The Human Life

Thomas Berry: The Human Life

We need to move from our human –  centered to an Earth – centered norm of reality and value. Only in this way we can fulfil our human role within the functioning of the planet we live on. The Universe, the Earth, the Human are centered in one another. (GW, chapter 6, page

Human society in its beginnings would not have survived if it had not had some basic role to fulfil within the larger Earth community… Once we recognize that a change from a human-centered to an Earth- centered norm of reality and value is needed, we might ask how this is to be achieved and how it would function. We might begin by recognizing that the life community, the community of all living species, including the human, is the greater reality and the greater value.

The primary concern of the human community must be the preservation and enhancement of this comprehensive community, even for the sake of its own survival. (GW, chapter 6, page 56-57)

…Ultimately humans find their own being within this community context. To consider that one is enhanced by diminishing the other is an illusion. Indeed, it is the great illusion of the of the present industrial age, which seeks to advance the human well-being by plundering the planet in its geological and biological structure of functioning…… The planet that ruled itself directly over these past millennia is now determining its future largely through human decision. Such is the responsibility assumed by the human community once we ventured onto the path of empirical sciences and their associated technologies. In this process, whatever the benefits, we endangered ourselves and every living being on the planet. (GW, chapter 6, page 58)

The term “profit” needs to be rectified. “Profit” according to what norms and for whom? The profit of the corporation is the deficit for the Earth. The profit of the industrial enterprise, whatever the advantages, can also be considered as a deficit in the quality of life…(GW, chapter 6, page 63)


GW: The Great Work, Thomas Berry ISBN 0-609-80499-5


The Human Presence

Thomas Berry on The Human Presence

….A truly human intimacy with the earth and with the entire natural world is needed. Our children should be properly introduced to the world in which they live, to the trees and grasses and flowers, to the birds and the insects and the various animals that roam over the land,to the entire range of natural phenomena…(DE, chapter 3, page 15)

One of the finest moments in our new sensitivity to the natural world is our discovery of the earth as a living organism. …In considering the larger patterns in the earth functioning, we are now able to identify its five major components: the geosphere, the hydrosphere, the atmosphere, the biosphere, and the noosphere. They are present to each other in a comprehensive manner and are all infolded in the light and radiance of the sun. In this context we have a new mode of understanding our own intimacy with the earth and also of our total dependence on these other modes of earth expression….(DE, chapter 3, page 20)

…This re-enchantment with the earth as a living reality is the condition for our rescue of the earth from the impending destruction that we are imposing on it. Anthropocentrism is largely consequent on our failure to think of ourselves as species. We talk about ourselves as nations. We think of ourselves as ethnic, cultural, language, or economic groups. We seldom consider ourselves as species among species…. We must now do this deep reflection on ourselves. (DE, chapter 3, page 20)

• What is needed on our part is the capacity for listening to what the earth is telling us. As a unique organism the earth is self-directed. Our sense of the earth must be sufficiently sound so that it can support the dangerous future that is calling us. It is a decisive moment. Yet we should not feel that we alone are determining the future course of events. The future shaping of the community depends on the entire earth in the unity of its organic functioning, on its geological and biological as well as its human members. (DE, Chapter 3, page 23)





DE: Dream of the Earth, Thomas Berry ISBN 0-87156-622-2






Earth as Sacred Community

Thomas Berry  

It is important that we be mindful of the earth, the planet out of which we are born and by which we are nourished, guided, healed- the planet, however, we have abused to a considerable degree in the past two centuries of industrial exploitation. This exploitation has reached such extremes that presently it appears that some hundreds of thousands of species will be extinguished before the end of the 20th century.  (DE,chapter 2, page 6)

We can break the mountains apart; we can drain the rivers and floods and valleys. We can turn the most luxuriant forests into throwaway paper products. We can tear apart the great grass cover of the western plains and pour toxic materials into the soil and pesticides onto the fields until the soil is dead and blows away in the wind. We can pollute the air with acids, the rivers with sewage, the seas with oil- all this in a kind of intoxication with our power for devastation at an order of magnitude beyond all reckoning. We can invent computers capable of processing ten million calculations per second. And why? To increase the volume and the speed with which we move natural resources through the consumer economy to the junk pile or waste heap…. We are, supposedly, creating a technological wonder world. (DE, chapter 2,page 7)

We must reflect especially on the extinction of species we are bringing about…. Extinction is a difficult concept to grasp. It is an eternal concept. ….It is rather an absolute and final act for which there is no remedy on heaven and on earth. A species once extinct is gone forever….(DE, chapter 2, page 9)

We should be clear about what happens when we destroy the living forms of the planet. The first consequence is that we destroy modes of divine presence… (DE, chapter 2, page 11)

Because of the distortion in our thinking, we are carrying out what may be one of the most devastating assaults ever on the Earth in more than 4 billion years of life on this planet. …we are presently extinguishing some ten thousand species annually (E. O Wilson, Harvard University) / ET chapter 4, page 47)

…It is a change in the very chemistry of the planet that makes life possible. It is a change in the bio systems of the planet. It is a change in the geological systems of the planet.Not simply the human future is involved. The future of every living being on the planet is at issue. The fate of the planet itself in its most profound physical and psychic structure is being determined. We are witnessing nothing less than the dissolution of the planet Earth and all its living systems in consequence of this strange distortion of our human role in the Earth process that has emerged from within our modern Western world… (ET, chapter 4, page 47)

The change that is taking place on earth and in our minds is one of the greatest changes ever to take place in human affairs, perhaps the greatest, since what we are talking about is not simply another historical change or cultural modification, but a change of geological and biological as well as a psychological order of magnitude. We are changing the earth on a scale comparable only to the changes in the structure of the earth and of life that took place during some hundreds of millions of years of earth development. (DE, chapter2, page 11, 12

Earth As A Sacred Community

The magnitude of the ecological crisis of our time is such that we are presently terminating the Cenozoic era of Earth’s development and entering into the Ecozoic phase of the Earth process. The Cenozoic has been the period of the expansion of life in the full brilliance of its expression, but this expansion of the life systems of Earth is being terminated. This will affect all our human institutions and professions that were appropriate to the Cenozoic era. They must now undergo a transformation if they are to be integral with the new period in the historical evolution of the planet. The transformation required is a transformation from an anthropological norm of reality and value to a bio -centric or geocentric norm. This will affect every aspect of our human thought and action. It will affect language, religion, morality, economics, education, science, technology and medicine. (ET, chapter4, page 43)

…We need to understand that in all our activities the Earth is primary, the human is derivative. The Earth is the primary community.

Indeed, all particular modes of Earthly being exist by virtue of their role within this community. (ET, chapter 4, page 43)


  • DE: Dream of the Earth , Thomas Berry, ISBN 0-87156-622-2
  • ET: Evening Thoughts: Reflecting on Earth as Sacred Community ISBN 978 -1-57805-130- 4


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