Thomas Berry

Thomas
Berry
1914
2009

American Catholic Priest of the Passionist Order, Cultural Historian and Eco-theologian, Earth Scholar, Author and Teacher

Author Quotes

Diversity is the magic. It is the first manifestation, the first beginning of the differentiation of a thing and of simple identity. The greater the diversity, the greater the perfection.

It is especially important in this discussion to recognize the unity of the total process, from that first unimaginable moment of cosmic emergence through all its subsequent forms of expression until the present. This unbreakable bond of relatedness that makes of the whole a universe becomes increasingly apparent to scientific observation, although this bond ultimately escapes scientific formulation or understanding. In virtue of this relatedness, everything is intimately present to everything else in the universe. Nothing is completely itself without everything else. This relatedness is both spatial and temporal. However distant in space or time, the bond of unity is functionally there. The universe is a communion and a community. We ourselves are that communion become conscious of itself.

The 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 – New Story…… a spiritually based on an understanding of nature as the primary revelation of the divine

The Universe story is the quintessence of reality. We perceive the story. We put it in our language, the birds put it in theirs, and the trees put it in theirs. We can read the story of the Universe in the trees. Everything tells the story of the Universe. The winds tell the story, literally, not just imaginatively. The story has its imprint everywhere, and that is why it is so important to know the story. If you do not know the story, in a sense you do not know yourself; you do not know anything.

We come here because we too feel a responsibility for the human community. To preserve and develop a human quality of life is the common responsibility of us all. It is not fitting that those concerned with the various aspects of the human be alienated from each other. Both you and ourselves represent forces too profound and aim at objectives too significant for either of us to succeed completely without the assistance of the other. The urgency of our work impels us to get on with our common task lest a new period of disaster erupt over the Earth.

Without the soaring birds, without the great forests, the free-flowing streams, the sight of the clouds by day, and the stars by night, we become impoverished in all that makes us human

Earth as we know it came into being through its four great components: land, water, air, and life, all interacting in the light and energy of the sun. Although there was a sequence in the formation of the land sphere, the atmosphere, the water sphere, and the life sphere, these have so interacted with one another in the shaping of the Earth that we must somehow think of these as all present to one another and interacting from the beginning.

It's all a question of story. We are in trouble just now because we do not have a good story. We are in between stories. The old story, the account of how we fit into it, is no longer effective. Yet we have not learned the new story.

The excitement of life is in the numinous experience wherein we are given to each other in that larger celebration of existence in which all things attain their highest expression, for the universe, by definition, is a single gorgeous celebratory event.

There is a spiritual capacity in carbon as there is a carbon component functioning in our highest spiritual experience. If some scientists consider that all this is merely a material process, then what they call matter, I call mind, soul, spirit, or consciousness. Possibly it is a question of terminology, since scientists too on occasion use terms that express awe and mystery. Most often, perhaps, they use the expression that some of the natural forms they encounter seem to be "telling them something".

We find ourselves ethically destitute just when, for the first time, we are faced with ultimacy, the irreversible closing down of the earth's functioning in its major life systems. Our ethical traditions know how to deal with suicide, homicide and even genocide, but these traditions collapse entirely when confronted with biocide, the killing of the life systems of the earth, and geocide, the devastation of the earth itself.

Yet we can be sure that whatever fictions exist in Wall Street bookkeeping, the earth is a faithful scribe, a faultless calculator, a superb bookkeeper; we will be held responsible for every bit of our economic folly.

Earth seems to be a reality that is developing with the simple aim of celebrating the joy of existence.

Listen to these words carefully. The universe is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects. And listen to this: The human is derivative. The planet is primary.

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.

There is an ultimate wildness in all this, for the universe, as existence itself, is a terrifying as well as a benign mode of being. If it grants us amazing powers over much of its functioning we must always remember that any arrogance on our part will ultimately be called to account. The beginning of wisdom in any human activity is a certain reverence before the primordial mystery of existence, for the world about us is a fearsome mode of being. We do not judge the universe.

We have indeed been out in space, but some are under the illusion that we have been off Earth. In reality humans have never been off Earth. We have always been on a piece of Earth in space. We survive only as long as we can breathe the air of Earth, drink its waters, and be nourished by its foods. There is no indication that as humans we will ever live anywhere else in the universe. Place, too, is continuously being transformed but only within its own possibilities.

Even as regards Earth we are more committed to history than to geography, more committed to time than to space. History is endless. Place is limited.

Of all the issues we are concerned with at present, the most basic issue, in my estimation, is that of human-earth relations.

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.

There is no inner world without the outer world.

We have the choice to be true to the gifts we are given... They are simply not for our personal selves. The gifts are for our larger self, for the role we have in the larger community of things.

Even when the consequences of a desolate planet are totally clear, the industrial order keeps its control over human activities because of the energy generated by the mythic quality of its vision. We could describe our industrial society as counterproductive, addictive, paralyzing, [a] manifestation of a deep cultural pathology. Mythic addiction functions something like alcohol and drug addictions. Even when they are obviously destroying the addicted person, the psychic fixation does not permit any change. . . Any effective cure requires passing through the agonies of withdrawal. If such withdrawal is an exceptional achievement in individual lives, we can only guess at the difficulty on the civilizational or even the global scale.

Of one thing we can be sure: our own future is inseparable from the larger community that brought us into being and which sustains us in every expression of our human quality of life, in our aesthetic and emotional sensitivities, our intellectual perceptions, our sense of the divine, as well as in our physical nourishment and bodily healing.

The impoverishment of nature is the impoverishment of imagination

Author Picture
First Name
Thomas
Last Name
Berry
Birth Date
1914
Death Date
2009
Bio

American Catholic Priest of the Passionist Order, Cultural Historian and Eco-theologian, Earth Scholar, Author and Teacher