John Muir: Origin of Harmony



On 24 December 1914, John Muir (1838–1914) passed away in Los Angeles, CA.

Muir is a significant figure of the 19th century as he stood opposed to the exploitation of natural resources at a time when many believed the resources of the earth were infinite. Muir’s writings were influential, and as co-founder and first president of the Sierra Club he was an icon and inspiration to the conservation movement. He is also remembered as “the father of the National Parks.”

Muir understood that to discover truth, he must turn to what he believed were the most accurate sources. In his book, “The Story of My Boyhood and Youth” (1913), he writes that during his childhood, his father made him read the Bible every day. Muir eventually memorized three quarters of the Old Testament and all of the New Testament. But as Muir became attached to the American natural landscapes he explored, he began to see another “primary source for understanding God: the Book of Nature.”

From “Three Days with John Muir,” World’s Work Magazine (1909) pp 11355-56, Doubleday Press:

“Little men, with only a book knowledge of science, have seized upon evolution as an escape from the idea of a God. ‘Evolution!’ a wonderful, mouth-filling word, isn’t it? It covers a world of ignorance. Just say ‘evolution’ and you have explained every phenomenon of Nature and explained away God. It sounds big and wise. Evolution, they say, brought the earth through its glacial periods, caused the snow blanket to recede, and the flower carpet to follow it, raised the forests of the world, developed animal life from the jelly-fish to the thinking man.

“But what caused evolution? There they stick. To my mind, it is inconceivable that a plan that has worked out, through unthinkable millions of years, without one hitch or one mistake, the development of beauty that has made every microscopic particle of matter perform its function in harmony with every other in the universe, that such a plan is the blind product of an unthinking abstraction. No; somewhere, before evolution was, was an Intelligence that laid out the plan, and evolution is the process, not the origin, of the harmony. You may call that Intelligence what you please: I cannot see why so many people object to call it God.”