- G.K. Chesterton once stated, “I am concerned with a certain way of looking at life, which was created in me by the fairytales, but has since been meekly ratified by the mere facts….The only words that ever satisfied me as describing Nature are the terms used in the fairy book, “charm,” “spell,” “enchantment”.” (Orthodoxy 89, 94) Enchantment, as we will discover, is a compelling description of nature, and the traditional Western worldview leads to enchantment through an attitude of wonder such as we find in the fairytales. Enchantment, as we will see, is a possible way to look at the world which reveals depths of meaning and wonder. It is, like a fairytale, both imaginative and filled with what Chesterton calls “the mere facts.” Enchantment shows us the truth and beauty of nature and brings with this vision such joy that once we have been enchanted we will seek to always see nature in this way, the way of enchantment.
Throughout this essay, we will examine the facts which “ratify,” as Chesterton calls it, an enchantment approach to nature. Enchantment is based in a Western worldview that understands humans as uniquely rational, a trait enabling them to interact with the transcendent world and with the physical natural world. This human interaction begins with wonder, where falling in love with beauty and learning about the natural world can lead to an attitude of awe and an experience of joy; in other words, to a moment of enchantment. We will then see how enchantment can impact our ethics, our environmental action, the role of stories in our education, and our practice of science. The lens of enchantment is not the only way to look at the world, but I claim that it is a highly satisfactory one, both intellectually and emotionally.