Albert Einstein and Thomas Berry on Sustainability:

The Interconnectivity of us all.

November 2009

I am back!  That is, after a couple of month’s absence from blogging.

 I had come to think that I was simply blogging for myself. Yet one friend has been consistent in her encouragement of me that I blog (and for her preference, I would blog on a weekly basis).  While another friend recently reminded me that if I stop blogging, then people will stop visiting my web-site for new ideas on Sustainable Development / Sustainability.  So I have returned…

 Earlier this year, the man I would call the “soul” of the international Sustainability movement died of old age.  That wise sage was Thomas Berry, a cultural historian and Catholic priest of the Passionate order, who wrote about Sustainability-related subjects as if he were a cosmologist.  Berry’s thoughtful, even profound, writings have become required reading for many people in the international environmental and Sustainability fields.

 As for Albert Einstein, he generally needs no introduction.

 While they likely never met, Einstein and Berry both shared a similar understanding related to human consciousness and its place fully within, amongst and intertwined with the full cosmos.  Yet, as would be expected, the Nobel Prize winning physicist and the cultural historian priest explained their shared idea in words reflective of their different backgrounds.

 Through his own words, Einstein stated the common understanding in this way:

“A human being is part of a whole, called by us ‘universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion. Not to nourish the delusion but to try to overcome it is the way to reach the attainable measure of peace of mind.” – Albert Einstein (February 12, 1950)

(Source: Einstein, Albert (1950).  Personal letter written to Dr. Robert S. Narcus [online]. Available from: [Accessed: 23 November 2009]. 

 Fr. Thomas Berry stated their common perspective in these words:

“After Darwin…a sudden shift in the mode of consciousness took place.  The scientists suddenly became aware that… [s]cience was ultimately not the objective grasping of some reality extrinsic to ourselves. It was rather a moment of subjective communion in which the human was seen as that being in whom the universe in its evolutionary dimension became conscious of itself.”

Berry, Thomas. 1988. The Dream of the Earth.  San Francisco, CA, USA: Sierra Club Books (Page 128).

Do you see the intersection of Berry’s and Einstein’s thought?

The Big Bang (Expanding Universe) is now a well-known scientific theory.  That being, all that exists in the cosmos came from the same much-less-than-a-pin-prick point which singularly exploded in to our still-expanding universe. 

In their own words, Berry and Einstein are reminding human beings that the human species and all other life in the universe are not separated from the shared universe we inhabit: we are all intrinsically in the universe, of it and intertwined with the universe’s very existence.  It is only human delusion in consciousness that results in our seeing separations in a universe where in actuality no separation exists at all.  Yet now through the scientific method, the human species has had the seeds of understanding planted that human consciousness is, at its deepest level, the universe looking back inward on itself.

When this understanding becomes fully internalised by human beings, maybe then our species will begin to take full responsibility for all of our actions toward all life we encounter.  For embedded in this awareness as shared by both Einstein and Berry is the deeper understanding that, for any human to hurt any other life form is in and of itself simply an act of harm toward our own self.

Sustainability may not directly speak to this awareness, but the internalisation of this understanding will be an inevitable outcome of our shared journey toward Sustainable Development.

Your thoughts and observations are always welcome.



  1. einstin have a very large contribution to the world, especially in the field of physics. although he is a very clever man, but he’s still human, and certainly has a mistake.

  2. I’ve cherished some of Einstein’s quotes. I’ve read books by Thomas Berry. I’m now reading “Proof of Heaven” about a neurosurgeon’s near-death-experience. Fascinating connections are there. Thanks for posting.

  3. Thank you for this! These observations are very important to understanding that life includes all beings and all of nature.

Comments are closed.