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Monday, September 21, 2009

Thomas Berry and Gerald L. Schroeder – CREDO LXXXV

Thomas Berry was more than a man; he was an oak tree in motion. He was many things: a Passionist priest, a scholar, a Fordham professor, a copious and passionate writer, an international force, years before others of us, to warn the world of the potential loss to humanity of our home here on Earth through ignorance of the preciousness of our planet and the sacredness of nature! That is a run-on sentence, I know, but Tom was a run-on man.

I met him once at his home on the Hudson River overlooking the Palisades, and, yes, he pointed out his favorite tree, a huge oak. We had a long conversation; I could never forget him. He followed up our meeting by sending me for several years his bound mimeographed writings in pale blue covers. Each time I received one, his dignified face, so like a stone cliff, would come to mind. For me he was Saturn exalted.

The very night I met him, I had an extraordinary dream:

Tom takes me into a book-lined chamber and explains to me that in it are all the sacred writings ever written all over the world. Then he asks, “Would you like me to show you my God Machine?” He points to a black metal standing box about the size of a two-drawer file. The top section is open. Tom flicks a switch and reveals a little stand. “I can take any book and place it on this stand, push this button, and the book will turn to crystal and the words in it that are true will turn to gold.” So he takes several books and demonstrates this. Some have more layers of gold than others. I marvel.

Then he says with a smile, “I could put a year of your life or a month or a day on it as well, but you would have to realize that we all need the plain dark of the crystal, ruled by Saturn, the god of time. It is what holds the gold.

I woke up before the test! But as you see, I have never forgotten the dream. My conclusion is that God must have a vast library with a section of rare books, first editions, and heaps of paperbacks!! And yet each one would have unique contents and has the potential to be “an open book” or “read like a book” for the instruction of others. Some will probably be more influential than others for positive or negative reasons, which brings me back to that same old question: Do two people read the same book? See the same picture? Hear the same conversation or speech? The answer is obviously, no. Each of us processes the same experience uniquely, which in one whap describes how unity through motion becomes diversity. This is the profound underlying grandeur of cosmic creativity, so obvious (aha!) we tend to overlook it. A billion manufactured butter knives or Coke bottles might look the same; a google of molecules forming different elements may be standard matter, but the minute they are used in unfolding time they too become unique. Panta rhei – everything flows, as the pithy pre-Socratic Heraclitus pointed out millennia ago, and remember, he’s the one who remarked that with our eyes open, we share the same world, but with our eyes closed each of us enters a private world.

I can’t help wondering if Thomas Berry and Gerald Schroeder read each others’ work. Tom can no longer be asked but Gerry can.[ He says he hadn’t.] Both men approach this world of ours wanting to prove the holiness of nature. Both are profound scholars and cosmologists as well as spiritual mystics. Gerald is the author of one of the most awesome books I have read in the last forty years, The Hidden Face of God.

I discovered Gerald Schroeder through listening to a Roman Catholic priest describing the book on television. As I didn’t catch either the title or author, I queried the station which led me to Father Dubay, who enlightened me. I googled Schroeder and wrote him an e-mail, and thus discovered that he grew up in Jericho, Long Island and watched the Green Vale School bus drive past his door – the school where I taught! He graduated from M.I.T., married a Jewish girl from Connecticut, now a distinguished author herself. They moved to Jerusalem, had five children. He is now an honored scientist, renowned in the worlds of astrophysics and microbiology (which covers a lot of territory!) and is also a mystic, a kabbalist, and now an Orthodox Jew.

The reason I love and honor the book is that it is an exploration, written simply enough for a layman, of the complexity of the subatomic world in which we live. The incredible beauty he reveals proves the validity of the word kosmos, which is Greek for beauty and the root of our word cosmetics. Schroeder has no need to convince us that the extraordinary intricate interactions of the subatomic world are absolutely impossible to have come about by “chance.” He does not preach; he doesn’t have to.

I remember lying out in a field one night when I was twelve, in Teufen, Appenzell, at the Swiss boarding school I attended. With me was a classmate, Dorothy Atherton. We were discussing what we wanted to do when we grew up.

I told her I wanted to unite religion and science – ha! What I didn’t realize at the time was that we were lying under the stars! So my path was through the cosmic science of astrology as a symbolic language of archetypal processes and the chart as a guide to the unique way each individual is likely to process experience. Normally, we do that unconsciously, but the option is given us to use it as a diagnostic tool in Jungian analysis. Teaching this has been my life’s work, as well as the topic of several of my books. You can imagine my delight, when I first began the serious study of Jung, to find that he had made a serious study of it all and even consulted the charts of his patients when he was stuck!

I began my studies in 1945 with Marc Edmund Jones, so in a way I was an early pioneer in promoting the serious work of rescuing astrology from its popular reputation as superstitious twaddle for nincompoops. I wanted to become an analyst, but Dr. Edward F. Edinger (bless him!) insisted that I would be of greater service to Jung sharing the value of astrology as a diagnostic tool and a guide to individuation. This is how I eventually came to teach the subject at several C. G. Jung Institutes in this country and also with countless lectures at universities and conferences, as well as a few Grand Rounds in Psychiatry. I spoke at the International Transpersonal Conference in Bombay, but the biggest one was to twelve hundred in Davos, where I was surprised and deeply touched by Marie-Louise von Franz, who, when Walter and I were picnicking out under a fir tree, silently bent under a branch and kissed me, as she passed by!

Thus, I hope you can see why I am in awe of the far greater accomplishments of Thomas Berry and the ongoing ones of Gerald L. Schroeder! What we have in common, along with many others today, is reconciling faith and reason, the outgoing dilemma of the Piscean/Virgo opposition of the ending Age.


1 comment:

Gene said...

Regarding the bowl as metaphor AND yin/yang, have you ever beheld a bowl as a mirror?
If while imagining a Tao symbol on the surface of the water contained by a circular bowl, something drops into the bowl at the position one imagines the eye of either yin or yang, watch as the waves radiate outward, reflect off the bowl, and where they converge.
Tao, Gene S.