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The Sacred Universe

The Sacred Universe: Earth, Spirituality, and Religion in the Twenty-first Century

Edited and with a Foreword by Mary Evelyn Tucker
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    The Sacred Universe
    Book Description:

    A leading scholar, cultural historian, and Catholic priest who spent more than fifty years writing about our engagement with the Earth, Thomas Berry possessed prophetic insight into the rampant destruction of ecosystems and the extinction of species. In this book he makes a persuasive case for an interreligious dialogue that can better confront the environmental problems of the twenty-first century. These erudite and keenly sympathetic essays represent Berry's best work, covering such issues as human beings' modern alienation from nature and the possibilities of future, regenerative forms of religious experience. Asking that we create a new story of the universe and the emergence of the Earth within it, Berry resituates the human spirit within a sacred totality.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52064-5
    Subjects: Religion, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xviii)
    Mary Evelyn Tucker

    I remember the first time I met Thomas Berry, on a cold winter day in early February 1975. He was living along the Hudson River just north of New York City at his Riverdale Center for Religious Research. We sat in his sun porch overlooking the Palisades and under the spreading branches of the great red oak.

    I had just returned from two years in Japan, where I was teaching at a university in a provincial capital five hundred miles south of Tokyo. It was, indeed, another world. I had traveled through Asia on my way back home, encountering Taiwan,...

  4. PART I

    • CHAPTER 1 Traditional Religion in the Modern World (1972)
      (pp. 3-17)

      The modern scientific world arose out of a past powerfully influenced by religion. Yet from the sixteenth century there has been tension between our religious traditions and our modern scientific modes of understanding. A basic antagonism has existed on both sides, along with a limited amount of appreciation, approval, and mutual support. In general, however, it can be said that relations between the two in modern times have never been adequately managed or appreciated. This seems to be one of the special tasks to which our present generation is called.

      What we look for is not a total understanding or...

    • CHAPTER 2 Religion in the Global Human Community (1975)
      (pp. 18-34)

      We are presently creating a multiform global community as an effective and encompassing setting in which each person and each particular society finds a comprehensive context for existence. Within this global society of humankind, each person becomes heir to the fullness of past human cultural achievements, participant in the convergent cultures of the present, and, according to capacity, maker of the future. This convergence of the present, the consequence of scientific and technological improvements in travel and communication, has not so far been characterized by any dominant religious or spiritual motivation.

      Yet it can be seen that exterior convergence does...

    • CHAPTER 3 Alienation (1974)
      (pp. 35-48)

      Alienation is, in some sense, the oldest and most universal human experience. It is our human condition: the difficulty of discovering our personal identity and our proper place in the universe. Particularly in Western civilization in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, humans have experienced the challenge of authentic existence while moving through a series of rapid historical transformations. Alienation of the workman from the means and benefits of his production was the central social issue from the 1848 manifesto of Karl Marx (1818–1883) until the dissolution of the Soviet regime in 1991. Alienation of the “authentic self ” from...

    • CHAPTER 4 Historical and Contemporary Spirituality (1975)
      (pp. 49-66)

      Tribal and village peoples knew their local geographical region well, under the overarching sky, with the sun and clouds by day and moon and stars at night. This familiarity was expressed in mythic forms that accommodated personal experience and traditional environmental knowledge. This knowledge was different from contemporary science, with its emphasis on mathematical measurement and analytical precision. Now we have immense volumes of knowledge from science and technology that extend our vision and analytical skills and give us the precise measurement of everything, from the tiniest subatomic particle to the vast distances of the heavens. Whatever the advantages of...

  5. PART II

    • CHAPTER 5 The Spirituality of the Earth (1979)
      (pp. 69-79)

      The spirituality of the Earth refers to a quality of the Earth itself, not a human spirituality with special reference to the planet Earth. Earth is the maternal principle out of which we are born and from which we derive all that we are and all that we have. We come into being in and through the Earth. Simply put, we are Earthlings. The Earth is our origin, our nourishment, our educator, our healer, our fulfillment. At its core, even our spirituality is Earth derived. The human and the Earth are totally implicated, each in the other. If there is...

    • CHAPTER 6 Religion in the Twenty-first Century (1993, 1996)
      (pp. 80-87)

      If the finest consequence of the first Parliament of Religions, held in 1893, was the recovery of a profound sense of the divine in the human soul through the leadership of Swami Vivekananda (1863–1902), the finest consequence of the second Parliament of Religions, held in 1993, should be the recovery of an exalted sense of the divine in the grandeur of the natural world. Vivekananda himself recognized that the locus for the meeting of the divine and the human must take place in the natural world if it is to survive in the human soul.

      This concern for the...

    • CHAPTER 7 Religion in the Ecozoic Era (1993)
      (pp. 88-100)

      One of the most striking things about indigenous peoples is that traditionally they live in conscious awareness of the stars in the heavens, the topography of the region, the dawn and sunset, the phases of the moon, and the seasonal sequence. They live in a world of subjects, that is, a world of inner expression shared by every mode of being, not a world of objects. Nothing is without its identity, its dignity, its inner spontaneity. Everything has its sacred dimension, which must not be violated. Even today, despite material and social fragmentation stemming in part from the colonial encounter,...


    • CHAPTER 8 The Gaia Hypothesis: Its Religious Implications (1994)
      (pp. 103-116)

      Recently, A number of scientists have noted the remarkable capacity of Earth for unified homeostatic adjustment to a diversity of outer conditions. This argument for the “organic” quality of Earth has become known as the Gaia hypothesis, a name taken from an ancient Greek designation for the Earth Goddess. The Gaia hypothesis suggests that Earth is a self-regulating organism that has maintained the optimal temperature, atmosphere, and conditions for life.

      As we develop these thoughts concerning the Earth, there is a need for a cosmology of Gaia as well as a biology of Gaia, since ultimately everything in the universe...

    • CHAPTER 9 The Cosmology of Religions (1994, 1998)
      (pp. 117-128)

      The universe itself is the primary sacred community. All religious expression by humans should be considered participation in the religious aspect of the universe itself. We are moving from the theology and the anthropology of religions to the cosmology of religions. Throughout the twentieth century in America, there was an intense interest in the anthropology of religions, particularly the sociology of religions, the psychology of religions, the history of religions, and comparative religion. Because none of these forms of religious consciousness has been able to deal effectively with the evolutionary story of the universe or with the ecological crisis that...

    • CHAPTER 10 An Ecologically Sensitive Spirituality (1996)
      (pp. 129-138)

      I remember being in Italy in Umbria, on the western slope of the Apennines, bathed in the soft summer light of this region, just as Giotto (c. 1267–1337) and the Umbrian school of painters must have experienced it. What we see here now is only a remnant of the scene enjoyed by St. Francis (1181–1226) and his early companions. The quiet lanes have been replaced by paved roads; the donkey-drawn carts have been replaced by automobiles. We feel an intimacy with these earlier times. But we also breathe an atmosphere less refreshing; the acrid taste of automobile fumes...

  7. PART IV

    • CHAPTER 11 The Universe as Divine Manifestation (2001)
      (pp. 141-151)

      This continent is the immediate context of our lives. I speak primarily about North America, not about the planet or about nature or the world or creation. Perhaps we could speak about the Mississippi River, the Delta region, the swamp cypress, the bayous, the marine life that inhabits this area, the oaks, the pines. We might also speak about the wonders of this region of the continent, such as the birds that inhabit it.

      The wondrous moments of our lives should be more frequent than they are in the civilization that we have contrived for ourselves. The comforts of our...

    • CHAPTER 12 The Sacred Universe (1998, 2001)
      (pp. 152-169)

      To understand America, we need to reflect on earlier times, when the human community was experienced within a universe of subjects to be communed with, not of objects to be exploited. Humans were intimate members of this single community of life. Everything, from the stars in the heavens to the flowers, insects, animals, and humans of Earth, constituted a comprehensive sacred community. Into this community we were born, nourished, educated, guided, healed, and fulfilled. The surrounding powers brought us into being, sustained us, and led us to our destiny.

      It was a world alternating between scarcity and abundance, between the...

    • CHAPTER 13 The World of Wonder (2001)
      (pp. 170-178)

      What do you see? What do you see when you look up at the sky at night at the blazing stars against the midnight heavens? What do you see when the dawn breaks over the eastern horizon? What are your thoughts in the fading days of summer as the birds depart on their southward journey, or in the autumn when the leaves turn brown and are blown away? What are your thoughts when you look out over the ocean in the evening? What do you see?

      Many earlier peoples saw in these natural phenomena a world beyond ephemeral appearance, an...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 179-182)