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The Great Work: Our Way into the Future [Paperback]

By Thomas Berry (Author)
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Item description for The Great Work: Our Way into the Future by Thomas Berry...

A cultural historian synthesizes his own work in the areas of religious history and cultural studies to argue for creating a new path for ecological and cultural survival. Reprint. 10,000 first printing.

Publishers Description
Thomas Berry is one of the most eminent cultural historians of our time. Here he presents the culmination of his ideas and urges us to move from being a disrupting force on the Earth to a benign presence. This transition is the Great Work -- the most necessary and most ennobling work we will ever undertake. Berry's message is not one of doom but of hope. He reminds society of its function, particularly the universities and other educational institutions whose role is to guide students into an appreciation rather than an exploitation of the world around them. Berry is the leading spokesperson for the Earth, and his profound ecological insight illuminates the path we need to take in the realms of ethics, politics, economics, and education if both we and the planet are to survive.
"Berry believes we stand at a defining moment in history, one in which the earth itself calls out to us to embark upon a resacralization of nature, a new ecological beginning. Berry is our conscience, our prophet, our guide. He speaks to what is best within us, in a voice that is inclusive, ecumenical, generous, and wise. His Great Work should -- and must -- be ours."        
-- Chet Raymo, Orion

"A visionary book, full of insight, erudition, and cogency."
-- Ursula Goodenough, professor of biology, Washington University
Thomas Berry founded the History of Religions Program at Fordham University and the Riverdale Center of Religious Research. He has served as president of the American Teilhard de Chardin Association, and won a Lannan Foundation Award for The Dream of the Earth. Together with the scientist Brian Swimme, he wrote The Universe Story: A Celebration of the Unfolding of the Cosmos. He lives in the hill country of the Southern Appalachians.

From the Hardcover edition.
My own understanding of the Great Work began when I was quite young. At the time I was some eleven years old. My family was moving from a more settled part of a small southern town out to the edge of town where the new house was being built. The house, not yet finished, was situated on a slight incline. Down below was a small creek and there across the creek was a meadow. It was an early afternoon in late May when I first wandered down the incline, crossed the creek, and looked out over the scene.

The field was covered with white lilies rising above the thick grass. A magic moment, this experience gave to my life something that seems to explain my thinking at a more profound level than almost any other experience I can remember. It was not only the lilies. It was the singing of the crickets and the woodlands in the distance and the clouds in a clear sky. It was not something conscious that happened just then. I went on about my life as any young person might do.

Perhaps it was not simply this moment that made such a deep impression upon me. Perhaps it was a sensitivity that was developed throughout my childhood. Yet as the years pass this moment returns to me, and whenever I think about my basic life attitude and the whole trend of my mind and the causes to which I have given my efforts, I seem to come back to this moment and the impact it has had on my feeling for what is real and worthwhile in life.

This early experience, it seems, has become normative for me throughout the entire range of my thinking. Whatever preserves and enhances this meadow in the natural cycles of its transformation is good; whatever opposes this meadow or negates it is not good. My life orientation is that simple. It is also that pervasive. It applies in economics and political orientation as well as in education and religion.

That is good in economics which fosters the natural processes of this meadow. That is not good in economics which diminishes the capacity of this meadow to renew itself each spring and to provide a setting in which crickets can sing and birds can feed. Such meadows, I later learned, are themselves in a continuing process of transformation. Yet these evolving biosystems deserve the opportunity to be themselves and to express their own inner qualities. As in economics, so in jurisprudence and law and political affairs--what is good recognizes the rights of this meadow and the creek and the woodlands beyond to exist and flourish in their ever-renewing seasonal expression even while larger processes shape the bioregion in its sequence of transformations.

Religion too, it seems to me, takes its origin here in the deep mystery of this setting. The more a person thinks of the infinite number of interrelated activities that take place here, the more mysterious it all becomes. The more meaning a person finds in the Maytime blooming of the lilies, the more awestruck a person might be in simply looking out over this little patch of meadowland. It has none of the majesty of the Appalachian or the western mountains, none of the immensity or the power of the oceans, nor even the harsh magnificence of desert country. Yet in this little meadow the magnificence of life as celebration is manifested in a manner as profound and as impressive as any other place I have known in these past many years.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Three Rivers Press
Pages   256
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 4.75" Height: 8.25"
Weight:   0.45 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 14, 2000
Publisher   Broadway
ISBN  0609804995  
ISBN13  9780609804995  

Availability  12 units.
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More About Thomas Berry

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Thomas Berry (1914-2009), one of the leading environmental thinkers in North America, was the director of the Riverdale Center for Religious Research and founder of the History of Religions Program at Fordham University. His other major publications include "The Dream of the Earth" (1988), "The Universe Story," with Brian Swimme (1992), and "The Great Work" (1999).
Mary Evelyn Tucker is coordinator of the Forum on Religion and Ecology and a visiting professor at Yale University's Institute for Social and Public Policy. She lives in New Haven, Connecticut.

Thomas Berry lived in Greensboro, in the state of North Carolina. Thomas Berry was born in 1914 and died in 2009.

Thomas Berry has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Ecology and Justice
  2. Modern Spiritual Masters
  3. Nature's Meaning

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > History > Ancient > Early Civilization
2Books > Subjects > History > World > General
3Books > Subjects > History > World
4Books > Subjects > Outdoors & Nature > Environment > Conservation
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Authors, A-Z > ( B ) > Berry, Thomas
6Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > History
7Books > Subjects > Science > History & Philosophy > Science
8Books > Subjects > Science > History & Philosophy
9Books > Subjects > Science > Technology > Futurology

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Reviews - What do customers think about The Great Work: Our Way into the Future?

What is YOUR Great Work?  Dec 5, 2007
This book was recommended to me by a fellow Montessori teacher. Each one of us is created for greatness. This book is a great outline of how each one of us can work to truly contribute to the greater good of the whole. It is like a companion to "The Purpose Driven Life". I recommend all the 5 stars reviews listed here.
Pompous and grandious  Feb 21, 2007
I am a strong supporter of environmentalism which is why I strongly object to this book. This book only reinforces the impression that environmentalists are self-righteous and out of touch with other humans as well as reality. Instead of referencing current events, or any statistics to support his sermonizing,Berry spends his space name dropping. It is painfully apparant that he is more interested in sounding erudite than remaining coherent. His attempts to sound erudite are undermined by his tendency to reuse words with inappropriate frequency. The book would have been far more effective as a one or two page pamphlet but unfortuantely it was drawn out to be 102 pages of repetition. It is not even on recycled paper.
Spelling Out A Dire Need For Change  Apr 21, 2005
This review is long, and my apologies, but this book is potent and spells-out what is one of the most important subjects of the 21st century- our drifting from physical reality and responsibilities and the need to wake-up and realize this dilemma and how we can accomplish that possible , but daunting task. Thomas Berry does this with eloquence and wisdom here and this is truly, a "Great Work"! Thank you, Mr. Berry!

In his earlier book, "The Dream of the Earth", Thomas Berry so eloquently stated the need for humanity to realize what a beautiful foundational life-support gift we have in planet Earth and the need to treat it with the profound sense of respect and good stewardship it deserves and needs in to order to provide a healthy life-sustaining platform.

An understanding of the dynamics of Earth's resource cycles and regulatory systems can teach us how to live sustainably and regeneratively- most importantly, carrying that understanding into the formation and dissemination of religion, politics and economy.

We see God's handy-work, i.e., the blue prints and operating system for Earth through the dynamics of Nature's regenerative, life providing bounty and we then see what is required to maintain this perfect system. Indeed, we are entering the "Eco-zoic" faze of our existence- the realization and implementation of an ecologically sustainable reality.

So how could Berry top that beautiful piece of work? Almost ten years after "The Dream", he comes out with "The Great Work", a powerful and compelling continuation of the earlier theme of a beautiful Earth with attentive humans at the helm and with proper stewardship, only now with an exacting historical dialogue of how the Earth formed, settled and eventually became a biological life-support system and where we, as humans have lost our original awe and respect of God's creation through the many distractions of living in a human only, "civilized" and complex material world, forgetting our interconnectedness to all life.

This separation has culminated in an insane, parasitic and cancerous existence not only for us humans, but for all life on this planet. Isn't it curious that cancer of our bodies is one of our biggest worries and nemesis? Mass over-population, pollution, unsustainable resource use and habitat destruction have left us in a burn-out, dire mess. Our sense of economy is no "economy" at all, rather a predatory take all shark frenzy fully supported by governments through corporate purchase and manipulation and misguided `human only' pseudo-religious zealotry.

An un-Godly, reckless "Manifest Destiny" attitude of anthropocentric endeavors has been prevailing since the industrialization of our societies exploded on the human scene, blinding us with delusions of superiority, yet to the detriment of our shared and threatened environment.

Exactly in the middle of this fine book, is a chapter called
"Ethics and Ecology". Here, Berry relates our combined human sense of making like nothing is wrong on spaceship Earth (a closed-loop eco-system) with a parallel to the tragedy of the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. A course was set and could not be deviated from, regardless of the warnings of known dangerous icebergs ahead. An attitude that the Titanic was a perfect, fool-proof and unsinkable human manifestation prevailed.

The Titanic parallel underscores our misguided human notions that we can control Nature and that we are on a safe course in our activities on Earth. We see our creation of the Titanic (the micro), but not the big picture (the macro), i.e., Nature along with it's icebergs, etc., but especially, the need for our attention to it's requirements for a safe, healthy existence.

As Berry states, our "extractive" (exploitive, parasitic) economies have become "terminal" economies (dead-end) and need to be reformulated to sustainable/regenerative economies for the continuation and enjoyment of life- only in a more sane and quality existence.

For those that don't think it can be done, it would be educational to look at the turn-around of attitudes and subsequent successes of corporations that have been able to wake-up to what sustainable/regenerative/eco-friendly formats offer in terms of long lasting, profitable returns, let alone peace of mind. A good outline of that can be seen in the book, "Natural Capitalism" by Hawken and Lovins.

Further, religions need to continue with their return to the inclusion of all Creation and away from the current deviation of anthropomorphism. Understanding the dynamics and importance of interconnectedness with all of God's Creation is a matter of survival now and should not be interpreted as "Nature Love" vs. "Biblical Dogma". It's all one reality. Berry gently opens our eyes to this!

The consideration of an all-inclusive creation- man and nature in harmony instead of man vs. nature- both created by God to coexist, is also touched upon in the 'great work' of Chet Raymo's books "Skeptics and True Believers", sequealed by his "Climbing Brandon"- in a sermon by Saint Columbanus, there is in part: [Those who wish to know God, he says, "must first review the natural world."]. Indeed, a good place to start!

There is a good bibliography in "The Great Work" that provides a multitude of resources for further research and education on sustainable awareness and consciousness.

Entering the Ecozoic Era  Oct 12, 2004
With the wealth of works statistically portraying the growing threats of climate change, it's almost refreshing to encounter someone seeking a "soft" approach. Berry recognises the obstructions in transforming a polluting and morally corrupting economy to a less harmful path. He points to a change in attitude we must all make to prevent catastrophe. Yet, it's not difficult, he argues, to reassert a more direct tie with Nature such as we enjoyed in our ancient past. What was once there, but lost, can be recovered. It merely takes some will.

In Berry's view, the Cenozoic Era, used by geologists to encompass modern times, is coming to a close. Technology and the spread of humanity into nearly every environmental niche have changed conditions too drastically for the older appellation to continue. The burning of fossil fuels, deforestation over vast areas, huge fishing nets scooping up masses of sea life, and blindly occupying or modifying habitats has led to the extinction of countless species. What aspects of life characterised the Cenozoic are no longer there to give it definition. And there's worse to follow if we fail to heed his advice. Learn to do better, he cautions.

Berry restrains his religious background and spiritual leanings to address the larger crisis of the Earth's survival. There are no lofty appeals to a "spiritual" aspect of the planet, but he's sharply critical of the materialist outlook that's destroying it. He insists we consider the Earth as an integrated system, which is a realistic view, given our current piecemeal exploitation practices. He urges a broader outlook from his readers. This requires entertaining some novel ideas and encounters with unexpected people. Indigenous peoples are a good source of wisdom in Berry's view. However, it's their knowledge he seeks, not the return to an aboriginal lifestyle.

The application of knowledge to solve problems in our society is generally conceded to the universities. From this, Berry concludes that appeals to government or business are essentially wasted effort, unless they understand the impact of their policies. He suggests that instead of radical environmental protest to save species and habitat, it is the universities who must be enlisted in the cause. For one thing, the academic arena provides the means of acting as a feedback loop with each cycle increasing the information dividend. The new findings make their way to the public to support changes in policies. Although this is obviously not a rapid means of change, Berry finds it the most self-sustaining one. Once the process begins to unfold, we will be entering the Ecozoic Era with a firmer grasp of our impact on the planet. "The Great Work" is thus learning how to move from a human-centred to an Earth-centred set of values. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
One of the Great Prophetic Minds of our age!  Jun 15, 2003
Tom Berry has been called the "Bard of the New Cosmology" and so he is! His thoughts challenge those rooted in authoritarian structures and flatland awareness. His views challenge those who find extreme security in their myths and dogmatic positions. These people have made a career of striking back with an authoritarian thunder when challenged with a more comprehensive unfolding of the Cosmos. Berry's explication brings science and religion together without authoritative fiat rooted in dogma--what Ken Wilbur calls "Deep Religion." Deep religion honors the developmental spirial of conciousness and the EXPERIENTIAL awareness that mystics are privy to and speak of so eloquently and forcefully. Berry's book brings the enviornmental crisis in focus and calls for human transformation of every aspect of human unfolding: political, educational, corporate, sociological, and religious. It is no wonder those who remain rooted in the systems of the Earth's demise so forcefully attack this Great and surely Prophetic Man.

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