Ecology, Spirituality, and Religion MA and PhD Programs

California Institute of Integral Studies

Program Description

Ecology, Spirituality, and Religion MA and PhD Programs

California Institute of Integral Studies

Ecology, Spirituality, and Religion Programs

The Ecology, Spirituality, and Religion program is cultivating hope in a time of socio-ecological crisis.

We live in the midst of one of the greatest transitions in Earth's history. Humanity, having become a planetary force, is now shaping both its own future and the long-term future of millions of species of life. This decisive process occupies the most creative personalities of our time.

One of the most significant recent developments is the engagement of our spiritual traditions in this transformation of consciousness and society. When the moral force of the world's religions combines with the depth understanding of ecology, humanity will find itself in the very center of that profoundly mysterious process by which the Earth Community is revitalizing itself.


Numerous interlocking ecological crises, including mass extinction of species, climate change, desertification, and poverty, mark the 21st century as a time of unprecedented change and challenge. This ecological devastation calls forth scientific, economic, and policy responses. Yet such standard responses often appear inadequate to the scope of the crisis.

Many leading thinkers have come to understand that the ecological crisis represents a crisis of human consciousness, and requires fundamental revisioning of cultural values. The pace of global change calls for an understanding of the process by which humanity came to this crossroads in planetary history. It also calls for more enlightened ways of thinking and being in the world. The world's religious and spiritual traditions offer deep insight into the human condition, along with profound teachings about how humans should relate to one another and to Earthly life. Questions about the role and meaning of the human have illuminated religious quests for millennia; these same questions inspire the contemporary search for ecological sustainability. The concentration in Ecology, Spirituality, and Religion at CIIS is designed to help students to address these and related questions with rigor, insight, and efficacy.

Taking inspiration from such visionaries as geologian Thomas Berry; His Holiness the Dalai Lama; systems theorist Joanna Macy; Nobel Laureate and Green Belt Movement founder Wangari Maathai; World Resources Institute founder Gus Speth; Forum on Religion and Ecology founders Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim; and many other leading thinkers, the Ecology, Spirituality, and Religion concentration invites students into an emerging discussion in which they will generate new knowledge, contributing to a growing field of academic inquiry and activism.

Through the Ecology, Spirituality, and Religion concentration in the Philosophy and Religion department at CIIS, master's and doctoral students explore the role of worldviews, philosophies, and religion in understanding and responding to interconnected global ecological crises. They gain facility with ecological principles and practices. They develop the knowledge and wisdom to respond to the ecological devastation from healing integral and transdisciplinary perspectives. Students acquire skills and insight to transform practices, worldviews, and consciousness in service of a more just, sustainable, and flourishing future.

The program's uniquely integrated curriculum explores such questions as:

  • What is the role of religion, spirituality, and culture in the ecological crises of our time?
  • What ecological insights does the world's religious heritage offer?
  • How can explore worldviews help to understand and address ecological trauma?

About the MA Program

The MA in Ecology, Spirituality, and Religion emphasizes an embodied, engaged approach, in which contemplative practice and career exploration complement rigorous study. Students earning an MA in Ecology, Spirituality, and Religion will be at the forefront of an interdisciplinary field that has grown rapidly over the past decade. Graduates will be well prepared to engage environmental issues in multiple spheres, or to pursue doctoral-level study.

Admission to the Program

Applicants must meet the general admissions requirements of the Institute. ESR Master's students are motivated by their deep concern for the state of the Earth and their determination to find healing solutions for the future. Prospective students should be committed to examining ecological issues from a variety of interdisciplinary perspectives, and to an appreciation of diverse perspectives. Applicants with a variety of backgrounds will be considered, provided the applicant possesses demonstrated interest in the subject matter of the concentration, and strong writing, analytical, and critical thinking skills developed during undergraduate study at an accredited institution The application materials required are an autobiography, a statement of goals (ideally several pages), a writing sample, and transcripts.

About the PhD Program

Interdisciplinary scholars wishing to engage in rigorous study of ecology and religion together will find the PhD program in Ecology, Spirituality, and Religion uniquely suited to their goals. Doctoral students study with faculty renowned for their cutting edge approaches to investigating the role of worldviews, philosophies, and religions in understanding and responding to global challenges.

Admission to the Program

Doctoral students wishing to specialize in Ecology, Spirituality, and Religion should possess a master's degree in a discipline relevant to the program (e.g. religion, ecology, environmental studies, biology, anthropology, environmental history, geography, literature, philosophy) from an accredited graduate institution. Applicants to the doctoral program should identify two core faculty members whose expertise closely matches the student's proposed course of study and research project. Doctoral applicants should demonstrate research preparation suggestive of their motivation to completing a doctoral dissertation.

This school offers programs in:
  • English

Last updated February 29, 2016
Duration & Price
This course is Campus based
Start Date
Start date
Sept. 2017
Full time
Start date Sept. 2017
USA San Francisco, California
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