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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Sustainability and Spirituality: Common Threads and Common Threats
by Chavez, Felicia India, Ph.D., Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2017, 458; 10278487
Abstract (Summary)

Common principles, or threads, are studied that are readily found in both spiritual traditions (including religion) and in the field of sustainability. Oneness, Living Simply, Purity, and Care and Heart are examined at length, while Awakening, Awe and Wonder, and Preservation of Life are covered briefly. Opposite principles—for example, Oneness versus Fracturedness, and Purity versus Pollution—are analyzed as well. Principles and their opposites are found to have both high and low modes. Each polarity has life-supporting and life-degrading forms.

Spiritual and religious traditions are grouped into five broad categories. While three of the categories consist of world religions (traditions of Indian origin, Abrahamic traditions, and East Asian traditions), also included are indigenous traditions, alchemy and Hermeticism, and modern spiritual teachings. Sustainability is organized into three categories: ecological science, activism, and sustainable business.

The common threads between sustainability and spirituality are most reliably found in the segments of world religions that tend toward mysticism, and within teachings that emphasize the cultivation of a greater capacity for just awareness, or presence itself, such as Eckhart Tolle’s works. Indigenous traditions shine as examples of societies that have embodied, and in some cases, continue to embody life-supporting principles far more explicitly and fully than cultures that have lost intimacy with their local ecosystems.

The conclusions drawn based on findings is that wisdom traditions corroborate the idea that the outer world is a reflection of the inner world, and that improving the state of the planet therefore requires personal transformation as a prerequisite to outer improvements. A higher order of intelligence, or nous, referenced in multiple mystical traditions, is indispensable to sustainability work. This and other spiritual principles directly inform sustainability efforts, but to be fully employed they require first-hand, personal experience of spiritual realities. Those who would work toward a genuinely sustainable society are urged to pursue mystical or presence-based spiritual training and experience as a matter of urgency, including direct interaction with nature to facilitate rebuilding intimacy with ecosystems, combined with deepening understanding of ecologically sophisticated indigenous lifeways.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Mahaffey, Patrick
Commitee: Laszlo, Kathia, White, Dana
School: Pacifica Graduate Institute
Department: Mythological Studies
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 78/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Religion, Sustainability, Spirituality
Keywords: Deep ecology, Hermeticism, Indigenous traditions, Mysticism, Systems thinking, Tolle, Eckhart
Publication Number: 10278487
ISBN: 978-1-369-74243-5
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