Picture of Lulworth Cove, part of the Jurassic Coast


The wonderful GreenSpirit Walking Break in late Spring of 2022 provided a happy coincidence for me. Our location at Monckton Wyld was very close to Dorset’s fascinating ‘Jurassic’ coast, and came just as I was reading the final chapter of ‘Otherlands’. In this superb book, the palaeontologist and evolutionary biologist Thomas Halliday takes the reader back to specific times and places over the past 550 million years of Earth’s history (the period of complex multi-cellular life and just one eighth of the total 4.6 billion). Each of the sixteen places chosen can be visited today (some with difficulty, others less so) and he brings his descriptions alive with a combination of detailed factual evidence and imaginative description of what life was like at the time.

The Dorset coast, ‘Otherlands’ and walking in Nature with fellow GreenSpirits (plus mainly sunny weather) made me feel very open to all that ‘Deep Time’ offered, open to the astonishing journey that the Earth has been on. There is a real joy in knowing one is part of something so magnificent – but in what way is it ‘spiritual’? The following paragraphs will, hopefully, help to explain.

Our Earth story and a shift in consciousness

The story of the cosmos, the Universe story, is fundamental to our spiritual life in GreenSpirit and the Earth story is part of this great ‘primary revelation’ as Thomas Berry called it. Though much seems incredibly remote, contemplating ‘Deep Time’  gives an immense and magnificent context to our lives – our evolutionary journey, a sense of our species’ late coming on Earth, and a realisation that humanity is not the culmination of evolution. We may feel short of blessings in these hard times but we surely should feel blessed by living in a time when we have the amazing Universe and Earth stories that have been revealed, and continue to be revealed, by scientific discovery.

The ‘About Us’ page on the GreenSpirit website states that ‘we welcome all who seek a shift in consciousness towards a loving connection with the Earth and all life’. There are many ways into a ‘GreenSpirit consciousness’ and surely this is one of them.


All lifeforms have ancestry and are related. Just as understanding Nature reveals our profound and complex entanglement, so ‘Deep time’ reveals our relationship not just to all there is now in Nature but to all there ever has been. Contemplating this relationship, sitting quietly with the thought of all that it entails, leaves me overwhelmed. It is too much to comprehend, almost too much to bear, and I can only adopt an attitude of deep humility which I suppose is not a bad place to begin a spiritual journey. Looking back on our planet’s history surely gives us a profound sense of where we are in the scheme of things – and there is still so much that is emerging. Our human species is indeed special – but so are all those other species which have existed, made their adaptations to their particular environments and then transformed or disappeared. Who knows what lies in wait for us!


An important ingredient in our Green spirituality is mystery. In our contemplation of Deep Time we are drawn out of ourselves into a very mysterious and wild immensity which deepens our feelings for, and our participation in, the life of things. In our About Us statement we say that ‘we embrace mystery and paradox, taking inspiration from our voices and those of the artists, poets and mystics of all ages’. I have a strong belief that an appreciation of mystery is very important to our flourishing and to our spiritual life – I also believe that this sense has sadly atrophied in modernity and has played a significant part in our environmental debacle. While much in Deep Time has been, and continues to be revealed, a huge swathe remains shrouded in mystery, and surely always will.

The ‘Other’

We can desire and indeed experience a profound intimacy with Nature, with the more than human, while at the same time knowing that it is radically ‘other’. Exploring our deep need for both intimacy and for the ‘wild’ seems to me an integral part of our spiritual journey; while both are present in the ‘everyday’, if only we look, they are also present in much larger contexts. How might we experience these through contemplating Deep Time when it is obviously not present to us? We can find both through the work of others, through scientific discovery, through familiarising ourselves with Earth’s evolution story, through the use of the imaginations of others as well as our own, in the exploration of the time dimension of spirituality. As one of the opening sentences in our About Us page states, ‘We stand in awe and wonder of our precious home’. This surely applies as much to where we have come from, to Earth’s extraordinary evolution story, as to where we are now. The title of the inspirational book which stimulated me to write this short paper – ‘Otherlands’–  is very apt – as we time travel through Earth’s past things become increasingly ‘Other’!


We have been using a stylised drawing of the beautiful spiralled shell of the Nautilus mollusc since the first GreenSpirit magazine in 1999. The Nautilus – still swimming in the Indian and Pacific oceans – has a fossil record of over 500 million years and while it was the spiral and its properties which particularly attracted Michael Colebrook (an early editor of our magazine – the logo was his brainchild) its extraordinary ancient biography gave additional meaning to its use. Our About Us page says that ‘we develop celebrations which help us grow in connection with each other and all life and which honour the sacred nature of creation’. I recall rituals focused on the Nautilus spiral and maybe these could be brought back into our practice. I also have in mind the creation of meditations upon particular periods of Earth’s history – for example, the emergence of plant life in the Devonian period (419 million to 359 million years ago) seems particularly important to celebrate.


The Epilogue chapter in ‘Otherlands’ is a masterful summary of our present condition and why we need to act. Life on Earth has survived five major extinctions and it is some comfort that life recovers and that extinction is followed by diversification. However, as Thomas Halliday makes clear, ‘recovery brings radical change, and often startingly different  worlds, into being while also taking, at a minimum, tens of thousands of years.’

‘We know’ Halliday states, ‘that change is occurring, we know that we are responsible, we know what will happen if it continues, we know that we can stop it, and we know how. The question is whether we will try.’ If nothing else I want to be a ‘good ancestor’, and hopefully not an unknown contributor to a sixth extinction.