Reclaiming a Sacred Cosmology: Seyyed Hossein Nasr, the Perennial Philosophy, and Sustainability Education.

Almut Beringer


The question posed by the Canadian Journal of Environmental Education volume 11, “where is the place for religion in environmental education?” is rephrased in this essay to become, “where is the place for a religious view of the order of nature in environmental education?” Relying on the writings of Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a proponent of the perennial philosophy and an eminent scholar of Islam and comparative religion, I use this paper to explore the notion of a religious order of nature and, in extension, sacred cosmology as an alternative worldview on the pathway toward sustainability. I maintain that environmental education, in particular, and environmental studies, more generally, bear responsibility to re-introduce, on a cultural level and global scale, lost dimensions of a religious-spiritual knowledge of nature. This includes reclaiming environmental ethics embedded in timeless metaphysical, epistemological, and ontological understandings of the cosmos, and validating non-scientific ways of knowing. To ensure true and lasting progress toward sustainability, it seems vital to address the global crisis of unsustainability more seriously as a crisis of worldview, and to strengthen a consequent transformation of perception. Providing alternative world-views which hold promise for sustainability, with environmental education charting the path toward a paradigm shift, is particularly critical in the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, which so far is mostly silent on the deepest dimensions of unsustainability.

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