Modern WISDOM of Poets & Scientists
EQUIPMENT for Outings
Outdoor Spirituality, Science, Modern Ecological Visionaries
In the modern era that begins with the rise of science and the Enlightenment, many writers break free from defining their views of life dependent on the orthodox confines of a single traditional world religions. As people became aware of the world’s vast expanses and the diversities of its religions, they have explored new combinations of world views. For example, he Transcendentalists drew on European romanticism and Asian religions to define a new spiritual philosophy; similarly, practitioners of Asian religions have found in ecological science a deepening of their nature spirituality. And some scientists and environmental activists when describing their focus on nature expressed their experiences and ideas in religious terms.
Below is a collection of notable thoughts from leading figures about the spiritual potential of being in the outdoors, in nature.
Henry David Thoreau
(1817 – 1862)
“You must live in the present,
launch yourself on every wave,
find your eternity in each moment.
There is no other land;
there is no other life but this.”
“Take long walks in stormy weather
or through deep snows in the fields and woods,
if you would keep your spirits up.
Deal with brute nature.
Be cold and hungry and weary.”
“A lake is a landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature.
It is Earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures
the depth of his own nature.”
“To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again.
To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over
the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”
“Talk of mysteries! — Think of our life in nature, — daily to be shown matter,
to come in contact with it, — rocks, trees, wind on our cheeks!
The solid earth! The actual world! … Contact! Contact!
Who are we? Where are we?”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
“The currents of the Universal Being circulate through me;
I am part and parcel of God.
In the wilderness I find something more dear and connate than in streets and villages.”
– Nature: Addresses and Lectures, 1849
“To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the same field,
it beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again.”
“The stars awaken a certain reverence, always present but inaccessible;
but all natural objects make a kindred impression,
when the mind is open to their influence.”
“In the woods too, a human casts off years, as the snake his slough,
and at what period soever of life, is always a child.
In the woods, is perpetual youth. Within these plantations of God…
in the woods, we return to reason and faith.
There I feel that nothing can befall me in life,
— no disgrace, no calamity, which nature cannot repair.
Standing on the bare ground,—my head bathed by the blithe air,
and uplifted into infinite space,—all mean egotism vanishes.
I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all;
the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me;
I am part or particle of the Ultimate Reality.”
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.
Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.
The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy,
while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.”
“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that
going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity”
”Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.”
“Meditation is not just a rest or retreat from the turmoil of the
stream or the impurity of the world. It is a way of being the stream,
so that one can be at home in both the white water and the eddies.
Meditation may take one out of the world, but it also puts one totally into it.”
“Wisdom is intuitive knowledge of the mind of love and clarity
that lies beneath one’s ego-driven anxieties and aggressions.
Meditation is going into the mind to see this for yourself —
over and over again, until it becomes the mind you live in.”
My teacher once said to me,
become one with the knot itself till it dissolves away;
sweep the garden.
The Gaia Hypothesis
The creativity of modern religious thought includes scientist James E. Lovelock,
who posited what might be considered a religious view of “Mother Earth” in his Gaia Hypothesis:
“…the entire Earth is a life-forming and life-sustaining super-organism,
subject to homeostasis; individual species are not permanent, only life alone is;
“Mother Earth” can be accommodating or ruthless with species.
The Gaia Hypothesis also supports the practices of
outdoor spirituality as making a valuable connection with a divine earth.”
– James Lovelock
One cannot but be in awe when one contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality.
It is enough if one tries merely comprehend a little of this mystery each day. Never lose a holy curiosity.
– Albert Einstein
After the sun’s energy is captured by the green plants, it flows through chains of organisms dendritically,
like blood spreading from the arteries into the networks of the microscopic capillaries.
It is in such capillaries, in the life cycles of thousands of individual species, that life’s important work is done.
Thus nothing in the whole system makes sense until the natural history of the constituent species becomes known.
The study of every kind of organism matters, everywhere in the world…
– Howard Odum, Ecologist
The Eternal Creator is not some kind of watchmaker.
Apologists… were deceived as all the other mechanistic thinkers were,
by not looking closely enough at the wild flowers of the field.
The factory that makes the parts of the flower is inside,
and is not a factory but a development.
The Almighty is more like a chromosome, a thought, than a watchmaker.
The creative principle of the universe and its organization and intelligence is not an external principle but an eternal one.
All of the past that we can ever know is contained in the world at this instant.
– John Platt, Biophysicist
The evolutionary unity of humans with all other organisms is the
cardinal message of Darwin’s revolution for nature’s most arrogant species.
– Stephen Jay Gould
Commonly we stride through the outdoors too swiftly,
to see the most obvious and prominent things.
For observing Nature, the best pace is a snail’s pace.
– Edwin Teale, Circle of Seasons
Wilderness… compels us to measure ourselves against the cosmos.
It makes us realize how insignificant we are as biological creatures and invites us to escape
from the daily life into the realms of eternity and infinity.
– Rene Dubos
Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth
find reserves of strength that endure as long as life lasts.
– Rachel Carson, A Sense of Wonder
“The natural world is our bible.
We don’t have chapters and verses.
We have fish and trees and animals.
The creation is manifestation of energy through matter…
Nature informs us and it is our obligation to read nature….
To feel nature as a poem…
to be a part of that and step into its cycles as much as you can.”
– John Mohawk (1945-2006)
The color of the mountains is the Buddha’s body;
The sound of running water is his great speech.
– Dogen (1200-1253)
“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts:
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
– Isiah 6: 1-3
In order to serve God,
one needs access to the enjoyment of the beauties of nature,
such as the contemplation of flower-decorated meadows,
majestic mountains, flowing rivers.
For all these are essential to the spiritual development
of even the holiest people.
– Maimonides (1138-1204)
To remember Allah is to see him everywhere
and to experience his reality as al-Muhit (“everywhere present”)…
To remember Allah as al-muhit is to
remain aware of the sacred quality of nature,
the reality of the natural phenomenon as ayat (“signs”) of Allah and
the environment as an ambiance permeated by divine presence.
– Seyyed Hossein Nasr Spirit and Nature: A Muslim Perspective, p. 89
You will find something greater in woods than in books.
Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters.
– Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153)
Find tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stone, and good in everything.
– Shakespeare, As You Like It
When your tongue is silent, you can rest in the silence of the forest.
When your imagination is silent, the forest speaks to you,
and tells you of the Reality of God.
But when your mind is silent,
then the forest suddenly blazes transparently
with the Reality of God.
– Thomas Merton
One has to be alone, under the sky,
Before everything falls into place and
One finds his own place in the midst of it all.
– Thomas Merton
Eastern Christianity looks on the world as one great organism;
they approach the divine manifestations of life
as an expression of the same reality.
The Eastern church does not think about salvation
in terms of the individual soul returning to the Maker;
it is visualized rather as a gradual process
of transfiguration of the whole cosmos…
Humans are saved,
not from the world, but with the world.
– Nicholas Zernov (1898-1980)