By Robin J. Hood
The Centre for Earth and Spirit was influenced by several inspired earthlings who came before – Thomas Berry was central among them.
A few months ago Kim Holl was surprised to field a call from Michael Dowd, a US Minister and Berry scholar looking for the Riverdale papers that he had donated to the Centre for Earth & Spirit library back in 2004. The Riverdale papers were Berry’s seminal work written when he was the Director at the Riverdale Centre of Religious Research, a centre he founded and directed from 1970 to 1995.
Kim put out the call and Robin got to work contacting the earliest board members and founders of Earth & Spirit. To everyone’s delight the treasured old papers were found, scanned and delivered to Michael as research for his new book. Pouring over the valuable collection, Robin was once again deeply inspired by Thomas’s brilliant work. Mary Evelyn Tucker from Yale says that his books – The Dream of the Earth (1988, 2006), The Universe Story (with Brian Swimme, 1992), and The Great Work: Our Way into the Future (1999) – are “major contributions to the discussion on the environment”.
Thanks to Wikipedia for some of the background on his life and work which follows.
Thomas was a Catholic priest, cosmologist and geologian – or as he liked to be called an “Earth scholar.” He wrote several seminal books and a core theme running through all of them was that a deep understanding of the history and functioning of the evolving universe is a necessary guide for our successful functioning both as individuals and as a species.
Berry taught that humanity, (after a century of exploiting and destroying the earth’s resources), was set to embrace a new role as part of a larger, interdependent “communion of subjects” on earth and in the universe.
Berry wrote that the transformation of humanity’s priorities would not come easily. It required what he called “the great work” —— in four institutional realms: the political and legal; the economic; education; and religion.
At age 11 he had a “deep knowing” in a meadow, which became a primary reference point for the rest of his life. He elaborated this experience into a set of Twelve Principles for Understanding the Universe and the Role of the Human in the Universe Process. The first of these principles states:
The universe, the solar system, and planet earth in themselves and in their evolutionary emergence constitute for the human community the primary revelation of that ultimate mystery whence all things emerge into being.
In 1995, Berry returned to North Carolina where he continued to write, lecture, and welcome friends at his home, he died there at 95 (adapted from Wikipedia).
Get in touch with us if you would like to read any of the Riverdale papers or borrow any of the videos on his lectures with Brian Swimme from our extensive library.
“This is a a moment of grace for our species.” ~ Thomas Berry