¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† (1914 -2009)
Thomas Berry is the father of the Ecozoic Era, a global prophet, and an Earth saint.
¬†Thomas Berry (born 1914) is a Catholic priest, cultural historian and ecotheologian (although cosmologist, or ‚ÄúEarth scholar‚ÄĚ. Among advocates of deep ecology and "ecospirituality" he is famous for proposing that a deep understanding of the history and functioning of the evolving universe is a necessary inspiration and guide for our own effective functioning as individuals and as a species. He is considered a leader in the tradition of Teilhard de Chardin.
Thomas Berry does not fit the image of a typical environmentalist. A Catholic monk in his late eighties, he is a philosophical forebear to younger generations of activists. His main focus is not the immediate battles being fought, but the roots of the problem, which he traces back to the very beginnings of Western civilization.
Berry wrote his book The Dream of the Earth (Sierra Club Books) beneath an ancient oak in New York City, on a slope overlooking the Hudson River. That tree, to which he dedicated his book, lived through many changes, beginning with the arrival of the Europeans and the end of traditional Native American ways. It lived through the disappearance of the wood bison, the passenger pigeon, the great American chestnuts, the wolverines who prowled the shores of the Hudson, the Atlantic salmon that were once so numerous they threatened to carry away fishermen's nets. It stood there as men cut down the neighboring trees, demolishing the forest where its life began. It lived through the pouring of billions of tons of concrete, the erection of brick buildings and rigid structures of steel.
Born in 1914, when there were fewer than 2 billion people in the world, Berry, too, has lived through many changes. He grew up in an undeveloped area of the South. "I saw the beginnings of the automobile age," he says, "and, to some extent, the age of industrialization. I remember the discovery of the Arabian oil fields in the 1920s, and the development of the petrochemical age after the Second World War. By the time I was eight years old, I already saw something happening that I didn't like."
Berry has spent much of his life trying to understand why our culture is bent on destroying the natural world. When he was twenty, he entered a Passionist monastery, and for ten years, he got up at two every morning for liturgy. Then, from 3 a.m. on, he studied the foundations of Western thought. He discovered that environmental degradation is not a recent development: by the time Plato wrote his Republic, the Greeks had already cut down the forests of their homeland. At thirty, Berry went to the Catholic University of America, where he earned a doctoral degree in history. He also learned Chinese and Sanskrit, he says, "so I could find out how other cultures and religions dealt with the problems of human existence." Berry traveled to China to teach and later became director of the graduate program in the history of religions at Fordham University. In 1970, he founded the Riverdale Center of Religions Research in Riverdale, New York, and remained its director until 1995.
The fate of the next generation, which will live to see a world of 8 to 10 billion people, is often on Berry's mind. "They are going to be in a tragic situation," he says, "particularly in regard to petroleum. Our food depends on petroleum, and in a sense is transformed petroleum, just like our energy, transportation, clothing, utensils, and plastics. What are people going to do when the petroleum is gone?"
Berry's latest book is The Great Work: Our Way into the Future (Crown Publishing). The "great work" facing humanity, he says, is to move from mindlessly extracting and consuming the earth's resources to establishing a mutually beneficial relationship with nature. His other books include two academic works on religion, Buddhism and Religions of India (both Columbia University Press), and The Universe Story (Harper SanFrancisco), coauthored with cosmologist Brian Swimme.
¬†Thomas Berry Quotes:
‚ÄúIf appropriate choices are made humans may yet live in an integral relationship with the earth community. If they are not made, some believe natural disasters will sweep over the earth radically altering life in ways that are unforeseeable, but are expecited to severlely diminish complex webs of life and render whole species extinct.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúThe environmental crisis can only be forestalled when there is a broad new cultural understanding of what it means to be human.¬† Sources of this new understanding would be myth ‚Äď New Story‚Ä¶‚Ä¶ a spiritually based on an understanding of nature as the primary revelation of the devine‚ÄĚ
¬†‚Äúto think that we can have a viable human economy by destroying the earth economy is absurd‚ÄĚ
The "great work" facing humanity, he says, is to move from mindlessly extracting and consuming the earth's resources to establishing a mutually beneficial relationship with nature.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúThe nobility of our lives, depends upon the manner in which we come to understand and fulfill our assigned role.‚ÄĚ
Thomas Berry's books include:
- The Historical Theory of Giambattista Vico (1949)
- Buddhism (1968)
- The Religions of India (1972)
- The Dream of the Earth (1988)
- Befriending the Earth (with Thomas Clarke, 1991)
- The Universe Story From the Primordial Flaring Forth to the Ecozoic Era, A Celebration of the Unfolding of the Cosmos 1992)
- The Great Work: Our Way into the Future (1999), Bell Tower/Random House, NY,
- Evening Thoughts: Reflecting on Earth as Sacred Community (2006)
Thomas Berry Links
A Thomas Berry Website
In Memory June 2009