Crisis Of The Soul
Seyyed Hossein Nasr
From the time I was a child, I had very good love of nature.1 We spent the summers by the foot of Mount Damavand, the tallest peak in Western Asia, beautiful volcanic peak of 19,000 feet outside of Tehran, a beautiful village there. I had very powerful experiences of nature, which has remained with me since today, until today — and since then until today. And I am very much — always very sensitive to the beauty of nature, and very sensitive to its destruction at the same time.
I mean in the same way that I love a beautiful tree, and I drive by, I meditate upon it when I’m on the road coming to work here, I’m very sad when that tree is cut, I don’t sleep at night. I have kind of empathy, very, very close with the world of nature. Now, to this was added the fact that I began to study the modern sciences. I’m an MIT graduate in Physics with Honors, and mathematics. I know something about Western sciences. And one of the things — not the only thing, but one of the things that turned me away from the study of modern sciences, is the realization that I was dealing with nature, as if it were dealing with the whole of nature, but it was only dealing with the aspect of nature which is material, and leaving out the non-material reality of nature, and then leaving out less to catastrophe.2
I was always extremely sad about the unbelievable ugliness of the area behind MIT in Cambridge, full of smoke stacks, and when the wind came you either smelled coal or chocolate, depending which way the wind blew. There was a chocolate factory there, not a single tree. That really was — I couldn’t take it you might say. I would go — take my car and drive and go to New Hampshire or somewhere that was a beautiful area, and I was very sensitive that something is happening, and that is this beautiful nature, we are about to destroy it, trying to show the environmental crisis is not bad engineering, it’s not the result of bad engineering. It’s the crisis of the soul. The crisis occurred within us, and within our world view. And it’s not going to be set alright by just changing the engineering patterns, but still having the same paradigm within which we live, and our relationship with nature.3
Many, many people have followed Theodore Roszak in his famous book Where the Wasteland Ends, he quotes my book Man and Nature, and followed through many other people, and now the issue is more accepted, although it’s taken a long, long fight, and many people tried to just solve the environmental crisis through the parameters of the same paradigm which created the environmental crisis.