The shack! The shack of Aldo Leopold and his family symbolizes not only his work as a major figure In modern environmentalism but also his path as a spiritual leader. The fellows of the Black Earth Institute twice visited the shack as part of their annual retreat. When his daughter Nina was asked about Leopold’s religion she waved her arms in the direction of outside the shack and said, “This.” Or from Garry Suttle, “In describing Leopold’s religious beliefs, his son Luna said “I think he, like many of the rest of us, was kind of pantheistic. The organization of the universe was enough to take the place of God, if you like. He certainly didn’t believe in a personal God.” Leopold’s wife, Estella, asked him directly if he believed in a deity. “He replied that he believed there was a mystical supreme power that guided the Universe,” according to Estella, “but to him this power was not a personalized God. It was more akin to the laws of nature…his religion came from nature.”
A growing population defines itself as spiritual but not religious. This is often a reaction to what is seen as problems or limitations of organized religion or not accepting generally held views of deity or deities. In Leopold’s case he sought the spiritual but saw that the power was in other than a personal God.
There is often an emptiness in people as problems with religion push them away. Spiritual but not religious can fill that gap. Nancy Ammerman reports that this group increased from 9% in 1998 to 14% in 2012 with the largest growth in those under 40 years of age. Ammerman goes further in describing several varieties, based on an untraditional view of deity, of ethics, of transcendence or of ethics and compassion.
Again while some may oppose this group wither from the point of strict religion or from an insistence on secularism, spiritual but not religious informs many as the grounds of striving for social justice and sustainability.
In this issue we have a rich contribution of the various expressions of transcendent and spiritual drawing on figures like Thoreau or from personal journey.
A box of wind
…only the light remains
What I Believe Today
Spirituality: A Loaded Word
Leave what you know
Me and Thoreau and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park:
My Life in the Woods with the Kids
Kokopelli at the RV Park
Yearning; Our Journey Together
Karla Linn Merrifield
Long strange trip
Sutttle, Gary. Aldo Leopold. From The Pantheist Association for Nature, naturepantheist.org/Leopold. On line, accessed November 9, 2014
Ammerman, Nancy, Spiritual but not Religious, Beyond Binary in the Study of Religion. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. 52:2; pages 258-278; June 2013.