“No settled family or community has ever called its home place an “environment.” None has ever called its feeling for its home place “biocentric” or “anthropocentric.” None has ever thought of its connection to its home place as “ecological,” deep or shallow. The concepts and insights of the ecologists are of great usefulness in our predicament, and we can hardly escape the need to speak of “ecology” and “ecosystems.” But the terms themselves are culturally sterile. They come from the juiceless, abstract intellectuality of the universities which was invented to disconnect, displace, and disembody the mind. The real names of the environment are the names of rivers and river valleys; creeks, ridges, and mountains; towns and cities; lakes, woodlands, lanes roads, creatures, and people.”
–Wendell Berry (1993)
Where are you right now? This may seem like a simple question, but it's at the heart of a deep unease Western culture and civilization. Holyscapes is a project that seeks to explore the 'where' of our lives with the deep rooted 'why' at the heart of who we are as creations of a loving Creator.
The purpose of this course is to explore together the coming together of our inner landscapes with the world around us—the points of contact between landscapes of earth and soul. In this course and in the series of courses that are to follow, I am eager to explore with you the depth and breadth of the world’s rich spiritualities of place and landscape (particularly forested landscapes). While much of my public writing happens under the name Holyscapes, another popular term for this relationship is Spiritual Ecology. Holyscapes as a project could be characterized as nested within the broader Spiritual Ecology movement.
Spiritual Ecology boldly proclaims that our current ecological crises are just as much moral crises as they are political, economic and technological. Certainly we need all hands on deck, solutions and minds from all sectors of society, but spiritual ecology focuses its energy diagnosing the problems with our inner ecosystems as much as we need to work together to solve problems on a global ecological scale.
Climate change and global ecological change can often feel abstract, but its effects are always locally felt, and felt in radically different ways in different parts of the world. Thus, this course will feature a combination of theoretical, case-based, and practical knowledge aimed at equipping us with the tools and instincts to be better ‘readers’ of our places. To fall in love with our places as a mode of global ecological activism.
This course provides an opportunity to cultivate an awareness to place, landscape, and the people and creatures with whom we inhabit the world, while at the same time working within whatever spiritual or religious tradition you may (or may not) subscribe to in order to explore the contours of the vast terrain within. This is not to say that the course advocates a dualist perspective (spirit and matter as distinct substances). Rather, interiority is more of a contour of the many folds that make up the world, rather than a compartment within it. This course will be an overview and an invitation to engage in a lifelong practice of ecological literacy, deepened sense of place, and personal introspection.
For future courses with holyscapes, see my website at holyscapes dot org.