Evolutionary Advantages of Intense Spiritual Experience in Nature
Keywords:nature religions, mystical experience, traumatic experience, intense spiritual experience in nature
AbstractAlthough records of intense spiritual experiences in nature exist throughout history, the phenomenon remains a little-investigated question. This article is the first in a series describing empirical findings on intense spiritual experiences in nature. Three data points were established including: 1) a cognitive analysis of forest attitude research interviews; 2) a cognitive analysis of nature authors who write about forests; and 3) a broad review of literature drawn primarily from research in neuroscience, psychology, medicine, consciousness studies, and philosophy. The findings suggest that intense spiritual experience in nature has two variations: mystical and traumatic experience. The positive (mystical) and negative (traumatic) variation share seven physiological and psychological characteristics, with each characteristic providing adaptive, evolutionary advantages. Although partial and preliminary, the data offers compelling evidence demonstrating the existence of certain basic properties of the role of nature in intense spiritual experience. The findings suggest that natural selection may favor intense spiritual experiences in nature.
Caras, R. 1991. The Forest (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press).
d’Aquili, E.O., and A.B. Newberg. 1999. The Mystical Mind: Probing the Biology of Religious Experiences (Minneapolis: Fortress Press).
Davis, J., L. Lockwood, and C. Wright. 1991. ‘Reasons for Not Reporting Peak Experiences’, Journal of Humanistic Psychology 31.1: 86-94. doi:10.1177/0022167891311008.
Frankl, V. 1959. Man’s Search for Meaning (New York: Beacon Press).
Freud, S. 1961. ‘Civilization and its Discontents’, in James Strachey (ed.), The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud (London: Hogarth Press): 59-145.
Goelitz, J. 1991. Secrets from the Lives of Trees (Boulder Creek: Planetary Publications).
Grange, W.B. 1990. Those of the Forest (Minocqua, WI: Willow Creek Press).
Greeley, A.M. 1974. Ecstasy: A Way of Knowing (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall).
Greeley, A.M., and W.C. McCready. 1975. ‘Are We a Nation of Mystics?’, New York Times Magazine, 26 January: 12-25.
Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry. 1976. Spiritual Quest or Psychic Disorder? (New York: Committee for the Advancement of Psychiatry).
James, W. 1958. The Varieties of Religious Experience (New York: Penguin Books).
Janoff-Bulman, R. 1992. Shattered Assumptions: Towards a New Understanding of Trauma (New York: Macmillan).
Katz, S. (ed.). 1978. Mysticism and Philosophical Analysis (New York: Oxford University Press).
———. 1983. Mysticism and Religious Traditions (New York: Oxford University Press).
Kaza, S. 1993. The Attentive Heart: Conversations with Trees (New York: Fawcett Columbine).
Kellert, S.R. 1993. ‘The Biological Basis for Human Values of Nature’, in S.R. Kellert and E.O. Wilson (eds.), The Biophilia Hypothesis (Washington, DC: Island Press): 42-69.
———. 1996. The Value of Life: Biological Diversity and Human Society (Washington, DC: Island Press).
Laski, M. 1990. Ecstasy in Secular and Religious Experiences (Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher).
Lynn, S., and J. Rhue. 1994. Dissociation: Clinical and Theoretical Perspectives (New York: Guilford Press).
Mandela, N. 1996. Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela (London: Abacus).
Margolis, R., and K.W. Elifson. 1979. ‘A Typology of Religious Experience’, Journal for the Scienti_c Study of Religion 18.1: 61-67. doi:10.2307/1385379.
Muir, J. 1997. The Mountains of California (New York: Penguin Books).
———. 1999. ‘My First Summer in the Sierra’, in The Wilderness Journeys (Edinburgh: Canongate Books): 1-153.
Olson, S.F. 1997. The Singing Wilderness (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press).
Otto, R. 1958. The Idea of the Holy (London: Oxford University Press).
Parsons, W.B. 1999. The Enigma of the Oceanic Feeling: Revisioning the Psychoanalytic Theory of Mysticism (New York: Oxford University Press).
Shrader-Frechette, K.S., and E.D. McCoy. 1995. Method in Ecology: Strategies for Conservation (New York: Cambridge University Press).
Stace, W. 1960. Mysticism and Philosophy (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott).
Taylor, B. 2010. Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future (Berkeley: University of California Press).
Terhaar, T. 2005. ‘Nature, Trauma, and the Soul: The Mystical Experience in Nature as a Wellspring of Spiritual Values’ (Ph.D. dissertation, Yale University).
Ulrich, R.S. 1984. ‘View through a Window may In_uence Recovery from Surgery’, Science 224: 420-21. doi:10.1126/science.6143402.
Wiesel, E. 1987. The Night Trilogy: Night, Dawn, The Accident (New York: Hill & Wang).
Wilson, E. 1984. Biophilia (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press).
Wulff, D.M. 2000. ‘Mystical Experience’, in E. Cardeña, S.J. Lynn, and S. Krippner (eds.), Varieties of Anomalous Experience: Examining the Scienti_c Evidence (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association): 397-440. doi:10.1037/10371-012.
Wuthnow, R. 1978. ‘Peak Experiences: Some Empirical Tests’, Journal of Humanistic Psychology 18.3: 50-75.
Zinnbauer, B.J., et al. 1997. ‘Religion and Spirituality: Unfuzzying the Fuzzy’, Journal for the Scienti_c Study of Religion 36.4: 549-64. doi:10.2307/1387689.
How to Cite
© Equinox Publishing Ltd.
For information regarding our Open Access policy, click here.