A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF ENVIRONMENTALISM VII

Thoreau also appreciates the seemingly paradoxical sense in which humanity is both of Nature and somehow transcendent of Nature. To speak of the need to renew our connectedness with Nature is naturally to imply that we are also somehow other than Nature. All that has been said and all that we will say here is because humanity is also not-one within Oneness; however much we speak of the realization of our oneness with Nature, we remain distinct, individuated beings continually at work interpreting “our” world”. This too is Nature, but it is Nature looking at itself. This relationship between oneness and not-oneness is one explored by philosophical Daoism and thus another area in which it has helpful insights to contribute.
Thoreau’s appeal to the value of communion with Nature has, as we have said, an implicit “spiritual” dimension. This he shares with the more recent proponents of eco-spirituality, the attempt, broadly speaking, to unite a scientific awareness of the interconnectedness of all things with a more immediate and experiential realization of that reality. As might be expected, the expressions of eco-spirituality are many, too many in fact for us to consider here. We might divide them roughly into a few varieties, though again we must admit that this is both artificial and reductive. Most all within the parameters of our knowledge are in some sense religious to varying degrees. Those that work within the framework of an established religious tradition are most clearly so. All such religions have their advocates for an eco-spirituality. There are many others that advocate for shamanism or a modernized version thereof. Indigenous cultures are indisputably “closer” to Nature and typically have religious beliefs and practices, as expressed in shamanism, that focus on unity with Nature rather than on gods or concepts seen as distinct from Nature. Other spiritualties of New Age stripe such as the various expressions of Green Religion and Gaianism, can tend more to a philosophical approach though all also make appeal to a spiritual dimension. Even what we might consider the most philosophical approaches, like that of Thomas Berry, must in the end make some kind of appeal to spiritual renewal to re-establish our connectedness with Nature.

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