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Saturday, August 1, 2015

"The Sacred Universe" by Thomas Berry

    First let me say, I am so glad to be done with my sabbatical reading, and I am glad I saved a short book for last.  However, I might have gotten more out of it before I read "Earth-Honoring Faith" because many of the concepts that Larry Rasmussen used come from Thomas Berry, and then delve even deeper.
     "The Sacred Universe" is a collection of essays and articles that Thomas Berry wrote over the years beginning in the '70s until 2001.  In these essays, the author goes over the history of the universe, the earth, and human history, to show us where we come from and that we are connected to everything else in the universe.  He also shows very clearly how we got here--how we became alienated from the rest of nature to which we belong and then exploited it for our own use, ignoring what is sacred in all of life.  He offers a couple of different options for the future.  We can continue on this course, leading to our own partial or complete destruction and considerable loss of life for the other creatures of this earth--a de-creation that rips apart the work God does in the book of Genesis and losing the primary revelation of God.  Or we can find a way to be live-giving to our mother, the earth, and the creatures that share this home with us. 
     He offers some points to help us move forward.  He says we need to celebrate and incorporate into our religious liturgies the mysteries of the universe including the beginning of the universe, the time when photosynthesis first came into being, the first trees, the first flowers, and so on.  Religion can help us heal the alienation from the world we live in and instead connect us with all living things and the holy within God's creation.
     The author also spent some time on the rights of all living things.  We have written into our US Constitution, the rights to do what we want with "our" property.  However that isn't going to work going forward.  Because all living things impact each one of us, and we are destroying this world and ourselves with it, we must accept limits and honor the sacred "rights" of all of God's creation.
     Berry says that we must learn to see in new ways, like a child learning to see and delighting in what is beautiful and mysterious.  He says we need to learn a new language--the language of this Earth, because it is trying to tell us something important about who we are and how we can relate to non-human life.
     Finally he gives some starting places for communities and organizations that are attempting to live in more life-affirming ways and help the rest of us see and hear and imagine a new future and a new direction.  He ends on this hopeful note, yet is realistic about the interests and orientation that will stand in the way.  A new orientation is not just important, but it is a life and death matter for us and many other creatures.  Either way, God is present and glorious.  The question is whether we will see that and honor that and celebrate that.