Institute for Ecstatic Naturalism

Institute forEcstatic Naturalism

About Ecstatic Naturalism

Robert S. Corrington

Contemporary ecstatic naturalism was first formulated in Professor Robert S. Corrington’s Nature and Spirit: An Essay in Ecstatic Naturalism (Fordham University Press, 1992). This has been followed by a number of publications further extending the scope of this unique portrayal of nature, perhaps best expressed in his Ecstatic Naturalism: Signs of the World (Indiana University Press, 1994) and A Semiotic Theory of Theology and Philosophy (Cambridge University Press, 2000). In these later works Corrington probes into the correlation of psychosemiotics with the psychoanalytic theories of Freud, Rank, Jung, Reich, and Kristeva wherein the human unconscious shows itself to be the multiform gateway to the vast underconscious of nature. Theologically, panentheism is critiqued for its intemperate application of theories of relation and teleology to an unwieldy theory of nature as the “order of orders.”

In his semiotic trilogy, (Ecstatic NaturalismNature’s Self, and Nature’s Religion) Corrington locates the human process within vast natural potencies that shape and groove all that we say, contrive, surmise, conjecture, build or dream. His 2003 work, Riding the Windhorse: On Manic-Depressive Order and the Quest for Wholeness, applies the regnant categories of ecstatic naturalism to the highly destructive yet creative mode of attunement found in manic-depressive disorder.

As part of his procedure of emancipatory reenactment, Professor Corrington has addressed the philosophy of the founder of pragmaticism and the larger tradition of semiotics in his 1993 book, Introduction to C.S. Peirce. He has used this procedure in regrounding the psychoanalysis of Wilhelm Reich in his 2003 work, Wilhelm Reich: Psychoanalyst and Radical Naturalist. In both cases slumbering potencies are set free to appear in their relevant sphere of prevalence thus coaxing latent momenta from nature naturing into their fitful puissance in nature natured.

Ecstatic naturalism has roots in Protestant Liberalism, most notably Tillich. Equally primary are the writings of Euro-American pragmatists and pragmaticists, but without the relativistic stance of Neo-Pragmatism. Robert Neville’s work has been approached from within this template. From the beginning, the dialogue with phenomenology has led to an ordinal phenomenology working in tandem with a horizonal hermeneutics to articulate regnant orders of relevance: cf., The Community of Interpreters (Mercer 1987 & 1995). Increasingly, the powerful system of Schopenhauer has emerged as one of the most important dialogue partners of ecstatic naturalism, helping open the door to an aesthetic transfiguration (replacement?) of religion. Aesthetic sacred folds hold and proffer the irruptions of the so-called holy within the innumerable orders of the “world.”

An ecstatic naturalism is a perspective that seeks to move toward an aesthetic phenomenology of nature’s “sacred folds”—special centers of numinous meaning and power that may be found throughout nature, where “nature” may be understood to mean an encompassing reality that has no other, there is no referent “for” nature nor any outside “to” nature. Nature is all that there is: nature is whatever is, in whatever way. From nature’s sacred folds emerges a fierce self-othering, nature naturing, where “it” moves ecstatically ejecting semiotically dense momenta.Nature naturing is the inexhaustible well of nature’s atemporal creating underconscious, “it” is the not-yet-in-time mode of preordinal expression. This preordinal expression manifests itself as created nature, a plane of immanence composed of innumerable orders, or nature natured. The plane of nature natured is not without access to its depth dimension however, and the creativity of the depth dimension does not necessarily evidence a telic plan, either. Nature naturing is not the unified will or intelligence of a supreme Being, and “it” is not the sacred, for there is no “whatness” to nature naturing, but only “its” “how.” Unlike other theological perspectives friendly to the tradition of naturalism (process thought, for example) an ecstatic naturalism denies thatnature naturing molds nature natured simply into pleasing shapes. Melancholy, pain, and anguish are just as much to be accounted for in the aesthetic phenomenology that an ecstatic naturalism employs. For ecstatic naturalism,naturing naturing is “beyond good and evil” and “sustains the just and the unjust, beautiful and the demonic, the fragmented and the harmonious, the honorific and the detestable, the living and the dead (via effects) and the realms of the possible and the actual.”

Most recently, Professor Corrington has published a work, Nature’s Sublime: An Essay in Aesthetic Naturalism (2013), that unfolds a deepened phenomenological description of the selving process on its personal and social dimensions as it is in turn enveloped by the energies of god-ing and the encounter, via genius, with the ultimate experiences of beauty and the sublime.  The book makes the case that the aesthetic domain is less tribal and potentially violent than some forms of religion.  It is in the encounter with great art that the self, following Schopenhauer, finds salvation under the conditions of finitude.

From the ecstatic naturalist standpoint, as noted, the distinction between nature naturing and nature natured colors and specifies almost all aspects of, and possibilities for, human life. It indicates, among other things, that the unconscious is far more important, both religiously and philosophically, than has usually been acknowledged. While the conscious represents only one set of aspects of our relation with nature natured, the unconscious is our direct connection both to wider aspects of nature natured, and in certain respects, to the potencies that emerge fromnature naturing. The conscious life is much more precarious than traditional monotheisms would allow, but also more magical than traditional naturalisms could recognize.

Board of Directors

kevinbluepearlpicKevin Boileau

Professionally, I engage in psychoanalysis and complex mediation/law. Academically, I am Professor of Psychoanalysis & Phenomenology at the Center for Global Advanced Studies (who partners with the European Graduate School).  I am on the core faculty of the Existential Psychoanalytic Institute & Society( EPIS); Affiliate Faculty at the Honors College, University of Montana; and the Interim Director at the BCS Dispute Resolution Research Institute and a Managing Partner of Boileau Conflict Solutions.

When I am not directing these two science institutes (BCS & EPIS), I teach a number of post-doctoral seminars to psychologists and philosophers who desire advanced training, both theoretical and clinical.  I am the managing editor of a number of publications, the host of a weekly radio show on phenomenology and psychoanalysis, and a highly productive author.  Over the past several years, I have written approximately 20 books, both theoretical and literary, many of which are available on

I am also a co-trustee for the EPIS Scholar’s Library, the Scholar’s Library scholarship fund, one of the founding members of the Global Solidarity Foundation, and a founding member of the Cooperative Conflict Resolution ThinkTank.

me in India 2003Robert S. Corrington

I am Professor of Philosophical Theology in the Graduate Division of Religion of Drew University, Madison, NJ 07940.  My call to be a philosopher occurred when I was nineteen when I read Heidegger’s 1949 essay, The Way Back into the Ground of Metaphysics.  From early on I have been keen on bringing diverse philosophical traditions into deep intersection with each other, most particularly pragmatism and phenomenology.   More recently I have woven post-Freudian psychoanalysis into this depth-dialectic.

Since 1992, with the publication of my Nature and Spirit: An Essay in Ecstatic Naturalism (Fordham University Press) I have been concerned with developing the metaphysics of a form of naturalism that speaks to the ecstatic dimensions of nature (nature naturing) within the orders of the world (nature natured).  Ecstatic Naturalism argues that nature is all that there is and that the divine (sacred folds) are in and of nature.  Theologically, ecstatic naturalism calls for a deep pantheism.

Post-Freudian psychoanalysis is concerned, for ecstatic naturalism, with tracing the trajectory of the human process from the birth trauma to the return of the “lost object” from out of the “not yet being” of the spirit.  Key figures for this movement of thought are Jung, Rank, Kohut, and Reich.

Also of importance is the connection of the thought of Schopenhauer with Advaita Vedanta and the Upanishads, wherein ecstatic naturalism enriches its sense of the depth dimension of nature naturing.

REDunn-photoRose Ellen Dunn

I am Associate Dean for Academic Administration at Princeton Theological Seminary. I have taught philosophy and religion at Drew University, Montclair State University, and New Brunswick Theological Seminary. My scholarly interests include phenomenology, philosophical theology, and theopoetics. My current scholarship interweaves phenomenology, theology, and feminist philosophy into an ecstatic phenomenology that celebrates the experience of divine possibility. I am author of the forthcoming book Finding Grace with God: A Phenomenological Reading of the Annunciation, to be published by Pickwick Publications of Wipf and Stock (spring 2014). I am a member of the American Academy of Religion, the American Philosophical Association, and the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy.

sigridur-gudmarsdottirSigridur Gudmarsdottir 

I am a parish pastor and independent scholar in my native country, Iceland. I did my Ph.D. work in constructive theology at Drew University with Catherine Keller, Robert Corrington and Virginia Burrus and graduated in 2007. The name of the dissertation was “Abyss of God:  Flesh, Love and Language in Paul Tillich” and is currently being revised onto a monograph. I am also working on an M.Ed. in pedagogy, focusing on mentoring and coaching as well as editing the peer reviewed Journal of European Society of Women in Theological Research. I love metaphysics and language, am interested in ecofeminism, queer theory, pluralism, practical and postcolonial theology and integrate all these different trends into my everyday praxis as a pastor. Sometimes I teach philosophy of religion at the University of Iceland.

Some of my recent publications are: “Touch, Flux, Relation: Feminist Critique of Graham Ward´s “The Schizoid Christ””, The Poverty of Radical Orthodoxy (Postmodern Ethics), Lisa Isherwood and Marko Zlomislic eds., Pickwick/ Wipf and Stock Publishers 2012, “The Natal Abyss of Freedom:  Arendt, Augustine and Feminist Christian Ethics,” Gendering Christian Ethics, editor Jenny Daggers, Liverpool, Liverpool Hope University 2012 and ” Coming Out with Butler and Whitehead: Opacity, Apophasis and the Phallacy of Misplaced Closetness:,” Butler on Whitehead: On this Occasion,  Roland Faber and Deena Lin (ed.), New York, Fordham Press, November 2011.

meet dr. howellNancy R. Howell

I am Professor of Theology and Philosophy of Religion, Saint Paul School of Theology.  My academic travels began with an undergraduate biology degree from The College of William and Mary, and my graduate study concluded with a doctoral degree from Claremont Graduate School, where I added Whitehead’s philosophy to my specialties. The mix of science and religion continues to shape my professional life. I spend classroom and research time invested in how primatology, process philosophy, contextual theologies, and ecofeminist ethical commitments call humans to a revised understanding of nature, the Sacred, and ourselves. Because conversations help sort out complex issues, my colleagues and I edited the Encyclopedia of Science and Religion (Macmillan, 2003) and Creating Women’s Theology: A Movement Engaging Process Thought (Pickwick, 2011). Other collaborative work enriches my thinking at the National Museum of Natural History, where I serve on the Broader Social Impacts Committee for the Hall of Human Origins, and at the Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary, where I serve on the Bonobo Hope Board and engage bonobos in lively communication.

Chae Jung Lee photoChae Young Kim 

I am Professor of Religious Studies, Sogang University, Seoul, Korea.  I was born and raised in Korea. I studied in three places in our globe. I studied my undergraduate studies in A-Jou University and my graduate studies in Religious Studies in Seoul National University, Korea. Then with curiosity and also trust in Wilfred Cantwell Smith’s emphasis in the personal encounter with other religious persons, I went to India for my graduate studies of Philosophy at Madras Christian College, Madras and then finally did my doctoral degree program of Religious Studies at Ottawa University, Canada.

In my studies, I have focused on the comparison of Korean native spirituality, C. G. Jung’s depth psychology, and the psychology of religion movement emerged in New England in the late 19th century through the early 20th, especially by William James’ and his former student, Granville Stanley Hall’s initiative. Recently I have done a comparative theoretical research on conversion of William James and Bernard Lonergan. I have published several books in Korean and also translated William James’ The Varieties of Religious Experience, Ernst Becker’s The Denial of Death, and Joseph Flanagan’s The Quest for Self-Knowledge into Korean. I also published several articles on James and Lonergan in English international journals.

I have begun to teach at the School of Theology in Kangnam University since 1995 and then moved to teach at Religious Studies at Sogang University, Seoul, Korea since 2003. At the moment, I am also serving as president of Korean Academy of Religion.

robert-cummings-neville-headshotRobert C. Neville

I am a philosopher and theologian and have been in correspondence and collaboration with Robert Corrington for decades; we have frequently written about one another’s work.  My most recent  book, Existence: Philosophical Theology Volume Two, deals extensively with what I call “ecstatic fulfillment,” my version of much of what he means by “ecstatic naturalism.” Its predecessor, Ultimates: Philosophical Theology Volume One presents a naturalistic ontology that is somewhat alternative to his. A successor, Religion: Philosophical Theology Volume Three, offers a new theory of religion that argues that all religions are responses to ultimate realities and thus are culturally and thematically versions of a universal human project.  Responding to ultimate realities is like responding to the climate, but harder: everyone has to do it some way or other.  The novel contribution I hope to have made is to focus metaphysical attention on determinateness as such, thus treating the abstract neutrality of metaphysics a bit more cleanly than Justus Buchler did and providing strong motive for thinking hard about eternity and ontological creation.  My mode of academic life is that of a Confucian Scholar-Official, combining scholarship and teaching with hands-on care of institutions, although I’m trying to avoid academic administration as much as possible since I turned 70 five years ago.  On good days I think I’m maturing as I approach late middle-age.

PadillaElaine Padilla

I am Assistant Professor of Constructive Theology at New York Theological Seminary. My theological analysis interweaves current philosophical discourse with Latin American and Latino/a thought, and religious and gender studies. I am author of the forthcoming book Divine Enjoyment, to be published by Fordham University Press (fall 2014). I am also co-editor of a three-volume project with Peter C. Phan, Theology and Migration in World Christianity being published by Palgrave MacMillan. The first volume entitled Contemporary Issues of Migration and Theology is already in print. Forthcoming are: Theology of Migration in the Abrahamic Religions (2014) and Christianities in Migration: The Global Perspective (2015). I am a member of the American Academy of Religion where I am on the Committee on the Status of Racial and Ethnic Minorities, and a member of the Catholic Theological Society of America.

WernickiNicholas J. Wernicki

I am a recent graduate of Drew University’s Graduate Division of Religion where Robert Corrington directed my Dissertation: Sartre’s Middle Ethics: Progress in Moral Aesthetics. Currently I serve as Assistant Professor of Humanities at Peirce College in Philadelphia where I teach courses in Philosophy and Ethics.  In addition to my work at Peirce College I am the acting editor for Continental Philosophy for the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (a peer reviewed academic resource hosted by the University of Tennessee at Martin). My primary area of interest lies in the intersection of phenomenology, theoretical psychoanalysis and empathy studies specifically through the work of Sartre, Kohut and Jaspers.

International Congresses

Fourth International Congress on Ecstatic Naturalism

Group Photo 4 EN Congress 2014The theme for the Fourth International Congress on Ecstatic Naturalism is: Nature and Psyche.  Among the issues dealt with under this broad heading are: the nature of the personal verses the collective unconscious, the relation between the human unconscious and the unconscious of nature, and the relationship between nature naturing and the various modes of the unconscious.  Thinkers addressed as they relate to ecstatic naturalism and the issue of the psyche include, William James, C.S. Peirce, Henry David Thoreau, Martin Heidegger, Martin O. Yalcin, Robert Neville, and C.G. Jung.  A special session is devoted to celebrating the centennial of the birth of Justus Buchler, America’s premier metaphysician and author of Metaphysics of Natural Complexes (1966 & 1990).  Ordinal psychoanalysis is exhibited as a method for opening up the various orders of the psyche beyond the ones disclosed by pre-ordinal forms of psychoanalysis. The ethical implications of ecstatic naturalism are explored as they emerge from the general metaphysical schema.  Finally, Gnosticism and Neo-Platonism are reexamined from the standpoint of ecstatic naturalism and shown to share important features, especially aesthetic, in common with contemporary ecstatic naturalism.  Find out more about the Fourth International Congress on Ecstatic Naturalism…

Third International Congress on Ecstatic Naturalism

group photo third EN CongressThe Third International Congress on Ecstatic Naturalism continues the work of the first two Congresses in extending the philosophical and theological implications of ecstatic naturalism, a perspective originally developed by Professor Robert S. Corrington.  The point of origin for ecstatic naturalism is the ontological divide between nature naturing (natura naturans) and nature natured (natura naturata).  Nature naturing is defined as “nature perennially creating itself out of itself alone,” while nature natured is defined as “the innumerable orders of the world.”

The papers of this year’s Congress will focus on the relation of ecstatic naturalism to art and aesthetics.  Questions are raised as to whether and how art can transform or perhaps replace religion as the or a primary mode of comportment toward the world.  Historically the correlations of ecstatic naturalism to empirical and process metaphysics will be examined as will the roles psychoanalysis can play in both personal and social transformation, especially through art and a transfigured relation to nature.  Find out more about the Third International Congress on Ecstatic Naturalism…

Second International Congress on Ecstatic Naturalism

Second EN CongressThe Second Congress on Ecstatic Naturalism continues the work of the First Congress in articulating and extending the philosophical and theological implications of ecstatic naturalism, a perspective originally developed by Professor Robert S. Corrington. The point of origin for philosophical query is nature naturing, i.e., nature perennially creating itself out of itself alone. Out of this origin the potencies (Schelling) birth the sacred folds that are most strongly concresced in the domain of the aesthetic sublime.

The papers for this year’s Congress deal with the correlation between ecstatic naturalism and figures such as: Peirce, Whitehead, Deleuze, Meillassoux, Plato, Klein, Jaspers, Winnicott, Schelling, Kohut, and Freud.  Find out more about the Second International Congress on Ecstatic Naturalism…

First International Congress on Ecstatic Naturalism

group photo first EN CongressA new generation of ecstatic naturalists is moving into novel and rich dimensions with their own amplification and critiques of ecstatic naturalism. This congress is an opportunity to engage in dialogue with panentheisms, pantheism (what Corrington calls his “deep pantheism”), ecotheology, theopoetics, and the religious implications of evolutionary psychology, mysticism, a semiotic cosmology, and a robust Liberal Theology that is post-tribal.  Find out more about the First International Congress on Ecstatic Naturalism…


About Robert S. Corrington

Robert S. Corrington

Professor of Philosophical Theology
Drew Theological School & Graduate Division of Religion

me in India 2003
Mysore, India

Professor Corrington has spent the past several decades developing his own philosophical system of Ecstatic Naturalism, which continues to unfold in a series of books and articles.  Early in his career he brought together the perspectives of Continental phenomenology and American pragmatism in order to benefit from the descriptive care given to lived experience by both traditions.  Peirce and Heidegger were early interlocutors, later augmented with a deep appreciation for the work of  Justus Buchler, whose own metaphysics represents a radical break with the various traditions of Western philosophy.

In addition, he has long been in dialogue with South Asian philosophy, in particular Advaita Vedanta as expressed in the Upanishads.  He has made several trips to India and is interested in theosophy.

To find out more, visit Robert S. Corrington’s web page.