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Towards an understanding and definition of wilderness spirituality


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Ashley, PL 2007 , 'Towards an understanding and definition of wilderness spirituality' , Australian Geographer, vol. 38, no. 1 , pp. 53-69 , doi: 10.1080/00049180601175865.

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There is an increasing body of Western literature lamenting the loss of
spiritual relationships and connection with the Earth, and numerous studies of wilderness
spirituality. But what is wilderness spirituality? Do expert perceptions differ from public
views of the meaning of the term? This paper explores these questions. Despite spirituality
being an abstract topic, and spiritual values hard to define and measure, numerous authors
have suggested definitions of nature-based and wilderness spirituality. A content analysis
of a random sample of the general population in a preliminary study in Tasmania on
wilderness spirituality meanings was compared to definitions supplied by experts on the
topic. Strong commonalities between the two groups were the citation of words expressing
connection and interrelationship, portrayals of transcending the self, and the quality of
compassion. Weak commonalties were terms such as ‘peace’ and ‘harmony’, ‘respect’,
‘joy’, ‘elation’, ‘happiness’, ‘sacredness’ and ‘reverence’. Disparate elements were found to
be a sense of awe and wonder, religiosity, humbleness, and altered states of consciousness.
The defining characteristics of wilderness spirituality were found to be a feeling of
connection and interrelationship with other people and nature; a heightened sense of
awareness and elevated consciousness beyond the everyday and corporeal world; and
cognitive and affective dimensions of human understandings embracing peace, tranquillity,
harmony, happiness, awe, wonder, and humility. A religious meaning and explanation
may be present.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Ashley, PL
Keywords: Nature-based spirituality; spiritual landscapes; wilderness; wilderness spirituality; content analysis; Tasmania.
Journal or Publication Title: Australian Geographer
Publisher: Routledge Journals, Taylor & Francis
ISSN: 0004-9182
DOI / ID Number: 10.1080/00049180601175865
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