The following excerpts (and PDFs) have been collected from The Company of Others: Essays in Celebration of Paul Shepard, edited by Max Oelschlaeger (Kivaki Press 1995); and, from a special issue of Wild Duck Review on Paul Shepard (1997), edited by Casey Walker.
John B. Cobb, Jr. / Gary Snyder / Barbara Ras / Morris Berman / C. L. Rawlins / Chellis Glendinning / Barbara Dean / Steve Chase / Calvin Luther Martin / Douglas L. Wilson / Florence Shepard / William Severini Kowinski / Bernie Krause / Dolores La Chapelle
“Paul Shepard is one of the truly great prophets of our time. Like that of many of the great prophets of the past, his message has been too removed from the dominant intellectual and cultural world of his own time to receive a widespread hearing. But those of us who have heard, and who have, in some measure at least, understood, have had our eyes opened and been forced to see our world in a profoundly different way. And gradually that new way of looking is spreading.” —John B. Cobb, Jr.
“Paul Shepard–there are many things I have admired Paul for through the years, but I want to get to the heart of the matter: he was one of the very few to grasp the metaphor, the vision, the literal truth of, the beauty of life in the Upper Paleolithic. He had a vision so bold it must have scared off some readers, some students, a few publishers. There are many intellectual leaders who are close to anthropology, prehistory, and wilderness thought, who never could see what Paul was up to. Paul was a kind of poet of lost and future possibilities, and he wrote some eloquent books to that point.
We will miss you Paul, there’s plenty of this work yet to do! I just returned from a study of cave art in France, where I went down into places like Peche-merle, Trois Freres, Niaux, and Lascaux. I thought of Paul as I looked at those painted cave walls, covered with sketches of exquisitely well-realized creatures. If time and space collapse like some folks say, Paul’s may be up ahead where those handsome bison, graceful mammoths, and huge wild elk are roaming again.” —Gary Snyder [See: “Old Bones” by Gary Snyder from Wild Duck Review.]
“As this demeaning and violent century comes to a close, with its unprecedented fouling of our own nest and with more devastation of species and their habitats than most people reading this magazine can bear to contemplate, what can we do to change? How can we see our survival as inextricably linked to animals, to wildness, to the nurturing sanctity of these relationships? At the end of the Preface to The Only World We’ve Got, Shepard, on a hopeful note, says, “The generic human in us knows how to dance the animal, knows the strength of clan membership and the profound claims and liberation of daily rites of thanksgiving. Hidden from history, this secret person is undamaged in each of us and may be called forth by the most ordinary acts of life.” These words seem to me as beautiful and urgent as anything I’ve read. My own hope is that when enough of us finally learn how to dance the animal and learn to live up to the model of spirit and sanity that Paul Shepard provides, we will not be the only animals left to dance.” —Barbara Ras [See: “How to Dance the Animal” from Wild Duck Review.]
“I first ran across Paul Shepard’s work in the mid-Seventies, in San Francisco. [Poet and editor] Peter Berg handed me a copy of The Tender Carnivore and the Sacred Game, saying, ‘Have a look at this; this is a whole different way of thinking.’ Indeed it was. To someone caught in the traditional categories of the social and behavioral sciences, Paul’s analysis of the origins of human malaise, and his vision of culture being restored to sanity, came as something of a revelation. The anthropological notion, that our humanity had to be recovered from the past if we were to have any prospect of a future, was for me a powerful idea, and made its way into the concluding pages of the book I was working on, The Reenchantment of the World.
A few years later I was teaching at the University of Victoria in British Columbia. Orion Nature Quarterly sent me a copy of a book to review: Nature and Madness, by Paul Shepard. As I eagerly read through what Paul modestly described as a “progress report,” I realized that this slim volume bordered on genius. What, after all, is a genius? A genius has (at least) two characteristics: (a) He or she does not remind you of anyone else; and (b) Once they stated what they have to say, the whole thing becomes obvious, even though it was previously invisible….For me the key contribution was the notion of the crucial role played by the nonhuman other–i.e., the natural world–in the psychological development of human beings, particularly infants and young children. How, I thought to myself, could psychologists have missed this?….Human ontogeny devoid of regular interaction with the animal world was a twentieth century aberration, and accounted for a lot of the craziness of the contemporary sociopolitical landscape.” —Morris Berman
“[I found Nature and Madness] ten years after it was published, in 1993 on a remainder table in Moab, Utah. I was on a reading tour for a book of my own, short on cash, but was struck by the title. I read the first few pages, and it would not let me go….My appreciation for Nature and Madness comes not out of esteem for the scholarship, fine though it is, but because the book has become part of my life. I read it with a thrill of recognition. More than any other single work, Nature and Madness illuminates my past, confirms my present, and assures me, in the deepest way, that I belong to this world….You do not have to stop believing in the rocky integrity of our world in order to accept yourself. And this is the fatal flaw, as Shepard describes it, in our current state of belief….Given the depth of our predicament, Shepard offers a curiously hopeful diagnosis: we can still grow up. Despite all, we can learn how the world works and learn to be good animals, not fallen angels. We have not lost the ability, which is innate, but only missed the chance.”
—C. L. Rawlins [See: “The River” (A Poem for Paul Shepard).]
“In recent years I have wondered, after an occasional late-night dip into Lewis Mumford, if I would ever meet up with another thinker whose work competes with that of my chosen mentor. The challenge, I thought, would surely extend beyond mere intelligence, grasp of detail, or sweep of vision; the contender would have to be a writer, articulate and passionate. As reader, I would–by my own intolerance of the ecstasy of ideas–have to drop the book into my lap every few pages and breathe.
Who would guess that the earnest professor pacing back and forth before the chalkboard in Biology 101 would, twenty-five years later, emerge as Mumford’s match….He was tall, bearded, preoccupied. Oh sure, we dissected the frogs, collected the butterflies, and debated nature vs. nurture. But there was something else. Paul Shepard was the only college teacher I ever knew to take the class into the wilds, all the while seeding our minds with dangerously holistic notions like ecology.
[Years later] Nature and Madness changed my work and days….Mumford’s brilliance carved a crystalline picture of what is wrong with mass technological civilization and our lives within it. Shepard sanctioned this view, deepened it with rare psycho-historical insight–and then went on to open the door to what could be right. I remember the moment distinctly. I was lying on the couch in my office, a luscious July breeze blowing in through the door, alternately reading the book and dropping it in my lap to breathe.
In the ideology of farming, he offered, wild things are enemies of the tame; the wild Other is not the context but the opponent of ‘my’ domain. Impulses, fears, and dreams–the realm of the unconscious–no longer are represented by the community of wild things with which I can work out a meaningful relationship. The unconscious is driven deeper and away with the wilderness. New definitions of the self by trade and political subordination in part replace the metaphoric reciprocity between natural and cultural in the totemic life of the hunter-foragers. But the new system defines by exclusion. What had been a complementary entity embracing friendly and dangerous parts of a unified cosmos now takes on the colors of hostility and fragmentation. The unconscious is driven deeper and away with the wilderness! In one fell swoop, the psychosocial dynamic of the contemporary world revealed!” —Chellis Glendinning
“Before I had the opportunity to be Paul Shepard’s editor, his words had changed my life. From the first month I moved to this square mile of remote northern California land in 1971, after a lifetime of living in cities and suburbs, I knew I had found the place where I wanted to live for the rest of my life. I was 25 then, and had a very romantic view of nature; I thought of moving to the country as trying to “become one with” the natural world. That, I realize now, was a city-bred idea; real life in nature is much more complex and challenging….A few years after I moved here…a friend recommended Paul’s Tender Carnivore and the Sacred Game. I devoured the book, pen in hand, and experienced one of those rare clicks of deep recognition. Ah, yes, I thought, this is the way it is. Paul described a different dynamic–not losing oneself in nature, but rather a rich and endlessly stimulating exchange of life and growth. Suddenly I had words for my experience here. His description of the ‘other’ was a revelation; my longing for unity was replaced with a fascination with otherness.” —Barbara Dean [See: “Paul Shepard” from Wild Duck Review]
“While I was pleased to read Paul’s condemnations of empire, genocide, and the destructiveness of our corporate economy, I have learned much more about all of these things from other people. Paul’s gift to me was much more challenging. He took me off the beaten path of the radical politics I had known. He took me beyond the 500 years of European and capitalist expansion. He took me beyond the ten to twelve thousand years of human civilization, so marred by social hierarchies. He took me to the deep evolutionary history of our species and the more-than-human world that first called forth and sculpted those human qualities I treasure most.
Martin Luther King once said, “The universe is so structured that things go awry if men are not diligent in their cultivation of the other-regarding dimension.” This has been my underlying view of the world since I was a child. Yet, in my teens and early-twenties, I limited this “other-regarding” only to other human beings. Paul’s books helped me go deeper than this, to regard the intrinsic value, and vital human importance, of non-human others. His words changed me.
Yet the seeds of his words were also powerful because they found fertile soil in my lived experience as a child, experiences in which Paul played an important part….My [earliest] memories of him are mostly as the man who ran Green Oaks, the biological field station for Knox College, where both he and my father taught. Our two families spent an infinite number of days and nights at Green Oaks: swimming, fishing, hiking, tracking, stargazing, playing, and telling stories around the fire. It was at Green Oaks that Paul taught me to talk with crows. It was at Green Oaks where I felt freest, happiest, and the most at home. This was Paul’s world. In my child’s mind, he made it possible for me to live like this.”
“Paul deeply influenced me…the most important thing I can say is that [his books]
gave the rest of us courage–courage to say what we are saying in our own books, our lectures, our conversations. Our thoughts. Paul was a leader for many people, I think. A pioneer in the best, healing sense of the word. I consider him one of the leading nature philosophers of all time, along with Thoreau, Muir, Leopold, and Eisley.”
—Calvin Luther Martin
“One of the great windfalls of my academic career was starting out on the same college faculty as Paul Shepard. When I landed at Knox College in 1961, it soon became evident that a gentle, soft-spoken biologist was not only regarded as the leading scholar on the faculty, but that his ideas had made a noticeable impact on his colleagues. They were all aware, for example, of the prime significance of “ecology,” a study with, at that time, no standing or general recognition whatsoever in the public at large. His scientific interests reached into so many other disciplines–art, history, philosophy, anthropology–that he was, for a liberal arts faculty, an ideal colleague. As my own intellectual and research interests developed, Paul Shepard’s wide-ranging model, which ignored traditional disciplinary boundaries, proved an inspiration, and touching base with him from time to time became a source of stimulation and encouragement.” —Douglas L. Wilson
“On a dry autumn evening on the forty-ninth day after Paul died, I walked out of our cabin into a sea of smoke settling into the Bondurant Basin from a fire on Grey’s River. I plucked dried sprigs of sage as I made my way to the top of Clark Butte where, on a sandstone outcrop in the lee of a pine, defying the mandate of the forest service, I built a tiny fire that I fed twig by twig until the sun had set and the stars began to show. As the smoke spiraled into the haze, I thought of Paul rising with it freeing himself from earthly constraints, dispersing into and joining the forces of the Earth. I felt lighter as I descended Clark Butte that evening….” —Florence Shepard [See: “Paul Shepard: Thinking Animal & Tender Carnivore” from Wild Duck Review.]
“Rhythmic music and dance are essential to Paleolithic cultures and their sacramental relationship with nature, Shepard writes. Writing has its own music and incorporates its own dance. In The Others, he admits that “I am leery of my own enthusiasm for writing,” asking, “Is our relationship to animals essentially a branch of nature writing?” But he also saw it as part of the human journey. “The human mind came into existence tracking, which for us creates a land of named places and fosters narration, the tale of adventure.” —William Severini Kowinski [See: “The Ecology of Maturity”from Wild Duck Review.]
“Basically, I’m a musician trained under Western canons of expectation. Much later in life, when I began to look at our musical roots I found absolutely nothing that even suggested anything symbiotic with or connected to actual sound textures found in the natural environment. We’re simply ignorant about our roots. To make a paradigm shift of the sort Paul Shepard, Jack Turner, and others suggest, requires a type of modesty and intellectual honesty unusual in academic circles.” —Bernie Krause [See: “An Interview with Bernie Krause” from Wild Duck Review.]
“I owe everything to Paul Shepard. Without his early support of my work I could have gone no further. Shepard’s work drew together the research of ethologists such as Konrad Lorenz and Tinbergen, together with the findings of the best anthropologists. Furthermore, making use of his conclusions from the “Man The Hunter Conference” in 1966, he clarified the crucial role of the hunter and forager in human development.” —Dolores La Chapelle [See: “A Very Personal Tribute to Paul Shepard” from Wild Duck Review.]