He was called a scholar, a monk, a cultural historian, a shaman, a geologian, and more. He was awarded eight honorary doctorate degrees in his lifetime and recognized all over the world for bringing into consciousness a new vision of the human-earth relationship. He was the author of six books during his lifetime (with two more published posthumously), and he inspired the creation of over one hundred organizations in this country and abroad.
Here at Timberlake Earth Sanctuary, we knew Thomas Berry as a deep personal friend and guide for our work with children and educators. For ten years he was a frequent presence at the Earth Sanctuary, walking the trails when he was able, speaking at evening gatherings at the Farmhouse, reading poetry to children (see video), conversing with visitors and friends over meals on the TreeHouse deck, sharing in special moments of celebration, including a family baptism at the chapel, and always available for guidance and support, even in the last weeks of his life.
For us, Thomas Berry was, above all, a storyteller, and the story he told in thought, word, and deed was of a new sacred story of the universe, which, if understood and shared, could bring about personal and planetary healing.
His story was of the sun and moon and stars and seasons and cycles and a love that moved them all. It was a story unfolding today, amid the “historic confusion” of our times, of an earth with clean air, unpolluted waters, and a multispecies community living in harmony with one another. A story of hope.
Thomas helped us understand that the new story is for all ages, young and old; as adults we can return to our original intimacy with the natural world, recover its meaning, and find motivation to create a new future for the Earth and for ourselves in the twenty-first century.
Through Thomas Berry’s “lens,” we learn to see the sacred in every living form as we behold the miracles of daily life. From practices of noticing movements of seasons and cycles to small moments of drifting clouds, changing colors, smells of spring rain, intricacies of spider webs, we “see,” as Thomas put it, “the natural world … infused with the presence of the Divine.”
Thomas is with us as we continue to participate in the unfolding of the new sacred story of the universe. In an interview in 1994, Thomas said: “Everything and everyone participates in (all) that happens in the universe. Everything we do will go on forever. There is a way in which we exist individually as a dimension of it all and as an influence on everything that governs what came before us and everything that will come after us. We exist eternally in our participation in the universe’s existence.”
And thus the new sacred story continues here at Timberlake Earth Sanctuary …