect for the natural world sometimes reaches a level of awe that verges on a kind of nature mysticism. For Reclus, social organization must be based on this love and solidarity, expressed through a voluntary commitment to the good of the community and the Earth itself. In such a system, each individual would be guided to the greatest degree possible by a free conscience rather than by coercion or centralized authority.

Reclus’ outlook toward nature is at once scientific, moral, aesthetic, and spiritual. In his monumental 16,000page New Universal Geography, and his magnum opus of social theory, Man and the Earth, he offers a holistic, evolutionary vision of humanity and nature. Like later ecological thinkers, Reclus finds a harmony and balance in nature, in addition to a tendency toward discord and imbalance. His investigation of the intimate relationship between humanity and the Earth’s regional and local particularities anticipates later bioregional thought. He emphasizes the moral and spiritual aspects of humanity’s relationship to nature, condemns the growing devastation produced by industry and economic exploitation, and argues that whenever humanity degrades the natural world, it degrades itself. A vehement advocate of the humane treatment of animals and of ethical vegetarianism, Reclus wrote several widely reprinted pamphlets on these topics.

An important though relatively neglected figure in early twentieth-century anarchist spirituality is the German political theorist and non-violent revolutionary Gustav Landauer (1870–1919). Landauer is best known as a martyr killed for his leadership in the Munich Council Republic of 1919 and as the mentor of the Jewish libertarian and communitarian religious philosopher Martin Buber (1878–1965). Landauer’s philosophy is rooted in German Romanticist thought and is often described as having mystical and pantheistic tendencies. His major concepts are Spirit (Geist), People (Volk), and Nation (Nation), and his central focus is on the place of the individual in the larger human community, in nature, and in a greater spiritual reality. Landauer associates Spirit with the search for wholeness and universality, and interprets it as an immanent, living reality, the underlying unity of all beings that encompasses both humanity and nature. For Landauer, the great conflict in history is between Spirit and the state. In his famous formulation, the state is above all a relationship between human beings and it can be replaced by creating new relationships based on cooperation rather than domination. Socialism, which is what he called the free, cooperative society, is not a utopian ideal in the future, but rather something that is already present in all cooperative, loving human relationships and which can expand to encompass the whole of society as more non-coercive, non-exploitative relationships are established. Landauer believed that the cooperative society would be achieved when people left the increasingly dominant corrupt and alienated urban society and returned to the land. The new society was to be based on village communities rooted in their natural regions, in which fair exchange would replace economic exploitation, and in which agriculture and industry would be integrated.

Undoubtedly, one of the most important influences on modern anarchist spirituality throughout the world is Mohandas Gandhi (1869–1948), who is widely known for his principles of nonviolence, cooperation, decentralization, and local self-sufficiency. Gandhi summarized his religious outlook as the belief that God is Truth, or more accurately, that Truth is God, and that the way to this Truth is through love. He also states that God is “the sum-total of all life” (Gandhi 1963: 316). At the roots of Gandhian spirituality is the concept of ahimsa, which is often translated as “nonviolence” (paralleling the original Sanskrit), but is actually for Gandhi a more positive conception of replacing force and coercion with love and cooperation. Similarly, he is sometimes called an advocate of “civil disobedience,” but he defined his approach, satyagraha, as a more positive conception of “nonviolent resistance” to evil, including the injustices of the state.

Although Gandhi did not absolutely reject all participation in the existing state, he rejected the state as a legitimate form of social organization, advocated its eventual elimination, and strongly opposed its increasing power. He warned against looking to the state to reduce exploitation, arguing that its concentrated power and vast coercive force necessarily does great harm and destroys individuality. In place of the centralized state, he proposed village autonomy or self-government, community selfreliance, and local production based on human-scale technologies, ideas that have been enormously influential on twentieth-century eco-anarchism. Gandhi was also a critic of Western medicine, which he saw as dependent on concentrated wealth and sophisticated technologies, and advocated instead “nature cure” in which the cheapest, simplest and most accessible treatments are used.

For Gandhi, the principle of ahimsa was to be extended throughout the natural world. Humans should make an effort to avoid inflicting physical or mental injury to any living being to the greatest possible degree. Accordingly, Gandhi advocated ethical vegetarianism and had a deeply held belief that the Indian tradition of cow protection was of great moral and spiritual value. One of his most oftenquoted statements is that the greatness and moral progress of a nation can be judged by its treatment of animals. Although his concern was often expressed in terms of the welfare of individual beings, he sometimes expressed more strongly ecological concepts, as when he warned of the dangers of human abuse of nature using the image of nature’s ledger book in which the debits and credits must always be equal.

After Gandhi’s death, Sarvodaya, a movement based on his spiritual, ethical and political principles emerged. Vinoba Bhave (1895–1982), the leading figure in the movement for many years, taught absolute nonviolence, social organization based on universal love, decision making by consensus, the replacement of coercion by the recognition of moral authority, and the minimization and eventual abolition of state power. Vinoba’s social philosophy was fundamentally anarchist and communitarian. In pursuit of the movement’s goals he pursued a policy of asking landowners to donate land to the poor (Bhoodan, or “gift of land”) and of establishing village cooperative agriculture (Gramdan or “village gift”). Over a decade, Vinoba walked 25,000 miles across India and accepted eight million acres of Bhoodan land. The history of the Sarvodaya movement is recounted in Geoffrey Ostergaard and Melville Currell’s study, The Gentle Anarchists.

Among contemporary thinkers, the celebrated poet and essayist Gary Snyder has probably had the greatest influence in linking anarchism, spirituality and nature. He has also been a major influence on the contemporary ecology movement in showing the ecological implications of Buddhist, Daoist and indigenous traditions. Snyder has connected the concepts of “the wild,” “wild nature” and “wilderness” with the Tao of ancient Chinese philosophy and the dharma of Buddhism. For Snyder, the concept of “the wild” implies a freedom and spontaneity that are found not only in undomesticated nature, but also in the imagination of the poet and in the mind of the spiritually attuned person. He expresses the anarchic nature of the Zen mind in his statement: “the power of no-power; this is in the practice of Zen” (Snyder 1980: 4).

For Snyder, such concepts have farreaching political implications. By the early 1970s he had already outlined a bioregional anarchist position that would replace the state and its artificial political boundaries with a regionalism based on lived experience and a knowledge of the particularities of place. Snyder links the spirituality of place with “reinhabitation,” the development of an intimate acquaintance with one’s locality and region, and the achievement of a larger sense of community that incorporates other life forms. Snyder finds the roots of such a social vision in the Neolithic community, with its emphasis on productive work, the sharing of goods, and the self-determination of local village communities. From the standpoint of such decentralized, egalitarian communities, the state, social hierarchy, and centralized power are not only illegitimate and oppressive, but also a source of disorder and destruction in both society and the natural world. The wisdom of traditional societies has been a widespread theme in contemporary anarchist thought. This is exemplified by a significant “neo-primitivist” current in ecological anarchism that has identified very strongly with many of the values and institutions of tribal societies. Its proponents argue that for 99 percent of human history human beings lived in stateless societies in which nature spirituality was central to their culture. The nonhierarchical, cooperative, symbiotic and ecological spiritualities of these societies have been taken as an inspiration for a future post-civilized anarchist society.

A strong influence on this current is anarchist theorist Fredy Perlman (1934–1985), who in his influential work Against His-story, Against Leviathan depicts (in a kind of radicalized version of the “Myth of the Machine” of social critic Lewis Mumford [1895–1990]) the millennia-long history of the assault of the technological megamachine on humanity and the Earth. Perlman describes early tribal spirituality as a celebration of human existence and nature, and depicts the rise of the ancient despotism that destroyed these societies and replaced their spirituality with a repressive, patriarchal and authoritarian monotheism. He interprets the emergence of such spiritual movements as ancient Daoism, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism as a rebellion against social hierarchy and the domination of nature, and describes the processes through which these spiritualities of freedom were transformed in religions of domination. He also outlines the history of anarchistic spiritual movements, including such striking examples as the Taoist Yellow Turbans, a revolutionary, egalitarian movement of the second century.

Similar themes are developed by David Watson, a leading contemporary critic of the technological megamachine. Watson contends in Against the Megamachine that in modern societies an aura of sacredness is concentrated in the ego, in the system of technology, and in economic and political power, whereas primal societies have seen the sacred as pervading the self, the community and the world of nature. Primal spirituality was, he argues, an integral part of a system of egalitarian, libertarian and ecological social values. Furthermore, the participating consciousness of primal peoples conceives of humans as inseparable from larger natural and transhuman realities. Thus, primal peoples have had an anarchistic, nonhierarchical view of both society and nature that constitutes a powerful critique of modern industrial society and offers inspiration for future non-dominating ecological communities.

Ideas similar to those of Perlman and Watson inspire a rather large, vigorous and growing anarcho-primitivist or anti-civilization movement. The best-known theoretical spokesperson for this movement is John Zerzan, who presents a withering critique of civilization, industrialism, technology, the state, and even language and community. Anarcho-primitivist ideas often appear in such publications as Green Anarchy, Live Free or Die, Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed and The Fifth Estate. Anarchoprimitivism plays an important role in the Earth Liberation Front, which practices sabotage in defense of nature, and in the much larger Earth First!, which is the most important direct action environmental organization. It is also a significant undercurrent in the anti-globalization movement.

Anarcho-primitivists see an inextricable relationship between civilization and the domination of humanity and nature. One of their central themes is the inevitability of the collapse of industrial society, an event that is often looked forward to with anticipation. Primitivists value all that remains free from the domination of civilization, including remaining wilderness areas and autonomous, spontaneous human activity. They look to tribal traditions and hunter-gatherer economies for examples of an ecological sensibility, a balanced relationship to nature, and an ethos of sharing and generosity. However, they do not in general propose a simple reversion to such previous social formations, which are sometimes criticized for alienated social practices. Many primitivists find inspiration in various nature-affirming spiritual traditions as an alternative to the narrow technical rationality of civilization. These include the spirituality of tribal people, various forms of nature mysticism, a general reverence for life and nature, pantheism, and neo-paganism.

Indeed, one finds a continuous and strong anarchist current in neo-paganism in general in both Britain and the United States in recent decades. In Britain there are important anarchist and neo-pagan tendencies within the large marginal subculture that centers around the antiroads movement and defends sites that are of natural, cultural and spiritual significance. Both anti-roads activists and neo-pagans often form decentralized, non-hierarchical organizations practicing such anarchist principles as direct action and consensus decision making. Starhawk, one of the best-known neo-pagan theorists and writers, and an important figure in ecofeminism, has emphasized the connection between the nonviolent, egalitarian, cooperative, anti-patriarchal, anti-hierarchical, and nature-affirming values of anarchism and the pagan worldview and sensibility. The pioneering ecofeminist writer Susan Griffin has inspired thinking about these interconnections since her wide-ranging landmark work Woman and Nature, published in 1978. Even earlier, the well-known short-story writer and poet Grace Paley had incorporated feminist, anarchist and ecological themes in her works, which also expresses a deep but subtle spirituality of everyday life.

Hakim Bey, one of the most widely read contemporary anarchist writers, has developed an “ontological anarchism” that finds inspiration in esoteric spiritual traditions of many cultures, including Islamic mysticism, sorcery, shamanism, alchemy, and primordial myths of chaos. Bey’s anarchic sensibility and spirituality encompass everything related to joy, eros, creativity, play, and “the marvelous.” His concept of the Temporary Autonomous Zone (TAZ) as a sphere in which such realities can be experienced is one of the most influential ideas in contemporary anarchism and has stimulated interest in heretical, dissident and exotic anarchistic spiritualities.

There has also been considerable theoretical discussion of anarchism, nature and spirituality in the context of debates within social ecology. Such well-known exponents of social ecology as Murray Bookchin and Janet Biehl have attacked spiritual ecologies as forms of irrational mysticism that often produce social passivity and sometimes are linked to reactionary or fascist politics. On the other hand, proponents of the value of spiritual ecologies (such as David Watson, John Clark and Peter Marshall) have argued for the importance to an anarchist social ecology of spiritual values that are ecological, holistic, communitarian and socially emancipatory. It has been argued that some social ecologists have uncritically adopted a modernist, Promethean, and naively rationalistic view of the self and its relationship to the world, and that spiritual ecologies derived from Asian philosophies and indigenous worldviews, among other sources, can contribute to a more critical, dialectical, and implicitly anarchistic view of selfhood and the place of humanity in nature. This brief survey is far from comprehensive, and a fuller account would encompass such topics as Quakerism and other forms of radical Protestantism, the Catholic Worker movement and other tendencies within the Catholic Left, the spirituality of anarchist intentional communities, and the many literary and artistic figures (including such notable examples as poet Allen Ginsberg and novelist Ursula LeGuin) who have had important insights relating to anarchism, spirituality and nature. However, from the examples discussed, it should be clear that anarchist thought and practice have encompassed a wide diversity of approaches to religion, spirituality, and nature. This multiplicity and divergence continues today. Many contemporary anarchists (especially in Europe and in organizations in the anarcho-syndicalist and anarchocommunist traditions) carry on the atheist, anti-religious, anti-clerical outlook of the classical anarchist movement. Others, including many of the young people who have been drawn to contemporary anarchism through direct action movements, have neither great interest in nor particular antipathy to religion and spirituality. However, an increasing number of political and cultural anarchists are developing an interest in spirituality, and many others have been drawn to anarchist political movements and social tendencies through an initial interest in anarchistic spirituality. Consequently, spirituality, and more particularly the nature-affirming spiritualities of Daoism, Buddhism, neo-Paganism, indigenous traditions, and various radical undercurrents within Western religion, play a significant role in anarchism today and can be expected to do so in the future.

John Clark

Further Reading

Bakunin, Michael. God and the State. New York: Dover, 1970.

Blake, William. The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake. David V. Erdman, ed. New York: Doubleday, 1988.

Chuang Tzu. Inner Chapters. New York: Vintage Books, 1974.

Cohn, Norman. The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990 (1961).

Clark, John and Camille Martin. Anarchy, Geography, Modernity: The Radical Social Thought of Elisée Reclus. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2004.

Gandhi, Mohandas. The Essential Gandhi. Louis Fischer, ed. New York: Random House, 1963.

Landauer, Gustav. For Socialism. St. Louis: Telos Press, 1978.

Lao Tzu, “The Lao Tzu (Tao te Ching).” In Wing-Tsit Chan, ed. A Sourcebook in Chinese Philosophy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1963, 139–76.

Lau, D.C. “Introduction” to Tao te Ching. Harmondsworth, UK and New York: Penguin Books, 1963, 7–52.

Lin-Chi. The Zen Teachings of Master Lin-Chi. Boston and London: Shambhala, 1993.

Marshall, Peter. Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism. London: HarperCollins, 1992.

Ostergaard, Geoffrey and Melville Currell. The Gentle Anarchists: A Study of the Leaders of the Sarvodaya Movement For Non-Violent Revolution in India. Oxford: Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1973.

Perlman, Fredy. Against His-story, Against Leviathan.

Detroit: Black & Red, 1983.

Purchase, Graham. Evolution and Revolution: An Introduction to the Life and Thought of Peter Kropotkin. Petersham, Australia: Jura Books, 1996.

Snyder, Gary. The Real Work: Interviews & Talks 1964– 1979. New York: New Dimensions, 1980.

Starhawk. Truth or Dare: Encounters with Power, Authority and Mystery. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988.

Vaneigem, Raoul. The Movement of the Free Spirit: General Considerations and Firsthand Testimony

Concerning Some Brief Flowerings of Life in the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and, Incidentally, Our Own Time. New York: Zone Books, 1994.

Watson, David. Against the Megamachine: Essays on Empire & Its Enemies. Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia, 1998.

See also: Bioregionalism; Bioregionalism and the North American Bioregional Congress; Blake, William; Buddhism; Daoism; Earth First! and the Earth Liberation Front; Ellul, Jacques; Gandhi, Mohandas; Griffin, Susan; Kropotkin, Peter; Left Biocentrism; Le Guin, Ursula; Radical Environmentalism; Reclus, Elisée; Snyder, Gary – and the Invention of Bioregional Spirituality and Politics; Social Ecology; Starhawk; Thoreau, Henry David.

Anarcho-Primitivism and the Bible

“Anarcho-primitivism” (hereafter AP) is an important current of contemporary deep ecological thought which responds to contemporary environmental and social crises with a radical revisionism of the history of civilization. Though there have been few vigorous engagements between Christian theologians and these radical philosophical currents (exceptions include Jacques Ellul and Vernard Eller), this entry reflects upon possible points of contact between AP ideas and certain trajectories found in the Bible.

The trenchant AP critique of civilization finds surprising resonance in the Hebrew-Christian scriptures – if, that is, they are read as documents of Israelite resistance to Ancient Near Eastern empires from Egypt to Rome, rather than as a legitimating ideology for Christendom. The following eight “talking points” (appearing below in italics), representing salient aspects of the AP perspective as articulated by, for example, John Zerzan, are here correlated with minor and major biblical themes. i) Civilization represents for AP a pathological regression, rather than an ingenuous progression, of human consciousness. Although mainstream theology has largely bought into the dominant evolutionary narrative of “Progress,” the Bible’s perspective on historical origins is quite contrary – which is perhaps why it has been increasingly marginalized since the Enlightenment. The “primeval history” of Gen. 1–11, for example, portrays civilization as the “fruit” not of human genius, but of alienation from the symbiotic lifeways of the “Garden.” Its narrative of the “Fall” is one of hard labor, murder, violence and predatory urbanism, culminating in the symbol of Babel’s tower as the zenith of human rebellion against God and nature. It can be read not only as a polemic against the Ancient Near Eastern empires that surrounded Israel, but also as an archetypal diagnosis of civilization-as-pathology. Throughout the rest of the biblical literature this strong strand of skepticism prevails, summarized perhaps best by

Jesus’ trope that “Solomon in all his glory” (an allusion to the Davidic Temple-State, the zenith of Israel’s civilizational power) was less intrinsically valuable than a single wildflower (Lk. 12:27). ii) AP’s perspective on “pre-history” argues that the late Neolithic domestication of plants and animals led to the domestication of human beings. Agriculture inexorably gave rise to concentrated populations and increasingly centralized and hierarchical societies in built urban environments. These in turn developed into oppressive city-states, an aggressively colonizing civilization that exerted a powerful centripetal force upon the hinterlands. Thus agriculture is portrayed in Genesis not as a gift of the gods – as in other Ancient Near Eastern myths – but as a curse, the result of human rejection of the old symbiotic lifeways of the “Garden” (Gen. 3:17–19). While pastoralism is more sympathetically depicted in the biblical literature, we should keep in mind that during the period herders were socially marginalized fringe-dwellers.

From the Babel story on, the walled city and its architecture of domination is denounced regularly, as Ellul argues, including the Egyptian “store cities” built by Hebrew forced labor (Ex. 1:11–14) and the Canaanite fortress of Jericho (Josh. 6:26). And while much literature of the post-Davidic era romanticizes Jerusalem as the “city of God,” the prophetic voice continued to call those who “weigh tribute and count towers” agents of terror – including Israelite rulers (Isa. 33:18; Ezek. 26:3–9; Zeph. 1:16; 3:6). This urban antipathy is best captured by the Psalmist’s lament: “Truly I would flee to the wilderness . . . for I see violence and strife in the city . . . oppression and fraud on its streets” (Ps. 55:7, 9, 11). In the New Testament, John’s vision of the New Jerusalem portends a radical “greening” of the city: gates always open and a river running down Main Street on whose banks grow Eden’s Trees of Life (Rev. 21–22). iii) AP endorses revisionist anthropological studies that offer a more sympathetic assessment of hunter-gatherer social and economic organization, emphasizing what Marshall Sahlins called the “original affluence” of stoneage cultures. Up until the last quarter-century, modern anthropologists tended to share Thomas Hobbes’ bias that the lives of “uncivilized” humans were “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Since Sahlins, the consensus (as reflected in, for example, John Gowdy’s collection) has shifted almost 180 degrees; hunter-gatherer cultures tend now to be portrayed as healthier, more leisurely, freer, more materially satisfied, less anxious and infinitely more ecologically sustainable than modern industrial ones. In particular, indigenous practices of subsistence and gift exchange are now being appreciated (particularly by Hyde) as a viable, if radically different, economic paradigm.

This encourages a reassessment of the economic cosmology of the Bible. For example, the story of the manna in the wilderness instructs Israel (newly liberated from slavery in Egypt) about material sustenance as a divine gift (Ex. 16:4). The narrative stresses principles of “just gathering”: only take what is needed, don’t accumulate, and make sure each member of the community has enough

– but not too much (16:16–25)! The Bible emphasizes providential natural abundance, community selflimitation and just sharing. Sabbath year programs of debt-release and wealth redistribution – most notably in the Levitical Jubilee (Lev. 25) – were a hedge against the intense stratification that characterized the slaveand tribute-based economies of ancient Egypt, Assyria and Babylon. The Gift cosmology is reiterated by the prophets: “Come, you who have no money, come buy and eat; come buy wine and milk without money and without cost” (Isa. 55:1). It also makes better sense of New Testament texts that have been anathema to capitalist religion, such as Jesus’ teachings about giving up possessions (Lk. 12:13– 34), the economic sharing in the Acts community (Acts 2:42ff.), and even Paul’s practice of inter-church mutual aid (2 Cor. 8). These suggest that biblical writers may have been trying to rehabilitate the economic ethos of “precivilized” indigenous cultures as a better way. iv) For AP the ecological crisis necessitates a radical critique of advanced toolmaking and all forms of industrial technology, in the belief that when we use tools they use us back in a way that dehumanizes us and destroys our more natural competences. The Bible, as an ancient text, has relatively little to say about “technology” per se, but two texts from the earliest strata of Torah are germane. One is the prohibition of domestic fires on the Sabbath (Ex. 35:3), thus circumscribing what clearly was the most ancient human tool. The other reflects a primal suspicion of tools as instruments of domination in relation to nature: “If you make an altar of stones for Me, do not construct it from hewn stone; if you use a tool on it you will defile it” (Ex. 20:25). Scripture has plenty to say about the danger of manufactured objects, particularly in the well-known prohibitions on image-making. But this taboo is more anti-fetishistic than anti-iconic, recognizing that “made objects” inevitably become mystified and sacralized, thus taking on more value than their makers (a classic statement is found in Isa. 43:9–20). This insight was later resurrected in Marx’s theory of commodity fetishism in capitalism, as Guy Debord has shown. Moreover, James Kennedy has also argued that Israel’s rejection of idols was a socioeconomic strategy of resistance to the public symbolism of tributary imperialism in Canaan (Ex. 32; Judg. 6; Deut. 4:19f.). v) Work for wages and hierarchical divisions of labor, the sine qua non of toxic civilization, are inherently alienating. We have seen that agricultural labor is portrayed as antithetical to the divine will in the Fall story (Gen. 3:19). More generally, the Sabbath codes, which grounded in God’s own Self-limiting character (Gen. 2:2f.), sought to constrain the compulsive-addictive potential of all work by circumscribing it. Keeping the Sabbath is the first (Ex. 16:23) and last (Ex. 35:1–3) commandment in the Covenant Code, regularly interrupting the rhythm of the Israel agricultural year by ritual “work stoppages” (Lev. 23). The Law and prophets relentlessly criticize how the rich exploit the labor of the poor (e.g., Lev. 19:13; Am. 5:11). Jesus spins stories that undermine the sanctity of wage-labor (Matt. 20:1–16), and that pit rebellious peasants against wealthy landowners (Mk. 12:1–10). He advocates the right of the hungry to steal food (Mk. 2:23ff.) and invokes the cosmology of divine gift: “Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap . . . yet God feeds them” (Lk. 12:24). Despite the captivity of modern Christian theology to the Protestant work ethic, the Bible’s Sabbath ethos (including Paul’s theology of grace) privileges being over doing, celebration over work, and gift over possession – again resonating with indigenous wisdom concerning personal, social and physical ecology. vi) For some AP theorists, symbolic representation (including language itself) lies at the heart of the “descent” into civilization, becoming a substitute for direct sensory experience of nature and engendering social differentiation. While a radical critique of language finds no echo in the Bible (indeed, John speculates that “in the beginning was the Word,” Jn. 1:1), the suspicion of “representation” does. Israel’s covenant is sealed not only in the words of Torah, but also by the “witness” of a large stone under an oak tree (Josh. 24:27). It is idolatry (i.e., overrepresentationalism) that is the problem for biblical writers, not nature. Indeed the prophets recognize that even Israel’s own cultic apparatus can become a vehicle of oppression (Amos 5:21–24; Jer. 7:9–14, a text that inspired Jesus’ direct action in the Temple, Mk. 11:15:ff.).

Thus the story of early Israel is full of wild and often magical landscapes that directly reveal God (Ps. 104 and Job 38–41). These include remote deserts (Ex. 17:1) and spring-flooded streams (Josh. 3); lowlands springs (Gen. 26:19–22) and highlands caves (Gen. 19:30; Judg. 6:2;

1 Kgs. 19:9); singing forests and hills (Isa. 44:23; 55:12). YHWH appears under oak trees (Gen. 12:6f.; 18:1; Judg. 6:11; 1 Kgs. 19:4) and the divine voice is encountered in a burning bush (Ex. 3) and on a clouded mountain peak (Ex. 19; see Mk. 9:7). Heroes of the community are “born” in rivers (Ex. 2:3; see Mk. 1:9–11), buried under trees (Gen. 35:8; 1 Sam. 31:13) and walk on the sea (Mk. 4:35–41). Jacob’s ecstatic vision of the axis mundi comes in desert wildlands, his head on a dreaming stone: “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the House of God, the gate of heaven!” (Gen. 28:16–17). YHWH is imagined – but never imaged – as a roaring lion (Hos. 11:10), a nursing eagle (Deut. 32:11) and an angry mother bear (Hos. 13:8). As in all tribal societies, there are tales of dangerous adventures with wild animals, from Jonah’s whale to Daniel’s lions. And Israel’s ritual life is in tune with the seasons (Lev. 23) and the cycles of the moon (Ps. 81:3). Jesus prefers the solitude of the wilderness (Mk. 1:35), and invites his disciples to learn from seeds (Mk. 4), trees (13:28), birds (Lk. 12:24) and rain (Mt. 5:45). There are also some eschatological hints that primal, unmediated communion between God, nature and humans will one day be restored (Jer. 24:7; 31:33; Ezek. 36:26), which are intensified in John’s metaphors of existential unity (Jn. 6:35); in Paul’s notion of being “in Christ” (Rom. 8:35–39); and in the Temple-less New Jerusalem in which God dwells directly (Rev. 21:22). vii) AP advocates a variety of individual and group strategies of “going feral,” both skirmishing with the dominant system and “re-inhabiting” natural spaces for their protection and our “detoxification.” Two distinctive features of biblical theology are worth noting here. One is the way in which YHWH inhabits the undomesticated spaces outside of civilization, and is encountered only by humans who journey into the wilderness. This becomes the master metaphor of liberation in the Exodus story, and continues in the life of the prophets who go “feral” such as Elijah (1 Kgs. 19:3ff.), John the Baptist (Lk. 3) and Jesus, who begins his ministry with a wilderness “vision-quest” (Matt. 4:1–11). The writer of Hebrews invites believers to solidarity with Christ “outside the gates” of civilization (Heb. 13:12f.), and calls to mind the heroes of the faith who resisted empire by going feral, “wandering in deserts and mountains and living in caves” (Heb. 11:38). The Church is portrayed fleeing the imperial Beast into the desert in John’s Apocalypse (Rev. 12:6).

The other feature is the way nature is portrayed in “opposition” to imperial civilization. Egypt buckles under a siege of natural disasters (the “plagues” of Ex. 7–10). Prophetic oracles denounce the logging practices of Assyria (1 Kgs. 19:20ff.) and the river-polluting cattle ranches of Pharaoh (Ezek. 32:13f.), and long for the day when wild animals will re-inhabit the spaces that citystates have colonized (Isa. 13:19–22; 34:8–15; Ezek. 31): “I will give you as food to the wild birds and animals” (Ezek. 39:4). There is a fascinating story of people returning (if incompetently) to older food-gathering ways during famine (2 Kgs. 4:38–44), a parable of divine abundance vs. imperial scarcity that Jesus re-enacts in his wilderness feedings (Mk. 6:35ff.). And the apostle Paul – who did his own time in the desert (Gal. 3:17) – calls for radical non-conformity to the dominant cultural codes of Roman civilization (Rom 12:1–2). viii) The goal of AP is not to “go back to the Neolithic,” which is recognized to be impossible, but rather to (re)discover “future primitivity.” The Bible agrees that since the Fall the natural world has been increasingly wrenched out of balance by the violence and greed of civilization. It proposes Torah as a code of alternative communal practices having to do with self-limitation. In it we find several interesting attempts to constrain ecocidal tendencies, such as the taboo against eating both mother and young game birds (Deut. 22:6) and the remarkable prohibition on destroying nature during war: “Are trees in the field human beings that they should come under siege from you?” (Deut. 20:19–20). The gospels seem to call for the re-opening of older ways (Mk. 1:2), and Jesus is called the archetypal “Human One” (Mk. 2:28) and the “eschatological Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45). Stories of his healing power suggest an ancient capacity renewed, not just for “shamans” but for all disciples (Mk. 6:12; Acts 3:1ff.). His oppositional stance led the representatives of civilization in Roman Palestine to execute Jesus as a heretic/dissident. The NT thus speaks candidly of the “cost of discipleship” and of faith as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see; this is what the ancients were commended for” (Heb. 11:1). The same divine power that created the world is believed able to renew it, and biblical eschatalogy envisions the restoration of “original peacableness” (Isa. 11:6–9), insisting that a “new heaven and Earth” will ultimately eclipse the dreary reality of empire. This alternative consciousness is not escapist fantasy; it empowers practices of both renewal and resistance (2 Cor. 10:4; Eph. 6:10ff.). As Paul puts it, nature is groaning under its state of captivity, awaiting humans who will cooperate with the divine plan for the liberation of every living thing (Rom. 8:20f.).

Admittedly, few of the interpretations sketched above have been advanced by the theologies of Christendom, nor by contemporary mainstream biblical scholarship – quite the contrary. And there are, to be sure, certain strands of biblical literature that celebrate Israel-as-civilization, which have been used to promote everything AP deplores. But while the Judeo-Christian scriptures may not agree with all AP perspectives, what is surprising is to discover the degree of resonance. As is always the case, new questions open up new hermeneutical vistas. The above suggests that a conversation between biblical theology and radical green anarchism is not only possible, but also key to our exploration of the intersection between religion and nature.

Ched Myers

Further Reading

Debord, Guy. Society of the Spectacle. Paris: Gallimard, 1992 (third edition).

Eller, Vernard. Christian Anarchy. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987.

Ellul, Jacques. Anarchy and Christianity. G. Bromiley, tr.

Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988.

Ellul, Jacques. The Meaning of the City. D. Pardee, tr.

Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970.

Gowdy, John, ed. Limited Wants, Unlimited Means: A Reader on Hunter-Gatherer Economics and the Environment. Washington D.C.: Island Press, 1998.

Hyde, Lewis. The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property. New York: Random House, 1983.

Kennedy, James M. “The Social Background of Early Israel’s Rejection of Cultic Images: A Proposal.” Biblical Theology Bulletin 17 (1987), 138–44.

Myers, Ched. “. . . and distributed it to whoever had need.” The Biblical Vision of Sabbath Economics. Washington D.C.: Church of the Savior, 2001.

Sahlins, Marshall. Stone Age Economics. New York: Aldine de Gruyter, 1972.

Zerzan, John. Running on Emptiness: The Pathology of Civilization. Los Angeles: Feral House Books, 2002.

See also: Anarchism; Christianity (3) – New Testament; Earth Bible; Earth First! and the Earth Liberation Front; Ellul, Jacques; Hebrew Bible; Kropotkin, Peter; Radical Environmentalism.

Andean Traditions

W’aka – The Pre-Colombian Andean Concept of the Sacred

In 1609 the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, a converted Christian, provided the first Native Andean definition of the term w’aka, the pre-Colombian Quechua word used to describe the sacred. According to Inca Garcilaso, w’aka not only meant a “sacred thing” such as “idols, rocks, great stones or trees which the enemy (i.e., Satan) entered to make the people believe he was a god” but in addition, Andeans

. . . also give the name huaca to things they have offered to the Sun, such as figures of men, birds, and animals . . . Huaca is applied to any temple, large or small, to the sepulchers set up in the fields, and to the corners in their houses where the Devil spoke to their priests . . . The same name is given to all those things which for their beauty or excellence stand above other things of the same kind, such as a rose, an apple, or a pippin, or any other fruit that is better or more beautiful than the rest . . . On the other hand they give the name huaca to ugly and monstrous things . . . the great serpents of the Antis [Andes] . . . [any] eerie thing that is out of the usual course of nature, as a woman who gives birth to twins . . . double–yolked eggs are huaca . . . They use the word huaca of the great range of the Sierra Nevada . . . The same name is given to very high hills that stand above the rest as high towers stand above ordinary houses, and to steep mountain slopes . . . (Vega 1966: 76–7).

In other words, w’aka could be used to describe primordial beings, objects of worship, sacred spaces, temples, ritual gifts, sacrifices and extraordinary phenomenon of nature. The fluid character of this category reflects the

fluidity of religious forms in the Andes where the sacred emerged directly out of daily encounters with nature – in a basket of harvested fruit might lie a w’aka apple.

Andean Creation Myths

Myths about w’aka ancestors emphasized the way that nature evolved by adapting to conflict and change. Written in Quechua sometime between 1598 and 1608, the Peruvian Huarochirí manuscript is the oldest Native Andean document that relates local religious traditions and provides detailed accounts of the myths of two of the w’aka ancestors, Viracocha and Paria Caca. The manuscript relates how these w’akas created and transformed the world as they traveled through it. As Viracocha or Paria Caca met up with other people, animals, plants or land forms, they would strategically change these creatures through blessings or curses depending on whether the creatures were helpful or hostile to the wanderers. Plant and animal characteristics and features of the Earth and sky all served as proof of the w’akas’ travels. In the altiplanos of Peru these myths still resonate with contemporary ayllus, or lineage groups, who say, for example, that the Milky Way is the trail of Viracocha’s sperm seeding the night.

In part, the structure of these Andean creation myths responded to a richly varied topography where the combined effect of the equator with extreme changes in altitude gives rise to radical shifts in landscape, flora, and fauna across relatively short distances. Intrinsically, the rugged Andean terrain highlights movement and change. Like the Huarochirí manuscript, oral narratives throughout the region incorporate these themes in creation stories, which illustrate how the world came into being through the interaction of travelers with the environment, other people, plants, animals, elements, and land forms. This understanding of the creation of the world inherently incorporates the experience of migration and immigration, the arrival of the foreign and encounters with the strange. Evolutionary in structure, these narratives address how the familiar world was transformed in these encounters.

Pacarinas – The Dawning Places of Andean People

Unlike the Judeo-Christian creation story, which posits a world that springs into being through verbal command and in a kind of immediate and orderly progression, Andean creation stories insist on many creations always in motion. Out of each valley, from each mountain ridge, arise a new people. The Huarochirí myths, for example relate how Viracocha and Paria Caca served as the progenitors and founders of separate ayllus around the region. After a time, often after a difficult battle, these w’akas were transformed into stones or prominent features of the landscape. Thus, the Andean people descended both from the w’aka as superhuman creature and the

w’aka as specific site of land whether hill, rock, river, spring, cave, tree or stone. This ayllu place of origin was known as pacarina or “dawning place.”

For Andeans, pacarinas created the possibility of multiple, contradictory and yet, non-competitive cosmological truths which could coexist within an extended social space. They served as the primary explanation for differences between people. This informing notion of identity continues in the contemporary Andean world where communities develop differences in dress, agricultural products, and professional specialization in response to the resources available on their home mountain or valley. In Bolivia, for example, the Aymara who were born from and continue to live on Mount Kaata “become the mountain and the mountain becomes them. Wearing symbols of the mountain, they dress like the mountain that gives them their clothes – and the design for their clothes. Their oneness with the mountain is their integrity” (Bastien 1978: xxiv).

For Andeans, this profound identification with their home place served to sustain and protect Andean belief, culture and community in the face of radical change. According to Christian colonial authorities, for example, pacarinas served as the major intrinsic obstacle blocking Andeans from converting to Christianity. In 1621 Pablo José de Arriaga, the infamous Jesuit extirpator, wrote

It is this ignorance which is the cause of [the Andean’s] errors, which they believe deeply, and which has taken root in all of them. They do not know that we all proceed from our first Parents [Adam and Eve] and instead they are persuaded not only that the Spaniards originate from one place, the blacks from another, but that every ayllu and groupings of Indians have their own origin and Pacarina, which is their own and they name it and adore and offer sacrifices to it. They call it Camac which means Creator and everyone says that they have their own Creator and some say that it is such and such a Mountain, others that it is a Spring and others tell many fables and old wives tales about their Pacarina (Arriaga 1920: 69).

As Arriaga confirmed in the seventeenth century, at the heart of the Spanish Catholic encounter with Andeans lay a radical difference in interpretations of the sacred and nature.

Andeans and the Living World

For Andeans, the divine permeated everyday life and like nature itself, the sacred expressed its character in multiple and often contradictory ways. This understanding of the sentient, responsive nature of the world yielded up a religious experience that required interacting with and continually acknowledging the spirit character of objects and land. Andean traditions honored the living nature of Inti the sun, Quilla the moon, specific stars and distinct weather phenomenon like white fog, red fog, rainbows, tornadoes and lightning. They honored Mamacocha, the sea and Mamapacha, the Earth. Lakes, rivers, the poquios or springs, the cerros, or high mountains, large rock formations and the rocks themselves all have names and personalities. More specifically, Andeans honored their pacarinas, their individual place of origin – the mountains, springs, rivers and lakes out of which the First Man and the First Woman of the ayllus were born.

As historian Kenneth Mills argues, what to Arriaga and other “seventeenth-century Europeans seemed a vain cult of stone was in fact a present embodiment – albeit often in natural, petrified forms – and reinterpretation of a long cultural past” (Mills 1997: 43). This “embodiment” and “reinterpretation of a long cultural past” took additional form in the Andean religious practice that focused on the veneration of preserved ancestors, or malquis, who were said to be the sons and daughters of the w’akas. The malquis were kept in ancient houses or sepulchers called machays. Like the w’akas, malquis had their own priests, possessions and feast days.

Within their homes, Andeans kept chances – lineage gods that were passed down through family lines and served to guard the welfare of the family – and conopas, personal fertility gods. The conopas were small natural stones or stones carved to represent llamas, coca, corn, potatoes, etc. These conopas served to attract health and bounty to the crop or herd that they represented. While w’akas were recognized as sacred sites within the larger ayllu or sometimes throughout an entire mountain region, chancas and conopas offered guidance and protection within the smaller family realm.

Andean Strategies for Engaging Difference

Because the greater Andean cosmological system took into account the specific variance of religious beliefs, sacred sites, and ritual practice that shifted from valley to valley and mountain to mountain, Andeans retained a strong capacity for accepting and acknowledging a range of cultural, mythological, and ritual differences. The “morphing” ability of the w’akas themselves, which enabled them to shape-shift from superhuman creature to human ancestor, to land form, to animal or bird, served as pedagogical lessons for engaging differences and ultimately revealed fluidity in Andean notions of identity.

Anthropologist Frank Salomon argues that the theme of transformation through conflict marks the most important cultural value shaping Andean mythology. Accordingly, Huarochirí myths delineate a dominant model “of passage from mere difference (for example, the juxtaposition of antagonistic deities strange to each other) to complementary difference (for example, a revised juxtaposition in which the deities become male and female spouses or siblings embodying opposite ecological principles).” This “formal architecture” of these myths “owes everything to Andean patterns” and “occurs at the greatest and smallest levels of the mythology, in domains from the cults of apical deities . . . to the household relationship between in-laws” (Salomon and Urioste 1991: 4).

This Andean epistemological framework engages multiple and seemingly competitive realities at the same time by incorporating an extensive system of binaries. Unlike the Platonic and Hegelian forms, Andean binaries are complementary and propel circles of exchange along a moving axis. For instance: the sun Inti, associated with the Father, rules men and soil, moves through the day and the year marking his own calendar. On the other end of the axis, the moon Quilla, which rules women and water, moves through the night and the month marking her calendar. Inti and Quilla approach, their light and darkness intermingle, but they never quite connect.

Like Inti and Quilla, men and women, too, maintain complementary differences, which they negotiate sometimes in cooperation, at other times in tension as they move toward and away from each other in a constant dance. Andean fiesta dances mirror this axis of tension and attraction combining lines and circles as women and men approach each other on a line and then move back, or follow each other on a circle, tightly controlled by a repetitive melody and rhythm. In this way, Andean binaries allow the incorporation of very different others by highlighting complementary relationships of exchange.

Andean Traditions Engage Christianity

In the Andes, Native traditions and Christian traditions also exist in this kind of binary relationship of tension and attraction. Based on the patterns of nature found in the Andes, Andean cosmologies privileged transformation and accretion emphasizing complementary differences and thus making room for binary oppositions. This directly shaped how Andeans engaged Christianity. The cult of the Christian saints allowed Andeans to incorporate additional powerful icons into their network of sacred relationships – w’akas whose range of influence potentially led all the way to Spain. Because Andean sacred authority depended on a network of w’aka alliances with the living land, influential Saints necessarily were understood to have made the appropriate Andean pacts with the cerros and other w’akas in order to sustain their miraculous power.

This interpretation continues in the Andes today. In Ecuador, for instance, contemporary Quito Runa say that their patron saint, La Virgen del Presentación de Quinche, was born from a rock in the Guayllabamba river. La Virgen de Quinche is a powerful midwife and, like the w’akas, she can shape-shift and sometimes appears as a turtle dove beside local pocyos, the mountain springs that serve as the eyes or doors to the inner mountain world. Ecuadorian shamans, or yachajs say that on the inside of these living mountains lie parallel cities filled with plants, animals, minerals and the spirits of the dead and the unborn. Yach- ajs make pacts with the mountains by bathing in the pocyos. On the basis of these alliances yachajs can attract and repel the circulation of life-giving and life-taking energies and produce coming from the inner mountain world to the communities on the outside. The Virgin of Quinche’s ability to transform into a turtle dove and her association with the pocyos suggests that she, too, has formed alliances with the living mountains in order to fortify her healing powers.

For Andeans, the morphic quality of the w’akas, who in turn reflected evolutionary patterns in nature, formed a structural precedent of change that provided strategies for developing complimentary differences when engaging others. For the Andean people these strategies enabled them to flexibly combine their traditional beliefs with mythic elements introduced by Christianity while, at the same time, preserving communal identities. In effect, the w’akas flexibly shape-shifted from ancestor, to cerro, to bird, to saint while each manifestation, in turn, continued to represent the “home” ayllu.

Andean Identity and Place

In the post-contact era, we can see this transformative fluidity in the expression of Andean identity from the first moments after Spanish conquest all the way to contemporary expressions of traditional Andean culture. In 1555 the ayllus surrounding Cuzco converged on the main square carrying one hundred different images of the saints in order to celebrate the first Corpus Christi after the conquest. Anthropologist Michael Sallnow describes how

. . . [e]ach nation paraded in its distinctive ceremonial costume [traditionally ordered by the mountains], carrying aloft along with its saints an image of its bird or animal totem [i.e., its w’aka in bird or animal form], or a picture of its pacarina – spring, river, lake, mountain, cave, or whatever. Each had its band of flutes, drums, and tambourines, and they sang not in Quechua but in their native tongues, “so as to differentiate one nation from another” (Sallnow 1987: 57).

Here we see how Andean nations expressed their identity through multiple media: native language, song, music, dance, ceremonial dress, w’aka totems, and pictures of pacarinas, along with the images of their new patron saints. Sallnow argues that while superficially this ceremony resembled a traditional Corpus Christi celebration in Spain there remained a crucial difference. “[T]the Indians accompanying the Christian images in Cuzco were organized not according to any Iberian model but on the basis of national affiliation – affiliation, that is, to one or other of the diverse ethnic groups of the region” (1987: 56). Ultimately, this is an affiliation to and thus an expression of each ayllu’s home place – the sacred center of Andean life. Contemporary Qamawara pilgrimages through the department of Cuzco continue ritually to express Andean identity through song, dance, ceremonial dress and laminas or framed prints that combine images of their own local saint and pacarina. One Qamawaran lamina, for instance, features an image of a local miraculous Christ – Qoyllur Rit’i who is accompanied by two wayri ch’uncho dancers and Mt. Ausankati, the ayllu’s home cerro in the background. As in colonial times, in the contemporary Native Andean world the strength of the Andean ayllu arises directly from its relationship to and identification with powerful living places.

The Living Mountains – The Sacred Center of Andean Life

For Andeans the communal body reflects and expresses the body of the land. The Aymara of Bolivia, for example, see their mountains as sentient creatures with living bodies, complete with head, torso and legs, who must maintain complicated relationships just as people do. As one young Aymaran described his home, Mount Kaata,

The mountain is like us, and we’re like it . . . The mountain has a head where alpaca hair and bunchgrass grow. The highland herders of Apacheta offer llama fetuses into the lakes, which are its eyes, and into a cave, which is its mouth, to feed the head. There you can see Tit Hill on the trunk of the body

. . . Kaata is the heart and guts, where potatoes and oca grow beneath the Earth. The great ritualists live there. They offer blood and fat to this body. If we don’t feed the mountain, it won’t feed us. Corn grows on the lower slopes of Niñokorin, the legs of Mount Kaata (in Bastien 1978: xix).

Within this Aymaran cosmology the mountain’s body produces three different kinds of produce that each express specific characteristics of the cerro and the ayllus who live there. The communities of Apacheta, Kaata, and Niñokorin each trade, first and foremost, with the corresponding body part – whether head, belly or legs – on which they live. By feeding shrines coca, chicha and llama fat and blood, or sacrificing a llama to the land in specific agricultural rites, these communities offer gifts to the mountain in exchange for the mountain’s gifts of llama hair, potatoes or corn. Then through trade between the upper, middle and lower communities, these three different kinds of produce, from the three sections of the mountain body, are brought together so that, within each community, the body of the mountain is reunited. Here mountain wholeness incorporates communal and mythoecological differences.

The ayllus of Mount Kaata trade in turn with other ayllus from neighboring mountains thereby creating extensive flows of produce and communal alliances that ultimately stretch across the Andes like links in a long chain. Local and regional agricultural festivals honoring planting, first fruit and harvest serve as a means to properly celebrate and nourish the mountains while forging bonds between neighboring communities. The local saints that preside over these festivals in turn draw their authority from their historical association to those specific Andean places.

Throughout the Andes, it is the yachaj’s responsibility to maintain a balance of exchange between the mountain and human communities, between ritually feeding the cerros and consuming the fruit of the mountain’s body. Should communities fail to nourish appropriately the mountain they live on and take more than they give back, a deficit can arise where the mountain becomes hungry and may begin to kill in order to eat, consuming people in landslides, floods, falls into mountain ravines, or wasting illness. Excessive mining, road building, or thoughtless construction, in particular, can create a ravenous imbalance as machines devour huge portions of the mountain’s body. Mining accidents and deadly landslides on roads frequently reveal a hungry mountain – a cerro bravo who has been improperly compensated for its loss.

A semantic shift in the modern-day usage of the word w’aka reflects the impact that greed has had not only on the relationship between Andean people and the living land, but on the Andean experience of the sacred as well. In Spanish-speaking circles w’aka has come to represent “treasure” and refers only to the valuable objects that people left in order to nourish the living places – the objects looted since the conquest from w’aka temples, w’aka tombs, and other w’aka sites. Accordingly, in the contemporary Andean world, the spiritually neglected and therefore greedy mountain no longer dresses in traditional Andean fashion; instead it appears as the Devil or as a Gringo – a white man dressed in European clothing. Even here, the land’s body continues to reflect the social body – changing in appearance as people’s identity and their relation to the land also transforms.

Lisa Maria Madera

Further Reading

Arriaga, Pablo José de. La Extirpación de la idolatría en el Perú 1621, ser. 2, vol. 1 of Colección de libros y documentos referentes a la historia del Perú, ed. Horacio H. Urteaga. Lima: Imprenta y Librería San Martín, 1920.

Bastien, Joseph W. Mountain of the Condor: Metaphor and Ritual in an Andean Ayllu. Prospect Heights: Waveland Press, Inc., 1978.

Harrison, Regina. Signs, Songs, and Memory in the Andes: Translating Quechua Language and Culture. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1989.

Madera, Lisa Maria. The Virgin and the Volcano: Healing Alliances in the Ecuadorian Andes. Dissertation. Emory University, 2002.

Mills, Keith. Idolatry and Its Enemies: Colonial Andean Religion and Extirpation, 1640–1750. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997.

Sallnow, Michael J. Pilgrims of the Andes: Regional Cults in Cusco. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1987.

Salomon, Frank and George L. Urioste, trs. The Huarochiri Manuscript. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1991.

Urton, Gary. At the Crossroads of the Earth and the Sky: An Andean Cosmology. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981.

Vega, Garcilaso de la. Royal Commentaries of the Incas and General History of Peru. Harold V. Livermore, tr. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1966 (originally published, 1609), 76–7.

See also: Cosmology; Shamanism – Ecuador.

Anima Mundi – The World Soul

Despite Western civilization’s persistent bent toward separation from and control of an objectified natural environment, the image of a living, interconnected, and sacred world has persisted. Today that sense of sacrality finds expression in deep ecology, in ecopsychology, and in emergent nature religions. In Classical times, however, and again in the Renaissance, the living world was seen as embodying the “world soul,” or in Latin, the anima mundi. Since ancient times, therefore, the West has retained the idea of the anima mundi in tension with materialist views of the natural world.

The early Greek philosopher Heraclitus (sixth century B.C.E.) taught that the world existed as a tension of opposites, such as war and peace, all animated by a “soul” or essence imagined as divine fire, eternal and uncreated.

About 150 years later, the philosopher Plato, in his dialog Timaeus, described how the creator-god (demiurge) placed soul (psyche) at the world’s center. This “world soul” mediated between nature and the world of “forms,” the abstract, transcendent models used by the creator-god to fashion the universe.

Plato’s subsequent followers, the Middle Platonists, viewed the world soul as generating individual souls. They identified it with the goddess Hekate, who moved between worlds and guided souls after death from the earthly realm to heavenly ones.

Soteriologically minded philosophers and theurgists, who wished to assure the rising of their own souls, later advanced the idea that Hekate, by controlling the crossing of the boundary between humanity and divinity, either could aid the ascent or could force the decent of the [individual] soul (Johnston 1990: 38).

The Neoplatonic school, founded by Plotinus (205–270) continued to teach that the universe emanated from a divine incomprehensible source, stretching down to the material world, with the anima mundi occupying the middle position. Neoplatonism was revived during the Renaissance, thanks largely to the efforts of philosopher and translator Marsilio Ficinio (1433–1499). Exemplifying the humanist tradition that aimed to elevate humans’ position in the universe, Ficino taught that humans, through imagination, artistry and magic, could tap into a network of elaborate correspondences through the medium of the anima mundi in order to understand and manipulate natural forces.

During the Enlightenment, Europeans embraced the notion that a rational, progressive civilization could transform the world into a smoothly functioning machine. Romantics, however, revived the idea of a living universe whose mysteries can be approached through the power of imagination, which allows communication between humans and the rest of nature.

Twentieth-century thinkers also advanced new concepts of the world soul. The French paleontologist and theologian Teilhard de Chardin suggested that the planet found its soul in the “noosphere,” the total consciousness of all intelligent life. The reality of this consciousness would transcend the biosphere, the sum of all living plants and animals. In 1969, the British scientist James Lovelock suggested that planet Earth be regarded as a totality or a cybernetic (self-correcting) mechanism that seeks to keep all its physical and chemical elements in the right balance for life to exist. This system could be hypothetically regarded as a living entity, “Gaia,” he suggested. According to Lovelock, it seems extremely unlikely that this balance occurred by mere chance; thus, the intention behind it might be said to derive from the anima mundi, the world soul.

Mary Currier

Further Reading

Bonifazi, Conrad. The Soul of the World. Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1978.

Guthrie, William Keith Chambers. A History of Greek Philosophy: Vol. l. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1962.

Johnston, Sarah Iles. Hekate Soteira. American Classical Studies 21. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1990.

Marshall, Peter. Nature’s Web. London: M.E. Sharpe, 1969. See also: Christianity (5) – Medieval Period; Greece – Classical; Lovelock, James.

Animal Liberation and Animal Rights

– See Animals; Anarchism; Earth First! and the Earth Liberation Front; Environmental Ethics; Radical Environmentalism (and adjacent Rodney Coronado and the Animal Liberation Front); Watson, Paul – and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Animal Liberation Front

– See Rodney Coronado and the Animal Liberation Front (adjacent to Radical Environmentalism).

Animal Rights in the Jewish Tradition

Any discussion of animal rights in the Jewish tradition must start from the recognition that the concept of “rights,” based on a modern understanding of individuality, is foreign to Judaism. Rather, Jewish law defines obligations that people have to others, whether those others are people, or animals or the land, or whichever entity has moral standing. The equivalent of a right possessed by a person in Jewish law would be the determination that a Jewish or human obligation existed toward that person. One finds that such obligations exist in Jewish law and theology with respect to animals and not only with respect to human beings.

It is clear in the Torah that animals have moral status. Laws about helping an animal fallen under its load (Ex. 23:5, Deut. 22:4), about not muzzling an animal so that it can eat while it works (Deut. 25:4), as well as many of the laws concerning kosher slaughter or shechi- tah, appear to have consideration for the subjective needs of the creatures. The laws of shechitah have two goals: minimizing pain to the animal and draining all the blood from the animal’s body. The latter goal is directly connected to a primitive understanding of animal rights, which was expressed in animistic desire to release the animal’s soul, which according to the Torah is found in its blood (Gen. 8:3–4; Lev. 17:14; Deut. 12:23– 25). Other laws, like the prohibition against taking the life of a mother and child animal on the same day (Lev. 22:8), reflect a concern for the subjectivity of animals as sympathetically understood by human beings. The prohibitions against sterilizing any animal and against crossbreeding between animals also seem to be rooted in needs of species as well as of individual animals.

The Torah maintains that even domestic animals live for their own sake and not just for ours. All the more so, Torah prohibitions that limit the slaughter of wild animals (Lev. 17:13–14), require one to free a wild mother bird if one wishes to take its eggs (Deut. 22:6–7), and assert the need for wild animals to share in the produce of the land (Lev. 25:6–7), reflect a consciousness that animals have their own purposes and needs that are not trumped by human interests.

In the halakhah or legal system of the rabbis, the Torah’s specific prohibitions were organized into a general valorization of the needs of animals (Schochet 1984: 151). The Talmud established that the Torah forbade causing pain and suffering to animals, tza’ar ba’alei chayyim, even though this idea is not articulated in any scriptural verse (BT Baba Metzi’a 32b). The laws of Shabbat could be overridden for the sake of this principle (Schochet 1984: 155–7). The rabbis also articulated a near-blanket prohibition of hunting, despite the Torah’s acceptance of slaughtering wild animals as long as their blood was buried in the Earth.

In general, rabbinic interpretation extended and strengthened laws related to animal welfare. Yet there was an understanding of the needs of animals and all creatures that was far deeper than the notion of “welfare.” Emero Stiegman writes that in the rabbinic worldview, man is not considered the measure of all things. Nature is not measured against him in metaphysical categories . . . Things were not forced to coalesce; each was seen, not “objectively”, but . . . in its specific, separate relationship to its Maker . . . [S]uch a view . . . compels an acceptance of creatures, not according to their supposed nature, but according to their concrete relationships, to God not least. Man also, then, is not seen as an essence, but as related (1979: 500).

If humans are ends-in-themselves, it is not because they possess some essence which sets them apart over all other species. Rather, their value comes from the significance of their relationships, with humans, other creatures and God. Many midrashim teach that human beings imitate God by extending mercy to other creatures. Midrash Tanchuma asks: “Why is Noah called righteous? Because he fed the creatures of the Holy One, and became like his Creator. Thus it says, ‘For the Lord is righteous, loving righteous deeds’ ” (Noach sec. 4, 35). Fundamentally, the meaning of being human is established not only by the way we treat human beings but also by the way we treat the other animals. Stiegman speculates that this emphasis on relationship may be “why the rabbis could affirm man’s centrality in creation and his dominion without reducing the world to a mere complex of useful functions.”

Since other creatures stand in relation to God and to each other, they have the rabbinic equivalent of intrinsic value, so that the intrinsic needs of animals could override their use-value to humans. These intrinsic needs may be recognized as the equivalent of “animal rights.”

Notwithstanding the rules and precepts affirming that animals deserve just treatment, the framework of both the

Torah and the rabbis allowed humans to use animals and to kill them to serve human needs. The application of these laws involved finding a balance between using animals for human purposes, and allowing them to fulfill their own purposes. In essence, Judaism recognized the rights of animals to live according to their needs, while recognizing that human beings had the right to use animals as long as the quality of their lives was preserved.

Rabbinic Theology

What these laws meant theologically is a more complex subject. In rabbinic Judaism, there was a general acceptance of the idea that animals had souls (Tanchuma, Noach sec. 10, 39; Genesis Rabbah 30:6) and that they could choose to fulfill God’s purpose. A traditional way of framing the latter concept is found in a midrash about the animals that were saved in Noah’s ark:

If [God] remembered Noach, why also the animals? May the name of the Holy One be blessed, who never deprives any creature of its reward. If even a mouse has preserved its family [i.e. species] it deserves to receive a reward (Tanchuma, Noach sec. 11, 41).

This affirmation of animals participating in the moral order is expressed directly in the Noah story itself, where the first covenant that God establishes explicitly includes the animals as partners (Gen. 9:12–16). On a more folkloric level, the rabbis held that animals could be moral actors. Animals like Rabbi Pinchas’ donkey, who refused to eat untithed grain, could be especially pious, and animals could show mercy to people, as does the raven in this story:

Adam and his partner came and cried over Abel, and they didn’t know what to do . . . One raven whose companion died said, “I will teach Adam that this is what to do.” He set down his friend and dug in the earth before their eyes and buried him. Adam said, “Like the raven, this is what we will do” (Pirkei d’Rabi Eli’ezer, sec. 21).

Within the rabbinic worldview, it is not only human beings who have the capacity to show mercy. In general, ethics is in its essence seen by the rabbis as part of the natural order; this is what it means to call normal ethical behavior “derekh eretz” or “the way of the Earth” (Kadushin 1938: 117–30). At the same time, there are passages that suggest that everything, including the animals, was created to serve humanity. Rabbinic literature preserves the wisdom of many schools of thought and often expresses the complexity of its subjects by juxtaposing contradictory values.

Theologically, the rabbis also held a modest understanding of the dominion granted to Adam in Genesis 1:26–28. They understood these verses as allowing human beings to use animals for work, but not to kill them

(BT Sanhedrin 59b). The power of dominion over other animals and the power of conquest over the land, which were present in the blessings of Genesis 1, are noticeably absent in the blessings given to Noah (Gen. 9:1–7), where the permission to eat meat is first articulated. Genesis Rabbah (34:12) learns from this that humanity no longer exercised dominion over the animals after the flood; rather, dominion was replaced by fear. According to Rashi’s commentary on this passage (11th century), the “dominion” of the garden was the opposite of fear because it meant the power to draw the animals close; that is, “Adam would call the animals and they would come.”

One way in which these potentially contradictory values of dominion and compassion were integrated is that animals were understood to fulfill their own needs, on a soul level, by being used for sanctified ends. The ultimate example of this can be found in the animal sacrifices in the Temple, which harvested the intrinsic value of the animal for an end greater than human needs or desires, something we might term its “holiness-value.” From a biblical perspective, using animals for sacrifices was a mechanism that affirmed the sacredness of their lives while still allowing them to be eaten. The blood, defined as the nefesh or soul in the animal, was put on the altar to make clear that the essence of the animal was not allowed to be used by human beings.

The rabbis affirmed this system, while also occasionally questioning it. When Rabbi Yehudah haNasi, the leading figure of the Talmud, sent a calf that sought refuge with him back to be sacrificed, saying “Go, for you were created for that purpose,” the angels afflicted him with sickness and suffering (BT Baba Metzi’a 85a). The conflicted message of this story is that even the highest use of an animal’s life could not be fully justified from the perspective of righteousness.

Medieval Thought

Rabbinic literature is quite explicit that God cares for animals (e.g., Deuteronomy Rabbah 6:1). Nonetheless, later medieval thinkers like Ibn Ezra and Abravanel, influenced by Aristotle’s division between rational beings and all other creatures, declared that the only purpose of the laws against tza’ar ba’alei chayyim was moral education (Schochet: 212–15). Importantly, Nachmanides, the earliest one to make this interpretation, emphasized not only that the laws “teach us the trait of compassion” but also that they forbid actions which would cause the extinction of a species (commentary to Deut. 22:7).

Some scholars like David Bleich have interpreted Maimonides as holding this position in The Guide for the Per- plexed (3:17), though this is incorrect, since Maimonides affirms there that compassion must be shown to the individual animal. This is made clear by the other passages in which Maimonides describes the suffering of animals as the paramount reason for these laws (3:48). In the disagreement between Maimonides and Nachmanides are echoes of the contemporary debate between animal rights and environmental activists over the value of individual lives of animals versus the well-being of species.

In medieval Jewish mysticism and Kabbalah, sensitivity to animals became greatly magnified, in line with the general motive held by the mystics of rejecting the rationalistic thought of the philosophers. For example, Sefer Chasidim (Yehudah Hechasid, 12th century) says that if a person causes needless pain to animals . . . he comes to judgment . . . Thus the sages explained “in that day I will strike every horse” (Zech. 12:4) to mean that the Holy One is destined to punish [human beings] for the humiliation of horses from their riders (sec. 43, 104).

Similarly, the innocence of animals is invoked in this same work to understand the reason for the commandment to cover the blood of a slaughtered animal:

[W]hen a person slaughters an animal or bird he should think in his heart, this one that did not sin was slaughtered . . . He should consider how the Holy One commanded him to cover an animal or bird’s blood, lest the angel having authority over them should say, “How is the blood of this one that didn’t sin spilled by the hand of a sinner whose sin is like scarlet and worm” (sec. 373, 273).

Other important figures emphasizing compassion for animals include Rabbis Moshe Cordovero and Moshe Chayyim Luzzato (Sears, 2003). With the emphasis on transmigration of the soul in Kabbalah, the belief that both the righteous and wicked were sometimes reincarnated in animals became widespread. Though some Kabbalists emphasized the practice of strict vegetarianism in response to this belief, most affirmed that an animal’s soul could be elevated through being slaughtered and eaten with the right intention by holy people. Moreover, the animal was thought of as yearning for this to happen. Many Chasidic rebbes and teachers also emphasized the deepest compassion for animals; Dovid of Lelov (1746– 1814) was especially known for his piety and passion in this regard. Most of this mystical material was not directed at the normally observant Jew but only at the circle of mystics or tzadikim. While this material has relevance to ethical questions it is tangential to the formulation of animal rights in Judaism because it was never seen as binding on the entire community.

Modern Applications

Much of the law relevant to contemporary questions is still being worked out. Rabbi David Rosen, the former Chief Rabbi of Ireland, believes that tza’ar ba’alei chayyim requires the prohibition of commercially produced meat:

“The current treatment of animals in the livestock trade definitely renders the consumption of meat halakhically unacceptable as the product of illegitimate means” (1995: 53). Followers of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook like Shear-Yashuv Cohen and David Sears, as well as many early leaders of the Jewish environmental movement in North America, such as Richard Schwartz, have strongly advocated for vegetarianism as the best modern response to laws protecting animals. Prohibitions against using animals for cosmetics testing and similarly inessential research have also been made in the United States and Israel. With respect to genetic engineering, some have raised the question of whether these techniques may be applied to animals without violating halakhic mandates, but there is as yet no consensus in this regard.

David Mevorach Seidenberg

Further Reading

Cohen Noah J. Tsa’ar Ba’alei Chayim, The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. New York: Feldheim Publishers, 1976.

Isaacs, Ronald. Animals in Jewish Thought and Tradition.

Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 2000.

Kadushin, Max. Organic Thinking: A Study in Rabbinic Thought. New York: Bloch Publishing, 1938.

Rosen, David. “Vegetarianism: An Orthodox Jewish Perspective.” In Roberta Kalechofsky ed. Rabbis and Vegetarianism: An Evolving Tradition. Micah Publications: Marblehead, MA, 1995

Schochet, Rabbi Elijah J. Animal Life in Jewish Tradition.

New York: Ktav, 1984.

Sears, David. The Vision of Eden: Vegetarianism and Animal Welfare in Jewish Law and Mysticism. Jerusalem: Orot, 2003.

Seidenberg, David. “Crossing the Threshold: God’s Image in the More-Than-Human World.” Doctoral Dissertation. Jewish Theological Seminary, 2002.

Stiegman, Emero. “Rabbinic Anthropology.” In Austieg und Niedergang der Romischen Welt: Principat, II vol.19.2. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1979, 487–579.

See also: Animals; Animals in the Bible and Qur’an; Christianity and Animals; Dogs in the Abrahamic Traditions; Dogs in the Islamic Tradition; Eco-Kabbalah; Jewish Environmentalism in North America; Jewish Law and Animal Experimentation; Jewish Law and Genetic Engineering; Judaism; Maimonides; Vegetarianism and Judaism; Vegetarianism and Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook; Vegetarianism, Judaism, and God’s Intention.


Any account of religious traditions’ engagement with other animals will swell into a multitude of diverse issues, a number of which are extraordinarily complex. Some of the complexities stem from the well-known fact that over the millennia of their existence, religious traditions have provided an astonishing array of views and materials on virtually any general subject that believers, scholars and other interested parties might explore. This variety is made all the more challenging because even within any one religious tradition, such views and materials can be in significant tension.

A very different set of complexities arises from how living beings outside our own species can be startlingly different from one another. Many are mentally, socially, and individually very simple, but others are so complicated and enigmatic mentally and socially that we may not have the ability to understand their lives well. Ignorance of these differences has often led, both within and without religion, to crass oversimplifications. Indeed, many of our most familiar ways of talking about the nonhuman living beings upon the Earth turn out to be, upon careful examination, coarse caricatures and profoundly inaccurate descriptions.

Whatever else may be said of religious traditions regarding nonhuman animals, these ancient and enduring cultural and ethical traditions have unquestionably had profound impacts on countless humans’ actions affecting the living beings amidst which we live. Indeed, religion has often been the primary source for answers to questions such as, “Which living beings really should matter to me and my community?” The answers to such questions given by, for example, the early Jains and Buddhists and the early Christians have had, in their respective cultural milieus and beyond, great influence on how the living beings outside the human species have been understood and treated.

Basic Tools and Conceptual Problems

The Place of Inherited Conceptions

Many religious believers’ perspectives on nonhuman animals have been dominated by something other than a careful engagement with the animals themselves. For example, inherited preconceptions, which often have taken the form of dismissive generalizations found in documents held to be revealed, in some cases operate as definitive assessments of all nonhuman animals’ nature, abilities, and moral significance. Heritages of this kind can present severe problems for historians, theologians, and believers who wish to engage readily available, empirically-based evidence that contradicts, in letter or spirit, inherited views that are inaccurate or in some other way misleading.


Images of nonhuman living beings abound in religious art, writing, and oral traditions. While some of these images are connected in one way or another to the animals portrayed, many are not any more related to the animals pictured or named than the saying “love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Tim. 6:10) is related to botany. Some studies of “religion and animals” are confined solely to the study of religious images of other animals, and in no way raise the issue of the actual biological beings themselves.


Religious traditions characteristically foreground ethical concerns for “others.” These others can, of course, include both humans and nonhumans. Some religious traditions insist that the universe of morally considerable beings includes all living beings, while others have had, ethically speaking, a pronounced human-centered bias because they assert that only humans truly matter. Note, however, that even if proponents of these competing claims differ radically as to the extent to which human caring abilities should reach outside the human species, they share the conviction that humans are characterized by extraordinary ethical abilities to care for “others.” A central question in the study of religion and animals is, “Who are the others?”

Treatment of Other Animals

Although there is in many circles a tendency to equate religious views with factual propositions about the world, most religious traditions include the insight that acts speak louder about what one really believes than do spoken or written words. Accordingly, what religious traditions truly “think” about other animals is, at least in part, represented by the actual, “on the ground” treatment of other living beings. A religion which features, say, bull worship in its temples but in no way addresses brutal treatment of cattle in the daily world outside the temple will, quite naturally, seem to us to have a different view of cattle than does a religion that unequivocally prohibits harsh treatment or even killing of bulls and cows.

Interlocking Oppressions

An ancient ethical insight suggests that when a human harms another living being, the actor and even other humans are desensitized, such that they may subsequently harm more individuals. This insight, found in one form or another in some religious traditions, was one of the classic justifications for anti-cruelty traditions applying to nonhuman animals. A modern version of this insight underlies contemporary sociologists’ and law enforcement officials’ assumption that certain instances of human-on-human oppression, such as domestic violence, are psychologically linked to or “interlocked” with violence to nonhuman animals (Ascione and Arkow 1999 provide details of the correlation of, for example, domestic violence against a spouse or children and violence against nonhuman animals). More broadly, the respected Oxford historian

K. Thomas suggests further that the domestication of nonhuman animals “generated a more authoritarian attitude” and “became the archetypal pattern for other kinds of social subordination” (Thomas 1983: 46). These ethical insights suggest that because oppression of one kind of living being seems to lead to the oppression of other kinds of living beings, the study of religion and animals will often benefit from careful study of social justice concerns.

Religions as Carriers of Views about Animals and their Habitat

As holders and educators in matters cultural, intellectual, ethical, social, and ecological, religious traditions mediate views of the world around us across time and place. It is natural then that, since nonhuman animals are truly around and with us in our ecological communities, religious traditions have had a major role in passing along basic ideas about these beings’ place in, or exclusion from, our communities of concern. Understanding this feature of religion, particularly as it is a highly contextualized piece in any religious tradition’s larger puzzle, is an essential task in the study of religion and animals.

History of Scholarship on Religion and Animals

Even though astonishingly rich information has been developed in certain contemporary life sciences regarding various nonhuman animals’ mental, social and emotional complexities, the vast majority of scholarship in contemporary academic institutions goes forward on the assumption that humans alone are intellectually complex, capable of emotional depth and commitment, characterized by social connections and personality development, and able to develop the kinds of autonomy that moral beings intuitively respect. Academic expression today thus reflects regularly the anthropocentric bias of the Western intellectual tradition.

Numerous religious believers across time and place, however, have not adhered to the broad dismissal of nonhuman animals characteristic of the Western intellectual tradition. Many indigenous traditions, for example, reflect a serious engagement with some other living beings as morally and religiously significant beings. There have been vibrant debates in various places, including the Indian subcontinent, the Hellenistic world, and contemporary life sciences, regarding the specific abilities of nonhuman animals. Sorabji (1993) concludes that Augustine was the pivotal figure in shutting down the debate in the Western intellectual tradition, the upshot being a broad dismissal of other animals’ significance relative to humans’ importance. Even if this is true, it is well known that concerns for nonhuman animals’ welfare have continued to have a place, albeit a subordinate one, in the complex Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions as they carried their ancient religious insights into modern times. Francis of Assisi and Albert Schweitzer are oft-cited examples of profound concern for other animals, but seminal figures like Ambrose, Basil, Rumi, Maimonides,

Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Ibn Taymiyah, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Barth, Tillich, Teilhard, and Thomas Berry have reflected their traditions’ respective capacities to enable believers to see and care about living beings beyond our species.

Thus, it is facile to conclude that all who have thought about religion and animal issues have, quite naturally and obviously, thought about the issues in the dismissive manner which dominates thinking in the Western intellectual world today. Although there is, as yet, no systematic treatment of the place of nonhuman animals in the doctrines, rituals, experiences, ethics, myths, social realities, and ecological perspectives of religious traditions, it is clear that the picture, when drawn, will be diverse and offer many alternatives for interacting with the Earth’s nonhuman lives.

Institutional Realities

In the official pronouncements of the vast majority of organized religions, however, a pronounced humancenteredness still reigns. The eminently anthropocentric biases that dominate modern religious institutions’ discourse and conceptual generalities are reflected in the prevailing assumptions as to which “others” are appropriate subjects for humans’ considerable ethical abilities. Paragraph 2415 of the revised Catholic Catechism (1994) provides an example of the prevailing anthropocentrism: “Animals, like plants and inanimate things, are by nature destined for the common good of past, present and future humanity.” As a result of this kind of human-centeredness, mainline religious institutions have left unchallenged the prevailing practices of modern food animal production and the use of nonhuman animals as subjects in biomedical experimentation. There have been, to be sure, some challenges, though most have come from indigenous traditions and those of the Indian subcontinent.

The World Religions


As a vast set of religious beliefs and subtraditions, this oldest of the so-called world religions offers an immense range of views about the living beings who share our ecological niches. The different views are dominated by two general beliefs that govern the ways in which other animals are conceived. First, human beings, though recognized to be in a continuum with other animals, are considered the model of what biological life should be. A corollary of this hierarchical belief is the claim that the status “human” is far above the status of any other animal. Second, belief in reincarnation, a hallmark of most, though not all, Hindus’ beliefs, includes the notion that any living being’s current position in the cycle of life is a deserved position because it has been determined by the strict law of karma.

These two beliefs have resulted in other animals being viewed with uncertainty. Positively, other animals have been understood to have souls just as do humans. Negatively, though, other animals have been understood to be inferior to any human, a corollary of which is the belief that the existence of other animals must be particularly unhappy, at least compared to human existence. Importantly, humans are by no means considered equal to one another in classical Hinduism, for according to the sanatana dharma or eternal law and moral structure of the universe, all humans, like other animals, are born into that station in life for which their past karma has fitted them. Inequalities existing within the social system, as well as the fact that nonhuman animals were considered of less stature than humans, were not viewed as unjust; rather, these different stations in the hierarchy were explained as the result of good or bad deeds performed in former lives. A common claim is that those who act morally are assured of a good rebirth in higher social classes, while wrongdoers are assured of being reborn into the wombs of outcasts or, worse yet, a nonhuman animal. Hindu social codes, embodied in the Laws of Manu, reflect in many different ways this one-dimensional view of other animals as inferior to humans.

Despite the implicit and explicit deprecation of nonhuman animals (and, of course, of “lower”-level humans), the tradition has often exhibited great sensitivity to other animals. The vast scriptures of this tradition include many injunctions that one should treat other animals exactly like one’s own children. Many central texts in the canon, such as Rig-Veda and Atharva-Veda, reveal that the Earth was not thought of as created for humans alone, but for other creatures as well. Thus, many contemporary Hindus argue that all lives, human or nonhuman, are of equal value, and all have the same right to existence. More generally, village life in India provides many examples of coexistence with other animals, though there are, to be sure, examples of mistreatment as well.

Humans, then, even if they have a privileged place in the hierarchy, also have special obligations to all living beings. This way of thinking is often buttressed by the observation that many Hindu deities, such as Rama and Krishna, who are, respectively, closely associated with monkeys and cows, have been incarnated as other animals. In addition, the deities worshipped in India include Ganesh, an elephant-headed god, and Hanuman, the monkey god.

An ancient form of the tradition was challenged by Buddhists and Jains because it was characterized by a heavy emphasis on animal sacrifice, a practice that stemmed from the ancient scriptures known as the Vedas. The Jains and Buddhists challenged these sacrifices as cruel and unethical, and had a great effect on the later Hindu views of the decency of intentionally sacrificing other animals. Ahimsa, the historically important emphasis on nonviolence, has now become a central feature of the tradition.

This sensitive side in Hindus’ awareness of other animals is often symbolized by the image of sacred cows wandering the streets of India unmolested and free; yet, the realities for animals in Hindu societies have been and continue to be far more complicated. The traditional respect for other animals has been affected greatly by economic factors which inhibit transmission of ancient values which encourage respect for other animals. Nowadays, the pace of modern development is leaving behind the strong emphasis which almost all Hindu scriptures place on the notion that benefits can be received by not killing or harming other animals.


The place of other animals in the Buddhist tradition is not a simple matter even though there are believers and scholars who claim that Buddhism takes a kind, sympathetic view toward nonhuman lives. Compassion toward other animals is, without question, an important feature of much Buddhist thinking, for the tradition unequivocally expresses concern for nonhuman animals as fellow voyagers in samsara. But in important senses the tradition carries an overall negative view of nonhuman animals’ existence, standing, and abilities relative to those of members of the human species.

From its earliest stages, the tradition has been characterized by a consistent disparagement of biological beings outside the human species. That deprecation is closely allied with the coarse grouping of all nonhuman animals into a single realm or category thought of as below the human realm. Indeed, the very fact of birth as any kind of animal other than a human is thought of negatively by Buddhists in the sense that it is an unhappy place – as the historical Buddha said in the Majjhima Nikaya (III: 213), “so many are the anguishes of animal birth.” Birth at this lower level in the Buddhist hierarchy is the direct result of less than ideal conduct. For example, a human who violates moral norms is constantly threatened with the punishment of re-entering existence at the “lower” level of some nonhuman animal.

Importantly, however, these negative views are moderated by central ethical commitments. One of the most common passages in Buddhist scriptures is the undertaking known as the First Precept, by which a Buddhist commits to refrain from killing any life forms. Vegetarianism, though not universal, is an important ideal as well. And the bodhisattva’s vow to refrain from entering nirvana until all beings are saved reflects the deep commitment possible in the Buddhist tradition to beings outside the human species.

Yet in general, to the Buddhist mind, all other animals are simple relative to humans, and easily understood by the qualitatively superior human capacity for moral and intellectual thinking. Buddhist scriptures also reflect that other animals are often thought of as pests in competition with elevated humans.

All of these factors lead to descriptions of other animals that are caricatures and fundamentally negative, while membership in the human species is seen as an extraordinary attainment and the first of Buddhism’s fundamental paradigms. Once a “lower being” has attained membership in the human species, the second, soteriological paradigm set out by Gotama’s teachings becomes the focal point.

Buddhist claims about other animals, then, are grounded in the tradition’s heavy investment in hierarchical thinking, although the consequences of the hierarchical thinking are surely moderated by the profound ethical commitments to the value of all life. Because of the dominant understanding of the importance of existence as a human versus existence as any other kind of animal, the tradition has never emphasized seeing other animals in terms of their realities. As a result, the dominant claims of Buddhists about other animals tend to the ideological, in that there is a prejudgment about possibilities and an underdetermination of views by factual realities.

The Abrahamic Traditions Generally

Islam, Judaism and Christianity are, on the issue of nonhuman animals, in many essential respects dominated by an ethical anthropocentrism, that is, a pronounced tendency to focus on the members of the human species as if they alone should be the object of fundamental moral protections. This human-centeredness is moderated at critical points, however, by important qualifications. For example, each of the Abrahamic traditions has included, at different times and places, important insights into (1) the moral dimension of other animals’ lives, and (2) the importance of limits on humans’ instrumental use of other animals.

On the whole, however, each of the Abrahamic traditions, particularly in its mainline interpretations, has been characterized by an unrelenting insistence that it is humans alone who are the deity’s chosen species. This elevation of members of the human species over all other animals has often had the effect of providing ready justifications of practices that harm other animals.


The views of nonhuman animals that characterize the Jewish tradition are diverse and even contradictory, in part because the Hebrew Bible contains a number of options for thinking about humans in relation to other animals. The prominent paradisal model is undergirded by a vision of peace with and between wild animals, and it often functions as a metaphor for cosmic and social peace. A second option – the realistic, this-worldly model – focuses on peace from other animals as a practical aspect of desired sˇalom.

Of these two visions, the second dominates in the sense that human interests, far more than the interests of any nonhuman animals, are typically seen as overwhelmingly more important. The notion “peace from evil animals” is, as Bauckham notes, an “ancient tendency, at least in the Jewish tradition, to consider wild animals primarily as threats to human life” (Bauckham 1994: 8).

This tendency to a negative view of the animals not under humans’ control is represented well by Philo’s image of a continuous war with nonhuman animals. There is, however, a certain irony in the dominant view of wild animals as evil, given that it is a common biblical theme that the disorder in nature comes from archetypal acts of human ancestors and the unfaithfulness of Israel.

Yet even if the dominant view in the Hebrew Bible is that wild animals are evil, other animals nonetheless live under God’s reign. God created and feeds them, and they are a source of pride in God’s exchanges with Job. Nonhuman animals at times appear as examples of right order in great contrast to humans. This less dominant view reflects the important notion that God as the source of creation has conferred goodness on it generally.

The law codes (Ex. 22–23 and 34, Lev. 22 and 25, and Deut. between 14 and 26) also contain many provisions which recognize, at least to some extent, the welfare of other animals. Such recognition is, however, limited in an important respect, for the subject matter is primarily (1) the welfare of domestic animals, that is, those that work or produce benefits for humans, and (2) restrictions on the killing of the few animals which could be sacrificed.

Other animals are mentioned in some of the covenants found in the Hebrew Bible. Most prominent is the covenant with Noah in Genesis 9:9–16. Some theologians, such as Linzey, make a great deal of this in their works, but others have argued that the larger context, and particularly the preceding set of verses (Gen. 9:1–7), radically qualifies the meaning of 9:9–16 and reflects that other animals are “in the subordinate relationship to humankind which has already been set forth in Genesis” (Murray 1992: 33–4).

While there are other, more animal-friendly covenants that are important in the Hebrew Bible, the dominance of the animal-exclusive Abrahamic, Mosaic and Davidic covenants reflects the background beliefs about the importance of members of the human species relative to all other animals. These background beliefs are found throughout the Hebrew Bible, and are particularly evident in the Genesis accounts of (1) the order of creation, the naming of animals, the charge of dominion, and the image of God, and (2) the flood story by way of its emphasis on stewardship, the focus on terrestrials, and the permission to eat other animals.

Yet even if humans were conceived of as separate from the rest of life in critically important ways, the breadth of generalizations about living beings, the number of specific animals mentioned, and observations about the variety of life, confirm that the Hebrews noticed and appreciated, at least in some ways, the extraordinary diversity and interconnectedness of human and nonhuman beings.

The practice of sacrifice (zebach) in the Jewish tradition raises complex issues. The animals selected for sacrifice were those which were deemed useful to humans, and both anthropomorphism and anthropocentrism can be seen in the description of these animals, and not others, as “pleasing to God.” Sacrifices of selected animals functioned as an institutionalized means of relief from the impurity generated by humans’ violations of moral rules or purity taboos.

Maimonides in the twelfth century argued that sacrifices were a concession to barbarism. Some modern theologians, looking at the entire range of practices involved and not merely at the act of killing, continue to argue that sacrifice “in its way” represents respect for animal life. A more balanced observation is that sacrifice does not necessarily involve a low view of the sacrificed animals’ lives, though it surely produces what is, from the viewpoint of the animal sacrificed, a harm. Following the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E., sacrifice of animals within Judaism was no longer a central religious practice, though some Jews pray to this day for a reestablishment of the Temple sacrifices even as various movements of Judaism that advocate modernizing reforms assert vigorously that animal sacrifice should remain a discarded practice.

The occurrence of these instrumental uses of other animals and ultimate rejection of the old sacrificial practices are of limited value in assessing Judaism’s views of other animals, as they deal with only a few domestic animals. There were many other complex animals with which the Jewish tradition was unfamiliar. Further, the significance of sacrifice as a central part of ancient Hebrew practices cannot be evaluated without reference to the Jewish scriptures which reflect moral concern of some kind for other animals. Tsa’ar ba’alei chayim, the body of traditional Jewish law that concerns itself with animal welfare, provides a basis for arguing that care for other animals is mandated by the core values and insights of the tradition.


The Hebrew vision of humans as a group to be distinguished from all other animals is an emphasis that the early Christians inherited. One interpretation of the mainline Christian tradition is that it narrowed this heritage because the tradition asserted, as part of its basic message, not only a fundamental, radical division between human animals and all other animals, but also the exclusion of all other animals’ interests when they are in conflict with even minor, unnecessary human interests. Such an exclusion is more in line with Christianity’s Greek heritage than its Hebrew heritage (Greek views were not mono- lithic, of course – for example, Pythagorean and Dionysian elements reflect different valuations than do the betterknown Apollonian, rationalist tendencies to elevate human speech and reasoning to god-like levels).

Some prominent claims of the tradition, such as the claim that all humans are made in the image of God and have been given dominion over the Earth, have resulted in persistent refusals to examine the relevance of other animals’ actual realities. Some have even insisted that it is only human realities which are morally considerable, as occurred when Pope Pius IX said to the English antivivisectionist Anna Kingsford, “Madame, humankind has no duties to the animals” and backed this up by “vigorously” opposing the establishment of a society for the protection of animals in Rome (Gaffney 1986: 149).

An examination of the origin, expression and development of Christian views of other animals suggests that they were integrally tied to deeply ingrained or background cultural views from the Greeks and Hebrews that operated at the level of cultural datum – humans are distinct in every relevant way from all other animals, and therefore are ontologically distinct from the rest of creation. This claim that humans are more important than all other animals continues to be the dominant one in mainline Christian circles.

As noted above, however, there have been many voices within this tradition that have sounded the inherently ethical themes of compassion for and coexistence with other animals. Andrew Linzey has even argued that it is of the essence of Christian theological values that Christians carry out duties of care toward other animals.

Whether the dominant interpretation will remain immune to new factual information developed during careful inquiries into the lives and realities of other animals will be an important indicator of the quality and nature of Christian views about nonhuman animals.


Even if the Abrahamic traditions’ characteristic emphasis on humans as the centerpiece of a created universe can be found throughout the Islamic tradition, it does not always translate into the claim that other animals have been placed on Earth solely for the benefit of humans. It is true that such claims are asserted in the Qur’an (see, for example, Surahs 5:4, 16:5–8; 22:28; 22:36; 23:21; 36:71–

3; and 40:79). Yet the tradition also reflects a countervailing recognition of the moral dimension of the very existence of other animals. Further, humans’ treatment of other animals, who are deemed creatures of Allah, also plays an important role in the tradition, as indicated not only in the Qur’an but also in passages from other central writings of the tradition such as the body of legal provisions known as Shari’ah (the “Way”), and the Hadith, the traditional collection relating the actions and sayings of Mohammed and his companions. All of these sources reflect in numerous ways Islamic recognition that other animals have their own importance as Allah’s creatures. Surah 6:38 admonishes that all other animals have their own communities, and Surah 17:44 notes that the component parts of nature are in continuous praise of Allah, although humans may not be able to understand this. Many passages ask that humans see the manner in which other living things testify to Allah’s presence and power (see, for example, Surahs 16:68–9 and 79; 24:41; and


Mohammed himself commented, “Whoever is kind to the creatures of Allah, is kind to himself.” He also compared the doing of good or bad deeds to other animals to similar acts done to humans.

There are, to be sure, negative views of other animals in some Qur’anic passages. Negative views also appear in the beliefs of various Islamic sects that infidels after death become other animals or that hell is full of noxious nonhuman animals. The practice of public, ritualized slaughter of other animals for food (dhabh), which occurs at the end of the traditional month of fasting (Ramadan) and at other times when the meat is used for a celebrative feast and often distributed to the poor, reflects the basic belief that humans are the vicegerent (Khalifah) of Allah and that other animals, even if not solely for human use, are in special instances ordained for humans’ use. Rules designed to make the killing more humane moderate the meta-message that humans are the living beings that truly matter.

There is a long tradition within Islam by which the arrogance of humans is checked. The commentator Ibn Taymiyah, who died in 1328, argued regarding the Qur’an verses which state that Allah created various parts of the environment to serve humanity: “In considering all these verses it must be remembered that Allah in His wisdom created these creatures for reasons other than serving man, for in these verses He only explains the benefits of these creatures [to man]” (in Deen 1990: 190). Thus, the tradition offers the view that other animals have an integrity or inherent value of their own, even when the standard Abrahamic interpretation of humans as the centerpiece of creation is maintained.

Beyond the World Religions

The traditions considered above by no means exhaust the possibilities or scope of “religion and animals.” Native or indigenous traditions provide countless examples of humans’ natural and special relationship with many kinds of nonhuman living beings. The diversity cannot be exemplified by anything other than a close engagement with the lifeways of such peoples, but a few passages suffice to hint at the richness of perspectives available in these religious worldviews.

Black Elk opens his now famous account with a reference to sharing and kinship with other animals:

It is the story of all life that is holy and is good to tell, and of us two-leggeds sharing in it with the four-leggeds and the wings of the air and all green things; for these are children of one mother and their father is one Spirit (in Neihardt 1972: 1).

Such connections to other animals lead to extraordinary suggestions, such as, “Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours” (in Neihardt 1972: 164– 5). Comparable respect for nonhuman lives can be drawn from stories told by many other indigenous peoples.

There are many additional forms of nature-oriented spirituality that reflect deep concerns for and connections with nonhuman animals. These range from those who focus on communications with specific kinds of animals (often mammals or birds known to be highly social and intelligent, such as dolphins or ravens) to radical environmentalists or “greens” who have experienced an animistic connection of some kind with a particular animal or its larger community. Tending to be decentralized, these religious traditions often give primacy to individual experience. There are also respected members of contemporary science communities, such as the primatologist Jane Goodall and the cognitive ethologist Marc Bekoff, who emphasize the relevance to humans’ spiritual quests of rigorous empirical study of animals outside the human species. Many of the diverse forms of nature-oriented spirituality emphasizing nonhuman animals minimize divisions between “human/nonhuman” and “nature/culture.”

In addition to these nature-oriented forms of spirituality that emphasize noticing and taking nonhuman animals seriously, the Chinese traditions (folk, Taoist, and Confucian), Japanese Shinto, the Jain tradition of India, Sikhism, and many other religious traditions offer profound insights into the importance and ethical dimensions of humans’ connections with other natural beings.


The simple enterprise of asking how the two important topics of “religion” and “animals” intersect offers profound prospects for a deeper understanding of religion, other animals, and humans’ place within ecological webs. In particular, the “religion and animals” inquiry leads to questions about the nature of religious views, language and claims about other animals. These include, of course, questions of a fundamentally ecological nature, for one cannot know about the lives of living beings, human or otherwise, without knowing about their communities, habitats, and wider ecological webs.

Paul Waldau

Further Reading

Ascione, Frank R. and Phil Arkow, eds. Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, and Animal Abuse: Linking the

Circles of Compassion for Prevention and Intervention. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 1999.

Bauckham, Richard. “Jesus and the Wild Animals (Mark 1:13): A Christological Image for an Ecological Age.” In J.B. Green and M. Turner, eds. Jesus of Nazareth: Lord and Christ (Festschrift for I.H. Marshall). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1994, 3–21.

Deen (Samarrai), Mawil Y. Izzi. “Islamic Environmental Ethics, Law, and Society.” In J. Ronald Engel and Joan Gibb Engel, eds. Ethics of Environment and Development: Global Challenge, International Response. London: Bellhaven, 1990, 189–98.

Gaffney, James. “The Relevance of Animal Experimentation to Roman Catholic Ethical Methodology.” In Tom Regan, ed. Animal Sacrifices: Religious Perspectives on the Use of Animals in Science. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1986, 149–70

Goodall, Jane with Phillip Berman. Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey. New York: Warner, 1999.

Goodall, Jane and Marc Bekoff. The Ten Trusts: What We Must Do to Care for the Animals We Love. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2002.

Linzey, Andrew. Animal Theology. Chicago: University of Illinois, 1994.

Masri, B.A. Animals in Islam. Petersfield, England: The Athene Trust, 1989.

Murray, Robert. The Cosmic Covenant: Biblical Themes of Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation. London: Sheed and Ward, 1992.

Neihardt, John G. Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux. New York: Pocket Books, 1972 (originally 1932, William Morrow & Company).

Sorabji, Richard. Animals Minds and Human Morals: The Origins of the Western Debate. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1993.

Thomas, Keith. Man and the Natural World: Changing Attitudes in England 1500–1800. New York: Pantheon, 1983.

Waldau, Paul. The Specter of Speciesism: Buddhist and Christian Views of Animals. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Waldau, Paul, ed. Society and Animals 8:3 (2000) (special edition on “Religion and Animals”).

See also: Animal Rights in the Jewish Tradition; Animals in African Legend and Ethiopian Scriptures; Animals in the Bible and Qur’an; Bestiary; Buddhism (various); Cetacean Spirituality; Christianity and Animals; Creatures’ Release in Chinese Buddhism; Cognitive Ethology, Social Morality, and Ethics; Dogs in the Abrahamic Traditions; Dogs in the Islamic Tradition; Elephants; Goodall, Jane; Hinduism; Hyenas – Spotted; Islam, Animals, and Vegetarianism; Nile Perch; Power Animals; Primate Spirituality; Serpents and Dragons; Snakes and the Luo of Kenya; Whales and Japanese Cultures; Whales and Whaling; Women and Animals.

Animals in African Legend and Ethiopian Scriptures

Animals have played a major role in religious thought all over Africa, not only in what are known as African traditional religions, but also in scriptures preserved by African Judaism, African Christianity, and African Islam. These ancient manuscripts are to be found mainly in the Ethiopian language, Ge’ez, which, although no longer spoken, is still the liturgical language of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

When Islam became dominant in North Africa and Arabs controlled the trade route along the Red Sea, Ethiopian Jews and Christians became isolated from their co-religionists. As a result the Falasha Jews (known as Beta Israel) are unfamiliar with the Talmud, which was only codified around the year 500. The Torah they use is written not in Hebrew but in Ge’ez. Although they retain only a few Hebrew words in their prayers, they strictly observe the Sabbath, adhere to the dietary commandments in the Book of Leviticus, and celebrate the new moons and the majority of festivals as prescribed in the Pentateuch.

Both African Judaism and African Christianity were enriched by writings not included in the Hebrew Bible, such as The Book of Jubilees, The Ascension of Isaiah and 1 Enoch (known as Ethiopian Enoch). Preserved in Ge’ez translations in Ethiopia, most are now extant in their entirety nowhere else. The Book of Jubilees (also known as The Little Genesis [The blind Alexandrian Christian scholar Didymus referred to it by this name in the fourth century, as did Jerome in the following one.]), which is thought to have been originally composed in Hebrew or Aramaic some time between 175 and 140 B.C.E., enlarges on, and differs from, the canonical Book of Genesis in various respects. It is an apocalypse, so that events such as the Flood are recounted to make them look prophetic – foreshadowings of the final cataclysm. From Jubliees we learn that, before the Fall, animals were able to communicate with one another in a “common tongue.” It was only on their expulsion from the Garden of Eden that the mouths of cattle and birds and “of everything that walks or moves, were shut” (Jubilees in Sparks 1984: 21).

The book of Enoch enjoyed great prestige in the early church and was quoted by Judge and Barnabas, among others. Clement of Alexandria, Irenaeus, and Tertulliam all regarded it as “canonical” and, although later rejected by Jerome and Augustine, in the Eastern church Enoch continued to be treated with great respect. Chapters 85–90 of 1 Enoch are known as the Animal Apocalypse. Here the various nations are symbolized by animals:

The first generations of mankind were appropriately represented by bulls and cows. It was only after the intervention of the fallen angels that the various peoples could be appropriately represented by such creatures as lions, tigers, wolves, dogs, hyenas, wild boars, foxes, badgers, pigs, flacons, vultures, kites, eagles, ravens: many of them fierce and dangerous to man, all of them unclean by Jewish standards and all, certainly, inferior to the original bulls and cows

. . . But all this changes when God has established his kingdom on Earth (Cohn 1993: 176).

This vision of the Last Judgment sees not only human beings but all animal species being changed. As in the vision of Isaiah 65, the lion will literally lie down with the lamb.

In Africa, human beings are traditionally thought of as being part of the animal kingdom, closely related to and not uniquely different from other creatures. Because the creator God intended all creatures to live in harmony, sharing the world’s resources without conflict, originally they were able to speak and understand each other’s languages.

This paradisial state of nature is exemplified in legends about the Queen of Sheba. Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe that King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba (known in the Qur’an as Bilqis) shared remarkable gifts of wisdom and learning. Both were able to converse with animals. While the Hebrew Bible briefly records the visit of this African Queen to King Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem and the valuable gifts of gold and spices that she brought him (1 Kgs. 10), considerably more of their relationship is revealed in the Talmud, in the Qur’an, in Swahili legend, and in the Ethiopian national epic known as the Kebra Nagast (the “Book of the Glory of Kings”). Written in Ge’ez in the fourteenth century, it describes how the Ark of the Covenant was “the first of all things in creation, and how it came to Earth containing the Mosaic law.”

When the Queen of Sheba visited Solomon, she not only learnt much of his proverbial wisdom, including astronomy and the languages of the animals, but returned to Ethiopia bearing Solomon’s son, Menelik, who later became the first Emperor of Ethiopia. As a young man Menelik was educated in Jerusalem. When he returned home to Ethiopia, he was accompanied by representatives of the twelve tribes of Israel as a bodyguard. In order not to be separated from Zion, these young Israelites carried off the Ark of the Covenant to Ethiopia. The Ark was installed at Aksum, which thus later became the true Jerusalem for Christians as well as for African Jews.

Today, Ethiopian clergy known as dabtara are believed to be descended from these officers, and they are respected as the guardians of a long tradition of talismanic art, including pharmaceutical knowledge, bequeathed to Solomon by the angels and written by him in a book which was brought to Ethiopia by Menelik. Of the dabtara, Ninian Smart observes:

Their primary art is to sing, and they must study over a long period not merely the complexities of traditional religious music, but also the sacred language of Ge’ez. Though their knowledge is archaic, they have traditionally formed the learned class and so have been employed often in administration (Smart 1979: 62–3).

Jacques Mercier found that the dabtara “moves in the world before the Flood, when spirits revealed themselves to humans and showed them the secrets of the heavens” (1997: 48). Solomon’s book contained portraits of demons that are still used in talismanic scrolls. The art of making scrolls is dependent on animal sacrifice, because until quite recently all Ethiopia’s bound books were handwritten on parchment made from animal skin. The dabtara draws images with a red pen on the parchment’s inner side. There is usually an image at the top, one in the middle, and one at the bottom. Then he writes the prayers, inserting the recipient’s baptismal name in red ink. Finally he makes a cylindrical case for the scroll in red leather (Mercier 1997: 48).

Talismans make use of the principal motifs of the Solomon legend – the ring, the seal, the mirror, the palace as labyrinth, the power over demons – that also developed in the Orient, appearing in many stories and esoteric rituals.

Like the Kebra Nagast, Swahili legends about King Solomon enlarge on what is recorded in the Qur’an:

Sulemani bin Daudi, King Solomon, ruled many peoples, human, animal and invisible. Allah gave him wisdom and knowledge, so that he understood the secrets of the stars as well as the language of the animals. He could hear what the cocks crowed, what the horses neighed, what the snakes hissed. He also knew the languages of the fishes in the sea and of the demons in the fire; yes, he could even understand the intentions of the trees rustling with their leaves, or the moods of the winds, whispering and roaring (Knappert 1992: 58–9).

It is recorded in the Qur’an that a messenger bird, the hoopoe, first brought Solomon news of the realm of Sheba:

The bird, who was not long in coming, said: “I have just seen what you know nothing of. With truthful news I come to you from Sheba, where I found a woman reigning over the people. She is possessed of every virtue and has a splendid throne” (Surah 27).

From this Surah, Ta’sin (The Ant), we learn that Solomon conversed not only with the birds but even with insects:

Solomon succeeded David. He said: “Know, my people, we have been taught the tongue of birds and endowed with all good things. Surely this is the signal favour.”

His forces of jinn and men and birds were called to Solomon’s presence, and ranged in battled array. When they came to the Valley of the Ants, an ant said: “Go into your dwellings, ants, lest Solomon and his warriors should unwittingly crush you.”

He smiled at her words, and said: “Inspire me, Lord, to render thanks for the favour You have bestowed on me and my parents, and to do good works that will please You. Admit me, through Your mercy, among Your righteous servants” (Surah 27).

It is recorded in the Qur’an that, when they were driven out of Mecca, some of Mohammed’s followers found refuge in Abyssinia, but long before Muslims arrived, Jews had migrated there. They brought with them stories (midrashim) about animals that formed part of their oral tradition. According to one such midrash:

Solomon was in the habit of summoning all the beasts, birds, reptiles, and spirits to perform in front of him and his fellow kings from neighboring countries. They all came of their own accord. On one occasion the hoopoe (a small bird native to Madagascar) was missing; when finally it was found, it reported to the king that it had been in search of a country anywhere in the world that might not be subject to the authority of Solomon. Eventually the hoopoe had found the city of Qitor in the East, full of gold and silver, and trees watered from the Garden of Eden; its ruler was the Queen of Sheba. Solomon then commanded his scribes to tie a letter to the hoopoe’s wing, which it delivered to the queen (Ullendorff 1997: 136, 138).

Moreover, Solomon later made himself a flying carpet to visit Africa but found the heat of the sun unbearable, so he recruited a flock of hoopoes to fly above him and keep his carpet in the shade. As a reward for this service, the hoopoes asked for their heads to be decorated with golden crowns, to which, against his better judgment, Solomon agreed. The result was first that fowlers shot hoopoes for their beauty, and then hunters set traps of cages with looking glasses inside. The foolish hoopoes, lured to see how beautiful they had become, were taken prisoners and sold for their plumage. Finally they went to Solomon:

“What have you done to us? Before we helped you, none sought our lives, now we are in danger of being utterly destroyed.” Solomon replied: “I now see that some creatures are incapable of choosing what is best for themselves, and it is necessary for wiser rulers to help them choose. I warned you that vanity would be your downfall. Now I suggest that all golden crowns be changed to feathers.” And turning his magic ring the king pronounced the necessary words and it was done. The hoopoes exclaimed: “Wise and great is Solomon the king!” (Toperoff 1995: 118–19)

Ethiopia has preserved not only scriptures that supplement and enlarge on those in the Hebrew Bible, but also scriptures that rival those in the New Testament canon. There are gospels and epistles which were judged by St. Jerome and the Roman curia to be “apocryphal” but which continued to be venerated in the Coptic and other oriental orthodox churches. One such, The Acts of Philip, has survived in its entirety only in Coptic and Ethiopic translations. From this we learn that the Apostle Philip, accompanied by Mariamne (his sister) and Bartholomew, set out to preach the gospel in Ophiani. Passing through “the wilderness of dragons,” they met a great leopard, who spoke with a human voice, “I worship you, servants of the divine greatness and apostles of the only-begotten Son of God; command me to speak perfectly.” When Philip said, “In the name of Jesus Christ, speak,” the leopard adopted perfect speech.. .”

Thereupon the leopard confessed that he had the previous night seized a kid, which had “wept like a little child” and begged him “to put off your fierce heart and the beastlike part of your nature, and put on mildness, for the apostles of the divine greatness are about to pass through this desert to accomplish perfectly the promise of the glory of the only-begotten Son of God.” So Philip and Bartholomew prayed for these two animals, who responded:

We glorify and bless you who have visited and remembered us in this desert, and changed our beastlike and wild nature into tameness, and granted us the divine word, and put in us a tongue and sense to speak and praise your name, for great is your glory.

At the end of this story, the leopard and the kid “fell and worshipped Philip and Bartholomew and Mariamne; and all set out together, praising God” (“The Acts of Philip” in Elliot 1993: 515–16).

Another important scripture, The Acts of Thomas, survived in Ge’ez, in both Arabic and Coptic (which is probably the earliest version). It contains many stories of the animals encountered by the Apostle Thomas (known as “The Twin”) on his way to India. One “colt of an ass” identified itself as being “of the family which served Balaam; and to which also belonged that colt on which sat your Lord and your Master.” This encounter caused the apostle to exclaim:

O Jesus Christ, Son of the perfect mercy, O rest and calmness, and you of whom even the unreasoning animals speak; . . . good shepherd, who offered yourself for your sheep, overcame the wolf, and redeemed your sheep and led them to good pastures

– we praise and glorify you and your invisible Father and your Holy Spirit and the mother of all creation (The Acts of Thomas in Elliot 1993: 464–5).

Stories of the infant Jesus, who spent his early childhood in Egypt, are found in The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, the Protoevangelium of James and The Gospel of Pseudo- Matthew. From the latter, medieval Christianity derived the image of an ox and an ass round the manger at the Nativity. Many of these stories refer to the Christ-child’s friendly relationship with animals. For instance, soon after their arrival in Egypt, the Holy Family took shelter in a cave where they encountered “many dragons, which worshipped Jesus and then departed . . . Likewise, lions and panthers adored him and accompanied them in the desert.” When Jesus was eight years old, the Holy Family was on the road out of Jericho to the river Jordan, when they met a lioness and her cubs, who played around his feet. The astonishment of the local people at this behavior caused Jesus to exclaim: “How much better are the beasts than you, seeing that they recognize their Lord and glorify him; while you men, who have been made in the image and likeness of God, do not know him!” (The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew in Elliot 1993: 94–7)

These scriptures and legends enable African Christians, Muslims, and Jews to develop a unique awareness of the significance of other species in God’s creation and their intended role in the redemption of this planet.

Shelagh Ranger

Further Reading

Cohn, Norman. Cosmos, Chaos and the World to Come: The Ancient Roots of Apocalyptic Faith. Newhaven and London: Yale University Press, 1993.

Elliot, J.K., ed. The Apocryphal New Testament: A Collection of Apocryphal Christian Literature in an English Translation based on M.R. James. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993.

Grierson, Roderick and Stuart Munro-Hay. The Ark of the Covenant. London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1999.

Knappert, Jan. Myths and Legends of the Swahili. Nairobi: Heinemann Kenya Ltd., 1992.

The Koran. N.J. Dawood, tr. New York: Penguin Books, 1993 (1956).

Mercier, Jacques. Art that Heals: The Image as Medicine in Ethiopia. Munich and New York: Prestel-Verlag and The Museum for African Art, 1997.

Smart, Ninian. The Phenomenon of Christianity. London: Collins, 1979.

Sparks, H.F.D., ed. The Apocryphal Old Testament. Oxford: Clarendon Paperbacks, 1984.

Toperoff, Shlomo Pesach. The Animal Kingdom in Jewish Thought. Northvale, NJ and London: Jason Aronson, 1995.

Ullendorff, Edward. Ethiopia and the Bible: The Schweich Lectures of the British Academy 1967. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.

See also: Animals; Animals in the Bible and Qur’an; Christianity and Animals; Jewish Intertestamental Literature; Muti and African Healing.

Animals in the Bible and Qur’an

The scriptures of the leading Monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, assume the supremacy of humankind, established by an almighty God. As stated in the opening remarks of the Bible:

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the Earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the Earth (Gen. 1:27–28).

Genesis sanctioned the active participation of the first man at God’s side, complementing creation: “Whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was its name” (Gen. 2:19). Acknowledgment of human beings’ domination “over every living thing that moves upon the Earth” did not, at first, bring about any rupture in the basic harmony that characterized all components of divine creation. In the Edenic context humans were vegetarian; only plants – not animals – were intended as food for the forefathers of the human race (Gen. 2:9, 16). Yet, the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden – explained in terms of the “original sin” in Christian theology – led to the degeneration of Earth, which became hostile and intimidating to human beings. Animals, as well, became fierce; they revolted against their bondage and attacked human society.

Following the Flood, however, when God renewed his alliance with the human race, He confirmed once more human control over the animal kingdom while defining the practical consequences:

And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the eArth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moves upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be meat for you . . .” (Gen. 9:2–3).

The message was clear: from then on, animals could lawfully be killed and eaten, in accordance with God’s will, subject only to religious dietary restrictions, such as not eating flesh with its blood (Gen. 9:4). Biblical narrative thus fostered an instrumental approach to animals: their existence was justified by their serving the needs of human beings. Still, it encouraged proper care for the needs of domestic animals, “A righteous man regards the life of his beast,” (Prov. 12:10), allowing them to rest during the Sabbath (Deut. 5:14) and forbidding taking a mother bird with her eggs for food (Deut. 22:6).

The instrumental approach of the Bible may be explained by the prevailing dependence on animals in agrarian and nomadic societies, for which animals fulfilled different working and guard functions. On the other hand, there is a clear reticence, if not outright antagonism, when it comes to emotional links between the human and animal realms; the latter is relegated to an inferior, independent sphere (in contrast to the role played by animals in Greek mythology, for example). One possible explanation may lie in the Bible’s essential animosity toward any remnant of polytheism, especially Egyptian cult and rites. Many animals – dogs, cats, falcons, scarabs, cows, hawks, crocodiles, jackals, lionesses, hippopotami, inter alia – were incorporated into the Egyptian pantheon, thus possibly generating the reticence that animals encountered in the Hebrew Bible. From an ecological perspective, moreover, the proliferation of wild animals in the Near East, with the resulting problem of rabies and other diseases that they propagated, might provide a suitable key to the biblical attitude.

Consensus on the precedence of human society, however, did not in itself impose specific attitudes toward individual animals, and differences were indeed considerable in this regard. Biblical literature differentiates between ritually clean and unclean animals, and those that remain in the wild state as against those that have been domesticated. Clean animals were considered suitable for human consumption; they include mammals, such as cattle and sheep, which have a split hoof and chew the cud. Unclean domestic animals include beasts of burden, like the ass, camel, and horse, and pets, like dogs and cats. The prevailing attitude toward animals in the New Testament and early Christian theology, which opposed any close proximity between the human and animal species, was heavily influenced by the biblical approach. The Pauline ideal of contempt for this world of sin further strengthened the gap between the faithful, who became pilgrims on Earth, and the animal kingdom, represented as another reflection of the flesh, with all its vices and weaknesses. The basic recognition of the mastery of human beings, moreover, was further strengthened by the prin- ciple of nomina res essentiant (i.e., the names Adam gave the animals not only suggested their character but also influenced their role and destination on Earth). Christian doctrine, as it developed from the second century onwards, further brought these tenets to their “logical” conclusions. Theologians like Tertullian, Origen, Saint Augustine, Bede, and Petrus Comestor, preached the total mastery of human beings over animals, since the former were created in God’s image and, therefore, were the beneficiaries of his wisdom. If such was the case with simple human beings, it was rather obvious that saints, with their greater commitment to God, were bestowed with a special precedence over animals, similar to that which Adam had enjoyed in paradise. It was said about the abbess of Arles, for example, that “because of her many virtues, birds and animals were obedient to her.” The unprecedented attempt by St. Francis in the early thirteenth century to spread the idea of equality among all creatures – while creating a harmonious balance between humankind and the animal world – was therefore condemned to failure. St. Francis’ creed, which favored a more harmonious perception of the universe, was indeed neglected from medieval to early modern times. It found more receptive ground only in the last century.

At a metaphorical level, Christian liturgy developed, from its very beginnings, a rich symbolic thesaurus, with animal representing the most common virtues and vices that could be found among human beings, as well as humans’ relationship with their Creator: the lion courage, the bull strength, the dog fidelity, the snake caution and prudence; the chameleon hypocrisy, the hyena impurity, the wolf greed, the serpent the devil. The fish became one of the earliest, most important Christian symbols, with the five Greek letters of the word, ı`χθ6< forming an acrostic signifying Jesus Christ, Son of God, and Savior. Animals also came to represent the principles of the Christian faith: the lamb, the sacrifice of Christ on the cross and the weakness of the Christian; the dove, the image of the Holy Spirit; the deer, the Christians’ longing for salvation.

The basic principles of the Islamic faith corroborate some of the characteristics found in the Bible, first and foremost the battle to eradicate any remnant of polytheism. The Qur’an criticizes the practice of consecrating certain animals or of applying a taboo to them (5:103, 6:138–139). Since God had created all animals – a pair of each (51:49) – Muslims are exhorted to treat them kindly. They will be held accountable for how they treat their mounts before Allah in the next world. Notwithstanding the general nature of these claims, Islam, as well, differentiates between those animals that benefited from special divine grace – such as camels, horses, cows, sheep, greyhounds, and bees – and those that possess the evil eye and are, instead, the devil’s emissaries, the most prominent being dogs. At a more practical level, the consumption of pigs is forbidden, but all fish may be eaten without ritual slaughter. Although killing a cock is allowed, the Prophet forbade reviling this fowl because it served the faithful by awakening them to perform their religious duty; the same rule applies to fleas “who awakened a prophet.”

All three scriptures further condemn any manifestation of cruelty per se toward animals, which are recognized as creatures of God; however, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam also encourage an instrumental approach to animals, at best, while allowing their arbitrary killing, at worst. Perhaps this was the natural sequence in the process of turning the human race into the apex of divine creation, a creed that does not allow any partners of equal status at the side of human beings. Furthermore, teachers from these traditions condemn the practice of pet keeping, relegating the most favorite among the pets, especially dogs, to the status of unclean or maligned animals. Such antagonism may result from the apprehension of ecclesiastical persons that attachment to pets – which bestows on human beings a complete mastery over these creatures and, in consequence, may bring about higher self-esteem

– might have detrimental consequences for the submission of the faithful to an almighty God. No less important, the emotional linkage between a person and his/her pet may weaken human dependence on God’s representatives on Earth, the clergy.

Sophia Menache

Further Reading

Houston, Walter. Purity and Monotheism: Clean and Unclean Animals in Biblical Law. Sheffield: J.S.O.T. Press, 1993.

Isaacs, Ronald H. Animals in Jewish Thought and Tradition. Northvale: Jason Aronson, 2000.

Maccoby, Hyam. Ritual and Morality: The Ritual Purity System and Its Place. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Menache, Sophia. “Dogs: A Story of Friendship.” Society and Animals 6:1 (1998), 67–86.

Menache, Sophia. “Dogs: God’s Worst Enemies?” Society and Animals 5:1 (1997), 23–44.

See also: Animal Rights in the Jewish Tradition; Animals; Christianity and Animals; Dogs in the Abrahamic Traditions; Dogs in the Islamic Tradition; Elephants; Francis of Assisi; Hunting and the Origins of Religion; Hyenas – Spotted; Islam, Animals, and Vegetarianism; Primate Spirituality; Serpents and Dragons.


Coined by the anthropologist E.B. Tylor (1832–1917), the term “animism” refers not to a type of religion but to a theory of religion. Asserting a minimal definition of religion as “belief in spiritual beings,” Tylor argued that religious belief originated in the primordial mistake of attributing life, soul, or spirit to inanimate objects. Although it has generally been dismissed in the academic study of religion as an obsolete term for describing the belief systems of indigenous people who hold that natural phenomena have souls or spirits, animism has nevertheless persisted in popular usage and academic theory to raise problems about the meaning and value of materiality in religion.

Tylor’s theory of animism was premised on a kind of materialism, since he assumed that materiality by definition was “dead” matter, but his theory was also framed in terms of an ideology of European progress, underwritten by evolutionary science, which bore a strange contradiction. Although Europeans supposedly represented the pinnacle of evolutionary development, they could only know that by comparing themselves to a baseline represented by others who had supposedly not evolved. Like other social evolutionists, Tylor found his evolutionary baseline, the “primitive,” in reports submitted by European travelers, missionaries, and colonial agents about indigenous people, the “savage,” on the periphery of empire. While Europeans according to Tylor’s evolutionary scheme had progressed along a developmental trajectory through animism, polytheism, and monotheism to reach the highest achievements of science, evolving from primitive to civilized, indigenous people of the Americas, Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Pacific had supposedly been left behind by evolution, standing over as savage “survivals” of the primitive.

Although Tylor was only interested in contemporary indigenous religions as data for building a theory of the original, primordial, or primitive animism, his term caught on to such an extent that it became commonplace in European inventories of the religions of the world to identify contemporary adherents of indigenous religions as animists. A recent guidebook for Christian missionaries, for example, asserts that 40 percent of the world’s population is animistic (Van Rheenan 1991: 30). While this characterization has often been experienced by indigenous people as denigrating, it has occasionally been adopted as a term of self-identification. In Indonesia and Nigeria, for example, representatives of indigenous religions, struggling in a political arena dominated by Muslim and Christian interests, have sought formal recognition as animists. At the same time, animism has sometimes been adopted as a term of self-identification in New Age, neo-pagan, or environmentalist movements. Without addressing those appropriations of the term, this entry concentrates on the history, rationale, and consequences of animism as a theory of religion.

History of Animism

During the nineteenth century, European social scientists developed different terms – fetishism, totemism, and animism – for the original religion of humanity, but each term carried the same allegation that “primitives” or “savages” were incapable of assessing the meaning and value of material objects.

The term, “fetish,” for example, emerged out of intercultural trading relations in West Africa in which European traders argued that Africans, unlike European Christians, had no stable system of value in which they could evaluate objects. Overvaluing apparently trifling objects such as feathers, bones, and cloth used in ritual, Africans undervalued the trade goods brought by Europeans. In this context, European Christians referred to African ritual objects as “fetishes,” a term derived from the Portuguese feitiço, referring to nefarious instruments of magic and witchcraft (Pietz 1985). The term, “totemism,” according to John Ferguson M’Lennan, referred to communal alliances under the sign of an animal or an object that combined fetishism with exogamy, mixing the inability to evaluate materiality with regulations governing sexuality (M’Lennan 1870). Arguably, the term, “animism,” mixed fetishism not with human sexuality but with animal psychology. The psychology of dogs, in particular, provided the key to a theory of religion based on attributing animation to inanimate objects.

In his popular survey of human evolution, The Origin of Civilization and the Primitive Condition of Man, John Lubbock explained that religion originated as the result of the primitive tendency to attribute animation to inanimate objects. To illustrate this primitive “frame of mind,” Lubbock cited evidence from southern Africa, relying on the early nineteenth-century report from the traveler Henry Lichtenstein that the Xhosa in the Eastern Cape assumed that an anchor cast ashore from a shipwreck was actually alive. In a footnote, Lubbock observed, “Dogs appear to do the same” (Lubbock 1889: 287). As Lubbock’s friend and mentor, Charles Darwin, maintained, religion could be explained in terms of dog behavior. Like Lubbock, Darwin observed that dogs characteristically attributed life to inanimate objects. His dog’s attention to a parasol blowing in the wind, for example, suggested to Darwin that the animal assumed that objects were alive. In this animal psychology, therefore, nineteenth-century theorists had a basis for understanding animism as the “primitive” or “savage” propensity to attribute animation to inanimate objects.

Evidence of Animism

In standard accounts, E.B. Tylor’s theory of animism is derived from the “primitive” inability to distinguish between dreams and waking consciousness. When the “primitive” ancestors of humanity dreamed about deceased friends or relatives, they assumed that the dead were still alive in some spiritual form. Out of dreams, therefore, evolved “the doctrine of souls and other spiritual beings in general,” a doctrine that was “rational,” even if it was a “childish philosophy” enveloped in “intense and inveterate ignorance” (Tylor 1871: I, 22–3).

Where did Tylor get his evidence to support this finding? Instead of observing dogs, Tylor collected accounts about indigenous people, the “savages” who appeared in reports from European travelers, missionaries, and colonial agents. Arguably, Tylor’s most important source was an account of Zulu religion from South Africa, The Religious System of the Amazulu, which had been published under the authorship of the Anglican missionary Henry Callaway, although the Zulu Christian convert, Mpengula Mbande, actually provided most of the reports collected in the book. Tylor praised The Religious System of the Amazulu for providing “the best knowledge of the lower phases of religious belief” (1871: I, 380).

Certainly, Tylor found evidence of an active dream life among Callaway’s Zulus. Zulus often saw the shade or shadow of deceased ancestors in dreams. However, Callaway’s volume included a detailed account about one Zulu man, an apprenticed diviner, who had become so overwhelmed with visions of spirits that he had described his own body as “a house of dreams” (Callaway 1868–1870: 228, 260, 316). According to Tylor, all Zulus, as “savage” survivals of the “primitive,” were subject to dream visions, but “as for the man who is passing into the morbid condition of the professional seer, phantoms are continually coming to talk to him in his sleep, till he becomes as the expressive native phrase is, ‘a house of dreams’ ” (1871: I, 443). Although Tylor appropriated him as an archetype of the “primitive,” this particular Zulu man, who served Tylor as a “savage” survival of the original “house of dreams” from which religion originated, was James Mbande, the brother of the Christian convert, Mpengula Mbande. Like his brother, James was torn between the Christian mission and indigenous tradition. While Mpengula went one way, becoming a catechist for the mission, James struggled in the other direction, striving to keep an ancestral dream alive under increasingly difficult colonial conditions. In this case, therefore, the “house of dreams” was not a “primitive,” but a colonial situation, the product of contemporary conflicts in southern Africa.

The analysis of dreams, however, did not provide the only evidence for Tylor’s theory of animism. In addition, the involuntary physical phenomenon of sneezing was central to Tylor’s argument. Here again Callaway’s Zulu evidence was definitive. As Tylor observed, sneezing was not originally an arbitrary and meaningless custom, but the working out of a principle. The plain statement by the modern Zulus fits with the hints to be gained from the superstition and folklore of other races, to connect the notions and practices as to sneezing with the ancient and savage doctrine of pervading and invading spirits, considered as good or evil, and treated accordingly (1871: I, 104).

From Callaway’s account, Tylor derived the ethnographic facts that Zulus thought their deceased ancestors caused sneezing; that sneezing reminded Zulus to name and praise their ancestors; that the ancestors entered the bodies of their descendants when they sneezed; and that ritual specialists, such as Zulu diviners, regularly sneezed as a ritual technique for invoking the spiritual power of the ancestors. These Zulu concepts and practices, Tylor concluded, were remnants of a prehistoric era in which sneezing was not merely a “physiological” phenomenon, “but was still in the ‘theological stage’ ” (1871: I, 104).

Much has been made of Tylor’s “intellectualist” theory of religion. Although primitives suffered from primordial stupidity, Tylor argued that they nevertheless exercised their limited intellectual powers to develop explanations of the world in which they lived. Unfortunately, Tylor cited a Zulu source in support of this proposition, Callaway’s catechist, Mpengula Mbande, who observed that “we are told all things, and assent without seeing clearly whether they are true or not” (1871: II, 387). Although cited by Tylor as evidence of savage ignorance, Mbande’s point in this statement was that most Zulus had not been exposed to Callaway’s new Christian gospel. Rather than offering evidence of primordial stupidity, therefore, Mbande was announcing his recently acquired Christian commitment. In any event, Tylor’s theoretical work, and his use of Zulu evidence, demonstrated that his theory of the origin of religion was based on an analysis of the body as well as the mind. More animal than human, in this respect, “primitive” religion, as revealed according to Tylor by its survival among contemporary Zulu “savages,” had evolved out of a bodily process that was as simple, basic, and involuntary as sneezing. However much it might have been theologized, sneezing marked the physiological origin of religion as animism, the belief in pervading and invading spirits.

Consequences of Animism

In building his theory of animism, E.B. Tylor intentionally disguised the colonial conditions that provided his evidence. Ignoring the social, political, intercultural, and interreligious contexts in which his evidence was embedded was not an oversight. It was a method. According to Tylor, “savage religion” had to be abstracted from its living contexts in order to be used in an evolutionary history of human culture that began with primitive animism. “In defining the religious systems of the lower races, so as to place them correctly in the history of culture,” Tylor observed in 1892, “careful examination is necessary to separate the genuine developments of native theology from the effects of intercourse with civilized foreigners”

(Tylor 1892: 283). Any trace of more advanced religious concepts, such as ideas of deity, morality, or retribution in an afterlife, could only have entered “savage” religion, Tylor argued, through such foreign intercourse with “higher” races. Factoring out colonial contacts, relations, and exchanges, he argued, “leaves untouched in the religions of the lower races the lower developments of animism” (Tylor 1892: 298). According to this method, therefore, animism appeared as the original religion – the earliest, the lowest – only by erasing the actual colonial situations in which indigenous people lived. As a result, the theory of animism provided an ideological supplement to the imperial project.

Although it was posed as a scientific explanation of the origin and development of religion, the theory of animism also addressed nineteenth-century European dilemmas about the meaning of materiality. Despite the expansion of scientific materialism, with its implicit challenge to religious belief, the séances of spiritualism were gaining popularity in Europe, promising material proof of spiritual survival of death. Initially, E.B. Tylor considered using the term “spiritualism” for his theory of religion, regarding contemporary spiritualist practices in Europe as a “survival” of prehistoric religion. Like the religious beliefs and practices of indigenous people on the colonized periphery of empire, the spiritualist séance represented an unwarranted persistence in attributing life to dead matter. As a European intellectual problem, therefore, the theory of animism can be situated in the context of nineteenthcentury distress about the religious implications of scientific materialism and the scientific implications of a new religious practice such as spiritualism.

At the same time, this theory of the animation of “dead” matter was developed in the midst of the consolidation of commodity capitalism in Europe and North America. The commodity, as Karl Marx provocatively proposed, was not dead matter because it was animated by a “fetishism of commodities,” similar to “primitive” religion, which attributed life to objects “abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties” (1974: I, 81). While supplementing the colonization of indigenous people, therefore, the theory of animism was also entangled in European struggles to understand the animation of matter in capitalism.

In the anthropology of religion, some theorists have recently attempted to rehabilitate the theory of animism, restating the argument that religion originated in the basic animistic propensity to project human characteristics of life, thought, and feeling onto the natural world, or redefining animism as a “relational epistemology” through which indigenous people gain knowledge by entering into humanizing relations with the natural world. The history of the theory of animism, however, suggests that this theoretical project has inevitably been entangled in local and global negotiations over the meaning of materiality. As a point of entry into the study of religion and nature, the theory of animism presents a problem, bearing traces of nineteenth-century European imperialism, colonialism, and capitalism, rather than a solution for our understanding of religious engagements with the natural world.

David Chidester

Further Reading

Bird-David, Nurit. “ ‘Animism’ Revisited: Personhood, Environment, and Relational Epistemology.” Current Anthropology 40 Supplement (1999), 67–92.

Callaway, Henry. The Religious System of the Amazulu. Springvale: Springvale Mission, 1868–1870; Cape Town: Struik, 1970.

Darwin, Charles. The Descent of Man. Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1952 (original edition, 1871).

Guthrie, Stewart Elliot. Faces in the Clouds: A New Theory of Religion. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Lubbock, John. The Origin of Civilization and the Primitive Condition of Man. London: Longmans, Green, 1889 (orig. edn, 1870).

Marx, Karl. Capital, 2 vols. Samuel Moore and Edward Aveling, trs. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1974 (original edition, 1867).

Masuzawa, Tomoko. “Troubles with Materiality: The Ghost of Fetishism in the Nineteenth Century.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 42 (2000), 242–67.

M’Lennan, John Ferguson. “The Worship of Animals and Plants.” Fortnightly Review 6 (1868), 407–27, 562–82;

7 (1870), 194–216.

Pietz, William. “The Problem of the Fetish, I.” Res: Anthropology and Aesthetics 9 (1985), 5–17.

Tylor, E.B. “The Limits of Savage Religion.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 21 (1892), 283–301.

Tylor, E.B. Primitive Culture, 2 vols. London: John Murray, 1871.

Van Rheenan, Gailyn. Communicating Christ in Animistic Contexts. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1991.

See also: Animism – A Contemporary Perspective; Anthropologists; Bioregionalism and the North American Bioregional Congress; Ecology and Religion; Evolutionary Biology, Religion, and Stewardship; Hunting Spirituality and Animism; Magic; Magic, Animism and the Shaman’s Craft; Noble Savage; Radical Environmentalism; Snyder, Gary; Zulu (amaZulu) Ancestors and Ritual Exchange; Zulu (amaZulu) Culture, Plants and Spirit Worlds (South Africa).

Animism – A Contemporary Perspective

Animism is a term coined to serve in an argument about the origins of religion, but it has survived the widespread rejection of that theory and now thrives as a label for a particular kind of religion. For E.B. Tylor (1871), the term “animism” summarizes his definition of religion as “belief in spiritual beings.” In its new application, animism now labels a type of religion comparable to other types (e.g., monotheism and polytheism). It is typically applied to religions that engage with a wide community of living beings with whom humans share this world or particular locations within it. It might be summed up by the phrase “all that exists lives” and, sometimes, the additional understanding that “all that lives is holy.” As such the term animism is sometimes applied to particular indigenous religions in comparison to Christianity or Islam, for example. It is also used as a self-definition by some indigenous people and some eco-pagans.

The application of the term animism no longer depends on notions about “spirits” or “supernatural” entities. It has been found helpful in drawing attention to ontologies and epistemologies in which life is encountered in a wide community of persons only some of whom are human. Certainly this new usage shares with Tylor’s discussion a concern with materiality and, in this, links animism to wider contestations, for example, about environmentalism and the dichotomous opposition of culture and nature.

In the language of classical European philosophy “person” refers principally to humans and deity. At various times, the question of the personhood of particular groups of humans (Africans and women in particular) has been problematic (e.g., in debates about the recognition and increasing application of human rights). Other beings (animals especially) are problematic in as much as some might be more or less like humans in particular ways (e.g., the feeling of pain, the use of language, or some indicator of intellect or agency) that seem to some theorists to justify the recognition of personhood and thus the extension or recognition of rights. Similarly, Piaget’s approach to childhood development (1933) seems to assume that reality is accurately described in English language’s use of gendered pronouns (“he” or “she”) for persons, in contrast to a wider range of inanimate objects (“it”). In this theory, children “naturally” project life onto inanimate objects until they reach a more advanced stage of development. Reference to European languages in which personal pronouns are applied to what native speakers of those languages also consider inanimate (e.g., chairs) may not necessarily falsify these notions, especially because the concomitant imputation of gender is neither considered nor meaningful. In these and similar ways, animism is problematic in European-rooted worldviews and discourse. It simultaneously insists on the veracity of Western notions about personhood and materiality, while deni- grating other understandings as childish and/or primitive. Those indigenous and environmentalist perspectives that might challenge such positions are thereby disabled and marginalized.

In Anishinaabemowin, the language of Anishinaabeg or Ojibwe people (Native Americans indigenous to the Great Lakes area), the grammatical animism of some words is indicative of something more profound. Here, words are not gendered as they are in European languages, but they are necessarily either “animate” or “inanimate.” This is certainly not a systematized or abstract complex, and speakers may not know why x is animate when y is inanimate, but it does arise from a broader culture in which one might speak with animate persons but only about inanimate objects. The possibility that gifts might be given to and received from those identified as animate persons is one indication of a “relational epistemology” (Bird-David 1999). Irving Hallowell’s (1960) discussion of Ojibwe ontology includes an important discussion with an unnamed “old man” about whether all rocks are alive and, since he avers that not all rocks are alive, how one might know which ones are. Contrary to the theories of Piaget (1933) and Guthrie (1993), this depends on more than the projection of personality or human-likeness onto allegedly inanimate objects. It is not just that some rocks “look human” (e.g., appearing to have a mouth), or that some are said to have moved of their own volition, but that some humans relate to some rocks in ways that indicate the recognition of life. These ways might include recognition of expressions of agency, will, intellect and so on, but are fundamentally about engagement in a cultural system of respect and reciprocity. Rocks are not mere “nature” in opposition to “culture” but are, or might be, persons who engage with other persons in particular ways. If humans give gifts to rocks, rocks not only receive gifts from humans but also give gifts that initiate relationships.

Nurit Bird-David (1999) has brought Hallowell’s discussion into relation with wider consideration of the relational constitution of persons and with her own research among the Nayaka of south India. Her exploration of this hunter-gatherer epistemology exemplifies the possibilities raised by the new use of the term animism as a challenge to previous approaches. Her work is parallel to that of Ken Morrison (1992) and other scholars of Native American religious traditions who point out that the privileging of spirit over matter, or supernatural over natural, has misdirected attention from the irrelevance of such dichotomies to those who engage religiously with this world. An even stronger critique is raised by Eduardo Viveiros de Castro who contrasts the Western notion that there is a singular nature and multiple cultures (hence multiculturalism) with Amazonian indigenous perspectives that there is a singular culture and multiple natures and therefore “multinaturalism.” While he sees “animism” as “the extension of [human] qualities to beings of other species” (i.e., a term compromised by its role in Tylor’s theory), his own discussion clearly dovetails with those cited above. It further contributes the important invitation to consider that “culture” is not the preserve of humans, but is evident (when seen as these indigenous peoples see things) among other-than-human persons too. In this light, Western discourses about religions, especially shamanisms, in which “spirits” and “spirituality” are privileged, might be corrected from the animist perspective that everything that lives (and this is a wider category than is typically assumed in the West) is involved in culture.

In addition to anthropological research that discovers or theorizes animisms (in various ways) and categorizations of the world’s religions that include “animists,” it is instructive to consider animism in imaginative literatures. Three examples might suffice. In Alice Walker’s The Color Purple (1982) the heroine, Celie, finally stands up to her main abuser and finds that the elements are with her. Her statement, “I am here” can be read as foundational for Walker’s later autobiographical accounts of her own spiritual quest in which it is good to be “here.” In a very different style, Daniel Quinn’s didactic novels (beginning with Ishmael, 1995) provoke a consideration that the majority of human cultures are preferable to that of the West. These “leaver” societies assaulted by “taker” culture and its “totalitarian agriculture” demonstrate alternative ways to be human and encourage efforts to create better alternatives for the future. His animism is a principled evocation of the possibility that humanity might live as others live: leaving what is not needed now for others or ourselves to share in the future, going beyond the discourse of sustainability to the celebration of diverse modes of engaging with the world. Central to these novels, once again, is a debate about the commonalities and diversities of culture(s) and nature(s). Finally, in this brief introduction to recent literatures of animism, much Fantasy Fiction suggests that the world is inhabited by a wide range of autonomous living beings with their own interests and concerns. Whether these be speaking trees or elusive elves, it seems that life (including communication, intelligence, suffering, joy and so on) is to be found everywhere in this and any possible otherworlds. These literatures not only explore but encourage imaginative engagements with the world that can be labeled “animist.”

Indigenous, anthropological, fictional and philosophical writings all provide material for a reconsideration of animism. Confronted by the diminishment of ecological diversity, by assaults on “natural environments” and by the seemingly ever-increasing dominance of humanity over this planet, there are those who find the term “animism” helpful in recognizing alternatives. Eco-pagans are significant among the environmentalists whose activism arises from animist perspectives. They are activist not primarily because human life may become untenable if such anti-ecological lifeways continue, nor because a creator deity requires an account of how humans have executed their stewardship of the planet. Animist ecoPagans are primarily on the front lines confronting road building, quarrying, clear-cutting and other exploitative actions, because the community of life is threatened. It is not that only humans can protest or act – although the sight of a human lying in the mud in front of a bulldozer may be a more powerful preventive of destruction than that of a mere animal or plant. In the understanding of many such activists, protest venues might be a location in which humanity confronts itself with conflicting assessments of its place in the scheme of things. Over against the notion that everything is a resource for humanity’s benefit (provided either by God or nature) is the understanding that humans are only one species among those whose lives and cultures require sustenance and support. Animists may be inspired by experiences of the participation of elusive otherworld beings, but their primary motive is the celebration of seemingly more mundane relationships.

Tylor’s theory of animism has been rejected by most. But contemporary animists do not offer assertions about the origins, development and true nature of all religion, but a focused discussion about particular ways of being related to the world. Like the earlier theory it is entangled with notions of materiality, but now this arises from a challenge to discourses that divide spirit and flesh, soul and body, subject and object, life and matter, supernatural and natural, culture and nature, people and environment, community and resources, and so on. In dialogue with particular indigenous ontologies, epistemologies and cosmovisions, the new animism contests modernist preconceptions and invites the widening of relational engagements generated and enhanced by gift exchanges and other forms of mutuality. In both indigenous and Western forms, animism encourages humans to see the world as a diverse community of living persons worthy of particular kinds of respect.

Animism is, however, more than the recognition of life in those otherwise considered inanimate. This would continue to prioritize what is exceptional to the West and ignore what is self-evident to those who might appropriately be named “animists.” In the end, the recognition of life is far too simple to be generative. What is important is the mutual recognition of the ability to reciprocate, relate and engage. Animists are people who encounter other persons, only some of whom are human, as cultural beings. Their various engagements with what might otherwise be considered the environment or nature constitutes a complex of cultural relationships with a large and diverse community. Such worldviews and lifeways proffer exciting possibilities for underpinning relationships with the other-than-human world that contrast dramatically with what is now normal or natural in modernity. Animism promises the enrichment of human cultures by fuller engagement with what is too often taken as background or resource-available to the construction of culture. Instead, animists are those who seek cultures of relationship rooted and expressed in respectful relationships.

Graham Harvey

Further Reading

Bird-David, Nurit. “ ‘Animism’ Revisited: Personhood, Environment, and Relational Epistemology.” Current Anthropology 40, Supplement (1999), 67–92.

Guthrie, Stewart Elliot. Faces in the Clouds: A New Theory of Religion. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Hallowell, A. Irving. 1960. “Ojibwa Ontology, Behavior and Ojibwa Ontology, Behavior, and World View.” In

S. Diamond, ed. Culture in History. Columbia: Columbia University Press, 1952.

Morrison, Kenneth M. “Beyond the Supernatural.”

Religion 22 (1999), 201–5.

Piaget, Jean. “Children’s Philosophies.” In C. Murchison, ed. A Handbook of Child Psychology. Worcester: Clark University, 1933, 534–47.

Quinn, Daniel. Ishmael. New York: Bantam, 1995.

Tylor, E.B. Primitive Culture, 2 vols. London: John Murray, 1871.

Walker, Alice. The Color Purple. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1982.

See also: Animism; Animism: Humanity’s Original Religious Worldview; Bioregionalism and the North American Bioregional Congress; Hunting Spirituality and Animism; Magic; Magic, Animism, and the Shaman’s Craft; Radical Environmentalism; Snyder, Gary; Radical Environmentalism; Walker, Alice; Zulu (amaZulu) Ancestors and Ritual Exchange;

Animism – Humanity’s Original Religious Worldview

By the middle of the nineteenth century, the mere fact of evolution had been around for a good long while. Fossil evidence made it clear that species had undergone evolutionary change from ancient times to the present, and most thinkers of the time were perfectly content to leave it at that. The absence of a theory to explain evolutionary change was not felt by them, not experienced as a pressure, as it was by Charles Darwin. The fact alone wasn’t sufficient for him. He wanted to know why species had evolved over time. He knew there had to be some intelligible mechanism or dynamic that would account for it, and this is what he went looking for – with well known results. In his Origin of Species, he wasn’t announcing the

fact of evolution, he was trying to make sense of the fact.

In my mid-twenties I began to feel a similar sort of pressure, but it was a vague and undirected one. The modern Age of Anxiety – the anxiety we’re all quite used to living with today – was just being born. In her book Silent Spring (1962) Rachel Carson enunciated a startlingly new idea: the pollutants we were so prodigiously pouring into the world didn’t just obligingly vanish, they produced changes, and these changes had consequences – very possibly catastrophic ones. Of course everyone takes this for granted now, but at the time this was devastating news. In his book The Population Bomb (1968) Paul Ehrlich pointed out that at our present rate of growth, we were going to make the Earth uninhabitable to our own species within a century. Again, a commonplace idea today, but not so then. Overshadowing these things was the fact that we all lived from day to day with the knowledge that at any moment nuclear devastation could rain down on American cities, to be answered by a rain of nuclear devastation on Soviet cities. The end of civilization – perhaps even of human life itself – was a button-push away.

I wasn’t satisfied with the conventional explanation of all this, which is that we’ve ended up badly because of the Industrial Revolution. To my mind, this is like saying that Hamlet ended up badly because he took on Laertes in a fencing match. To understand why Hamlet ended up badly, you can’t just look at the last ten minutes of his life, you have to go right back to the beginning of his story. I felt a pressure to do the same with us.

But where is the beginning of our story? This isn’t a difficult question to answer. Every schoolchild learns that our story began about 10,000 years ago with the Agricultural Revolution. This isn’t the beginning of the human story, but it’s certainly the beginning of our story. It was from this beginning that all the wonders and horrors of our civilization grew.

Everyone is vaguely aware that there have been two ways of looking at the Agricultural Revolution within our culture, two contradictory stories about its significance. The standard version – the version taught in our schools – goes something like this. Humans had been around for a long time, three or four million years, living a miserable and shiftless sort of life for most of that time, accomplishing nothing and getting nowhere. But then about 10,000 years ago it finally dawned on folks living in the Fertile Crescent that they didn’t have to live like beavers and bears, making do with whatever food happened to come along; they could cultivate their own food and thus control their own destiny and well-being. Agriculture made it possible for them to give up the nomadic life for the life of farming villagers. Village life encouraged occupational specialization and the advancement of technology on all fronts. Before long, villages became towns, towns became cities, and cities were gathered into kingdoms and empires. Trade connections, elaborate social and economic systems, and literacy soon followed, and there we went. All these advances were based on – and impossible without – agriculture, manifestly humanity’s greatest blessing.

The other story, a much older one, is tucked away in a different corner of our cultural heritage. It too is set in the Fertile Crescent and tells a tale of the birth of agriculture, but in this telling agriculture isn’t represented as a blessing but rather as a curse: a punishment for a crime whose exact nature has always profoundly puzzled us. I’m referring, of course, to the story told in the third chapter of Genesis, the Fall of Adam.

Both these stories are known to virtually everyone who grows up in our culture, from Boston to Beirut to Beijing, including every historian, philosopher, theologian, and anthropologist. But like most thinkers of the midnineteenth century, who were content with the mere fact of evolution and felt no pressure to explain it, all these historians, philosophers, theologians, and anthropologists seem perfectly content to live with these two contradictory stories. The conflict is manifest but, for them, demands no explanation.

For me, it did. As evolution demanded of Darwin a theory that would make sense of it, the story in Genesis demanded of me a theory that would make sense of it.

There have traditionally been two approaches to Adam’s crime and punishment. The text tells us Adam was invited to partake of every tree in the garden of Eden except one, mysteriously called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. As we know, Adam succumbed to the temptation to sample the fruit of this tree. In one approach, the crime is viewed as simple disobedience. From this point of view, the selection of the knowledge of good and evil for interdiction seems entirely arbitrary. God might just as well have chosen the knowledge of war and peace or the knowledge of pride and prejudice. The point was simply to forbid Adam something in order to test his obedience. Under this approach, Adam’s punishment – banishment from Eden to live by the sweat of his brow as a farmer – was in effect just a spanking; it doesn’t “fit the crime” in any particular way. This is presumably the punishment he would have received no matter what test he failed.

The second approach attempts to make some sort of connection between Adam’s crime and his punishment. Under this approach, Eden is conventionally viewed as a metaphor for the state of innocence, which is lost when Adam gains the knowledge of good and evil. This makes sense, but only if the knowledge of good and evil is understood as a metaphor for knowledge that destroys innocence. So with roughly equivalent metaphors at either end, the story is reduced to banality: Adam lost his innocence by gaining knowledge that destroyed his innocence.

The story of the Fall is coupled with a second that is equally famous and equally baffling, the story of Cain and

Abel. As conventionally understood, these two brothers were literal individuals, the elder, Cain, a tiller of the soil, and the younger, Abel, a herder. The improbability that two members of the same family would embrace lifestyles that were completely antithetical should tip us off to the fact that these were not individuals but emblematic figures, just as Adam was (Adam merely being the Hebrew word for Man).

If we understand these as emblematic figures, then the story begins to make sense. The firstborn of agriculture was indeed the tiller of the soil, as Cain was said to be the firstborn of Adam. This is an undoubted historical fact. The domestication of plants is a process that begins the day you plant your first seed, but the domestication of animals is a process that takes generations; wild animals don’t become tame overnight, so the herder Abel was indeed the second-born – by centuries, if not millennia (another reason to be skeptical of the notion that Cain and Abel were literally second-generation brothers). A further reason for skepticism on this point is the fact that the farmers and herders of the period occupied adjacent but distinctly different regions of the Near East. Farming was the occupation of the Caucasian inhabitants of the lush Fertile Crescent. Herding was the occupation of the Semitic inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula to the south. Another piece of background that needs to be understood is that in very ancient times the farming lifestyle was radically different from the herding lifestyle. Tillers of the soil were by the very nature of their work settled villagers; but herders (by the very nature of their work) were nomads, just as many present-day herding peoples are. The herding lifestyle was closer to the hunting- gathering lifestyle than it was to the farming lifestyle.

As the farming peoples of the north expanded, it was inevitable that they would confront their Semitic herding neighbors to the south, perhaps in what is now Iraq – with the predictable result. As they have done from the beginning to the present moment, the tillers of the soil needed more land to put to the plow, and as they have done from the beginning to the present moment, they took it. As the Semites saw it (and it is of course their version of the story that we have in Genesis), the tiller of the soil Cain was watering his fields with the blood of Abel the herder.

That the version we have is the Semitic version explains the central mystery of the story, which is why God rejected Cain’s gift but accepted Abel’s. Naturally, this is the way the Semites would see it. In essence, the story says, “God is on our side. God loves us and the way we live but hates the tillers of the soil and the way they live.”

With these provisional understandings in place, I was ready to offer a theory about the first part of the story, the story of Adam’s Fall. What the Semitic authors knew was only the present fact that their brothers from the north were encroaching on them in a murderous way. They hadn’t been physically present in the Fertile Crescent to witness the actual birth of agriculture; this was an event that may have occurred hundreds of years earlier, perhaps even thousands of years earlier. All that was clear to them was that some strange development had saddled their brothers to the north with a laborious lifestyle and had turned them into murderers, and they could only suppose that this development was a catastrophe of some kind.

What they observed about their brothers to the north was this peculiarity: they seemed to have the strange idea that they knew how to run the world as well as God. This is what marks them as our cultural ancestors. As we go about our business of running the world, we have no doubt that we’re doing as good a job as God, if not better. Obviously God put a lot of creatures in the world that are superfluous and even baneful, and we’re quite at liberty to get rid of them. We know where the rivers should run, where the swamps should be drained, where the forests should be razed, where the mountains should be leveled, where the plains should be scoured, where the rain should fall. To us, it’s perfectly obvious that we have this knowledge.

In fact, to the authors of the stories in Genesis, it looked as if their brothers to the north had the bizarre idea that they had eaten at God’s own tree of wisdom and had gained the very knowledge that God uses to rule the world. And what knowledge is this? It is a knowledge that only God is competent to use, the knowledge that every single action that he might take – no matter what it is, no matter how large or small – is good for one but evil for another. If a fox goes out to stalk a pheasant, it’s in the hands of God whether she will catch the pheasant or the pheasant will escape. If God gives the pheasant to the fox, then this is good for the fox but evil for the pheasant. If God allows the pheasant to escape, then this is good for the pheasant but evil for the fox. There is no outcome that is good for both. The same is true in every area of the world’s governance. If God allows an early thaw and the valley is flooded, then this is good for some but evil for others. If God holds back the thaw then this too will be good for some but evil for others.

Decisions of this kind are clearly at the very root of what it means to rule the world, and the wisdom to make them cannot possibly belong to any mere creature, like Man, for any creature making such decisions would inevitably say, “Every choice I make will be good for me but evil for all others.” And of course this is precisely how the agriculturalist operates, saying,

If I scour this plain to plant food for myself, then this will be evil for all the creatures that inhabit the plain, but it’ll be good for me. If I raze this forest to plant food for myself, then this will be evil for all the creatures that inhabit the forest, but it’ll be good for me. If I kill off all the predators who might attack my herds or my flocks, then this will be evil for them but good for me.

What the authors of the stories in Genesis perceived was that their brothers to the north had taken into their own hands the rule of the world; they had usurped the role of God. Those who let God run the world and take the food that he has planted for them have an easy life. But those who are not content with the way God runs the world and want to run it themselves must necessarily plant their own food, must necessarily make their living by the sweat of their brow. As this makes plain, agriculture was not the crime itself but rather the result of the crime, the punishment that must inevitably follow such a crime. It was wielding the knowledge of good and evil that had turned their brothers in the north into farmers – and into murderers (for murder comes easy to those who think they know how to run the world better than God).

But these were not the only consequences to be expected from Adam’s act. The fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is harmless to God but deadly to Man. It seemed to the authors of these stories that usurping God’s role in the world would be the very death of Man.

And so it seemed to me when I finally worked all this out in the late 1970s. This investigation of the stories in Genesis was not, for me, an exercise in biblical exegesis. I’d gone looking for a way to understand how in the world we’d brought ourselves face to face with death in such a relatively short period of time – ten thousand years, a mere eye-blink in the lifespan of our species – and had found it in an ancient story that we long ago adopted as our own and that remained stubbornly mysterious to us as long as we insisted on reading it as if it were our own. When examined from a point of view not our own, however, it ceased to be mysterious and delivered up a meaning that not only would have made sense to a beleaguered herding people seven or eight thousand years ago but that would also make sense to the beleaguered people of the late twentieth century.

As far as I was concerned, the authors of this story had gotten it right. In spite of the terrible mess we’ve made of it, we do think we can run the world, and if we continue to think this, it is going to be the death of us.

In case it isn’t evident, I should add that my reading of Genesis is, of course, only a theory. This is what creationists say of evolution, that it’s “only a theory, it hasn’t been proved,” as though this in itself is grounds for dismissal. This misrepresents the point of formulating a theory, which is to make sense of the evidence. So far, Darwin’s theory remains the best way we’ve found to make sense of the evidence, and my own theory has to be evaluated in the same way. Does it make sense of the evidence – the stories themselves – and does it make more sense than any other theory?

But solving this particular riddle only began to alleviate the pressure I felt for answers that were not being looked for at any level of our culture. The philosophical and theological foundations of our culture were laid down by people who confidently believed that Man had been born an agriculturalist and civilization builder. These things were as instinctive to him as predation is to lions or hiving is to bees. This meant that, to find and date Man’s birth, one had only to look for the beginnings of agriculture and civilization, and these were obviously not very far back in time.

When in 1650 Irish theologian James Ussher announced the date of creation as 23 October 4004 B.C.E., no one laughed or scoffed, or if they did, it was because of the absurd exactitude of the date, not because the date was absurdly recent. In fact, 4004 B.C.E. is quite a serviceable date for the beginning of what we would recognize as civilization. This being the case, it’s hardly surprising that, for people who took it for granted that Man began building civilization almost as soon as he was created, 4004 B.C.E. would seem like a perfectly reasonable date for his creation.

But all this was soon to change. By the middle of the nineteenth century the accumulated evidence of many new sciences had pushed nearly every date in sight back by many orders of magnitude. The universe and the Earth were not thousands of years old, they were billions of years old. The human past extended back millions of years beyond the appearance of agriculture and the birth of civilization. Only those who clung to a very literal reading of the biblical creation story rejected the evidence; they saw it as a hoax perpetrated on us either by the devil (to confound us) or by God (to test our faith). For those who accept the evidence of science, however, the notion that Man had been born an agriculturalist and civilization builder had been rendered totally untenable. He had very definitely not been born either one.

This meant that the philosophical and theological foundations of our culture had been laid by people with a profoundly erroneous understanding of our nature, our origins, and our history. It was therefore urgently important to reexamine these foundations and if necessary to rebuild them from the ground up. Except, of course, that no one at all thought this was urgently important – or even slightly important. So human history extended millions of years back beyond the birth of agriculture. Who cares? No one in the ranks of philosophers or theologians felt the sort of pressure that had moved Darwin to go beyond mere acceptance of the fact. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin managed to look at the facts and conclude that the phenomenon of Man was still the central event in cosmic history, so the foundations were intact. But then he had a vested interest in preserving those foundations. Even so, his superiors told him in no uncertain terms to leave the matter alone.

In the last century we gained an understanding of the human story that made nonsense of everything we’d been telling ourselves for upwards of three thousand years, but our settled understandings remained completely unshaken. So what that Man had not been born an agriculturalist and a civilization builder? He was certainly born to become an agriculturalist and a civilization builder. It was beyond question that this was our foreordained destiny, and the way we live is the way humans were meant to live from the beginning of time. And indeed we must go on living this way – even if it kills us.

Facts that were indisputable to all but biblical literalists had radically repositioned us not only in the physical universe but in the history of our own species. That we had been repositioned was all but universally acknowledged, but no one felt any pressure to develop a theory that would make sense of the fact, the way Darwin had made sense of the fact of evolution. I did.

In Ishmael I made the point that the conflict between the emblematic figures Cain and Abel didn’t end six or eight thousand years ago in the Near East. Cain the tiller of the soil has carried his knife with him to every corner of the world, watering his fields with the blood of tribal peoples wherever he found them. He arrived here in 1492 and over the next three centuries watered his fields with the blood of millions of Native Americans. Today, he’s down there in Brazil, knife poised over the few remaining aboriginals in the heart of that country.

I sent a copy of the book to a friend who, by chance, is a historian. He came back to me with a challenge: How do you know that humans were living tribally 10,000 years ago? This is an entirely valid question, which I answered this way: How do you know that wolves were living in packs 10,000 years ago? That whales were living in pods 10,000 years ago? That geese were living in flocks 10,000 years ago? That baboons were living in troops 10,000 years ago? That bison were living in herds 10,000 years ago? That bees were living in hives 10,000 years ago? Well, of course you don’t, and you can’t. Social organizations – and that’s what we’re talking about here – leave no fossils. In the total absence of contrary evidence, however, it’s entirely legitimate to assume that wolves, whales, geese, baboons, bison, and bees did not just recently begin living in packs, pods, flocks, troops, herds, and hives. It’s legitimate for much the same reason that it’s legitimate to assume that the universe did not just recently begin expanding. It’s perfectly conceivable – but not at all credible – that the universe just began expanding in the year 1776.

Everything we’re able to observe about the world and the universe indicates that things that work don’t capriciously change the way they work. It would be absurd to suppose that wolves originally evolved in hives but then capriciously began living in packs instead, that bees originally evolved in troops but then capriciously began living in hives instead. On the contrary, the only thing that makes sense is to assume that the reason we see wolves living in packs today is that they evolved in packs, that the reason we see bees living in hives today is that they evolved in hives. It’s self-evident that no species emerges by failing. Every species emerges by succeeding, and natural selection rewards success with stability and longevity. This is why we must assume that hiving for bees represents the success that allowed bees to emerge as a species in the first place.

In the fifteenth century, for the first time, we began systematically exploring the territory beyond the civilized world, and everywhere we went we found people living in tribes – in every region of every continent. We found the occasional civilization as well, of course, but again, wherever we did not find civilization, we found people living in tribes, and there was no doubt in our minds that this social organization predated our own – was more “primitive” than our own.

The tribe among aboriginal peoples is as universal as the flock among geese, and I doubt if any anthropologist questions that it was humanity’s original social organization. We didn’t evolve in troops or hordes or bands. Rather, we evolved in a social organization that was peculiarly human, that was uniquely successful for culture-bearers. It’s as reasonable to assume that we evolved as tribal beings as it is to assume that bees evolved as hiving beings. The tribe was successful for humans, which is why it was still universally in place throughout the world three million years later. That it was successful doesn’t, by the way, mean it was invulnerable. If we were to explode a hydrogen bomb in the interior of Brazil, we would wipe out hundreds of thousands of species totally, but it would hardly be reasonable to conclude that these species were unsuccessful because they couldn’t survive a nuclear explosion.

Our first look into the human past presents us with a resounding challenge to the notion that the way we live was the way humans were somehow meant to live from the beginning of time. We can live in this hierarchical organization called civilization, just as lions can live in captivity, but saying that this was our inescapable destiny is not much more sensible than saying that the zoo was the inescapable destiny of lions. The tribal organization was natural selection’s gift to humanity in the same way that the flock was natural selection’s gift to geese.

The elemental glue that holds any tribe together is tribal law. Though this is easy to say, it’s less easy to understand, because the operation of tribal law is entirely different from the operation of our law. Prohibition is the essence of our law, but the essence of tribal law is remedy. Misbehavior isn’t outlawed in any tribe. Rather, tribal law prescribes what must happen in order to minimize the effect of misbehavior and to produce a situation in which everyone feels that they’ve been made as whole as possible. Members of the tribe view their laws as inherently friendly to them, invariably geared to make things better for them, collectively and individually, never worse. For us, of course, the law is an enemy. Collectively, perhaps, it’s possible for us to view the law as society’s friend, but for each of us individually, the law is an enemy always poised to pounce on us. This doesn’t have to be pointed out to anyone who happens to belong to a racial or ethnic group that’s subject to police profiling. But it’s true for all of us to a degree. A momentary loss of control or lapse in judgment, a stupid action taken in panic, even an innocent gesture taken the wrong way can put you behind bars.

In The Story of B I described in detail how adultery is handled among the Alawa of Australia. If you have the misfortune to fall in love with another man’s wife or another woman’s husband, the law doesn’t say, “This is prohibited and may not go forward.” It says, “If you want your love to go forward, here’s what you must do to make things right with all parties and to see to it that marriage isn’t cheapened in the eyes of our children.” It’s quite an elaborate process, but it works remarkably well. What makes it even more remarkable is that the process was not worked out in any legislature or by any committee. It’s another gift of natural selection. Over countless generations of testing, no better way of handling adultery has been found or even conceivably could be found, because – behold! – it works! It does just what the Alawa want it to do, and no one tries to evade it. Even adulterers don’t try to evade it – that’s how beautifully it works.

Some tribes live under laws that seem grotesque to us, but they don’t ask us to live under them. Those laws work for them – or they wouldn’t be in place. No tribe has ever been found where the people hate their tribal laws. Doubtless there have been tribes where people came to be dissatisfied with their laws, but if so, those tribes have disappeared. In a very real sense, dysfunctional tribes are eliminated by natural selection in the same way dysfunctional species are.

One of the virtues of tribal law is that it presupposes that people are just the way we know they are: generally wise, kind, generous, and well intentioned but perfectly capable of being foolish, unruly, moody, cantankerous, selfish, greedy, violent, stupid, bad-tempered, sneaky, lustful, treacherous, careless, vindictive, neglectful, petty, and all sorts of other unpleasant things. Tribal law doesn’t punish people for their shortcomings, as our law does. Rather, it makes the management of their shortcomings an easy and ordinary part of life, which is why the tribe has worked so well for so long.

But during the developmental period of our hierarchical civilization, all this changed very dramatically. Tribal peoples began to come together in larger and larger associations, and one of the casualties of this process was tribal law. If you take the Alawa of Australia and put them together with the Gebusi of New Guinea, the Bushmen of the Kalahari, and the Yanomami of Brazil, they are very literally not going to know how to live. None of these tribes is going to embrace the laws of the others, which may not only be unknown to them but also be incomprehensible to them. How then are they going to handle mischief that occurs among them? The Gebusi way or the Yanomami way? The Alawa way or the Bushman way? Multiply this by a hundred, and you’ll have a fair approximation of where people stood in the early millennia of our own cultural development in the Near East.

When you gather up a hundred tribes and expect them to work and live together, tribal law becomes inapplicable and useless. But of course the people in this amalgam are the same as they always were: capable of being foolish, moody, cantankerous, selfish, greedy, violent, stupid, bad-tempered, and all the rest. In the tribal situation, this was no problem, because tribal law was designed for people like this. But all the tribal ways of handling these ordinary human tendencies had been expunged in our burgeoning civilization. A new way of handling them had to be invented – and I stress the word invented. There was no received, tested way of handling the mischief people were capable of. Our cultural ancestors had to make something up, and what they made up were lists of prohibited behavior.

Very understandably, they began with the big ones. They weren’t going to prohibit moodiness or selfishness. They prohibited things like murder, assault, and theft. Of course we don’t know what the lists were like until the dawn of literacy, but you can be sure they were in place, because it’s hardly plausible that we murdered, robbed, and thieved with impunity for five or six thousand years until Hammurabi finally noticed that these were rather disruptive activities.

When the Israelites escaped from Egypt in the thirteenth century B.C.E., they were literally a lawless horde, because of course they’d left the Egyptian list of prohibitions behind. They needed their own list of prohibitions, which God in his thoughtful way provided – the famous ten. But of course ten didn’t do it. Hundreds more followed.

No number has ever done it for us. Not ten, not a hundred, not a thousand, not ten thousand, not a hundred thousand. I have no idea how long the list is by now, but I suspect it runs into the millions, and every single year we pay our legislators to come up with more. But no matter how many prohibitions we come up with, they never do the trick, because no prohibited behavior has ever been eliminated by passing a law against it. Every time someone is sent to prison or executed, this is said to be “sending a message” to miscreants, but for some strange reason the message never arrives, year after year, generation after generation, century after century. Naturally, we consider this to be a very advanced system.

No tribal people has ever been found that claimed not to know how to live. On the contrary, anthropologists find them to be completely confident that they know how to live. But with the disappearance of tribal law among us, people began to be acutely aware of not knowing how to live. A new class of specialists came to be in demand, their specialty being the annunciation of how people are supposed to live. These specialists we call prophets.

Naturally it takes special qualifications to be a prophet. You must by definition know something the rest of us don’t know, something the rest of us are clearly unable to know. This means you must have a source of information that is beyond normal reach – or else what good would it be? A transcendent vision will do, as in the case of Siddhartha Gautama. A vision led Joseph Smith to the hidden scriptures known as the Book of Mormon. A dream will do, provided it comes from God. But best of all, of course, is direct, personal, unmediated communication with God. The most persuasive and most highly valued prophets, the ones that are worth dying for and killing for, have the word directly from God.

But isn’t it true (people sometimes ask) that tribal peoples have claimed to have prophets as well? Yes, absolutely, but only when their tribal culture has been destroyed by contact with us; they no longer know how to live and so need the services of a prophet. One of the most famous of these was Wovoka, to whom the means of salvation for his people were revealed in a series of dreams or visions; his Ghost Dance religion would defeat the white man and restore the land to the natives of America. Although some tribal peoples attribute their laws to culture heroes in the distant past, that’s all it is, an attribution, rather like the attribution of fire to Prometheus. They don’t consult these heroes about how to live (the way we consult our prophets) any more than the Greeks consulted Prometheus about how to start a fire. They don’t have to consult them, because they themselves know how to live. The knowledge is in them, not in some remote and inaccessible being.

The appearance of religions based on prophetic revelations is unique to our culture. We alone in the history of all humanity needed such religions. We still need them (and new ones are being created every day), because we still profoundly feel that we don’t know how to live. Our religions are the peculiar creation of a bereft people. Yet we don’t doubt for a moment that they are the religions of humanity itself.

This belief was not an unreasonable one when it first took root among us. Having long since forgotten that humanity was here long before we came along, we assumed that we were humanity itself and that our history was human history itself. We imagined that humanity had been in existence for just a few thousand years – and that God had been in communication with us from the beginning. So why wouldn’t our religions be the religions of humanity itself?

When it became known that humanity was millions of years older than we are, no one thought it odd that God had remained aloof from the thousands of generations that had come before us. After all, these were mere savages, unworthy of his attention. The philosophers and theologians of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries weren’t troubled by the fact that God disdained to reveal himself until we came along. The fact alone was enough for them, and they felt no pressure to develop a theory to make sense of it. For Christians, it had long been accepted that Christianity was humanity’s religion (which is why all of humanity had to be converted to it, of course). It was an effortless step for thinkers like Teilhard de Chardin and Matthew Fox to promote Christ from humanity’s Christ to the Cosmic Christ.

On examination of the historical record, however, it seemed to me that there once was a religion that could plausibly be called the religion of humanity. It was humanity’s first religion and its only universal religion, found wherever humans were found, and it was plausible to suppose that it had been in place for tens of thousands of years. Christian missionaries encountered it wherever they went, and piously set about destroying it. By now it has been all but stamped out either by missionary efforts or more simply by exterminating its adherents. If I am the first to nominate it the most reasonable candidate to stand as the religion of humanity, I certainly take no pride in this, since it’s been in plain sight to us for hundreds of years.

Of course it isn’t accounted a “real” religion, since it isn’t one of ours. It’s just a sort of half-baked “prereligion.” How could it be anything else, since it emerged long before God decided humans were worth talking to? It wasn’t revealed by any accredited prophet, has no dogma, no evident theology or doctrine, no liturgy, and produces no interesting heresies or schisms. Worst of all, as far as I know, no one has ever killed for it or died for it – and what sort of religion is that? Considering all this, it’s actually remarkable that we even have a name for it.

The religion I’m talking about is, of course, animism. The name is our invention, derived from the Latin word for soul or spirit. It came to be applied to the religious notions of primitive peoples in the 1860s and 1870s. An early definition was supplied by Sir Edward Tyler in his book Primitive Culture:

Animism is the doctrine which places the sources of mental and even physical life in an energy independent of, or at least distinct from, the body. From the point of view of the history of religions, the term is taken, in the wider sense, to denote the belief in the existence of spiritual beings, some attached to bodies of which they constitute the real personality (souls), others without necessary connection with a determinate body (spirits) (Tyler in Anderson 1950: 9).

I frankly haven’t any idea what that means, and I doubt if you could find anyone to explain it to you in the jungles of Brazil or New Guinea. When that definition was cobbled together, missionary reports were pretty thick on the ground, but objective anthropological field studies were as yet nonexistent. After decades of trying to understand what so-called primitive people were trying to tell us about their lives and their vision of humanity’s place in the world, I concluded that a very simple worldview was at the foundation of everything they were saying: The world is a sacred place, and humanity belongs in such a world.

It’s simple but also deceptively simple. This can best be seen if we contrast it with the worldview at the foundation of what our own religions tell us. In the worldview of our religions, the world is anything but a sacred place. For Christians, it’s merely a place of testing and has no intrinsic value; it’s revealingly said that Satan is the Prince of the World. For Buddhists the world is a place where suffering is inevitable. If I oversimplify, my object is not to misrepresent but only to clarify the general difference between the animist worldview and the worldviews of our culture’s religions.

For Christians, the world is not where humans belong; it’s not our true home, it’s just a sort of waiting room where we pass the time before moving on to our true home, which is heaven. For Buddhists, the world is another kind of waiting room, which we visit again and again in a repeating cycle of death and rebirth until we finally attain liberation in the state of nirvana. For Christians, if the world were a sacred place, we wouldn’t belong in it, because we’re all sinners; God didn’t send his onlybegotten son to make us worthy of living in a sacred world but to make us worthy of living in heaven. For Buddhists, if the world were a sacred place, then why would we hope to escape it? If the world were a sacred place, then would we not rather welcome the repeating cycle of death and rebirth?

From the animist point of view, humans belong in a sacred place because they themselves are sacred. Not sacred in a special way, not more sacred than anything else, but merely as sacred as anything else – as sacred as bison or salmon or crows or crickets or bears or sunflowers.

I sometimes encounter those who resent the idea that our ancestors may have gotten in ahead of us, may have possessed a more sublime vision of the world and humanity’s place in it than any of ours. They’ll ask, “Well, isn’t this just paganism?” or “Isn’t this just pantheism?” Meaning, didn’t we come up with the same thing? I quarrel with no one’s answer to this question, but my own answer is no. Paganism, derived from the Latin word for country- dweller, is a farmer’s religion and developed from farmers’ concerns for the fertility of their land and animals, spawning one god after another to look after one thing after another when appropriately compensated through one kind of a sacrifice or another. If animism were kin to paganism, I’d expect to see it producing similar results, but

I’ve never done so. Varying widely in its details from people to people, animism doesn’t automatically posit the existence of one God or many gods or any gods at all. Pantheism declares not only that a specifically singular God exists but that everything is God. If anthropological studies of them are to be trusted, tribal animists have no taste for such dogmatic speculations about the nature of God, so I see no grounds for equating animism with pantheism.

The religions of our culture – the so-called Major Religions – are very much ours (and not humanity’s), because they answer our particular needs, providing us with ways to rationalize the immutable condition of inequity we experience. Why do a few of us enjoy lives of wealth, power, ease, and luxury while the masses endure lives of poverty, helplessness, toil, and squalor?

Different rationales for this condition developed in the East and West. In the East, under the theory of karma, one’s sins and virtues are punished or rewarded in this and subsequent lives; thus if you’re born to the life of an untouchable in Bhaktapur, India, where you can never hope to rise to any occupation above cleaning latrines, you have no one to blame but yourself. You have no grounds to envy or hate the Brahmans who shun and despise you; their life of felicity and leisure is only what they deserve, just as your life of poverty and misery is only what you deserve. In this way the arrangement of people into high, middle, and low classes is shown to be justice made manifest in a divinely ordered universe. Buddhism may be seen as offering relief from this rigid posture of resignation to one’s lot. Buddha assured his followers that the poor and downtrodden are (or ultimately will be) better off than the rich and powerful, who will find it almost impossible to attain salvation. The poor can live most happily, Buddha said, possessing nothing and living on joy alone, like the radiant gods.

In the West a different rationale was offered by the religions of the Abrahamic tradition – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The meek (that is, the suffering poor) will inherit the Earth, Jesus said, and the kingdom of God will turn the hierarchy upside down; the kingdom of God will belong to the poor, not to the rich, and rulers and ruled will change places, making the first last and the last first. Jesus and Buddha agree that, contrary to appearances, riches don’t make people happy. Rather, says Buddha, riches just make them greedy. And the poor shouldn’t envy the rich their treasures, which are always subject to being stolen by thieves or eaten up by moths and rust; rather, Jesus says, they should accumulate incorruptible treasures in heaven.

Humanity lived for three or four million years without needing rationales like these, since in the tribal organization – notably nonhierarchical – when times are bad all suffer alike, and when times are good all flourish alike. For two hundred thousand generations of our species, religions like ours not only didn’t exist, they would also have been superfluous and incomprehensible.

Daniel Quinn

Further Reading

Anderson, J.N.D., ed. The World’s Religions. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1950.

Deloria, Jr., Vine. God Is Red: A Native View of Religion.

New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1973.

Farb, Peter. Man’s Rise to Civilization as Shown by the Indians of North America from Primeval Times to the Coming of the Industrial State. New York: E.P. Dutton

& Co., Inc., 1968.

Mowat, Farley. People of the Deer. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1951, 1952.

Quinn, Daniel. The Story of B. New York: Bantam Books, 1996.

Quinn, Daniel. Ishmael. New York: Bantam Books, 1992.

Waipuldanya, with Douglas Lockwood. I, the Aboriginal.

Cleveland: The World Publishing Company, 1962.

See also: Anarchism; Anarcho-Primitivism and the Bible; Animism; Animism – A Contemporary Perspective; Bioregionalism and the North American Bioregional Congress; Ecology and Religion; Evolutionary Biology, Religion, and Stewardship; Fall, The; Fox, Matthew; Ghost Dance; Magic, Animism, and the Shaman’s Craft; Paganism – A Jewish Perspective; Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre.

Anishnabeg Culture

The Algonkian-speaking Anishnabeg (meaning “human beings”) of the Great Lakes region of North America includes speakers of the Odawa (Ottawa), Ojibwe (Chippewa) and Potawatomi dialects, now known among themselves as the Three Fires, as well as the Algonquins, to their east. Sharing major features of their religion, language and culture are the Cree who live to their north and west, and the various native peoples who live north and south of the St. Lawrence River, as well as Labrador and Newfoundland; more distantly related are the Pikuni (Blackfoot, Blood), who live east of the northern Rockies.

The Anishnabe reserves (Canada) and reservations (United States) are now located in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Manitoba and Ontario. Their migration myth speaks of moving from the Atlantic coast along the St. Lawrence River to the Great Lakes. In pre-contact times, the Anishnabeg lived not only in the above areas but along the Atlantic seaboard and the Midwest (Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky) of the present-day United States. In the latter areas, they practiced horticulture and lived in settlements.

Before the effects of contact with Europeans, the Great Lakes Anishnabeg lived a semi-nomadic huntinggathering lifestyle, traveling by canoe and snowshoe over an established yearly round; for example, traveling to maple forests in early spring when the sap runs and particular lakes in early fall when the “wild rice” ripens. Many traded with more settled peoples, such as the Iroquoianspeaking Wyandot (Hurons), exchanging dried meat and hides for corn and tobacco. Some carried out small-scale horticulture on their own, where the soil and climate was suitable. Some mined copper in shallow pits. Hence, they were familiar not only with towns, but with urban, mercantile centers, such as Cahokia, across the Mississippi from present-day St. Louis, long before Europeans arrived on the scene.

For these people, as hunting-gathering cultures everywhere, “religion,” “spirituality” and “nature” are meaningless terms, for each term would include every aspect of their lives; hence, these words do not denote anything distinguishable, in and of themselves. It is impossible for modern humans to fully appreciate what it meant to live in a situation where everything perceivable is undomesticated nature and every facet of nature is individually numinous. Hence, virtually everything observed or done involved a spiritual, ritual interaction with a manido (spirit/deity); all one’s neighbors shared the same understanding; and one’s language reflected these understandings in nuanced, complex ways. Let us, however, attempt to generalize from the contemporary hermeneutic as to how we humans understood the environment as hunter-gatherers.

The world around one – sun, moon, stars, Earth, rivers and lakes, animals, fish, trees, plants, stones (those that are animate), etc. – consists of numinous relatives; we live amidst the divine. These relatives are all more powerful than humans, for humans depend on them for life, but they do not need humans to survive. We need these relations to sacrifice themselves for the many things we require: branches and bark for shelter (wigwams), canoes, baskets and firewood; skin, flesh, bones and sinews for clothing, food, tools and thread; berries, seeds (wild grains), sap and tubers for food, medicine, glue and waterproofing. We encourage our relatives to give themselves to us for these needs by crying to them, asking them to pity us and give us their lives so we may live; in turn, we reciprocate by giving them symbolic gifts, especially tobacco, by honoring them through rituals, by always speaking to them respectfully, and by never wasting their precious gifts. For if we do not, they may not listen to us again or may not come back to life so that they can again sacrifice themselves for our needs.

Humans are so weak and pitiable that not only do we need the gifts of spirits to live, we also need a special, personal relationship with one or more manido in order to carry out our functions and for protection from assorted dangers. We are born into a clan, and the clan dodem (tutelary spirit, animal or plant) provides a generalized connection to the spirit realm but not a personal one. Hence, elders with known powerful, spiritual connections are asked to dream a name by the parents of an infant. These names provide protection to the children until they are old enough to begin creating their own connections. This is done by vision-questing through fasting, for every human must have a special relationship with a manido in order to live.

Children are encouraged, starting with a fast from dawn to dusk, to seek visionary experiences with the numinous, usually theriomorphic spirits (spirits in animal form). Every animal we encounter as we walk through woods and meadows, or paddle on lakes and rivers, is simultaneously an animal and a spirit. On each encounter, it is the animal who chooses in which mode she or he will relate to us; hence, we must always treat every meeting with the greatest respect. Through fasting, we encourage particular spirits to come and speak to us, to offer their powers to aid us in our supporting our family and band, to be a spiritual ally against those who might use their powers to attack us and our kin, even to be a friend. Fasting periods are increased until by adolescence, fasts are of four days or longer duration. Fasting means no food, no water, no sleep, and paying constant attention to our surroundings for those who may come. The major fast for females is at their menarche; for males, it is during puberty. But fasting continues throughout one’s life, whenever there is need. For females, each cycle of the moon involves an intimate relationship with Earth and Moon, when the body is renewed and purified. This lessens the need for fasting in order to encounter the spirit realm as compared to males. Other means of communicating with the spirit realm are through lucid dreaming and the use of the Spirit Lodge (called “sweat lodge” by Euroamericans).

Some people develop relationships with the most powerful and dangerous spirits, such as Thunder or the terrible underwater being we dare not name, and can use these relationships to help other individuals or the community as a whole. There are four different types of experts with specific spiritual talents in these regards. The most powerful perform the “shaking tent” ritual, in which the spirits come and speak with one so all can hear.

The above way of life became disrupted by the earliest contacts with Europeans. These strangers brought diseases for which the people had no immunity and the majority died in repeated waves of epidemics: measles, smallpox, even the common cold. The second factor was the fur trade.

The fur trade was developed mutually, and native peoples saw it as advantageous. For, at first, easily obtainable furs from animals hitherto only occasionally hunted, native people received iron tools, brass pots and firearms.

But under the pressure of the fur trade, the beaver disappeared over much of its traditional area. Peoples of similar cultures allied together and struggled to gain trading monopolies over the disappearing beaver. Warfare replaced raiding, whose primary purpose was to exhibit masculine values, in order to take over large trading and trapping areas. The Iroquoian-speaking Haudenosaunee amalgamated into the Five (later Six) Nations, and armed by the British, drove the Anishnabeg from their traditional areas to their north and west. The Anishnabeg, armed by the French, moved west and pushed Souian-speaking peoples onto the Plains where they found the Spanishintroduced horse. The Anishnabeg returned and pushed the Six Nations south of the Great Lakes, where they remained until, siding with the British during the American Revolution, many fled into Canada.

Thus the fur trade had a major effect on relationships, both human and spiritual. Reliance on trading furs for flour, sugar, blankets and pots – all previously supplied by women through gathering and manufacture from bark and hides – led to a lessening of the economic importance of females. The trapping of beaver, requiring exclusive use of large territories by trappers, usually males, let to the concept of exclusive trapping rights by clans. Both transitions led to the bilateral clans becoming patrilineal. The use of firearms, primarily for warfare, led to a reliance on them for hunting, even though the bow was more practical in the wooded terrain, requiring the trapping of ever more beaver for guns and powder. Animals were becoming a commodity, leading to the desacralization of certain species, as well as dependency, not on the manido, but on Europeans. Finally, a taste developed for traded whisky, for which there were no cultural controls, unlike the native cultures in the southern part of North America, where alcohol was used ritually.

The success of the American colonists against the British led to a massive migration of Euro-Americans westward, and the Scottish Highland clearances, followed by the Irish potato famine, led to considerable migration of Europeans into the still British-held north. In both the United States and Canada, the Anishnabeg were forced onto ever-shrinking pieces of land, which the respective governments put under the control of Christian missionaries. Anishnabe children were forcibly removed from their parents and communities and placed in residential schools where they were physically brutalized for speaking their language or continuing any traditional customs, when they did not die of disease. Thus began an official policy of cultural genocide, whose purpose was to destroy native culture and religion, if not the native peoples themselves.

The traditional rituals and relationships with the spirit realm of nature were outlawed, and these laws were enforced by the military (U.S.) and police (Canada). The replacement of traditional spirituality by a simplistic

Christianity emphasizing the sinfulness of native people due to their “race,” and the destruction of the traditional economy based on nature by missionary-controlled welfare led to cultural ennui, to alcoholism, despair, suicide, and the use of relationships with manido for sorcery (the use of spiritual power against one’s own neighbors and community for personal gain). The relationship between religion and nature become extremely attenuated; the end of traditional rituals in the early twentieth century, especially vision-questing, meant that most individuals no longer had an intimate relationship with the numinous.

Traditional religion did continue, but in two ways. On the one hand, the original teachings and rituals went underground, to resurface in the 1970s. On the other hand, generations of simplistic Christian missionary teachings led to a focus on the first part of Genesis, misogynistically interpreted, and the Pater Noster (“Our Father”) prayer. A revised form of traditional religion, reinterpreted through the missionary lens, arose. Anthropologists studying these cultures passed on to the Anishnabeg Russian scholars’ misunderstandings of Siberian shamanism as the correct way to understand Anishnabe concepts.

Hence, the understanding of the numinous as a multiplicity of natural spirits was overlaid by the assumed superiority of monotheism, and prayers in English were made to a male “Creator” on the model of Genesis or “Our Father,” while in the native language, the reference was made to Grandfather alone, taken from the primal generative couple of Grandmother Sky and Grandmother Earth. But these patrifocal utterances were contradicted by the traditional offerings of tobacco to Sky, Earth and the Four Directions equally. Anthropologists convinced many that it was not all of nature that was numinous, but each species had a male “Master” that alone was divine; this in a culture that had been completely egalitarian with no notion of a chief or “master” and understood that the animals on which humans relied for survival were female, as nurturing and sustenance comes from the female domain. Anthropologists also taught that individuals did not have their own relationships with the spirit realm, but only special individuals to be called by the Tungistic word, “shaman.” Finally, in the late 1960s, the romantic “back to Earth” movement of the dominant culture provided a new term and concept for the female numinous Earth: “Mother Earth.” This was an idealized abstraction of the Earth mother that had little reality to that numinous being, Grandmother Earth, on and by which we live, with whom we can have a vital, intimate relationship.

The actual tradition which went underground began to resurface with the formation of the American Indian Movement (AIM) in the late 1960s. Begun by Anishnabeg in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area as a force to protect urban natives from racist violence, the youths became connected with traditionalist elders, bypassing their middle-aged parents and Euro-American-recognized political “chiefs,” and began to fast, take part in Spirit Lodges, and, on the Plains, the Thirst Dance (“Sun Dance”). After a phase of militancy which brought the severe plight of native peoples to the public eye, the founding leaders involved themselves with native education and a revitalization of traditional religion.

Among the Anishnabeg, this began with the surfacing of the Midéwiwin, a quasi-institutionalized mode of traditional religion, important in its present form since the earliest days of the fur trade, that suited the modern situation. At first, young people who wished to take up the traditional spiritual life, along with Midéwiwin rituals, were forced by the Christian churches to leave their homes and create communities off the reserves. Slowly, the new traditionalist influence spread and missionaries lost control over the reserves. Non-Midéwiwin traditionalists began to publicly practice healing with natural herbs and their personal relationship with the numinous. Reserves began to gain control over their schools, health centers, police, etc., and the traditional rituals began to be openly practiced.

The Midéwiwin rituals, which hold ceremonial gatherings bringing Anishnabeg together on different reservations four times a year, create a means for urban native people to be again in nature, to fast, participate in Spirit Lodges, and attend four-day initiation and seasonal rituals. Prayers are again addressed, as in the past, to the Grandmothers and Grandfathers, honoring and respecting all aspects of the numinous. In urban areas, the availability of traditional spirituality has provided a foundation for support and health services for natives suffering from alcoholism and other ills of despair. While only a minority of Anishnabeg avail themselves of these opportunities, their numbers continually grow, and with this growth comes a renewed spiritual relationship with nature.

Along with the spiritual plight of the Anishnabeg, the leaders of the revitalized Midéwiwin focused on the contemporary human devastation of Earth, lest Earth take revenge and destroy us. Much of the Midéwiwin’s activities are oriented to education concerning the predicament of our planet, as well as concern and prayers for its recovery during their ceremonials.

Jordan Paper

Further Reading

Benton-Banai, Edward. The Mishomis Book: The Voice of the Ojibway. St. Paul: Indian Country Press, 1979.

Geyshick, Ron. Te Bwe Win (Truth). Toronto: Summerhill Press, 1989.

Paper, Jordan. “ ‘Sweat Lodge’: A Northern Native American Ritual for Communal Shamanic Trance.” Temenos 26 (1990), 85–94.

Paper, Jordan. Offering Smoke: The Sacred Pipe and Native American Religion. Moscow, ID: University of Idaho Press, 1988.

Prown, Jennifer S.H. and Robert Brightman. “The Orders of the Dreamed”: George Nelson on Cree and Northern Ojibwa Religion and Myth. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1988.

See also: American Indians as “First Ecologists”; Haudenosaunee Confederacy; LaDuke, Winona; Mother Earth; Totemism.

Anthropic Principle

The term “Anthropic Principle” refers to two distinct responses – one logical and one metaphysical – to the finding by Western scientific cosmologists that the early universe provided the very conditions necessary for the existence of humankind (Gr: anthropoi). According to the logical response, also known as the Weak Anthropic Principle, these cosmological data simply confirm the obvious, for if the initial conditions had not been consistent with the emergence of human life, we would not have been around to observe them (see Barrow and Tipler). According to the metaphysical response, known as the Strong Anthropic Principle, the cosmological data rather provide an occasion for amazement and awe, since they show just how many highly improbable conditions had to pertain simultaneously to make human life possible; when we contemplate this fine-tuning, we may well conclude that the universe has been destined to give rise to us (see Dyson). Because of its teleological character, the Strong Anthropic Principle figures prominently in modern arguments for divine design (see Davies).

Both versions of the Anthropic Principle are inspired by the same scientific data. Cosmologists have shown that although many possible universes would fit Einstein’s equations, very few could support carbon-based life. For such life to emerge, a highly particular set of laws and circumstances must pertain. For example:

If the gravitational constant had been slightly smaller, then stars and planets would not have coalesced; had it been larger, then the universe would have collapsed upon itself.

If the strong nuclear force (which holds nuclei together) had been slightly smaller, then the universe would have contained only the simplest element, hydrogen; had it been larger, then all carbon would have turned into oxygen.

If the weak nuclear force (which causes some nuclei to disintegrate) had been smaller, then no hydrogen could have formed and the universe would have lacked hydrogen-burning stars like our sun, not to mention life-giving water; had it been larger, then supernovae would not have ejected carbon, iron, and oxygen, all essential to life.

If the electromagnetic constant had been smaller, then stars would have burned out too quickly for life to evolve; had it been larger, then stars would not have been hot enough to warm planets sufficiently for carbon-based life.

Some critics of the Strong Anthropic Principle argue that all these conditions, though highly specific, could be the result of chance if enough universes existed to make ours statistically likely. Other critics suggest that, as science progresses, we will likely learn that the seemingly arbitrary laws and circumstances of our universe are in fact necessary. Both chance and necessity are presented as challenges to the idea of cosmic design, especially by an omnipotent divine agent. In response, proponents of the Anthropic Principle typically argue that these critiques do not rule out divine design as a logical possibility – hence the reasonableness of responding to the hospitality of our universe with a sense of awe.

Louke van Wensveen

Further Reading

Barrow, John D. and Frank J. Tipler. The Anthropic Cosmo- logical Principle. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986.

Davies, Paul. God and the New Physics. New York: Simon

& Schuster, 1983.

Dyson, Freeman. Disturbing the Universe. New York: Harper & Row, 1979.


Anthropologists have studied religion since the beginning of the discipline through a succession of three major different theoretical and methodological approaches: ethnological, ethnographic, and ecological. The ethnological approach was developed mainly in England during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and principally by Edward B. Tylor (1832–1917) at Oxford University and James G. Frazer (1851–1941) at Cambridge University. Their method involved extensive and detailed cross-cultural comparisons through library research. Their theoretical framework was unilinear evolutionism in which so-called primitive societies were thought to reflect earlier stages in cultural evolution. Tylor considered animism, which he defined as a belief in spiritual beings, to be the foundation of all religion.

Frazer is famous for his monumental Golden Bough

(1890–1915), a compendium of 12 volumes based on his extensive readings about myth, religion, and magic. His influence was widespread in the academic and public arenas. The abridged version of the Golden Bough, first published in 1922, has never gone out of print. In Totemism and Exogamy (1910) Frazer examined totemism as both a religion and a form of kinship classification that identifies individuals and groups as descendants of some common ancestor in mythic times, often a species of animal or plant. He recognized that totemic species were usually prohibited as food, foreshadowing more recent research on the potential consequences of taboos for environmental conservation.

In Paris, France, the ethnological approach was pursued by sociologist Emile Durkheim (1858–1918) at the Sorbonne and later by philosopher Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908–) at the College of France. Durkheim’s classic study, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1915), drew mainly from the ethnographic record on Australian Aborigines. From an evolutionary perspective he thought that the Australian aboriginal society was the most primitive and thus provided an opportunity to explore the ultimate origin, character, and functions of religion. However, Durkheim rejected any definition of religion in terms of the supernatural (cf. Tylor), and opposed animism and naturism as adequate explanations of religion (cf. Frazer). (Naturism views aspects of nature like clouds, thunder, lightning, or rainbows as the expression of spiritual beings or forces.) Instead, Durkheim viewed religion as a reflection of society and its power over individuals. He distinguished between the sacred and profane, and considered the sacred to be a social construction as in the case of totemism. Also, he thought that religion molds social categories for understanding nature in terms of time, space, cause, substance, soul, and so on.

Lévi-Strauss, more than any other ethnologist, is associated with the development of structuralism, a perspective that emphasizes the analysis of structural relations as the key to scientific understanding. Things assume meaning through their place in a system. His crosscultural analyses seek to reveal the deeper structural unity underlying the surface diversity of cultures, and thereby to discover natural laws of mind and culture. He approaches myth, ritual, and symbol as functioning to mediate and reconcile elemental binary oppositions like nature/culture, animal/human, and natural/supernatural. However, while he often deals with natural phenomena as conceptualized by a culture, he does not do so in any ecological manner.

Accumulating criticisms of cross-cultural comparisons as a basis for armchair theorizing about cultural evolution and universals led an increasing number of anthropologists to turn away from generalizing toward particularizing instead. Thus, Franz Boas (1858–1942) in the

U.S. emphasized culture history (historical particularism), and A.R. Radcliffe-Brown (1881–1955) and Bronislaw

Malinowski (1884–1942) in England emphasized the practical functions of culture in satisfying psychobiological and social needs (functionalism). In this second approach, ethnography, anthropologists especially interested in religion concentrated on developing a detailed description of this component of culture as a system, based on extensive personal field research. For example, Elsie Clews Parsons (1875–1941) published her two-volume book Pueblo Indian Religion (1939) after a quarter of a century of fieldwork. The Pueblos daily interact intimately with the ecosystems in their habitats in Arizona and New Mexico, and this is reflected in much of their religion, as is the case for most indigenous cultures.

In England, Radcliffe-Brown published one of the first monographs on nature religion based on ethnographic fieldwork, The Andaman Islanders (1922). (These islands are located in the east Bay of Bengal as part of the territory of India.) The Andamanese believe in spirits of the dead in the sky, forest, and sea, as well as other spirits in natural phenomena. Andamanese relate these spirits to subsistence, food taboos, ceremonies, and aspects of social structure. Also Edward E. Evans-Pritchard’s (1902–1973) fieldwork with the Nuer of the Sudan in northern Africa during the 1930s exemplified the ethnographic approach. In his classic book, The Nuer (1940), he revealed that their religion is closely connected with their herding economy and society, such as in the ritual sacrifice of cattle to appease spirits during epidemics. The in-depth interpretation of the multiple meanings of religious symbols, behavior, and objects was advanced further in subsequent ethnographic fieldwork in Africa by Victor Turner (1920– 1983) in his The Forests of Symbols (1967), which focused on the sacred tree of the Ndembu of Zambia in southeastern Africa. Mary Douglas (1921–) also contributed to the interpretative perspective in the anthropological study of religion in her Purity and Danger (1966) and Natural Symbols (1969), which included comparative analysis of cultural beliefs about pollution as metaphorical statements about society and nature.

Any relevance of the ethnological and ethnographic approaches for understanding the relationships between religions and nature is an inadvertent result of concentrating on indigenous cultures whose religions are usually nature-oriented. However, by the 1940s, the biological science of ecology was beginning to flourish, and by the 1960s, so was environmentalism. These are among the influences in the emergence of a third approach to the anthropology of religion, one that is explicitly, directly, and systematically ecological. Initially it was developed mainly by Roy Rappaport (1926–1997) and Marvin Harris (1927–2001).

Rappaport’s dissertation fieldwork with the Maring of Papua New Guinea formed the basis of his subsequent book Pigs for the Ancestors: Ritual in the Ecology of a New Guinea People (1967, 1984). This classic work emphasizes the collection of empirical and quantitative data as well as the application of systems theory to examine the functional role of ritual in regulating the relationship between the dynamic fluctuations in human population and natural resources. Rappaport’s subsequent studies are largely theoretical, his collection of essays Ecology, Meaning, and Religion (1979) and his monumental treatise Ritual and Religion in the Making of Humanity (1999).

Harris explicitly and systematically formulated the foundations and principles of cultural materialism and critiqued competing theoretical approaches in his The Rise of Anthropological Theory (1968) and Cultural Materialism: The Struggle for a Science of Culture (1979). The main point of cultural materialism as a scientific research strategy is that much of culture can be explained as practical responses to the problems of everyday survival and maintenance. Harris assigns infrastructure research priority and causal primacy, and emphasizes “etic” and behavior over “emic” and thought. Infrastructure is the product of the interaction of environment, population, technology, and economy – the material foundation of society and culture. Etic refers to a Western scientific approach, and emic to native or folk viewpoints. In a series of ingenious essays Harris attempts to analyze and explain numerous curious cultural puzzles as stemming from the material conditions of existence, including the religious phenomena of Aztec ritual sacrifice, the sacred cow in India, and the Muslim and Jewish prohibition on eating pork. (Also see his Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches: The Riddles of Culture [1974], Cannibals and Kings: The Origins of Culture [1977], and Good to Eat: Riddles of Food and Culture [1985]).

The ecological approaches developed by Rappaport and Harris have been variously followed by several other anthropologists in studying the relationships between religion and nature, including Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff in Amazonian Cosmos (1971) about the Desana of the Colombian Amazon, Barbara G. Meyerhoff in Peyote Hunt (1974) on the Huichol of northern Mexico, Richard Nelson in Make Prayers to the Raven (1983) with the Kutchin foragers in the Alaskan forest, and Stephen Lansing in Priests and Programmers (1991) on Balinese temple priests and crop irrigation. Recent anthologies edited by John Grim (2001) and Darrell Posey (1999) demonstrate how important this ecological approach to religion has become. Nevertheless, only very recently has the study of spiritual ecology, the relationships between religions and nature, started to penetrate textbooks on the anthropology of religion (e.g., Bowie 2000). This may coincide with growing awareness of the importance of religion in helping to resolve ecocrises and the unique role anthropologists may play in providing heuristic cases of sustainable green societies in which religion is pivotal.

Leslie E. Sponsel

Further Reading

Bowie, Fiona. The Anthropology of Religion. Oxford: Blackwell, 2000.

Evans-Pritchard, E.E. Theories of Primitive Religion.

Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965.

Grim, John A., ed. Indigenous Traditions and Ecology: The Interbeing of Cosmology and Community. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001.

Lambek, Michael, ed. A Reader in the Anthropology of Religion. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 2002.

Morris, Brian. Anthropological Studies of Religion: An Introductory Text. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

Pals, Daniel L. Seven Theories of Religion. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Sponsel, Leslie E. “Do Anthropologists Need Religion, and Vice Versa? Adventures and Dangers in Spiritual Ecology.” In Carole Crumley, ed. New Directions in Anthropology and Environment: Intersections. Walnut Creek: AltaMira Press, 2001, 177–200.

See also: Animism; Anthropology as a Souce of Nature Religion; Ecological Anthropology; Ecology and Religion; Rappaport, Roy A.; Religious Studies and Environmental Concern; Ritualizing and Anthropology; Totemism.

Anthropology as a Source of Nature Religion

Except for anthropologists and until recently, most scholars of religion tended to concentrate on the socalled great, major, or world religions, namely Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. Certainly these religions are of great historical, cultural, and political importance and their adherents now comprise the majority of humanity, a result of centuries or more of crosscultural contact and especially missionization and colonial expansion that has often decimated preexisting native religions.

Another perspective, however, is provided by cultural evolution, encompassing the prehistoric as well as historic periods. The antiquity of religion appears to extend back to the time of Neanderthals some 70,000 years ago where archeologists find the earliest evidence of intentional burial with funeral offerings such as red ocher and even flowers as evidence by pollen remains. In contrast, socalled great, major, or world religions are relatively recent, developing within just the last few thousand years. In other words, the real great, major, or world religion of humanity from a cultural evolutionary and/or temporal perspective is Animism, which can be considered “nature religion.” This is the belief that nature includes spirits, sacred forces, and similar extraordinary phenomena.

Most humans throughout time and space have practiced some variety of this nature religion, or what anthropologists generally refer to as Animism (Guthrie 1993;

McFadden 1991). While from historic times until today Animism is known to be common in hunter-gatherer, horticultural, and pastoralist societies, it may be present as well to various degrees in others, including nonindigenous ones. Asians often embrace elements of Animism in their personal religion along with “mainstream” religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, or Islam. In Japan, for instance, Shintoism and Buddhism coexist and often commingle, and Shintoism is a variety of Animism. Neopaganism in contemporary Europe, North America, and elsewhere is a form of nature religion too.

Beyond its prior antiquity and universality, Animism is also important because arguably it is far more natural or ecological than any other religion. White’s (1967) classic essay on the roots of the environmental crisis blamed Christianity, although his line of argument logically encompasses Judaism and Islam as well. These three Abrahamic religions are not very environmentally friendly in the selective interpretations of sacred texts which prevail and tend to oppose spirit against nature, with a rare exception such as St. Francis of Assisi (Lane 1998). While Buddhism, Daoism, Hinduism, and Jainism are arguably potentially far more environmentally friendly than the Abrahamic religions, the Asian countries where the populace practices one or more of the former set of religions all have severe problems of natural resource depletion and environmental degradation as well, although this is often associated with Westernization. Such degradation points to the perennial problem of discrepancies between the religious ideals and actual behaviors. On the other hand, most indigenous societies which pursued Animism were relatively sustainable ecologically, as is obvious given their existence for centuries or even millennia in the same region without causing natural resource depletion and environmental degradation to an irreversible degree. For such societies, interacting with nature is not merely a physical experience or economic enterprise, but an emotional and spiritual path. Most indigenes do not separate the natural and supernatural as distinct domains; instead they view spirit as part of the web of life.

As the Western study of religion developed, including comparative religion, a division of labor emerged in which most scholarship concentrated on Christianity, Judaism, and eventually included Islam and then later the main Asian religions. The remaining religions, mostly varieties of Animism, were largely left to anthropology. This reflects the tendency to divide religions (and societies) into “civilized” (literate) and “primitive” (oral) traditions, anthropology concentrating on the latter albeit not exclusively (e.g., see Eliade). (However, today the qualifiers oral, pagan, primal, primitive, and tribal are avoided by most anthropologists as pejorative). Thus, from a cultural evolutionary and/or temporal perspective, the majority of the students of religion studied the minority religions (Christianity, Judaism, and so on). In contrast, the relative minority of students of religion (anthropologists) studied the majority religion (Animism). Only in recent decades have anthropologists begun also to study religions like Buddhism or Islam.

As a consequence of this academic division of labor, no other Western discipline is more important as a source for understanding about nature religion than anthropology. There are up to about 7000 distinct cultures in the world today, and many others were known and documented within the last couple of centuries before they became extinct. The majority of these cultures have animistic religions. Because of the holistic approach to describing culture as a whole, most ethnographic monographs, descriptions of a particular culture based on personal fieldwork, include at least one chapter on the local religion. Furthermore, there are numerous ethnographies focused mostly on religion, albeit in its social and cultural contexts while emphasizing behavior as well as beliefs. One need only decide which culture or region is of most interest, and then pursue the available literature through standard sources and research procedures, not that these are perfect. (See Lambek 2002: 573–613 for the most recent and extensive bibliography which is indexed by topic and region.)

If one is concerned with the vast ethnographic record of traditional indigenous societies as a source for nature religions, then it is necessary to identify and probe the relationships between religion and environment by reading between the lines. Spiritual ecology, research explicitly focused on the dynamics of these relationships, only emerged in the 1990s. Nevertheless, that does not diminish the unique significance of ethnography as an unparalleled source for learning about nature religions.

Some people think that there are problems with recent phenomena like the New Age and prior spiritual movements which often extract and manipulate a creative eclectic mixture of elements from different religions including native ones. Probably the most serious problem is that this appropriation, and the commercialization that often accompanies it, may be considered by the indigenous adherents to the religion to be exploitative, offensive and even sacrilegious. However, some indigenous shamans or spiritual healers have no problem whatsoever with guiding non-indigenes in their own spiritual journey or vision-quest by way of long-established native cultural traditions and techniques. A related problem is that the rich and complex beliefs, values, rituals, symbols, and other phenomena associated with the indigenous religion may quickly lose their original meanings when extracted from their historical, social, cultural, spiritual, and ecological contexts. Nevertheless, often the ethnographic record can help alleviate this problem to some degree by providing detailed information on indigenous religions and their contexts. Furthermore, it could be argued that, if indigenes can adopt religions like some variety of Catholicism or Protestantism, then surely non-indigenes can adopt indigenous religions provided that they do so faithfully. After all, ideally, religious freedom applies to everyone without any kind of racial or cultural discrimination from anyone. Moreover, significantly some anthropologists themselves have become converts and practitioners of some variety of Animism or shamanism, most notable of all Carlos Castaneda and Michael Harner (see Narby and Huxley 2001).

In conclusion, a major challenge for anthropologists and other academics is to reach beyond basic research to actually apply knowledge and engage in advocacy to help protect indigenous religious freedom and its sacred places as well as the environmentally friendly nature of the spiritual, cultural, and historical ecology of the overwhelming majority of such societies. Also, others can learn from indigenous nature religions to promote their own spirituality as well as more sustainable and green societies of their own. At the same time, it must be realized that, under the pretense of scientific objectivity which sometimes assumes the fanatical extreme of scientism, most anthropologists are limited by approaching religion only intellectually and as non-believers rather than also spiritually. (The outsider and insider each have a different set of advantages and disadvantages in understanding any particular religion, thus some moderates would consider them to be complementary approaches.) Therefore, anthropology cannot be considered the only source for learning about nature religions. Ultimately the primary source must remain the nature religion itself, usually through the community of adherents, or through personal communion with nature and especially at sacred places.

Lambek, Michael, ed. A Reader in the Anthropology of Religion. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 2002.

Lane, Belden C. The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality. New York, NY: Oxford, 1998.

McFadden, Steven. Profiles in Wisdom: Native Elders Speak About the Earth. Santa Fe, NM: Bear & Co., 1991.

Narby, Jeremy and Francis Huxley, eds. Shamans through Time: 500 Years on the Path to Knowledge. New York, NY: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 2001.

Scupin, Raymond, ed. Religion and Culture: An Anthropo- logical Focus. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2000.

Solecki, Ralph S. Shanidar: The First Flower People. New York, NY: Knopf, 1971.

Sponsel, Leslie E. “Do Anthropologists Need Religion, and Vice Versa? Adventures and Dangers in Spiritual Ecology.” In Carole L. Crumley, ed. New Directions in Anthropology and Environment: Intersections. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 177–200.

Swan, James A. Sacred Places: How the Living Earth Seeks Our Friendship. Santa Fe, NM: Bear & Co., 1990.

White, Lynne, Jr. “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis.” Science 155 (1967), 1203–7.

See also: Animism (various); Anthropologists; Castaneda, Carlos; Ecological Anthropology; Ecology and Religion; Evolutionary Biology, Religion, and Stewardship; Harner, Michael – and the Foundation for Shamanic Studies; Noble Savage; Rappaport, Roy A.; Religious Environmentalist Paradigm; Religious Studies and Environmental Concern; Ritualizing and Anthropology; Totemism.

Apocalypticism in Medieval Christianity

Further Reading

Leslie E. Sponsel

According to the book of Genesis, God originally created a harmonious Earth in which everything was good, but,

Albanese, Catherine L. Nature Religion in America from the Algonkian Indians to the New Age. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1990.

Carpo, Richley H. Anthropology of Religion: The Unity and Diversity of Religions. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2002.

Glazier, Stephen D., ed. Anthropology of Religion: A Hand- book. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1999.

Grim, John A., ed. Indigenous Traditions and Ecology: The Interconnections of Cosmology and Community. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001.

Guthrie, Stewart. Faces in the Clouds: A New Theory of Religion. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Klass, Morton. Ordered Universes: Approaches to the Anthropology of Religion. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1995. because of the Fall, God caused enmity between humans, the serpent, and the Earth itself, so that humans would have to earn their food by harsh work from the hostile ground (Gen. 3:14–19). Humans hunt, kill and devour animals because of the Fall. Animals attack, slay and eat each other for the same reason. Until the twentieth century in Europe and America – and still throughout much of the world – farmers put in hard labor to produce small crops and nomadic pastoralists lived in tents so that their animals could find sufficient forage in steppes where there is insufficient rainfall to permit agriculture or continuous grazing of the same pastures. In summary, according to Genesis the world, as humans have experienced it, is the result of sin, which disordered the harmonious relationships that God had originally intended. Some apocalyptic thinkers have envisioned the goal of history to be a “new heaven and a new Earth” in which that original harmony is restored and even improved. In these instances nature has been allotted a significant role in apocalypticism.

Isaiah of Jerusalem, writing in the eighth century B.C.E., envisioned a messiah in whose days wolf and sheep, leopard and kid, lion and calf would live peacefully together (Isa. 11:1–9). Isaiah or a later disciple envisioned the Earth drying up and becoming sick, with only a few inhabitants left, but then God would prepare an immense feast for all the peoples, death would cease to occur and there would never again be sorrow or tears (Isa. 24:4–6, 25:6–8). Another disciple of Isaiah, writing during the discouraging years after the exiles had been allowed to return from Babylon, but had come home to despair rather than glory, summarized the earlier texts about the new heaven and the new Earth in which the redeemed would live in harmony and abundance with all other species (Isa. 65:17–25).

Paul wrote to the Romans that the entire creation had been chained up and made subject to death until that time when God would unveil the coming splendor that would set all of creation free along with the elect (Rom. 8:18–21). John of Patmos envisioned a resurrection of the martyrs who would reign on Earth with Christ for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1–6), and then be replaced by a new heaven and new Earth in the middle of which would be a new Jerusalem, with a tree of life yielding twelve different fruits (Rev. 21:1–22:5).

Two themes emerged from biblical apocalypticism: future harmony between humans and all other species and a transformed Earth that would yield abundant food and drink effortlessly. Both of these themes are expounded in the millennium that the North African Christian Lactantius described in the seventh book of his Divine Institutes (ca. 303–317). Lactantius accepted the notion that history was divided into seven world-weeks, each of which would include a thousand years. The seventh or Sabbath worldweek would begin around the year 500. Nature would bring forth abundant food and drink without human effort and peace would prevail between the different species of animals.

Asceticism, however, was sweeping the Roman World from the second century onward. Neo-Platonism taught its adherents to turn away from the material and sensible world toward the One, the source of all being, that could be known only by the mind. Physicians advised abstinence from sex. Monasticism spread rapidly from Egypt and Syria among Christians. Dualists thought that anything material was actually evil, while Christians believed that the body was inferior to the soul and accepted the resurrection of the body only because it was clearly scriptural. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, (354–430) came to Christianity by way of Neo-Platonism, which satisfied his strongly ascetic bent. Augustine attacked both the worldweek notion and the belief in an earthly millennium. He replaced the world-week with a scheme of seven ages, five of which preceded the birth of Jesus Christ, while the sixth represented the suffering of humans on Earth between Christ and the end of history. The seventh belonged to those souls who had died in Christ and rested in heaven. Augustine spiritualized and individualized the Apocalypse. God had created humans in order to replace the fallen angels with elect, human souls. The City of God was made up of these souls and history would continue until the last one of these had died and been saved. On Earth these elect souls were mingled with the much more numerous reprobate who were the City of Earth and after death the elect rested with God in heaven. Christians should focus themselves as much as possible on spiritual concerns. Material goods hindered spiritual concentration and, therefore, were to be used minimally. Any notion of earthly abundance was repugnant to Augustine. On Earth the reprobate dominated and their greed led to incessant war and strife, which would continue as long as time lasted.

Not all Christians were as ascetic as Augustine. An anonymous fourth-century author composed the Tiburtine Sibyl, which concluded by predicting the coming of an emperor whose name would be Constans and who would reign 112 years. Fruit, wheat and wine would be abundant and cheap during his reign, which would end with the arrival of the Antichrist. The Pseudo-Methodius, actually an anonymous eighth-century author, inspired by the Arab Conquest, took up the notion of a final, all-victorious emperor but omitted any mention of earthly prosperity. Adso, writing in the late tenth century in the Ardennes, transferred the role of messianic final emperor to the Frankish kings, again without the notion of material plenty. All three of these texts were widely circulated in medieval Europe after 1000, especially the latter two.

Monastic authors found Augustine’s thinking congenial. Often they believed implicitly, if not explicitly, that the elect included only monks. Augustine had postponed the end of history into the indefinite future. The Tiburtine Sibyl and similar texts focused primarily on the final generation before the end of time and the second coming.

Reformist apocalyptics applied the concepts and language normally associated with the end of history to the struggle to reform the clergy, a struggle initiated by Pope Leo IX and his successor, Gregory VII in the second half of the eleventh century. Reformists focused on their own contemporary era and the immediate future, not the distant end of time. One of the most prominent and innovative reformists was Hildegard of Bingen (1098– 1179) who in her Sciuias, (1141–1151) followed Augustine, but stated that the Earth had entered the seventh millennium. Reformism appeared strongly in her Book of the Divine Works (1163–1173), where Hildegard predicted that the lay princes would force the clergy to divest themselves of their temporal wealth and to give up simony, causing an era of unsurpassed material abundance, spiritual justice, and peace during which Christians would give up their weapons (Part 3, vision 5, chp. 20). Hildegard’s ideas were spread widely by a selection of key texts chosen by her disciple Gebeno in the thirteenth century, which included the passage on reform of the clergy.

Abbot Joachim of Fiore (1135–1202), another reformist apocalyptic, used natural imagery, especially in the figures, which he drew to illustrate his notion of three historical phases, the last of which placed Augustine’s seventh age within history. Just as the Son came from the Father and the Holy Spirit from both the Father and the Son, so the first phase belonged to the Father, the second predominantly to the Son and secondarily to the Spirit and the third predominantly to the Spirit. The third age had already begun with Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153) and would culminate soon after 1200. In one figure, the three periods are represented by two vines that grow and intertwine to form three circles, in the last of which the entire space is covered with foliage. Joachim, however, was thinking in terms of sweeping clerical and monastic reform accompanied by an unprecedented degree of holiness and spiritual understanding among Christians. The future era of the Holy Spirit would be more spiritual and ascetic than its predecessors. Hence, Joachim nowhere spoke of earthly abundance. Some scholars, however, interpret the era of the Holy Spirit as millennial, but that probably does not imply abundance and earthly prosperity.

Joachimism spread widely between the beginning of the thirteenth century and the middle of the seventeenth century as Marjorie Reeves has shown, but most apocalyptic texts focused on church reform. Thus, the Second Charlemagne prophecy, which was extremely popular in France, predicted the coming of another Charles who would conquer all the enemies of Christ and force all of them to convert.

Exceptions were few. Jean de Roquetaillade (ca. 1310– 1366) believed that the millennium would begin in 1370 and endure for exactly 1000 years. Jean quoted Isaiah 2:2–4 about all the peoples coming to the “mountain of the house of the Lord.” Jean’s primary focus was the conversion of the infidels to Christianity and a long period of peace under total Christian dominance. Roquetaillade, however, did briefly allude to Isaiah 60, which hints at material prosperity. The prophecy of a new David in William Langland’s fourteenth-century Piers Plowman predicted a king in England whose reign would see all weapons destroyed, warfare ended and honest, fair justice prevailing (passus 3, lines 259–324).

As late as the seventeenth century most apocalyptics focused on reform of the Church and the attainment of unprecedented levels of Christian spirituality. Despite a perceptible shift toward a more positive evaluation of the material world and of this life which began in the twelfth century, the ascetic outlook of the Late Antique world continued to prevail in Christian circles. Christians focused primarily on the salvation of individual souls. Nature, therefore, continued to play only a tangential role in Western apocalypticism.

E.R. Daniel

Further Reading

Daniel, E.R. “A New Understanding of Joachim: the Concords, the Exile, and the Exodus.” In Gioacchino da Fiore tra Bernardo di Clairvaux e Innocenzo III. Robert Rusconi, ed. Rome: Viella, 2001, 209–22. de Roquetaillade, Jean. Liber Secretorum Eventuum. Robert E. Lerner and Christine Morerod-Fattebert, eds. Fribourg, Suisse: Éditions Universitaires, 1994. (Introduction in English; Latin text with French translation. No English translation is available.)

Hildegard of Bingen. Liber diuinorum operum. A. Derolez and P. Dronke, eds. Corpus Christianorum: Continuatio Medievalis, XCII; Turnhout: Brepols, 1996. (An incomplete translation can be found in Hildegard of Bingen’s Book of Divine Works. Matthew Fox, ed. Santa Fe: Bear and Company, 1987.)

Hildegard of Bingen. Scivias. Mother Columba Hart and Jane Bishop, trs. Classics of Western Spirituality. New York: Paulist Press, 1990.

Kerby-Fulton, Kathryn. Reformist Apocalypticism and “Piers Plowman.” Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Langland, William. The Vision of Piers Plowman. A.V.C. Schmidt, ed. London: J.M. Dent, 1995 (2nd edn).

Lerner, Robert E. The Feast of Saint Abraham. Philadelphia: The University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001.

Löwith, Karl. Meaning in History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1949.

McGinn, Bernard. Visions of the End: Apocalyptic Traditions in the Middle Ages. Records of Civilization, no. XCVI. pb. edn. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.

McGinn, Bernard. Apocalyptic Spirituality. Classics of Western Spirituality. New York: Paulist Press, 1979.

Moltmann, Jürgen. The Coming of God: Christian Eschatology. Margaret Kohl, tr. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996.

Reeves, Marjorie. Joachim of Fiore and the Prophetic Future. Phoenix Mill, Thrupp, Stroud, Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing Ltd, 1999 (rev. edn.)

See also: Christianity(5) – Medieval Period; Hebrew Bible; Hildegard of Bingen; Jewish Intertestamental Literature; San (Bushmen) Apocalpytic Rock Art.

Appiko Movement (India)

Appiko is a nonviolent grassroots movement for ecological preservation and restoration centered in the Indian State of Karnataka. The word Appiko, meaning “embrace” or “hug” in Kannada, the local language, is derived from the Hindi word Chipko, employed by the movement of that name in the Northern State of Uttar Pradesh (now Uttaranchal). The leader of the Appiko movement, Pandurang Hegde, worked with Sunderlal Bahuguna, a Chipko organizer, and in 1981 participated in part of Bahuguna’s padyathra (or foot march) of 4870 kilometers, through the foothills of the Himalayas. In 1987 Bahuguna accompanied Hegde and other Appiko activists in a pady- athra of 1450 kilometers through the Western Ghats, presenting slide shows and lectures to create environmental awareness.

Appiko shares with Chipko a recognition of the sacredness of the forests and other aspects of nature upon which the local people depend, the strategy of nonviolent protest which Gandhi practiced and that goes back to the protest against the destruction of trees which the Bishnois people of Rajasthan practiced in 1730, and the non-violent method of disseminating their message through pady- athras, folk songs, street plays, and dance dramas. At the same time the Appiko movement is a response to conditions peculiar to the ecological history of the hill regions of Karnataka.

In what is today the Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka, the British takeover of forest resources in the nineteenth century provoked a peasant struggle that continued into the twentieth century. After independence, commercial exploitation continued to ignore the interests of local people. In April 1983, the people of the village of Salkani were shocked at the devastation of a local sacred forest, where every year they gathered to worship the forest goddess. A youth group in the neighboring village of Gubbigadde was also considering measures to stop deforestation. In response to their letters, forest officials stated that the tree felling was being undertaken according to scientific principles and warned them not to interfere. In August 1983 the local people invited Sunderlal Bahuguna to relate the story of the Chipko struggle and the nonviolent method of hugging the trees to save them from the axe. The local people resolved to save their forest by the same nonviolent strategy.

In September of 1983 the Forest Department began felling trees some distance from either Salkani or Gubbigadde. But the news quickly reached the two villages. Before dawn on 8 September 1983, 160 people set out, despite rain and the menace of leeches, for the forest. The village people rushed to the first tree and embraced the trunk before the workers could strike a blow. The wood cutters were moved by their courage and agreed not to fell any trees until the forest department had consulted with the local people. In October a similar movement was launched in the village of Hursi. In December the state government sent the Forest Minister who agreed, after discussions with local people and an examination of the affected areas, that tree felling was responsible for significant ecological damage. He assured the people that no further clear-felling of natural forests would take place; only dead and dry trees would be cut. Appiko activities soon began in Modagu, another hill district of Karnakata. In Kodagu District the government imposed a ban on the felling of trees. As it came to be known throughout the state, the Appiko movement engendered a new ecological awareness.

The objectives of the Appiko movement are (1) to preserve the remaining tropical forests of the Western Ghats by demanding a basic change in forest policy, from revenue-based to ecology-based management; (2) to restore the natural forests, planting trees that provide food, fodder, fuel, fertilizer, and fiber to local people; and (3) to promote rational use of forest resources by educating local people to avoid harmful practices. To support these objectives the Appiko movement has employed methods derived from the religious traditions of the people. The padyathra is an adaptation of the tradition of the pilgrimage that has been a central feature of the religious life of India from ancient times. During the padyathra the participants temporarily depart from their homes and encounter the forest as a threatened sacred space. During the padyathra, works of the traditional folk theater of Karnataka, called Yakshagana, integrate subject matter from the Mahabharata and the Ramayana with contemporary environmental concerns. At these events, special pujas, or services of worship, are undertaken in which the local people pledge themselves to the protection of the forest by nonviolent means.

To further these activities, Appiko has established an informal institution called the Parisara Sanmrakshana Kendra (Environmental Conservation Centre) in the town of Sirsi, in which activists from a variety of local groups work together toward their common goal.

George A. James

Further Reading

Hegde, Pandurang. “Appiko Movement in Karnataka.” In

Social Strains of Globalization in India. Merlin

A. Taber and Sushma Batra, eds. New Delhi: New Concepts International Publishers, 1996.

Hegde, Pandurang. Chipko and Appiko: How the People Save the Trees. London: Quaker Peace and Service, 1988.

Hegde, Pandurang. “The Appiko Movement: Forest Conservation in Southern India.” Cultural Survival Quarterly 13:2 (30 June 1989).

See also: Bahuguna, Sunderlal; Bishnoi; Chipko Movement; Hinduism; India; India’s Sacred Groves; Jataka

Tales; Måldhåris of Gujaråt (India); Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement (Sri Lanka).

Aquinas, Thomas (1225?–1274)

Renowned in the Roman Catholic tradition as a saint who was canonized for being a teacher and scholar (1323), a Doctor of the Universal Church (1567), the Prince and Master of all Scholastic Doctors (1879), and the Patron of all Catholic universities and colleges (1880), Thomas Aquinas continues to attract the interest of moral theologians who strive to respond to the problems of their times. The environmental crisis of the twentieth century prompted the examination of his thinking, especially his creation theology and teachings on the moral virtues, and the application of notions that encourage more responsible behavior toward other species and ecological systems. Some scholars have dubbed the ongoing appropriation of these teachings as “eco-Thomism.”

Among the particularly relevant notions in Aquinas’ creation theology are: (1) the innate goodness of all types of animate and inanimate creatures, each of which is essential to the perfection of the universe; (2) the unity of diverse creatures through their interactions with one another to sustain themselves and the internal functioning of the universe; (3) the sacramentality of the physical creation which manifests the invisible presence and character of God, particularly God’s power, goodness, and wisdom; and, (4) the unique capacity of the human creature to identify and choose to act on other creatures in ways that achieve the common good in temporal life as eternal happiness with God is sought.

Scholars are wise to approach these notions recognizing the all-encompassing theological framework within which Aquinas wrote and his medieval understanding of the world as geocentric with its various species created and ordered hierarchically to one another by God to achieve divine purposes. His pertinent teachings must also be retrieved cautiously and informed by contemporary science so that they are meaningful during the twentyfirst century.

When appropriated from an ecological perspective, Aquinas’ teachings may facilitate the faithful to value all types of biota and abiota for their intrinsic and instrumental goodness as essential parts of ecosystems and the greater biosphere, to cooperate with all species and biological systems so they are able to function in sustainable ways for their common good now and into the future, and to preserve species and natural systems because they manifest the character of God who empowers the emergence of creatures over time, who generously endows the universe with the capability to develop itself without divine coercion or interference, and who patiently waits for the universe to emerge at its own pace in expanding space and extending time. Aquinas’ ideas about the human creature need reformulation to enable a more realistic view of Homo sapiens as intricately connected with and radically dependent upon other species and physical systems over cosmological and biological evolutionary time, but his understanding of the human capacity to discern responsible ways of acting in temporal life and to choose whether or not to act accordingly provides a vital perspective from which the faithful can approach ecological degradation.

Appropriating Aquinas’ theological anthropology requires accepting the instrumental valuing that permeated his thinking about the human in relation to other creatures. That God intends humans to use other animate and inanimate beings is integral to the medievalist’s thinking that God intends creatures to use one another for their sustenance. Within this framework of thinking, humans are restricted to using other creatures for two purposes:

(1) to acquire the necessities for functioning in temporal life, and (2) to gain some inkling of God’s character as manifested through the world. The moral virtues guide humans in their use of other creatures, Aquinas explains, and his teachings on the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, moderation, and fortitude provide a blueprint for responsible behavior that has significance for environmental ethics today.

Key among these virtues, prudence inclines the human person to discern correct ways of acting through a discretionary process of seeking informed advice about the appropriate means of meeting one’s needs in life, making a judgment about the best means, and executing that judgment. Seeking counsel on the best options for acquiring the necessities for living constitutes an act of inquiry during which the private needs of the individual and the common good of others are considered. Judging the most appropriate means of acting requires foresight to determine whether or not future needs can be met, circumspection to assure that an action is most suitable in light of a combination of circumstances that may arise, and caution so that evil is avoided by having a firm understanding of the common good. Aquinas’ thinking about prudence suggests a theocentric way of assessing how human beings should act toward one another, other living beings, the air, land and water that the faithful can appropriate, inform with contemporary scientific findings, and apply to ecological problems.

The virtues of temperance, justice and fortitude incline the person to follow the dictates of prudence in ecologically responsible ways. Because temperance inclines the individual to curb immoderate desires for material goods and bodily pleasures, the use of intrinsic goods of Earth would be minimized when meeting basic needs. Because the virtue of justice inclines humans individually and collectively to consider the needs of other people to sustain themselves in temporal life, excessive goods would not be coveted by some so others in the present and future would be able to acquire their necessities of life and renewable goods would be sought. Because fortitude strengthens the individual to act virtuously in relation to others despite impediments and dangers that occur, the faithful would persist in acting prudently, justly and moderately in relation to other humans, other species and ecological systems in this life as they seek eternal life with God.

Aquinas’ teachings about secondary virtues and vices also have relevance for addressing ecological concerns. A pertinent secondary virtue to temperance is humility, which removes obstacles like the quest for temporal riches to the person’s spiritual quest for eternal happiness with God. All physical goods would be used humbly because they relate ultimately to God, and all the words, deeds, and gestures stemming from the use of physical goods would manifest reverence to God for having enabled their existence. Among the vices that must be avoided are gluttony for physical goods and cruelty to living creatures, both of which have been widely practiced in some sectors of society.

The human person has the innate ability to acquire the moral virtues over time, Aquinas insists. Their application is motivated by the theological virtue of love (caritas) which is gratuitously infused in the human person by God and aims ultimately toward eternal happiness with God. This linking of all behavior with the quest for eternity with God provides an incentive for the faithful to strive to live virtuously with other beings of our shared physical systems.

Jame Schaefer

Further Reading

Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Theologiae. 1.47; 1.2.14, 65,

106; 2.2.47–9, 58, 123–41, 148, 159, 161, 180.

Blanchette, Oliva. The Perfection of the Universe According to Aquinas: A Teleological Cosmology. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1992.

French, William C. “Catholicism and the Common Good of the Biosphere.” In Michael Barnes, ed. An Ecology of the Spirit. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1994, 177–94.

LeBlanc, Jill. “Eco-Thomism.” Environmental Ethics 21:3 (1999), 293–306.

O’Meara, Thomas F. “Virtues in the Theology of Thomas Aquinas.” Theological Studies 58:2 (1997), 254–85.

Wright, John H. The Order of the Universe in the Theology of St. Thomas Aquinas. Rome: Gregorian University, 1957.

See also: Apocalypticism in Medieval Christianity; Christianity(5) – Medieval Period; Natural Law and Natural Rights; Virtues and Ecology in World Religions.


The goddess Aradia was described in 1898 by the American folklorist Charles Godfrey Leland (1824–1903), who placed her worship as central to an underground pagan Italian religion which he claimed had existed continuously since Etruscan times. Leland, a fascinating combination of progressive journalist, linguist, and serious researcher into little-known arts, from handicrafts to magic, lived primarily in Philadelphia, and in the latter third of his life primarily in London and Florence. In Florence in 1886 he met a woman whom he referred to as “Maddalena,” although her actual name may have been Margherita Talenti. He described her as someone “who was not only skilled in fortune-telling, but who had inherited as a family gift from generations, skill in witchcraft – that is, a knowledge of mystical cures, the relieving of people who were bewitched, the making of amulets, and who had withal a memory stocked with a literally incredible number of tales and names of spirits, with the invocations to them, and strange rites and charms” (Leland 1998: 33). From then on, Leland paid Maddalena a stipend to collect information on Italian folklore and witchcraft, in which he saw elements traceable back to the ancient Etruscan and Roman populations. According to Leland, he learned in 1886 that a manuscript existed “setting forth the doctrines of Italian witchcraft” (Leland 1998: 225). He urged Maddalena to acquire a copy, and in January 1897, she gave him what he called Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches.

Leland’s edited version of the Vangelo, or Gospel, was published two years later. It presents Aradia as the witches’ Messiah, daughter of Diana the Moon goddess. The name “Aradia,” as Leland noted, may have been derived from Herodias, wife of King Herod Antipas of Galilee, and described in the New Testament as an evil woman. In the Vangelo, however, Aradia is the brother of Lucifer the Sun god, queen of the witches, and patroness of the poor, the outcast, the outlaw, and the rebel. Although her worship is misrepresented by the Catholic Church as the worship of Satan, Leland viewed it as a “counter-religion” that divinized the Feminine principle of creation, honored the natural cycles of the Moon, and placed its practitioners in an intimate relationship with the powers of the Earth, especially as expressed through herbs and minerals.

Scholars who have studied the published text suggest that she may have presented him with a collection of legends, spells, and rituals that she had collected and written down. (Although Leland’s first draft is preserved, Maddalena’s original manuscript is not, a fact that causes some historians to doubt Leland’s version of the Vangelo’s origin.) These he combined with other material on Italian witchcraft that he had collected, similar to what he published in such books as Etruscan Roman Remains (1892) and Legends of Florence (1896). It is likely, however, that Leland’s published version is not merely a translation, but was reshaped to emphasize his own views on religion, on women, and on magic. Invocations of Catholic saints, for instance, which are often found in folk magic, do not appear in Aradia, the better to emphasize its claim to carry the message of a counter-religion to Catholicism.

Leland’s Aradia, although published in a small edition, became a significant factor in the British Pagan Witchcraft (Wiccan) revival of the 1940s. One of the best-known invocations, the Charge of the Goddess, was based on an invocation of Aradia from the Gospel, and the goddess herself was invoked into the ritual circle and into the person of the priestess by that name. Leland’s works figured in the new Wiccans’ claim to be carrying on “the Old Religion,” and Aradia itself became a popular self-chosen magical name. Other writers returned to Leland’s books as sources in attempts to re-create a revived Italian pagan religion. Aradia’s position as patroness of young lovers and social rebels continues to inspire some contemporary Pagan witches who combine religion with political and environmental activism.

Chas S. Clifton

Further Reading

Leland, Charles G. Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches. Mario Pazzaglini and Dina Pazzaglini, trs. Blaine, Washington: Phoenix Publishing, 1998 (originally published in 1899).

Leland, Charles G. Etruscan Roman Remains. Blaine, Washington: Phoenix Publishing, 1999 (reprint of original 1892 edition).

Leland, Charles G. Legends of Florence. New York: MacMillan and Co., 1896.

See also: Paganism (various); Wicca.


Architectural projects are located in the crossing of nature, culture and human subjectivity. Houses are necessary for human existence and survival, and building is one of the most elementary processes where human beings form nature. The notion of architecture refers to a conscious and critical act through which places, houses, gardens and environments are planned, designed, built and used. Architecture offers spatial images of the relationship between nature and culture as well as “stages” for their dynamic encounters. The built environments of every cultural period reveal the self-understandings of a population, its views of nature, its spirituality and its ultimate concerns.

The history of settlements and cities could be fruitfully regarded as a history of built religion. In antique culture, for example, the city was a symbol of the cosmos. Premodern people lived in a vertical, rotary and richly symbolic world, where the location of buildings and their relations to each other represented a complex spiritual geography. Asian cultures developed settlements in regard to ecological needs where geomancy was used as a spiritual planning and construction theory. Sacred places have been marked through sacred architecture. Richard Sennett has shown how the city plan of a culture expresses its image of the human body and Yi-Fu Tuan has shown how “topophilia,” the love of a place, constitutes a genuine force of human living.

In its early phase, Christianity did not develop a specific style of architecture itself, but it used both open space in landscape and Hellenistic and Jewish building types like the basilica and the synagogue for its liturgy. Augustine in particular used the image and metaphor of the “city” in his interpretation of God.

The medieval gothic cathedral might be regarded as the most influential Christian sacred architecture where the vision of the salvation of God’s whole creation could be materialized. Nature was culturally transfigured into a built encounter of heaven and Earth in glass and stone. Through the flow of light from heaven down to Earth, God’s presence here and now could be experienced with all human senses. The smooth distribution of colored light from above enlightened a space for liturgical motion in drama and music. As an expression not just of the religious, but also of the moral, ecological and social self-understandings of medieval European culture, the cathedral still represents a unique monument. Its architecture was an “imago mundi” of its time, showing the beginnings of the modern transformation of experienced space into mathematical geometrical space as well as the significance of the temporal quality of life in the Middle Ages.

The construction of buildings is a highly material affair that made it easy for architects to relate to the growth of environmental consciousness. The awareness of resources and local use of materials has always been a part of local architecture, even if the consequences of industrialization dissolved the tight connections of places, local materials and buildings, and neglected this awareness. Different approaches of ecologically conscious architecture were developed during the 1960s. The influential “critical regionalism” embedded architecture in local and regional identities including their environmental qualities. Christian Norberg-Schulz developed an influential concept of architecture as the “art of place” where architects should respect the “genius loci,” the spirit of the place. Victor Papanek points to the future need of linking ecology and ethics to each other in all design and architecture. An intensified academic discourse on ethics and architecture emerged in the 1990s, even if enlightenment philosophical aesthetics still dominates our images of beauty. Concepts of natural/environmental aesthetics have been developed by Anglo-American and German thinkers where the ecological design of architecture has also been reflected. A notion like “atmosphere” (G. Böhme) makes it possible to leave the subject/object-split behind in favor of an open perception and reflection of the inner and outer, human and natural qualities of a place and space.

The academic discourse on religion and architecture has mainly concentrated on historical objects. Information on built images of nature and the holy might be easily collected from Religious Studies and its many historical investigations. The challenge for the future of this field is to rediscover the old and to invent new syntheses of the aesthetic, ethical, religious and ecological in the microcosm of architecture.

Contemporary architecture itself reveals a strong search for the spiritual and material in building. Tadao Ando, for example, develops projects and objects where the spirit of the place communicates with elements from different religious and cultural traditions in an optimistic pluralism where houses are constructed in an extreme minimalist use of natural resources. Ando’s architecture is motivated by a vision where inter-religious encounters contribute to the happiness of human beings in harmony with themselves in nature, and where buildings should be interpreted as “refuges and islands for the soul.”

Several creators of modern architecture are intensively at work with the shaping of encounters between the inner and outer environment of human beings as well as eclectically interpreting and integrating spiritual traditions from old and new religions. The field of study of architecture, nature and religion needs to be cultivated in order to support this process.

Sigurd Bergmann

Further Reading

Bergmann, Sigurd, ed. Architecture, Aesth/Ethics and Religion. Frankfurt, Germany: Verlag frinterkulturelle Kommunikation, 2004.

Harries, Karsten. The Ethical Function of Architecture. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 1997.

Norberg-Schulz, Christian. Genius Loci: Towards a Phenomenology of Architecture. New York: Rizzoli, 1984 (1980).

Papanek, Victor. The Green Imperative: Ecology and Ethics in Design and Architecture. London: Thames & Hudson, 1995.

Sennett, Richard. Flesh and Stone. New York/London:

W.W. Norton & Co., 1994.

Sheldrake, Philip. Spaces for the Sacred: Place, Memory and Identity. London: SCM 2001.

Tuan, Yi-Fu. Topophilia: A Study of Environmental Perception, Attitudes, and Values. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1974.

See also: Fisk, Pliny; Fuller, Buckminster; Trees – as Religious Architecture.

Ariyaratne, Ahangamage Tudor (A.T.) (1931–)

Ahangamage Tudor Ariyaratne, the founder and President of the Sarvodaya Shramadana movement, was born on 5 November 1931 in the village of Unawatuna, near the town of Galle, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Early in his career, Ariyaratne served as a science teacher at Nalanda College in Colombo. There in 1958 he organized a series of work camps for his students in a remote village called Kanatoluwa. From these first work camps, the Sarvodaya movement evolved. Influenced by Gandhian and Buddhist ideals, Ariyaratne chose Sarvodaya as the name for the movement, a term that had been coined by Mahatma Gandhi to mean “the uplift of all.” Ariyaratne, following Buddhist ideals, translated Sarvodaya as “the awakening of all.” From the outset, the Sarvodaya movement had the goal of building a society whose value system would be based on the Gandhian values of truth, nonviolence, and self-denial. Ariyaratne said his aim was to create a “nopoverty, no affluence society.” This aim represented both an interpretation of the Gandhian ideal and an application of the Buddhist Middle Way to social and economic life.

In working to actualize this kind of social revolution, both Ariyaratne and the Sarvodaya movement have advocated policies that have supported nature and the environment. Ariyaratne has argued that the law of nature ranks alongside the law of dharma, and that both of these forms of law have greater authority than the law of the state. The Sarvodaya movement has sought a holistic and integrated form of development and has included respect for nature as a key element in this development. In Sarvodaya’s list of the Ten Basic Human Needs, it accords the first place to “A clean and beautiful environment.” Ariyaratne was influenced by the work of E.F. Schumacher and has followed his “Small is Beautiful” approach to economic development. Following this philosophy, the Sarvodaya movement has been in the forefront of ecological and environmental activism in Sri Lanka for over two decades. Its members have promoted appropriate technology and sustainable development and have operated several model farms where these approaches have been tested and applied. Ariyaratne has also organized demonstrations to preserve the natural environment, such as the one he led to oppose a tourist hotel that was being built in a semiwilderness area. Ariyaratne has viewed his work for the environment as related to his work for society, such as Sarvodaya’s peace campaign. In a Buddhist sense, he regards all these facets of development to be interrelated and the movement has sought to awaken society to this truth.

For his development work and his peace activities, Ariyaratne has received numerous international awards. In 1969 he received the Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership from the Philippines, in 1982 he received the

King Boudouin Award for International Development from Belgium, in 1992 he received the Niwano Peace Prize from Japan, and in 1996, the Mahatma Gandhi Peace Prize from the Government of India. Ariyaratne has continued to lead the Sarvodaya Movement toward the goal of peace and social liberation for all people. His work for spiritual, social and ecological awakening has influenced many people outside of Sri Lanka, such as Joanna Macy and the Buddhist ecology movement in the West.

George D. Bond

Further Reading

Ariyaratne, A.T. Bhava Thanha: An Autobiography, vol. 1 (1931–1972). Ratmalana, Sri Lanka: Sarvodaya Vishva Lekha Publishers, 2001.

Liyanage, Gunadasa. Revolution Under the Breadfruit Tree: The Story of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement and of its Founder Dr. A.T. Ariyaratne. Nugegoda, Sri Lanka: Sinha Publishers, 1988.

Macy, Joanna. Dharma and Development: Religion as Resource in the Sarvodaya Self-help Movement. West Hartford, CT: Kumarian Press, 1983.

See also: Buddhism – Engaged; Gandhi, Mohandas; Macy, Joanna; Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement; Schumacher, Ernest Friedrich.

Arrernte Increase Ceremonies (Central Australia)

The Arrernte country of Central Australia is dry and semi-arid, being comprised of red sand dunes and plains, mountain complexes, and intermittent creeks and streams whose occasional flows soak into their sandy beds or flood out into deserts. The Arrernte people (Aranda, Arunta) are comprised of a number of closely related Aboriginal language and dialect groups, and today use the town of Alice Springs as their regional center. Alice Springs was originally established in 1871 as a relay station and post office on the Overland Telegraph Line.

The function of the Arrernte Increase Ceremonies is to catalyze the healthy increase or reproduction of various animal, plant or meteorological phenomenon, which constitute totems in the indigenous religious belief system. These ceremonies were brought to international attention between 1894–1912 through the collaboration of Walter Baldwin Spencer, the Foundation Professor of Biology at the University of Melbourne, and Frank J. Gillen, the post and telegraph stationmaster at the Alice Springs Overland Telegraph Station. Gillen was also the district Sub-Protector of Aborigines and a student of Aboriginal culture under the local Arrernte Elders. The two made an intensive study of Central Australian Aboriginal peoples and published a number of volumes, which were to be of immense and long-standing influence on European scholars of anthropology, sociology, psychiatry and religion. Gillen was the first to translate the Arrernte concept of the “Altyerre” to the English “Dreamtime.”

Spencer and Gillen asserted (1927: 145) that “Mbanbiuma” was the widespread term for these ceremonies among all of the Arrernte tribal or language groups, while “Intichiuma” was the name specific to the Central Arrernte around Alice Springs. However, there are further names for these constructs among the different Arrernte language and dialect groups.

Spencer and Gillen (1927: 148–74) described in detail the Arrernte increase ceremonies for the Witchetty Grub, Emu, Hakea Flower, Mulga tree, Manna, Honey-ant, Rain, Kangaroo, and the bulbs of “Irriakura” (Cyperus rotundus) plant. There are, however, many more species which collectively represent the natural resources of the Central Australia landscape and which are the respective subjects of increase ceremonies. Spencer and Gillen asserted, “taking the tribe as a whole, the object of these ceremonies is that of increasing the total food supply” (1927: 147).

The increase ceremonies are believed to have been passed down for many generations from Ancestral Beings. Through their ritual actions, the participants believe they connect with the Altyerre or Dreamtime dimension, and renew a spiritual energy linking this dimension of the ancestors with the world of mortal humans. Aspects of the travel of the Ancestral Beings are retold or re-enacted through song, ritual, and artworks with musical accompaniment (boomerang and/or clapstick percussion). Elaborate decorations of ochres and feathers are applied to bodies, ground paintings and ritual artefacts, including wooden shields. Some sculpted or assembled objects are constructed specifically for particular rituals.

Each ceremony pertains to one predominant ancestor and is usually performed by enacting a ritual for each of the constituent sites along the travel route of the ancestor. Each ritual portrays what the ancestor experienced at that site, and a widespread practice is to perform one of these rituals per day. For some sites, a traveling ancestor encounters and interacts with a second travelling ancestor, perhaps exchanging something (an anatomical feature, a language, or a firestick, for example). Where two traveling ancestors met at a site, the corresponding ceremony often involves two ground paintings joined together, with two sets of actors from adjoining countries, reflecting the shared ritual responsibilities. At still other sites, the ancestor did not travel, but was stationary at the site.

Arrernte ancestors, people, sites, totems, rituals are all classified into a number of social categories (“apetherre”) called “sections” and “subsections” by anthropologists, and “skins” in English by Arrernte people. A clan of Arrernte people are ritually responsible for a set of sites (a country) and totems of the same skin identity. Thus a clan of “apwerle” and “kemarre skin” people may have a set of

Rain sites in their country and they would perform rainmaking ceremonies. Associated totems might be certain species of frogs, lightning, certain species of trees believed to be “lightning trees,” several bird species which are said to be “rainmakers” and whose feathers are used in rituals, and types of clouds including the wispy cumulus clouds (“babies” that grow into big rain clouds).

The sacred and secretive objects recorded by Spencer and Gillen as “churinga” (1927: 99) are still used in many of the restricted increase ceremonies, being stored in secret, camouflaged hiding places in the landscape at or near their sacred site. These objects (“tyerrenge”) are believed to have been born in the Altyirre or Dreamtime. When young men are initiated into the ritual cult they are allowed to hold these objects and draw on their perpetual powers. Their initiation involves being sat on the ground paintings and instructed in a process of revelation.

Little anthropological research on ceremony occurred in Central Australia after the work of Spencer and Gillen in the 1890s, the exception being the writing of Professor Theodore Strehlow, originally from Hermannsberg Lutheran Mission. When younger Arrernte men had not been fulfilling their religious duties and certain ceremonies were dying out, despairing Arrernte Elders (especially West Arrernte) entrusted Strehlow to hold their sacred objects. Most of these objects have since been deposited in the Strehlow Centre, a restricted-access keeping-place in Alice Springs. However with the advent of the Australian Government’s Aboriginal Land Rights Act (Northern Territory) 1976, various groups of Aboriginal people in the Arrernte nation have revealed their increase ceremonies and disclosed their sacred objects from secret hiding places in restricted court settings in order to win their land claims; thus demonstrating that these ceremonies and their belief systems remain in various parts of Arrernte lands, and continue to be a virile component of Aboriginal religion (and politics).

Spencer and Gillen’s books contain innumerable photographs of men dressed in their feather-down and ochre body paint-up, performing near or on the sacred ground paintings and with a variety of decorated sacred objects. The contemporary Arrernte have imposed a restriction on these books being sold or even displayed in Alice Springs bookshops, libraries or museums due to the Aboriginal Law forbidding these images and their associated knowledge to be seen by uninitiated men or women. Interestingly, the visual elements and patterns of these sacred designs have, since the 1970s, been adapted to create the internationally famous “dot-art” style of Aboriginal desert painting.

Paul Memmott

Further Reading

Brooks, David. The Arrernte Landscape of Alice Springs.

Alice Springs: Institute for Aboriginal Development, 1991.

Henderson, John and Veronica Dobson. Eastern and Central Arrernte Dictionary. Alice Springs: IAD Press, 1994.

Horton, David. The Encyclopedia of Aboriginal Australia. Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, 1994.

Moyle, Richard. Alyawarra Music, Songs and Society in a Central Australian Community. Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, 1986.

Spencer, Baldwin and Frank J. Gillen. The Arunta: A Study of a Stone Age People, 2 vols. London: Macmillan, 1927.

Strehlow, Theodore G.H. Songs of Central Australia.

Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1971.

See also: Aboriginal Art; Aboriginal Dreaming (Australia); Australia; Rock Art – Australian Aboriginal.


In everyday speech, people often make a contextual distinction between the words “nature” and “environment.” The environment is thought to be scientific and complex. It is viewed as a territory staked out by scientists and defended by environmental activists against degradation and despoliation. Nature, however, evokes a different set of storied descriptors – ones far more positive and personal. Typically, the descriptors associated with nature commingle nature, beauty, and divinity. A Muslim might, for example, cite the beauty of nature as evidence for the existence of a creator beyond human comprehension; whereas, an Algonkian elder could speak of the “great mystery” evident in nature’s beauty and know, thereby, manitou animated the universe.

Despite fire, flood, tornado, or other catastrophic natural events, nature – in popular imagination – is good, beautiful, and approachable. Art affirms and informs our soul-stirring experiences of nature – even if the tent was leaky and the happy campers bug-bitten. In North America, American artist Ansel Adams’ (1902–1984) photographs of Yosemite fund the efforts of environmental protection groups seeking to defend wilderness areas and national parks from the encroachment of industrial developers. Exhibitions of French artist Claude Monet’s (1840–1926) paintings of his gardens at Giverny draw long lines of visitors to galleries everywhere, inspiring many to grow their own tossed and tumbled flower gardens. Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh’s (1853– 1890) painting of a starry night is still among the most popular of art reproductions one might find in a university student’s bedroom. All three artists hoped to create in their work something of the revelatory knowledge they had experienced in nature. The popularity of their widely reproduced work today suggests they succeeded. Nature, depicted in their landscapes, is heroically beautiful, a dazzler. Theirs is a profoundly religious view of nature, rooted in a pantheistic appreciation and supported by the nineteenth-century religious philosophy of transcendentalism. Among artists these are not unusual viewpoints. For many – be they artist atheist, deist, or theist – nature itself is experienced as sacred, soulful; in German theologian Paul Tillich’s (1886–1965) terms, nature may even be the ground of being.

The interrelationship of art, religion, and nature is an ancient one. On the walls of hidden caves and rock shelters the world over, human and nonhuman transformation imagery abounds. It is evidenced by the well-known Ice Age imagery found at such European archeological sites as Trois Frérès and Lascaux in France or Altimira in Spain. Painted and sculpted animals are shown alive, alone or in groups. The animation of the Paleolithic imagery may suggest human and animal were believed to share personhood. They might transform themselves from one to the other by putting on or shedding an outer “skin.” Hybrid imagery of human and nonhuman was also possible – a bird-headed woman, a wolf-headed man, for example – just as in later years the Egyptian iconography of Sekhet, lion-headed daughter of Isis, will transfer to Mark, the lion, one of the four Christian evangelists. Aspects of Nanabush, the Great Hare trickster figure of the North American Anishnabe, survive in Tex Avery’s irrepressible imagery of Bugs Bunny. Such imagery attests to an old and intimate understanding of the relationship of human and nonhuman realms in the natural world. Once, not that long ago, what was called “sacred” was entirely natural and a part of the natural world; the “sacred” was not supernatural.

The intimate relationship of our long-ago ancestors with nature was one obtained from a close and careful observation of the nonhuman world around them. Our forebears observed the way a weaver bird stitches a nest together, how the ant tunnels into the Earth, how herds of animals and flocks of birds arrive and depart in relation to counts of the moon and turns of the seasons. Long-ago humans saw flowers bend and turn toward the sun, then close at end of day. People observed birth, death, and transformation in the surrounding world as natural and sacred events. Knowing these events in their own lives, they adopted and adapted construction techniques observed in nonhuman realms and amalgamated the imagery into an encoded material art.

We see those forms today in ancient artifacts that survive in anthropological collections. Although the surviving objects and images are varied in form and number, the subject matter is not encyclopedic in scope. Not all animals, plants, insects or other aspects of the nonhuman, natural world were transmuted or reified into pictorial imagery. Only some things were seen in those special terms, then recorded and transformed into visual imagery.

How were the subject choices made by the artists? Perhaps the answer lay then, as it does now, in the revelatory experience of nature we term today “artistic vision.”

Artistic Vision

Artistic vision is much more than a good idea that propels the artist into the studio. A nature-centered artistic vision is revelatory; some connection is being made by the observer – the artist – with a hidden reality. Whether the vision be as simple as light glinting off a leaf, or the glance of a bird, the flicker of fish, the fact the artist observes something via vision obligates the artist to record it via art in order to show to others what has been shown to the artist. The observation enters into an artist’s field of vision haloed, or highlighted, by further meaning the artist imparts to it. When artists try to explain the effect of visionary obligation on their work as artists, they speak of the experience as one of becoming a “medium.” Not infrequently, the artist subsequently becomes learned in the Earth sciences. Artists draw on the resources of science

– botany, geology, astronomy, physics, etc. – to deepen their understanding of their visions. Earth-centered visions, no different than deity-centered visions, can be life-changing. The eminent historian of religion, Mircea Eliade, located revelatory experiences under the heading “hierophany.” A hierophany, according to Eliade, might be experienced as theophany or kratophany, or display aspects of both.

A theophany of nature is a revelatory experience associated with named deities located in nature. The ancient Egyptian artist, for example, could depict Nut, the sky, as a slender woman whose starry body arches across the night sky. Hathor might be shown as a cow, or as a cow emerging from a mountain, or as a woman bearing the beautifully curved horns of a cow upon her head. In context, each different image would be understood as displaying some aspect of the powers attributed to Hathor. When Mary, the mother of Jesus, is shown in her aspect as Queen of Heaven, she wears a crown of twelve stars and stands upon the crescent moon. The image continues a primal association of the moon and sea with the feminine, and entirely natural, rhythms of fertility. The so-called “Venus of Laussel” displays the same primal association. It is the best-known of the three Laussel bas reliefs on this theme (one is now lost).

Unlike the theophany, the kratophany of nature, according to Eliade, is a sacred power manifested by means of a particular person, place, or thing. Kratophanies are more diffuse hierophanies and present different situations for the artist. In Peterborough, Ontario, for example, ancient Anishnabe artists used hammerstones to beat visionary drawings by the hundreds into a limestone outcropping. Their petroglyphs are the records of place-specific visions located in nature at that rock. Today the Anishnabe of the region call that place “Kinomagewapkong,” “the teaching rock.” The rock is used today by Anishnabe elders to tell the stories of their people to the children. Canadian artist Jennifer Dickson’s work is also of storied places. She travels the world over studying and photographing old gardens. In some places she has experienced site-specific visions. The photographs Dickson makes are study documents, just as are the Anishnabe limestone glyphs. Meditating upon the photographic images in her studio, the artist creates paintings, photo-etchings, serigraphs, and complex photographic suites that suggest visions to be known in these places. Although Dickson lectures widely, she never speaks of her own visionary experiences; nonetheless, people have approached the artist and told her they, too, know the gardens are sacred. Upon seeing Dickson’s art, they felt prompted to travel, as a pilgrim might, to the very places that inspire her work.

Artists who attempt to map their experiences of a beautiful, powerfully animated world in art, do so in the belief their work can and must communicate important, sacred visions to another, to those who see the artwork. The concept of “mapping” is important here. In a religious work of art, the artist asks the viewer to look closely at the work. Looking closely enough to see the work as the artist intends it to be seen is not easy for many today. It is a learned skill. Looking closely requires the viewer to slow down, to consider every color, every line, form, shape, texture to be found in the material reality of the composition. Each part of the image is intended to convey some aspect of the visionary event, the initiating visionary knowledge. One learns to “read” a painting or a sculpture as a map (and one must learn to read those, too). Reading an artistic image with care allows the viewer’s mind to trace the visual choices the artist has made. The painting begins to come alive; it “works” on the viewer’s mind. The free associations prompted by looking closely animate the image. The painting may, if the imagery is clear enough, live for years in memory. That is why a Byzantine-rite nun in Ukraine, for example, knows the icons she paints are as truthful a representation of heavenly reality as she can make them; her images are painted prayerfully in response to religious vision. This is also why Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” became one of the iconic paintings of our time. It, too, is honest work.

Sacred Geographies

Some depictions of sacred realities located in nature constitute sacred geographies. These maps are constructed landscapes which include the Earth and the entire universe insofar as it matters. They are cosmographies that account for the origin of the world and of human beings within that world. For the Ojibway priest of the Midé society, a set of sacred birchbark scrolls depicts the mythic journey of bear across the world. The people of central New Guinea knot bilum, intricately knotted carry-all bags, to continue the creation of the world. Each time a bag is knotted – and they are knotted continuously by women and by men – the people’s specific connection with the powers of the Earth is knotted into place again. In North America, over the course of several days, singers of the Dineh (Navaho) people construct intricate sand paintings in order to realign someone whose life-world has become unbalanced and shaky with all of creation, with all of the cosmos. Tibetan Buddhist monks also construct equally intricate mandalas of colored sands. Theirs are world prayers for healing.

When the medieval European cartographer inscribed “there be monsters” on a fifteenth-century parchment map of the known world, the map-maker’s warning alerted viewers to the existence of unknown worlds. Among those worlds was Eden, thought to be a real place with real rivers and animals, from which Adam and Eve, the first parents, had been expelled. Eden was located somewhere beyond the place of the monsters. It was as specific a place as the Christian heaven, itself often depicted as a beautiful walled city with twelve gates.

In India, a fifteenth-century Jain map depicted the order of the world as one centered on a sacred mountain in the middle of a circular continent, the whole circumscribed by two rings separated by oceans; each of the rings was also a continent. A fourteenth-century Japanese map of the world emphasized the importance of Mt. Sumeru, a sacred mountain. American engineer, scientist, gadfly and public intellectual, Buckminster Fuller (1895–1983) devised a Dymaxion Airocean World map which not only corrects the proportional flaws of the more usual flat Mercator-type map, but also brilliantly shows the land masses of the world as truly interconnected with one another – and not as continents dramatically separated by oceans. Fuller was a visionary committed to the problem of translating mathematical nature into an “everreinspiring conceptual intimacy with the Universe,” as he wrote in the catalogue for the Cooper-Hewitt Museum’s inaugural exhibition, MANtransFORMS, New York City, October 1976. Fuller had helped design and organize that, too.

The Golden Section

In addition to showing the relationship of parts of nature to one another, maps also measure space. In the West, one system of spatial proportion became, and continues to be, preeminent, if not ubiquitous. It is called Pythagoreanism. Nothing anywhere else – not the Japanese tatami system of spatial measurement nor the Chinese system of feng shui used to balance or harmonize complementary qualities found in nature, nor even Buckminster Fuller’s dymaxion principle of doing more with less – has been as pervasive an influence on international art and design as the Pythagorean system of spatial proportion. It remains so today. Most people have no idea why doors and windows, pieces of paper, computer screens, and a host of other ordinary objects look the way they do. The “why” is found in Pythagoreanism.

Pythagoreanism is based upon the work of the early Greek thinker and scientist, Pythagoras (sixth century B.C.E.) and his followers. It is both religion and mathematics. Pythagoras observed that all of nature could be understood as a relationship of number – whether the relationship was that of notes sounded by a plucked string or the movement of the planets in the firmament above. The key Pythagorean numerical relationship is expressed by the Greek letter Φ (Phi). It is equivalent to 0.618, also called the “golden number.” The golden number is found in nature as a ratio of part to whole and can be drawn as rectangle, pentagram, five-pointed star, and spiral endlessly. In any size, the ratio of part to whole remains steady: it is 1:1.618. In 1202, the Italian mathematician, Fibonacci, demonstrated that a spiraling sequence of prime numbers in which each number is the sum of the two preceding is also an illustration of Φ. Moreover, the Fibonacci number series is observable almost everywhere in nature – in the way petals form on a daisy, for example, or the turns of a conch shell. Only in crystals is it not found. During the European Renaissance, artists became reacquainted with Pythagoreanism and quickly adopted the mathematical principles as tools to help them create compositions