John Muir and the Book of Nature

The last of our tropes that we’ll focus on this week is the idea of librum naturae, of the Book of Nature.  The general idea is that God writes two books, the Scriptures and the natural created world, and both are manifestations of the divine presence.  This is a doctrine that extends to the Hellenistic philosophers, but it gained a special kind of traction in early American literature, and later in the American literary tradition that surrounds the building of the national parks.

To get just a taste of this doctrine, we’re going to read a small section of John Muir’s My First Summer in the Sierra.  You can read the entire text online, but we are just going to focus on one of his short journal entries, June 14 (pages 62-65 in this text).

For more on Muir and the intersection of Christian theology and the American environmental writing tradition, I recommend John Gatta’s Making Nature Sacred.

As you read, try to make connections with the other tropes we’ve discussed.  Is there a reverence that leads people to cultivate a sense of wilderness?  Is the sublime parallel to the doctrine of librum naturae in terms of how it dictates our response to God and nature?


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