THOMAS BERRY – DREAMER OF THE EARTH: The Spiritual Ecology of the Father of Environmentalism

Posted by & filed under Allan Combs, Dreamer of the Earth, Duane Elgin, ecology, environment, Ervin Laszlo, Living Universe, Thmas Berry.

Edited by Ervin Laszlo and Allan Combs (Today’s PRIZE GIVEAWAY is a Paperback copy of THOMAS BERRY – Dreamer of the Earth. Leave a COMMENT to enter. See details below) 

Andrew Cort’s Mini-Review:

Thomas Berry, writes Ervin Laszlo in his Foreword, “was truly a man not just of the twentieth but also of the twenty-first century: the relevance and meaning of his ideas, his warnings, and his vision become more manifest in the new century than they did in the old. Few thinkers have been as far ahead of their time as Thomas Berry.”

Our challenge, Berry believed, is nothing less than to create a new sense of what it means to be human. After all, “[W]e are just emerging from a technological entrancement. During this period the human mind has been placed within the narrowest confines it has experienced since consciousness emerged from its Paleolithic phase.” Contrary to the widespread belief that the modern world is infinitely superior to the world of the past, it is only in the rarest and most primitive of peoples that there remains a great vision of the universe, a great vision of the Earth, a great vision of the human soul. He called upon us to reawaken that inner vision.

This wonderful collection of essays describes and honors Berry’s near-century of work. It includes a chapter by Matthew Fox on Berry’s contributions to the western spiritual tradition, a chapter by Joanna Macy on what the Earth Community tells us about faith and power, contributions from Stanley Krippner, Bill Plotkin, Paul Devereaux, and many others, including the chapter “The Double Life of Thomas Berry: Emergence and Evolution” by Duane Elgin, from which today’s excerpt is taken.

Thomas Berry was one of the ‘Greats’, and this collection by Laszlo and Combs is a wonderful tribute.


When we turn to the “inner sciences,” what have sages across cultures and across the centuries discovered with regard to the universe? When men and women from divers spiritual traditions invest years in deep meditation and contemplation, do they discover the universe to be a place of grey indifference withou feeling qualities? Alternatively, does the universe reveal itself to us through the “spontaneities in our own being” as a place of ever-emerging mystery, vitality, and wholeness?

The understanding that we live in a living, regenerative universe is found in all the world’s major spiritual traditions. Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, indigenous traditions, and more, all speak to the idea of a regenerating universe. Here are a few, illustrative quotes:

God is creating the entire universe, fully and totally, in this present now. Everything God created…God creates now all at once. 

Meister Eckhart,
Meditations With Meister Eckhart
 God keeps a firm hold on the heavens and earth, preventing them from vanishing away. 

Islamic Qur’an, 35:41
  Out of himself he brought forth the cosmos
And entered into everything in it.
There is nothing that does not come from him….
You are that … you are that. 

Hindu, Chandogya Upanishad
 My solemn proclamation is that a new universe is created every moment. 

D. T. Suzuki, Zen and Japanese Culture

 The Tao is the sustaining Life-force and the mother of all things;
from it, all things rise and fall without cease. 

Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching

  You have a death and a return in every moment…. Every moment the world is renewed but we, in seeing its continuity of appearance, are unaware of its being renewed. 
Rumi, The Essential Rumi

Evolution presupposes creation…creation is an everlasting process – a create continua. 
Pope John Paul II

  At the heart of Buddhist cosmology is … the idea that [multiple world systems, including our own universe] are in a constant state of coming into being and passing away.
Dalai Lama, The Universe in a Single Atom

The living universeBased upon decades of research described in my book The Living Universe, harvesting the wisdom of human experience is like watching a picture gradually come into focus and seeing an extraordinary image of the universe emerging before our eyes. Within each major tradition – Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Confucian, Indigenous, and more – we can find remarkably similar descriptions of the universe and the life force that pervades it: Christians affirm that God is not separate from this world but continuously creates it anew, so that we live, move, and have our being in God. Muslims declare that the entire universe is continually coming into being, and that each moment is a new “occasion” for Allah to create the universe. Hindus proclaim that the entire universe is a single body that is being continually danced into creation by a Life force or Brahman. Buddhists state that the entire universe arises freshly at every moment in an unceasing flow of interdependent co-origination where everything depends upon everything else. Taoists state that the Tao is the “Mother of the Universe,” the inexhaustible source from which all things rise and fall without ceasing. Confucians view our universe as a unified and interpenetrating whole that is sustained and nourished by the vitality of the Life force or Ch’i. Indigenous peoples declare that an animating wind or Life force blows through all things in the world and there is an aliveness and sacred power everywhere. A stream of Western thinkers portray the universe as a single, living creature that is continually regenerated and is evolving toward higher levels of complexity and consciousness. Overall, beneath the differences in language, a common reality is being described – our life is part of a larger life.

Despite our great diversity and differences of history, Thomas recognized that, when the world’s wisdom traditions penetrate into the experiential depths of existence, a common understanding emerges about the universe that is in accord with insights from science. We live within a living universe that arises, moment-by-moment, as a unified whole. The universe is continuously sustained by the flow-through of phenomenal amounts of energy in an unutterably vast and intensely alive process of awesome precision and power. We are beings the universe inhabits as much as we are beings who inhabit the universe. The unity of existence is not an experience to be created; rather, it is an always-manifesting condition waiting to be appreciated and welcomed into awareness.


Ervin Laszlo is a pioneer is systems philosophy and general systems theory and founder of the field of general evolution theory. A rare combination of scholar, theorist, and activist, Laszlo is former Director of Research for the United Nations and advisor to the Director-General of UNESCO. He is also the author of a major Club of Rome study on goals for humanity. He is the author of over 100 books and articles dedicated to sustainability and the future of humanity.

Allan Combs is Professor of Transformative Studies at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) in San Francisco. And the author and coauthor of over 100 publications on consciousness and ecology, including Synchronicity: The Radiance of Being and Consciousness Explained Better: An Integral Understanding of Consciousness.

Duane Elgin is an internationally recognized visionary speaker, author, and educator. His books include: The Living Universe; Promise Ahead; Voluntary Simplicity; and Awakening Earth, He has worked as a senior staff member of the Presidential Commission on the American Future and as a senior social scientist with the think tank SRI International where he coauthored numerous studies of the future.

Today’s Prize Giveaway is a Free Copy of Thomas Berry – Dreamer of the Earth, in Paperback, for today’s lucky winner.
Today’s Prize Giveaway has the same rules as the other giveaways:

1.To enter to win, simply COMMENT ON THIS BLOG, leaving an email address so we can contact you if you win. All names of commenters go into the ‘hat’.
2.The giveaway period runs for ONE WEEK from posting. The winner will then be chosen by random drawing and contacted.
3. Only one entry per giveaway. (But you can enter as many different Daily Giveaway Contests as you want!)
If you don’t win this one, be sure to order a copy of THOMAS BERRY – DREAMER OF THE EARTH from Amazon.