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University of Creation Spirituality
Doctor of Ministry Degree/Certificate Program

August, 2003 Intensive
Week 2: August 11-15

Seminar: The Great Turning - # 60061

Instructor: Joanna Macy, Ph.D.

Faculty Bio: Joanna Macy, Ph.D., is an ecophilosopher grounded in Buddhism and systems theory. The methods and training she has pioneered, to empower agents of social change, are used around the world for peace, justice, and ecological sanity. In addition to the three assigned below, her books include Widening Circles, Mutual Causality, and Thinking Like a Mountain.

Course Description: The Great Turning is a name for the transition from the industrial growth society to the life-sustaining society. The course presents the key features of this revolution, along with its conceptual, practical and spiritual characteristics. We will work both cognitively and experientially, as we explore its meaning for our lives, with the understanding that it is both inevitable and uncertain of ultimate success. Resources and practices will be offered for clarifying the mind, strengthening the heart, and taking collaborative action.

Learning Objectives:


  • To take the concept of the Great Turning, with its three dimensions, as a lens for perceiving the sustainability revolution and its scope.

  • To explore the basic and self-destructive dynamics of the industrial growth society, as seen through the structural analysis enabled by the Great Turning.

  • To recognize the cultural, psychological, and ecological effects of this pathology.

  • To appreciate the challenge and reward of acting without guarantees of success.


  • To recognize the dimensions of the Great Turning called Holding Actions which slow down the damage inflicted by the industrial growth society and buy time for transformative change.

  • To explore its many forms, from ameliorative political work and social service to direct actions and civil disobedience.

  • To envision the role of rough weather networks for minimizing isolation and fear, and for exercising our remaining civil rights.

  • To learn spiritual practices for growing courage, endurance, and compassion.


  • To recognize alternative structures being generated by the Great Turning (in its second dimension).

  • To review & share knowledge about these new forms, in areas ranging from food production to renewable energy to education and health.

  • To discern the changes that emergent structures bring to our notions of work and right livelihood.

  • To learn group practices for stimulating collective trust, ingenuity, and collaboration.


  • To understand the significance of the third dimension of the Great Turning: the shift in consciousness required for a life-sustaining civilization.

  • To comprehend the radical interdependence between this inner work and the other two dimensions of the Great Turning.

  • To acquire an overview of the cognitive and spiritual resources now available for this shift, including those offered by:
    - contemporary science and living systems theory
    - Creation Spirtituality and its parallels in major religion
    - deep ecology and ecofeminism
    - indigenous traditions


  • To review the unique experiences and strengths of our lives to better appreciate the gifts we each bring to the Great Turning.

  • To discern and honor the roles we are already playing in the Great Turning.

  • To reflect on our intensions for how we want to take part in the Great Turning from her on out ,and to clarify the next steps we can take.

  • To learn spiritual practices for sustaining motivation and solidarity.

Required Reading:
Macy, Joanna and Molly Brown, Coming Back to Life. New Society, 1998.
Macy Joanna, World as Lover, World as Self. Parallex Press, 1991 (Parts I, III and IV).
Bari, Judy, Revolutionary Ecology (provided by UCS).

Suggested Readings:
Starhawk, Webs of Power. New Society, 2002.
Macy, Joanna, Dharma and Development. Kumarian, 1985 (reprints available from publisher).
International Forum on Globalization, Alternatives to Economic Globalization. Berrett-Koehler, 2002.

Pre-Class Writing Assignment: (5-6 pages)
Describe an experience with each of the three dimensions of the Great Turning, then reflect on the extent to which these experiences may have informed and supported each other.

Post-Class Writing Assignment: (5-15 pages)
To be discussed in class.

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