New Special Issue for the Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture


Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture

Volume 8, Number 2 2014

Special Issue: Ecstatic Naturalism and Deep Pantheism


American Religious Empiricism and the Possibility of an Ecstatic Naturalist Process Metaphysics

Demian Wheeler

The most forceful critiques Robert Corrington mounts against Whiteheadianism target several problematic tendencies in the system of Whitehead, Hartshorne, and other leading Whiteheadian theologians rather than raze the entire legacy of process philosophy and theology. Actually, there is an alternate school of process philosophy and theology—the empiricist school—that embraces the broad contours of a processive and relational worldview while making many of the very same criticisms of Whitehead and his more rationalistic followers. But I argue an even bolder thesis: process empiricism shares enough in common with Corrington’s perspective to be ‘emancipatorily reenacted’ as an iteration of ecstatic naturalism, albeit a unique iteration. Collectively, the five American religious empiricists featured in this essay—Henry Nelson Wieman, Bernard Loomer, William Dean, Nancy Frankenberry, and Donald Crosby—open up a conceptual space within the Whiteheadian tradition for developing a kind of ecstatically inflected, ordinally chastened, and unequivocally naturalistic process metaphysics.

Naturalism and the Aesthetic Character of Religion: The Eclipse of the Absolute in the Experience of the Sacred

Martin O. Yalcin

I offer an aesthetic religious metaphysics from the perspective of naturalism as the most effective antidote to abjection within religion. I understand abjection within religious experience as the simultaneous desire to demonize nature and to idolize one’s conception of the sacred. My chief argument is that abjection occurs when the sacred is understood as being absolute. I trace the absolute character of the sacred to a metaphysics that insists on the utter incommensurability of the sacred with respect to nature. In contrast I defend a metaphysics that points to the radical indefiniteness and radical fecundity of nature as the reason why the sacred must be one of innumerable orders of nature. Once the sacred is leveled to the plane of nature, demonization and idolization are virtually foreclosed within religion because the sacred is now related and relative to other orders of nature.

Turbulent Memories: The Uneasy Artifacts of an Aesthetic Religion

Wade A. Mitchell

This article is concerned with addressing the tensions between art and religion. In arguing that this tension stems from the way memory processes work at the heart of both religion and aesthetics, I will draw Robert Corrington’s unique version of religious naturalism together with recent work done by art historian David Freedberg on the neuroscience of response to visual art. When properly framed by philosopher of religion Loyal Rue, these very different perspectives become highly complementary. By forging an interaction between them, I not only attempt to demonstrate how Corrington’s philosophical contextualization and Freedberg’s empathetic aesthetics mutually enhance one another, but I also hope to open up additional lines of inquiry about the role of memory within the problematic of art and religion, particularly for those seeking the interdisciplinary convergences between religion, aesthetics, science, and ethics.

The Man Who Walked Through Signs: Colin Fletcher, Robert S. Corrington, and the ‘Depth Dimension’ of Nature Naturing

Robert W. King

The concept of a depth dimension in nature is developed in Robert S. Corrington’s systematic extension of Peirce’s pragmatic metaphysics. To discern or experience the depth dimension of nature is to recognize the sublime power of nature naturing and of the powerful productivity of nature evidenced in its product, nature natured. The potency of nature naturing is evident, for example, in the geological formations of the Grand Canyon and in The Man Who Walked Through Time (1967), Colin Fletcher’s narration of a two-month solo trek into the depths of the Grand Canyon. In Corrington’s words, ‘A potency is an unconscious momentum within the heart of nature naturing that moves outward into the world of orders by ejecting some kind of orderly sign or system from its hidden depths’. Fletcher’s pilgrimage narrated a growing attunement to these ‘hidden depths’ and serves as an empirical, inductive account articulating the potencies of Ecstatic Naturalism.

Speculative Naturalism: A Bleak Theology In Light of the Tragic

Leon Jon Niemoczynski

Theological perspective upon the relationship between deity and creature may not be as radically open to a full range of possible value as has once been thought. If one is seeking a capacious view of deity, creatures, and nature, I contend that not only should one account for continuity, wholeness, healing, salvation, warmth, benevolence, and joy in one’s religious metaphysics, but also for discontinuity, difference, diremption, rupture, trauma, tragedy, melancholy, coldness, and the more somber tones of the divine life. My exploration of this darker side of religious naturalism, a ‘bleak theology’ or ‘speculative naturalism’, as I am calling it, begins by articulating its opposite in the axiologically positive evaluation of nature and deity found within the mainstream of American religious naturalism. I then offer some speculative theses from the bleak or speculative naturalist perspective and argue why this darker side of religious naturalism ought to be accounted for.

The articles described above are available for download here. Current and past issues of the Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture are included in memberships to the International Society for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture. The ISSRNC is a community of scholars engaged in critical, interdisciplinary inquiry into the relationships between human beliefs, practices and environments. Scholars interested in these relationships are cordially invited to join the society, attend its conferences, and submit work for possible publication in the journal. For more information see

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