The Noetics of Nature: Environmental Philosophy and the Holy Beauty of the Visible

The Noetics of Nature: Environmental Philosophy and the Holy Beauty of the Visible

The Noetics of Nature: Environmental Philosophy and the Holy Beauty of the Visible

The Noetics of Nature: Environmental Philosophy and the Holy Beauty of the Visible

Synopsis

Contemplative or "noetic" knowledge has traditionally been seen as the highest mode of understanding, a view that persists both in many non-Western cultures and in Eastern Christianity, where "theoria physike," or the illumined understanding of creation that follows the purification of the heart, is seen to provide deeper insights into nature than the discursive rationality modernity has used to dominate and conquer it. Working from texts in Eastern Orthodox philosophy and theology notwidely known in the West, as well as a variety of sources including mystics such as the Sufi Ibn 'Arabi, poets such as Basho, Traherne, Blake, Holderlin, and Hopkins, and nature writers such as Muir, Thoreau, and Dillard, The Noetics of Nature challenges both the primacy of the natural sciences in environmental thought and the conventional view, first advanced by Lynn White, Jr., that Christian theology is somehow responsible for the environmental crisis. Instead, Foltz concludes that the ancient Christian view of creation as iconic its "holy beauty" manifesting the divine energies and constituting a primal mode of divine revelation offers the best prospect for the radical reversal that is needed in our relation to the natural environment.

Excerpt

And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

—Genesis 1: 2

In a breezy, lightly forested, unassuming neighborhood in Istanbul, less than a hundred yards uphill from the powerful currents of the Golden Horn and its great ships passing by, not far from the site where the once invincible walls of ancient Constantinople were finally breached after eleven hundred years, can be found a place called the Phanar, or “Lighthouse,” originally a significant region of the city, but now reduced more or less to a small compound, the Patriarchate of His All Holiness Bartholomew, 270th Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch. He is a gracious and generous man with a chest-length white beard, sparkling eyes, and a boyish smile that delights and surprises, especially given the frankness and directness of his conversational demeanor, not to mention his ecclesiastical stature. He long ago received the nickname of Green Patriarch because he was perhaps the first leader of any Christian body to speak out strongly, exercise effective leadership, and sponsor a variety of practical initiatives to address the environmental problems that may end up defining our era. And in his foreword to a recent work on the ancient Jewish and early Christian understandings of creation, he wrote something that struck me as being quite extraordinary:

The crisis that we face is—as we all know and as we all read
ily admit—not primarily ecological but religious; it has less

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