“If humanity is to survive, David Fideler’s Restoring the Soul of the World provides us with the map for restoring our own souls and those of the planet with brilliance, clarity, and a love for human life and the life of nature.”
— Sim Van der Ryn, coauthor of Ecological Design and Emeritus Professor of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley
For millennia the world was seen as a creative, interconnected web of life — a web of life in which we participated deeply. But when the world came to be described as a lifeless, clock-like mechanism during the Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries, life and intelligence came to be seen as existing only in human beings, and nature came to be increasingly seen as an object of exploitation that primarily exists to meet human needs. This also led to a profound sense of alienation, since human beings no longer had any real bond with the world.
In Restoring the Soul of the World, David Fideler throws light on the unexamined connections between science, religion, and culture, and how our deepest worldviews have influenced the ways we relate to the world, other people, and our innermost selves.
This book traces the ancient vision of living nature along its entire course: from its roots in the World Soul of the Greek philosophers, to its eclipse during the Scientific Revolution, to its return today. Drawing upon the most important scientific discoveries of recent times, Restoring the Soul of the World shows how the mechanistic worldview has broken down, and presents a new vision of living nature and our own intrinsic bond with the deepest structures of the cosmic pattern. By learning from and collaborating with nature’s intelligence, we can bring the world to fruition, Fideler suggests, by viewing nature as a teacher and creative partner — and help to regenerate the Earth’s living systems.
About the Author
David Fideler studied ancient philosophies and religions at the University of Pennsylvania and holds a Ph.D. in philosophy and the history of science. He is the editor of The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library, the journal Alexandria: Cosmology, Philosophy, Myth, and Culture and the Cosmopolis Project website.
Praise for this Book
“David Fideler is a scholar and thinker of the first rank, and this marvelous book presents his profound historical, scientific, and philosophical expertise in a brilliant synthesis that is accessible to everyone. It is a beautifully written and wide-ranging guide to the history of the soul of the world. Drawing together threads from every field of human endeavor, from theology to poetry and astrophysics to biology, it is the most exciting, uplifting, and optimistic exhortation to engage with and restore the magical world around us that I have read in a long time.”
Tom Cheetham, Ph.D., author of All the World an Icon
“Restoring the Soul of the World goes beyond the goal of ‘sustainability’ to a new vision of our role here on Earth as renewing and regenerating a world that we feel emotionally committed to and want to care for and understand from a long-term view. This book is optimistic in the best way — based not just on hope or determination but on science, on an exciting array of successful solutions already being implemented and which could be expanded, and a daring kind of spiritual freedom rooted in the cosmos. This outlook could transform the world.”
Nancy Ellen Abrams and Joel Primack, authors of The New Universe and the Human Future
“Restoring the Soul of the World is the most far-reaching book available on more profound ways of understanding how we are connected to the cosmos. David Fideler reveals previously hidden traditions and ways of understanding ourselves and nature, exploring our relationships to nature’s intelligence as no one has before. A classic: you need to read this book.”
Arthur Versluis, author of Sacred Earth and Perennial Philosophy
“The wicked problems facing humanity today are rarely addressed in the context of their cosmological origins. In Restoring the Soul of the World, David Fideler traces the deep history of the Western imagination to reveal the roots of contemporary worldviews. By weaving together decades of meticulous research with poetic clarity, he highlights the paradigmatic foundations of seemingly intransigent religious, scientific, and economic beliefs. But he then takes the crucial — and all too rare — step of interpreting and integrating these histories to illuminate a path forward. He pragmatically demonstrates how models of regenerative strategies can be found all around, and that restoring the soul of the world begins with (once again) becoming attuned to the cycles and patterns of a living universe.”
David McConville, Ph.D., Chairman of the Board, The Buckminster Fuller Institute
“If just for one day some benevolent Deity granted me the power to determine what books would be taught in all the world’s universities, I would put David Fideler’s Restoring the Soul of the World at the top of my list. This beautiful and scholarly volume introduces the reader into science’s amazing discovery that our universe is alive, and then reflects upon some of the ways we are learning to collaborate with this enveloping intelligence. A life-changing gift for any young person wondering how to live a meaningful life in this time of crisis.”
Brian Thomas Swimme, director, Center for the Story of the Universe; coauthor of Journey of the Universe
“Restoring the Soul of the World is a wonderful book. I challenge anyone to read it intently and not feel the presence of the anima mundi, or hear the hum of the music of the spheres. David Fideler is an inspiring guide on an enlivening excursion through the intelligence of nature. He brings together heart and mind in an alchemical fusion uniquely his own.”
Gary Lachman, author of The Caretakers of the Cosmos
“‘In the beginning, philosophy and science were the same — and both were connected to religion, because the desire to understand the cosmos has always been a spiritual quest,’ writes David Fideler in this timely and absorbing book. He traces our long relationship with the world soul, chronicling how our experience of the spiritual power of nature was lost in a mechanized world. Yet Fideler brings real hope. Drawing on recent scientific discoveries and solutions, he envisions a way for humanity to collaborate in ‘living but damaged paradise.’ This book will help many people take heart.”
Tracy Cochran, editor of Parabola
“In an age of crisis, when big decisions have to be made about the future of the planet, Restoring the Soul to the World is a timely rallying call to reimagine our relationship with our world, our culture, and our cosmos. Through a masterful overview of the history of forgotten knowledge, David Fideler reveals the unsuspected connections between ancient thought and the cutting edge of contemporary natural science. . . . Like his beloved ancient philosophers, Fideler looks to the stars to find the pattern that connects, all the while returning his gaze to our blue planet, and reminding us of the intimate connection between our psyches and the Soul of the World.”
Leon Marvell, Deakin University; author of Transfigured Light: Philosophy, Science, and the Hermetic Imaginary
“The idea that the world has a soul, that there is a World Soul animating and organizing the cosmos, was central to premodern cosmologies and most fully developed among the ancient Greeks. The collapse of this idea and the rise of purely mechanistic and instrumental views of nature forms the intellectual background to the modern ecological crisis. This is the subject of David Fideler’s wide-ranging and penetrating study into the causes of and cures for the modern impasse. Many environmentalists still cling to a materialist scientific paradigm and a utilitarian assessment of our situation. Others fumble with a merely sentimental and half-formed sense of nature and the earth as a living reality. Fideler correctly identifies the notion of ‘World Soul’ as the necessary framework for a more complete, integrated worldview on which to base a true ecology of life. This is an important contribution to contemporary environmental thinking. It offers a broad intellectual history, explains how we arrived where we are today, and points to future directions that emerge when we restore the World Soul to the world.”
Rodney Blackhirst, La Trobe University