personal ecosophy is an ecologically responsible life style striving for harmony
with Nature and the wild. Reflect on the meaning of ecosophy,
as explained by Arne Naess.
Naess’ Description of Ecosophy
an ecosophy I mean a philosophy of ecological harmony or equilibrium. A
philosophy as a kind of sofia (or)
wisdom, is openly normative, it contains both
norms, rules, postulates, value priority announcements and hypotheses concerning the state of affairs in our universe.
Wisdom is policy wisdom, prescription, not only scientific description and
prediction. The details of an ecosophy will show many variations due to
significant differences concerning not only the ‘facts’ of pollution,
resources, population, etc. but also value priorities.”
(See A. Drengson and
Y. Inoue, 1995, page 8, in the ecostery reading list.)
Articulate your Ecosophy by sketching your response to these questions:
What kind of world is this? How does it work?
What is the nature of your self? How did you come to be? How do you fit into the
world? What is it to complete or realize your self nature?
What do you feel is of most value? How can it be achieved?
What can you contribute to improving our human world, starting with yourself and
close relationships? How can you improve the quality of your ecological
questions help to guide a deep inquiry that will lead you to articulate your
life’s philosophy through a meaningful personal story. Imagine that you are
writing a letter to a friend. Tell your story of how the world came to be, where
you came from and what is of most value, given your current understanding. Your
ecosophy also can be conveyed through art, music and in other ways. Express your
ecosophic life style in your daily actions and choices. Your ecosophy can be
given a unique personal name such as Blue Mountain Ecosophy.
articulating your personal philosophy based on ecological values (ecosophy),
clarify what you mean by basic value norms, fundamental principles and key
words. Elaborate on your statements about values, human life and the nature of
the world. Suppose, inspired by Naess, you say that “Self Realization for all
beings!” is your ultimate norm. Explain what this means to you, and give
illustrative examples. What is this self to be realized? Are only human selves
involved? Suppose you say that the ultimate nature of reality is “creative
evolution,” explain what these words mean in your philosophy. How are your
views connected with your community in daily life in your unique place?
major worldviews can be communicated through stories which, when systematically
articulated by means of reasoning, become formal as well as lived philosophies.
Most of us don’t need a fully systematized formal philosophy to live in an
ecologically responsible way. Personal ecosophies are more easily shared through
stories and verse.
we live in a multi-cultural world dominated by a globalizing political economy,
it is important to consider some of the cross cultural dimensions in our
relationships. To have a broad perspective on our local situation, it is
necessary to be aware of international realities. Therefore, our ecosophies
should have connections with larger global realities, even though focused in
local situations and actions. A cross cultural approach enables us to more
effectively support the international movement for ecological responsibility, to
“act locally and think globally”. Designing your ecosophy with cross
cultural perspectives helps you to appreciate the value of diversity, and how it
makes us all richer in quality of life.
Four Levels of Discourse
his comprehensive framework for cross cultural analysis of grass roots
social‑political movements, Naess describes four levels of discourse found
in our studies and discussions (see chart). In cross cultural global movements a
general consensus develops that focuses the movement through platform
principles such as the principles of social justice, or the principles of
peace and non-violence, or the principles for the deep ecology movement. (For
the DEM platform principles, see below.) The principles of these movements
emerge and are supported from the bottom up. They are grass roots movements (as
in the Gandhian tradition), without top down hierarchies of control. These
principles are not a statement of ultimate philosophy, but a platform for
inspiring cooperative action at the local and international levels on behalf of
Levels of Discourse in Inquiry and Discussion
Taoism, Christianity, Ecosophy T, etc.
Peace Movement, Deep Ecology Movement, Social Justice Movement, etc.
A, B, C, etc.
W, X, Y, etc.
developing our answers to the four question strands given above, we move toward
articulating our own ultimate philosophy, which includes our ideas of reality
and our ultimate value norms. In derivation and application we move toward
supporting and developing principles, policies and practical actions. This is a
continuous back and forth process that helps keep our understanding and
practices in harmony with the evolving world.
deep inquiry evolves with natural and social conditions. In the three grassroots
movements mentioned above the principles are individual and international. There
is a great diversity of ultimate philosophies in the world, and yet we can work
cooperatively for the benefit of the planet, its communities and wild beings. We
each can contribute values to realizing a higher quality of life for ourselves,
families and communities. We can work on
many different levels in our communities and home places, and we can also have a
positive global effect.
is useful to focus on the four levels of discourse to help us organize and spell
out our personal ecosophies. From this reflective process, we can see that our
day to day to actions might lack coherence. Many of our institutions are guided
by policies whose raison-d’être no longer makes sense.
we question why we act in certain ways, why certain policies are in effect, we
can be led to more general statements of principle, what in movements function
as uniting platform principles. I discover through questioning and research that
there is a global platform for social justice. I then realize that some of my
policies and actions are not consistent with these principles. I inquire more
deeply and discover my ultimate reasons for supporting these and other
principles. Eventually I am led to level 1, that of basic premises, principles,
value norms and the like, that when systematically connected constitute an
philosophies are often associated with human religious and secular
organizations. Many people accept the religious teachings they received as
children as the background sense of their daily lives. In articulating our
beliefs and commitments, we are able to sort out these different levels and more
explicitly formulate our ultimate philosophy as level 1.
we are committed Buddhists, to use this philosophy as an example, we can explore
how to support international social justice principles from Buddhist teachings.
The same would be done to support the platform principles of the deep ecology
movement. We would spell out why we support these principles (level 2) on the
basis of our Buddhist philosophy. We could also say how these teachings support
national social justice policies and specific local, practical actions (levels 3
and 4). In real life we are always modifying our articulations.
articulating our personal ecosophy we can discover our fourfold nature (spirit,
intellect, emotion, sensual-physical), and that there are many arts and
disciplines that help us to unify and integrate our basic powers through daily
practice. These arts can be adapted to our particular place and become part of
our daily rituals involved in making our own home place an ecostery. To continue
with this undertaking go to part two, on designing your ecostery. Below you will
find more questions and a matrix for exploring our fourfold nature and our place.
Also see the other resources on this website, links, glossary, and so on.
2. Designing an Ecostery
Let us reflect on the explanation of ecostery
set forth on this website.
are loved places where ecological values, knowledge and wisdom are learned,
practiced and shared.
They can be centered in a semi-permanent camp in a natural forest clearing, a
small cabin by a lake, a house in town, or a fully built rural farm, occupied by
a single person, family, group or community. Whatever their size and location,
they are sacred, respected, and honored places. They are sanctified and made
better by caring, skillful practices. They are always evolving in quality.
word “ecostery” was formed by
combining “ecos” with “stery.” Ecos
is the ancient Greek word for home or household. It is the source of our word
“ecology,” which means the study (logia)
of our household place (ecos). Ecos is
our house and neighbourhood, but also includes our ecological community and
watershed. “Stery” is from the
word “monastery.” A monastery is a place where people live according to
rules of devotion and respect. Because its members share values, they work
together to realize a complete and sacred life here and now. In an ecostery the
practices engender harmony with Nature. An ecostery
is a place with ecosophy: literally
ecological (eco) wisdom (sophia).
An ecosophy is any lifestyle that respects ecological values and seeks
harmony with Nature. Thus, an ecostery is any place where an ecosophy is
learned, practiced and shared. As place specific they can be given a proper name
such as Blue Mountain Ecostery.
To design your
ecostery sketch your response to these questions:
What is the nature of the place where you live? (Note: Place
includes your home location and ecological community.)
What can you learn from its many tame and wild beings? How do they live? What is
What does the long history of your place tell you about its values and
limitations? What values inherent in your place are compatible with your desired
kind of habitation?
How can you dwell in your place without reducing or destroying its inherent
values? What place specific practices are compatible with flourishing diverse
ecological relationships and communities?
How can you realize your ultimate values in your relations with the wild
beings in your place? What can you give back to your place? What practices
can help you to realize yourself through integration of your fourfold nature
(spirit, intellect, emotion and sensual body --see matrix below) so as to be in
harmony with others and wild Nature?
Given your specific ecosophy, how will you work, play, rest, clothe, shelter and
feed yourself in your particular place and community? How can you cooperate with
people at home and abroad to lessen negative local and global impacts and also
make positive contributions?
in part one of this design file, these questions are meant to help you on your
journey of exploration and to inspire creative action. This creative turn is to
design your life style and living place. How will you honor your place? What
ceremonies and rituals will make it a special and sacred for you? This is a
personal undertaking and then a journey with family and friends. In your efforts
consider the design matrix below. It is a helpful mapping tool. Also use our
links and other website resources for your articulation and design activities.
of Self and Associated Theme Categories
Aspects of Self
Forms of Relationship
Requirements of Community
Principles of Ecology
and formal knowledge (scientific)
things are interrelated (on all levels)
explain this matrix we focus on the fourfold nature of the human self and its
development. When we are born we identify with our maternal matrix. Our
sensations of separation through birth are soothed by nursing and we bond with
our nurturing mother as separate from but dependent on her. As children our
affective-emotional capacities are energized. As we learn a language we
internalize culture and place. We develop moral, cognitive and intellectual
capacities. We are able to use each of our capacities in dominant or subordinate
ways. For example, some people live by their emotions, while others live by
their intellect. We are able to balance our responses by being aware of how our
emotions, feelings and thoughts arise.
spiritual capacities are present in integrative-unitive awareness. This can be
cultivated through spiritual disciplines such as meditation, e.g. various Indian
yogas, the Taos of China, and the dos of Japan. For many traditions, life is a
series of stages where the different aspects of self and community are
emphasized and elaborated. By the time we are mature elders, we are supposed to
have balance and deep wisdom. Wisdom arises not just from a lot of experience,
but from the integration of all of our ways of knowing, feeling, experiencing,
thinking, and so on, as these are manifest in action and nonaction. The mature
elder is grounded in the spiritual, long range, and broader concerns that cut
across generations and cultures. The power of wisdom comes from integration and
unity of our fourfold nature grounded in our place and wild Nature.
the earliest stages of life we have the narrowest scope for identification of
our self. In the natural process of growth we develop each of our four
dimensions. Through devoted spiritual discipline and practical action we can
reach high levels of completion and maturity before old age. Each aspect of
ourselves is associated with forms of relationship, community implications,
organizing themes and ecological principles as shown in the matrix. These are
not arbitrary associations, and are found in many traditions.
aspect of the self can be seen as a form of power or energy. For example, the
sensual form of awareness is present in sensitive physical movement. The
affective-emotional is present as aware empathy. The cognitive is present as
discriminative judgment. The spiritual is present as unitive-integrative
awareness. The presence of each of these powers can be intensified by spiritual
and other practices such as good work. Unitive-integrative awareness is a
the matrix displays stages of development that are manifest in maturing
relationships over a life time. As babies we start at the prepersonal and purely
subjective stage and as we mature fully to the transpersonal stage we become
aware of both the individual and universal relationships all beings are in. Each
stage reflects the basic principles of community and the story theme sets for
the different types of community, work and association open to us as
possibilities. The basic principles of ecology are reflected in how our
ecosophies, ecosteries and communities respect ecological values and the dignity
of other humans and nonhuman beings. Our ecostery can be grounded in our place
by unitive practices that integrate our fourfold nature in harmony with
wild nature as found in our ecological community.
© 2002 Alan
Platform Principles of the Deep Ecology Movement
Each living creature has its own intrinsic worth.
diversity and richness of life has intrinsic value.
to satisfy vital human needs,
humans have no right to reduce this diversity and richness.
would be better for humans if there were fewer of them, and much better for
other living creatures.
the extent and nature of human interference in the various ecosystems is not
sustainable, and unsustainability is rising.
improvement requires considerable change: social, economic, technological
ideological change entails seeking a better quality
of life rather than a raised standard of living.
who accept these points are responsible for trying to contribute directly or
indirectly to the necessary changes.