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Dwelling in the wilderness : place, landscape and the sacred among catholic monks of the American west Brown, Jason M. 2017

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Dwelling in the Wilderness:  Place, Landscape and the Sacred among Catholic Monks in the American West  by Jason M. Brown B.A., Brigham Young University, 2007 M.F., Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, 2011 M.A.R., Yale Divinity School, 2011 A DISSERTATION SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULLFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY  in The Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (Resource Management and Environmental Studies) THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA (Vancouver) October 2017 © Jason M. Brownii   Abstract  A monk’s purpose is to seek God, and contemplative monks in the Roman Catholic tradition are specifically called to seek God in place. Drawing from biblical motifs, religious symbols, spiritual teachings and monastic traditions, monastic communities have forged deep and abiding relationships with their rural and wild locales. While many of the studies concerning monasticism’s relationship to land engage historical and theological dimensions, far fewer give adequate voice to the range of lived perspectives of contemporary monks themselves. Exploring research questions focused on the relationship between environmental discourses and contemporary monastic spirituality, during field work conducted between December 2015 and May 2016, I interviewed 50 male monastics at four monastic communities through both seated and walking interviews. Embedded in the interdisciplinary literature of place and landscape studies, my findings are interpreted through the lens of recent debates regarding the role of cognitively or socially constructed discourses in the experience of landscape. Socially constructed or “representational” perspectives emphasize the semiotic character of experience and meaning making with place and landscape. Rooted in identity, gender, class, ideology or religion, we project meaning onto an otherwise meaningless objective landscape. More recent phenomenological approaches attempt to shift away from any vestiges of Cartesian dualism between subject and object by rejecting representational or symbolic understandings of experience for an emphasis on pre-cognitive, embodied, sensory experience as the fundamental driver of our experience of land and place. I argue that contemporary monasticism, rooted in both symbolic religious constructions and powerful spiritual experiences of land, has engaged environmental discourse through ‘bridging,’ a practice which attempts to assimilate environmental discourse into monastic spirituality on its own terms. The monastic sense of place, the question of ‘sacred’ land, and the observation of religious symbols in land demonstrate what I call an embodied semiotics wherein established religious and environmental discourses are relationally attached to and molded by embodied contact and experience with land.     iii  Lay Summary   Drawing from biblical motifs, religious symbols, spiritual teachings and monastic traditions, monastic communities have forged deep and abiding relationships with their rural and wild locales. During field work conducted between December 2015 and May 2016, I interviewed 50 male monastics, at four monastic communities through both seated and walking interviews. Embedded in the interdisciplinary literatures of religion and ecology and place and landscape studies, my findings are interpreted through the lens of recent debates in these literatures regarding the nature of experience of place and landscape. I argue that contemporary monasticism, rooted in both religious ideas and powerful spiritual experiences of land, has incorporated environmental ideas into monastic spirituality on its own terms. The monastic sense of place, the question of ‘sacred’ land, and the observation of religious symbols in land demonstrate show that established religious and environmental ideas are relationally attached to and molded by embodied contact and experience with land.  iv  Preface This research and the analysis of the data collected was originated, carried out and conducted primarily by the author. My Supervisor was Theresa Satterfield, and my committee included Mike Meitner of UBC Forestry and John Robinson of CIRS (now at the University of Toronto). This dissertation has not as of yet resulted in any publications, though I hope it will soon. I am the sole researcher involved in collecting data and writing this dissertation. The Ethics review of this project was conducted through the UBC Behavioral Research Ethics Board, under the project title “Dwelling in the Wilderness,” Certificate Number H14-02005. v  Table of Contents  Abstract ........................................................................................................................................... ii Lay Summary ................................................................................................................................. iii Preface............................................................................................................................................ iv Table of Contents ............................................................................................................................ v List of Tables ................................................................................................................................. ix List of Figures ................................................................................................................................. x Acknowledgements ........................................................................................................................ xi Dedication ..................................................................................................................................... xii Chapter 1: Ora et Labora: Toward a Monastic Spiritual Ecology .................................................. 1 First Encounter ............................................................................................................................ 1 Genesis ........................................................................................................................................ 2 The Meaning of Religion vs. Spirituality ................................................................................... 4 What is Christian Monasticism? ................................................................................................. 8 The Order of Saint Benedict ................................................................................................. 11 Camaldolese Benedictines .................................................................................................... 13 The Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (Trappists) ............................................. 13 Monastic Spirituality ................................................................................................................. 15 Liturgical Prayer ................................................................................................................... 15 Contemplative Prayer............................................................................................................ 16 Lectio Divina ........................................................................................................................ 18 Ongoing Conversations: Theoretical Scope of this Study ........................................................ 19 Religion and Ecology’s ‘Monastic Moment’ ........................................................................ 19 Debates in Place and Landscape Study ................................................................................. 26 Research Questions ................................................................................................................... 35 Research Methods ..................................................................................................................... 36 Research as Pilgrimage ......................................................................................................... 36 Research as Place-Making .................................................................................................... 38 Writing as Re-Presentation ................................................................................................... 43 Toward an Embodied Semiotics of Place and Landscape ........................................................ 44 Chapter Summaries ............................................................................................................... 45 A Note on the Monks’ Identities ............................................................................................... 49 vi  Chapter 2: Building Bridges: Biblical Motifs and Environmental Discourse Among Monastic Communities in the American West ............................................................................................. 50 Introduction ............................................................................................................................... 50 Monasticism and the Land in Historical Context ..................................................................... 52 Geographic Context for Biblical Peoples ............................................................................. 53 The Desert Foundations of Christian Monasticism .............................................................. 58 Medieval Monasticism and the Land .................................................................................... 63 Cistercian Reforms and the Land .......................................................................................... 70 Changes to Contemporary Monastic Landscapes in North America ........................................ 73 Contemporary Environmental Discourses and Monasticism .................................................... 77 Biblical Motifs and North American Environmental Discourse ........................................... 77 Ecological Restoration and Sustainability Discourses .......................................................... 82 Entering the Anthropocene ................................................................................................... 84 Building Bridges: The Greening of Christianity ................................................................... 85 Spiritual Ecology as Bricolage.............................................................................................. 90 The “Greening” of Monasticism ........................................................................................... 94 Four Contemporary Monastic Communities and the Bridging of Environmental Discourses 100 New Camaldoli Hermitage ................................................................................................. 101 New Clairvaux Abbey......................................................................................................... 109 Our Lady of Guadalupe Abbey ........................................................................................... 115 Christ in the Desert Abbey .................................................................................................. 120 Conclusion .............................................................................................................................. 126 Chapter 3: Lovers of the Place: Stability, Liturgy and Manual Work as Markers of the Monastic Sense of Place ............................................................................................................................. 130 Introduction ............................................................................................................................. 130 Making Sense of Place ............................................................................................................ 131 Place in Christian Spirituality ............................................................................................. 134 Place and Monastic Identity, Stability and Formation ............................................................ 136 The Vow of Stability ........................................................................................................... 136 Formation ............................................................................................................................ 140 Landscapes of Moral Lesson .............................................................................................. 147 A Liturgical Sense of Place..................................................................................................... 151 Seasonal Liturgy ................................................................................................................. 152 vii  Diurnal Liturgy ................................................................................................................... 155 Ora et Labora: Work and the Monastic Moral Landscape ...................................................... 160 A Theology of Work ........................................................................................................... 161 The Changing Face of Work and its Impact on Sense of Place .......................................... 171 Conclusion .............................................................................................................................. 180 Chapter 4: Mysterium Tremendum: Landscape and the Experience of the Sacred .................... 181 Introduction ............................................................................................................................. 181 Landscapes of the Sacred ........................................................................................................ 183 God and the World in Christian Ontology .............................................................................. 187 Experience of God .............................................................................................................. 190 The Sacramental Tradition .................................................................................................. 193 God and the World in the Experience of Catholic Monks ...................................................... 201 If the Land is Sacramental, is it Sacred? ................................................................................. 207 Sacred Land as Native American Concept ......................................................................... 211 Sacred as Consecrated Space .............................................................................................. 212 Inscape as Sanctity .............................................................................................................. 216 The Holy Eucharist and the Real Presence of Christ in the Land ....................................... 219 Do Animals Have Immortal Souls? ........................................................................................ 229 Charged Moments and the Absence of God in Sacramental Landscapes ............................... 237 Conclusion .............................................................................................................................. 245 Chapter 5: The Book of Creation: Symbol, Sign and Embodied Experience of Landscape ...... 249 Introduction ............................................................................................................................. 249 Symbol and Sign in the Experience of Place and Landscape ................................................. 251 Symbolic Landscapes.......................................................................................................... 251 Critiques of Semiotic Approaches to Landscape ................................................................ 253 Toward an Embodied Semiotics ......................................................................................... 257 Biblical Motifs and Symbols and the Monastic Landscape .................................................... 263 The Desert-wilderness Motif .............................................................................................. 267 The Paradise-garden Motif ................................................................................................. 274 The Imagery of the Biblical Psalms and the Land .................................................................. 281 Breathing the Psalms........................................................................................................... 282 The Land-based Imagery of the Psalms .............................................................................. 285 viii  Conclusion .............................................................................................................................. 292 Chapter 6: Conversatio Morum: Monastic Wisdom for the Anthropocene ................................ 295 Introduction ............................................................................................................................. 295 The Wilderness and the Garden: Monasticism in the Anthropocene ..................................... 296 Can Sense of Place be Polyamorous? ..................................................................................... 306 Can a Sacramental Ontology be Ecocentric? .......................................................................... 310 The Future of Monastic Spiritual Ecology.......................................................................... 317 Should Place and Landscape Studies Abandon the ‘Self’? .................................................... 321 Some Concluding Thoughts .................................................................................................... 329 Tables .......................................................................................................................................... 330 Photographic Illustrations ........................................................................................................... 336 Bibliography ............................................................................................................................... 351 Appendix: Research Consent and Interview Materials ............................................................... 366 Initial Contact Email ............................................................................................................... 366 Interview Consent Form ......................................................................................................... 367 Superior Consent Form ........................................................................................................... 369 Interview Schedule.................................................................................................................. 371 Monastic Community Survey ................................................................................................. 374 ix  List of Tables Table 1: Benedictine and Trappist monasteries in the American West ...................................... 331 Table 2: Monastic communities in this study ............................................................................. 332 Table 3: Interviews per community ............................................................................................ 332 Table 4: Liturgical schedules ...................................................................................................... 333 Table 5: Vowed monastics at each community .......................................................................... 333 Table 6: Paid staff ....................................................................................................................... 334 Table 7: Livelihood activities ..................................................................................................... 334 Table 8: Organization memberships ........................................................................................... 334 Table 9: Gardening and food production efforts ......................................................................... 335 Table 10: Approximate annual retreatants .................................................................................. 335  x  List of Figures Figure 1: New Camaldoli Hermitage, Google Maps image ....................................................... 336 Figure 2: New Camaldoli Hermitage’s cloister garden with church in background .................. 337 Figure 3: View from the top of New Camaldoli Hermitage’s property in the Santa Lucia Mountains ................................................................................................................................... 338 Figure 4: New Clairvaux Abbey, Google Maps image............................................................... 339 Figure 5: Irrigation ditches with original New Clairvaux Abbey church in background ........... 340 Figure 6: Cloister garden near refectory amid 'Rancho' style building layout at New Clairvaux Abbey .......................................................................................................................................... 341 Figure 7: February scene near New Clairvaux Abbey vineyards and guest house with 12th Century Cistercian church under construction in top left ........................................................... 342 Figure 8: Our Lady of Guadalupe Abbey, Google Maps image ................................................. 343 Figure 9: Our Lady of Guadalupe Abbey church from guesthouse courtyard ........................... 344 Figure 10: Our Lady of Guadalupe Abbey cloister garden with central fountain ...................... 345 Figure 11: Retreatant pond at the base of Our Lady of Guadalupe Abbey’s steep hill .............. 346 Figure 12: Christ in the Desert Abbey, Google Maps image ...................................................... 347 Figure 13: Christ in the Desert Abbey’s adobe church built by architect George Nakashima in 1968............................................................................................................................................. 348 Figure 14: Christ in the Desert’s cloister garden (Image from Christ in the Desert website) .... 349 Figure 15: Christ in the Desert Abbey monks in new vegetable garden in front of Chama River canyon with solar panels ............................................................................................................. 350 xi  Acknowledgements This work is more than just a dissertation in fulfillment of an advanced degree. It is a contemplative ethnography, a geography of the heart, and a spiritual ecology. It was beautiful, difficult, taxing and inspiring to research and write, and I am a better person because of it. I hope you enjoy it. It would not have been possible without the love and support of many people who deserve my infinite gratitude. I would of course first like to thank the ever evolving Trickster that is the creative heart of the cosmos who consistently surprises me with love, learning, laughter and joy. I want to thank on bended knees my supervisor Theresa Satterfield for her truly indispensable support, mentorship and friendship. Her presence in my life has been one of the highlights of my career as a student. I want to thank mentors and friends Mike Meitner and John Robinson for serving on my committee and their UBC courses. Many thanks to the support staff at IRES: Gillian Harris, Linda Steward, Stefanie Ickert, Lisa Johannesen and Bonnie Leung. I want thank my family J, Holli, Ashli, Jacob, Jordan, Brad, Sarah, Claire and Drew for their love and support. I want to also thank Rachael Rose, Natalie Green and Maya Graves-Bacchus for their companionship during different legs of this journey. And of course I could not have done this project without the monks who humored me and walked with me and talked with me at the communities of New Camaldoli Hermitage, New Clairvaux Abbey, Our Lady of Guadalupe Abbey and Christ in the Desert. In particular I want to thank Abbot Peter, Abbot Mark, Prior Cyprian and Father Benedict for believing this to be a worthwhile pursuit, and opening their communities to me.             xii       Dedication  This work is dedicated to the former, present and future monks of New Camaldoli Hermitage, New Clairvaux Abbey, Our Lady of Guadalupe Abbey and Christ in the Desert Abbey.  Thank you. 1  Lauds Chapter 1: Ora et Labora: Toward a Monastic Spiritual Ecology “We were made by God. We were made for God, and we find our fulfillment in God. The work of our life on earth is to seek God. It’s not that God is missing. God is not lost. Our work is to open our heart to God who is already present and calling us and that’s the work of the monk.”  –Monk of New Clairvaux Abbey (2016) “Monasticism, more than any other movement in the history of Christendom, has been associated with wilderness.”  –Susan P. Bratton (1993)  First Encounter  After a short presentation, and a few samples of liqueur, I wandered out of the gift shop of the 12th century Carthusian monastery which was nestled in the rolling hills of rural Slovenia and into a grove of trees that formed a green wall around the walled in cloister. I stood in silence, staring up into the leafy branches of a cruciform ash tree with meandering lianas climbing up a slender bole. It was 2011, the last year of my joint master’s degrees in forestry and theology at Yale, and was participating in the forestry school’s popular European forestry fieldtrip. As a lifelong member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS, or Mormons), I was in the midst of a crisis of faith, and many of my deeply held beliefs about God, the world, and the human soul were being called into question by doubts about historical an