The 4th-century writer Evagrius of Pontus likens the experience of contemplation to dwelling in a kind of place. "When the mind has put off the old self and shall put on the one born of grace," says Evagrius, "then it will see its own state in the time of prayer resembling sapphire of the color of heaven. This state is called by scripture, the place of God." Douglas Christie believes that the ancient tradition of Christian contemplative thought and practice represented by Evagrius has a genuine contribution to make to the world of ecological thought and practice. At the same time, he says, the sense of "the whole" emerging from contemporary ecological discourse has the potential to deepen and expand the classic understanding of contemplative life and practice.
One of the striking features of the present historical moment is a deep and pervasive hunger for a less fragmented way of apprehending the world. Attending to these two traditions of thought and practice together, Christie argues, can help us recover such an integrated vision of the world. Additionally, there is a growing recognition in the culture at large, and in faith communities in particular, of the need for a response to the ecological crisis that expresses our deepest moral and spiritual values. Drawing on the insights of the early Christian monastics as well as the ecological writings of such figures as Henry David Thoreau, Aldo Leopold, Annie Dillard, and many others, Christie forges a distinctively contemplative vision of ecological spirituality that could, he contends, serve to ground the work of ecological restoration.
"With this book Douglas E. Christie joins the ranks of Annie Dillard and Wendell Berry in their explorations of the challenge of spirituality to awaken and us to attend to the environment. Yet with Christie there is something quite unique in his contribution. He brings to bear his intimate and scholarly knowledge of the Christian contemplative tradition on the most urgent ecological matters on our time."
– Martin Laird, O.S.A., author of Into the Silent Land and A Sunlit Absence
"There is no one as qualified as Douglas Christie to write a book such as this. Along with impeccable scholarship, he brings eloquence, passion, depth, and experience to the discussion. Surely we need a contemplative ecology and this is a masterful work that shows us the path."
– Mary Evelyn Tucker, Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale
"This movingly autobiographical and deeply interdisciplinary book links ancient monastic practices of contemplation to modern environmental ideas, especially as they are reflected in works of modern and contemporary American literature. In emphasizing acts of creative attention and the spiritual necessity of mourning our lost sacred places, Christie gives the humanities a central role in addressing the environmental crisis of our time."
– H. Daniel Peck, author of Thoreau's Morning Work
Ch. 1. Immersion in the Larger Whole: Toward a Contemplative Ecology
Ch. 2. Contact, or the Blue Sapphire of the Mind
Ch. 3. Penthos: The Gift of Tears
Ch. 4. Topos: The Work of Place-Making
Ch. 5. Prosoche: The Art of Attention
Ch. 6. Logos: The Song of the World
Ch. 7. Eros: Exchange, Intimacy, Reciprocity
Ch. 8. Kenosis: Empty, Emptied
Ch. 9. Telos: The Practice of Paradise
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Douglas E. Christie is Professor of Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University