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The Worldview of Thomas Berry: The Flourishing of the Earth Community (Coursera)

Thomas Berry (1914-2009) was a historian of world religions and an early voice awakening moral sensibilities to the environmental crisis. He is known for articulating a “new story” of the universe that explores the implications of the evolutionary sciences and cultural traditions for creating a flourishing future. This course investigates Berry’s life and thought in relation to the Journey of the Universe project.

It draws on his books, articles, and recorded lectures to examine such ideas as: the New Story, the Great Work, and the emerging Ecozoic era. The course explores Berry’s insights into cosmology as a context for locating the human in a dynamic unfolding universe and thus participating in the creative work of our times. In particular, we will examine Berry’s reflections on renewal and reform in the areas of ecology, economics, education, spirituality, and the arts.

Course Rationale:

Thomas Berry was an original, creative, and comprehensive thinker, especially regarding the critical nature of our global environmental crisis. His intellectual importance resides in his response to the ecological crisis by bringing together the humanities and science in an evolutionary narrative. In addition, he articulated the need for the moral participation of the world religions in addressing environmental issues. He came to this realization largely through his study of cosmologies embedded within religious traditions. Sensing the significance of these stories as “functional cosmologies” he explored the widespread influence that these stories transmitted through a tradition, for example, in rituals, ethics, and subsistence practices.

Who is this class for:

This course is introductory and aimed at an educated public, ranging from those with college education to those without. No prerequisite knowledge is needed – just an openness to learn about the complex development of the universe, Earth, and life. Within this epic story we will explore the role of humans given our present social and ecological challenges.

Course 3 of 4 in the Journey of the Universe: A Story for Our Times Specialization.



Welcome to The Worldview of Thomas Berry: the Flourishing of the Earth Community

Learn what this course is about, who’s teaching it, and other ways you can explore this topic. Meet and greet your peers as well!

Introduction – Thomas Berry as Cultural Historian

Mary Evelyn and John talk about their first encounters with Thomas Berry.

Graded: Introduction – Thomas Berry as Cultural Historian


Thomas Berry’s Study of World Cultures and Religions

Thomas Berry was a scholar of Earth’s cultures; someone who inspired others to understand that the scientific story of the universe was a primary revelation, on the part with the world’s religions, and needing to be integrated with world’s cultures.

Graded: Thomas Berry’s Study of World Cultures and Religions


Influence of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Learn how Pierre Teilhard de Chardin inspired Thomas Berry. Discover Special Relativity as a way of showing the omnipresence of the “within.”

Graded: Influence of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin


“The New Story”

Thomas Berry’s Differentiation, Subjectivity, and Communion as the overall guidance the New Story provides for humanity.

Graded: “The New Story”


Cosmology and Ecology

Thomas Berry’s notion of the human as being derivative of the Earth Community: a primary governing principle for moving into the ecological era.

Graded: Cosmology and Ecology


The Great Work and the Ecozoic Era

From a biological level, what is happening in our time is a recoding of Earth’s processes when natural selection is being overpowered by cultural selection, so that human decision has become geological in its reach. Thomas Berry summarized this by saying that the crucial task of our time is to reinvent the human species with the systems of Earth’s life by means of story and shared dream experience.

Graded: The Great Work and the Ecozoic Era