From despair to where: can deep ecology provide a religious meaning to life?

Goddard, Mark (2007) From despair to where: can deep ecology provide a religious meaning to life? (MA(R) thesis), Kingston University, .


This dissertation, as the title suggests, explores the capacity of Deep Ecology to provide a religious meaning to life. In a culture increasingly sceptical towards organised religion Deep Ecology seeks to find meaning through a combination of evolutionary biology and the meditative practises of mysticism - particularly Zen and Taoism. This thesis is divided into two halves. The first explores the nature of belonging as a religious or spiritual/mystical participation in the world. I wanted this first part to serve as a background for the later discussion of Deep Ecology, dealt with in the second half My intention was to set out the central ideas of Deep Ecology against this background to seehow far they might provide this sense of connection as it is understood in the mystic or spiritual traditions. From the literature on Zen, Taoism and mysticism generally, two central ideas consistently appeared. Firstly, that exclusive identification with the egoic-self was the primary obstacle to be overcome, and secondly that the experience of non¬ordinary or transpersonal states formed the living heart of true religion. In organised or institutionalised religion this experience is frequently lost; In this common core a new felt solidarity or belonging is found as our concern and care extends beyond the egoic-self to embrace both others and the very biosphere itself Once the narrow and selfish interests of the ego are transcended a sense of meaning also emerges, a meaning found in this care and concern. However, critics of Deep Ecology accuse its supporters of failing to fully grasp the consequences of tampering with the normal ego-centred state without a total.

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