John Muir Quotes
The Web's most complete collection of John Muir's thoughts about God and the spiritual aspects of nature.

Travels in Alaska (1915) by John Muir

Quotes and passages on God

"I again tried in vain to avoid a speech by telling the interpreter to explain that I was only traveling to see the country, the glaciers, and mountains and forests, etc., but these subjects, strange to say, seemed to be about as interesting as the gospel, and I had to deliver a sort of lecture on the fine foodful country God had given them and the brotherhood of man, along the same general lines I had followed at other villages. Some five similar meetings were held here, two of them in the daytime, and we began to feel quite at home in the big block-house with our hospitable and warlike friends.


At the last meeting an old white-haired shaman of grave and venerable aspect, with a high wrinkled forehead, big, strong Roman nose and light-colored skin, slowly and with great dignity arose and spoke for the first time.


"I am an old man," he said, "but I am glad to listen to those strange things you tell, and they may well be true, for what is more wonderful than the flight of birds in the air? I remember the first white man I ever saw. Since that long, long-ago time I have seen many, but never until now have I ever truly known and felt a white man s heart. All the white men I have heretofore met wanted to get something from us. They wanted furs and they wished to pay for them as small a price as possible. They all seemed to be seeking their own good not our good. I might say that through all my long life I have never until now heard a white man speak. It has always seemed to me while trying to speak to traders and those seeking gold-mines that it was like speaking to a person across a broad stream that was running fast over stones and making so loud a noise that scarce a single word could be heard. But now, for the first time, the Indian and the white man are on the same side of the river, eye to eye, heart to heart. I have always loved my people. I have taught them and ministered to them as well as I could. Hereafter, I will keep silent and listen to the good words of the missionaries, who know God and the places we go to when we die so much better than I do."


At the close of the exercises, after the last sermon had been preached and the last speech of the Indian chief and headmen had been made, a number of the sub-chiefs were talking informally together. Mr. Young, anxious to know what impression he had made on the tribe with reference to mission work, requested John to listen and tell him what was being said.


"They are talking about Mr. Muir's speech," he reported. "They say he knows how to talk and beats the preacher far." Toyatte also, with a teasing smile, said: "Mr. Young, mika tillicum hi yu tola wawa" (your friend leads you far in speaking).


Later, when the sending of a missionary and teacher was being considered, the chief said they wanted me, and, as an inducement, promised that if I would come to them they would always do as I directed, follow my counsels, give me as many wives as I liked, build a church and school, and pick all the stones out of the paths and make them smooth for my feet."  - Travels in Alaska (1915), Country of the Chilcats, p208-210


There is a yellowish haze in the east, white in the west, mild and mellow as a Wisconsin Indian Summer, but finer, more ethereal, God s holy light making all divine. - P363