John Muir: Secular Spiritual Teacher/Trailguide

Muir Reflection

Those of us out here on the edge, in the wilds of unmapped land somewhere between the old “spirituality” and a new, positive and creative secularity, look for wise guidance all the time.  Whenever someone seems to articulate the strange, unfamiliar territory by telling stories that ring true in the wild places of ideas, my ears perk up and a smile crosses my face.  Aha!  Here’s someone to hike with!

John Muir (yes, the naturalist “father of national parks”) constantly offers delightful re-definitions of the old theological terms to wander and wonder about our marvellous, “glorious” world he considered heaven.

Here’s a chewy trailbar of wisdom for the path today, from Muir’s mountain journal, October, 1872:

“Some plants readily take on the forms and habits of society, but generally speaking soon return to primitive simplicity, and I, too, like a weed of cultivation feel a constant tendency to return to primitive wildness.  


Well, perhaps I may yet become a proper cultivated plant, cease my wild wanderings, and form a so-called pillar or something in society, but if so, I must, like a revived Methodist, learn to love what I hate and to hate what I most intensely and devoutly love.”


Thank Good, thank Nature, Muir was never “revived” from his sense of primitive roots.  He remained uncultivated, for the most part, in his simple, intense devotion and love for his beautiful, wild world.  

I find that a good model for a practice of sensible secularity that is not anti-spiritual, don’t you? 


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