Moving Thomas Berry’s Legacy Forward

Only the whole has any integral meaning.
-Thomas Berry
Where there is no vision, the people perish
Proverbs 29:18

My friends who knew him well are this year inviting all of us to celebrate November 9th what would have been the 100th birthday of Thomas Berry, whose “Dream of the Earth” inspires us to a new vision of our human-Earth relationship. Berry died June 1, 2009, but his legacy lives on in many people and places like The Well Spirituality Center near me in LaGrange, IL.  The Well is committed to strengthening and calling forth Berry’s healing vision of the inherent wholeness of Earth, our human community and all creation.

Berry was a cultural historian who eventually came to see that as humans we are only a part of a sacred Universe community that evolved us into being through a marvelously intricate process on a richly blessed planet in a corner of our Milky Way Galaxy. He preached this message with urgency because he also could see how our drive toward “progress” through an industrialized culture is wreaking havoc on the very ecological processes upon which we depend for everything we need to sustain life:

Now our concerns for the human community can only be fulfilled by a concern for the integrity of the natural world. The planet cannot support its human  presence unless there is a reciprocal human support for the life systems of the planet (1999, 100).

I first met Berry in 1993 through his writings and videos, shared with me by Mary Southard, CSJ and John Surette, SJ at their former Spiritearth Retreat Center near Boston (read their blog here). They also introduced me to the work of Miriam Therese MacGillis, an artist and teacher, who took Berry’s insights into the story of our evolving Universe and created a beautiful, meditative and moving ritual known as “The Cosmic Walk.”  Through these experiences, and later opportunities to hear him present his insights, I came to view him as a significant prophet of our times.

Southard and Surette are now staff at The Well. With their help, and a growing community of support centered at The Well, I continue to journey more deeply into Berry’s vision,  seeing humanity as a part of the greater evolutionary process, and in particular Earth’s process of Life.

We humans are evolution become conscious in a self-reflective mode. We can choose to learn from the impact of our experiences, and make new choices that move us toward more positive outcomes.  Berry’s vision can help us all make new choices in this moment of crisis for our planetary community of life – seeing ourselves as nature, living among nature’s life-giving process upon which we depend, and guided by nature’s values that sustain life.

For more on Thomas Berry’s life and the impact his vision has had on the community of his followers, I invite you to follow the links below to read this year’s issues of SpiritEarth magazine, published by The Well:

Berry, Thomas. (199). The Great Work: Our Way into the Future. New York, NY: Bell Tower.

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