Category Archives: History

‘Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love’ by Dava Sobel

This is a very readable presentation of the life and tribulations of Galileo Galilei enlivened and enlightened by extensive extracts of letters, translated for the first time, written to him by his daughter, Marie Celeste. We see, through her eyes, not simply Galileo the scientist, philosopher and martyr but also Galileo concerned about his son, his wine casks, his weak health, and his financial and other day to day affairs. We learn about the affairs of the convent and about the steady stream of medicines prepared by Maria Celeste—who was the apothecary to the convent—which she supplied to her much loved father.
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‘Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe’ by Bob Berman and Robert Lanza

Lanza is a cell biologist and his co-author Berman is an astronomer. What they are saying—and explaining very cogently in this book—is an updated but by now well scientifically backed version of the idea Bishop Berkeley was trying to promote back in the early 18th century, i.e. that there is in fact no objective ‘reality’ out there, independent of the consciousness and perception of living organisms. Continue reading

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‘A Cree Healer and His Medicine Bundle: Revelations of Indigenous Wisdom–Healing Plants, Practices, and Stories’ by David Young, Robert Rogers and Russell Willier

 pbk 328 pp               North Atlantic Books 2015  ISBN: 978-1583949030    Reviewed by Richard Adams ___________________________________________________________________________________ Russell Wilier is a North American healer. He was born in northern Alberta into the largest group of first Nations people in Canada – the Cree. … Continue reading

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‘Thames: Sacred River’ by Peter Ackroyd

Peter Ackroyd has provided a very readable, comprehensive, thematic biography of the river Thames. The feature that makes it relevant to GreenSpirit is that throughout, the river comes first. People and places are considered in the context of their relationships with the river. Continue reading

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‘Manifesto of the Poor’ by Franciso Van der Hoff Boersma

  Permanent Publications, 20141, 66 pp ISBN 978-1-85623-170-1 Reviewed by Ian Mowll _______________________________________________________________________________ This book is refreshingly gutsy and down-to-earth. It is written by Francisco Van der Hoff Boersma who was a co-founder of Fairtrade. The author is a Dutch … Continue reading

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‘Embracing Complexity: Strategic Perspectives for an Age of Turbulence’ by Jean G. Boulton, Peter M. Allen and Cliff Bowman

We have, in our western society, the god of science. So often we hear “scientists say…” in the press. And, for many people, this implies a statement of authority. But the problem is that western science is essentially value-less. This mind-set has led to such things as testing on animals, factory farming and the proliferation of deadly weapons. How did we get to this place and what can be done about it? Whilst the book covers a lot of territory, this is the key question it addresses. Continue reading

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‘The Acentric Labyrinth: Giordano Bruno’s Prelude to Contemporary Cosmology’ by Ramon Mendoza

Ramon maintains that Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake in 1600, is the true founder of modern cosmology, and that he goes far beyond modern physics in linking cosmology and spirituality. Bruno put forward a view of the Universe which is close to that – indeed goes further than that – which is held by early twenty-first century physics. Continue reading

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‘Hildegard of Bingen: A Saint for our Times’ by Matthew Fox

Matthew Fox’s third book on the remarkable mediaeval Rhineland mystic, Hildegard of Bingen, coincided with her canonisation and being officially recognized as a Doctor of the Catholic Church. It covers a lot of ground – some familiar as well as new – and supplies revealing snapshots about her life and teachings. Continue reading

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‘Spiritual Activism: Leadership as Service’ by Alastair McIntosh and Matt Carmichael

Spiritual activism is about being both ‘spiritually active,’ i.e. inspiring others, as well as being ‘spiritually grounded,’ i.e. being a compassionate activist with protests and practical action. It has ten chapters covering a wide range of territory, each ending with a case study featuring a well-known person who has been involved in spiritual activism such as Julia Butterfly Hill, Gandhi, Muhammad (pbuh) and Desmond Tutu. Continue reading

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‘The Symbiotic Planet. A New Look at Evolution’ by Lynn Margulis

Margulis’ research has shown that symbiosis, the term used to describe the phenomenon of organisms living together to their mutual advantage, has played a major role in biological evolution. This represents a significant shift from classical neo- Darwinism which sees competition as the virtually the only selection mechanism. Continue reading

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‘Rivers of Green Wisdom: Exploring Christian and Yogic Earth Centred Spirituality’ by Santoshan (Stephen Wollaston)

Possibly the first book ever to take Yoga in one hand and Christianity on the other and examine them both through the lens of an Earth-centred Spirituality. Is there, in fact, ‘green wisdom’ to be found within these two great traditions? If there is, then surely these need to be emphasised in this era of climate change and ever-worsening ecological crisis. Continue reading

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‘Uprooted: On the Trail of the Green Man’ by Nina Lyon

This book on the Green Man—that ubiquitous but endlessly varied symbol that takes the form of a human face sprouting greenery—is impossible to pigeonhole and its message is hard to pin down in a few sentences. But the Green Man is unpindownable. Not just because his origins are so ancient and so complex but because he represents something that is still alive and real and omnipresent. Despite humankind’s efforts to ‘conquer’, ‘tame’ and ‘manage’ Nature, Nature resigns supreme—because of course we are Nature, subsumed within it, just like everything else in the living world. So what this author has produced, as a result of her journeying around the UK and other parts of Europe in search of the Green Man – and her amusing but often rambly and confusing meanderings through history, literature, folklore, religion, sex, magick, shamanism, metaphysics and endless speculative cogitation – is a book in which the Green Man is never pinned down, yet ever present. Continue reading

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‘The Living Goddesses’ by Marija Gimbutas (Edited and supplemented by Miriam Robbins Dexter)

In this book Marija Gimbutas provides us with a scholarly but also readable account of the Goddess tradition of Europe from the late Palaeolithic and Neolithic eras, through the megalithic and henge building periods and into recorded history. Continue reading

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‘Feral: Searching for enchantment on the frontiers of rewilding’ by George Monbiot

Rather than seeing the bare hills of mid-Wales as beautiful in their remoteness George Monbiot sees them as ruined, ‘sheepwrecked’ landscapes and re-imagines them as they once were—and could be again—thickly forested and rich with wildlife. His biggest dream is the restoration to completeness of fractured ecosystems by the eventual re-introduction of the wolf, the lynx and other large mammals to our British landscapes in the same way as this is already being done in other parts of Europe and in certain areas of North America. Continue reading

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‘Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology’ by Jim Al-Khalili and Johnjoe McFadden

A physicist and a professor of molecular biology lead us into a new scientific world in which physics and biology talk to one another – and the results are very exciting. In the past quantum physics pretty much had the monopoly of physics, and biology was limited to the world of classical science. The experiments by which the quantum world was understood required very precise conditions which are not found in the messy world of Nature. However, as this book demonstrates life at every level depends on the movement of fundamental particles that are governed by quantum rules. Continue reading

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‘The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World’ by Iain McGilchrist

This is one of the most important books that I’ve read. I heard Iain McGilchrist talking about it on the radio when it was first published and just knew I had to read it. It’s a weighty tome (both in size and content), covering both the structure of the brain and how the brain’s structure and function has shaped Western culture. McGilchrist is eminently suited for the task, as he taught English at Oxford University before training as a psychiatrist and is therefore able to express complex ideas in simple, attractive ways. Continue reading

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‘The Universe Story In Science and Myth’ by Greg Morter and Niamh Brennan

This book describes our planet’s whole evolutionary journey from the Big Bang to the present day, as revealed to us by science. It then goes on to explain why the story is so relevant for our time and to discuss some of the many inspirations we can draw from it. Continue reading

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‘Gossip from the Forest’ by Sara Maitland

In this beautifully written book, Sara Maitland sets out on a series of walks through ancient forest and woodland in Britain seeking the symbiosis between forests and fairy stories. She expresses a deep concern that the future of these two sources of healthy life experience is endangered. Continue reading

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‘The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community’ by David C Korten

David Korten wrote this book several years ago, but it is probably even more relevant – and urgent – today. He sees us at a crossroads, and the choice we make will result in either The Great Turning of the title, or The Great Unravelling. Continue reading

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‘Sacred Earth Celebrations’ by Glennie Kindred

With her whole-hearted commitment to celebrating the Earth and its cycles, Glennie Kindred delves into the living tradition of our Celtic ancestors and arrives at a magnificent collection of sacred ceremonies based on the eight Celtic festivals: the Summer and Winter Solstices, the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes, the four cross-quarter points of Imbolc, Beltain, Lammas and Samhain. However, the celebrations in the collection are not in any way fixed or immutable; for her …they help us to discover more about ourselves and our intrinsic connection to Earth. Glennie believes we are free to celebrate the festivals in whatever way we choose, and her book is packed with suggested ways to do just this.
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‘The Universe Story’ by Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry

Most cultures have creation stories. And for many centuries, those creation stories have served to bond people together in a shared sense of history and of destiny. Our modern, Western culture, with all its book learning and its technology and its scientific knowhow has long since outgrown tales of Adam and Eve and fig leaves and yet there has been nothing coherent to put in their place. For a long time now, we have been a people in need of a creation story. Continue reading

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‘The Herbalist’s Bible: John Parkinson’s Lost Classic Rediscovered’ by Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal

The Herbalist’s Bible is a translation of a description of fifty of the 3,800 herbs outlined in John Parkinson’s ‘Theatricum Botanicum’. Parkinson, master herbalist to Charles 1, published his ‘Magnum Opus’ in 1640. It was never reprinted and is now an extremely valuable rare book. The recent publication of The Herbalist’s Bible makes this valuable contribution to the literature of Western Herbalism accessible once more. Unique amongst many herbal reference books, this book contains reproductions of the original manuscript complete with detailed line drawings, alongside a modern translation, including descriptions of therapeutic applications illustrated with high quality photographs. Continue reading

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‘Healing this Wounded Earth: with Compassion, Spirit and the Power of Hope’ by Eleanor Stoneham

The book is a call to action – to heal our wounds and our fractured society, and most importantly halt the violence we are inflicting on this planet before it’s too late. The author points out that, through increasing urbanisation, most of us have lost contact with the land and the soil and as a result part of our soul has died. She writes from a Christian perspective but draws on the wisdom of other religious traditions as well. She assures readers that her message is for those of all faiths or none: what matters is that they possess ‘the honesty of intention’ She tackles big questions such as how we move into a new era of social responsibility, lay the foundations of a just society and reform our economic system so that we value people and not money.
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‘Meister Eckhart: A Mystic Warrior for our Times’ by Matthew Fox

This is a book about Meister Eckhart, the 13th/14th century mystic who was born near Gotha in what was the Holy Roman Empire and is now in Germany. But the book is about much more than Meister Eckhart himself. Matthew Fox picks out key thinkers, philosophers, social and eco activists from modern times and shows how they have been influenced by, or resonate with, Meister Eckhart. Continue reading

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‘Planet as Self: An Earthen Spirituality’ by Sky McCain

‘Planet as Self’ argues for a radical rethink of our relationship with Mother Earth or Gaia and points out how beliefs – scientific or religious – can so easily be mistaken for truths. Nothing less than a paradigm shift in our basic beliefs is called for. Continue reading

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‘Occupy Spirituality: A Radical Vision for a New Generation’ by Adam Bucko and Matthew Fox

‘Occupy Spirituality’ is a superb dialogue between two important contemporary progressive Christian thinkers and activists. Though the subtitle partly suggests the book is focussed on the younger generation, there is nothing within the pages that is not relevant to us all, to the times in which we live and to the materialistic greed, bigotry and complacency that is bringing about the greatest spiritual crisis human and more-than-human life have ever faced. If this gives the impression this might a negative read, then it would be a wrong one. The book is truly inspirational. This is a spirituality that is prepared to get its hands dirty, to do something and work towards positive changes. Continue reading

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‘A Better World Is Possible’ by Bruce Nixon

After reviewing what is wrong with today’s world, Nixon argues for a sustainable and just economy, involving reform of the large global financial institutions currently dominated by the interests of big business and rich countries. He proposes unlocking democracy by moving to a more participatory system, with more power at a local level. He also illustrates how the money currently poured into the military machine could be used for conflict resolution and war prevention. Additionally, he addresses the issues of eradicating world hunger, and creating sustainable (and beautiful) towns and cities. Continue reading

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SACRED SEED: A Collection of Essays. Compiled and edited by the Global Peace Initiative of Women with an introduction by Vandana Shiva

This is a collection of essays dedicated, as the front matter tells us, …to all those working to preserve and care for the Earth and Her life systems…the most dangerous war humankind is engaged in is the war against nature. Until we can learn to live peacefully with Nature we will not live peacefully with one another. The seed is frequently referred to in belief systems because it provides such a powerful metaphor for the hidden depths within natural systems that are essential to our existence on this planet, both physically and spiritually; the spiritual and the practical are brought together seamlessly in the essays in this book. Continue reading

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‘Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future’ by Bron Taylor

The overall aim of this book is to define and describe dark green religion which, reduced to one simplistic sentence, means a belief in the intrinsic value and sacredness of Nature, and to examine the influence of this strand of belief upon our contemporary culture, particularly in the West. Continue reading

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‘Brilliant Green: The Surprising History and Science of Plant Intelligence’ by Stefano Mancuso and Alessandra Viola

We recognize the familial bonds we have with other animals, for like us they all have eyes and a heart and a brain and, despite vast differences of form, we are all variations on a theme. But a plant—well that is ‘something else.’ It is sedentary, fixed in place, lacking internal organs, lacking a face. To our anthropocentric human minds, plants are either commodities or decorations. We don’t see them for who they actually are: fellow beings with whom we and all other life forms share the vast co-operative adventure called life on Earth. For in fact, plants process information, just as we do. They sleep and wake, just like us. Like us, they can see, feel, touch and remember. They can also communicate with each other and with other organisms They just do it differently, that’s all. Continue reading

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‘Darwin and God’ by Nick Spencer

This book explores specifically Darwin’s personal relationship with his God, how this changed over his lifetime and the emotional anxiety that his scientific discoveries caused him because of the impact he knew these ideas would have on religious belief. Continue reading

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‘Excellent Beauty: The Naturalness of Religion and the Unnaturalness of the World ‘ by Eric Dietrich

Have we not always been led to believe that religion is the purveyor of mysteries and all that is supernatural rather than natural? And have we not learned that science destroys mystery by discovering truth? In fact, as Dietrich—professor of philosophy at Binghamton University—so thoroughly and competently explains, religion is actually a biological phenomenon, a property emerging from the process of human evolution. Meanwhile science, we have all discovered, is what destroys our mysteries and reveals to us all that is real about the world. Continue reading

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‘Destination of the Species: The riddle of human existence’ by Michael Meacher

An exploration of often mutually exclusive and even contradictory opinions as to the purpose of human existence – explanations offered by religion and humanism, and by scientific rationalism or ideological belief; that we exist to fulfil a divine purpose versus humankind as the result of meaningless random mutation, and so on. The author will already be known to most readers in Britain as someone who served as a junior minister in a former UK Government. Continue reading

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‘The Triumph of Seeds: How grains, nuts, kernels, pulses and pips conquered Nature and shaped human history’ by Thor Hanson

Just as William Blake talked about seeing the world in a grain of sand, Thor Hanson is able to see the whole world in a seed. And through his writing, he opens that world to us. From the tiniest, almost invisible seed of an epiphytic orchid to the forty-pound coco de mer, seeds come in all shapes and sizes and colours and employ an amazing diversity of methods for dispersing themselves and finding their way to somewhere they can germinate and grow. On that search and that settlement of seed into soil, now rests the whole of life on land—our own human lives included.
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‘All Is One: How the pieces of life’s puzzle fit together’ by Joop van Montfoort

This book is an autobiographical spiritual journey – the story of the author’s enlightenment. He qualified and practised as a scientist, but realized that science alone does not have all the answers to some of the greatest questions and most uplifting phenomena relating to human life. He was raised in a tradition of organized religion but found also that their rituals and dogma alone are little help in resolving life’s most challenging issues. The answers to the most profound questions as to the reasons for existence must be sought within, by freeing oneself from the limitations of fundamentalist science or religion.
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‘The Shepherd’s Life: A Tale of the Lake District’ by James Rebanks.

James Rebanks was born into a family which has farmed in Cumbria for at least 600 years and he learnt his shepherding skills from his grandfather and father from early childhood. As a young man he stretched his wings and went to Oxford, but that only made him more aware of the depth of his connection with the Lakes and farming. His book draws us into an extraordinary understanding of his small, remote upland world and its sheep and shepherds. Continue reading

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‘The Sacred Depths of Nature’ by Ursula Goodenough

A book that is completely in tune with GreenSpirit philosophy and presents a view of spirituality derived from the natural world. The author is an eminent professor of biology who gives us a non-theistic world-view in which a sense of the numinous originates from the wonder of the cosmos – the improbability of its very existence, its grandeur and infinite diversity, culminating in the emergence of human consciousness and our ideas of value and meaning. Continue reading

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‘Collected Papers of Michael E. Soulé: Early Years in Modern Conservation Biology’ by Michael, E. Soulé

This book contains skilfully collected presentations of the many faceted concerns of conservation combined with peer-reviewed scientific research in the broadest areas of biology, environmental studies and genetics. With well prepared overviews and summary paragraphs of the fourteen presented papers, the book serves as an essential text book for students of conservation biology and also as a fascinating general knowledge source for any layperson interested in the multitude of synchronous and symbiotic relationships within the plant and animal kingdoms and in the concept of the planet as a living, holistic being. It is a collection that would provide stimulating reading for anyone seeking deeper understanding of the ways in which the strands of the web of life are woven together. Continue reading

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