Ecozoic Spirituality

The Symphony of God, Humanity, and the Universe

by Kwang Sun Choi (Author)
©2015 Monographs XVI, 190 Pages
Series: Asian Thought and Culture, Volume 72


This book guides the reader to the emerging Ecozoic Era when humans will be present upon the Earth in a mutually enhancing manner. Indeed, this book calls for an Ecozoic spirituality that is timely and much needed. It also illustrates an important direction for theology and spirituality and for deep ecumenism that is yet to be fully realized and opens more doors for such dialogue.
By giving special attention to the integral relationship among God, the cosmos, and humanity, the works of Thomas Berry (1914–2009, USA) and Zhou Dunyi (1017–1073, China) provide insights that speak to the current ecological crisis, a cosmological context for developing an Ecozoic spirituality, while helping to advance clear values and ethical parameters that lead to a more authentic human presence on Earth.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Advance Praise for Ecozoic Spirituality
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • The Ecological Crisis Is the Spiritual Crisis
  • Thomas Berry and Zhou Dunyi
  • Cosmology and Spirituality
  • Cosmology
  • Spirituality
  • Methodology
  • Procedure
  • Chapter 1. The Christian Response to the Ecological Crisis
  • The Roots of the Ecological Crisis
  • Ecological Crisis
  • Review of Spiritualities and Their Relation to the Ecological Crisis
  • Christian Responses to the Ecological Crisis
  • The Stewardship and Egalitarian Responses
  • The Eco-Theological and Spiritual Responses
  • Cosmological Turn: Berry and Zhou
  • Concluding Remarks
  • Chapter 2. The Cosmology of Thomas Berry
  • Evolution of Berry’s Cosmology
  • Berry’s Intellectual Journey
  • Need for a Functional Cosmology
  • The New Story: The Manifestation of the Divine
  • The Epic of Evolution
  • The Universe as a Sequence of Irreversible Transformations
  • Reinvention of Humanity
  • Ecozoic Vision
  • Spirituality of the Earth
  • Concluding Remarks
  • Chapter 3. The Cosmology of Zhou Dunyi
  • Context of Zhou Dunyi’s Cosmology
  • Zhou Dunyi
  • Challenges and Influences from Buddhism and Daoism
  • Sources of Zhou’s Neo-Confucian Cosmology
  • Zhou’s Taiji (the Great Ultimate) Cosmology
  • The Inseparable Unity of the Universe and Ultimate Reality
  • The Way of Heaven and Earth
  • The Relationship between Part and Whole
  • Zhou’s Cosmological—Ethical Anthropology
  • Human Embodying within the Process of the Universe
  • How to Be an Authentic Human: The Practice of Self-Cultivation
  • Forming a Trinity with Heaven and Earth
  • Concluding Remarks
  • Theocosmoanthropic Worldview
  • Chapter 4. An Emerging Functional and Ecological Spirituality
  • A Theology of Integrity among God, the Cosmos, and Humanity
  • Resource: The Cosmotheandric Vision of Raimon Panikkar
  • Towards Developing an Ecozoic Spirituality
  • The Transformation of Worldview, Human-Identity, and Human Behaviour
  • An Ecozoic and Organic Worldview
  • Human Identity as Participatory Responsibility
  • Human-Earth Relationship
  • The Practice of Ecological Virtues
  • Ecological Discernment
  • Eco-Justice
  • Ecological Ecumenism
  • Concluding Remarks
  • Conclusion
  • Summary and Contributions
  • Remaining Concerns: The Christian Faith Enhanced through Ecozoic Spirituality
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • Series index

← xii | xiii → PREFACE

The genesis for this book to create an Ecozoic spirituality began with my gratitude for the work of Thomas Berry, an ecological prophet and “geologian.” As the noted theologian John Cobb describes in his preface of Berry’s book, “No other writer in the ecological movement has had analogous effectiveness.” Berry helps us to realize the uniqueness of the ecological crisis as well as to enter into a viable future by articulating the Ecozoic vision. Berry notes in The Sacred Universe:

As we enter the twenty-first century, we would do well to consider our way into the future. I propose that we need to go from the terminal Cenozoic to an emerging Ecozoic period, defined as that period when humans would be present to the Earth in a mutually enhancing manner. I prefer the term “Ecozoic” to that of “ecological,” since this term enables us to place the coming geobiological period in its proper context: the sequence from the Paleozoic Era (from six hundred to 220 million years ago), to the Mesozoic Era (from 220 to sixty-five million years ago), to the Cenozoic Era (the past sixty-five million years), and now to the Ecozoic Era (Berry, 93).

Berry names the current ecological crisis the terminal phase of the Cenozoic Era characterized by the industrial-technological fixation with consumer acquisitiveness. In contrast, we have the potential to enter the Ecozoic period ← xiii | xiv → characterized by a mutually enhancing human presence on the Earth. In his distinctive vision of the Ecozoic Era, Berry emphasizes the capacity to see the magnitude of ecological degradation, as well as the spiritual dynamics of the cosmic process within the context of developmental time.

Like Berry, I also seek to remedy the devastation of the planet by entry into Ecozoic Era with my view of triadic communion among God, the universe, and humanity. In this vision, the distorted dream of an industrial technological paradise is being replaced by the more viable dream of a mutually enhancing human presence within an ever-renewing organic-based Earth community. As a way of participating into the viable future, my major concern is to develop new religious sensitivities to the rest of creation and to promote humanity’s participatory responsibility for the sacred journey of the Earth community.

I confirm that religious sensitivities to the rest of creation will be awakened when we recover a sense of triadic communion among God, the cosmos, and humanity. As an essential task for achieving the Ecozoic Era, I explore the understanding of an integral relationship among them – a triadic relationship that has increasingly drawn scholarly attention. This integral relationship would help us to avoid slipping into, what Peter Kolvenbach, the Superior General of the Society of Jesus describes, anthropocentrism (separation from God and the rest of creation), theo-centrism (ignorance of creatures and all created things), or bio-centrism (ignorance of the Creator and the Creator’s call to all people).

To pursue Ecozoic spirituality, I seek a mutually enhancing Earth-human relationship that is situated within the sacred milieu of a creation rich with Divine immanence. This view is partially informed by the understanding of the Holy Trinity and the Cosmic Christ and some biblical passages - particularly the cosmic covenant in Genesis 9, creation Psalms and hymns of praise, St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, and the Fourth Gospel. Due to a favouring of divine-human and inter-human relations, the sense of integrity of the divine, the natural, and the human has been neglected for centuries by Western Christians. On the other hand, I am proposing a theocosmoanthropic worldview on the basis of Zhou Dunyi’s cosmology and the vision of forming a trinity with Heaven, and Earth. This theocosmoanthropic worldview represents the radical inseparability of myriad of things from the universe, and implies an intertwining of three dynamic co-relational dimensions among the divine, the cosmos, and humanity. This integral understanding among them evokes me to contemplate on a musical metaphor symphony. English symphony comes ← xiv | xv → from Greek word συμφωνία (sumphōnia), which means a “sounding together” or “agreement or concord of sound.” Similarly σύμφωνος (sumphónos) carries the connotation of “harmonious”. With this intent, I give the subtitle, The Symphony of God, Humanity, and the Universe, which is not made up of individuals but functions in a single, shared, and sacred journey.

It is Ecozoic spirituality that might reawaken us to the natural world as a sacramental locus of divine manifestation and invite us to a contemplative commitment of active response on behalf of creation. Therefore, this spirituality will promote a comprehensive transformation of worldview, human identity, and human attitudes towards the rest of creation. ← xv | xvi →

← xvi | xvii → ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

From the depth of my heart express my deep sincere gratitude to all those people who made this book possible and an unforgettable experience for me. This book is developed from my doctoral dissertation (Nov. 2012) at St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto. I therefore am immensely pleased to place on record my deepest sense of gratitude to Dr. Dennis Patrick O’Hara, who has offered his continuous guidance and encouragement in all of my doctoral stages. In fact, Dennis has trained me in Berry’s perspective on the basis of the universe story and Ecozoic vision.

This book also shows a part of my academic and spiritual journey. Thus I am grateful to Dr. Sung Yul Kang, Dr. Bang Sik Oh, Dr. Jai-Don Lee and Dr. Vincent Shen who have guided, inspired, and supported me throughout my academic and spiritual journey both in Korea and in Canada. As well, my heartfelt thanks to Br. Ignatius Feaver, OFM and Fr. Thomas Timpte, OSB. Both have participated in my spiritual journey with their spiritual companionship. I am also thankful to Dr. Mary Evelyn Tucker, Dr. Stephen Bevans, and Dr. Rev Young-Sang Ro, who wrote endorsements for this book.

Here I take this opportunity to express the profound gratitude from my deep heart to my parents Moo Oh and Yeon Heui Kim and Soon Im Bang and my late father Sung Won Choi. I have come this far because of their prayers ← xvii | xviii → and support. I also thank siblings and family, in particular wife Kyong A Oh, whose sacrificial support makes me possible to achieve this study. I also thank Henri Choi and James Choi, who are my symbol of Beloved and Hope for the sacred journey of the Earth community.

A very special thanks to my students in the Honam Theological University and Seminary and my friends, too numerous to mention here. Thanks to Daniel Jae-Hoon Cho and Moon-Jung Choi and to Fr. Justin Yoo Jeong Kim and Fr. Paul Jong Yun Baek and Sr. Daria Soon Hee Lim, for their friendship and companionship. I thank Dae-Sung Yang who made a useful index for this book. Finally, a special thanks to the Peter Lang Publishing, and Jackie Pavlovic, Stephen Mazur, and Michelle Salyga for their generous support and for their assistant throughout.

← xviii | 1 → INTRODUCTION

I will examine how an Ecozoic spirituality can be developed by means of a critical discourse involving the cosmologies of Thomas Berry (1914–2009, USA) and Zhou Dunyi (1017–1073, China) in order to propose an effective response to the ecological crisis.1 Because the works of Berry and Zhou each develop a functional cosmology as well as a functional spirituality and explore the triadic communion among the divine, humanity and the rest of creation, their cosmologies can serve as resources for articulating an Ecozoic spirituality that will promote an authenticate and sustainable human presence on Earth. Such a spirituality will transform our worldview, human identity, and attitudes towards creation thereby helping us to integrate the evolutionary journey of the Earth community and the ecological practices of Christianity.

I am not attempting to compare every aspect of the cosmologies of Berry and Zhou in order to build a summa cosmology. Instead, I will select aspects of their respective cosmologies that can contribute to an effective response to the ecological crisis presently besetting Earth and its inhabitants. Both cosmologies recognize the integral relationship among the divine, humanity, and the rest of creation while nevertheless remaining congruous with their respective Christian and Asian roots. While Berry’s Ecozoic vision has been influenced by Neo-Confucian works and often echoes Zhou’s thought, a closer ← 1 | 2 → examination of Zhou’s Neo-Confucian cosmology may assist in fleshing out some undeveloped aspects of Berry’s scholarship. The functional and ecological spirituality that results from a critical discourse with their cosmologies can help us develop a sacramental sensitivity to the rest of creation and can promote humanity’s participatory responsibility for the sacred journey of the Earth community.

The Ecological Crisis Is the Spiritual Crisis

The complexity of the ecological crisis requires many interdisciplinary solutions and an openness to diverse ideas. Among these approaches are the dialogues between ecology and religion that have informed contemporary eco-spiritual studies. The ecological crisis is not only the result of certain economic, political and social factors, deeply influenced by a fractured worldview, it is also significantly related to a moral and spiritual crisis. Thomas Berry sees the ecological crisis as a spiritual crisis that ultimately contributes to a collapse of ethics, which is inseparable from a dysfunctional cosmology. He states, “The brutality of our relation to the earth cannot but indicate a radical absence of spirituality in man (sic), not the lack of a spiritual dimension of the earth.”2 In response, and concurrent with his articulation of a functional cosmology, he pursues a functional spirituality for a viable human and Earth community. If we accept that spiritual and ethical issues rooted in a dysfunctional cosmology and spirituality are significantly contributing to the ecological crisis, then the remedy and corrective should be sought there as well.

In recent years, much research has provided considerable insight on these ecological, ethical and spiritual matters. For instance, David Kinsley adds historical and cross-cultural depth to this dialogue in his book Ecology and Religion. He focuses on the rediscovery of ecologically sensitive intuitions in all the major world religions while showing how humans build intimate relationships beyond the human species. The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Ecology, edited by Roger S. Gottlieb, surveys extensively the transformation of religious traditions in light of a rising awareness of the ecological crisis. Paul Knitter refers to this examination of ecological issues by world religions in his book One Earth Many Religions and suggests a correlational and globally responsible model for a primary commitment to humanity and ecological well-being. Most prominently, Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim organized a three-year intensive conference series held between 1996 and 1998 and entitled “Religions of ← 2 | 3 → the World and Ecology.” Subsequently, their Forum on Religion and Ecology, working with Harvard University Press, has published nine books in the “World Religions and Ecology Book Series,” including two volumes that are of particular interest in this book, namely Christianity and Ecology and Confucianism and Ecology. In this book, I will draw on this contemporary research and explore the cosmologies of Berry and Zhou to tease out ecological sensibilities and an ethical participatory responsibility which will subsequently inform the development of a functional and ecological spirituality.


XVI, 190
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2015 (October)
Cosmology Thomas Berry Zhou Dunyi Ecological Crisis
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2015. XVI, 190 pp., num. ill.

Biographical notes

Kwang Sun Choi (Author)

Kwang Sun Choi is a professor at Honam Theological University and Seminary in South Korea, in the area of eco-spirituality and eco-theology. Choi received his PhD from the University of St. Michael’s College, Canada. He also holds a Certificate of Specialization in Theology and Ecology from the Elliott Allen Institute for Theology and Ecology (EAITE). Choi is an ordained pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Korea and seeks an integration of Christian faith with the ecological practice of Christian life.


Title: Ecozoic Spirituality
book preview page numper 1
book preview page numper 2
book preview page numper 3
book preview page numper 4
book preview page numper 5
book preview page numper 6
book preview page numper 7
book preview page numper 8
book preview page numper 9
book preview page numper 10
book preview page numper 11
book preview page numper 12
book preview page numper 13
book preview page numper 14
book preview page numper 15
book preview page numper 16
book preview page numper 17
book preview page numper 18
book preview page numper 19
book preview page numper 20
book preview page numper 21
book preview page numper 22
book preview page numper 23
book preview page numper 24
book preview page numper 25
book preview page numper 26
book preview page numper 27
book preview page numper 28
book preview page numper 29
book preview page numper 30
book preview page numper 31
book preview page numper 32
book preview page numper 33
book preview page numper 34
book preview page numper 35
book preview page numper 36
book preview page numper 37
book preview page numper 38
book preview page numper 39
book preview page numper 40
211 pages