Friday, September 12, 2008

Seyyed Hossein Nasr and the Environment: “Ecoside is suicide”

By Anne Marieke Schwencke, Leiden University.

Seyyed Hossein Nasr has been voicing his concerns about the devastation of the natural environment since the end of the 1960s. He has articulated his views in several books--The Encounter of Man and Nature (1966), Man and Nature: the Spiritual Crisis of Modern Man (1989) and Religion and the Order of Nature (1996)--and in numerous lectures.

I am presently working on a BA thesis on Nasr’s environmental ideas. Having worked as an environmental policy researcher for some years, the religious perspective on the environmental crisis in Nasr’s thought caught my attention. Nasr’s views are extremely interesting. They provide a different perspective from the mainstream environmental discourse, although he shares common ground with deep-ecology thinkers and venerated icons of the environmental movement like E. F. Schumacher (Small is Beautiful). Present research about Nasr addresses his Traditionalist views, his philosophy, his ideas about ‘science and Islam,’ etc., but his environmental views seem to get less attention.

According to Nasr, the environmental crisis is in fact a spiritual crisis, finding its root cause in the modern Western materialistic and secular worldview. A solution for the environmental crisis is to be found in a rediscovery of ‘traditional’ religious cosmology, values and truths. Nasr explicitly draws on religious, mystical metaphysical systems of thought–not only Islamic–that have, in his view, been eclipsed by modernity and need to be revived. These emphasize the inherent unity and interrelatedness of nature, humanity and the Divine.

My research covers Nasr’s views and the responses to his work (his audiences). All suggestions will be appreciated. Either leave a comment on this blog, or email


Stanislaus Turba said...

Good afternoon,

This is a challeging concern, and I agree with seeing the environmental devastation in close relation with materialistic and anthropocentric paradigms.

What role does monotheism play in Nasr's view?

Stanislaus Turba said...

Does he know Ludwig Klages and his views on anthropocentrism?

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Klages, his work 'Of Cosmogonic Eros' was just published for the first time in English: