The Sacred Universe
Earth, Spirituality, and Religion in the Twenty-first Century
Thomas Berry
Columbia University Press, $22.95, 200 pp.

Stories help us survive. They offer resonance, motivation, and sometimes redemption. Thomas Berry, the late Passionist priest and cultural historian who died in June at the age of ninety-four, believed that no story was more important to our universal human heritage than the “universe story,” which, he said, “is now needed as our sacred story.”

Berry’s philosophical reflections on human life and culture were oriented by the conviction that “the universe itself is the comprehensive mode of existence—everything exists in relationship to the universe.” Influenced by the work of Teilhard de Chardin, Berry believed not only that science and religion are compatible, but that the insights of the former expand the horizons of the latter. Instead of the title “theologian,” he preferred “geologian” or “Earth scholar.”

Berry was an early proponent of the view that the environmental crisis is also, fundamentally, a spiritual crisis. He held humans—and our value systems—responsible for the degradation of the environment as well as its potential remediation. He insisted on the profound interdependence of members of the “earth community” and believed that the “restoration of [a] sense of the natural world as a divine manifestation has special urgency because of the devastation that we are presently causing to the natural world.”

The Sacred Universe
collects essays...

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About the Author

Christiana Z. Peppard is a PhD candidate in religious studies at Yale University and scholar in residence at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York City.