The Forum on Religion and Ecology Newsletter
3.6 (June 2009)
1. Editorial: "Remembering Thomas Berry," by Sam Mickey & Elizabeth McAnally
2. Thomas Berry Award and Memorial Service
3. New Books
4. Call for Papers: "Spirituality in Action: Bringing Transpersonal Psychology to a World in Crisis"
5. Earth Ministry's Second Annual St. Francis Sermon Contest
7. From the Field: "Sacred Energy / Mass of the Universe," by William Livingstone Wallace (Bill)
8. Worldviews and Other Journals
Welcome to the June issue of the newsletter for the Forum on Religion and Ecology. We are happy to inform you about events, calls for papers, books, and other developments taking place in the field of religion and ecology. We have invited Bill Wallace to share a piece with us about a cosmologically oriented mass that he composed, “Sacred Energy / Mass of the Universe.” Although written from a Christian perspective, this mass addresses all humans. Aiming to transform human-Earth relations, the mass invites dialogue between all of the world’s religious traditions as well as dialogue between humans and the cosmos as a whole. Reflecting on Wallace’s work, we are reminded of another advocate of inter-religious dialogue and of intimate relations between humans and the unfolding cosmos: the geologian Thomas Berry.
With Thomas’ passing on June 1st, we have had the privilege to be in contact with many people who knew him, and it has been deeply moving to hear many expressions of the profound gratitude and joy that they have experienced through their encounters with him and his work. Although we never met Thomas, we have been touched by his warm presence through our encounters with his writings and with people who knew him.
Thomas has been an unending wellspring of inspiration for our endeavors to work at the intersection of religious and ecological perspectives, particularly insofar as he was able to cultivate a humble and compassionate way of being in the world while also pursuing deep and rigorous thinking about the pressing ecological and spiritual issues of our current evolutionary moment. Furthermore, we are proud to be earning our doctoral degrees in an academic department that is guided by Thomas’ work. The mission statement of the Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness program at the California Institute of Integral Studies expresses commitment to what Thomas called “the great work,” that is, the work of transforming human civilization from a destructive presence on this planet to a presence that nurtures mutually enhancing relations between all members of the Earth community.
Thomas is an important figure in the field of religion and ecology because of his early teaching and research in the history of religions. Thomas wrote a book on Buddhism and one on the religions of India, both of which are available through Columbia University Press. He also founded a history of religions program at Fordham and trained some 25 PhD students. It was there that John Grim and Mary Evelyn Tucker met. Thomas married them 30 years ago when they were his graduate students. It was because of the broad range of his teachings that they were able to organize the Harvard conference series in religion and ecology. Thomas participated in a number of those conferences.
Thus, Thomas can be seen as a pioneer in this field, as he integrated his efforts to facilitate inter-religious dialogue and his concern for the Earth community and the place of humans in the evolving cosmos. In other words, Thomas was a leader among those who sought to transform human-Earth relations by bringing religious traditions into contact with one another while also bringing these traditions down to Earth. Thomas’ writings engage the complex challenges of reinventing the human species and sharing in a new vision of the Earth community, and these challenges are expressed in a way that is too often absent from scholarly writing: an accessible style with simple and clear language. His two final books illustrate his work in the history of religions and will be published in August 2009: The Sacred Universe (Columbia University Press) and The Christian Future and the Fate of Earth (Orbis Books).
We hope that Thomas continues to inspire people to participate in the great work of our time. We also hope that Thomas will be an example for others who want to articulate radical ideas while cultivating a grounded personality. For more information about Thomas’ life and work, we encourage you to visit the recently updated Thomas Berry website (http://www.thomasberry.org), which includes biographical information about Thomas as well as information about his books, essays, and films. Recently, we updated the website to include tributes, photos, and obituaries in memory of Thomas. We are also happy to direct your attention to the Thomas Berry Award and Memorial Service. The website and this Memorial Service are two among many ways to honor Thomas' legacy and participate in the great work.
Sam Mickey & Elizabeth McAnally
California Institute of Integral Studies
Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale
Web Content Managers & Newsletter Editors
2. Thomas Berry Award and Memorial Service
Thomas Berry who passed away on June 1st is being remembered in many places across North America and around the world. So many messages are coming in with words of deep appreciation for this remarkable teacher, writer, and sage.
Thus we are pleased to invite you to join us for the Thomas Berry Award and Memorial Service on Saturday, September 26th, 2009 at the Cathedral of St John the Divine in New York City. For many years the Cathedral has held a special place in the religious and cultural life of New York. Thomas Berry was a canon there and he was a major inspiration for the Cathedral's long standing concern for the environment. We are delighted that Dean James Kowalski is welcoming this event with great enthusiasm.
The Thomas Berry Award was initiated in 1999 at the same time as the Thomas Berry Foundation was established. This year the award will be given to Martin Kaplan who helped to set up the Thomas Berry Foundation and has been an extraordinary supporter of Thomas' vision. He is a leader in the field of environmental grant making and has assisted environmental programs at Harvard, Columbia, MIT, and Yale. He has been instrumental in the work of the Forum on Religion and Ecology.
This event will take place in the Cathedral, which is located at Amsterdam and 112th Street near Columbia University. The schedule is as follows:
2:00 Thomas Berry Award ceremony honoring Martin Kaplan
4:00 Thomas Berry Memorial Service with Paul Winter
6:00 Reception in the Cathedral
This event is sponsored by the Thomas Berry Foundation, which was established in 1999 to foster his work. Donations to continue his legacy may be sent to:
The Thomas Berry Foundation
c/o Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim
29 Spoke Drive
Woodbridge, CT 06525
We look forward to you joining us for this special time to honor Thomas' legacy and to recommit ourselves to the great work ahead.
Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim
Theological Foundations for Environmental Ethics: Reconstructing Patristic and Medieval Concepts
By Jame Schaefer
Georgetown University Press, 2009
Earth is imperiled. Human activities are adversely affecting the land, water, air, and myriad forms of biological life that comprise the ecosystems of our planet. Indicators of global warming and holes in the ozone layer inhibit functions vital to the biosphere. Environmental damage to the planet becomes damaging to human health and well-being now and into the future—and too often that damage affects those who are least able to protect themselves.
Can religion make a positive contribution to preventing further destruction of biological diversity and ecosystems and threats to our earth? Jame Schaefer thinks that it can, and she examines the thought of Christian Church fathers and medieval theologians to reveal and retrieve insights that may speak to our current plight. By reconstructing the teachings of Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and other classic thinkers to reflect our current scientific understanding of the world, Schaefer shows how to "green" the Catholic faith: to value the goodness of creation, to appreciate the beauty of creation, to respect creation's praise for God, to acknowledge the kinship of all creatures, to use creation with gratitude and restraint, and to live virtuously within the earth community.
Saving Creation: Nature and Faith in the Life of Holmes Rolston III
By Christopher J. Preston
Trinity University Press, 2009
Saving Creation: Nature and Faith in the Life of Holmes Rolston III is the compelling story of Templeton Prize winner and Gifford lecturer Holmes Rolston III. Known as the "father of environmental ethics," Rolston is celebrated for his advocacy to protect the Earth's biodiversity and for his critical work reconciling evolutionary biology and Christianity. Christopher J. Preston conducted countless hours of personal interviews with Rolston, his family members, and his close colleagues and friends to produce this straightforward and engaging biography.
More than any other thinker in contemporary life, Rolston has a persuasive tale to tell about the place where God, nature, and humanity meet. Preston documents the evolution of Rolston's environmental philosophy, from his idyllic childhood in the Shenandoah Mountains to his Presbyterian ministry and finally to his groundbreaking work reconciling biology and theology. Preston reveals how Rolston's pursuits have often been outside the mainstream and ahead of his time, leaving him an outsider among his peers and a figure of controversy. Rolston challenged the notion of a human-centered value system and looked deeper to embrace the intrinsic value of plants, animals, and ecosystems as core issues of science and religion. Preston deftly recounts how, despite criticism, Rolston continued undeterred.
In 1997 Rolston delivered the Gifford Lectures, an annual series at the University of Edinburgh that is a forum for the world's most influential thinkers in theology and nature. And in 2003 the Duke of Edinburgh awarded Rolston the Templeton Prize for discoveries in science and religion. Other prize winners have included Mother Theresa, Billy Graham, and Aleksander Solzhenitsyn. With this prize, Rolston's intellectual achievements and singular stature were recognized worldwide, and it was confirmation of his bold and profound contributions to the intersection of modern science and religion.
As the world confronts ecological and economic crises, transpersonal psychology offers innovative, holistic approaches to psychotherapy, health, healing trauma, social relationships and global consciousness. The 2010 Transpersonal Psychology Conference offers presentations, papers, workshops and speakers with a multidisciplinary and integrative approach to human potential, self-development, relationship and community. The theme of this conference is “Spirituality in Action: Bringing Transpersonal Psychology to a World in Crisis.” Sponsored by the Association for Transpersonal Psychology and the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, the conference will be held February 12-14, 2010 at Menlo College, Atherton, CA, USA.
Conference themes include:
* Advancing Transpersonal Psychotherapy
* Bridging North/South Perspectives
* Living Socially Engaged Spirituality
* Exploring Global Consciousness
* Linking Ecology, Psychology, and Spirituality
You are invited to submit proposals online for the conference program. Presentations on the conference themes are encouraged, as well as other transpersonal psychology topics. The proposal deadline for paper presentations, workshops, and panels is August 31, 2009.
For More Information, visit: http://atpweb.org/
Earth Ministry is now accepting entries for the St. Francis Sermon Contest. The contest is open to anyone and everyone who wants to submit a sermon, homily, or message of faith in action related to care for God’s creation. Four finalists will be selected to present their sermons on September 26, 2009 at Earth Ministry's Celebration of St. Francis event. The deadline for submissions is July 31, 2009.
For contest rules and more information, visit: http://www.earthministry.org/news/earth-ministrys-second-annual-celebration-of-st.-francis-sermon-contest
With Brian Swimme
O.I.S.E. Auditorium, 252 Bloor Street W., Toronto, Canada
June 26-27, 2009
For More Information, visit:
Click Here for More Information (pdf download)
"Converging Technologies, Changing Societies"
16th International Conference of the Society for Philosophy and Technology
Track: "Environmental philosophy and sustainable technology"
University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands
July 8-10, 2009
For More Information about the conference, visit: http://www.utwente.nl/
"Cosmology of Convergence: Toward a More Mutually Enhancing World"
Summer Institute at Sophia Center in Culture & Spirituality
Holy Names University, Oakland, CA, USA
July 16-19, 2009
For More Information, visit: http://www.hnu.edu/sophia/
"Cosmos, Nature and Culture: A Transdisciplinary Conference"
10th Annual Metanexus Conference
Tempe Mission Palms Hotel, Phoenix, AZ, USA
July 18-21, 2009
For More Information, visit: http://www.metanexus.net/
“Religion, Nature, and Progress”
Third Annual Conference of the International Society for the Study of Religion, Nature & Culture (ISSRNC)
University of Amsterdam
July 23-26, 2009
For More Information, visit: http://www.religionandnature.com/society/conferences.htm
For more events, visit: http://fore.research.yale.edu/events/2009/index.html
“Sacred Energy / Mass of the Universe” comes from a prophetic, mystical orientation in which everything is seen to be one, inter-connected and intrinsically sacred. The title incorporates a pun in which mass in the sense of substance is linked with the Mass in the sense of a Christian Eucharist. It also seeks to reflect Einstein’s famous equation E=mc2 in which he demonstrates that matter and energy are two forms of the same reality. While the Mass seeks to be true to its Christian origins, its fresh ways to explore the archetypal symbolism of a communal meal can be adapted for use within the context of other world religions or of non-institutional forms of spirituality.
This liturgical work is shaped by the conviction that dualism and anthropocentrism are enemies of ecology. In religion the most predominant form of dualism (the dividing of reality into 2 separate entities) is the relegation of God (the supreme mystery) to some other realm, such as a heaven, and the presentation of Earth as only minimally sacred or at worst downright evil. In such an ideology human beings are called to wage war on the world and the flesh, and in its extreme form there is the assertion that we were conceived in sin!
The other major enemy of ecology is the assertion that human beings are the centre and crown of creation. Science has enabled us to discard the beliefs that Earth is the centre of the solar system and that our solar system is the centre of our galaxy. Indeed it now appears that there is not even a centre to the Cosmos. So human beings who seem to be intrinsically filled with the desire to exalt themselves are beginning to be dethroned from their belief that they are the crown of creation and the centre and soul of all that lives. In its place we are beginning to accept that the Cosmos itself is the crown of Creation.
This mass invites the human being to enter into dialogue with the Cosmos and be open to its wisdom in the same way that Jesus invited his followers to enter into dialogue with (consider, reflect on) the lilies of the field, the yeast, the mustard seed, etc. The Mass opens with the human being becoming aware that there is a Way to the sacred heart of the Mystery, a Way within and beyond the flesh and bone, stream and stone of the expanding Cosmos. In singing the song of mass and energy, Eucharistic Death and Resurrection, the golden doors to the Mystery open wide. Responding to the human being’s search for oneness with the Universe, it replies that to achieve this you must listen to the Cosmic story, for its story is your story. There follows an outline of the evolutionary process.
As a consequence of this, the affirmation of the sacredness of human beings precedes the process of acknowledging our weaknesses, our illusions and our destructiveness. Another result is that prayer is perceived as arising from the silence between the words and takes the form of a dialogue with the sacredness out there or with the sacredness within us or with both. This inner sacredness is often identified as the Inner Christ, the Buddha nature, our I AM, “that of God within us”, etc. The central fourfold action of the Mass (the Offering, the Thanksgiving, The Fraction and the Sharing) is linked to the imagery of the ‘Ocean of Letting Go, the Mountain of Thanksgiving, the River of Process and the Sharing of Earthed Blessing’.
The symbolism of a sacred meal is expanded to include the processes of the Universe and in particular that of recycling in which new life comes out of death with its accompanying breaking and flowing. Examples of this process are the way soil comes from stone, seed from the breaking of the shell and creation from destruction. The outpouring of wine replicates the smashing of atoms, the exploding of stars and human flesh dissolving into the elements.
Finally, both the breaking and the outpouring are embodied in the way in which the life of one organism is sacrificed in order to provide the food which enables another to survive and flourish. Human beings, whether carnivores or vegetarians, are no exception to this process. So in a sense, the whole of the food chain is one vast Eucharist.
The Mass concludes with a doxology to the God of Process celebrating the creative activity within us as well as throughout the whole of the Cosmos. This is followed by the affirmation that Earth is a blessing and that we, as part of Earth, are also part of that blessing and are called to share it.
Behind all of the Mass there lies the belief that the way forward in spirituality does not lie in a rationalistic reduction of spiritual realities. On the contrary, I believe that it is in the expansion of religious symbols to embrace the whole of reality often falsely divided into science versus religion. It is my conviction that inclusive mysticism alone can provide a way beyond the suffocating attempts of human beings to define the indefinable mystery (God), a mystery which is ultimately only accessible through wonder, love and praise.
Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology