I’ve been following Dreher’s re-enchantment for a while now (amongst his other writings), and I can honestly say I am sitting in the edge of my seat waiting for YOUR next post. Don’t get me wrong, I love Dreher and his mind — and he pointed me to you — but your posts speak to something I can’t wait to hear more about. A world that has gone crazy, a world that doesn’t understand where the road it is running down is going to lead it. I think you do. You may not, but, DAMN! you *get* a lot of it, and I want to know what you think. It moves my soul. I’m here, waiting for the rest of it!

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This is an essay by Scott Alexander at his old Slate Star Codex blog that nudged me a few years ago to start thinking along these lines: https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/07/30/meditations-on-moloch/

It's irreverent but extremely thought-provoking, and comes from a very different perspective as the Abbot. It probably comes to a very different conclusion as to the solution, but I found it very compelling!

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Your decision to start writing with no apology for words that need to be said and action that needs to be taken in defense of our natural world is what brought me here. Being a person around so many others that desecrate this region I live in has made me highly defensive of it, for the animal life here and I have lost patience with them all, not a helpful reaction often, but there it is. As you say while speaking to Jonathan above, in the recent youtube, I also feel we are on the edge of something very big about to happen with nature; this is an anxiety that energetically wise maybe is sensed by others in other places also. Paul, your viewpoints here in the Abbey are the most refreshing guidepost I have found and am grateful for your happening to have taken this route. Will be working through your early writing of Beast in N. Kotar's group shortly and look forward to moving through the trilogy. Thank you for what you do and how you do it!

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Speaking of the Garden. Some beautiful thoughts on a fruitful human relationship with earth. Taken from Climate, A New Story by Charles Eisenstein.

"Tending the Wild

The regenerative practices I’ve described are rooted in a mindset and way of relating that goes back tens of thousands of years outside civilization, and even as a recessive gene within civilization, the seed of the future.

This section is named after a book by Kat Anderson that describes the relationship between the pre-colonial indigenous people of California and the land. Anderson demolishes the myth that hunter-gatherer people were mere occupants of pristine “nature,” demonstrating their deliberate, sustained influence on the composition of biotopes and species in their territory. Entire landscapes that appeared to the untrained eye of white settlers as wild were anything but. Anderson explains:

Through coppicing, pruning, harrowing, sowing, weeding, burning, digging, thinning, and selective harvesting, they encouraged desired characteristics of individual plants, increased populations of useful plants, and altered the structures and compositions of plant communities. Regular burning of many types of vegetation across the state created better habitat for game, eliminated brush, minimized potential for catastrophic fires, and encouraged diversity of food crops. These harvest and management practices, on the whole, allowed for sustainable harvest of plants over centuries and possibly thousands of years.[21]

When white settlers marveled at the stupendous bounty of fish, game, and wild plant foods that the Indians, it seemed, lazily lived off in an indolent existence, when John Muir wrote his glorious praise of California’s Central Valley with its endless meadows of wildflowers, they were actually looking at a sophisticated garden, lovingly tended for generations. According to the elders Anderson interviewed, “wilderness” was not a positive concept in Native culture; it meant land that was not well tended, land in which human beings were not exercising their duty to protect, enhance, and develop life. (I live in California and have heard this same approach from two native elders)

Modern conservationists might be excused for wanting to minimize human impact, since the kind of human impact we’ve seen in the industrial era makes the caring observer recoil in horror. We might be excused for promoting an ethic of “leave no trace.” We might be excused for envisioning a future where humanity retreats to bubble cities, space colonies, or a virtual reality, leaving nature behind to recover its former wholeness, relating to it as a spectacle or a venue for recreation, visiting it perhaps as zero-impact ghosts, observers but not participants.

Tending the Wild suggests a different vision, freeing us from the perceptions with which industrial society has imbued us. Instead of zero impact, it suggests positive impact. Instead of leave no trace, it suggests “leave a beautiful trace” or “leave a healing trace.” It suggests that we ask, “What is our proper role and function in service to the health, harmony, and evolution of this whole of which we are a part?”

We have potent gifts of hand and mind that take the form of technology and culture. These gifts are not meant for us alone. They are meant to serve the wholeness and evolution of Life.

Just because someone is indigenous does not mean he or she, or her culture, knows how to live in mutually beneficial harmony with the earth. It is something each culture must learn. Furthermore, each level of developmental scale requires a new learning.

Extinctions of megafauna and other animals and plants regularly followed human settlement of new lands. Australia, the Americas, New Zealand, Madagascar, and Polynesia all experienced them, suggesting a kind of inevitability to anthropogenic ecocide, which has only accelerated along with our capacity to perpetrate it. Yet, in the end, people in all of these places eventually came into equilibrium with their lands. In most places, as the subsequent biological wealth of the Americas exemplifies, it was an abundant and biodiverse equilibrium. This suggests another possibility beyond Man the Destroyer—that we can learn from our mistakes, that we can mature in our gifts and turn them toward a different purpose."

1491 by Charles C. Mann talks about it being realized that the Amazon rain forest instead of being sparsely populated primeval forest was much more populated 500 years ago under a productive agro-forestry style model of management.


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Looking forward with interest Paul. I'm sure you'll give us something worthwhile to think about.

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Fascinating stuff for which many thanks. Given your experience of the last few months, Paul, it will be interesting to see how your readership changes. I read many of your early essays and found them implicitly pointing toward something that is perhaps being fulfilled for you at the moment. Hopefully you can bring some of the less militantly secular environmentalists along with you on this ride!

I thoroughly enjoyed your trilogy - especially The Wake which, for me, was the best literary portrayal of a sort of Steiner/Barfield 'original participation' I have come across lately. An excellent conversation with Jonathan Pageau.....I'm getting my money's worth already, though obviously I'm not thinking in those terms!

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Hi Paul- thank you for your always excellent, heartful writing and scholarship, as well as your intellectual bravery and candor overall.

Watching this video interview, I came away with the feeling that I might sincerely re-investigate Christianity from a much different perspective RE: ritual, denying the self, radical humility, the essential human need for myth... all of these things seem sensible and true, and as you suggest may be more relevant/ important than ever today to try and actionably summon.

However I just wanted to register a few other comments here; IMO, Pageau, based on the philosophy expounded in several of his other videos… has some pretty retrograde/ frankly openly sexist views; his explication of/ defense of the so-called natural authority flowing from the top down, + from men to women, is IMO extremely flimsily conceptualized...if not almost idiotic. also, for him to frame the worldwide George Floyd protest movement primarily as a, “religious impulse“, although perhaps true in a very “macro” sense....to me seemed bizarrely paternalistic (as well as extremely tone deaf.)

And let me be totally clear, here; IMO

explicitly seeking to integrate the modern feminist struggle, along with other (massive) demographics of human society in one’s Christian philosophy/ vision...is NOT some knee-jerk expression of “woke-ness”!! Nor is my critique of him here an effort to try to “cancel” him, or broadly reject any/ all of his other ideas; just to point out that (some of) his perspectives in this context, IMO work at fundamental cross-purposes with a truer vision of love, compassion, true understanding etc.

uncritical/ unexamined, modern human, male and white supremacy, while (also) being obvious foundational characteristics of a godless/ hyper-individualist/ capitalist culture…unfortunately also (still) go deeply hand-in-hand with traditional Christianity, and IMO one must be extremely vigilant/ careful about not uncritically allowing these toxic dogmas to remain tacitly animated, even when they superficially appear to cut against the grain of mainstream (Christian, atheist, capitalist) culture.

IMO, Pageau’s often overly simplistic and paternalistic Christian worldview explicitly eschews recent historical reality and political analysis, in favor of more reassuring macro-philosophical (and mythological) narratives- + based on the comments section of the video itself (*not his responsibility obviously! but still worth noting)..it seems that many of his viewers apparently still don’t have a visceral sense of how catastrophic the environmental catastrophe actually is.. and (in some cases) also casually vilify BLM/ liberalism as whole/ the entire climate change movement. + regardless of (some of) the misplaced fervor embodied by champions of these movements online...IMO broadly dismissing these phenomena merely as expressions of “failed liberalism“ seems extremely misguided...if not flat out dangerous.

...I just think it’s extremely important for advocates of (even radical) Christian values to not unwittingly gloss over the real life, on-the-ground economic and political mechanics of present day white supremacy (*which while having non-racially specific antecedents/ precedents, + ones far older and more deeply entrenched than their current manifestations) .. IMO it still warrants at least being mentioned (if not actively litigated) in any serious discussion about a contemporary radical transformation of human society.

anyway, thank you again for your excellent work + I look forward to all of your upcoming writings ❤️

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Apr 26, 2021Liked by Paul Kingsnorth

I like to say Paul, l am around your age, gestationally. My point is, your still young enough to know we're getting older. But we are not old yet, in my opinion. How refreshing to hear and feel how we should stop being rebellious toward God. I came across Jonathan Pageau via internet, watching Paul Vanderclay, a reformed minister from Sacramento, CA.

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Hello Paul. Thank you for trying to hold the two opposite poles of love-of-the-wild and Christianity - you're obviously risking electrocution by trying to hold the paradox. Thanks for forging ahead anyway. I'm similarly weird and I find it very, very difficult to language the intersection of these things myself. In my heart, they don't seem paradoxical at all - especially in the mystic traditions. But to most people they seem like political opposites and it can get dicey to talk about them. My friends are a liberal crowd and whenever I get too spiritual people look at me like I grew another head (that would be any Christian talk; there's no problem with Buddhist or yoga/chakra/energy talk). Thanks for being willing to work it out in public. It's a messy but very needed.

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Hi Paul, I thought I would just write a bit about a couple of things to do with nature and Christianity, since that's in a few of the threads below. I grew up always sensing the sacred in nature, and had long 'prayer' times speaking to God while lying in the garden, feeling at one with everything, and sensing a security, a 'presence' around me and in the grass, the tiny flowers and insects, and the clouds drifting above. Unlike you, I also had a fairly strict brethren upbringing, and somehow left behind this sense of the presence of God in nature as a teenager, as I was initiated into a more rationalist version of the faith. Such experiences did not at that time seem to me to be reflected in church and so I became fragmented. I think one of the threats to children from technology is that they are deprived of this early experience to simply 'hear' God for themselves, and may be condemned to be locked in a transhuman prison of the mind. We should probably pray against this. This rationalist version of being a Christian did not last me even into university and I became an 'impersonal God is everywhere/I can't be a Christian' sort of person and assumed Christianity was not for me. Then a decade later, following a very desperate and short prayer, I had an experience of God's presence which remains the outstanding detail of my life. His presence in the room was first of all highly intimate. It was also immense and I was unable to physically rise from the floor and had to crawl to lie down because of the weight of the air above. I was aware that the entire room was full of 'Person'. My mind was unhinged for several weeks by encountering a being so enormously greater in reality than me, who yet was intent upon something scarily personal. I was quite literally changed forever by this. I have read also since then that during the revivals on the Isle of Lewis, there was a locational aspect in which people were unable to escape from the presence of God, since the ground itself was sensed to be so sacred and full of God's presence that people would simply fall down with a sense of their true place. (It seems key to me, this sense of our true place as humans, when considering the possible ecological outcomes of a people fully living in this way). There are still a few people alive today in Lewis who remember this time. I believe there have also been areas in Africa which have experienced ecological renewal following mass conversions, I will try to find out about this. I have since had other times of sensing this sacredness in terms of walking on ground which suddenly seemed holy. The ground I think is always holy, it's just that at various times we are privileged to understand this in an experiential way. I would love to see an interaction between those from protestant traditions who have experienced this holiness of God's presence in creation and the orthodox churches who have that tradition of God being present in creation. For myself, as being used to the protestant tradition, I am in the process of reaching out and wanting to learn more from Romanian orthodox christians who have recently moved to the area. I hope that as things become dim, we will see more Christians becoming more open to the experiences and traditions of one other, and a way will open towards this embracing of the presence of God in all places.

I just want to say to those who always demand proof, that if the existence of God could be proved beyond the shadow of a doubt, then it would make despots of us all. What would such a society look like? Would we even be human, since we would have no choices to make? In the words of Dallas Willard (whose book the Divine Conspiracy is quite helpful), God wants to see what WE want. Then we have the option of becoming co-creators, fully participating with the divine, or simply continuing to build our own empires. I believe this choice is laid before us each minute of each hour of each day. Other people are of course free to differ and they will!

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