The Only Scripture (and God) We Need


“John Muir’s Stormy Sermons are to be taken quite literally as a gospel.  He meant that Nature was the only church where his religion could be practiced.  Go indoors on Sunday and listen to the preacher tell you about the Scriptures?  That was absurd.  Better to go outdoors and listen to the Scriptures which are plain enough in the sun, wind, waters, earth, plants and animals.  Any book but the Book of Nature is a graven image.  Any path but the Pathless Way of the wilderness is a rut. . . .

If we wish a vision from Nature, we must listen to her voice, hear her language. . . .

The trouble is that Muir’s religion is by its very nature a solitary one, in its practice and in its revelations.  It may be that there can be no church of the wilderness.”

-Michael Cohen, The Pathless Way: John Muir and American Wilderness (1984)

Maybe Cohen is right that there can be no church of the wild.  But maybe we don’t need a “church,” or mosque, synagogue or temple.  Maybe that’s the heart of Muir:  Nature is the Great Sanctuary and Classroom, greater than any Religion, any Church, any Scripture. . .any God.  And we can enjoy it alone or alongside others who read the Book of Nature.

More meditations with Muir


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