Twelve Principles for
Understanding the Universe
and the Role of the Human
in the Universe Process
by Thomas Berry
1. The Universe, the Solar System, and the planet Earth, in themselves and
in their evolutionary emergence, constitute for the human community the
primary revelation of that ultimate Mystery whence all things emerge into
2. The Universe is a unity, an interacting and genetically-related community
of beings bound together in an inseparable relationship in space and time.
The unity of planet Earth is especially clear: each being of the planet is
profoundly implicated in the existence and functioning of every other being.
3. The capacity for ordered self-development, for self-expression, and for
intimate presence to other modes of being must be considered as a pervasive
psychic dimension of the Universe from the beginning.
4. The three basic laws of the Universe at all levels of reality are
differentiation, subjectivity, and communion. These laws identify the
reality, the values, and the directions in which the Universe is proceeding.
5. The Universe has a violent as well as a harmonious aspect, but it is
consistently creative in the larger are of its development.
6. The Earth, within the Solar System, is a self-emergent, self-propagating,
self-nourishing, self-educating, self-governing, self-healing,
self-fulfilling community. All particular life-systems must integrate their
being and their functioning within this larger complex of mutually dependent
7. The human emerges within the life systems of Earth as that being in whom
the Universe reflects on and celebrates itself in a special mode of
conscious self-awareness. The human is genetically coded toward further
cultural coding, by which specifically human qualities find expression in a
remarkable diversity in the various regions of the Earth.
8. Domestication: transition to village life and greater control over the
forces of nature took place in the Neolithic period, 12,000 years ago;
beginnings of agriculture, domestication of animals, weaving, pottery and
new stone implements.
9. The classical civilizations: progressive alienation of the human from the
natural world; the rise of cities, elaborate religious expression in ritual
and architecture, development of specialized social functions, increase in
centralized government, the invention of writing and related technologies.
10. The scientific- technological- industrial phase: the violent plundering
of the Earth takes place, beginning in Europe and North America. The
functioning of Earth is profoundly altered in its chemical balance, its
biological systems, and its geological structures. The atmosphere and water
are extensively polluted, the soil eroded, and toxic waste accumulates. The
mystique of the Earth vanishes from human consciousness.
11. The ecological age: a new intimacy is sought with the integral
functioning of the natural world; destructive anthropocentrism is replaced
with eco-centrism; transition to the primacy of the integral Earth
12. The newly developing ecological community needs a mystique of exaltation
and finds it in the renewal of the great cosmic liturgy, which celebrates
the new story of the Universe and its emergence through evolutionary