January 17, 2020
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The Life and Legacy of Thomas Berry Panel 5


we’re moving now to a panel with a
wonderful name to a vision taking shape and in that sense we’re moving into some
of the links between the visions and the ideals and the practical I’m Katherine
Marshall I’m at the Berkeley Center for religion peace and world affairs which
means that I grapple and I’ve had many conversations with Mary ablum
particularly over the years on trying to reconcile and build positive links
between the ecology and the environment but also social justice and the fight
for peace we have a panel with an extraordinary variety of intellectual
firepower but also experienced a lot of exposure to different regions of the
world and to different religious traditions and to the inter-religious
approaches so we will just go one by one I’ll do a very brief introduction of all
three to start with and then have my primary role as timekeeper so the first
person who will speak is Louie Leo Lefou Bureau who is a professor at
Georgetown University the matteo ricci professor of theology he has extensive
experience working across the world around the world particularly in Asia
and has worked among other things with several of us on the Parliament of the
world’s religions over many years Reverend Nancy Wright is a pastor at the
Ascension Lutheran Church in South Burlington Vermont and she is also
dealing with environmental ministry within the within the Synod and finally
last but not least Heather Eaton is a professor at st. Paul University in
Ottawa Canada and the list of her topics of interest
is very long it includes some peace studies gender ecology religion and
other studies so when out further ado I’ll turn to Leo
stop and see the call is so simple but can be life transforming especially in
times like the tumultuous present stop and see is one of the most important
messages we can hear Thomas berry devoted the latter part of his
illustrious career to calling people to stop destroying our common home the
earth and see the implications of what they were doing and learn to see the
earth and all forms of life in a new way Barry
routed his contemporary call in ancient wisdom including especially the wisdom
of China one important expression of this call comes from the great 6th
century Tian Tai master GE lived from 538 to 597 who left us a classic set of
lectures on meditation known as the Moho Chi Quan which has been variously
translated as great stopping and seeing or great calming and contemplation
stopping and seeing have been called the yin and yang of Buddhist meditation
complementary twin halves of a unified Hall stop the delusion open our eyes in
full awareness and see what is right before us as if for the first time and
act in compassion and freedom GE tells us just as someone with clear vision can
avoid a dangerous road there are intelligent people in the world who can
avoid what is bad if beginning practitioners can see the meaning of
this they can be a reliance for the world for those who persevere in the
practice GE promises stopping and seeing is enlightenment enlightenment is
stopping and seeing when we stop to deluge
that leads to ceaseless craving and hatred we can learn to see reality as it
is and avoid danger he says it is like when you light a lamp in a dark room the
darkness cannot claim rights over the room and cannot refuse to go just
because it has been there for a long time as soon as the lamp is lit the
darkness vanishes many traditions flowed into the lectures of GE and this is a
little bit like Thomas Barry his father was a Confucian scholar and his mother’s
family had long been deeply involved in Taoism when he was young the recitation
of a Buddhist scripture moved him so profoundly that he hoped to enter
Buddhist monastic life however his parents objected and so he waited until
after their deaths before entering a Buddhist monastery there he became one
of the most influential leaders in the history of Buddhism in China he came to
represent different things to different people
again to me it reminds me a bit of Thomas Barry to the followers of the
chant I path of Buddhism he is their esteemed founder and systematized to the
Chang or Zen tradition he is a Chan or Zen master while pure land Buddhists
honor him as their mentor from the confluence of the great Chinese wisdom
traditions of Buddhism Confucianism and Taoism the voice of GE resounds to the
present calling us to stop and see and this is with a particular importance and
urgency at this point in history when we are at that danger zone kind of like
that relatively calm part of the river before we go over the waterfall as we’re
approaching ever greater levels of ecological catastrophy yet we seem
powerless to change course in time to avert tremendous suffering from many
points on our planet we hear the cries of suffering as ice in the polar regions
melts at increasing rates of speed the Sahel desert in Africa expands further
southward absorbing farmland and retinic traditional way of life of many
people children and adults in many areas around the world suffer serious harm
from drinking tainted water from breathing polluted air from living near
hazardous waste every week brings new reports of catastrophic threats to
ecological well-being of our planet many predictions ominously envision massive
displacement and widespread suffering on an unprecedented scale that the human
community at present is simply not prepared to address it’s not necessary
to project contemporary ecological concerns back into GE to see that the
call to stop and see has relevance for our present situation few years ago Mary
Evelyn Tucker and John Grimm met with the Chinese scholar pan UA to talk about
the creation of an ecological culture uniting China and the global community
Ponyo Wei interprets the Confucian tradition as a resource for shaping a
religiously inspired ecological culture but he told his visitors we have
environmental laws on the books but we can’t enforce them because we don’t have
an ecological culture the American visitors variable and in John responded
this is true in the United States as well at times we have had to sue our own
environmental protection agency to enforce standards for clean water and
air this is because we have a weak ecological culture and strong lobbyists
for the coal oil and gas industries panawe
interprets the Confucian tradition as a resource for shaping a religiously
inspired ecological culture in a similar manner Mary Evelyn and John continued
the project of Thomas Barry who came to China to study in 1949 and later moved
through inter-religious understanding to proclaiming himself a geol Oh Jean in
his own way Thomas Barry challenged all of us to stop and see Pope Francis has
taken up this challenge in his encyclical laudato si
and also called humans to stop and see stop the devastation of the earth see
what we are doing think differently and work together in caring for our common
home and Pope Francis warns that the usual manner of seeing promoted by the
technological paradigm can appear to be inexorable in today’s world he tells us
technology tends to absorb everything into its ironclad logic the technocratic
paradigm he tells us tends to dominate economic and political life the economy
accepts every advance in technology with a view to profit without concern for its
potentially negative impact on human beings finance overwhelms the real
economy he notes that some people believe economics and technology will
solve environmental problems but Francis cautions us about our failure to C he
suggests that the market by itself cannot guarantee integral human
development and social inclusion we fail to see the deepest roots of our present
failures which have to do with the direction goals meaning and social
implications of technological and economic growth to oppose this reign of
technocratic logic Francis like Thomas berry calls for an integral ecological
culture to be informed by religious and ethical principles that go beyond the
domain of empirical science and that draw from many different religious
sources in this context Pope Francis again like Thomas berry stressed the
importance of inter-religious dialogue and cooperation in addressing a truly
global dilemma no one religious tradition in isolation can solve the
crisis and Pope Francis hopes that a convergence of voices and values from
different traditions can contribute to the ecological conversion that is so
desperately needed since China is such an important part of the world community
this appeal has special relevance for our consideration in relation to Chinese
traditions China and the United States are among the key actors in either
protecting or harming the community of life on Earth
both have contributed to the present situation and both societies are called
upon to be creative in caring for the earth now in plumbing the wisdom of
China in relation to this crisis there are dangers some have been critical of
any naive notion that Asian wisdom can somehow solve all the problems of modern
Western culture Russel Kirkland criticized the project defining
ready-made ecological solutions in ancient Taoist texts Jordan paper warns
about the danger of Western scholars finding solutions and ancient Chinese
texts claiming that some of these texts have little if any relationship to these
issues so it’s not a question of naively projecting our concerns into the distant
past or seeking some and a wisdom from the east as a magic answer for all
Western problems what we need is a serious inter-religious conversation
that brings our contemporary awareness to a fresh reading of the religious
traditions that have long shaped our world many different religious
traditions have resources that can be studied and new in shaping an integral
ecological culture and so I would like to honor Thomas berry by reflecting on
the challenge of stopping and seeing in a dialogue between the call of Pope
Francis and the wisdom of the Chinese traditions of Buddhism Confucianism and
Taoism Buddhists warn us that when our vision is dominated by craving we fail
to see the natural world as it is and caused much unnecessary suffering it
talks of the three poisons ignorance or delusion leads to craving craving
invites frustration leads to anger the cycle goes on without beginning or end
and you can analyze a lot of our world in terms of this we don’t know who we
are or how to see our world we crave things
to make us happy and secure that doesn’t work out so we get angry which increases
our ignorance and the cycle gets ever more ominous Buddhist critique
anthropocentrism which views nature as simply material for human greed and
fundamentally misunderstands the place of humans in the universe
Pope Francis and Thomas berry also reject a purely instrumental view of
nature by Pope Francis writes the ultimate purpose of other creatures is
not to be found in us rather all creatures are moving forward with us and
through us toward a common point of arrival which is God in that
transcendent fullness where the risen Christ embraces and illumines all things
at times Pope Francis’s language becomes poetic echoing Francis of Assisi as well
as Thomas berry talking about the entire universe speaking of God’s love so the
traditional Buddhist warnings about craving resonate with this description
of our current situation and Buddhists agree the technological development by
itself does not answer our human problem instead it can promote a dangerous
one-dimensional paradigm based on manipulation and control
so both Buddhists and Catholic traditions proposed new ways of seeing
the world in the Buddhist tradition wisdom entails seeing the interconnected
nature of all realities realizing that nothing exists in isolation if we see
this then from this flows compassion to teach the interconnectedness of all
realities Chinese Buddhists traditionally view the universe as the
jewel net of Indra according to calming and contemplation in the five teachings
of Y Yin we will see that this one jewel can immediately reflect the images of
all the other jewels each of the other jewels would
the same each jewel will simultaneously reflect the images of all the jewels in
this manner the images are repeated and multiplied in each other in a manner
that is unbounded and every crossing of the net there’s a sparkling jewel and so
this is one image of the universe that we are implicated in all the other
realities of the universe we reflect them and they reflect us buddhist
scholar stephanie kazakh important comments on the importance of this for
ecological ethics interdependence and interrelationship our central starting
points for ecological research of food webs nutrient cycles and forest
succession indras net however contains more than the ecological sum of
biosphere atmosphere and lithosphere the Buddhist principle of interdependence
includes human thought perceptions and values and their impacts on the
ecological evolutionary conversation this critical difference is what makes
it possible and necessary for people in the net to act ethically out of regard
for the other beings in the net so this image of indras jewel net proposes we
live in a world of radical mutual interdependence with every other being
when the Chinese Empress was 80 on from 624 to 705 had difficulty grasping the
teaching of dependent co-arising the Buddhist teacher phazon presented her
with a concrete visualization he reportedly placed an image of the Buddha
next to a burning flame in the middle of a hall with mirrors on each wall the
ceiling and the floor so the mirrors reflected the image of the Buddha
countless times in every direction with each reflection being reflected in turn
and phasing explained to the Empress in each and every reflection of any mirror
you find all the reflections of all the other mirrors together with the specific
Buddha image in each without omission or miss placement
the principle of interpenetration and containment is clearly shown by this
demonstration right here we see an example of one in all and all in one in
the Buddhist tradition wisdom and compassion are inseparable if we see the
interconnectedness of all sentient beings we realize that their suffering
affects us as well now there are profound differences between Buddhist
and Catholic visions of the universe and human existence but these differences
should not blind us to the points of convergence in taking the name of st.
Francis of Assisi Pope Francis was signaling his concern for the poor and
his concern for our relation with all of creation especially with the earth and
this dual concern for the poor and for the earth runs throughout the encyclical
laudato si and Francis also was a real model in reaching out to Muslims in his
day so he’s also a model of inter-religious relationships the
Confucian tradition that was so dear to Thomas berry has long pondered how to
shape a proper society based on right relationships in doing so it offers us
resources for addressing the call for an integral ecological culture again Mary
Evelyn Tucker and John Grimm have noted that Confucianism manifests a religious
ecology in its cosmological orientation now the epistemology generated by modern
Western culture is very sophisticated but it grew up in the context of
imperialism and colonialism and continues to shape a lot of our
fundamental assumptions so that’s hard for many in the West to imagine any
other view of the universe Walter Mineola warns alternatives to modern
epistemology can hardly come only from modern Western epistemology itself this
is where we need dialogue with other religions and cultures
and the Confucian scholar du Wei Ming whom others have already mentioned at
this conference is an example of the type of contribution we so desperately
need he proposes a contemporary interpretation of Confucian values that
addresses this challenge of stopping and seeing so du Wei Ming calls the entire
human community to move beyond the paradigm of the modern European
enlightenment with its aggressive anthropocentrism that has come to
dominate much of East Asia as well he laments now he recognizes many
accomplishments made possible by this paradigm but he warns that the current
ecological crisis calls us to critique and transform this heritage he tells us
we need to explore the spiritual resources that may help to broaden the
scope of the Enlightenment project deepen its moral sensitivity and if
necessary transform creatively its genetic constraints in order to realize
fully its potential as a worldview for the human condition as a whole and he do
a Ming like Thomas Berry calls attention to the resources of the indigenous
religious traditions around the world commenting that a distinctive feature of
primal traditions is a deep experience of rootedness each indigenous religious
tradition is embedded in a concrete place symbolizing a way of perceiving a
mode of thinking a form of living an attitude and a worldview given the
unintended disastrous consequences of the Enlightenment in its mentality there
are obvious lessons that the modern mindset can learn from indigenous
religious traditions and so do Wei Ming’s
call resonates again with both Thomas Berry and also Pope Francis and like
them he believes the crisis is not simply economic political or social but
calls for a religious spiritual renewal and he presents a Confucian vision of
multiple belongings as a resource for this so DUII Ming tells us we can
actually envision the Confucian perception of human flourishing based on
the dignity of the human person in a series of concentric circles self family
community society nation world and cosmos we embrace communal solidarity
but we have to transcend parochialism to realize its true value and he warns us
against anthropocentrism were inspired by human flourishing do way Ming writes
but we must endeavor not to be confined by anthropocentrism for the full meaning
of humanity is anthropocosmic rather than anthropocentric so he challenges
the Western secular humanism of the Enlightenment for being anthropocentric
and instead proposes indeed it is in the anthropocosmic spirit that we find
communication between self and community harmony between human species and nature
and mutuality between humanity and heaven this integrated comprehensive
vision of learning to be human serves well as a point of departure for a new
discourse on the global ethic the Taoist tradition okay
okay I’ll let me just close with a note on friendship one of the great Jesuits
in China was Matteo Ricci who presented his Chinese friends with a distillation
of sayings on friendship and as we know Thomas berry was a man of many deep
friendships and so I just like to close with a couple of the sayings of that
matteo ricci cited a world without friend is a world
without joy and in a time of ecological challenge it’s especially important to
be reminded a friend is the riches of the poor the strength of the weak and
the medicine of the ill thank you thank you for a wonderful broadening and
for some wonderful images the jewel net Avenger I think so Nancy thank you I’m
so privileged to be here and thanks to each one of you and it’s after lunch so
maybe we could just take a few deep breaths my paper is titled knowing who
and where we are among the white lilies the vision of Thomas Berry and Pope
Francis I remember most of all Thomas Berry’s voice and his kindness he was a
bard a teller of tales an evocative wonder a weaver of lament and woe a
grand designer of a new vision of beautiful immensity and intimacy I use a
word that is not in the dictionary avvocato to convey his visionary
writings and compelling power toward change
sixteen-year-old climate activists Greta tunberg asks her TED talk audience can
you hear me due to her diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome she speaks only when
necessary now she is driven by an essential question why does virtually no
one act as though we are in the catastrophe that we are in a zani pocket
or Thomas Berry asks similarly urgent questions as I trace the development of
Berry’s vision I also hear strong resonance with the urgent voice of Pope
Francis who writes I urgently appeal for a new dialogue about how we are shaping
the future of our planet just as for tunberg the question for us about Thomas
Berry and Pope Francis is can we really hear them I am reminded that God calls
to Adam and Eve in the garden Genesis 3 9 where are you can we discover where we
are and who we are through really hearing these three prophets a
good place to start is with Barry’s experience of lilies which answered his
questions about who he was and where he was on a particular May morning quote my
own understanding of the great work began when I was quite young at the time
I was some eleven years old the new house was situated on a slight incline
down below was a small Creek and there across the creek was a meadow it was an
early afternoon in late May when I first wandered down the incline crossed the
creek and looked out over the scene the field was covered with white lilies
rising above the thick grass a magic moment this experience gave to my life
something that seems to explain my thinking at a more profound level than
almost any other experience I can remember whenever I think about my basic
life attitude and the whole trend of my mind and the causes to which I have
given my efforts I seem to come back to this moment and the impact it has had on
my feeling for what is real and worthwhile in life what exactly is this
feeling for what is real and worthwhile in life I asked Thomas berry was a
person of both feeling and intellect evoking the same in others and certainly
in me this combination defines his spiritual orientation he writes quote
whatever preserves that enhances this meadow in the natural cycles of its
transformation is good whatever opposes this meadow or negates
it is not good my whole life my whole life orientation is that simple it is
also that pervasive unquote thus we learned from berry that natural cycles
of transformation deserve respect and the freedom to follow their own courses
perceptions of the essential rights of flourishing ecosystems such as meadows
as wholes and in their innumerable parts often conveys an
awareness both of wonder and a deep sense of companionship and meaning basic
to spiritual and religious orientation notably then awestruck wander doesn’t
require vast landscapes for its Eve occasion as many meditation teachers
suggest berries meadow shows that small scenes can inspire deeply meaningful
experiences this in part has to do with the capacities of the viewer quote the
more meaning a person finds in the main time blooming of the lilies the more
awestruck a person might be in simply looking out over this little patch of
meadowland unquote thus apparently seeing deeply and well into the small
enlarges visions capacity for berry a person who finds such meaning and awe in
this little meadow has perhaps unknowingly entered into an experience
at the heart of religion berry rights religion takes its origin here in the
deep mystery of this setting unquote not only awareness of mystery but of the
magnificence of life as celebration are evoked by receptivity to the lilies in
the meadow entrance then into an experience of the mysterious which
elicits if only for in a moment an awareness of life itself as celebratory
nourished in berry a commitment to protect what has now been rightly seen
as of ultimate value wonder a profound sense of meaning in life is celebration
then marked Berry’s feeling and intellectual vision this quality of
awareness remained critically important as he evolved from a historian of
religions to a cultural historian from a theologian to a geol Oh Jean berry well
knew that such experiences of wonder and awe echoed religious expressions through
centuries expressed in the Western tradition through biblical scripture
Psalm 8:3 for from a wide-angled vision when I look at your
heavens the work of your fingers the moon and the stars that you have
established what are human beings that you are mindful of them mortals that you
care for them Jesus focusing on the close-up responded to the Lilly’s beauty
with the profound awareness about God’s benevolent care and foresight to clothe
them in such beauty leading him to postulate that God constantly has a mind
and heart the necessity to meet the physical needs of human beings Matthew 6
28 30 these feelings of awestruck wonder were evoked in Thomas berry not only by
landscapes such as the meadow with lilies or later by the Hudson River but
also by scientific discoveries about the evolving universe small back to large
quote my suggestion is that just as Christianity in its developing phase
established itself in intimate relations with the structure and functioning of
the universe in its liturgical processes so now there is a need to adapt a new
sense of a self emergent universe as a sacred mode whereby the divine becomes
present to the human community unquote thus whether captured by a dragonflies
beauty as she hovers over a shimmering summer pond or by the immensity of the
Milky Way viewed on a winter’s night or perhaps by grief at the felling of a
beloved grove of trees as Gerard Manley Hopkins memorialized in busy poplars
felled 1879 the divine comes close to a person with an open eye mind and heart
what then might harm the feeling of being awestruck at the meadow it is what
harms the meadow itself berry and we know that beloved Meadows wetlands
groves streams ponds rivers and the oceans are degraded or lost as they are
cut down paved over drained and to spoiled people who love their landscapes
and have a sense of awe and identification
with them often come to grieve their loss love and pain inextricably linked
many people no longer have an intimate presence with natural surroundings and
can no longer read the book of nature as Barry said though children inherit the
natural attraction to nature adults are so misguided that quote we must make our
children unfeeling in their relation with the
natural world to indoctrinate them into a contrived predatory economic system
and an increasingly toxic environment though we are creating a sixth great
extinction few are aware Thomas Barry has been said earlier last night quote
interpreted this massive assault on earth processes as manifesting the
colonial age and its sense of humans as a master species suggests objecting all
other species to its regular to its rational calculations all of which is
rooted in a quote deep inner rage of Western society against its earthly
condition to impress a feeling of wonder and celebration broad societal
structures must be reoriented to a beneficial relation to earth barry
addresses the need for universities corporations and other systems to
reorient goals and activities to include preservation of the natural life systems
the consumer economic system sees nature as providing natural resources to create
consumer goods which quote are passed on to the junk heap where the remains are
useless at best and it works toxic to every living thing the great work is
nothing less than conversion in Barry’s famous evocative phrase quote 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 for those with a capacity for suffering
from awareness of human earth alienation it is helpful to know that lamentation
is essential to change grief may lead to new awareness repentance and a vision
that fosters life further establishing a flourishing and sustainable human mode
of being within Earth’s evolving diverse bioregions is the one thing necessary
requiring identifying with quote the sacred depth of the individual bonded
into an evolving universe Berry suggests and I find this breathtakingly hopeful
that Earth herself will provide impetus for humanity to grow to true maturity
and a beneficial human Earth relation the great work
thus blends scientific consciousness Wonder and compassion integrating a deep
knowing of us has been repeated before the universe has composed of subjects to
be communed with not as objects to be exploited it is this new
self-realization which is a reinvention of ourselves as participating in our
genetic relatedness to earth as well as in the material elements of the universe
now earth as the primary energy becomes our dream the dream of the earth will
give us guidance as nighttime dreams often provide structure and meaning so
to the dream of the earth is our way into the future and as I reread Thomas
berry after having known him for beginning at least thirty years ago this
question of the dream became more and more a search for me dreaming with
Earth’s processes and structures allows them to instruct and transform us
eliciting in us a mature vision akin to shamanic consciousness Mary Evelyn
Tucker and John Graham in their biography note that berry quote saw
himself as a shamanic type one who entered deeply into the power
of the universe and earth and brought back an integrative vision for the
community they continue this he sense that this role was part of his psyche
and thus vital for his spiritual journey unquote and Barry asserted that this
leadership involves everyone in responsibility and awareness we
therefore and hopefully with many others will grow to be shamanic leaders who
have integrated as Barry calls for for wisdoms of indigenous peoples of women
of the traditions and of science Christian shamanic leaders may helpfully
integrate their vision as I have done in so many others in this room with that of
Te’o de Chardin as does Pope Francis Tucker in Graham note that there existed
a hope in quote the human as part of the whole of cosmic emergence that gave AR
Dan Thomas a common sense of vision and purpose unquote helpful to us as
would-be shamans such hope proffers for us a zest for life infusing energy for
the great work ahead in the context of these efforts to bring energy and
urgency to the great work many groups and individuals around the world
celebrated the publication of Pope Francis loadout OC on care for our
common home it was admired by UN leaders scientists
and the journal Nature among many other groups in my experience the Catholic
bishop in Vermont sent it to all the churches our Lutheran Bishop of New
England wrote a joint statement with the Roman Catholic bishop of Boston
commending its reading in congregational groups I heard it beautifully read in a
worship service at Riverside Church simultaneously as Pope Francis addressed
the United Nations it is critically important as a moral statement for our
time the encyclical is quote an appeal for a new dialogue about how we are
shaping the future of our planet which includes everyone
Franziska n– sensibilities of simplicity and concern that all parts of
creation are experienced as kin under God’s care infuses laudato si
Pope Francis writes that we have not shown ourselves worthy of gracious
abundance and care extended to us by earth who is both mother and sister
quote this sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on
her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed
her unquote in concert with Thomas berry Pope Francis writes that an urgent
change is needed on all societal levels to reclaim our family life creation
speaks of God and thus has inherent dignity and value all creation not only
shows quote forth the inexhaustible riches of God unquote but the creation
itself is a locus of God’s presence all creatures are linked by unseen bonds and
together form a kind of universal family a sublime communion which fills us with
a sacred affectionate and humble respect unquote the misuse and abuse of Mother
Earth stems from violence and power over vulnerable people and nature the
encyclical especially emphasizes abuse of power relationships many humans fail
to see or to feel the sacred dimension of humanity or of the more than human
creation quote if we approach nature and the environment without an openness to
awe and wonder our attitude will be that of masters consumers ruthless exploiters
unable to set limits on their immediate needs unquote for Pope Francis a people
united under God will be truly united with the more than human world in an
intimate familial sense in common with Barry who spoke of a devastating
technological trance Pope Francis laments laments the
globalization of the technocratic paradigm
this paradigm has altered relationships among human beings and material objects
from one a friendship to confrontation such reductionism dictated by interests
of certain powerful groups technological scientific and economic power the Pope
rights are often not used wisely for the common good and therefore power over
others excludes awareness of the dignity and value of all creatures as beloved by
God he writes that expectation for the market to solve environmental problems
reveals the markets narrowness in not considering quote balanced levels of
production a better distribution of wealth concern for the environment and
the rights of future generations an integrated approach that addresses both
the environmental and social crises is needed
Pope Francis writes quote we cannot presume to heal our relationship with
nature and the environment without healing all fundamental human
relationships unquote with an echo of Berry’s call for reinvention of the
human at the species level Pope Francis decries a schizophrenic
anthropocentrism which not only sees no intrinsic value and created things but
disregards quote the message contained in the structures of nature itself
unquote the encyclical calls out the effects of climate change and species
extinction as the most serious environmental issues that compound
others such as access to clean water poverty injustice and abuses of creation
intertwine quote we have to realize that a true ecological approach always
becomes a social approach it must integrate questions of justice and
debates on the environment so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of
the poor unquote which has been mentioned earlier the Pope echoes many
liberation theologians a person who feels the sacred family-like connection
with all creation will feel the pain of an
we’ll be abuse almost quote as a physical ailment unquote such pain with
the virtues of simplicity faith in God appreciation of beauty and compassion
will bring us to know earth as home and truly know and be ourselves
science and all realms of human endeavor will become aligned with justice and
care for Earth’s ecosystems special awareness and care for the most
vulnerable within the human family and creation admits humans into quote their
vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork essential to a life of virtue
unquote they have discovered then who and where they are and can answer what
God’s voice in the garden where are you Barrie and Pope Francis to conclude
relocate the promotion of human progress and Earth’s flourishing within a
Theological salvific framework strongly away from otherworldly to this worldly
this planetary this universe concerns their writings continue to contribute to
healing the tragic science religion rift promoted by some Christian groups and
foster humanity’s conversion on all levels to earth care by linking deep
spiritual integrity to Earth’s well-being for Pope Francis the final
centering point is God quote each organism as a creature of God is good
and admirable in itself unquote for Barry the emphasis may be more strongly
on Earth quote the natural world is the fundamental locus for the meeting of the
divine and the human unquote yet the distinction and emphasis may be very
small and both see as illuminative the Cosmic Christ procreate in the New
Testament through whom all things are made and all things hold together both
urge a deep transformation human identity must change for Barry into
shamanic consciousness and for Pope Francis into a prophetic contemplative
awareness of kinship with all creatures all such conversions for Barry and Pope
Francis followed by action both length the well-being of humanity with the
well-being of Earth expressed as an integral ecology Barry quote intimacy
with the planet in its Wonder and beauty and the full depth of its meaning is
what enables an integral human relationship with the planet to function
unquote Pope Francis quote strategies for a
solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty restoring dignity
to the excluded and at the same time protecting nature unquote with Thomas
berry and Pope Francis as our prophetic guides not only for life orientation and
meaning but for action we find ourselves able more readily to answer the 16 year
old prophets question can you hear me and God’s question where are you with
the answers yes and we are home thank you well thank you for a very prophetic
instead of insights Heather maybe we should all take another
deep breath I know it’s a lot of talking I’m also very grateful for being here
I’m grateful to John Borelli and to Mary Evelyn and John and for all the
conversations that we’re having the contributions and to Georgetown
University for hosting this event so thank you for that I’m going to begin
with a confession which I think is appropriate in a Catholic context I’m a
Barry eight now I think we should have a be a very i’ts anonymous and I think
it’s not such a big confession here but I was introduced to Thomas berry by
Steve done in 1985 when he then directed my doctoral research in feminism and Tom
Berry’s cosmological proposal and as Brian was saying when one spends time
listening to berry reading his works pondering extensively there is no
turning back the mind bends the horizons expand spirituality deepens
understanding and gratitude flow everything is more important intense and
magnificent and painful than it was before
and as I’m sure all of you know it’s a life’s work to absorb and integrate and
live out of what tom has proposed this sacred living cosmos as eloquently has
been described here so my contribution has three parts first a few comments on
Thomas Berry’s cosmology then some onload out to sea and then I return to
Thomas berry so Thomas berry his dream I’m just gonna focus right now on what
he meant by functional cosmology and as many of you have said and those of you
who know him he had an enormous desire for intelligibility and coherence and he
felt that intelligibility and coherence has layers of continuity through
all of the phenomenological order or else nothing makes sense so for Tom
functional cosmology was already a composite but it starts with the
emergent universe this highly differentiated emergent dynamic immense
and intimate reality because I’m very close to the last speaker I’m deleting
things that many of you have already said so I’m not going to give you a
description of cosmo genesis as I have here because Barry did it but this shift
from cosmos to cosmic Genesis is the shift that we’re grappling with and also
that as the universe develops it becomes more meaning more complex more
interactive more entwined more vibrant and more intense and this is why for
chairty Arda Schaffner and for barry the best image is cosmos to cosmo genesis
and this implies this continuity between cosmo genesis geo Genesis and biogenesis
and berry as they are – Adam these discoveries of both cosmology and
evolution are the at the order of a revelatory experience and furthermore if
you if you extrapolate whatever capacities developed within the human as
a species must first be a capacity of the universe and the earth so
spirituality and religious consciousness are foremost a dimension of the universe
developed within Earth’s evolutionary processes and this is a far more radical
awareness than many have yet to appreciate
so this intelligibility coherence and continuity Barry realized that what we
know of the universe and Earth’s evolutionary processes is radically new
knowledge the reference points for understanding not just the you know
the earth but ourselves our role in the scheme of things who we are and how we
are to live it all changes it’s new knowledge so for Tom as you know to
understand anything we have to understand that the universe is the
primary reference and the primary sacred community so that’s an overview in a
nutshell of my understanding of anyway I’ll leave it there I’m gonna shift to
Lodato see this is an important and welcome statement it’s in the tradition
of Catholic social teaching it’s a very significant encyclical it has been very
well received for many it’s quite surprising because
it’s it has a style that is open and accessible it has content that is
relatively straightforward easily to understand the sources of the document
are somewhat unusual in the sense that it’s papal sources in church
publications but mainly from Mexico Brazil the Philippines Japan and even
Canada it’s not proof text in the usual biblical proof texting style it quotes
from the Earth Charter the real declaration from Dante science is an
equal partner with social sciences and it’s a call to unity and to dialogue and
to solidarity there are there are several themes that I want to mention
that I think are significant for our conversations and one is this term
interval ecology and this is a fresh analysis because it addresses the whole
earth the need for the best science that integral ecology means the biosphere is
integrated it’s integral and that ecological interconnectedness and
interdependence is also another meaning of integral ecology the document starts
by talking about the whole earth water biota
versity pollution talks about ecological literacy planetary understandings
ecosystems the document shifts back and forth between the natural world having
intrinsic rights and being anthropocentric it’s it shifts back and
forth but it does speak first about the natural world and what is happening the
second part of the document that I think is very important and also related to
integral ecology it’s speaking to the whole world that the human roots of the
ecological crisis are global and it has to do with consumerism and waste and
lack of respect for the natural world it talks about the language of our common
home which is the language of the common good of universality Universal
solidarity and this is in my view rather than Christian imperialism this openness
is new radical and very important it’s open to religious pluralism another part
of the document is critiquing values the values of ignorance apathy individualism
weak ethics there’s a strong themes throughout the document about
criticizing political apathy cultures of affluence greed and indifference
corruption poor leadership the main theme of the document is of course this
call to justice the call to equality that links the frailty of the natural
world with poverty and inequality to see the connections between ecological and
social decline and that these are connected to in justices of course it’s
a it as a liberation theologian it has a structural analysis and economic
analysis about how poverty is created and sustained what are the basis of
inequalities and of injustice and of course the use of power the document
talks a lot about the mechanisms that generate poverty and exclusion and it
doesn’t come at this to say we need compassion for it’s really a
confrontation with inequality and unlivable life conditions and options
for people who have to live without dignity the causes of ecological decline
economics values apathy corruption but the appeal is that whatever
archaeological issues we’re talking about our global and planet Earth and
Planetary even if the causes are entrenched in global economic structures
in governance systems every culture is implicated respecting of course cultural
distinctiveness it’s still a call it’s a call to everyone
I think the spirituality of the document which is subtle is rich deep it’s about
the common good it is more challenging than comforting and it’s a shift from
personal aesthetics to social ethics the key theme as mentioned cry of the poor
cry of the earth by ba4 preferential option for the poor preferential option
for the earth it does detail the gross injustice ‘as of Mal distribution of
benefits and burdens and this intersecting in justices and of course
that the sufferings of people are intimately linked to the sufferings of
the natural world and there Liberation’s are tied together the document also
talks a lot about the need for institutional transformation justice
effectiveness the challenge to governments to the UN to the war making
industries to trafficking drugs cultures the loss of Liberty the moral decline
the escalation of violence all of this but one is left with this notion of
interval ecology it’s insightful and it’s useful that there’s an integral
earth community that ecological social political and ethical systems are
integrated they will be transformed together so allow death to see is a
welcomed contribution it’s worth our time and our attention and our promotion
I think it’s very good not to have another repressive
obsessed with women’s sexuality I think it’s good to have encyclical that’s not
promoting Christian supremacy I think it’s very good to have an encyclical
that’s attempting to grapple with the contemporary current world and it is a
very powerful ethical appeal a moral imperative Chris Hedges whom I really
like says Pope Francis has moved the church back into the realm of reality
Michael Lerner rabbit Bravo Michael Lerner says the Pope’s encyclical on the
environment is one of the most articulate and accessible presentations
of the need to radically transform the global economic and political order it’s
a very important document and I would say hesitantly but that the Synod on the
Amazon and its emphasis on ecological sin also on social inequality justice
and north-south alliances solidarity is very significant it’s still unfortunate
they missed out half the human race with women but on the other things I think
they did quite well and that Synod sorry I can’t help it so I think laudato si is
a very significant contribution but I want to I want to return to Thomas berry
and what he does more than laudato si and I say this not as a comparison or a
critique but Berry’s vision and dream is broad and deep and as you have been
hearing for two days it’s full of knowledge about cultures and language
religions rituals symbolic consciousness it’s informed by earth science economics
cultural historians scholar of religions but all of that gave him an
understanding of what I’m calling religious consciousness now for Barry
the universe is the fundamental revelatory experience it’s a community
of subjects the earth is primary and the human is derivative these are pithy phrases from Tom
they do take some pondering to grasp in their depth so the breadth of his
comprehension tombery the extent of his knowledge is is quite staggering but
what I think is more important well I shouldn’t say that very important is
that this intellectual acumen transformed his awareness his perception
his acuity he was deeply transformed by what he was learning and this search for
intelligibility and coherence got distilled in the dream of the earth
evening thoughts the sacred universe but while his prose is lyric his proposal is
not for the faint minded it’s a masterful rendering of this and all of
this knowledge including the inner sensibilities interior tea as well as
cultural histories but throughout is this awareness of how psychic energies
are galvanized by dreams and stories myths and symbols metaphors and
especially that of journey and story so for berry religions are shaping
awareness and psychic orientations one of my favorite books of his is actually
five Oriental philosophies which is it speaks of what kind of psychic
orientation is cultivated and fostered and oriented through religions and
through particular experiences this is religious consciousness in dream of the
earth he writes any effective response to the current issues requires a
religious context we cannot do without their traditional religions but they
cannot presently do what needs to be done we need a new kind of religious
orientation Christianity and the fate of the earth which is a very powerful set
of essays he writes the problem is not Christianity per se but that the
Christian promise and process permeates the psychic orientation and cultural
expectations or worldview the sense of living in a radically
unsatisfactory world remains a central fact of our consciousness some idea that
we deserve a better world he spoke of this regularly this is one
of his other phrases religion as we know it is over
religions in their current form cannot respond to the magnitude of the crisis
we cannot respond without them religions will neither be eradicated nor replaced
they will be transformed in creative in vital ways he called repeatedly for a
new type of religious orientation no he didn’t call for it I think he proposed
it and he says this must emerge out of our new story of the universe this is a
new revelatory experience and it can be understood as soon as we recognize that
the evolutionary process is from the beginning a spiritual as well as
physical process that the universe from the beginning is material physical
psychic and spiritual this is of course TR – Adam but this is in fact a new
insight and new context and a new horizon of interpretation at least for
the West traditional religions developed with no awareness of what we know of the
universe Cosmo says Cosmo Genesis dark matter over a hundred billion galaxies
earth processes and evolution the radical interrelatedness of the
biosphere emergent complexity or any of these insights so what tom says is we
need a cosmology of religions excuse me this new type of religious consciousness
of interior tea and psychic orientation this must inform our way forward we say
that the universe is the primary sacred community it’s the primary revelation of
the divine the primary scripture the primary locus of divine human
communication religions are of course not the source of spiritual depth it’s
the earth processes it’s the cosmological processes here’s a quote
from Tom berry our spirituality is Earth derived if there is no spirituality in
the earth there is no spirituality in ourselves the human and the earth are
totally implicated in each other our spiritual sensibilities are derived from
and dependent upon a flourishing earth it’s the lushness the diversity the
elegance and the challenges of earth life that create the conditions for the
potent sensibilities we call spiritual as the earth diminishes so will our
spiritual capacities very rights so integral is our inner world with the
outer world that if the outer world is damaged then the inner world of our
souls is diminished proportionately when we so ruthlessly extinguish the
life-forms of our period we threaten along with those planetary beings the
inner life of the human so the physical degradation of the natural world is also
the degradation of the interior world of humans I would say that what he’s
proposing is a depth and breadth of religious experiences that will shape a
psychic orientation it’s not a replacement of religions its situating
religions in a much larger cosmological process now Barry’s intellectual acumen
far surpasses most mere mortals I think that’s fair to say listening what what
we have heard I did want to address this concern about justice or lack of concern
of justice in Barry’s preoccupations so I’ve been
very ight for quite some time and this this topic comes up regularly that it’s
lovely to contemplate the universe but what about the earth social injustice is
these processes and I could say that Tom had a deep compelling and dry excuse me
his concern for in the injustice –is the unbearable life conditions the loss
of dignity this drove him this preoccupied his soul the suffering of
the earth community humans included was his main preoccupation his main
preoccupation was not pondering the night sky his main preoccupation was
what is a way forward for a viable future but what he knew was that for
this to happen we need a profound cultural shift laudato si recognizes the
same Barry knew we cannot ignore the layers of human systems of domination
that the world is organized ideologically socially and material with
within various matrices of domination but he also knew which i think is the
hard for us to recognize especially academics is that customary intellectual
tools that measure define analyze critique deconstruct these have limits
these intellect intellectual processes while valuable neither come from nor
speak to the depths of human interior T so they cannot illuminate what is
learned of the comprehensiveness and coherence of the universe I believe that
Barry would have stood stood beside Greta turn berg and supported extinction
rebellion and 350.org although he was not an activist he was asked one time at
part bur well you know what should we do and this is what his answer was
take all the cars off the road and blow up the bridges
and he was someone said that’s very violent and he said well you know I’m
not opposed to that that particular form there’s many roles we have in the great
in the great work and I think it’s it’s hair-splitting to divide social justice
and cosmology they’re integral they’re interrelated Tom’s contribution is not
as an activist what is very unique about what he offers is the depth of his
understanding is what the source of the depth of his response and this is why he
shifts to celebration more so than analysis and I quote it’s in every
aspect of the sorry in every aspect the human is a participatory reality we are
members of a great universe community we participate in its life we are nourished
by this community we are instructed by this community and we are healed by this
community the universe is a relationship of intimacy and this is an intimacy with
a numinous reality the universe is becoming intelligible in human
intelligence and Berry takes us on a journey an exterior journey to the edges
of time and space to the farthest reaches of the cosmos to Cosmo Genesis
it’s a breathtaking journey but this journey then becomes an inner intimate
journey we are the universe reflecting back on itself we are members of an
earth community again from Tom I quote the universe carries the deep mysteries
of our existence within itself we cannot discover ourselves without
first discovering the universe the earth and the imperatives of our own being
we have no existence outside of the earth and outside of the universe so the
exterior quest to understand the universe is intimately connected to the
inner quest to know what it means to be human
to discern how to live to understand and integrate that we are a self-conscious
element of the Earth’s of the Earth’s crust and of the living cosmos is a
great challenge it’s truly a deep awakening it’s an exterior and interior
quest our horizons enlarge our awareness heightens and our religious
sensibilities intensify to live in a sacred vibrant cosmos is to experience
these intimate immensities to use the term of Gaston Bachelard and these
illuminate a path a radical openness to the future it awakens in us and awakens
us to the depths of our being the cosmos is not just out there it’s also within
and this is the gift of Thomas berry of profound importance this spiritual
awakening thank you we’ve had I think a wonderful set of
journeys through dreams and mirrors and moral imperatives etc so but the
question now is how much time you’re giving us John okay so ten minutes so
who would like to ask ask a question okay I see a hand over there okay well
let’s start all right so my name is Miss Smith I had a car for the good of my
children who when they got a chance to go to school needed it needed me to
drive them I’m sorry that public transportation hasn’t come up to the
level that we all would like but since my children are in their 50s and 40s and
moved away and I’m a widow I don’t need a car I have a bus that I proudly get or
uber sorry to say that if I’m in a hurry like I had to come here from work how do
you get everybody to get rid of a car because I’m all for it put me at the
front of the spokespeople for it’s easy I haven’t had a car since 2005 and I
gave up my driver’s license so tell me how can I help too because I think
that’s the first thing we can do that’s a doable thing thank you
beautiful okay would someone like to take that we
need public transportation there’s no quick quick and you’re not really
expecting an answer I mean good for you you don’t have a car I think that’s
fabulous many parts the world transportation is necessary public
transportation is is really extremely important we should all be demanding
using our democratic rights to get public transportation I’m going to I’m
going to suggest that we take a few questions
because we have very little time it’s coming to the end and I see several
hands so I saw a hand in the middle over there he number two and number three
so someone well we’ll start there and someone was yes so Heather you hedged on
the feminist issue I know that’s very important to you and I wonder if you
might speak about patriarchy and Thomas Barry Herman Greene you were asked to
identify yourself please Herman Greene okay good you had a question right here
oh I said let’s take a few because we have so little time yes I know it’s not
the best way but it I think it’ll help so okay well why don’t you do whatever
you’re going to do look it up go go grandparent okay is there another urgent
yes hi I’m Gregory and I’ll go with the title contemplative for this question
and that is our perspective I hear this is a good system this is a good way to
change our rules it’s a good distinction to make in the world but if you take a
common Christian phrase which would be man has dominion over all in the earth
that Dominion could be interpreted by a person of higher consciousness as saying
that’s stewardship as as that form of dominion over these species it’s my
responsibility to care for the earth or care so that’s my question is please
comment on that because I heard that thread in all of your talks okay why
don’t we we go to so why don’t you take the
the feminist question is the start and then I’m not sure what to do with gogo
grandmother and you can its an organization yes look it I know but what
we should say about it so patriarchy and Thomas Berrien feminism is an uneasy
alliance of course I do think that I mean it Tom wrote a book about I sorry
he wrote about patriarchy and its problems I think he had a I mean this is
a man of his of his context right this is a man of his era he certainly
recognized the contribution of women but I would not say he had a profound
patriarchal analysis or a particularly strong feminist consciousness
nonetheless I would say he shifted in that direction over his life and he I
mean to understand a feminist analysis takes also a bit of work you know it’s
not simply just including women and saying it’s it’s equality it’s
understanding how these systems of domination work and in I mean I did
write a dissertation on feminism and Thomas berry so I do get the dilemma
but in defense of Tom I would say that wasn’t his question in the same way the
moral questions it’s not that they worked his preoccupation but he didn’t
see the answer coming from critical analysis he saw the answers coming from
dream vision story journey something that had deeper roots in the psychic
orientation of cultures so I would say the feminist questions weren’t his
questions but not because he had a disregard it’s simply just not the way
he did his composite but I would hazard a guess that had he lived longer given
you everything you’ve heard he’s read he would have read more he did quite
appreciate Charlene sprout Nick and he loved the masculine feminine which of
course is not a particularly feminist analysis he never quite got that right
but we forgave well sort of forgave him that one feminists don’t forgive you see
so but they don’t forget they definitely
don’t so I do want to question yes you’re exactly right the Dominion and in
Scripture means for humans to be have dominion as God has Dominion which is as
creator and sustainer so to follow that means that humans would be stewards in a
very very broad sense of fostering the life of creation thank you do you have
Christians have often read the first chapter of Genesis as leading up to the
creation of humans because we kind of like that
Jewish tradition is often read it as leaving up to the Sabbath rest because
that’s where the Telos is and whatever Dominion means in the first chapter of
Genesis the first humans are to be vegetarians they’re not allowed to eat
other animals and so I think we need to look at it especially today in light of
Tom Barry’s work in terms of our responsibility that we have a level of
Dominion now that Tom berry pointed out we decide which species will live and
which will die and we have a tremendous destructive power and so I think myself
we need to read the first chapter of Genesis in conjunction with chapters 38
to 42 of the book of Job where God points out all these creatures that
humans don’t even see the mountain goats way up high in remote mountain areas and
the big creatures in the sea and it’s not all about you it’s a very non
anthropocentric vision of creation so I think we have to read the whole variety
of scriptural images of creation in relation to each other and for me
whatever we make of this Dominion it means responsibility shall we take one more or okay one more
I see one hand so I think you know doctors see it’s paragraph 66 or 67 says
Dominion has that a new new hermeneutic in terms of terms of care protect and
preserve okay okay I guess that’s it then
it’s leaps it’s love to us simply to thank everyone very much and look
forward to the next

Otis Rodgers

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