The Dream of the Earth

By Thomas Berry
Berkeley: Counterpoint Press, 2015 (orig. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1988).

“...the universe, by definition, is a single gorgeous celebratory event.” (Berry, “Returning to Our Native Place,” in The Dream of the Earth, 5).

“Our relationship with the earth involves something more than pragmatic use, academic understanding, or aesthetic appreciation. A truly human intimacy with the earth and with the entire natural world is needed. Our children should be properly introduced to the world in which they live.” (Thomas Berry, “Human Presence,” in The Dream of the Earth, 13).

“Our challenge is to create a new language, even a new sense of what it is to be human. It is to transcend not only national limitations, but even our species isolation, to enter into the larger community of living species. This brings about a completely new sense of reality and value.” (Thomas Berry, “The Ecological Age,” in The Dream of the Earth, 42).

“The American college may be considered a continuation, at the human level, of the self-education process of the earth itself: universe education, earth education, and human education are stages of development in a single unbroken process.” (Thomas Berry, “The American College in the Ecological Age,” in The Dream of the Earth, 89).

“The next transition, from the dominant scientific-technological period to the ecological period, is turbulent indeed. This turbulence establishes the context of our present educational discussions.” (Thomas Berry, “The American College in the Ecological Age,” in The Dream of the Earth, 94).

“Education must be a pervasive life experience.” (Thomas Berry, “The American College in the Ecological Age,” in The Dream of the Earth, 96).

“...at the higher levels of formal education the needed processes of reflection on meaning and values must take place within this critical context.” (Thomas Berry, “The American College in the Ecological Age,” in The Dream of the Earth, 97).

“College students should feel that they are participating in one of the most significant ventures ever to take place in the entire history of the planet.” (Thomas Berry, “The American College in the Ecological Age,” in The Dream of the Earth, 97).

“The sublime mission of modern education is to reveal the true importance of this story for the total range of human and earthly affairs.” (Thomas Berry, “The American College in the Ecological Age,” in The Dream of the Earth, 98).

“The entire college project can be seen as that of enabling the student to understand the immense story of the universe and the role of the student in creating the next phase of the story.” (Thomas Berry, “The American College in the Ecological Age,” in The Dream of the Earth, 98).

“While the traditional origin and journey stories are also needed in the educational process, none of them can provide the encompassing context for education such as is available in this new story.” (Thomas Berry, “The American College in the Ecological Age,” in The Dream of the Earth, 98-9).

“The urgency for this type of comprehensive course can hardly be exaggerated.” (Thomas Berry, “The American College in the Ecological Age,” in The Dream of the Earth, 100).

“Within this context the American college could understand in some depth its role in creating a future worthy of that larger universal community of beings out of which the human component emerged and in which the human community finds its proper fulfillment.” (Thomas Berry, “The American College in the Ecological Age,” in The Dream of the Earth, 108).

“Within this story a structure of knowledge can be established, with it's human significance, from the physics of the universe and it's chemistry through geology and biology to economics and commerce and so to all those studies whereby we fulfill our role in the Earth process. There is no way of guiding the course of human affairs through the perilous course of the future except by discovering our role in this larger evolutionary process.” (Thomas Berry, “The New Story,” in The Dream of the Earth, 136).

“Here we might observe that the basic mood of the future might well be one of confidence in the continuing revelation that takes place in and through 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 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.” (Thomas Berry, “The New Story,” in The Dream of the Earth, 137).

“The most difficult transition to make is from an anthropocentric to a biocentric norm of progress. If there is to be any true progress, then the entire life community must progress. Any progress of the human at the expense of the larger life community must ultimately lead to a diminishment of human life itself.” (Thomas Berry, “Bioregions: The Context for Reinhabiting the Earth,” in The Dream of the Earth, 165).

The Great Work: Our Way Into the Future.

By Thomas Berry
New York: Harmony/Bell Tower,1999.

“The Great Work now, as we move into a new millennium, is to carry out the transition from a period of human devastation of the Earth to a period when humans would be present to the planet in a mutually beneficial manner.” (Thomas Berry, “The Great Work,” in The Great Work, 3).

“...everything has a right to be recognized and revered. Trees have tree rights, insects have insect rights, rivers have river rights, and mountains have mountain rights.” (Thomas Berry, “The Great Work,” in The Great Work, 5).

“Perhaps the most valuable heritage we can provide for future generations is some sense of the Great Work that is before them of moving the human project from its devastating exploitation to a benign presence. We need to give them some indication of how the next generation can fulfill this work in an effective manner.” (Thomas Berry, “The Great Work,” in The Great Work, 7).

“We can no longer hear the voice of the rivers, the mountains, or the sea. The trees and meadows are no longer intimate modes of spirit presence. The world about us has become an ‘it’ rather than a ‘thou.’” (Thomas Berry, “The Meadow Across the Creek,” in The Great Work, 17).

“The present is not a time for desperation but for hopeful activity.” (Thomas Berry, “The Meadow Across the Creek,” in The Great Work, 19).

“We now live not so much in a cosmos as in a cosmogenesis; that is, a universe ever coming into being through an irreversible sequence of transformations moving, in the larger arc of its development, from a lesser to a great order of complexity and from a lesser to great consciousness.” (Thomas Berry, “The Earth Story,” in The Great Work, 26).

“...the origin moment of the universe presents us with an amazing process that we begin to appreciate as a mystery unfolding through the ages.” (Thomas Berry, “The Earth Story,” in The Great Work, 27).

“With all the inadequacies of any narrative, the epic of evolution does present the story of the universe as this story is now available to us out of our present experience. This is our sacred story. It is our way of dealing with the ultimate mystery whence all things come into being.” (Thomas Berry, “The Earth Story,” in The Great Work, 31).

“The human is neither an addendum nor an intrusion into the universe. We are quintessentially integral with the universe.” (Thomas Berry, “The Earth Story,” in The Great Work, 32).

“...we will recover our sense of wonder and our sense of the sacred only if we appreciate the universe beyond ourselves as a revelatory experience of that numinous presence whence all things came into being. Indeed, the universe is the primary sacred reality. We become sacred by our participation in this more sublime dimension of the world about us.” (Thomas Berry, “The Wild and the Sacred,” in The Great Work, 49).

“The natural world demands a response beyond scientific insight. The natural world demands a response that rises from the wild unconscious depths of the human soul.” (Thomas Berry, “The Wild and the Sacred,” in The Great Work, 55).

“By bringing forth the planet Earth, its living forms, and its human intelligence, the universe has found, so far as we know, its most elaborate expression and manifestation of its deepest mystery. Here, in its human mode, the universe reflects on and celebrates itself in a unique mode of conscious self-awareness.” (Thomas Berry, “The Viable Human,” in The Great Work, 56).

“The naïve assumption that the natural world is there to be possessed and used by humans for their advantage and in an unlimited manner cannot be accepted.” (Thomas Berry, “The Viable Human,” in The Great Work, 61).

“Education and religion, especially, should awaken in the young an awareness of the world in which they live, how it functions, how the human fits into the larger community of life, the role that the human fulfills in the great story of the universe, and the historical sequence of developments that have shaped our physical and cultural landscape. Along with this awareness of the past and present, education and religion should communicate some guidance concerning the future.” (Thomas Berry, “The Viable Human,” in The Great Work, 71).

“Both education and religion need to ground themselves within the story of the universe as we now know it through our empirical ways of knowing. Within this functional cosmology we can overcome our alienation and begin the renewal of life on a sustainable basis. This story is a numinous revelatory story that could evoke not only the vision but also the energies needed for bringing ourselves and the entire planet into a new order of survival.” (Thomas Berry, “The Viable Human,” in The Great Work, 71).

“If the central pathology that has led to the termination of the Cenozoic is the radical discontinuity established between the human and the nonhuman, then the renewal of life on the planet must be based on the continuity between the human and the other than human as a single integral community. Once this continuity is recognized and accepted, then we will have fulfilled the basic condition that will enable the human to become more present to the Earth in a mutually enhancing manner.” (Thomas Berry, “The University,” in The Great Work, 80).

“Education at all levels would be understood as knowing the universe story and the human role in the story. The basic course in any college or university would be the story of the universe.” (Thomas Berry, “The University,” in The Great Work, 81).

“For Children to live only in contact with concrete and steel and wires and wheels and machines and computers and plastics, to seldom experience any primordial reality or even to see the stars at night, is soul deprivation that diminishes the deepest of their human experiences.” (Thomas Berry, “The University,” in The Great Work, 82).

“Here I propose that the universities need to teach the story of the universe as this is now available to us. For the universe story is our own story. We cannot know ourselves in any adequate manner except through an account of the transformations of the universe and of the planet Earth through which we came into being. This new story of the universe is our personal story as well as our community story.” (Thomas Berry, “The University,” in The Great Work, 83).

“The universities must decide whether they will continue training persons for temporary survival in the declining Cenozoic Era or whether they will begin educating students for the emerging Ecozoic.” (Thomas Berry, “The University,” in The Great Work, 85).

“...it is the time for universities to rethink themselves and what they are doing.” (Thomas Berry, “The University,” in The Great Work, 85).

“When we awaken to a revelation that the industrial world, as now functioning, can exist for only a brief historical period, we might begin to consider just how we can establish a more sustainable setting for our physical survival and personal fulfillment.” (Thomas Berry, “Ecological Geography,” in The Great Work, 93).

“...the time has come to study the Earth for the purposes of the Earth.” (Thomas Berry, “Ecological Geography,” in The Great Work, 96).

“Our studies in what we call ecology must lead to such intimacy with our natural surroundings. Only intimacy can save us from our present commitment to a plundering industrial economy.” (Thomas Berry, “Ecological Geography,” in The Great Work, 99).

“Perhaps a new revelatory experience is taking place, an experience wherein human consciousness awakens to the grandeur and sacred quality of the Earth process. Humanity has seldom participated in such a vision since shamanic times, but in such a renewal lies our hope for the future for ourselves and for the entire planet on which we live.” (Thomas Berry, “Ethics and Ecology,” in The Great Work, 106).

“Physical degradation of the natural world is also the degradation of the interior world of the human.” (Thomas Berry, “The New Political Alignment,” in The Great Work, 110).

“The greatest of human discoveries in the future will be the discovery of human intimacy with all those other modes of being that live with us on this planet, inspire our art and literature, reveal that numinous world whence all things come into being, and with which we exchange the very substance of life.” (Thomas Berry, “The Extractive Economy,” in The Great Work, 149).

“The historical mission of our times is to reinvent the human – at the species level, with critical reflection, within the community of life-systems, in a time-developmental context, by means of story and shared dream experience.” (Thomas Berry, “Reinventing the Human,” in The Great Work, 159).

“...our own future is inseparable from the future of the larger community that brought us into being.” (Thomas Berry, “Reinventing the Human,” in The Great Work, 162).

“Our sense of who we are and what our role is must begin where the universe begins.” (Thomas Berry, “Reinventing the Human,” in The Great Work, 162).

“The human venture depends absolutely on this quality of awe and reverence and joy in the Earth and all that lives and grows upon the Earth. As soon as we isolate ourselves from these currents of life and from the profound mood that these engender within us, then our basic life-satisfactions are diminished.” (Thomas Berry, “The Dynamics of the Future,” in The Great Work, 166).

“How we feel about ourselves and about the Earth process are questions of utmost urgency.” (Thomas Berry, “The Dynamics of the Future,” in The Great Work, 167).

“We must feel that we are supported by that same process that brought the Earth into being, that power that spun the galaxies into space, that lit the sun and brought the moon into its orbit. […] Those same forces are still present; indeed, we might feel their impact at this time and understand that we are not isolated in the chill of space with the burden of the future upon us and without the aid of any other power.” (Thomas Berry, “The Dynamics of the Future,” in The Great Work, 174).

“We are not lacking in the dynamic forces needed to create the future. We live immersed in a sea of energy beyond all comprehension. But this energy, in an ultimate sense, is ours not by domination but by invocation.” (Thomas Berry, “The Dynamics of the Future,” in The Great Work, 175).

“Awareness that the universe is more Cosmogenesis than cosmos might be the greatest change in human consciousness that has taken place since the awakening of the human mind in the Paleolithic Period.” (Thomas Berry, “The Fourfold Wisdom,” in The Great Work, 190).

“A new basis for the unity of humans with the larger earth community is found in the discoveries of modern science. The more clearly we understand the sciences and their perceptions of the universe, the more clearly we appreciate the intimate presence of each component of the universe with every other component. This unity is realized both in our studies of the large-scale structure and functioning of the universe and in the geobiological systems of the earth.” (Thomas Berry, “The Fourfold Wisdom,” in The Great Work, 194).

“The more clearly we understand the sciences and their perceptions of the universe, the more clearly we understand the intimate presence of each component of the universe with every other component.” (Thomas Berry, “The Fourfold Wisdom,” in The Great Work, 194).

“The universe story is our story, individually and as the human community. In this context we can feel secure in our efforts to fulfill the Great Work before us. The guidance, the inspiration and the energy we need is available. The accomplishment of the Great Work is the task not simply of the human community but of the entire planet Earth. Even beyond the Earth, it is the Great Work of the universe itself.” (Thomas Berry, “The Fourfold Wisdom,” in The Great Work, 195).

“As we enter the twenty-first century, we are experiencing a moment of grace. Such moments are privileged moments. The great transformations of the universe occur at such times. The future is defined in some enduring pattern of its functioning.” (Thomas Berry, “Moments of Grace,” in The Great Work, 196).

The Universe Story: From the Primordial Flaring Forth to the Ecozoic Era – A Celebration of the Unfolding of the Cosmos.

By Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry
San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992.

“Always and everywhere, it is the universe that holds all things together and is the primary activating power in every activity.” (Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, 27).

“To tell the full story of a single particle we must tell the story of the universe, for each particle is in some way intimately present to every other particle in the universe.” (Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, 29).

“Scientific knowledge in a developmental universe is no longer understood as information about an objective world out there. Scientific knowledge is essentially self-knowledge, where self is taken as referring to the complex, multiform system of the universe.” (Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, 39).

“The adventure of the universe depends upon our capacity to listen.” (Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, 44).

“And besides the very unborn nature of the future, we must also deal with the inadequacies of our present forms of consciousness. For even if the future were determined, its complexity would be beyond our capacity to articulate it. We will find our way only with a deep and prolonged process of groping – considering with care a great variety of interpretations, weighing evidence from a spectrum of perspectives, attending with great patience to the inchoate, barely discernible glimmers that visit us in our more contemplative moments. Out of this welter will slowly emerge our way to the star.” (Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, 58).

“In the very first instant when the primitive particles rushed forth, every one of them was connected to every other one in the entire universe. At no time in the future existence of the universe would they ever arrive at a point of disconnection […] Nothing is itself without everything else.” (Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, 77).

“Beginning with these harmonies of the universe that could in some manner be expressed in mathematical equations, an intense scientific mediation on the structure and functioning of the universe was begun by western scientists some centuries ago. Among the insights attained by this meditation has been a sense of the curvature of the universe whereby all things are held together in their intimate presence to each other. This bonding is what makes the universe what it is, not a collection of disparate objects but an intimate presence of all things to each other, each thing sustained in its being by everything else.” (Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, 219).

“That the universe is a communion of subjects rather than a collection of objects is the central commitment of the Ecozoic. Existence itself is derived from and sustained by this intimacy of each being with every other being of the universe.” (Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, 243).

“The comprehensive objective of the Ecozoic is to assist in establishing a mutually enhancing human presence upon the Earth. This cannot, obviously, be achieved immediately. But if this is not achieved in some manner or within some acceptable limits the human will continue to exist in a progressively degraded mode of being. The degradation both to ourselves and to the planet is the immediate evil that we are dealing with. The enhancement or the degradation will be a shared experience. We have a common destiny. Not simply a common human destiny, but a common destiny for all the components of the planetary community.” (Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, 251).

“The Ecozoic era requires a comprehensive human consensus. It needs such support for its planetwide programs. The entire planet would then be considered as a commons. Already the atmosphere, the seas, and the space above the Earth are being recognized as areas of universal relevance. There are also biological areas of concern.” (Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, 255).

“The human professions all need to recognize their prototype and their primary resource in the integral functioning of the Earth community. The natural world itself is the primary economic reality, the primary educator, the primary governance, the primary technologist, the primary healer, the primary presence of the sacred, the primary moral value.” (Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, 255).

“Education might well be defined as knowing the story of the universe, of the planet Earth, of life systems, and of consciousness, all as a single story, and recognizing the human role in the story. The primary purpose of education should be to enable individual humans to fulfill their proper role in this larger pattern of meaning.” (Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, 256).

“...we have so far had a human-centered language. We need an Earth-centered language.” (Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, 258).

“What the Ecozoic era seeks ultimately is to bring the human activities on the Earth into alignment with the other forces functioning throughout the planet so that a creative balance will be achieved. When the curvature of the universe, the curvature of the Earth, and the curvature of the human are once more in their proper relation, then Earth will have arrived at the celebratory experience that is the fulfillment of earthly existence.” (Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, 261).

Evening Thoughts: Reflecting on Earth as Sacred Community.

Written by Thomas Berry. Edited by Mary Evelyn Tucker.
Berkeley: Counterpoint Press, 2015 (orig. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books & University of California, 2006).

“It takes a universe to bring humans into being, a universe to educate humans, a universe to fulfill the human mode of being. More immediately, it takes a solar system and a planet Earth to shape, educate, and fulfill the human.” (Thomas Berry, “Alienation,” in The Sacred Universe, 44).

“We can explain nothing if we cannot explain the whole. Our explanation of any part of the universe is integral to our understanding of the universe itself.” (Thomas Berry, “Alienation” in The Sacred Universe, 46).

“...we must think about and respond to the urgency of a renewal of the integral community of life systems throughout the Earth. Renewal is a community project.” (Thomas Berry, “Alienation,” in The Sacred Universe, 47).

“What is needed is a new pattern of rapport with the planet. Here we come to the critical transformation needed in the emotional, aesthetic, spiritual, and religious orders of life. Only a change that profound in human consciousness can remedy the deep cultural pathology manifest in such destructive behavior. Such change is not possible, however, so long as we fail to appreciate the planet that provides us with a world abundant in the volume and variety of food for our nourishment, a world exquisite in supplying beauty of form, sweetness of taste, delicate fragrances for our enjoyment, and exciting challenges for us to overcome with skill and action. The poets and artists can help restore this sense of rapport with the natural world. It is this renewed sense of reciprocity with nature, in all of its complexity and remarkable beauty, that can help provide the psychic and spiritual energies necessary for the work ahead.” (Thomas Berry, “Alienation,” in The Sacred Universe, 48).

“We come into being in and through the Earth. Simply put, we are Earthlings. The Earth is our origin, our nourishment, our educator, our healer, our fulfillment. At its core, even our spirituality is Earth derived. The human and the Earth are totally implicated, each in the other. If there is no spirituality in the Earth, then there is no spirituality in ourselves.” (Thomas Berry, “The Spirituality of the Earth,” in The Sacred Universe, 69).

“We need a spirituality that emerges our of a reality deeper than ourselves, a spirituality that is as deep as the Earth process itself, a spirituality born out of the solar system and even out of the heavens beyond the solar system. For it is in the stars that the primordial elements take shape in both their physical and psychic aspects. Out of these elements the solar system and Earth took shape, and out of Earth, ourselves.” (Thomas Berry, “The Spirituality of the Earth,” in The Sacred Universe, 74).

“In our contemplation of how tragic moments of disintegration over the course of the centuries were followed by immensely creative moments of renewal, we receive our great hope for the future. To initiate and guide this next creative moment of the story of the Earth is the Great Work of the religions of the world as we move on into the future.” (Thomas Berry, “Religion in the Twenty-first Century,” in The Sacred Universe, 87).