Wise and Wild


Introduction to The Natural Bible

by some of the “prophets, “saints” and “chaplains” of wild wisdom


“Books are the best of things, well used; abused, among the worst.”

“Books are for the scholar’s idle times.  When he can read God directly, the hour is too precious to be wasted in other people’s transcripts of their readings.”

~Emerson, The American Scholar (1837)


“Knowledge was inherent in all things.  The world was a library and its books were

the stones, leaves, grass, brooks… We learned to do what only the students of nature ever learn,

and that was to feel beauty.”

~ Luther Standing Bear (1868-1939–attributed)


“The great book of Nature contains many passages which are hard to read, and at times conscientious students may well draw up different interpretations of the obscurer and least known texts.”

~Theodore Roosevelt, Trail and Camp-fire (1897),

quoted in Douglas Brinkley, The Wilderness Warrior (2009)


“The natural and common is more truly marvelous and mysterious than the so-called supernatural. Indeed most of the miracles we hear of are infinitely less wonderful than the commonest of natural phenomena, when fairly seen.”

~John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra (1911)


“Instead of studying theology,

as is now done out of the Bible and Testament. . .

it is necessary that we refer to the Bible of the Creation.”

~Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason (Part II, 1795)


“We little know how much wildness there is in us. . .Savageness is natural, civilization is strained and unnatural.”

~John Muir, Journals, November, 1874


“After this reviving experience, you should take a look into a few of the tertiary volumes of the grand geological library. . ., and see how God writes history. . . .  [This part of the mountains forms] the untrimmed edges of a wonderful set of volumes lying on their sides–books a million years old, well bound, miles in size, with full-page illustrations.”

~John Muir, “The Yellowstone,” Our National Parks, 1901


“. . .the true Bible is the book of nature, the wisest teacher is the one who most plainly expounds it, the best priest is our own conscience, and the most orthodox church is a hall of science.”

~Frances Wright, “Religion” lecture, New York City, 1829


“You shall possess the good of the earth and sun. . .

You shall no longer take things at second or third hand,

nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books,

You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,

You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.”

~Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself” 2


“I see in them and myself the same old law.

The press of my foot to the earth springs a hundred affections,

They scorn the best I can do to relate them.

I am enamour’d of growing out-doors. . .”

~Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself” 14


“The saints and sages in history–but you yourself?

Sermons, creeds, theology–but the fathomless human brain,

And what is reason?  and what is love?  and what is life?”

~Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself” 42


“The book of nature is like a page written over or printed upon with different-sized characters and in many different languages. . . .  We all read the large type more or less appreciatively, but only the students and lovers of nature read the fine lines and the footnotes.”

~John Burroughs, Leaf and Tendril, (1908)


“The times I enjoyed were those when we were staying amid the mountains.

I feel satisfied, as I thought I should, with reading these bolder lines

in the manuscript of nature.”

~Margaret Fuller, Letter to Richard F. Fuller, August 5, 1842


“[The missionaries onboard the ship forgot their missions] while the word of God was being read in these majestic hieroglyphics emblazoned along the sky.  The earnest, childish wonderment with which this glorious page of Nature’s Bible was contemplated was delightful to see.”

~John Muir, Travels in Alaska (1915)


“People talk about Bible miracles because there is no miracle in their lives.

Cease to gnaw that crust.  There is ripe fruit over your head.”

~Henry Thoreau, Journals, (June, 1850)


“Perhaps soon some day or night while I am singing my voice will suddenly cease.

O book, O chants!  must all then amount to but this?

Must we barely arrive at this beginning of us?  and yet it is enough, o soul;

O soul, we have positively appeared–that is enough.”

~Walt Whitman, “As the Time draws Nigh” (Songs of Parting)


“I find letters from God dropt in the street, and every one is sign’d by God’s name,

and I leave them where they are, for I know that wheresoever I go,

Others will punctually come for ever and ever.”

~Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself” 48


“I take more intense delight from reading the power and goodness of God from ‘the things which are made’ than from the Bible”

~John Muir, Letter to Jeanne Carr (January, 1866)


“I loved a few books much; but I loved Nature, in all those material examples and subtle expressions,

with a love passing all the books of the world.”

~John Burroughs, Notes on Walt Whitman (1867)


“[Goethe] had a deep belief in the reality of Nature as she lies developed and a contempt for bodiless formulas.  Through every individual fact he came in contact with the world, and he strove and fought without ceasing ever to lay his mind

more and more wide open to Nature’s teaching.”

~William James, Letter to Tom Ward (1868)


“The poet shall not spend his time in unneeded work.  He shall know that the ground is always ready plowed and manured. . .others may not know it but he shall.  He shall go directly to the creation. . . .  The known universe has one complete lover and that is the greatest poet.”

~Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, Preface (1855)


“Yes; there is a Word of God; there is a revelation.  The Word of God is the creation we behold and it is in this word,

which no human invention can counterfeit or alter, that God speaketh universally to [humankind].”

“The Creation speaks a universal language. . . .”

“[Creation] preaches to all nations and to all worlds; and this Word of God reveals to [humanity]

all that is necessary for [humanity] to know of God.”

“Do we want to know what God is?  Search not the book called the Scripture, which any human hand might make,

but the Scripture called the creation.”

~Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason (1793)


“And this, our life, exempt from public haunt,

finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,

sermons in stones, and good in everything.”

~William Shakespeare, As You Like It


“The Puritans used to call the New World landscape ‘God’s second book,’

and in the nineteenth century it became the preferred volume of the transcendentalists,

who read the land for revelation and moral instruction.”

~Michael Pollan, A Place of My Own


“Hard years , of course, come to pines as they do to humans, and these are recorded as shorter thrusts, i.e. shorter spaces between the successive whorls of branches.  These spaces, then, are an autobiography that the one who walks with trees may read at will.”

~Aldo Leopold,  A Sand County Almanac


“Dark green religion is no phantom.  Although unrecognized by the Parliament of World Religions, it is as widespread as most religions, more significant than some, and growing more rapidly than many others.  It has neither a priesthood nor institutions officially devoted to its promotion.  Nor does it have an officially adopted sacred text. . . .  Rather than rescue from this world, it offers an enveloping sense of belonging to the biosphere, which is considered sacred.”

~Bron Taylor, Dark Green Religion


“H.G. Wells. . .proposed abandoning the Christian Scriptures in favor of a new Bible made up of extracts from Shakespeare, Shelley, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Karl Marx. . . .  Upton Sinclair, the American Gnostic, went a step further: he undertook to write a sort of New Testament of his own. . . .  Such efforts to substitute poetry for theology may be expected to multiply in the near future, for the world is plainly entering upon a new stage of myth-making.”

~H.L. Mencken, Treatise on the Gods (1946) 


“Know that every grass in the field has a special song, and from the song of the grass rise the melody of the heart and it is wonderfull to pray among them.”

~Rabbi Nachman Ben Figha

One response to “Wise and Wild

  • john a lewis

    Iam a poet and songwriter the reason i tell you this in 2010 i visited the grandcayon and bought your book on waltwhitman.Earth,My likeness,ibelieve it was meant to be?i have surrended to my true path,i have read the bible for many years looking for answers. nature has answered some of the questions but the journey is not complete, only god will answer and complete my journey ,thank you for this gift priceless.

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