Wisdom from a Rainforest

The Spiritual Journey of an Anthropologist

Title Details

Pages: 288

Trim Size: 139.700mm x 215.900mm x 19.304mm



Pub Date: 09/01/2003

ISBN: 9-780-8203-2491-3

List Price: $24.95


Pub Date: 03/15/2015

ISBN: 9-780-8203-4958-9

List Price: $24.95

Wisdom from a Rainforest

The Spiritual Journey of an Anthropologist

Skip to

  • Description
  • Reviews
  • Awards

In the early sixties, Stuart Schlegel went into a remote rainforest on the Philippine island of Mindanao as an anthropologist in search of material. What he found was a group of people whose tolerant, gentle way of life would transform his own values and beliefs profoundly. Wisdom from a Rainforest is Schlegel's testament to his experience and to the Teduray people of Figel, from whom he learned such vital, lasting lessons.

Schlegel's lively ethnography of the Teduray portrays how their behavior and traditions revolved around kindness and compassion for humans, animals, and the spirits sharing their worlds. Schlegel describes the Teduray's remarkable legal system and their strong story-telling tradition, their elaborate cosmology, and their ritual celebrations. At the same time, Schlegel recounts his own transformation-how his worldview as a member of an advanced, civilized society was shaken to the core by a so-called primitive people. He begins to realize how culturally determined his own values are and to see with great clarity how much the Teduray can teach him about gender equality, tolerance for difference, generosity, and cooperation.

By turns funny, tender, and gripping, Wisdom from a Rainforest honors the Teduray's legacy and helps us see how much we can learn from a way of life so different from our own.

Very readable . . . A compelling portrait of a way of life very different from our own.

Washington Post Book World

The observations and insights of Wisdom from a Rainforest are thought-provoking, and for the visionaries among us potentially inspiring.

Bloomsbury Review

Astute discussions of creation myths, religion, and daily living habits . . . Part serious anthropology and part reflection from the distance of years, the book is finally a testament to one of the myriad of vanished peoples of this century.

Kirkus Reviews

This little gem of a book provides empirical evidence for the claim that native peoples have a higher level of ecological sophistication and spiritual aliveness-though Schlegel is no romanticist. The book is valuable not only in its story of these ancient peoples, but in the honesty and depth of Schlegel's own spiritual evolution away from a one-dimensional secularism to a deeper level of knowing.


Schlegel gives us a tremendously moving portrait of a remarkable, peaceful society. With this, he weaves the story of his own personal transformation, describing how life with the Teduray touched him to his core. This is a difficult, humbling task that Schlegel takes on, but he does it brilliantly. Wisdom from a Rainforest is destined to take its place among the great works of ethnography leading to personal enlightenment and catharsis.

—Jerry Mander, author of In the Absence of the Sacred

An encounter between worlds that leaves the reader no doubt which is the more civilized. . . . The nearly paradisiacal coexistence Schlegel documents is not only inspiring but also thought-provoking.


Filled with Teduray knowledge and wisdom and with Schlegel's own field experiences. A book for the general reader, but anthropology students and teachers will find it rewarding, and theologians may find it genuinely transformative.


Immensely readable and engrossing . A book that integrates the personal, spiritual, and social. It is an introduction to another world and a subversion of our own.

—Marcus Borg, Hundere Professor of Religion and Culture, Oregon State University


Philippine National Book Award, Social Science, Manila Critics Circle

About the Author/Editor

STUART A. SCHLEGEL is professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and an Episcopal priest. He is the author of several books, including Children of Tulus: Essays on the Tiruray People.