A biography of a self-described “geologian” who worked to deepen humanity’s connection to nature.
Priest, historian, and environmentalist, Thomas Berry (1914-2009) was an inspiring teacher and writer whose most influential works focused on cosmology and ecology. Tucker and Grim (Yale Divinity School and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies; Routledge Handbook of Religion and Ecology, 2016), both Berry’s former students, remained closely involved with their esteemed teacher, editing his essays for publication; promoting his legacy; and serving as his literary executors. Along with Angyal (Emeritus, English and Environmental Studies, Elon Univ.; Wendell Berry, 1995, etc.), they offer an admiring biography of a man they call “a Renaissance thinker,” quoting extensively from Berry’s prolific writings and unpublished memoirs. Educated in Catholic schools, Berry felt drawn to a priestly vocation. Religion, he said, exerted on him the call of the wild: “the meaning and symbolisms of the various natural phenomena, the manner in which the transition moments in the daily and yearly cycles of nature were sacred moments.” The order of the Passionists attracted him especially because he hoped to be sent to their missions in China. Although his stay in China was cut short by the Maoist revolution, it inspired a lifelong interest in Asian religions, which he incorporated into his studies and teaching. In the History of Religions graduate program at Fordham University, which he initiated, he also taught classes on American Indian religions and on the meaning of symbols, based on the work of Mircea Eliade and Carl Jung. Influenced by the religious philosophy of Teilhard de Chardin, in 1970, Berry established the Riverdale Center for Religious Research, where, he wrote, “Human-Earth relations became the central issue” of study. Throughout his life, the authors assert, “the allure of the cosmos penetrated his psyche.” He called for a merging of science and the humanities and advocated for the creation of Earth Jurisprudence to address “the devastating impact of industrial culture on the survival of the planet.”
A warm celebration of an environmentalist whose ideas are increasingly relevant.