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Thomas Berry:
The Great Story

This is one of a number of interviews that accompany the indispensable film of the same name. It has been reproduced here by permission of Bullfrog Films, distributors of the DVD of the film and its accompanying interviews.

"Thomas Berry puts forth the grandest story ever told...Beyond all my experiences with universities, literature & wisdom traditions, Thomas Berry's work has opened the door for me to the most thrilling, over-arching, inclusivist, all-embracing & empowering perspective I have ever encountered. Thomas may well be the most important guide we have, for the future of humanity in concert with the community of life on Earth."
Paul Winter, multiple Grammy award-winning musician   

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The Great Story

In his major works The Dream of the Earth, The Universe Story, and The Great Work, cultural historian Thomas Berry (d.2009) describes how Western religion and culture have created an estranged, unsustainable relationship between humans and the Earth. This dysfunctional relationship is reflected by our economic model of limitless growth and in the technological “wonderworld” created and sustained by our electronic media and corporate advertising.

To heal this condition, which he described as a "distortion of the Sacred", Berry described  a new cosmology and mythic consciousness (Great Story), capable of reuniting humans with the creative energy of the Universe. He sought to re-unify science and religion through an "Earth Spirituality" that affirms the spiritual potential of matter, fundamentally changing how we experience the material and living worlds.

Berry considered the Earth itself to be endowed with innate spirituality, since it is the maternal and nurturing principle that is the actual source of our existence and spirituality. and not merely an object of spiritual regard. Speaking with the authority of an accomplished Christian monk, theologian and mystic, he traced how Christianity came to be redemption-based, rather than a creation spirituality; how Western science and religion came to lead separate existences; and how the social impacts of religion and ethics thereby became marginalized. He observed:

The central pathology that has led to the termination of the Cenozoic Era is the radical discontinuity between the human and the nonhuman.

Yet our science has recently provided a comprehensive "new revelation" through its discoveries of the precise origins of the Universe, and the evolutionary biology of human nature. Therein we can discover a common ground for science and religion, a new spirituality "grounded deeply in the numinous dimension of an emergent Universe." 

The myth that drives the goal of human domination of the Earth is a secular, technological version of the old millennial dream of Christianity, where nature is bent to every human whim. As it rapidly turns our home planet into a wasteland, it threatens even our own survival. Now we need the Logos or reason of science to be balanced with a healing Mythos, a Story embodying poetic and spiritual appreciation of the Earth.[1]

Berry’s life work eloquently communicates the immanence of the Sacred in the world. He considered that our species is at a crucial evolutionary moment of transition. We need a new spiritual vision to carry us forward from the end of the Cenozoic geological era, for our future to be possible.


[1]
A. Angyal (2003),
    Thomas Berry's Earth Spirituality & the Great Work, Ecozoic Reader 3, 35-44 

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