The Mystique of the Earth: Thomas Berry's vision for an Earth Democracy recognizes the unity between humans and the planet.
He is interviewed by Caroline Webb
Caduceus, Spring 2003, Issue 59: Reposted on Ratical
`I have been having coffee with Confucius, for heaven's sake. This person is as giant a thinker as Confucius -- and I've been having coffee with him!' Speaking at a conference in Berkeley California in November 2002, cosmologist Brian Swimme recalls his astonishment after his first meeting in 1982 with the person who has emerged as one of the leading thinkers of the world, and who became his primary mentor and co-worker: Thomas Berry. The description seems apt. As the seminal influence of this American monk, philosopher, cultural historian, poet and teacher continues to expand into all fields of society, it would seem that Berry's contribution is most especially that of a visionary. Visionaries and prophets are known for their interference with complacent social beliefs and Thomas is no exception. His call to us -- whatever the field we work in -- is to come off the pedestal of human superiority over nature and expand our horizons far beyond our anthropocentrism, all the way out to the stars. Emphasizing time and again that the real context for all human affairs is the universe which gave birth to us, Berry's life work has been to call humanity into a new partnership with the Earth, imbued with reverence and wonder, which he describes as `a mutually enhancing relationship and presence'. In that altered relationship and presence lies the key to a true sustainability for all life, far into the future.
Now 87, with three books to his name that address fundamental issues of our relationship with the cosmos and with Earth,  Berry's creativity is undiminished. Preferring the title of `geologian' to that of `theologian', and having been heard many times to call for the Bible to be placed on a shelf for twenty years while attention is paid to the `primary sacrament', namely the Universe itself, Thomas is now busy with generating ideas and principles by which our legal structures and thinking may be altered. Jurisprudence -- the philosophy of law and the assumptions couched in all national constitutions, written or unwritten -- has become his primary focus for tackling the deep-rooted causes of human destruction of nature.
Caroline Webb met Thomas Berry and discussed his work on creating an `Earth jurisprudence' at a conference held in honour of his work in Berkeley, California called The Cosmological Imagination: Transforming World Views for the Planetary Era.
Caroline Webb: As Caduceus is a magazine concerned with healing, transformation and wholeness, I'd like to start with asking how you approach the question of healing -- whether for an individual, a community or the planet. What do you see as its essence?
Thomas Berry: Healing presupposes the integral unity of things. What is the context of healing? Human health is a subsystem of the Earth's health. You cannot have well humans on a sick planet. And that is what we are trying to do, with all our technologies: we are trying to have well humans on a sick planet. The same principle applies for economics: you cannot have a viable human economy by destroying the Earth's economy. So a person could apply this in different ways. Everything we have is derivative from the larger community out of which we come and to which or in which we are fulfilled.
Caroline Webb: We have a sense of spirituality that is still very anthropocentric, and your interest in an Earth jurisprudence gives me a different sense about what it means to be spiritual. To think that we can have a viable human economy by destroying the Earth economy is absurd
Thomas Berry: We talk about spirituality but first of all humans are not spirits. That's why I don't use the word `spirit' or `spirituality' much. `Spirit' has no inner reference to body, or to matter. We are ensouled beings. The soul is that vital principle in a living organic body, and all living beings are ensouled beings. Humans have an intelligent soul, a soul that is capable of reflecting on itself and on the deeper aspects of the universe. In the human it's not so much that we know the universe, but the universe knows itself in us. And in a certain sense we could apply this to every aspect of things -- like `governance'. The human has been trying to establish a human governance out of its own needs, or its own functioning, but in reality human governance is a function of the universe, particularly of planet Earth, so planet Earth is the unit of governance. The ecology issue emerges out of the fact that humans have been constructing a government for humans, by humans and with its destiny in developing the human -- but that won't work because if the human is looking for its own benefit rather than the benefit of the larger community, if we become predators on the natural community, then we lose in every way.
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