One of the earliest and most important voices to describe the importance of the disconnection between humans and the natural world was Thomas Berry. His lifework was dedicated to helping us understand that the destiny of the earth and the destiny of humans are inseparable. He believed that “What we are experiencing in the degradation of the earth is a soul loss, a loss of meaning in life itself that calls for a recovery of a sense of the sacred”. Thomas Berry was among the first to say the earth crisis is fundamentally a spiritual crisis. He said, “We will go into the future as a single sacred community, or we will all perish in the desert.”
Open our eyes
to your resplendent world,
that we may care for the earth
as our companion in creation.
May the pure song
of air, water, and trees
broaden our minds,
lift up our hearts,
and guide us to you.
Read some of the writings of Thomas Berry and reflect on them.
(The Dream of the Earth, The Great Work, The Universe Story)
Quotes from Thomas Berry’s writings:
The destiny of humans cannot be separated from the destiny of earth.
The universe is the primary revelation of the divine, the primary scripture, the primary locus of divine-human communication.
The universe is composed of subjects to be communed with, not objects to be exploited. Everything has its own voice. Thunder and lightning and stars and planets, flowers, birds, animals, trees, — all these have voices, and they constitute a community of existence that is profoundly related
We have a new story of the universe. Our own presence to the universe depends on our human identity with the entire cosmic process. In its human expression, the universe and the entire range of earthly and heavenly phenomena celebrate themselves and the ultimate mystery of their existence in a special exaltation. Science has given us a new revelatory experience. It is now giving us a new intimacy with the Earth.
The Earth with its layers of land and water and air provides the space within which all living things are nurtured and the context within which humans attain their identity. If in the excitement of a secular technology reverence for the Earth has diminished in the past, especially in the western world, humans now experience a sudden shock at the devastation they have wrought on their own habitation.
The natural world is the larger sacred community to which we belong. To be alienated from this community is to become destitute in all that makes us human. To damage this community is to diminish our own existence.”
The Great Work, now as we move into a new millennium, is to carry out the transition from a period of human devastation of the Earth to a period when humans would be present to the planet in a mutually beneficial manner.
Gardening is an active participation in the deepest mysteries of the universe.
Note: Thomas Berry was a priest of the Passionist Order. For more than twenty years, he directed the Riverdale Center of Religious Research along the Hudson River. During this period from 1966-1979 he taught at Fordham University where he chaired the history of religions program. With the mathematician, Brian Swimme, he wrote The Universe Story, which arose from a decade of collaboration. This work was deeply inspired by the thought of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. From 1975-1987 he was President of the American Teilhard Association. His major contributions to the discussions on the environment are in his books The Dream of the Earth (1988), The Great Work: Our Way Into the Future (1992), and Evening Thoughts: Reflecting on Earth as Sacred Community. His final two books focusing on world religions were: The Sacred Universe: Earth, Spirituality, and Religion in the Twenty-first Century and The Christian Future and the Fate of Earth both published in 2009. Berry is buried at Green Mountain Monastery in Greensboro, Vermont.