Encounters with Nature in Ancient and Contemporary Thought
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 This examination of how different cultures and religions view nature tends to flatten differences among various traditions into a kind of spiritual pancake. McLuhan (Touch the Earth, 1971), who has previously written about American Indians, is disturbed by the continuing and accelerating exploitation of the planet. In an effort to gain new insights that may help inhabitants of this island earth ``re- inhabit'' it intelligently, humanely, and sustainably, she looks at the various peoples of the world and their notions about the earth. There is, she contends, a remarkable similarity among various non- Western cultures in their concepts of the sacredness of nature. In her approach, a kind of unitive pluralism, a wide range of peoples from ancient Greece to modern times have more in common than they do not. McLuhan examines the Australian Aborigines and their concept of ``the dreaming,'' according to which every rock and rill is numinous and has importance for their life and faith. From Japan, she discusses the beliefs of both the Ainu (the indigenous population of the north) and Buddhists. Native African wisdom is plumbed and displayed. Of course, McLuhan returns to her prior interest as well. She discusses Indians from both South America (the Kogi, who still live much the same way they did before Columbus came) and North America. Numerous quotations from persons in the traditions, as diverse as Matsuo Basho (a 17th-century Japanese poet) and Nicholas Black Elk (the famous Sioux seer of Black Elk Speaks) enliven the text. Ignoring the fact that the peoples with which she is dealing are involved in complex cultural and religious systems from which isolated elements cannot be plucked, McLuhan finds a kind of false unity while sometimes steamrolling the beautiful, rich diversity.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-671-75939-6
Page count: 576pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1994