The Wilderness Mysticism of John Muir with Author and Educator Stephen Hatch

John Muir (1838-1914) is best known for his work in preserving the great natural areas of America.  He was an explorer, botanist, geologist, storyteller, and a founder of the Sierra Club.  Muir camped with Theodore Roosevelt at Yosemite, and used the opportunity to influence the President to set aside many of our National Parks.  His exuberance was legendary, and has made him a beloved author for many modern seekers. 

What is not commonly known is that Muir was also a great mystic who experienced union with the Divine through contact with the great wild areas of the West.  In fact, his preservation efforts were motivated by a realization that – because all creatures are rooted in a personal Divine Presence whose love permeates all things equally – they too are sentient. For Muir, this sentience imbued even mountains, rocks, glaciers, rivers and ‘spirit skies.’  

Muir is an important figure in American Spirituality because he morphed his childhood Christian upbringing into a union with God in Nature. 

“Christianity and Mountainanity are streams from the same fountain,” he once wrote. Muir experienced a “conversion” – a “born-again” experience – in the mountains of California, and found himself “baptized” in the spray of Yosemite’s massive waterfalls.  He was a prophet calling Americans to “repent” of their city ways and to embrace the gospel of the wilderness.  

His writings are especially helpful for those current seekers who consider themselves “spiritual but not religious,” who find their union with the Divine primarily through Nature. 

“Christianity and Mountainanity are streams from the same fountain,” he once wrote. Muir experienced a “conversion” – a “born-again” experience – in the mountains of California, and found himself “baptized” in the spray of Yosemite’s massive waterfalls.  He was a prophet calling Americans to “repent” of their city ways and to embrace the gospel of the wilderness.  

His writings are especially helpful for those current seekers who consider themselves “spiritual but not religious,” who find their union with the Divine primarily through Nature.  

In this Powerpoint presentation, we examined the various elements of Muir’s spirituality of Nature and of the people who influenced him, including Emerson and Thoreau.  Stephen Hatch’s own stunning landscape photographs will be used to illustrate many of the major points.

Books by Stephen Hatch

Stephen Hatch

Stephen Hatch

Stephen Hatch trained with Father Thomas Keating in the 1980s and has lived acontemplative life ever since. His life work is discovering and practicing the connection between Nature and contemplation. Stephen teaches two Christian Mysticism courses at Naropa University and is the author of “The Contemplative John Muir: Spiritual Quotations from the Great American Naturalist” (2012), and “Wilderness Mysticism: A Contemplative Christian Tradition” (2018). He was interviewed in the recent film: “The Unruly Mystic: John Muir&quot”; (2019). Stephen lives in Fort Collins and hikes, camps and backpacks whenever he can.

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