‘Nature’, Post/Modernity and the Migration of the Sublime


  • Richard H. Roberts Lancaster University




Max Weber, postmodern, Zygmunt Bauman, nature


The transformation and attrition of nature under conditions of modernization has been represented as a conflict between ‘first’ and ‘second’ nature. Beyond, as it were, the antithesis of the pre-modern and the modern, a ‘third nature’ of seemingly infinite malleability is associated (e.g.) with cyborgs, virtual reality and genetic engineering under so-called postmodern conditions. It is possible to relate these processes of disembedding and progressive dissociation of ‘natures’ from a shared or received physical world with what Max Weber characterized as the ‘disenchantment’ (Entzauberung) of the natural world associated with modernization, and what Zygmunt Bauman regards as the ‘re-enchantment’ of the cosmos under postmodernizing conditions. Explicit re-sacralization of Nature as Gaia and Goddess in ecological spiritualities is an extreme manifestation of the latter tendency. In the contemporary recomposition of the religious field, the sublime has migrated from its traditional and eroded strongholds of trancendence and now occupies a wide and confusing range of interstitial footholds. Yet, without a powerful, comprehensive and widely shared ethical and religious reconfiguration of the claims of Nature, postmodern spiritual bricolage may remain open to the charge that it is an elite indulgence fraught with contradiction and grounded upon problematic assumptions. Large-scale and fundamental religious and theological revisionism is required within mainline religion (initially, above all in the Abrahamic faiths), that is if we are to re-learn realistic modes of encounter with nature within a human ecology that takes seriously into account the philosophical, theological and sociological construals of ‘nature’ and the migration of the sublime in the ‘postmodern condition’.

Author Biography

Richard H. Roberts, Lancaster University

Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies, Department of Religious Studies, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YG


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How to Cite

Roberts, R. H. (2004). ‘Nature’, Post/Modernity and the Migration of the Sublime. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 9(3), 315–337. https://doi.org/10.1558/ecotheology.v9i3.315