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Ecology Reflections from Fr. John Surette, SJ

A reflection by Fr. John Surette, SJ

At the deepest level I find myself operating out of a new perception. I have formulated a different worldview. I am caught up in a paradigm shift. More specifically, I find myself living within a new cosmology.

The largest possible context for our lives, the foundation of all meaning, is our cosmology. It is the story which attempts to answer the great questions: Where does everything come from? Who and where are we? Where is everything going? The answers to these cosmological questions serve as the matric for all we construct in the areas of governance, law, medicine, education, and religion. In our human history we have had many mythical cosmologies but now, for every first time ever, we have an empirical origins story. During this century an evolutionary view of life and of the Universe has arisen to replace the established static view of a fixed and completed universe. We now have a cosmogenesis rather than a cosmos. We are invited into a metaphysics of becoming rather than one of being!

In the traditional view, the Universe/Earth is substantially the same today as it was at the beginning, a beginning measured in thousands of years. This cosmology values order and stability. It sees the natural world merely as a backdrop for our human activity.

In the evolutionary view, the Universe is approximately eighteen billion years old and has continually unfolded itself in space-time. This process has involved a movement into ever greater diversity, complexity, and interrelatedness. And it continues today. This cosmology values dynamism and creativity. It sees the human species as an aspect of the Universe’s emergence and as a conscious participant and celebrator of its beauty, terror, and mystery.

This new cosmology gifts me with a sense of the Numinous, a sense of everything in the process of unfolding and opening out to Mystery, that realm which carries the dream and the energy of the future. What is being revealed is a Universe that has a psychic-spiritual as well as a physical-material dimension from its beginning.

I have come to experience myself as an integral member of the natural order of things. Through my life on Earth I participate in a universal dynamic and pattern. Apart from Earth I am an abstraction, an illusion. Within that illusion, no wonder I experience so many difficulties. Within that illusion, no wonder the human society in which I live is faced with breakdowns of its institutions. So much of what we have built is based upon the illusion of human separateness. My fulfillment is not in some inter-human solitude but in my relationship with all members of the communion of subjects which is the Universe.

The new Cosmology leads me into a spirituality that has a primary concern for the Earth-Human relationship. It is a spirituality that is of Earth, not about it. Life springs from the heart of matter. Our thoughts and out prayers are as much of Earth as are the rocks and the flowers. Earth is the nurturing context of all that constitutes my humanity.

For me, shifting paradigms and changing cosmologies have been a time of starting revelation. I have been blessed with the new understandings of the Universe and my/our role in it. There revelations both affirm and challenge some of my most basic perceptions and assumptions of my self-identity, my ministry my faith, and the Holy One.

What is blessed is changed and it can never be the same again. So it is with me!

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