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  • Writer's pictureSim Elliott

Spiritual Activism: the interconnectedness of nature.

Updated: Dec 28, 2020

Spiritual activism has been much discussed of late in theories of social action on climate change and biodiversity loss.

Ana Louise Keating says: "spiritual activism is a visionary, experientially-based epistemology and ethics, a way of life and a call to action. At the epistemological level, spiritual activism posits a metaphysics of interconnectedness and employs relational modes of thinking. At the ethical level, spiritual activism includes specific actions designed to challenge individual and systemic racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of social injustice. Spiritual activism is spirituality for social change, spirituality that recognizes the many differences among us yet insists on our commonalities and uses these commonalities as catalysts for transformation" Keating A. (2005), Shifting Perspectives: Spiritual Activism, Social Transformation, and the Politics of Spirit.

Spiritual activism is often an activism that grows out of the awareness of our interconnectedness with nature. The idea of interdependence is common to many indigenous spiritual traditions, as well as to some western European theological and philosophical traditions:

"Spinoza's metaphysics of God is neatly summed up in a phrase that occurs in the Latin (but not the original Dutch) edition of the Ethics: “God, or Nature”, Deus, sive Natura: “That eternal and infinite being we call God, or Nature, acts from the same necessity from which he exists” (Part IV, Preface). Stanford Enclyopedia of Philosophy accessed 19/11/2020

Nature and God (however you construe God) can be seen as one and the same thing; relating to idea of God as the Ground of Being in the theology of Paul Tillich and the physics of Einstein

"The "Ground of being" has been considered in a variety of ways, including the creative order, forces, and potential in nature. Some perspectives on this were described by Albert Einstein who (among other statements) said: “Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature and you will find that, behind all the discernible concatenations, there remains something subtle, intangible, and inexplicable. Veneration for this force beyond anything that we can comprehend is my religion.” Religious Naturalis. accessed 19/11/2020.

The interconnectedness of all nature is a powerful source of motivation as to why we must act to end climate change and the loss of habitats that support the great biodiversity of the world, and this was understood in the nineteenth century by Romantic philosophers, naturalists and geographers; such as Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859), who believed all of nature was interconnected, "and that by affecting one aspect of nature, other parts of nature would be affected, too—for good or ill. Humboldt believed that one’s own emotions and subjective views were necessary in order to completely experience nature. Simply taking measurements or classifying animals, plants, rocks and other forms of life would never allow one to fully experience the truth of nature." Biodiversity Heritage Library, accessed 19/11/2020.

Public policy on conservation must be informed by science; but science is not sufficient: to understand the "truth" of nature and feel the need to act to conserve nature; we need to engage our emotions and spirit through being part nature; and valuing our subjective experience of nature.



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