The Two Johnnies, 1909

The Two Johnnies, 1909

Wild Spirituality of Nature:

On the Trail of John Muir and John Burroughs

College of Marin

Fall, Winter and Spring 2014-2015

(Each Class Session offers New Materials for the Trail!)

Course Description

The two naturalists John Muir and John Burroughs emerged from deep traditional religious roots to propose a radically new “natural spirituality” where supernaturalism was no longer necessary. For these adventurous thinkers, Nature was scripture, sanctuary, classroom and maybe even God. We will respectfully explore their stories, writings and wisdom along sacred and secular paths. 

All texts will be provided in class or on the website. New material will be presented for those who have taken this class before.

Note:  Spring Quarter will explore the question:  Is There (or Can There Be) a “Religion/Spirituality of Nature”?  If so, what would that look like, shaped by Muir and Burroughs?

Note:  Winter Quarter highlighted the influence, impact and inspiration of significant women in the lives of early naturalists.  

More Info, if needed:

Early crops of environmentalism were firmly planted by Thoreau, Emerson, Whitman and others before the conservation and preservation harvest in (the Californian) Muir, (the New Yorker) Burroughs and their influential friends like (the Rough Riding President) Roosevelt.  Our network of National Parks is only one result of their collaborative vision and action.

This course is open to theists and non-theists drawn to the naturalistic philosophies of Muir and Burroughs who delighted in a direct experience of Nature.  Through a close reading of their major works, we will investigate the roots of what could be called either a natural spirituality or a sacred secularity in relation to the cosmos.  We will open and engage the wildest of “living scriptures,” through the eyes of two whose classroom and cathedral was Nature.

Spring Course Number: 8255/445

6 Thursdays, 10:40am-12noon

March 26-April 30

Kentfield Campus, Village Square, Room 5B

Register (see under “Literary”)

Comments from Students

Class Poster (for all you Nature Evangelists to distribute!)


CandC Dry Creek May 2009 012

Instructor Chris Highland received his B.A. in Philosophy and Religion from Seattle Pacific University and his M.Div. from San Francisco Theological Seminary.  He was a Presbyterian Minister for 14 years and served as an Interfaith Chaplain in Marin for 25 years.  He is the author of Meditations of John Muir, Meditations of John Burroughs and eight other books.  He has taught at Dominican University, the Graduate Theological Union and Cherry Hill Seminary.  For nearly 30 years he has taught short courses on World Wisdom in various settings (most recently at The Tamalpais).  Chris is Manager of two independent living houses for seniors in San Anselmo.

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