Look to the Land

Lord Northbourne

Hillsdale, NY: Sophia Perennis, 2003.
128 pages
ISBN: 0-900588-89-6
Price: $18.95 US
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ISBN: 1-59731-018-2
Price: $27.16
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‘Without vision the people perish.’ So wrote the poet William Blake. Lord Northbourne (1896–1982) was a man of exceptional vision, who diagnosed the sickness of modern society as stemming from the severance of its organic links with the wholeness of life. Northbourne’s early advocacy of organic agriculture (he is said to have coined the term) was joined to a deep conviction that humanity does not live by bread alone, and that the fullness of human life demands obedience to sacred law. Like his better-known younger contemporary E.F. Schumacher, whose work developed along similar lines, his vision of life came to embrace fully the interrelationship of God, humanity, and the soil as a unity presupposing a way of life in stark contrast to that of the myopic, mechanistic world he saw encroaching on all sides. And so, as it becomes more and more evident that such a way of life stands to imperil our very future and that of the delicate ecosystem on which all life depends, it is time to re-examine the work of this pioneering thinker, whose vision of what is required by a truly meaningful and sustainable society embraced traditional metaphysics, religion, farming, the arts, the rural crafts, and monetary reform.

Table of Contents

5 Chapters


A major text in the organic canon, too long out-of-print.
Philip Conford,The Origins of the Organic Movement

We have tried to conquer nature by force and by intellect. It now remains for us to try the way of love.
From the Introduction

About the Author

Lord Northbourne (1896–1982) was a man of exceptional vision, who already in the 1940s diagnosed in detail the sickness of modern society as stemming from the severance of its organic links with the wholeness of life. A leading figure in the early organic farming movement, his writings profoundly affected such other pioneers as Sir Albert Howard, Rolf Gardiner, Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, and H.J. Massingham. His path led him on to a profound study of comparative religion, traditional metaphysics, and the science of symbols, which he employed in incisive observations on the character of modern society. His later writings exercised considerable influence on his younger contemporaries E. F. Schumacher and Thomas Merton, and in many ways anticipate the essays of Wendell Berry. Sophia Perennis has also published revised editions of Lord Northbourne's two other works, Religion in the Modern World and Looking Back on Progress. These later works present his wider reflections on the Divine and human society, but always with the sensibility of a man who has roots in the soil. He corresponded with mountaineer and Tibetan Buddhist Marco Pallis, who introduced him to the school of perennialist writers. Northbourne translated René Guénon's The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times as well as Frithjof Schuon's Light on Ancient Worlds and Titus Burckhardt's Sacred Art in East and West.