Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, Vol 10, No 4 (2016)

Sacred Ecology of Plants: The Vegetative Soul in the Botanical Poetry of Les Murray

John Charles Ryan
Issued Date: 30 Jan 2017


With developments in the botanical sciences regarding signaling and behavior, the idea of plant sensitivity becomes an increasingly real possibility. In conjunction with empirically argued principles of percipience, intelligence, and memory in the plant world, the vegetative soul takes on a new signilcance. Aristotle, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and other Western commentators delineated between the ensoulment of plants, animals, and humans. They regarded the vegetative soul as the incomplete basis for the emergence of animal and human life. The vegetative soul resonates deeply in the cosmologies of Aboriginal Australian people who regard plants as spiritually imbued participants in creation stories, or the Dreaming. Circumventing a hierarchical typology of ensoulment, the Australian poet Les Murray invokes these diverse notions of soul in his botanical poetry. Shaped by the convergence of Christian beliefs and traditional Australian indigenous conceptions of mora, Murray’s verse positions plants within a sacred ecology as ensouled beings with intelligent capacities proper to their modes of existence.

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DOI: 10.1558/jsrnc.v10i4.30855


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