DAVID ABRAM is an ecologist, anthropologist, and philosopher who lectures widely around the world. He is the award-winning author of Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology, and The Spell of the Sensuous. His essays on the cultural causes and consequences of environmental turmoil have been published in numerous magazines, scholarly journals and anthologies. David is co-founder and director of the Alliance for Wild Ethics (AWE); he lives with his family in the foothills of the southern Rockies.

"Speculative, learned, and always 'lucid and precise' as the eye of the vulture that confronted him once on a cliff ledge, Abram has one of those rare minds which, like the mind of a musician or a great mathematician, fuses dreaminess with smarts."
- The Village Voice


"David Abram is among the most important interpreters of the wild voice within us. At no other time in Western history have we needed to listen to that voice, and David's, as much as we do today."

- Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods

"If we are to survive - indeed, if we are to stop the dominant culture from killing the planet - it will be in great measure because of brave and brilliant beings like David Abram. This is a beautifully written, deeply moving, and important book."

- Derrick Jensen, author of Endgame and A Language Older Than Words

"As with many deeply original - and radical - books, this work may startle, even provoke the reader in its electric reversal of conventional thought. Worth any provocation for the profundity of its insights, this is a portrait of the artist as a young raven, arguing, with all the subtlety of his mind, for the mindedness of the body. An exercise of uncanny imagination by a writer who has a sixth sense for the intelligence of the first five."

- Jay Griffiths, author of Wild: An Elemental Journey

"This book is like a prehistoric cave. If you have the nerve to enter it and you get used to the dark, you'll discover things about storytelling which are startling, urgent and deeply true. Things each of us once knew, but forgot when we were born into the 19th and 20th centuries. Extraordinary rediscoveries!"

- John Berger, author of Ways of Seeing


"Deep ecology was marked by a new kind of humility -- a new assumption that we two-leggeds were entirely a part of the intricate web of life -- and by a new wish to reflect and to act without violating our responsibility as plain citizens of the biotic community. The other side of this humility was a steady wonder in the face of a world that exceeds all our designs, the delicious and sometimes terrifying awareness of being human in a much more-than-human world..."

"If we really are corporeally embedded in the cosmos we see and sense around us, carnally situated in the midst of this earthly plenum, than we encounter the real only from within the depths of itself, and hence each aspect that we meet hides other aspects behind it. Sure, there are many facets or forces of the world that we can name -- sun, soil, and cliff, bear and bird, full moon and sickle moon, cloud, rain, river. Yet the very presence of these beings in the same field that we ourselves inhabit entails that there are aspects of each that we do not see; every visible facet of the world speaks to us of dimensions that are not visible..."

"My first encounter with spawning salmon gleams with a cool, moonlit radiance in my memory. I'd grown up in the suburban east coast and knew nothing of this wild fish and its mysterious ways. It was in the mid-eighties, and I was kayaking in the Prince William Sound a year or two before the taut, ever-shifting surface of that life-filled sea was generously layered with a glistening blanket of oil by the Exxon company..."

Wildness is the earthy, untamed, undomesticated state of things -- open-ended, improvisational, moving according to its own boisterous logic. That which is wild is not really out of control; it is simply out of our control. Wildness is not a state of disorder, but a condition whose order is not imposed from outside. Wild land follows its own order, its own Tao, its own inherent way in the world.

Wilderness, a related term, has in the modern era come to be equated with land that is pristine, uninhabited by humans, and unaffected by human artifice. Such a narrow definition assumes, however, that humans are not a part of nature, and that our species has no wildness of its own. A broader definition might equate wilderness with land that is untouched by modern humankind, unaffected by technological civilization. But is such an ideal landscape to be found anywhere today? Has not technological civilization spread its influence unto every corner of the planet? Rapid climate change, itself a result of the profligate burning of fossil fuel for human convenience, is by now altering organic life in every region of the biosphere. Hence unadulterated wilderness, free of all taint from civilization, can no longer be said to exist.

Yet at the very same historical moment when wilderness, in that pristine sense, is vanishing from the world, a new and unexpected recognition is slowly arising that there is no place that is not wild! It is now becoming apparent that there exists no place on earth where an exclusively human logic holds complete sway over things – there is no realm (not even the mental terrain of our thoughts) that falls completely under conscious human control.

Indeed, the new sciences of “chaos” and “complexity” demonstrate that even the simplest and most ubiquitous phenomena -- the air currents, for instance, in the room where you sit reading this, including the small vortices made by your breath as it slips in and out of your nostrils – enact dynamic patterns that we can never precisely predict, even if we were to know all of the knowable parameters. The slow metamorphosis of a storm-cloud, the halting trajectory of a raindrop down a windowpane, the precise micro-moment of your next heartbeat -- all of these happenings exceed the determinative or predictive power of even the most sophisticated science. They are, in other words, wild. They are not entirely out of control; they are simply out of our control, beyond our ability to fully map with our theories or fully fathom with our thoughts.

Human creativity and craft, when practiced in attentive, participatory attunement with the earthly locale, can also be deeply wild. Indeed human culture can be beneficial not only to ourselves but to the wild, more-than-human reality that enfolds and sustains us. Such are the forms of culture that the Alliance for Wild Ethics seeds and encourages -- practices that draw human groups into ever deeper accord with the exuberant nature that surrounds them, enabling community to thrive in reciprocity with a flourishing terrain. Wild culture accords well with a wild-flourishing Earth!


"Long-awaited, revolutionary. . . This book ponders the violent disconnection of the body from the natural world and what this means about how we live and die in it."

- The Los Angeles Times

"A truly original work. Abram puts forth his daring hypothesis with a poetic vigor and argumentative insight that stimulate reconsideration of the technological commonplace. . .With Abram anthropology becomes a bridge between science and its others."

- Science

"This is a landmark book. Scholars will doubtless recognize its brilliance, but they may overlook the most important part of Abram's achievement: he has written the best instruction manual yet for becoming fully human. I walked outside when I was done and the world was a different place."

- Bill McKibben

"A masterpiece - combining poetic passion with intellectual rigor and daring. Electric with energy, it offers us a new approach to scholarly inquiry: as a fully embodied human animal. It opens pathways and vistas that will be fruitfully explored for years, indeed for generations, to come."

- Joanna Macy, Buddhist scholar and activist

"The Spell of the Sensuous does more than place itself on the cutting edge where ecology meets philosophy, psychology, and history. It magically subverts the dichotomies of culture and nature, body and mind, opening a vista of organic being and human possibility that is often imagined but seldom described. Reader beware, the message is spell-binding. One cannot read this book without risk of entering into an altered state of perceptual possibility."

- Max Oelschlager, author of The Idea of Wilderness