Sacred Ecology of Plants

The Vegetative Soul in the Botanical Poetry of Les Murray


  • John Charles Ryan University of New England and University of Western Australia



Les Murray, Australian mora, plant intelligence, vegetative soul, botanical poetry, indigenous cultures


With developments in the botanical sciences regarding signaling and behavior, the idea of plant sensitivity becomes an increasingly real possibility. In conjunction with empirically argued principles of percipience, intelligence, and memory in the plant world, the vegetative soul takes on a new signilcance. Aristotle, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and other Western commentators delineated between the ensoulment of plants, animals, and humans. They regarded the vegetative soul as the incomplete basis for the emergence of animal and human life. The vegetative soul resonates deeply in the cosmologies of Aboriginal Australian people who regard plants as spiritually imbued participants in creation stories, or the Dreaming. Circumventing a hierarchical typology of ensoulment, the Australian poet Les Murray invokes these diverse notions of soul in his botanical poetry. Shaped by the convergence of Christian beliefs and traditional Australian indigenous conceptions of mora, Murray’s verse positions plants within a sacred ecology as ensouled beings with intelligent capacities proper to their modes of existence.






How to Cite

Ryan, J. C. (2017). Sacred Ecology of Plants: The Vegetative Soul in the Botanical Poetry of Les Murray. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 10(4), 459-484.