I have taken the phrasing “contemplative ecology” as used throughout this website, and as the substantive focus for the Institute for Contemplative Ecology from Douglas Christie. He uses this phrasing explicitly in his book The Blue Sapphire of the Mind: Notes for a Contemplative Ecology (Oxford, 2012). According to Christie, contemplative ecology refers to a way of thinking about and engaging ecological concerns rooted in Christian forms of contemplative spiritual practice. The phrase also refers to a particular way of thinking about Christian spiritual practice that understands the latter’s aim of transforming one’s consciousness and self-identity, as leading toward and including a deepened understanding of the intricate relationships among and between all living beings. (Thus, the aim of spiritual practice is not a move from human-centeredness to a God-centeredness that bypasses the world of nature; rather, in moving from our human-centeredness to a God-centeredness we find ourselves within and among the fullness of all created nature, amongst animals and plants and the whole ecological manifold.)
In our own moment of ecological and political crisis, he sees that the underlying concern is to find new ways of thinking about the meaning and significance of the relationship between ecological concern and contemplative spiritual practice. Doing so helps to ground sustained care for the environment in a deep feeling for the living world. To overcome and be resilient toward our current crisis, Christie sees ways for Christian traditions of contemplative thought and practice to be examined to access untapped potential for ecological awareness that can help to awaken in us a new consciousness of our shared concern for the world.
Douglas E. Christie is a faculty member and professor of Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University. His primary research interests focus on contemplative thought and practice in ancient and medieval Christianity and on spirituality and ecology. His current work is focused on the idea of mystical darkness and the contemporary sense of exile, loss and emptiness. He is the author of various books including The Blue Sapphire of the Mind: Notes for a Contemplative Ecology (Oxford, 2012).
Christie uses the phrase “the blue sapphire of the mind”, referring to an image used by the fourth-century Christian monk, Evagrius of Pontus, to capture the condition of the mind transformed by contemplative practice.