Monday, 8 June 2009

Thomas Berry - requiescat in pace

Thomas Berry, priest, cultural historian and eco-theologist, has died aged 94. I feel compelled to mark the passing of this modern prophet, who often referred to himself as a geologian - an Earth scholar.

He drew inspiration from a profound experience in childhood of a meadow filled with lilies, abounding with life. In later years he came to see this meadow as a deceptively simple test of goodness, writing in his essay The Meadow across the Creek:
Whatever preserves and enhances this meadow in the natural cycles of its transformation is good; what is opposed to this meadow or negates it is not good.
He saw the work of God in the continuing revelation of the world around him, and drew hopeful conclusions for the future of humankind and our planet, writing in his book The Dream of the Earth:

If the dynamics of the Universe from the beginning shaped the course of the heavens, lighted the sun, and formed the Earth, if this same dynamism brought forth the continents and the seas and atmosphere, if it awakened life in the primordial cell and then brought into being the unnumbered variety of living beings, and finally brought us into being and guided us safely through the turbulent centuries, there is reason to believe that this same guiding process is precisely what has awakened in us our present understanding of ourselves and our relation to this stupendous process. Sensitized to such guidance from the very structure and functioning of the Universe, we can have confidence in the future that awaits the human venture.

His prophetic insights can guide us all, I think, as we struggle to deal with climate change, and as our global industrial civilisation teeters on the brink.

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