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The Sacred Universe: Earth, Spirituality, and Religion in the Twenty-first Century

The Sacred Universe: Earth, Spirituality, and Religion in the Twenty-first Century

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by Thomas Berry, Mary Evelyn Tucker

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A leading scholar, cultural historian, and Catholic priest who spent more than fifty years writing about our engagement with the Earth, Thomas Berry possessed prophetic insight into the rampant destruction of ecosystems and the extinction of species. In this book he makes a persuasive case for an interreligious dialogue that can better confront the environmental


A leading scholar, cultural historian, and Catholic priest who spent more than fifty years writing about our engagement with the Earth, Thomas Berry possessed prophetic insight into the rampant destruction of ecosystems and the extinction of species. In this book he makes a persuasive case for an interreligious dialogue that can better confront the environmental problems of the twenty-first century. These erudite and keenly sympathetic essays represent Berry's best work, covering such issues as human beings' modern alienation from nature and the possibilities of future, regenerative forms of religious experience. Asking that we create a new story of the universe and the emergence of the Earth within it, Berry resituates the human spirit within a sacred totality.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The subtitle declares that these collected essays, published from 1972 to 2001, are still relevant. Readers confronting the planetary degradation that Berry chronicles in later essays and those recognizing a basic human need for spirituality will likely agree. Berry, a Catholic priest and author of The Dream of the Earth, devoted his life's work to connecting modern people with a spirituality that respects and is fed by our relationship with nature. In four parts, this book addresses how the history and diversity of world religions offer ways to engage with Earth; how it is necessary to connect with a spirituality that is Earth derived; how science can be in conversation with the religious sensibilities of wonder and awe; and how our relationship to the natural world is crucial to our spirituality. In the earliest essays, Berry sounds most optimistic and urges readers to reconcile modern impulses and technology with religious traditions. The later essays strike a more imperative tone, pressing for a change of mind and soul to deeply engage our sacred universe. The essay collection acquires even more significance and urgency in light of Berry's death in June. (Sept.)
Library Journal
This collection of essays by Berry, the Roman Catholic priest and environmental theologian who died in June, date from the 1970s to Berry's final pieces. The earliest essays still present relevant challenges to Christian and other religious thinkers to reinterpret their own traditions in a global context and in relation to one another. Throughout, Berry describes an alienation from Earth and its functioning, especially in Western societies. We know of the physical world through our quantitative measurements and we know of God through our scriptures, theologies, and religious traditions, but we've lost the wonder of direct experience of the natural world. Without an understanding of the entire world as sacred, Berry believes that we are doomed. Berry particularly faults biblical linear history and the biblical call for human dominance of creation as helping establish the reductionist concept of Earth as simply a collection of "natural resources." VERDICT Because Berry delivers a consistent message throughout, general readers might be better served by reading these essays within a broader collection. But dedicated readers of ecology, theology, or religious philosophy will want to savor each one here.—Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Lib., Wisconsin Rapids
Commonweal - Christina Peppard
The volume is a fair encapsulation of the intellectual concerns for which Berry is best known.
Thoams Berry demonstrattes in these papers the qualities he calls for: humanist vision and imagination.
Journal of the American Academy of Religion - Norman Wirzba
When encountering the essays, one is struck by the clarity of analyses showing humanity's destructive antagonism toward the Earth. In them we observe the gradual evocation of a vision in which this antagonism is overcome so that we can live in harmony and peace on our planetary home.
America - Stephen B. Scharper
The Sacred Universe is an important, inspiring compendium of the thought of a great soul and spiritually profound seeker, who cogently and consistently reminds, even after his death, that we must learn to feel at home in the universe.
The International Journal of Environmental Studies - Peter Ellard
This text will serve as an excellent introduction to [Thomas] Berry...

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Columbia University Press
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What People are Saying About This

Gus Speth
One of the leading voices broadening the environmental movement to include ethical and spiritual values.

Kathleen Dean Moore
The Sacred Universe is destined to become a classic for its new answers to ancient questions: Who are we in relation to the universe? How shall we then live? The book could not come at a more critical time. Current environmental emergencies call for wisdom greater than any the world has ever seen. Thomas Berry's book is thus an essential gift, offering great wisdom that is deeply informed by ancient cultures and contemporary cosmology. We must set aside the pathologically anthropocentric stories that have failed to prevent us from devastating life that took fourteen billion years to fully flower, Berry writes, and tell new stories that celebrate the unity of life—the planet Earth and the universe as a single sacred community and humans as its jubilant expression. It's unreasonable to think that any one man's vision can save us, but Berry can set us firmly on our way to saving ourselves.

David Orr
Like a flash of lightning on a dark night, Thomas Berry illuminated the darkness of our time like no other. We are all in his debt for helping us see that what ails us has less to do with better technology or a bigger economy and more to do with finding our spiritual bearings in the age he calls the Ecozoic. For the universe story that he tells so powerfully, there is no finer or truer storyteller than Berry.

Christopher Key Chapple
By developing a sustained critique of technology-enhanced consumerism, Berry makes a powerful call for a return to core values that include connectivity with nature and a quest for a reimagination of religious meaning.

Steven C. Rockefeller
In essays sparkling with thought-provoking insights, The Sacred Universe explores the dimensions of a new, creation-centered spirituality for the emerging global community. Thomas Berry challenges modern civilization and the world's religions to awaken anew to the sacred presence pervading the natural world and to recognize that the primary sacred community is the community of life as a whole and the larger evolving universe. The reader will find in Berry's essays an illuminating approach to the reconciliation of science and religion and the building of a just, sustainable, and peaceful future.

John B. Cobb Jr.
Berry's essays enable us to follow the broadening and deepening vision of a passionate lover of wisdom. Berry is one of the few who inherited the ancient task of philosophy: to seek comprehensive understanding of the most important questions as a guide to life. His journey brought him to realize that the planetary future is in our hands. While others scattered their interests and efforts over many fields, Berry rightly saw this as the challenge of our day. With insight that is unexcelled, he writes graciously but uncompromisingly about the profound changes that must occur individually and collectively.

Heather Eaton
These essays are vintage yet original Berry. He leads the discussion to the significance of our era of global awareness, cultural encounters, ecological degradation, scientific marvels, and religious impasses and requirements, offering new insights into the necessity of a deep rapprochement between science and religion/spirituality and why religions need science to move into an ecological phase. Unique, perceptive, and compelling—a requirement for anyone concerned about the role of religion and the future of life on Earth.

Meet the Author

Thomas Berry (1914-2009) established the History of Religions Program at Fordham University and, with Wm. Theodore de Bary, founded the Oriental Thought and Religion Seminar at Columbia University. He was also the former director of the Riverdale Center for Religious Research. Along with his books Buddhism and Religions of India, his major publications include The Dream of the Earth, The Great Work, Evening Thoughts, and The Universe Story, with Brian Swimme.

Mary Evelyn Tucker directs the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale where she teaches in a joint degree program between the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and the Divinity School. She is the author of Moral and Spiritual Cultivation in Japanese Neo-Confucianism, The Philosophy of Qi, and Worldly Wonder: Religions Enter Their Ecological Phase.

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