The Life and Legacy of Thomas Berry Panel 2

The Life and Legacy of Thomas Berry Panel 2


– Good morning, everyone. Please make yourselves comfortable. Well, welcome everyone and thank you for your presence this morning. It’s a pleasure to be with
all of you as we gather to reflect on the life
of Father Thomas Berry, and the significance of
his contributions today, 20 years after the publication
of “The Great Work”. And this convening would
not have been possible without the efforts of
a number of individuals and organizations and… So before we formally
begin I’d like to offer some words of gratitude, first to John Borelli who
leads our office’s efforts on Catholic identity and
dialogue, and Sam Wagner, who together led the
organization of this conference. To Tom Banchoff, our vice
president for global engagement, Father Leon Hooper who directs our Woodstock Theological Center Library. Father Leo Lefebure, our Matteo Ricci chair
and professor of theology. Diane Apostolos-Cappadonna, the Haub director of our
Catholic studies program. And Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim, coordinators of the Forum
on Religion and Ecology at Yale University. It’s great to have you
all with us this morning. I’d like to also acknowledge
our Berkley Center for Religion Peace and World
Affairs led by Shaun Casey for their contributions. Shaun provided invaluable
support to this conference along with his colleagues
who serve as senior fellows at the Berkley Center and
members of our faculty at our School of Foreign Service. And three I’d like to identify
Father David Hollenbach, our Pedro Arrupe distinguished
research professor. Father Drew Christensen,
distinguished professor of ethics and human development,
and Catherine Marshall professor of the practice. All of you have done such
great work putting together this rich set of conversations and for allowing us to reflect on the time that we have together
today on the living legacy of Thomas Berry. Where all the beneficiaries of
Father Berry’s contributions, his insights, his mentorship,
his collaborations have helped to define new fields of study and approaches to scholarship. He has inspired engagement
in inter-religious dialogue, in ecology and the study of religions and he has helped to shape the vocabulary that we use to think
about our relationship to our environment, to the
planet, to our larger universe. Over the course of our
time together today, we’ll hear from colleagues who
will share their reflections on his life and legacy,
his insights into cultures, religions and ecology, his
connections to (mumbles) and the journey of the universe, to Laudato Si and many
of his works and writings throughout his life. We gather today 20 years
after “The Great Work” and a decade after Father Berry’s passing. He provides for us invaluable resources as we face the urgent and moral challenge, how do we protect our threatened planet? How do we respond to
the call of Laudato Si set forth four years ago by
the Holy Father Pope Francis. To use words inspired by Father Berry, we acknowledge that there
is an ever pressing need to take up the work of unity
within our earth community. This past month in Rome we have seen this unity at work in the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region,
the Amazonian Synod. Indigenous leaders,
representatives from other religious traditions,
advocates for the land were invited to be present as observers to the dialogue centered
around interconnectedness of people in the region, and the care of their
common home in Amazonia. Pope Francis in his homily
at the opening of the Synod spoke of the fire that animates faith, contrasting this with
the fire that continues to blaze today in the Amazon and the dangers of colonialism and greed with another kind of kindling, the fire that is the
gift of the Holy Spirit. He says and I quote, the
fire of God is warmth that attracts and gathers into unity. It is fed by sharing, close quote. And he tells us quote,
as we see from the story of the burning bush, God’s fire
burns yet does not consume. It’s the fire of love that
illumines, warms and gives life, not a fire that blazes up
and devours, close quote. When we reflect on the life
and the work of Thomas Berry, the same fire is present. In an early chapter of “The Great Work” Father Berry writes words
that have a great resonance with our moment and our
ecological challenges. And I quote, here I would
suggest that the work before us is the task not simply of ourselves but of the entire planet and
all its component members. Every member of the body
must bring about the healing. So now the entire universe is involved in the healing of the damaged earth and the light and warmth
of the Sun, close quote. So today, animated by the
light and warmth of the Sun, we celebrate the work of Thomas Berry. I’d like to thank all
of you for your presence and your participation
in our conversation today and for the ways that we
will continue our dialogue around Father Berry and “The Great Work”. And now I’d like to turn
it over to my colleagues who are on our panel and
first, Professor Peter Phan, our Ellacuria chair of
Catholic Social Thought to begin our panel conversation on Thomas Berry’s intellectual journey, cultures, religion and ecology. (participants applaud) – Thank you very much, Mr. President. As he already told us, this
morning we have the panel on Thomas Berry’s intellectual journey, cultures, religions and ecology. We have three speakers, I
will introduce each of them, not together but one by one so that we have a little break in between. They’re supposed to
speak for 20 minutes and, John Borelli has promised me a Rolex that he bought in Rome off the street. So I can keep the time more accurately. – [John] 20 mins and then give ’em a break and then a couple of minutes,
up to five minutes to finish. – Yes, Gerald, the first
speaker is Gerald Carney whom I knew about 40 years ago. So it shows us how old we are now. He is professor of religion emeritus at the Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia. After being seduced into
the study of Sanskrit by Thomas Berry, Gerald’s initial research
was on the theological impact of Vishnava Hindu devotional drama. His later work concerned
Vaishnava aesthetics and an early Vaishnava
mission to convert the West. For the last 40 years, he has
documented in word and image, the threatened spiritual
ecology of Vrindaban, India. He currently lives in Lynchburg, Virginia with his wife Dr. Ellen
DeLuca and their son, Peter. So welcome, you have 20 minutes, you also speak in the name
of Dan Sheridan as well. So let him… – I play two roles. Dan Sheridan who was one of
the closest collaborators with Thomas Berry was
unable to be with us. His voice needed to be heard,
so he provided some text. Dan produced two major books, one about the advaithic theism
of the Bhagavata Purana. The second, a christian commentary on the narada bhakti sutras with that. His career was at Loyola
University of New Orleans where he was both a
teacher and administrator and later he completed his career at Saint Joseph’s College of Maine. I’m going to read exactly what
he said with one exception. There was one passage that
he put into a footnote that was too good to leave out. So in fidelity to him, I’m gonna add that. He begins, but what does it mean, an appreciation of Father
Thomas Berry Passionist by Daniel Sheridan. I meet people who laud Thomas Berry who lived from 1914 to 2009, as the bard of the new cosmology. Each seizes upon some facet
of the accomplishments of this great man. I was privileged to know
him both as Father Thomas and as Thomas, as a teacher
and mentor and as a peer. I owe him a deep debt of gratitude. Thomas married me and my wife
and that ties our first son. He was the great master in
our intellectual journey. For 42 years until his death in 2009, we talked about books,
he encouraged me to read. I met Thomas in 1967 roughly
halfway through his journey as a scholar. I met him as he was building
the intellectual foundation for “The Universe Story”,
co-authored with Brian Swimme in 1992, and then “The Great Work: Our Way
Into The Future” in 1999. Attending to these foundations
deepens understanding of his later work. I wish I had known him earlier
in the more formative years when he read his way through Augustine when he was deeply informed
by the Thomas of his youth, Joseph Gretton MA for us. And by the domestic
historian, Etienne Gilson. wish I had been there,
when as a young teacher at the same high school
seminary I later attended, he tried unsuccessfully, Dan
inserts a question mark there about unsuccessfully to get seminarians to read the “City of God”
and the Communist Manifesto. On the day we met when
I was a college junior, we talked about the relationship
of religion and culture found in the works of Christopher Dawson, who lived from 1889 to 1962. It gave me a leg up that
I had already read Dawson. As he did for many, Thomas encouraged me to study the religions of Asia. Thus four years later, he
guided my doctoral study in the history of religions. I was also appointed his assistant at the foundation of the Riverdale Center for Religious Research. I remember the hot
afternoons, when in washtubs, we moved his library
to clear the old house for renovation at the Riverdale Center. Thomas and I under the
supervision of Father Ernie Hodes spent days knocking
down old plaster walls. During that first summer with him in 1971, each morning I studied Sanskrit each evening he brought me books. McNeil’s “The Rise of The West”, Beckett’s “End Game”, Nietzsche’s
“The Birth of Tragedy”, Augustine’s “The City of God”, Solzhenitsyn’s “Gulag Archipelago”, Van der Leeuw’s “Religion In
essence and Manifestation”, Feng Youlan’s “History
of Chinese Philosophy”, Newman’s “The Great Mother”, and Beauvoir’s “The Second Sex”. His attention was already
on the environment. We read Berry Commoner’s
“The Closing Circle, and Dubos’s “So Human an Animal”. I helped Thomas plan his
week long summer conferences, a countercultural, symbolism,
New York as sacred city. Sorry, Washington. Energy, its cosmic human dimension. In class, Thomas introduced
me to Lady Murasaki, to Confucius and Mencius, saying no one should
call themselves educated if they have not met Mencius. And Lao-Tze, the Buddha,
Shankara and Krishna, Black Elk and Teilhard, somehow he missed Mohammed. I think it was deliberate. He encouraged me never
to forget Thomas Aquinas. He directed my dissertation
on the Bhagavad Parana. He stressed the importance
of divine affectivity and how to make comparisons
in similarity and difference. He persistently asked,
but what does it mean? Amazingly and still to my
surprise, after all these years, he affirmed me as a young scholar. He told me to write my entire dissertation before showing it to him. It took four months of
translating and writing. He encouraged my career as professor of the history of religions. From 1984 to 1996, each winter,
I spent two weeks with him translating and writing. At the close of the center in 1997, he gave me a good portion of his library on Hinduism and Buddhism. For our last meeting, my
wife Marianne, Brian Brown, and (mumbles) visited him in
Greensboro, North Carolina. He had had a stroke
and was (mumbles) sick, he couldn’t read, but he could remember. He remembered passages
for me to read aloud from Aquinas’s “Summa Contra Gentiles”. As a historian of religion, I learned three things from Thomas. One, the world religions have
conflicting soteriologies. They include not only
contraries but contradictories. Thus, Thomas never spoke of
convergent ways to the center. For the next 40 years, this
conclusion placed me at odds with prevailing currents and
the theology of religions. Only with the emergence of comparative and contrast of theology
under the influence of Frank Clooney SJ, have
countervailing assumptions been given a hearing. As Thomas said, “If God were to speak, “why would he always say the same thing?” Culture and religion are
inextricably intertwined. Thomas worked from the
style of cultural history of Christopher Dawson, who
wrote in religion and culture, therefore, from the beginning,
the social way of life, which is culture has
been deliberately ordered and directed in accordance
with the higher laws of life, which are religion. As the powers of heaven rule the seasons so the divine powers rule
the life of man and society. And for a community to conduct its affairs without reference to these
powers seems as irrational as for a community to cultivate the earth without paying attention to
the course of the seasons. The complete secularization of social life is a relatively modern
and anomalous phenomenon. Throughout the greater
part of mankind’s history, in all ages and states of society, religion has been the great central unifying force in culture. It has been the guardian of tradition, the preserver of the
moral law, the educator, and the teacher of wisdom. Thus, Thomas maintained that
the problematic of the present is cultural and religious,
not just theological. There was nothing basically wrong with the classical theology of God. Characteristically he bragged
he had never read anything by Karl Rahner. The third point, I learned
go deeper in theology and the study of religion
and not to innovate when not necessary. Ewert Cousins also taught me
that Paul Ricoeur was naive about second naivete since
there was nothing naive about first naivete. Depth need not be achieved by innovation. Thomas’s point was that the
specific was as important, more important than the generic. His later development of
an ecozoic spirituality, which while not completely
dismissive of is at least inattentive to the
redemption I am more wary of. I think it is unfortunate that those encountering Thomas
Berry In his later years after his retirement
from Fordham may not know Thomas’s intellectual development
from the 30s to the 70s. His later vision had a foundation. Augustine’s “The City of God is central to Thomas’s historical perspectives, with his emphasis on the
biggest picture possible on convergent historical
factors and on cultural impact. He loved its Latin periodic sentences. With Augustine, Thomas search
for the broad unfolding of human and cosmic history. He encountered the entanglement
of the divine and the human. He wanted to know where history was going. This emphasis on Augustine explains why Dawson influenced him,
although we rarely cited him. Dawson understood that
religion was the key to understanding culture. When Thomas called himself
a cultural historian, he meant culture in the
sense that Dawson did, not in the anthropological
sense of Kroeber and Kluckhorn or the French Annales
School of Cultural History. His dissertation at Catholic
University in 1948 on Vico, who lived from 1668 to
1744 illustrates this. Basically, an exposition of Vico’s thought it might not pass muster
these days as a dissertation, but it shows the direction
of Berry’s thought and his practice as a cultural historian. In the early 50s, he studied
the great Neo-Confucians, especially Shushi in the
12th century of our era. This is important
because Thomas juxtaposed Neo-Confucian cosmic
humanism dialectically with Augustine’s and Aquinas’s
monotheism of creation. In the later 50s, he discovered Teilhard who synthetically pulled
the two strands together. From this convergence,
Thomas derived the basis for his environmental and ecological work even while he was very
critical of Teilhard. Thomas, in the 40s and
50s, should be situated as a historian of thought. And then from the 70s on,
as an essayist of genius. He had found his genre. Unfortunately, Thomas never produced a major historical work. Nonetheless his insights
are shaped by the essay, which may be the perfect vehicle
for what he wanted to say for the audience he wanted to reach and for the way he wanted
to impact that audience. He appreciated other essayists,
Emmerson, Annie Dillard, Reina Du Bar, Wendell Berry. Sometimes he called him Cousin Wendell but that wasn’t accurate,
that’s me, Teilhard, et cetera. The essay with his carefully crafted prose and poetic resonance, channeled
and focused his teaching. What he wanted to convey,
he wrote in lucid prose that he reviewed again and again. He also delivered these
essays in spoken form. Usually, he stayed close to the text. His phases and modes of
thought were repeated, even as they unfolded over the decades. He was not into the academic games of publication and scholarship, nor into the intricacies
of detailed research. He read foundational texts
directly, Augustine in Latin, Tsu Ze in Chinese, the
Bhagavad Gita in Sanskrit, and then the Communist Manifesto
Teilhard Young, et cetera. Many of the dissertations
of his doctoral students were about significant
Hindu and Buddhist texts, and about Native American
myths and rituals and what they now mean. This approach allowed
him to read the ancients, as if he and they were contemporaries. Their thought addressed him
directly in the present. Lest he did not get bogged down too much in historical contextualization. This is both a gain and a loss. It means that his major
conclusions may be on the mark but his historical
illustrations may fall short. Historians may be impatient with him from a more focused historical
point of view, rightly so. But in terms of the big
picture, perhaps not. Thanks to Kathleen O’Gorman in the 80s, Thomas came to Loyola
University In New Orleans over six years to teach
weekend graduate courses for the institute for ministry. We celebrated there his 80th birthday. In 2000, all the faculty of
St. Joseph’s College of Maine received copies of “The Great
Work” and a required course for all students was introduced, entitled ecology and the environmental challenge. During the 90s at Riverdale,
Thomas and I discussed Thomas Aquinas’s philosophy
of the analogy of being and creation out of nothing. These discussions show
that in his last years in private conversations,
he was very interested in the most important questions
from his earliest studies as a seminarian. Is the universe self-explanatory or not? Yet he rarely alludes to this
question in his later essays. Creation was a Doctrina Arcana. As a historian, he developed the thesis that Christianity since the
Black Death, the reformation, and the counter reformation,
overemphasized redemption at the expense of creation. This he thinks contributed
to the ecological crisis. In my judgment, the thesis is
stated, but never demonstrated with convincing historical evidence according to contemporary
historiographical criteria. I am not sure I support this thesis. In fact, I know I don’t. However, I think it can be
sorted out of his thought without losing its
overall value and impact. He would not have agreed
with me about this. This is the strength and
weakness of Thomas Berry as a historian. He was an essayist and
direct reader of texts. He was a humanist in the classical sense that Vico and Dawson,
even as he resituated the human project into the universe story. The basic mood of the
future might well be one of confidence in the continuing revelation that takes place in and through Earth. In this last, he joined Teilhard and fundamental Christian hope. Let us say thank you in
some fashion to Dan Sheridan for sharing all of this. (participants applaud) Now, they they promised me an opportunity to speak in my own voice,
not in Dan’s to this. I was something of anomaly. I went to Fordham in 1969, in the fall. Coming out of the seminary,
I hadn’t taken the GREs and without those scores, they wouldn’t let me into the program. They said I could take one course. So I took the one course
I knew I couldn’t transfer and that was Thomas Berry’s introduction to the history of religions. I never throw anything out unfortunately. I went back over the notes that
I took during that semester. And I recognize all of the things that he was opening us up
to in the course of that. Of on the way he invited, if anybody wants to learn Sanskrit, stay
around after class. And fool that I was, I don’t
know what I was thinking, I went along and and did that. And the next semester I took
another course with Thomas and a course with Ewert
Cousins that he co-taught. It was the beginning of the story. And while I didn’t have
those two weeks sessions to speak to Thomas that Dan had, Dan and I have had an ongoing conversation for the last 20 years or more, recognizing how differently he
and I appropriate traditions, and how we work back and
forth with that and so on. As you’ll see in the
next couple of minutes, Dan is far more rigorous
than I am and incisive and I’m more opening my hands
to see what I can receive and then playing with all
of these things over time. Some of which begin to fit in right now but may have to wait till later. Some of which are for
grounded and then backrounded along the way, but a very
different sense of learning. But both of us learned from Thomas. I would go over to see him and even though I’m talking in public now, I am a real introvert. And I’d never come up to
speak with someone and say, “I’ve got these four questions
I can’t wait to lay on you.” And he would come up there and we’d be silent with one another. And I would turn to him and say, “Thomas, what have you been
thinking about lately?” And of course he’d tell me. He’d grab some of the Riverdale
papers or something else and hand it to me. Or he’d drop kind of a
bomb in the midst of it, like the time he told me of the importance of Sunday football games as a ritual of our society with that. In my own development,
he offered these courses that brought different things together. I mean I learned about China and Japan and Native American traditions. In addition to that, I had the opportunity in studying Shankara
to study the (mumbles) which was before that, and
gives it a different spin to it. And then as part of my Masters comps, I studied the followers
right after Shankara who didn’t leave Shankara unscathed in their discussions and all the rest. But the biggest insight in
looking at the later traditions was that at the core of everything, there is a sense of
difference and non-difference. Much of Dan’s work emphasized
difference, don’t smush it up. My career has been to recognize that the boundaries of God,
nature and self are porous. And therefore, there’s a
smushiness if I can coin a theological term between these and that recognizing
difference and non-difference and participation and intimacy,
in all of these things, is simply at the core of who
we are, and what our world is, and what we need to be in
the midst of these things. I want to suggest briefly with this, before Peter pulls the plug
on this, four elements. See, when I went to study in India, I went as a documentary
photographer and a theologian both. And I’m now more that
documentary historian. If I can see something, if I can catch one image,
I think I can say it all. And sometimes I come
close to catching that. So I’m into images with this. So the first of these are Mahavakyas. In the Vedanta tradition,
they were only four, they’re actually more than that. In Thomas Berry, there are hundreds. I started off in one of his early things where he says, intellectually
and spiritually, everything in human life
depends on the manner in which we experience
the human condition, how we respond to that tradition and whether we manage the human condition in a creative or destructive direction. In some ways for the
growth of us as people and developing spirituality,
that says mostly everything, if you pin everything
together and put it that way. He wrote about different
spiritual traditions, that within the larger human world, the multiple spiritual
and religious traditions implicate each other,
they point to each other. And he points out that as
Dan would agree, right, they must be kept
separate, not turned into, just smoothie along the
way, but rather that each has something to offer into this. But then he builds up to
the following final line, all human traditions are
dimensions of each other. And it’s how to explore
that and develop that becomes the challenge of that. There are more of these Mahavakyas, these main phrases that
can be used to organize all of the writings of Thomas Berry into various forms of
coherent whole with that. Some of the more recent
ones of the three principles of differentiation of
creation, subjectivity of that, and communion, the three
of these interacting to explain the universe, the
cosmos, the earth and ourselves with all of this. One quotation to touch on this, in the emerging ecozoic era,
we experience the universe as a communion of subjects,
not as a collection of objects. How often we go back to that phrase, John and Mary Evelyn
mentioned this yesterday. But he goes on from that to say, we hear, so subjects, not objects. We hear the voices of
all the living creatures. We recognize, understand
and respond to the voices of the crickets in the fields,
the flowers in the meadows, the trees in the woodlands
and the birds all around us. All these voices resound
within us as a universal chorus of delight and existence. Wow, right? A sense of (mumbles). So that when I went to see Thomas, I’d come back filled with these things. A couple of other of these symbols, okay? The Mahavakyas, the challenge
of any of us is to find those. The finger pointing at
the moon, saying nothing, look, see, get it, move on to it. The vocation we have as wisdom
keepers to follow that along, and to find a way into the future. At the burial place for Thomas in Vermont, there was a Frederick Frank sculpture of St. Francis and the birds. I couldn’t find one of
the pictures, I took it. But if you can see up
here, it’s like this. It’s not Francis chatting
with a bird on his finger, but rather this ecstatic,
hands up, the birds going and with all of that. And to me, that sums up the way in which Thomas dealt with this, and I had to draw some
words to describe it. That this celebratory moment,
cosmic in its dimensions is open to the whole expanse,
the whole hoop of the world. A vision like Black Elk’s,
seeing more than one can tell and understanding more than seeing, seeing in a sacred manner all
of these things in the spirit, making up one circle. Why does daylight or its starlight? And in the center one tree like that oak at Riverdale center, that is
the center of it and holy. I want to end with one final quotation. When I finished my dissertation, I did it under Josie Pereira but with Thomas having
inspired the whole thing. I wanted to bring this heavy tome over and give it to him myself. And he told me “Well, I’m busy tonight. “There’s a session I’m having with people “about Dante’s Divine Comedy, “and we’re having a
festive occasion tonight. “But you can come and after we do that.” So I came, I sat by the door, and I overheard a group of people who’ve been making their way through the entire Divine
Comedy, Inferno, Purgatorial and now they were coming to canto 33, the last Canto of the paradiso. And so Thomas recited it in Italian, and then they worked
that through in English. And it goes like this, as the geometer intently seeks to square the circle, but he cannot reach through
thought, on thought, the principle he needs. So I searched that strange
sight of the divine presence. I wished to see the way
in which our human effigy suited that circle and found place in it. But my own wings were
far too weak for that. But then, my mind was
struck by light that flashed and with this light
received what it asked, here force failed my high fantasy. But my desire and will were moved already like a wheel revolving uniformly by the love that moves the
sun and the other stars. (speaking foreign language) The love that moves it. That image of the movement
from humanist understanding to see the divine presence and power, is the gift that Thomas
gifts to us, to me at least. And it is one for which
I’m profoundly grateful. (participants applaud) – Thank you very much Gerald for reading the paper of Dan Sheridan. We will give him thanks later on. And now I introduce to you someone who needs no introduction,
and that is John Borelli. As we learned yesterday,
he received his doctorate at Fordham University under
the gray master, Thomas Berry. He wrote many books which include “Evangelicals and Catholics
For The Common Good”, “Of Common Word and The Future of Christian-Muslim relations” and “Interfaith Dialogue”. And he has been working at the Conference of Catholic Bishops and he saw the light and
he came to Georgetown. So we are listen to John. The only thing that made him known is that he is known as my younger brother. The similarity you say,
why, are they brothers? Look at our heads and we
know the similar, go on John. – Yes, thank you. Peter and I discovered we
have the same birth year. We’re about the only two
without emeritus or emerita after our name in this conference. But there’s hope, if the oldest team in baseball
can win the World Series. On two occasions, I
invited Father Thomas Berry to give addresses to
very special audiences. And I was surprised on both occasions, not so much for what he
said, I expected that, but how he was so far ahead
of what his audiences expected he would say. I invited him to the
College of Mount St. Vincent in Riverdale, just north
of the Riverdale Center, where I had landed right after Fordham. And on the 16th of March,
1977 few in the audience among my colleagues at the college, were prepared to hear the news story, comments on the origin, identification and transmission of values. The respondents were baffled. It’s all a question of story, he began, we are in trouble just now because we do not have a good story. We are in between stories, the old story, the account of how the world came to be and how we fit into it is
not functioning properly. We have not learned the new story. Father Thomas told me a week beforehand that he had prepared something
he had been thinking about. And in his address, he told my colleagues that their old story no longer functions in its larger social dimensions. Has a limited orbit, where
it works to some effect, but renders our programs for
knowing and living tangential. We sent some of this
and so we want to talk about values and education. But we cannot do that effectively until we get the basic story right. And he reviewed the old story around which the believing redemptive
community organizes itself. He offered some well
chosen remarks about Darwin and then about cosmology. He presented a few ideas that
were essential to his thinking since preparing that dissertation on Giambattista Vico in 1948. By the way, he defended
it on my wife’s birthday, the day she was born. And she gave birth to Stephen Thomas as I told some of you last night. Father Thomas concluded by
laying out the three values of the new story,
increasing differentiation, deepening subjectivity, and a
more comprehensive communion within the total order
of all that is real. The former president of the college, Sister Mary David Berry, my accomplice in getting Father Thomas for that day understood the message. One or two others got pieces of it. Like the student advisor who commented, if we just talked about
respecting differentiation and subjectivity in our students, we could go a long ways to making their experience here better. Father Berry concluded by
asserting that if the way of human civilization and religion was once the way of
election and differentiation from others and from the earth, the way now is the way
of intimate communion with the larger human community and with the cosmic Earth process. As we moved into small
groups, Father Thomas looked a little downcast. “I’m going outside and
walk around,” he told me. He was on the verge of that big step in his intellectual journey, and our faculty was
struggling to understand it. Eight years later, in 1985,
for the 20th anniversary of Nostra aetate, the Vatican II document on the relationship of the
church to other religions, Father Thomas came to speak at the annual National
workshop on Christian unity. There in his presentation,
the Catholic Church and the religions of the
world, he drew attention to the anxiety underlying that document while recognizing some
of its achievements. What was said with extreme caution is however worthy of serious
consideration, he said, but he pressed the point as
to how rather guardedly stated respect for religions,
which reflect, quote, a ray of that truth which enlightens all, is followed by scriptural
references to the gospel of John and 2 Corinthians. To Christ is the way
the truth and the life in whom all find the
fullness of religious life. This placement, he said, quote
betrays a certain anxiety less admission of any
authentic revelatory experience outside the Christian
tradition lead to a diminution of the Christian claim
to integral revelation of the divine to the human community. He was right. The Vatican II diary of Yves Congar reports how the Jesuit
John Daniel Lou was furious when the full blown text of Nostra aetate was reviewed by the doctrine commission. They have made Christianity
just one of the religions. So indeed, these were
inappropriate scriptural passages, most recognize that. It was a bit of proof
texting, but it was in there to allay these fears that
Thomas had perceived. Father Thomas had
observed 15 years earlier, within two or three years
of the close of the council, that a deep insight led to Vatican II namely that Christianity
needed a new type, Christians needed a new type
of awareness of themselves. But unfortunately, he was bold to suggest. Unfortunately, the
council did not recognize the awareness that was truly needed. It was not that the council
had not gone far enough, as disappointed liberals were
saying and already calling for Vatican III, rather
the council did not frame the new awareness in a
large enough context. So in 1985, when asked to
focus on Nostra aetate, he agreed that its way of dealing with the inter religious
issue had its own validity and was not particularly a new insight. He actually did not
address Jewish relations specifically in his paper. And there are testimonies of
those who were at Vatican II and from subsequent scholars
that what Nostra aetate stated with regard to Jewish relations
was a considerable change, a discontinuity from
the past many centuries and a recovery of an awareness lost from the earliest centuries of the church. On the other hand, Father Thomas had been for a brief period, a missionary in China, and he knew the long tradition about inter-religious relations scattered through the centuries as he said. He had studied the Christian encounter with the religions of Asia and
with indigenous traditions. In fact, the section on the
relations with Muslims sites are very positive 11th
century papal letter to a Muslim ruler in North Africa. He probably knew the larger
story that some missionaries went to Asia to learn and to respect and to witness, and he
knew it better in 1985 after the council had sparked historical and theological research to revitalize the more positive aspects
of that tradition. He commented on what his program
at Fordham had contributed to this topic through
religious studies, quote, we are able to identify in greater detail where these other religions
reflect not only a ray of the divine light, but
even floods of light, illuminating the entire
religious life of humanity. These are instances in
the tradition for support for an encompassing vision
of the salvific process. But he observed that these
instances were viewed then and even today as remedies
for an undesirable situation. And worst of all, there
is a lack of appreciation of a necessary diversity. St. Thomas Aquinas had designated
diversity as necessary. Father Thomas was always
happy to point out as quote, the perfection of the
universe from Thomas Aquinas. The passages show how
St. Thomas demonstrated that God’s goodness could
not be adequately represented in one creature, for
what is goodness in God is as simple and uniform in creatures is manifold and divided. How can Christians accept the variety of religious traditions with
their revelation and truths, especially those showing
up on the doorstep of ecumenical and inter-religious staff in the United States. He offered five suggestions. Distinguish the micro phase of membership and the macro phase of influence of all religious traditions. Identify what is unique
in Christian revelation. Recognize the qualitative
difference among religions and foster those differences. Identify the creative dynamics
of inter-religious relations and foster a sense of the
new story of the universe as the context for
understanding the diversity and unity of religions. Father Berry, sympathetic
reading of the insights of other religions flowed
from an appreciation of the genuine religious
experiences afforded by them, a knowledge gained
perusing original sources as we have all said. He had the skills and vision to understand what the Catholic Church needed to implement Vatican II’s call
for inter-religious dialogue. So he served a role that was not only needed but appropriate. Most topics towards which
he directed our attention for research had received little or no attention from
scholars, and at times, only cumbersome translations
conveyed the meanings. He wanted us to give attention to these other sources of wisdom, to challenge and to complement how we had been educated thus far. Some thinkers he had studied in depth, for example Monza and Tsu-Ze as you said. But mostly he paid attention
to how these traditions had developed with changing
times and growing insights. One of his first pieces
of quote, his propaganda, as he referred to his mimeographed essays that he distributed in his introduction to the history of religions
was Christian humanism, in which he declared there
is no non-Christian world. He distinguished a tribal
isolated phase of Christianity, a smaller sectarian form from a larger Universalist Christianity. The smaller Christian world is afraid of the larger Christian world, the baptized and
institutionalized Christian world is familiar with itself but
does not know how to relate to the larger Christian world. The considerable reading he
had done since leaving China and finding his way to Fordham
20 years later convinced him that Christians needed genuine interaction with the larger world
of religious experience. And that became the basis of that pioneering program at Fordham. He would comment on how deficient
Catholic higher education was with regard to anthropological studies and cultural studies. His critique revealed
why he styled himself a cultural historian in those days. How different it would be if
Christians could be comfortable in this larger world,
for they would discover that the multiple spiritual
and humanist traditions implicate each other. Each tradition is pan-human
in its significance. If as Christians we assert
the Christian dimunition of the entire world, we must
not refuse to be dimensions of the Hindu world, of the Buddhist world, of the Islamic world. Upon this human inter-communion
on a global scale, he would say 50 years ago depends the entire future of humanity. Even in that initial essay that we read, he declared that the
most significant aspect of the entire human spiritual
development is, quote, the secular and scientific
development of humanity in the past few centuries in the West, and its diffusion
throughout the entire world, end of quote. None of us could comprehend then how decidedly he would focus on this as his intellectual journey continued. In that Christian humanism essay, he identified certain
emphases of Vatican II and pushed them beyond the
confines of how Vatican II had framed them. Quote, all humanity is the people of God. Within this universal election of God, there are the special elections to which various peoples are called. World humanism is the product of all these distinctive
callings and gifts of the various peoples of the world. Each brings its treasure, its revelation, its living communication,
it’s human creativity, he concluded, all are
called to a second birth, the beginning of a higher
illumination and transformation, which we find in the Hindu brakpan, in the Buddhist Nirvana and
the yoga kaivalya experience, and in the Chinese dao. One can see this approach running through those three initial published monographs, five oriental philosophies, the religions of India and Buddhism. Father Berry’s massive consumption of Asian religious literature
is evident throughout. These are not surveys by a generalist, but a series of detailed insights into how the teachings of various Asian traditions unfold along rich trails of development. It was not that he was a specialist on any one of these traditions,
but he was a specialist in seeing how these traditions develop towards greater wisdom. In fact, these were not so
much religious traditions as religious processes. And that was his expanded
essay on a Christian humanism, the Christian process,
and that he handed out, illustrating what he meant
by how these traditions are not boxes, but ongoing
cultural processes. Father Thomas praised how Vatican II chose a happy expression, when it identified the Christian
people as a pilgrim people. This symbol though was
not adequately explained. These traditions are communities
of people on a journey for greater wisdom, more
fulfilling spiritual insight, and increasing understanding
of how the divine works in their lives. Furthermore, Christianity
and all these traditions are under the influence
and even the control of evolutionary and revolutionary forces. Such forces in his view
were transforming the world, the church and all religious traditions. This great transformation is
not by external pressures, he said, but by an inner dynamic
that will not be resisted. The journey is an inner dynamic
in all of these traditions. Observing rightly that the council was brought into existence
by the influence of the world more than any inner
development arising out of its traditional processes,
he credited its best work when it responded to the urgencies of the contemporary world. I believe John O’Malley would agree. O’Malley writes at the
conclusion of his most recent new book, “When Bishops
Meet”, councils have met to deal with new problems and issues. They have met to deal
with a changing world even if the bishops present at the council did not fully recognize that
that was what they were doing. The failure of the church to
relate to the modern world is what John the 23rd had
perceived as the crisis that needed addressing. Regarding though pope John says
(speaking foreign language) and adaptation and renovations, Father Berry found these terms
weak and evidence of fear of what he called the real
(speaking foreign language). There was no manifestation
of a real modern mystique such as the world was
looking for, he suggested. The difficulty with Christianity is that it has not been able
to keep up with the revolutions that it itself has placed in motion. Father Berry’s critique would
expand in the next decades to the failure of Christianity
and other traditions to address effectively
the ecological crisis and the inability of all of us, whatever our religious
colorings to understand that the most significant journey is that of the earth community. You can see in his middle
writings, his own gropings on how to articulate the real issue. One of his most provocative
statements back then was, quote, Vatican II addressed the
deficiencies in church life due to the condemnation of modernism. But it failed to discern the
deficiencies in church life due to the condemnation of naturalism. Most of us paid attention to
how dealing with the former, the past condemnations of modernism had overwhelmed the
implementation of Vatican II. While the real crisis the world was facing was the condemnations of
naturalism in the past. Gaudium et Spes
enthusiastically begins the joys and the hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the peoples of this age,
especially those who are poor, or in any way afflicted,
these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties
of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely
human fails to raise an echo in these hearts. The text is often cited for its wordiness and it would have been just as effective in guiding Christians to
embrace the modern world if it were two thirds the
size of the final document. However, the term creation,
wherever the term appears in the text is subordinate to
an anthropological emphasis. Father Berry liked to point
out that Rachel Carson published “Silent Spring” in 1962, as the council was getting underway. In the same weeks of the
beginning of the council, the Cuban Missile Crisis
nearly led the world to nuclear war. John the 23rd’s 1963
(speaking foreign language) and the council’s concluding
texts, Gaudium et Spes, the church in the modern world
addresses questions of war, disarmament, international security, but neither text effectively
talks about creation and its degradation. We read in “The Great Work”
the historical mission of our times is to reinvent
the human at the species level with critical reflection with
the community of life systems and a time developed
context, by means of story and shared dream experience. That is the great work of our times. The closest parallel
Father Berry envisioned preceded human history, the
geobiological transition that took place 67 million years ago when the period of the
dinosaurs was terminated and a new biological age began. Father Thomas viewed
this transition period into the 21st century as a moment of grace as I said yesterday at the beginning. How ironic then 51 years earlier, in his concluding paragraph
in his doctoral thesis, on the historical theory of Vico, he identified the weakness
of a limited understanding of history as process of life but without a concern for the future. He pointed out that for Vico,
the desire to know the future was the original sin of man. Antonio Conte had advised
Vico for the second edition of his Ciencio Nuovo that Vico should extend his principles to embrace the future
history of the world. Vico was reluctant. He distinguished between
true and false religion. Identifying false religions
is arising out of idolatry and divination, a false
science of the future. Others, mostly earlier
Renaissance thinkers, Nicholas of Cusa, Giles
of Viterbo, and Jean Bodin had sought ways of religious
concord and toleration, writing mystical dialogues. Vico had accustomed
Father Thomas to thinking in terms of periods of
history, but he must have, but Thomas must have
perceived something lacking, a major limitation. We might then consider Father
Thomas’s intellectual journey over the next five decades as a research for what was missing in his own tradition of Christian thought and the civilization that it had produced. As we read in one of the essays in this last collection evening thoughts, he found in St. Thomas
commentary on the writings of the pseudo-Dionysius that
we cannot be truly ourselves in any adequate manner, without
all our companion beings throughout the earth. He found in Chinese
traditions and emphasis on the continuity between
the human and the cosmic. He was greatly impressed by
the cosmic person of the Vedas, and how various thought systems under the heading of Hinduism
extended this principle into various aspects of
human insight and life. He marveled at what Black
Elk’s vision of the engagement of all living beings
in a cosmic dance was. This is what he taught us in a nutshell. There is something missing in the way you’re going about your
studies, a larger dimension. How can you say you’re
educated in religious ways if you know little of
what Asia has to say? How can you do your speculative, ethical and biblical and historical studies if you do them in a Christian context without all other traditions? How can you take account of
what the Christian context has occasioned to the west, without knowing the greater
creative scientific tradition? Creative continuity, one of
those essays in evening thoughts edited with the help of Mary Evelyn. He asserted that a sense
of developmental time did not exist, except in
the western biblical worlds. And even then, it was a spiritual mode of historical development
within a given spatial context. This sense of spiritual
development gave rise to a cultural coding dominated by historical developmental time as the most primordial aspect of reality. This then provided the context for the scientific technological period, with the amazing capacity for transforming the human community and the entire planet. He had found what was missing, and they brought them together. Thus he brought together
his cultural studies, his religious studies, and
his embrace of Earth studies. And he argued that all were
needed to face the crisis ahead. This was the insight missing,
at least the one not clear in his first presentation in 1977. Quote, the new story of the universe is a biospiritual story,
as well as a galactic story and an earth story, thank you. (participants applaud) – You have done very
well, younger brother. – Thank you. (laughs) We keep the Confucian tradition alive. – They didn’t respect I’m older than he. The third person I have
the honor to introduce, unfortunately I have not the pleasure to know her before except today. Wait a minute, I have it right here. Okay, right here. Kusumita Pedersen is professor emerita of religious studies at St.
Francis college, New York, chair of the Interfaith Center of New York and a trustee of the Parliament
of the world’s religions. She is the co-author of
“Global Ethics In Practice: Historical Development Current Issues and Future perspective”. And co-editor of “Earth and Faith: A Book of Reflections through Action.” A student of Sri Chinmoy since 1971. She is completing a
study of his philosophy for lesson books. Welcome, and this is your turn. (participants applaud) – I timed this at 21. – Well done, that’s perfect. – Thank you so much, it’s
such a joy to be here on this blessed occasion
of honoring Thomas Berry and my paper is called Thomas Berry and The interfaith Movement and it should be quite complementary to what’s been said already. In 1956, Thomas Berry was living at the Immaculate Conception Monastery in Jamaica, Queens, New York. And had been denied
permission by his superiors to either accept an assignment
in Japan or to teach. He wrote to his sister Anne, I keep scribbling now and again, too bad I am involved in
such vast areas of study. It were simpler to be a specialist in some little area of
study, or to be a poet. The worst curse of all, is
to be a historian interested in the whole world of nations
from creation until today. This consciousness of
the totality of being and the hunger to learn and understand reality comprehensively is an essential driving motive of Thomas Berry’s character and vision. The whole world of nations
or the global context is located within the far
vaster cosmic context indicated from creation to today, the
global context propels us into the encounter of
the world’s religions and the life of interfaith. While the cosmic context
catalyzes our perspective on the human as an evolving species among countless other species
in the earth community, both are aspects of the pan-human. In what follows, I will
reflect on their interrelation and the role Thomas played
in their recent history, some of which I shared with him. From his childhood, Thomas had been aware of the cosmic context, through experience of the sacred mystery or numinous presence in the natural world. In seminary, he was formed
by spiritual experience of the continuity between the cosmological and the human in the monastic cycle of prayer corresponding to
the times of night and day and the cycle of the seasons. He later said, despite all
the trivialization observable in the Catholic tradition,
something immensely significant was still available in the carrying out of the age-old effort of
humans to bring human life into accord with the great
liturgy of the universe. That the universe itself
was the primary liturgy, just as it was the primary
scripture I never doubted. During those same seminary years, inquiring into human history
through intense study, he had read not only Western philosophical and religious works deeply,
certain ones repeatedly, but also studied the Upanishads
and the Chinese classics, and this was in the 1930s and early 1940s. At Catholic University
as has been mentioned, he wrote a dissertation on
the interpretation of history in a world religious context, examining the philosophy of history in Hindu, Buddhist and
Confucian frameworks, and this was turned down by
his advisor as too broad, and he had to write a second dissertation, which was on Giambattista Vico. Immediately following completion
of his doctorate in 1948, he traveled to China. Although he was there
for less than a year, it was a life changing experience, and the beginning of his friendship with William Theodore
de Bary on that journey, would immeasurably enhance
his ongoing study of China. On return from army chaplaincy in Germany and finally receiving permission to teach, he taught at the Institute
for Far Eastern Studies at Seton Hall University,
beginning in 1957. In 1959, he began Sanskrit
studies at Columbia. And this narrative is
demonstrating that he’s in advance or in a pioneering generation of studying the world’s different traditions. In 1956, he had published
an essay in World Mission, our need of Orientalalists. And in 1961, the lead article
in the inaugural issue of the new journal, International
Philosophical Quarterly. The essay is called Oriental Philosophies and World Humanism. This was the same year that Mircea Eliade published History of
Religions and a New Humanism as the opening of the inaugural issue of History of Religions. Thomas mentions the work of
Eliade with appreciation. In Thomas’s lengthy, masterful, rich and almost encyclopedic essay,
Thomas begins by affirming that oriental philosophy
arises from a series of unique spiritual experiences,
adding that the dependence of Western philosophy
on spiritual experience has been inadequately recognized
in a stress on rationality. He discusses Hinduism,
Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, and Zen from their beginnings,
up through the modern period. In closing, he calls for a
pluralist world humanism. This is 1961. And states that the
challenge to philosophers is essentially the same as the
general challenge to mankind in the 20th century, that
of giving universal order to human life in all its aspects. And that a total human
experience of reality belongs to no one society, but to the world community itself. No one tradition is complete in itself. But taken together, the traditions offer complimentary visions
which complete each other to illuminate reality more fully. And he also observes that having
neglected Asian philosophy, the West itself is deeply
puzzled about the formation of a world philosophical tradition, which is now a necessity opposed upon us. But more hopefully, he says
diversity is no longer something that we tolerate. It is something that we esteem
as a necessary condition for a livable universe as the source of Earth’s
highest perfection. 1961 was also the year
that the university seminar on oriental thought and religion
was founded at Columbia, in which Thomas would offer many papers. I first met him in 1973 when
I was doing my doctorate in Buddhist studies, and I became the Graduate
Student secretary of the seminar, and Thomas was the chair. By now a new chapter in scholarship on the world’s religions
was well underway. The expansion in scholarship
was partly a result of the Second World War in
connection with which governments had promoted the study
of different cultures. For some of those who had been posted in Asia in the military,
interest in the Orient would become their life’s work. Events during World War II
also influenced the start of a new face in interfaith life. Jules Isaac, a French Jew after the war asked Christian leaders to enter dialogue with The Jewish community to transform those aspects of Christianity that had expedited the Holocaust. This led in time to the historic statement which has been mentioned in detail. In 1965 of the Second Vatican
Council of Nostra aetate on the relation of Christianity
to other religions. As well as growing
scholarship and reexamination of the relations among
established religions, there was the increase of
organized interfaith programs, including centers and
councils at the local level. The time was marked also by the growth of spiritual search turning east, burgeoning in the 1960s with
a number of spiritual teachers coming to the west from
India and East Asia. They built on the prewar
influence of Swami Vivica Nanda. And DT Suzuki and also
Parma Hamza Yogananda, author of “The Autobiography of a Yogi”. Vivica nanda and Suzuki are
both mentioned by Thomas in his world mission essay. As he attends to evolve in currents of American spirituality,
Thomas spoke of the religions entering their macro phase. For the first time in history, all knowledge about all of
the religions is in principle available to all, and the religions begin to be fully present to one another. This elicits Thomas says the deepest and most numinous elements in
each by a psychic attraction and meeting they enrich each other. I would here like to
emphasize that the interplay and at times the convergence
of these three developments, scholarship organized
inter-religious relations and spirituality is of
great historical importance. And Thomas was one of the first
to understand this process, as well as to mold it. The global interfaith movement
today made up of thousands, possibly tens of thousands of groups, programs and activities internationally, is a distinctive development of our time and is one aspect of the great work. In the conclusion to
his religions of India published in 1971, Thomas articulates a powerful interfaith vision when he says, the global spiritual past
is the only adequate context for the present
understanding of the human. Even though this effort at
universal awareness is thwarted by exclusivist attitudes that
still exist in the world. Even now however, the
futility of such exclusivism is widely recognized. All live currents of
thought seek to encompass the full dimension of the human. Within this larger world of mankind, the multiple spiritual
and humanist traditions implicate each other and complete each other
and evoke from each other higher developments, of
which each just capable. These traditions implicate
each other because for each has a universal mission, and excuse me. Each has a universal mission to humankind, and each just pan-human
in its significance. Thomas joined the faculty of
Fordham University in 1966 and established the history
of religions program. Ewert Cousins became one of
his colleagues and in 1971, president of the New American
Teilhard Association. As in the early 1960s,
Fordham had become a center of the study of Teilhard de Chardin. In addition to his interest in Teilhard and theological scholarship,
Ewert had a vocation to interfaith dialogue. And in 1968 had co-founded the
Center for Spiritual Studies with Swami Satchidananda, Shimano Roshi, Rabbi Joseph Gilbert Minh and Brother David (mumbles) a Benedictine. Thomas succeeded Ewert as president of the American Teilhard
Association, when in 1975, Ewert became one of the main organizers of spiritual summit conference number five of the temple of understanding which had been founded in
1960 by Julia Hollister. This extraordinary gathering took place at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and the United Nations
with some of the world’s most renowned spiritual leaders, including Mother Teresa,
Pierre Vallejo Khan, the Sufi Master, and Hopi elder
grandfather David Minogue. I cherish the photograph of my own spiritual teacher, Sri Chinmoy, offering the opening
meditation of the final session in the Dag Hammarskjold
Auditorium at the United Nations. The encounter of the religions
calls forth from each other their deepest realizations and gives rise to something more than
the sum of their parts. A global spirituality as
Ewert Cousins would call it. This was now taking place for Thomas within the cosmic Earth context. Teilhard had been philosophically a portal into this context. Thomas gave importance to three positions in Teilhard’s thought,
the reality of the psychic as well as the physical in
the ontology of the universe. The identity of the human
within the cosmological order, within the process of evolution, and a shift in religious focus
from redemption to creation. For Thomas, no knowledge can
be true if it is partial. And if not true, it is not life
giving or is not effective, a word he uses quite a lot. Defective knowledge cannot
provide meaningful fulfillment and values for human life
in any of its domains, whether social, economic, cultural or religious and spiritual. Partial knowledge is trivializing
and incoherent knowledge is dysfunctional, producing
cognitive dissonance. Knowledge must be
complete and encompassing. And as Thomas would also
say, integral or unifying, embracing the different
dimensions of life. If earth and the natural
world are neglected, knowledge and experience
are not effective, and their failure to be so
leads directly to the conscious or unconscious destructiveness
that is the root of the current ecological crisis. The primary reference
of all knowledge systems must then be the one that
is the most comprehensive, the universe and is thus the most true and the most meaning
filled and life giving. Thomas is speaking of
worldview or cosmo vision, a crucial concept in understanding
culture and religion. And he recognizes that
story has always been for human beings a central
means of conveying worldview and some called this kind
of primal story missed. Traditional religions have
surely spoken of the universe, the creation and vast
reaches of time and space, but in the West at least have portrayed a static natural order. Division of evolution provided
by modern science discloses that the physical universe
is a process of change is itself an ongoing story. Yet secular empirical inquiry
has excluded the numinous, the interior, the psychic,
or spiritual dimension from its account of this process. The convergence of the
cosmological narrative with the age old power of myth, integrating consciousness
and matter is set forth in Thomas’s pathfinding as
of course, the new story. And there he says, a reversal has begun. The reality and value of
the interior subjective, numinous aspect of the entire cosmic order is being appreciated
as the basic condition in which the story makes any sense at all. And he says elsewhere,
we are in a new position where we can appreciate the
historical and the cosmic as a single process. Thomas calls us to unite
the ethical, the cognitive, the effective and the spiritual within the most total cosmic context. This vision is integral and complete in accepting both the
inner and the outer aspects of reality, as well as the
unfolding nature of the universe as narrative or story in deep time. As mentioned, Thomas had been
concerned with the relation of the world’s religions set seminary, and 30 years later in the 1960s and 70s was becoming acquainted with the nascent interfaith movement. As mentioned I had first met him in 1973 and we continue to meet at the seminar, the Teilhard Association
and at his lectures. In 1983, I quit my job at Notre Dame in the department of theology
and returning to New York became the executive director
of the Temple of Understanding which was just mentioned. And after the Temple of Understanding’s 1984 spiritual summit conference at the UN, spiritual, I’m sorry, I’m getting confused. In 1984, the spiritual
summit conference number five was at the UN in 1975. In 1984, the temple of understanding had spiritual summit conference number six at the Cathedral of St. John
the Divine and also at the UN. And following this, the very
Reverend J. Parkes Morton, Jim Morton or Dean Morton who was the dean of the
Cathedral of St. John the Divine became president of the
temple of understanding. And he asked Thomas to be on the board of the Temple of Understanding, so now he is directly involved in an interfaith organization,
along with Rabbi Wolff Kelman of Jewish Theological Seminary,
and Roshi, Bernie Glousman. And I then began to see
Thomas also in the context of this organization. Thomas and his ideas were by now important in certain circles, but would soon become more and more widely known. The “Dream of the Earth”
was published in 1988. This was the same year
as the Oxford Conference of the new global forum of spiritual and parliamentary leaders
on human survival, which was co-founded by
the Temple of Understanding and the global committee of Parliaments on Population and Development. And the 300 plus participants were members of the world’s Parliaments, spiritual leaders of many traditions, including indigenous
leaders and scientists including Carl Sagan, Yeveniy Belikov of the Soviet Academy of
Sciences, and Wangari Maathai, Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, and the Archbishop of
Canterbury, Robert Runcie were all there. And the film of the conference in Oxford records Thomas saying we have to move from democracy to biocracy. In the fall of 1989 in Seattle,
an interfaith conference on the environment was held
called Earth and Spirit. Well, when Thomas Berry
appeared on the stage before an audience of 1000 people, he was received like a rock star. People from across the continent
who had read his writings, now saw him in person and
were thrilled and enraptured. The American Indian elders
President spoke of him as a sage. He was the central
figure at the conference, I became aware that his
message and his influence were spreading and penetrating into our culture in a way
I had not fully appreciated before that moment. His ideas and his vision
were energizing a movement. Yet Thomas never sought adulation
or celebrity in any way. He did not even care for
recognition, but only for truth. For the earth, and for
the communion of subjects that is the universe. It is perhaps because of his
kenosis, his self-emptying that his vision attained
its revelatory power, and that he was able to
participate consciously in the community of all life. His constant and uncompromising quest for the most comprehensive, deepest and most numinous knowledge and
experience went hand in hand with an ascetic spirit
of self-renunciation he had embraced early in life. And progressed to an ever
expanding sense of personhood into the cosmic dimension
over the arc of his life, as Mary Evelyn and John
point out in their biography. In 1993, Thomas attended
the Centenary Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago. With more than 8000 participants, the closing session outdoors in Grant Park had more than 20,000 people there for the Dalai Lama and others. As John Borelli has clarified
in their correspondence before we came here, Thomas did not take part in the assembly of spiritual leaders that
signed or in some cases refused to sign the historic declaration toward a global ethic. But Thomas gave a paper on
religion in the 21st century, in which he gave great importance
to the interfaith movement and to the concerted work
of the world’s religions for the protection and
restoration of the earth. And I give to him the concluding
words of my presentation, Thomas says, a recovery
of the sublime meaning of the universe could lead
both to a greater intimacy of the human with the manifestation of the divine in the natural
world and to a greater intimacy of the different religions
among themselves. Restoration of the sense
of the natural world as divine manifestation
has special urgency because of the devastation
that we are presently causing to the natural world. Only the religious forces of the world with their sense of the sacred can evoke the psychic energies needed to transform a declining centozoic era
into the emerging ecozoic era. To initiate and guide
this next creative moment of the great story of the Earth, is the great work of the
religions of the world as we move on into the future, thank you. (participants applaud) – The three presentations
are extremely rich coming from their personal
knowledge of Thomas Berry as well as their theological
philosophical reflection. We have 10 minutes for conversation. The light that shine in our face prevent us from seeing anyone. So if you want to ask a question,
please come up here and– – The microphone. – On the microphone, yes. Yes, I see the hand going up there. – Please.
– Over here, raise your hand. I see a hand here. Introduce yourself and
ask the question, please. – My name is Joe Holland. I apologize for speaking twice
now, I don’t like to do that. But I wanted to, I’ve been
thinking about the question I raised last night and listening and beginning to have
some initial thoughts about what Fletcher Harper
called Thomas Berry 2.0. The challenge that Mary Evelyn and John pointed out in this
book that Tom presented to Leonardo Bauff no
liberation of the poor without liberation of the earth, I think has been assimilated
within liberation theology, which in turn has become central to Catholic social teaching. And I’d like in a moment just to jump back to John the 23rd about that. But I think the reciprocity
is not going the other way. The whole social struggle
has not been integrated with the tradition of the Berry, Thomas Berry tradition yet fully and yet the social
struggle is intensifying. Dan Misleh, I don’t
know if he’s here today. He was here last night, from
the Catholic Climate Network. He says we have 10 years
until the earth is cooked. So there is an enormous
struggle going on in the world. John the 23rd, I believe needs to be… – [Peter] Ask the question, yes. – John the 23rd needs to be understood, as to see not someone who did not completely
understand modernity but in modern magista and (mumbles) he understood that the modern world was bankrupt ideologically,
both on the liberal side and on the social,
scientific or Marxist side. And he fully understood
the cosmological dimension. I just want to (mumbles)
grounded and stoic philosophy, which is the doctrine of Kosmopoulos, this is what he wrote in– – [Peter] A question, please, please. – Okay, can I please just read
this and then I will stop? – [Peter] No, just please ask question. – Have you examined mater et magistra from a cosmological viewpoint what John the 23rd wrote there? – John. – I haven’t examined Mater et Magistra. I went back and looked at both (mumbles), as I also looked at Gaudium et Spes and still the whole
understanding of creation is following human stewardship. It has anthropological significance. So John the 23rd’s
encyclical was significant for the way it is addressed
to the whole world. He told Pavin to draft it so that both Khrushchev
and Kennedy would read it. And so he addressed the
nuclear age and nuclear war, and that’s a significant milestone. But Tom, like Tom Berry said, we’re still dealing with modernism, we’re not dealing with
naturalism and so… – Next question.
– John. Yes please. – [Joe] Can I ask a question
related to a comment that George Soros made recently
about a return to globalism? Could anyone on the
panel perhaps distinguish the kind of globalism or secular globalism where Thomas was going, I’m hearing it. And then also, can we make a connection to our current fascination
with nationalism? And how does Tom’s globalism
relate to the kinds of nationalism as religion
that we’re seeing today? – Thank you, another one? – My sense is that this
struggle with nationalism that we’re having now to
begin with that is a reaction. It’s the same reaction that
Thomas Berry had his whole life. How many times were we
told, I can do my theology without any reference to other religions? It was a challenge that
here it’s this man was running a program, and
people had been quietly doing their biblical studies
and their historical studies and theological studies,
without any reference to the larger human context. And in fact, mostly,
the Jesuits at Fordham didn’t appreciate this
and once Thomas was gone, they demoted the program to an MA program. I thought a bit ironic that
when I showed up here in 2004, through Frank Clooney’s help,
reference from Dan’s paper, the Jesuits asked me to manage their inter-religious dialogue
project in the country. So they at least they
came back to the point. So I think that’s part of it. Globalization, we could
get really bogged down in intense discussion. I think Thomas had a sense of this whole historic secular development
that Christianity had spawned, and that you could say globalization represents a certain phase. He would see the shortcomings of it with the same shortcomings
and everything else, the economic aspects of it and
the making the poor even poor in many instances. But I think we’re at a
point with Laudato Si that’s really I think,
Joe your point is good. Laudato Si is making us
think of this next phase, the way that Pope Francis
was able to integrate the social concerns and
concerns of the poor with the concerns of the earth. – You wanna say something? – I wonder, John, if
George Soros mentioned the psychic and the numinous. I’d also like to say that
globalization is something that has already happened, and
we are not in control of it. It has happened, the question
is, what are we doing with it? – One more question, please. We have three minutes left. In the back, yes. – [Woman] I just want to say
that I think this comparison with what Tom Berry’s proposal is and what the Catholic Church has done, I mean we can make comparisons, we can bring in insights together, but I think it’s undeniable that what, given everything you said this morning about his wisdom and acumen and knowledge, he’s far more radical, far
more deep, far more broad than most other thinkers and documents that have come out of the Catholic Church. – Governments? – Well, I mean yes, most I would say so. But there are those who struggle I mean, moving a large institution forward and everything but he always, somehow he never got investigated. And he managed to understand
how to avoid that, as well as to continue to say
these rather radical things. I mean, he really shook up these priests who were mostly assigned to do ecumenical
inter-religious work that, it’s not that it didn’t go far enough. It just didn’t understand
what it had on its hands, what’s going on here. And that’s the approach
that the people were taking who put that program together in ’85, this committee that came together. John was on it, Bill Singer was on it, a number of Tom students. It was such a positive attitude
towards these new groups that are showing up in the
country that are related to these ancient traditions
and to welcome them. So yes, I would agree, Monica Helway who taught here for years would say, there always was this
tradition and Tom saw it but at times it was a very weak voice. You can find it running through there. Peter’s done a lot of
work in bringing this out and showing how it’s very
loud and clear in Asia. So, yes, I think there are a
lot of things that come out. But I think with Pope Francis,
we finally have somebody who gets it, and is moving us beyond. And maybe that’s why they
say it takes 100 years to accept a council. – Gerald, you want to make final comment. – I think that with so many of the things that Thomas spoke about, it takes a while for it to sink in of
just how radical it is, because he didn’t speak in an angry tone, with a kind of laid back,
North Carolinian way of talking about it. But in the end, you start to realize, is he really saying that? And the implications of it then draw you much further from that, and in the way that the tradition has developed, particularly now with the republication of so many of these early essays. Thank you for that, that we start to see that
even in the very beginning with the roots that if you followed along and followed the strings with
it, you found yourself looking at the necessity of a great
work that had to take form. – Before we take the, have
to go to have a little break. Let’s say thank you very much for the three speakers this morning. (participants applauds)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *