Thomas Berry was one of the great eco-prophets of our time. He spoke out loudly and often long before many others in his effort to interfere with our neglect and our ravishing of Mother Earth. He recognized our capitalistic system of extraction from the Earth and shutting our eyes to the price that other species are paying and future generations of humans will pay.
Berry offered a remarkable Forward to a fine collection of Thomas Merton’s meditations on nature, compiled by Sister Kathleen Deignan, called When the Trees Say Nothing: Thomas Merton: Writings on Nature.
He concludes his Forward this way: We have no inner spiritual development without outer experience…..When we see a flower, a butterfly, a tree, when we feel the evening breeze flow over us or wade in a steam of clear water, our natural response is immediate, intuitive, transforming ecstatic.
Is this your experience also?
He continues: “Everywhere we find ourselves invaded by the world of the sacred. Such was the experience of Thomas Merton.” Is this your experience also?
Paying attention to the experience of ecstasy and the sacred hold deep implications for saving Mother Earth as we know her. An absence of a sense of the sacred is the basic flaw in many of our efforts at ecologically or environmentally adjusting our human presence to the nature world. It has been said, ‘we will not save what we do not love.’ It is also true that we will neither love nor save what we do not experience as sacred.
What is our experience of the sacred? How much does it have to do with finding God in nature? California poet Bill Everson says that “most people experience God in nature or experience God not at all.” Is that your experience also?
Berry alerts us to how, when a people have lost the sense of the sacred, the way to retrieve it is to recognize anew the sacredness of the universe itself. And he reminds us how “ecology is functional cosmology,” thus to experience the sacredness of the universe is to experience the sacredness of the Earth—and vice versa.
Says Berry: The difficulty is that the natural world is seen primarily for human use, not as a mode of sacred presence primarily to be communed with in wonder and beauty and intimacy. He cautions that a “deep psychic change” is needed, a kind of conversion experience, to recover the sacred.
The bottom line is this: “Eventually only our sense of the sacred will save us.”
See Matthew Fox, Whee! We, Wee All the Way Home: Toward a Sensual, Prophetic Spirituality, pp. 3-27; 45-54; 73-78.
And Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics, pp. 361, 365.
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner Image: “Boy with Butterfly” Photo by Ryan Hagerty on Public-Domain-Image.com.
Queries for Contemplation
Questions to contemplate on the Sacredness of Mother Earth are sprinkled throughout this essay. Feel free to return to the questions posed and respond to them. Do you agree that “only our sense of the sacred will save us”? And the sacred presence calls us first of all to communion in wonder, beauty and intimacy?
Years ahead of its time when first published in 1976, this book is still bold and relevant today. Perfect for anyone who thinks mysticism needs to get out of the head and into the body. Matthew Fox begins the Preface to this book by stating, “This is a practical book about waking up and returning to a biblical, justice-oriented spirituality. Such a spirituality is a way of passion that leads to compassion. Such a way is necessarily one of coming to our senses in every meaning of that phrase.” One of Matthew Fox’s earliest books, this title explores the importance of ecstasy in the spiritual life. Fox considers the distinction between “natural” ecstasies (including nature, sex, friendship, music, art) and “tactical” ecstasies (like meditation, fasting, chanting); he goes on to consider that a truly authentic mysticism must be sensuous in its orientation, so to cultivate the maximum amount of ecstasy for the maximum amount of people.