~ the brandt series ~ 

“Charles’ concern for the earth, rivers and friends of the forest has been unquenchable.”  Sister Pascaline Coff


Self and Environment


Photography and text by Charles A.E. Brandt (except as noted)


Charles Brandt forest photo (2)




It is early morning with its quiet and coolness. I walk out the old logging road to Catherwood Road. Catherwood is my connector to the outside world. My hermitage is located deep in the temperate rainforest, on the Oyster River, British Columbia. The logging road along with other trails through the forest is where I practice walking meditation. I do not think of the road as leading anywhere. It is the road to nowhere, the path on which I journey and have been journeying for a lifetime.

When I walk this road I have no destination, no timetable or estimated time of arrival. I simply place one foot in front of the other, let all my cares, anguish, angst, fears drop away. My breathing is in harmony with my pace, my pace is in harmony with the universe.

And although this is a path of nowhere, in reality it is a way to everywhere, because it enables me to enter into communion with the whole community of beings, beings which are diverse, interiorized, and each in communion with every other being in the universe. I become present to the most distant star, and she to me, the ‘complicated web of interdependent relationships’. Every atom of my being is present to every atom in the universe, and they to it.


Oyster River below hermitage - charles brandt photo


We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

will be to arrive where we started 

And know the place for the first time.

~ T.S. Elliot ~



Image from the video Turning Point - Charles Brandt and Thomas Merton - produced by Geoffrey Leighton

Image from ‘Turning Point  – Charles Brandt and Thomas Merton’ produced by Geoffrey Leighton (click to view 17 min. video) 


Wellspring of Our Heart


Humanity is set on a path of exploration that will lead to the realization of the oneness of the human community and the earth community. When that begins to happen we will truly know the place for the first time.


We live in a dualistic, dysfunctional society that is intent on exploiting the natural world. We are in a crash situation, living between hope and despair. We have approached the bottom closely enough for us to begin to realize that we have to change. We sense that if we do not change, the human species could very well disappear.


Sunrise - Charles A.E. Brandt (3)


There is an attraction force present today that is beckoning us away from the pit of despair to the hope for a better world. A transformational process has begun that is leading us into a new age, the age of the earth. This this transformation begins with the human heart, in the core of our spirit.


We begin to detect a spring welling up in our heart. Perhaps it is now only a trickle. But it will never run dry.  Sometimes it runs more clearly and evenly. At other times it seems to have gone completely underground.


Beacon Hill Park, Victoria with painting effect - by bruce witzel

photo art by bruce witzel


It is a life force that needs to be purified so that it will flow continuously. It will lead to a transformation of our hearts and minds that will enable us to realize the unity of all beings and enable us to reach out with love to every creature of the universe. . .


Swainsons Thrush - Charles Brandt photo (2)


Looking Back


There have been several outstanding events that have encouraged us to move into the future, into the age of the earth. In 1969, from outer space, we saw the pictures of the ‘great blue marble’ from Apollo I. Since then the idea has been growing that there is something extraordinarily holy about this habitat that we share with all other forms of life.


earthfromspace - the overview institute - Copy


And then in 1992 one of the most important discoveries about the origin of the universe was announced. Suddenly it would seem science and religion have moved closer together.

Scientists discovered wispy clouds or ripples of matter that indicate how matter that was uniformly spread out into the newborn universe may have started clumping together to produce stars.


Trillium, hermitage, april l6, 'l5, charles brandt photo


Then the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro produced some magnificent statements. This conference of 179 member nations approved the Rio Declaration, a five-hundred page programme to guide international action into the twenty-first century.

  Coast Mountains, from Oyster Bay, Dec. 2, '14. charles brandt photo

There were also treaties dealing with global warming and biodiversity and the support of a permanent commission for sustainable development.

On the other hand, the Earth Summit was not a complete success. It failed because the ‘story of the universe’ was not sufficiently acknowledged. It is the dream that drives the action, and we are still not aware of the ‘dream of the earth’.


Dandelions at the Puntledtge Reserve, Courtenay April 11 2016 - charles brandt photo 


Recently, ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME, LAUDATO SI was sent out by Pope Francis which includes the best of science and spirituality and is a guide into the future.

 Saint Francis - bruce witzel photo


LAUDATO SI, the words of Francis of Assisi, gives praise to sister river and to brother sun.  He lived at the edge of the inside and was perhaps the first to speak of THE OTHER THAN HUMAN  COMMUNITY as having intrinsic value, more that objects for our personal use, i.e, the forest is not a  lumber yard, but is a community of subjects to be communed with and that the human community and the natural world must go into the future as a single sacred community.


Transformation & Turning Point 


We have still not learned how to commune with nature, nor have we undergone the transformation of consciousness that is necessary if we are to see the unity of all beings and the non-dualistic nature of reality…


Fawn Lily (pink and white) Black Creek Nature Park, aprii 8, '15, charles brandt photo original


And in my opinion the most important, we have not learned to pay attention. We have not yet learned, globally, to meditate. . .


meditation . Courtenay estuary, Laing property - charles brandt photo


Today it is clear that we stand at a turning point. It is the most critical turning point in the long history of the universe and the earth. We are creating a new mode religious consciousness which indeed is already palpable. But so far very few of us have entered into it. Until more of us do, our earth will continue to be threatened as we blindly close down our life support systems. To enter into this new consciousness our ego, the ‘I-Maker’, has to die.


  Butterfly - Charles Brandt photo


Our destiny is to bring about one of the greatest transitions of the story of the universe. Unless we enter into this transformation the next phase of the story will never come about. We are living in a transitional moment of the story.


Swan Abstract - charles brandt photo


All such moments are sacrificial moments. We are called to make sacrifices. And the most difficult thing about this is that we must ask others to do the same. If the story can be told clearly, people will accept this need for sacrifice. Life teaches us that whatever is achieved has a price.

    bleeding heart - charles brandt photo

We were given the beauty of the universe. We must make a response to it. We offer the gift of gratitude in return for the gift of the universe. We accept self-control as an aspect of gratitude. Ultimately we can only give back what we have been given.

  Looking across Courtenay River Estuary towards Comox Glacier - Charles Brandt photo 

We cannot just will the sacrifice. It has to flow from love. . .


Twins @ the Hermitage June 11. 2014 - Charles Brandt photo


Stream of Love


We need, then, to practice a truly contemplative form of prayer, which will lead us away from our dualistic approach to reality. There are many forms of meditation, of prayer, but in reality there is only one prayer: the prayer that is, without beginning. It is the lifestream of Ultimate Reality. It is the stream of love. . . To the extent we enter into that stream we are carried beyond and outside our narrow selves, into the very life of the Godhead, far removed from any dualism.


Waterfall abstract - bruce witzel photo

abstract photo by bruce witzel


(For those of us) as Christians, we open ourselves, by way of the mantra in meditation, to the resurrected, glorified, infinitely transcendent human consciousness of Christ. . .  Because the resurrected Christ is also the cosmic Christ, in touch and in relationship with every created being, we too enter (as we ‘put on the mind of Christ’) into a non-dualistic relationship of love with the entire human community and the community of the natural world. They become a single non-dual community of love and sharing.


Trumpeter Swans - charles brandt photo


In our journey of exploration we move out of emptiness into the fullness of love. This is our calling. Herein lies our responsibility. The universe has poured into each of us those unique creative spontaneities that will carry us forward into the age of the earth, an age that even now is beginning to shine through as we create a new mode of religious consciousness.

How necessary then it is to embrace those creative spontaneities which are unique to each unique being and placed within us to move forward so that one day we will truly ‘know the place for the place for the first time’. Our gift of being is the most precious gift. As recipients of the gift we can but offer it back in gratitude. . .

   A family in the  Sierra Nevadas - Bruce Witzel photo

  photo by bruce witzel




What does meditation have to do with transformation of consciousness that will enable us to cease closing down our life support systems? . . .

  Charles Brandt at his hermitage - photo by Nick Didlick

Fr. Charles Brandt at the hermitage in 2001 – photo by Nick Didlick


To realize our unity with all beings, and so to leave the world of duality is perhaps the most important step we take towards halting the environmental destruction that is taking place on the earth and in the universe. So we enter silence and stillness, exposing our human consciousness to the . . . human consciousness of Christ . . .

Though meditation we assist in the great transformation of human hearts and minds which leads the human community and the earth community into a single sacred community.


 Abridged from the book…


self-and-environment - cover image of book by charles brandt




Charles Brandt was born in Kansas in 1923. After serving in the US military in World War 2 (non combatant), he continued studies in wildlife conservation. Some of his key work was at Cornell University’s bird sound recording lab. In 1950 life led him into the Anglican priesthood and later he became a Catholic  monk. With guidance from Thomas Merton, Charles came to Vancouver Island in 1965 and soon was ordained a Catholic hermit priest, the first in over 200 years. In years since, he provided livelihood from his skill at book binding and now is a well known art and book conservateur, and that of the natural world.  At 93 years of age he is a humble and gentle activist for the earth and a leader of the World Community for Christian Meditation.

Posted for the Earth by b. thomas witzel

12 thoughts on “TRANSFORMATION & AGE OF EARTH – Father Charles Brandt

  1. Pingback: SELF AND ENVIRONMENT ~ Frater C. Brandt at 95 | through the luminary lens

  2. Pingback: Self and the environment - TideChange

    • Yes – a beam of light indeed! Most thanks goes to Charles and his 90+ years of love and witness. He was tromping around streams and woods of Kansas soon after he was out of diapers 🙂 I do appreciate your personal thanks, Priscilla, and your own witness and love for the earth.

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