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The Development of Ecospirituality among British Quakers

By Peter Jeffrey Collins


This paper focuses on the historical development of ecospirituality, that is, a faith andpractice both generating and informed by an appreciation of environmental concerns,among the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain. Decisions made within andby such groups are significantly determined by their understanding of the moral andethical character of the environment and their relation to it. This ethical and moralcharacter might derive from a variety of sources; in contemporary concerns for theenvironment it resides primarily in the cultural, economic, and political context ofparticular social phenomena. Quakers, it would seem, are more or less typicalenvironmentalists in so far as their decision either to buy or refrain from buying this orthat item is informed by both moral and religious judgement. The historical trajectory ofQuaker consumption is characterised by a principle, plaining, that has enabled Quakersto frame their environmentalism in a more or less unique way. During the first hundredyears of the movement (1650-1750), Quakers adopted a system of discipline in whichcommittees (local, regional, and national) imposed upon the membership a strict regimeof prescriptions and proscriptions. These lists of dos and don’ts, justified by referenceto Biblical and other texts, concerned virtually every aspect of life, and these decisionswere informed by specific environmental sensibilities central to Quaker faith andpractice. From 1750 to 1950, this intense and intrusive discipline, upheld throughgroup-surveillance, diminished. After 1950, the evolution of the group from a disciplinewhich itemised the plain to the internalisation of individual members of the process ofplaining was more or less complete. Discipline was increasingly a matter of selfsurveillance.Contemporary Quakers emphasise efficient and effective dissemination ofinformation, particularly relating to issues such as human rights and the environment.This process contributes to the local and national narratives which together sustain akind of ecospirituality which has developed over the course of three centuries

Topics: Literature (General), PN1-6790, Language and Literature, P, DOAJ:Languages and Literatures, Geography. Anthropology. Recreation, G, Environmental sciences, GE1-350
Publisher: European Association for the Study of Literature, Culture and the Environment; Universidad de Alcalá de Henares
Year: 2011
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