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Nature Deficit Disorder and the Perennial Philosophy

Published April 22nd, 2010 in Community Perspectives

There is a concept, explored for centuries, of the “Perennial Philosophy”, or, as described in wikipedia, “philosophia perennis – the notion of the universal recurrence of philosophical insight independent of epoch or culture, including universal truths on the nature of reality, humanity or consciousness.” Over the years, I’ve studied (dabbled in) the history and development of this idea—that there is a common, eternal philosophy, innate to human consciousness, in its essence mystical and underlying all religions. In a world divided and savaged by fundamentalists, there has thankfully always been human intuition and initiative towards spiritual unity and cooperation.

I believe that our own time in human history is characterized by an expansion of the role of the Perennial Philosophy. Those universal truths on the nature of reality—an esoteric sideshow for so many centuries—now seed visions of sustainability through unity and cooperation, inspiring and informing educational programs, holistic endeavors and social organizations all over the planet.

This is relevant because our survival is beginning to depend upon it. There is a conversation taking place worldwide concerned with topics once considered arcane, now normal—the necessity of nature, energy production and use, global warming and its causes, inalienable rights of children and indigenous, sustainability of food production and distribution, the place of the arts, and so many more. Across our world, countless human organizations and millions of people are mobilized to apply best practices within their spheres of influence to support such causes.

Here at Breitenbush, we’re all about this inquiry, it permeates into our everyday lives like rain into natural fabric. Dreaming into and living green isn’t about being a perfect model (we haven’t arrived yet)—rather, it is about applying oneself in one’s sphere of influence (family, school, work, revolutionary cell) towards the principles and practical applications of the Perennial Philosophy. In a world demonstrably finite, anyone paying attention knows we need to do this.

Another thing I’ve been paying attention to is the syndrome called Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD). It’s a lot like Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), but far more pervasive and pernicious, also less recognized and understood. The vast majority of kids, and adults for that matter, suffer from it. No surprise in a culture where everybody seems to gaze 9 hours a day into a screen of one kind or another.

I bring this up because there’s a link between the Perennial Philosophy and Nature Deficit Disorder. What Breitenbush has is the natural remedy for NDD, mostly because of its stunning physical setting of mountains, river and forest, but also because of the commitment of the Breitenbush Co-op to practical applications of the Perennial Philosophy—conscious evolution, sustainable energy, organic food, holistic healing, egalitarian governance, and authentic joy.

There is another center just one watershed over from Breitenbush that is also a spontaneous outgrowth of the Perennial Philosophy, and also graced with the natural cure for NDD. Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center ( is an organization providing essential learning experiences for students of all ages. Through their hands-on teaching methodologies, people are able to fully immerse themselves in the ancient forest. By sharing its special places with so many children, and educating them about the innate processes we are all a part of, Opal Creek is helping to secure a healthy planet for the next generations. The trails, water falls, swimming holes and ancient forest habitat are unparalleled.

How fortunate we are in this neck of the Oregon woods to have Breitenbush and Opal Creek, two centers exploring the nature of reality, humanity and consciousness within the context of wild nature.

– Peter Moore