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On the Origin of Beauty
Details for "On the Origin of Beauty": description, author, purchasing, and more
On the Origin of Beauty: Ecophilosophy in the Light of Traditional Wisdom
On the Origin of Beauty: Ecophilosophy in the Light of Traditional Wisdom
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Environment and Nature
Perennial Philosophy

Price:  $23.95

ISBN:  978-1-935493-98-3
Book Size:  6" x 9"
# of Pages:  304
Language:  English

In the light of the looming ecological crisis facing the world today, much of the stunning beauty of the natural world is being lost forever. On the Origin of Beauty seeks to confront this crisis through a philosophical enquiry into our perception of natural beauty. Through discussions of numerous fields including the philosophy of science, environmental ethics, rationalism, and Eastern and Western religion, Griffin asserts that Beauty itself may be the catalyst needed to save the globe from destruction.

 Eric Hoffer Award/Montaigne Medal Finalist 
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Further Details on "On the Origin of Beauty"

As the ecological crisis deepens, much of the stunning beauty of the natural world is being lost forever. In this groundbreaking work, Dr. John Griffin suggests that it is precisely through coming to understand the mysterious quality of beauty that we may find a solution to humanity’s suicidal assault on the environment. On the Origin of Beauty examines seemingly disparate fields of study, such as environmental ethics, ecology, the philosophy of science, Eastern and Western religion (with emphasis on Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam as well as American Indian and Aboriginal spirituality), poetry, and sacred art. —Griffin reveals the true significance of the intuitive perception of beauty, and asserts that Nature’s beauty may itself act as a catalyst to transform our consciousness and heal the earth.

On the Origin of Beauty: Ecophilosophy in the Light of Traditional Wisdom includes a "Foreword" by Satish Kumar, editor of Resurgance Magazine and program director at Schumacher College. The book also features eight pages of color illustrations, a bibliography, biographical notes, and an index.

Dr John Griffin is a writer, artist, and craftsman who has lived most of his life in Australia. Griffin holds an Honors Degree in Environmental Studies and a PhD in Environmental Philosophy. In his youth, he explored Tasmania’s wilderness, and later, inspired by travels to traditional cultures, designed and built houses of mudbrick, timber, and stone. He now lives on a farm near Portugal’s only national park.

 Eric Hoffer Award/Montaigne Medal Finalist 

About the author and the writer of the "Foreword"

John Griffin

John Griffin is a writer with experience in the areas of Environmental Studies and Environmental Philosophy. His book, On the Origin of Beauty, is an adaptation of his dissertation (which won the Dean’s Prize for 2007). He has travelled widely, seeking out places where traditional ways of life are still to be found, in such countries as India, Morocco and Turkey. He currently lives on a small farm in the hills of northern Portugal, engaged in rehabilitating old stone-walled terraces, tending an organic vegetable garden and orchard, and devoting any spare time to writing.

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Satish Kumar

Satish Kumar was born in Rajasthan in India in 1936. In 1973 he settled in England, taking on the editorship of Resurgence Magazine, and has been their editor ever since. He is the guiding spirit behind a number of ecological, spiritual and educational ventures in Britain. In 1991, Schumacher College, a residential international centre for the study of ecological and spiritual values, was founded, of which he is the Director of Programmes. He is the author of Path Without Destination (William Morrow, 2000) and You Are Therefore I Am (Green Books, 2002).

Satish Kumar has written the "Introduction" to Seeing God Everywhere: Essays on Nature and the Sacred and The "Foreword" to On the Origin of Beauty: Ecophilosophy in the Light of Traditional Wisdom, by John Griffin.

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Reviews of "On the Origin of Beauty"

“If the food produced by nature nourishes our bodies, her beauty nourishes our souls and so in destroying the natural environment we are depriving both the physical and spiritual dimensions of our being of what is necessary for a human life worthy of the name. The present work is one of the very few that not only speaks eloquently of the eminent environmental catastrophes that humanity faces as a result to the errors of modernism, but also discusses the centrality of beauty in any ecophilosophy that claims to be comprehensive. The author draws from the treasury of traditional teachings in producing a work of great urgency and deep significance.”
Seyyed Hossein Nasr, The George Washington University, author of Man and Nature

“This scholarly study takes us through the ebb and flow of beauty in all ages and in all religions.”
June Olley, School of Agricultural Science, University of Tasmania

“John Griffin presents an extended inquiry into Beauty, considered particularly in the light of various understandings of the natural order, and calls for a recuperation of the sophia perennis which informed traditional worldviews. His study is gracefully written, lucid, robust, elegant in its more ruminative and poetic aspects, and pervaded by a sense of the sacred—a book of the most urgent relevance in a world tyrannized by a reductive and totalitarian scientism.”
Harry Oldmeadow, La Trobe University Bendigo, author of Frithjof Schuon and the Perennial Philosophy

“John Griffin’s book is like a lighthouse, illuminating the way forward.”
Patsy Hallen, Institute for Sustainability and Technology Policy, Murdoch University, Perth

“In this important book, John Griffin rescues beauty from the apparent irrelevance to which modernist thought and the arid empiricism of science have hitherto consigned it, propelling it to center stage in the project of reclaiming the earth for life and for spirit. Griffin gently demonstrates that the wisdoms we need have been there for those who would see all along—there in the esoteric tradition, and there in the intelligence of the intuitive and affective capacities that positivist science has so wrongly insisted are not to be trusted. His is a book for the times, a book for our stressed planet, and for those of us who have rendered it so. It deserves to be widely read.”
Peter Hay, University of Tasmania, author of Main Currents in Western Environmental Thought

“How can one resist a book whose title winks at Charles Darwin while promising insights into beauty?

“It is a book written by a passionate lover of Nature’s beauty, and starts with a moving, heartfelt meditation on Lake Pedder in Tasmania, where the author was born and grew up. It is a lake whose once-undisturbed beauty was lost forever by the building of a dam, whose beauty was not part of the decision-maker’s calculus of human needs. Throughout the book, one feels John Griffin’s deep personal connection with Nature, and the lost world of spirit – lost because of the half-sightedness of reason, measurement and science.

“Griffin argues skilfully for a re-understanding of beauty, and insists that we must not lose sight of the fact that the beauty of Nature is really real. It is not something subjective, or a mere psychological event. Nor is it some emergent property of consciousness. It is a truth, an absolute reality, which exists at all levels of Nature – in a mountain meadow at sunrise, in a single wild flower, in birdsong. Beauty, he claims, is, in fact, Nature’s essence.

“He tells us that it is Nature that causes beauty to become known or perceived by us – that, ‘by virtue of its harbouring the qualities within ourselves that are potentially ours, nature must possess a means of “producing” the qualities within ourselves that are our own true nature,’ and ‘to seek beauty in nature would be to seek, and move towards, the essence of nature, and the consciousness of the Divine.’

“Griffin vigorously questions the legitimacy of the dominant scientific, materialistic and reductionist worldview that is premised and anchored in measurement. He finds his intuition ‘justifiably outraged by the diminished and seemingly back to front world this premise implies’, and asks us to come together to ‘seek the ruin of such a system’. And do this before it ruins us!

“He argues that when ‘mind or reason’ becomes the prevailing, even exclusive, mediator of perception, we lose the ability to perceive beauty, and this he suggests is what has substantially happened. To save beauty, we need to reinstate a mode of consciousness, or perceptive faculty, that is ‘adequate to the task of perceiving all that beauty is’. And this must come from a revival of the understanding in traditional wisdom.

“I wonder if dichotomous debates – science vs spirituality, or senses vs spirit – muddy the nature of the beauty experience. Isn’t beauty perceived and experienced in a variety of ways, at different levels, and in varying intensities? Isn’t reason also a window into the perception and experience of beauty? Haven’t scientists, particularly mathematicians, perceived beauty through their methods imbued with reason and measurements? Evidence suggests that many have.

“One way out is to consider the mind as another sense, as was the case in traditional Indian philosophy. This neatly pulls the rug from under the either/or debate about perception – whether it occurs via the physical senses or just the mind. Here, all six senses engage in the dance of perception-cognition-consciousness. Somehow this does make good sense, as it recognises that perceptions form in an interplay between the realities of what is out there, and what is, so to speak, in here.

“Reconciliation between objectivists and subjectivists is possible and would help. Let’s agree that beauty is both objective and subjective – a perceptual experience of what is in Nature or in art (sacred, temporal, ornamental, utilitarian), as well as a state of being, in Nature, and in other human-made forms – buildings, products, and so on. I have argued that beauty might be ‘wellbeing’ in Nature and in humans – at physical, mental and spiritual levels. That is why beauty signals wellness, and occurs in the excellence of relationality in Nature, and indeed in all systems and things.

“I found the explanations in this book of the two-way relationship between the qualities of Nature and human consciousness compelling: ‘Immediate awareness (unmediated by rational or discursive thought) of the natural world allows the actual nature of that world – its beauty, for instance – to impinge upon consciousness… Significantly, the process will be self-reinforcing: the presence of beauty in consciousness allows an increasing perception of beauty, while the world’s beauty lends to consciousness a further capacity to experience it.’

On the Origin of Beauty is a hope, an urging, even a demand, that there be a resetting of the course Western civilisation (read ‘global civilisation’) has been on for 400 years, through an ecophilosophy that pulses with beauty, ‘Nature’s and humanity’s essence’. The author says: ‘The perception of beauty is like a secret revealed – it is both evidence for an essential reality and for the unfolding of consciousness. When the beauty that dwells at the heart of nature is seen to be the same beauty in our inmost heart, beauty is revealed as a winged messenger.’

“Ignoring beauty has been the reason for many of our ecological and other problems, and I wholeheartedly endorse the view that beauty may well be the way out of them.

“This is an evocatively written book that includes, as a beautiful bonus, a wise foreword by Satish Kumar.”
Shakti Maira, from a review in Resurgence

“We are challenged to pause and think about just why environmental and ecological concerns have any relevance for our increasingly technological and materialistic society. Led by the author's sure-footed steps through traditional philosophy the reader is encouraged and inspired to expand intellectual horizons and explore spiritual power.”
Comments from Benjamin Franklin Awards Judging Panel

“This book addresses ‘the environmental crisis’ by delving into the metaphysical dimension that frames the issues of the environmental movement. At its core, it examines what we mean by beauty and its implications for our ‘right relationship’ with nature.… This book … focuses on ecophilosophy rather than environmental philosophy (the focus of the former is less anthropocentric, and more on the beauty of nature).… In successive chapters of his book, Griffin surveys ecophilosophy in the light of tradition, tracing the descent of human consciousness through the influence of scientific reductionism into the ‘reign of quantity’, and outlining the possibilities of its ascent to the primacy of the Spirit through a recovery of a sense of the sacred that is essential to the aesthetic experience.… It is essential to remind ourselves when reading this important contribution on the application of the traditional doctrine of beauty in the modem world, that the wellsprings of beauty lie within ourselves—and that though the times may offer us apparently fewer opportunities to experience beauty within the natural world, the theophany is ever-renewing.”
Ali Lakhani, from a review in Sacred Web

Contents of "On the Origin of Beauty"

Foreword by Satish Kumar


Chapter 1 Lake Pedder
Chapter 2 Leopold


Chapter 3 The Distinctiveness of Ecophilosophy
Chapter 4 Ecophilosophy in the Light of Tradition


Chapter 5 Reductionism
Chapter 6 The Crisis of Modern Science


Chapter 7 Descent
Chapter 8 Ascent


Chapter 9 The Primacy of the Spirit
Chapter 10 The Imprint of the Sacred


Biographical Notes

Selection from our Library from “On the Origin of Beauty”
 TitleSourceAuthor 1Author 2Subject WW HTMLWW PDFExternal Link
Ecophilosophy in the Light of TraditionOn the Origin of Beauty: Ecophilosophy in the Light of Traditional WisdomGriffin, John Environment and Nature
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