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Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future Paperback – October 26, 2009
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"This important book provides insight into how a profound sense of relation to nature offers many in the modern world a vehicle for attaining a spiritual wholeness akin to what has been historically associated with established religion. In this sense, Dark Green Religion offers both understanding and hope for a world struggling for meaning and purpose beyond the isolation of the material here and now."Stephen Kellert, Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies
"In this thought-provoking volume, Bron Taylor explores the seemingly boundless efforts by human beings to understand the nature of life and our place in the universe. Examining in depth the ways in which influential philosophers and naturalists have viewed this relationship, Taylor contributes to the further development of thought in this critically important area, where our depth of understanding will play a critical role in our survival."Peter H. Raven, President, Missouri Botanical Garden
"Carefully researched, strongly argued, originally conceived, and very well executed, this book is a vital contribution on a subject of immense religious, political, and environmental importance. It's also a great read."Roger S. Gottlieb, author of A Greener Faith: Religious Environmentalism and our Planet's Future
"A fascinating analysis of our emotional and spiritual relationship to nature. Whether you call it dark green religion or something else, Bron Taylor takes us through our spiritual relationship with our planet, its ecosystems and evolution, in an enlightened and completely undogmatic manner."Dr. Claude Martin, Former Director General, World Wildlife Fund
"An excellent collection of guideposts for perplexed students and scholars about the relationships of nature religions, spirituality, animism, pantheism, deep ecology, Gaia, and land ethicsand for the environmentalist seeking to make the world a better place through green religion as a social force."Fikret Berkes, author of Sacred Ecology: Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Resource Management
"Dark Green Religion shows conclusively how nature has inspired a growing religious movement on the planet, contesting the long reign of many older faiths. Taylor expertly guides us through an astonishing array of thinkers, past and present, who have embraced, in part or whole, the new religion. I was thoroughly convinced that this movement has indeed become a major force on Earth, with great potential consequences for our environmental ethics."Donald Worster, University of Kansas
"In this exceptionally interesting and informative book, Bron Taylor has harvested the fruits of years of pioneering research in what amounts to a new field in religious studies: the study of how religious/spiritual themes show up in the work of people concerned about nature in many diverse ways. Taylor persuasively argues that appreciation of nature's sacred or spiritual dimension both informs and motivates the work of individuals ranging from radical environmentalists and surfers, to eco-tourism leaders and museum curators. I highly recommend this book for everyone interested learning more about the surprising extent to which religious/spiritual influences many of those who work to protect, to exhibit, or to represent the natural world."Michael E. Zimmerman, Director, Center for Humanities and the Arts, University of Colorado at Boulder
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In his work, Taylor serves as an erudite and impassioned tour guide of the "deep roots and modern expressions" of this hitherto unnamed religion, providing, along with his powerful yet undogmatic analysis, an instructive compendium of ideas and actions that cogently legitimize dark green religion as a concept with significant explanatory power. Through this book we hear of 18th-century philosophers expressing sensations of oceanic unity, modern-day mainstream scientists reflecting upon the "being-ness" of trees, surfers earnestly scrambling to find words to explain the satori that occurs inside the tube of a wave, and Disney's Pocahontas imploring Western colonialists to stop and "ask the grinning bobcat why he grins." It is precisely this diversity of thinkers coupled with the synchronicity of their thoughts that makes Taylor's thesis so compelling. While some may feel that the Earth is sentient and/or animals have souls, and others might take a more naturalistic approach, most all of the "practitioners" of dark green religion share a sense of felt kinship with nonhuman life and a sense of wonder at the structure and flow of the interconnected Earth and cosmos. This religious, or "para-religious," cosmological outlook occasions an ecological conscience that sensitizes humans to the condition of the planet with a depth of feeling that secular, humanistic concerns of sustainability might have a hard time matching. Many of the excerpted passages from Taylor's book are not only extremely convincing, but also extremely moving. If you are at all receptive to these sorts of sentiments, you might find Dark Green Religion to be a source not only of information, but also inspiration.
On a personal level, for most of my life I have found myself violently vacillating between a soothing belief in a supernatural power and a sort of dreary conviction that there is nothing "more" to the universe than the atheism that meets the human eye. Taylor's work implicitly addresses this existential quandary and posits a resolution to it by reconceptualizing the definition of religion, releasing it from a requisite belief in a transcendent sky god, effectively endowing people with the "right" to feel religious even if the lack of scientific support for traditional religions alienates them from what they might sense to be "sacred" in the natural order. In this manner, Taylor enacts an empowering, redemptive paradigm shift, one that enables people to worship the creation even if they're not sure about the existence of a creator. After reading this book, I have looked at the world through slightly more enchanted eyes, as I now find cosmogonic merit in reading "the odyssey of evolution," for example, as a sacred text, and contemplating the simple fact of existence as a miracle comparable to anything that any saint may or may not have done.
This does not, however, mean that there is no place for the supernaturalistic in the scattered yet inclusive church of dark green religion. On the contrary, the book is replete with examples of people who believe that Mother Earth is a conscious entity and/or feel that tactile or telepathic communication between humans and non-humans are spiritual possibilities. Taylor brings to light the ways in which these forms of "spiritual animism" and "Gaian spirituality" (he shies away from such terms as "paganism" and "panentheism" because of the baggage they carry), have manifested themselves throughout history, and muses on the role that such beliefs may play in "the planetary future."
There does seem to be a bit of tension between what Taylor calls dark green religion and the Abrahamic religious traditions. Many -- if not most -- of the scholars, scientists, surfers and activists that Taylor references express a potent condemnation of the overall effects that the Abrahamic religions have had on the planet and its human and non-human inhabitants, criticizing these faiths for their hubristic anthropocentrism, which allegedly led to the domination and desecration of entire continents and the brutal persecution of indigenous peoples who live(d) in a more ecologically sustainable manner. Taylor notes that these Abrahamic religions have experienced a kind of "greening" in the past few decades in response to such criticisms, but he appears to be skeptical that these established traditions can, on balance, ultimately play a constructive role in the protection and restoration of the environment. While this is not the main focus of Taylor's book, it is important to open this subject to debate. Many environmental observers feel that the human species will not be inspired enough to save the planet unless they consider it to be sacred, in one way or another, to the degree that its ruin would be regarded not only as a physical, but also a spiritual tragedy.
In sum, this is a groundbreaking work that comes to us at a crucial moment. By the time you come to the end of this book, you feel as if "the planetary future" is just about to begin, and its outcome is in many ways up for grabs. If you have any interest in how this larger story will unfold, Taylor's book is a must read.
Readers will admire the care Taylor gives to explaining why he considers the growing social and political spiritual/environmental movement to be a religion (or religious) and how important it is to see it in the religious terms in which its adherents see it. Readers will also thank Taylor for his intellectual honesty in choosing "Dark" as the first word in the title, meaning both the darker, deeper shade of green in nature spirituality and the sense of planetary emergency that could drive adherents to global violence. This book takes on some very tough questions that we all need to think about.
Critics will disagree with Taylor's views on the intrinsic value of nature that he champions, citing the intrinsic value of humans that he seems to scant. I have known Taylor enough years to advise them not to underestimate his human compassion.
Even though I disagree with a number of Taylor's views and conclusions about industrial civilization - as I am sure some readers will also - I respect his judgment sufficiently to ask his critique of points in my own writings before I send them to my editor. He has been a good friend to me, and I am reasonably sure that most readers will feel the same about him after reading this magisterial work, which is a virtual Guide for the Perplexed in the 21st Century..