Second International Congress on Ecstatic Naturalism Held at Drew

Ecstatic Naturalism Group Photo
Ecstasy, aesthetics, ecology—these are just some of the topics and issues addressed by the presenters at the Second International Congress on Ecstatic Naturalism held on April 13-14 2012. The congress drew together scholars from Brazil, New Zealand, Korea, and the US, as well as current and former students from Drew’s Graduate Division of Religion, Theological School, and College of Liberal Arts, to engage Dr. Robert Corrington’s philosophical theology of ecstatic naturalism from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. Dr. Robert C. Neville of Boston University’s School of Theology delivered the keynote address.

A longtime friend and collaborator with Corrington, Neville presented a new theory of religion from a three-volume work on philosophical theology on which he is currently working. After noting that the writings of Justus Buchler and Charles Sanders Peirce have shaped both Corrington’s work and his own, Neville delivered his address and then invited audience members to consider whether his position merited the “honor of being called a kind of ecstatic naturalism.”

The congress culminated with “An Evening of Artistic Naturalism,” where four artists displayed their work alongside some of Corrington’s writings on the significance of art in ecstatic naturalism. Theological School students Renee Blanchard and Dawrell Rich orchestrated a luxuriant narrative to accompany the music, video, photography, and painting. Of particular interest was Rich’s oratorical interpretation of Corrington’s writings, to which Corrington responded, “I felt this sense of broadening and deepening, encompassing more…. It was more capacious, it had deeper resonances.”

CLA Art Professor Michael Peglau presented his painting “Grand Wash,” which depicted a view of the enormous red-rock cliffs located in Arizona’s Grand Wash Cliffs Wilderness. An avid reader of Corrington’s work, Peglau said he finds points of connection between his work and ecstatic naturalism. Corrington said of Peglau’s art, “To paint the way he does is answering the gifting of nature naturing. His response is a natural piety.”

Drew sophomore Rachel Schachter presented an original song titled “October,” and Milburn High School junior Jake Oleson presented an original piece, a video montage called “The Moving Photograph: The Reservation.” The evening’s presentations were rounded-out by photographer Jim Devito’s photos “Gateway Lake,” “Pastry Tree,” and “Foot of a Monarch.”

Reflecting on the success of the congress, Corrington noted his excitement at the work  being done by Drew’s graduate students, adding that “ecstatic naturalism is being well-served.”

Plans are already underway for next year’s congress, which will focus on art, aesthetics, and ecstatic naturalism. The planners aim to weave art throughout the whole congress, in the papers and presentations as well as through the works of art themselves. We look forward to those fruitful interweavings.—Theresa Ellis, PhD student in Religion and Society