Evening Thoughts

MORE THAN twenty-five years ago I was a regular visitor to an esoteric bookshop in New York City aptly named the Mad Monk. The small store’s crowded shelves contained many spiritual and progressive books and periodicals, but I went there for one reason only. On a low shelf at the back of the store was a series of large, blue paperbound volumes with the Riverdale Center for Religious Research imprint. They were the essays of Thomas Berry. Every few months a new, eagerly anticipated volume would arrive.

Then, as now, Thomas Berry’s essays never failed to enlighten. His insights are deep and profoundly empathetic to his subject matter, which ranges from Asian religions to economics, the destructive “entrancement” of modern technology to the looming environmental crisis. Perhaps most remarkably, his essays always manage to capture something of the numinous in the subject on which he writes.

A reader new to Berry can now join the excitement still felt by many who have come to rely on his guidance over the last decades. Evening Thoughts begins with an essay that is an immediate introduction to a major theme in all of Berry’s work: “the universe is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects,” he writes. The last piece is a speech given in 2000 by Berry in which he says,”We are just discovering that the human project is itself a component of the Earth project, that our intimacy with the Earth is our way to intimacy with each other. Such are the foundations of our journey into the future.”

In between these first and final thoughts are ten essays and speeches that cover topics as varied as global warming, evolution, and loneliness. Evening Thoughts will also have special interest for those involved in environmental law. Berry provides a brilliant prescription for a new legal regime for the Earth, including an appendix containing his invaluable Ten Principles of Earth Jurisprudence. All in all, this book gives us a road map to achieve the Pax Gaia upon which our physical and spiritual survival depends.