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Introduction to Special Issue on the Living Legacy of Thomas Berry

Herman Greene

On and around the date of the 10th anniversary of Thomas Berry’s death (June 1, 2009) over one hundred people gathered at Timberlake Earth Sanctuary, near Whitsett, North Carolina, and later at the Eco-Institute at Pickards Mountain, near Chapel Hill, North Carolina. This event was celebrated in many other places around the world as well. I personally have always given more significance to the date of his death than his birth date (November 9, 1914). This is because the date of his death marks the completion of Thomas’s life and the deposit of his work with us who are living. Catholic saints are celebrated on the day of their death, which is considered their birthday in Heaven. Thomas with his insistence that he was a “geologian” and his focus on “inscendence,” I think, would not have liked this interpretation of his completed life. He said to more than one person who asked where would he be after his death, that he would be in the same place he had always been—in the universe.

And so it is. What was striking about Thomas’s life was the effect he had on those who knew him. More than anyone I have known he could turn a person’s life around and set them in a new direction. This happened to me. True, leaders of other causes have pulled more people into their causes than Thomas did. What is different about Thomas is that his cause involved everything, the Great Work—the movement from the ending of a geobiological age and the beginning of a new one. There is no single entry point to this cause and no single direction. Thomas ignited a unique fire in each individual. They grasped their particular vocations in new ways.

Thomas left a substantial body of written work. Many videos and audiotapes captured his talks. These are his legacy, but more important is his living legacy, his legacy that lives in those whose lives he touched. They have experienced Thomas’s call to bring into being an Ecozoic era—a time of mutually enhancing relations among humans and the larger community of life, life systems, and materials—as invitation, invocation, and evocation.

Thomas did not command, he invited. He opened our eyes to the beautiful world in which we live. He invoked the powers of the universe to support us, and this gave us courage. He evoked our imagination of what could be, and this strengthened our resolve.

After the celebration of Thomas’s life in 2019, the Center for Ecozoic Studies invited all who wished to tell their stories of how they are living the legacy of Thomas Berry. Thirty-three people responded and their stories are set forth in The Ecozoic Journal No. 6 (2021), on “The Living Legacy of Thomas Berry: Stories from the Great Work.” We have collected in this issue of The New Ecozoic Reader some of those stories, three of which are abridged. If you would like to purchase a copy of this edition of The Ecozoic Journal, contact us at ecozoic.studies@gmail.com.