Religious naturalism is the idea that the sacred is found in nature. (Where else would you expect to find it?) It embraces reality and finds inspiration in it.
Many people's lives and work could be cited to illustrate natural piety, or religious naturalism. Among them is Ralph Ellison, who became famous as author of the National Book Award winning novel Invisible Man in 1953. Though most easily seen as a narrative about race relations and identity in the United States, it is also "a book about the human race stumbling down the path to identity." I offer Ellison's work, and commentary about his work and life, as an example of piety.
- Ralph Ellison, The Collected Essays of Ralph Ellison (Modern Library, 1995).
- Arnold Rampersad, Ralph Ellison: A Biography (Knopf, 2007).
- Beth Eddy, The Rites of Identity: The Religious Naturalism and Cultural Criticism of Kenneth Burke and Ralph Ellison (Princeton University Press, 2003).
- Ralph Ellison
Ellison was influenced by Kenneth Burke, who wrote about human motives in an attempt to understand the human condition.
- Kenneth Burke, A Grammar of Motives (Prentice Hall, 1945).
- Kenneth Burke, A Rhetoric of Motives (Prentice Hall, 1950).
- Kenneth Burke, Essays Toward a Symbolic of Motives, 1950-55 (Parlor Press, 2006).
Technical and Analytical Readings
Here are works more formally on the subject of religious naturalism.
- Ursula Goodenough, The Sacred Depths of Nature (Oxford University Press, 1998).
- Jerome A. Stone, Religious Naturalism Today: The Rebirth of a Forgotten Alternative (State University of New York Press, 2008).
- Gordon Kaufman, In the Face of Mystery: A Constructive Theology (Harvard University Press, 1995).
- Thomas Berry, The Sacred Universe: Earth, Spirituality, and Religion in the Twenty-First Century (Columbia University Press, 2009).
- Gregory Bateson, Steps to an Ecology of Mind (University of Chicago Press, 2000).
- Gary Snyder and Jim Harrison, The Etiquette of Freedom (Counterpoint, 2010).
- Gary Snyder, The Practice of the Wild (Counterpoint, 2010).
- Arthur Dobrin, Spelling God with Two O's (Columbia Pub. Co., 1993).
- Aleksey Savrasov, Summer Landscape with Pine Trees near the River (1878)
- Aleksey Savrasov, On the Volga (1875)
- Aleksey Savrasov, Rainbow (1875)
- Aleksey Savrasov, Spring Day (1873)
- Aleksey Savrasov, Autumn (1871)
- Aleksey Savrasov, After a Thunderstorm (c. 1875)
- Aleksey Savrosov, Winter Night (1869)
- Aleksey Savrasov, Summer Landscape (1860s)
- Aleksey Savrasov, Type in the Swiss Alps (1862)
- Gary Snyder, The Gary Snyder Reader: Prose, Poetry, and Translations (Counterpoint, 1999).
- Gary Snyder, Turtle Island (New Directions, 1974).
- Gary Snyder, Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems (Counterpoint, 2009).
- Gary Snyder, Mountains and Rivers Without End (Counterpoint, 2008).
- Gary Snyder, No Nature: New and Selected Poems (Pantheon, 1993).
- Gary Snyder, The Back Country (New Directions, 1971).
- Gary Snyder
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
Heard as unaccompanied soloists (or accompanied by tabla only), the Iranian classical masters, performing traditional works, express the deep commitment, carried into action, which comprises the heart of piety.
- Mohammad Mousavi, nay
- Siamak Nasr and other setar masters
- Daryush Safvat Mahur and other setar masters
- Masters of santur
- Vusal Iskender in concert
- Harjinder Pal Singh, santur master
- Hossein Farjami, “The Art of Santoor from Iran”
- Faramarz Payvar, santur master
- Jalil Shahnaz, nay master
- Intermittently meditative and active, intermittently serious and joyful, Cesar Franck’s Symphony in D Minor, M48 (1888), expresses a conception of Humanistic reverence.
- Komorous, Serenade for Strings (1982)
- Copland, Quiet City (1940) – reverence for people
- Raga Chayanat usually performed in late evening, is described as a passionate, red-eyed warrior (performances by Gupta, Rajan and Ghulam Ali Khan).
- Whitacre, a capella choral works, 1991-2001
- Dahl, Hymn
Many overtly Christian works capture the spirit of reverence in the music:
- Grechaninov, Passion Week, Op. 58
- Sacred music of Jacobus Vaet (1529-1567), including many short pieces and also: Missa pro defunctis (Requiem); Missa Quodlibetica; Missa Ego Flos Campi.
My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.
[William Wordsworth, “My Heart Leaps Up”]
Why! who makes much of a miracle?
As to me, I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach, just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love—or sleep in the bed at night
with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with my mother,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive, of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds—or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sun-down—or of stars shining so
quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite, delicate, thin curve of the new moon in spring;
Or whether I go among those I like best, and that like me best—mechanics,
Or among the savans—or to the soirée—or to the opera.
Or stand a long while looking at the movements of machinery,
Or behold children at their sports,
Or the admirable sight of the perfect old man, or the perfect old woman,
Or the sick in hospitals, or the dead carried to burial,
Or my own eyes and figure in the glass;
These, with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring—yet each distinct and in its place.
To me, every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same;
Every spear of grass—the frames, limbs, organs, of men and women, and all that
All these to me are unspeakably perfect miracles.
To me the sea is a continual miracle;
The fishes that swim—the rocks—the motion of the waves—the ships,
with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?
[Walt Whitman, “Miracles”]
Music: songs and other short pieces
- Karl Jenkins, Benedictus, from “The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace”, performed by the cellist Hauser