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.
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
My solemn proclamation is that a new universe is created every moment.
The Tao is the sustaining Life-force and the mother of all things;
from it, all things rise and fall without cease.
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.
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.
Based 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.