All the Scattered Leaves of the Universe is a book about wisdom and transformation of the soul for the sake of the world. It evolved in a four-part series of presentations that took place in February and March of 2015 at the Center for Education, Imagination and the Natural World in Greensboro, NC. With only initial knowledge that Thomas Berry frequently carried a copy of The Divine Comedy with him and that he recommended to his students that they read Dante before engaging his own work, the series set out to explore how Dante's medieval poem might have influenced Thomas Berry's understanding of the Great Work in the Twentieth Century. How could Dante's expression of the tensions of the Medieval World and his vision of a narrowly contained cosmos inform understanding of the contemporary crisis of the planet within an expanding universe? As this book makes clear, to answer that question it is necessary to listen carefully to the dialogue Thomas Berry and Dante held across the centuries. Attention reveals the integral relation of the two, which expands appreciation and understanding of each and demonstrates that together they can guide the soul through transformation to communion with all Being in service to the world.
Andrew Levitt holds a BA in English from Yale University and a PhD in Folklore from the University of Pennsylvania. He trained as a mime with Marcel Marceau and with Paul J. Curtis at The American Mime Theatre. After performing and teaching mime professionally for over thirty years, he helped found the high school at the Emerson Waldorf School in Chapel Hill, NC where he taught humanities and directed theater for seven years. He co-created a performance piece, "The Meadow Across the Creek: Words from Thomas Berry," for the Thomas Berry Centennial in 2014. As Dr. Merryandrew, he currently works as a clown doctor in the Pediatric unit at Moses Cone Memorial Hospital.
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Opening Forgotten Sanctuaries is ostensibly a book about education, but that subject is only the thematic content of a deeper offering. Woven throughout the book is an invitation to recognize the essence of our humanness in our Belonging to Earth. On the surface, it may appear that the author is calling for yet another educational reform process, but he is really offering an understanding of how, in the cross-generational dynamics of education, we intimately touch the essential humanness of our children. Historically, that touch has not been a reverent one.
We have seldom paused to consider the holy ground of child-presence before assuming that we know how to introduce these sacred beings into a healthy life journey. We have rushed in to control and to develop a product, and we have done this in all kinds of schools—public, private, and parochial. We have argued over how this shall be done, what are the best methods and organizational arrangements. And we have frequently disagreed over what the product should look like—model citizen, accomplished intellect, or embodiment of religious rectitude. But hardly ever have we questioned the nature of this cross-generational process—the intentionally controlled development of a human-looking product.
The result has been, from all branches of schooling, the perpetuation of human control of whatever we want to manage, including the Natural World. But what if the human relationship to the Natural World is the very essence of the sacred? Then the education of our young would have to be a sacred process. We would have to touch the essential humanness of our children very differently than we do now. What might that transformed engagement look like? What understandings must we come to, what opening of our own forgotten sanctuaries, if we are to step onto that holy ground from where we are now?
Clay Lerner is a retired educator after many years of engagement with holistic education. He has a formal background in nuclear physics and informal background in religion and philosophy. He is a longtime supporter of the Center for Education, Imagination and the Natural World and is currently writing a new book entitled Sacrament: A Journey into Humanness.
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In I am You, You are Me: The Interrelatedness of Self, Spirituality and the Natural World, Dr. Colette Segalla addresses the question of how spirituality affects a child's development of a sense of self and considers the role of the natural world in this process. She uses a traditional hermeneutic method in combination with alchemical hermeneutics in order to make room for the unconscious during the research process. The study is therefore both an examination of the interrelationships between self, spirituality, and the natural world, as well as a depiction of the author's use of self and the unconscious to penetrate the deeper dimensions of these interrelationships. Three main bodies of literature are reviewed for the study: children's spirituality, sense of self development, and the human-nature connection. In addition, Segalla made use of a logbook for the duration of the study to record dreams, symptoms, reveries, synchronicities, and the transference dialogues. These contributions from the unconscious are integrated with findings from the literature to articulate a new theoretical perspective on the child's development of a sense of self. The spiritual life of the child is nurtured in communion with the natural world and the child's sense of self is directly impacted by both the relationship with the natural world and her spiritual nature. The child's development of a spiritual sense of self in relationship with the natural world contributes to the reparation of the dissociation between human beings and the earth. The implications of this study for depth psychotherapy suggest that it is in our utmost interest to allow children opportunity to develop a sense of spiritual self in relationship with the earth. Both children and adults need opportunities to connect with the natural world in order for the spiritual self to emerge in the direction of human-earth unity. This study further implies that, in alchemical hermeneutics, depth psychology has an effective and reliable method of conducting research with the explicit participation of the unconscious in the research process.
Colette Segalla holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute in California and is a practicing therapist in Raleigh, NC. Before returning to graduate school, Colette was an AMI certified Montessori teacher in a lower elementary classroom of six-to-nine year old children. The works of Rudolf Steiner and Maria Montessori have contributed to her Jungian-based exploration of children's spirituality and how a relationship with the natural world contributes to the child's spiritual development.
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The materialist philosophy that has dominated Western civilization for the past four hundred years is coming to an end. In Only the Sacred: Transforming Education in the Twenty-first Century, we are introduced to a new vision of reality where we sense that there is a more profound world within this material world we know so well. We begin to recognize a sacred universe that is intimately connected to the consciousness of the human being. Those of us who see ourselves as educators now have to reckon with a question that can no longer be ignored: Can we, in good conscience, continue to educate our children from within the materialist worldview or are we now being asked, really required, to allow the new life of a more profound world to penetrate the consciousness of our schooling? In this remarkable collection of articles originally published in Chrysalis, a publication of the Center for Education, Imagination and the Natural World, we journey with twenty-three educators through an exploration of fundamental questions of our time, a path of inner schooling for educators, and practices where we see this new understanding of a sacred universe actualized in diverse educational settings. Inspired by the mentoring of Thomas Berry, this collection makes it clear that the depth and fullness of the universe, from the stars in the heavens to the dirt beneath our feet, cannot be known by the intellect alone. Only a sense of the sacred, developed deep within the human soul, will reveal the whole.
PEGGY WHALEN-LEVITT is the Director of the Center for Education, Imagination and the Natural World, a work for teachers and children devoted to Universe as sacred community. Peggy coordinates the Center’s program for educators, “The Inner Life of the Child in Nature: Presence and Practice” and is the editor of Chrysalis, the Center’s newsletter. She holds a Ph.D. in Language in Education from the University of Pennsylvania.
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Click here to download the list of contributors.
Recovering a Sense of the Sacred: Conversations with Thomas Berry is a thoughtful and poignant memoir by Carolyn W. Toben recounting her spiritual journey with renowned scholar, author and cultural historian, Thomas Berry. For ten years, Carolyn spent many hours in deep discussions with Thomas Berry about his transformational thinking for healing the human-earth relationship through recovery of a sense of the sacred. This book is based on her personal notes, practices and reflections from these conversations.
“Recovering a Sense of the Sacred is a poignant and intimate portrait that reveals deep insights into the work of the great contemporary mystic-sage, Thomas Berry. Even more than this, at this time of ‘historic confusion,’ this tender story provides a profound interior activation; it calls us toward another way of knowing that is essential for new levels of understanding. Reverent and real, this wonderful work provides gracious and wise companionship for a life of the sacred.” – Tobin Hart, Ph.D., author of The Secret Spiritual World of Children
“Carolyn Toben has given us a true gift! Recovering a Sense of the Sacred carries the reader to the heart of his/her deepest identity as a sacred being in a sacred planet in a sacred universe. Those who knew Thomas will find themselves right there in the midst of the conversations, listening in, smiling, bathed again in the warmth of his remarkable presence. For those who are new to Thomas or his work, this book is an excellent introduction to his comprehensive thought and wisdom, for here it reaches us through a sense of his person – his own deep sense of the sacred in every being, his reverence, hospitality and friendship.” – Mary Southard, CSJ, artist and creator of the Earth Calendar
“No thinker in the twentieth or twenty-first century has provided us with as much inspiration and guidance about the relationship between humans and the natural world as Thomas Berry. Carolyn Toben’s very personal and eloquent book offers us an opportunity to sit with Thomas and absorb his special wisdom.” – Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods
“In this inspired book, Carolyn Toben chronicles her extended conversations with the noted theologian and philosopher, Thomas Berry. What she has achieved is not only a passionate homage to a great thinker and visionary, but a personal and moving statement of our human responsibility to access the depth of our consciousness in relation to all that exists around us.” – Richard Lewis, author of Living By Wonder: The Imaginative Life of Childhood
“This book is an exquisite gift for those of us familiar with Thomas Berry’s writings and for those still new to his work. For here we meet the man himself in the context of an evolving relationship where, in different settings and moments over the last decade of his life, he shares his vision of a living universe and the immensity of meanings it holds for him. And here, in between their conversations, Carolyn Toben explores how his message is altering her own perceptions of the natural world and of herself. Their warm–hearted companionship invites us in as well, to come alive to the creative mutuality at the heart of all that is.” – Joanna Macy, author of World as Lover, World as Self
“A fascinating and moving portrait of one of the Great Teachers of our time. I am deeply grateful for this lyrical and lucid memoir, which captures Thomas Berry’s vision, his graciousness, his deep communion with the earth and its beings, and the implications of his work for the future. Skillfully transmitting his wisdom and presence, Carolyn Toben’s encounter with the cosmology of Berry is a blessing for the entire planet.” – Drew Dellinger, author of Love Letter to the Milky Way
About the Author:
Carolyn Toben is an educator, counselor and creator of new social forms with a spiritual dimension that foster cultural renewal. Her background includes degrees from the University of North Carolina Greensboro (Phi Beta Kappa), extensive postgraduate studies in spirituality, world religions, and depth psychology, and teaching in both secondary and college settings with an emphasis on alternative and interdisciplinary education.
In 2000, Carolyn founded what is now the Center for Education, Imagination and the Natural World, a work inspired by cultural historian and author, Thomas Berry, which offers children and teachers a new understanding of the human-earth relationship.
A grandmother of nine, she currently creates programs, retreats and events for individuals and groups seeking spiritual renewal and reconnection with the natural world at Timberlake Earth Sanctuary, her family–owned land in Whitsett, North Carolina.
For ten years, Carolyn spent many hours with the renowned priest, author and cultural historian, Thomas Berry, engaged in deep discussions about his foundational thinking on the human–earth–Divine relationship. Recovering A Sense of the Sacred: Conversations with Thomas Berry is based on her personal notes, practices and reflections from these conversations.
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