Nature Religion as She Is Conceptualized in 2013

I am off Thursday to Cherry Hill Seminary’s “Sacred Lands and Spiritual Landscapes” symposium. Although not one of the marquee speakers, I have a small part to play as a respondent for one panel.

What does a respondent do? First, you read all papers in advance. Of course, there is often somebody who has a string of excuses for not sending his or her paper, so (assuming that person does not bail out totally), you hope that you can take some notes during its delivery and extemporize some remarks.

Having heard the presentations, it is your turn to take a few minutes and discuss common themes, opportunities for further research, and the like. It is considered bad form—at least in the conferences that I have attended—to say, “Jane Doe’s paper was jumbled and had nothing useful to say about Problem X.” You might say, however, “Jane Doe rightly draws our attention to Problem X.”

On the other hand, I have heard respondents critique the overall theme of a session as being poorly thought out, so it’s not always all sweetness and light. But the respondent responds constructively, rather than conducting an oral examination.

Cherry Hill is a seminary too, after all, which means some of the presenters engage in more theologizing than I am used to in my corner of religious studies.

To get in the right frame of mind, I have been re-reading parts of Bron Taylor’s Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future, which lays out different aspects of what he calls “naturalistic animism” in particular, that is to say, animism that is does not require any supernatural component but is more of a shared web-of-life experience. Is this the same as the “New Animism”? Perhaps we have a theme for an AAR session here.

This new book, Walking in the Land of Many Gods: Remembering Sacred Reason in Contemporary Environmental Literature by A. James Wohlpart, looks like it might belong on the same shelf. I need to order a copy.

Also related: I have added Adrian Harris’ BodyMind Place blog to the blogroll. A psychotherapist in England, he gives ecopsychology-based workshops in the UK under the name Nature Connection. Here he writes about what happens when he took one of his psychotherapy techniques . . . outdoors!