Divine wilderness: John Muir's spiritual and political journey

Flinders, Tim
Date Written:  2016-05-06
Publisher:  The Ecologist
Year Published:  2016
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX19475

For John Muir, founder of America's national parks, immersion in nature was a blessing providing direct communion with divinity,and the cause of a spiritual awakening that inspired his life's work: to preserve wilderness and communicate the beauty, wonder and fragility of nature, sharing widely the source of his own enlightenment.



Muir succeeded beyond his wildest imaginings. His many travel articles and almost a dozen books were widely read and helped to generate a groundswell of public opinion in favor of conservation. In his fifties, Muir developed a talent for political advocacy and during the last quarter of the century, he inspired and collaborated with some of the nation's leading intellectuals, financiers, reformers and policy makers, including presidents Roosevelt and Taft, to lobby Congress to establish the nation's first national parks, including his beloved Yosemite.

With little more than his pen and his inexhaustible passion for "divine wildness", Muir helped reverse the industrialized West's unbridled exploitation of nature, while setting in motion what would become the modern conservation movement. In 1892 he founded the Sierra Club to advocate for the cause of conservation-the first organization of its kind-and served as its president until his death in 1914.

Since his passing, 6,600 federal and state parks have been established in the USA, while more than one hundred million acres of America's wetlands and forests, deserts, and mountains have been set aside as wilderness areas for the enjoyment, health, and - decidedly for Muir - the spiritual well-being of the public. His story stands as one of the best examples of an individual's spiritual awakening becoming a catalyst for social change.

"Not like my taking the veil - no solemn abjuration of the world", he later reflected on his journey. "I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in."

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