Life-sustaining civilization

To make the shift towards a “life-sustaining civilization”, we need a perspective that goes beyond anthropocentrism; we need to learn to “act our age” and so experience the vitality of our interdependence with past and future generations and to the entire cosmos.[1] “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”[2] In this context, time is neither linear nor disconnected.  In any place we stand in the present, we are physically standing on layers of centuries of evolution, what is called “deep time.”  To recover this sense of deep time is to bring us back to gratitude, reverence and responsibility for all beings.[3] For Berry and many religious leaders, the environmental crisis is spiritual and ethical. The situation is complex and would require nothing less than the participation and collaboration of all, bringing the resources that could address such a crisis.

Thomas Berry speaks of four wisdoms to draw from as guide for the future:

 (1) the wisdom of indigenous people for whom the natural world is experienced with intimacy and sensitivity to the powers of the universe;

 (2) the wisdom of women that joins the knowing of the body to that of mind, the soul to the spirit, intuition to reasoning, feeling consciousness to intellectual analysis, intimacy to detachment, subjective presence to objective distance;

 (3) the wisdom of the classical traditions which are based on revelatory experiences, both transcendent and imminent, and the capacity of humans to participate in that world and achieve a mode of being;


(4) the wisdom of science which has shown that the universe has come to being in evolutionary transformations over a long period of time, from a lesser to a more complex structure and mode of consciousness.[4]  

Mary Cecilia Claparols ra (extract from Towards an Eco Assumption)

[1] Joanna Macy, “Deep Time,” (accessed June 24, 2007).

[2]  John Muir, quoted in “Interdependence,” (accessed September 21, 2007).

[3] Sr. Mary Cecilia, 4.

[4] Thomas Berry, The Great Work 7, 180.


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