Spirit and Nature
Produced and Directed by Gail Pellett
Co-writers: Bill Moyers and Gail Pellett
Production Company: Public Affairs Television Inc.
Presented by: Thirteen/WNET
Aired on: PBS     Date: 1991

“If you are in a world that one imagines to be the body of God, one would treat that world very, very differently,” says Christian theologian, Sallie McFague in this provocative film about what world religions have to say to the environmental crisis.

In this 90 minute documentary McFague, a Native American Elder, a rabbi, a Muslim scholar, the Dalai Lama, and a professor of social ethics along with other religious voices search for a new human ethic toward the earth.

Audrey Shenandoah


At an unusual conference — filled with art, music, poetry and rituals — at Middlebury College in Vermont, Bill Moyers interviews the Dalai Lama, Sallie McFague (Dean Divinity School, Vanderbilt Univ), Native American Elder Audrey Shenandoah (of the Eel Clan of the Onandaga tribe), Rabbi Ismar Schorsch (Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary), Seyyed Hossein Nasr (Iranian born philosopher in Islamic Studies at George Washington University) and Ronald Engel (Professor of Social Ethics at Univ of Chicago’s Divinity School).

All of the participants stress the need to see nature and ourselves as sacred.

“We are responsible for seven generations into the future,”says Shenandoah about the Native American traditional approach to nature.

Stunning performances by the Paul Winter Consort are woven throughout the film.  Creators of “earth music,” the Paul Winter Consort integrate the recorded sounds of wolves, whales and spotted owls — all endangered species.

“Western modern science has monopolized our view of nature,” argues Nasr, “so it excludes the sacred and divine from nature.  I am challenging it’s claim to be the only science of the natural world.  In Islam God’s creation is sacred.  Nature is the reflection of paradise.  To pollute the water is a sin.”

“If you have geniune compassion you develop respect for each other and all species in the world,” says the Dalai Lama.

“We cannot simply have an aesthetic response to nature,” claims Sallie McFague.  It must be an ethical response.”

“What each person has to contribute is significant,” says Rabbi Schorsch.

“We need a new definition of citizenship.  Of responsibility for our world — all of it,” argues Ronald Engel.

Steven Rockefeller, one of the organizers of the  conferernce and a professor of religion at  Middlebury College, argues that we “need to re-examine our moral and human values that define our conduct.”

Credits:  Editor:  Kathryn Barnier;  Cinematographer:  Mark Falstad;  Music:  Paul Winter Consort

Dalai Lama & Seyyed Hossein Nasr

2 Responses to “Spirit and Nature”

  1. […] Moyers did a documentary of the last time the Dalai Lama was here in late summer 1990. Click the video below to hear a […]

  2. Gail Pellett says:

    A blog from Middlebury College in Vermont has linked with this page as the Dali Lama will be visiting Middlebury again this fall.

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