On June 1, the theologian Thomas Berry passed away peacefully at the age of 94. The following day, participants on our Small is Beautiful Revisited course remembered him at the morning meeting, with a reading from one of his books, The Great Work. One of those attending that course was from Genesis Farm, an ecological learning centre in the US set up by Miriam MacGillis and directly inspired by Thomas’s vision and wisdom.
Thomas taught at Schumacher College in November 1995, on a course entitled Ecology and Theology. I still remember the talk he gave at the Open Evening, when he described his childhood (he was the third of 13 children) as one of “benign neglect” which enabled him to spend hours roaming the fields and meadows around his North Carolina home. In particular, he remembered his experience of stumbling upon a lily-dotted meadow when he was about 11, and commented ““Whatever preserves and enhances this meadow in the natural cycles of its transformation is good; what is opposed to this meadow or negates it is not good.”
As author and educator Richard Louv commented on hearing of his death, “Thomas Berry was the earliest and most important voice to describe the profound importance of the disconnection between humans and the natural world, and what that could mean for the future of our species.” He was a natural choice to teach at Schumacher College and we are grateful to have had the chance to spend a week with him before long-distance travel became too tiring for him. His legacy lives on in our programme: later this month, Brian Swimme, who wrote The Universe Story: From the Primordial Flaring Forth to the Ecozoic Era with Thomas, is teaching a course on Science, Cosmology and the Future. And next year in June, Richard Louv, who was greatly influenced by Thomas’s work will teach here for a week.
There is more information on Thomas on the website of his foundation, http://www.thomasberry.org/, run by Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim, who are themselves leading pioneers of the work to bring religion and ecology together. They spoke about this at Schumacher last summer on a course entitled Sacred Activism.
Inga Page, Programme Manager, June 2009