Thomas Berry, Cultural Historian and Geologian, Dies at 94

Reverend Fr. Thomas Berry C.P. (1914 – 2009)

Thomas Berry at the Temple of Minerva, Assisi, Italy, 1991 (Photo: Drew Dellinger)Thomas Berry passed away early on the morning of June 1st at Wellspring home where he had been living in Greensboro, North Carolina. He died peacefully and with family at his side.

Thomas Berry was born in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1914. From his academic beginnings as a historian of world cultures and religions, Berry developed into a historian of the Earth and its evolutionary processes. He describes himself as a “geologian.” Berry received his Ph.D. in European Intellectual History with a thesis on Giambattista Vico’s philosophy of history. Widely read in Western history, he also spent many years studying the cultural history of Asia. He lived in China and traveled to other parts of Asia. He authored two books on Asian religions, Buddhism and Religions of India (distributed by Columbia University Press). For two decades, he directed the Riverdale Center of Religious Research along the Hudson River. During this period he taught at Fordham University where he chaired the history of religions program and directed 25 doctoral theses. His major contributions to the discussion on the environment are in his books The Dream of the Earth (Sierra Club Books, 1988 reprinted, 2006), The Great Work: Our Way into the Future (Random House, 1999) and, with Brian Swimme, The Universe Story (Harper San Francisco, 1992). His latest collection of essays is Evening Thoughts: Reflecting on Earth as Sacred Community (Sierra Club Books and University of California Press, 2006). This August two more books of his essays will be published: The Sacred Universe (Columbia University) and The Christian Future and the Fate of Earth (Orbis Books). He has been a great gift in our lives – and in many others’ as well. His warmth, humor, and insight have enhanced so many gatherings and his writings will remain as a remarkable legacy of a brilliant mind. Thomas will be buried at the Green Mountain Monastery in Greensboro, Vermont on June 8th. We are also planning a memorial service in New York this September at the Cathedral of St John the Divine where Paul Winter will play and Brian Swimme and others will speak. We will keep you posted on this. His family has requested that in lieu of flowers donations can be made in his memory to: The Thomas Berry Foundation c/o Mary Evelyn Tucker & John Grim 29 Spoke Drive Woodbridge, CT 06525 SO many beautiful tributes are coming from across North America and around the world, suggesting that today marks a new beginning for carrying on the “great work” he began. (Mary Evelyn Tucker Yale University) With our warm wishes, Mary Evelyn & John

Poem for Thomas Berry By Drew Dellinger

Thomas Berrywe were dreamed

in the cores

of the stars.

like the stars,

we were meant to unfold

we were dreamed in the depths

of the undulating ocean.

like the waves,

we were meant to unfold

like bursting supernovas, birthing elements,

which crucibles give rise to creativity?

the world makes us

its instrument.

Father Thomas,

speaking for stars, in a voice

old as wind: ‘origin moments

are supremely important’

what are the origins

of a prophet?

found in syllables of Sanskrit,

or Chinese characters?

in a decade of midnight prayer?

in childhood epiphanies

rising like heat?

blue Carolina sky;

dark pines;

Thomas Berrycrickets;

birds;

sunlight

on the lilies,

in the meadow,

across the creek.

born in Carolina

on the eve of the Great War,

Saturn conjoining Pluto in the sky.

raised in a world of wires and wheels,

watching dirt roads turn to pavement.

brooding intensity,

measuring loss

when others could see only progress.

white hair communing with angels of Earth

Father Thomas, reminding us

we are constantly bathed in shimmering memories

of originating radiance

we are constantly bathed in shimmering memories

of originating radiance

the psychic stars:

the conscious soil:

this thin film of atmosphere;

and only gravity

holding the sea from the stars.

when a vision of the universe takes hold

in your mind, your soul becomes vast as the cosmos.

when the mind is silent,

everything is sacred.

like the spiral

Thomas Berrylike the lotus

like the waves

like the trees

like the stars,

we were meant to unfold.

–Drew Dellinger ( www.drewdellinger.org )

There is also further information and a longer biography of Thomas Berry at: www.thomasberry.org/Biography/index.html

by Reviewer
It is significant to see Berry's contributions initially as a cultural historian whose interests have spanned both Europe and Asia. He did his graduate studies in western history and spent several years living in Germany after the second world war. In addition, he read extensively in the field of Asian religions and history. He lived in China the year before Mao came to power and published two books on Asian religions which have recently been reprinted (Buddhism and Religions of India).