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Sophia Center for Culture and Spirituality - a wisdom center celebrating Earth, Art and Spirituality

Visiting and Core Sophia Center Faculty

Outstanding Scholars and Teachers of New Cosmology

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NakasoneRonald Nakasone, PhD, is the director of CenterFaith, a center for interfaith research, resource, and education and Professor of Buddhist Studies at the Graduate Theological Union. His research interests are threefold: Buddhist studies and ethics, spirituality and aging, and Okinawan religion. A Buddhist cleric, Rev. Nakasone comments on such issues as cloning, organ transplants, euthanasia, and other modern dilemmas and is deeply interested in aging and spirituality issues in a religiously and culturally diverse healthcare system. He is currently editing a book on the Okinawan identity and spirituality.

NolanAlbert Nolan, OP is founding member of the Institute for Contextual Theology in Johannesburg, South Africa. He is author of the classic Jesus Before Christianity and God in South Africa. Within the perspective of the new cosmology he is an enduring presence in the work of healing the wounds of apartheid in his homeland and as a leader within his Dominican community. (More about Nolan)

OharaDennis Patrick O'Hara, PhD, is a chiropractor, naturopathic doctor and ethicist who teaches graduate courses in ethics and eco-theology in the Faculty of Theology at the University of St. Michael’s College, and environment and health for the Centre for Environment at the University of Toronto. He is the director of the Elliott Allen Institute for Theology and Ecology at St. Michael’s, directing masters and doctoral students with their dissertations in eco-theology.

OMurchuDiarmuid O’Murchu, MSC, PhD, is a counselor and social psychologist, and the a member of the Sacred Heart Missionary Order, and a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin Ireland, is a social psychologist whose entire working life has been in social ministry. In that capacity he has worked as a couple's counselor, in bereavement work, AIDS-HIV counseling and laterally with homeless people and refugees. As a workshop leader and group facilitator he has worked in Europe, USA, Canada, Australia, The Philippines, Thailand, India, Peru and in several African countries. His best known books include: Quantum Theology, Reclaiming Spirituality, Evolutionary Faith), Catching Up with Jesus. (More about O'Murchu)

PlotkinBill Plotkin, PhD, is a depth psychologist, wilderness guide, and agent of cultural transformation. As founder of western Colorado’s Animas Valley Institute in 1981, he has guided thousands of women and men through nature-based initiatory passages, including a contemporary, Western adaptation of the pan-cultural vision quest. Previously, he has been a research psychologist (studying non-ordinary states of consciousness), professor of psychology, psychotherapist, rock musician, and whitewater river guide.  In 1979, on a solo winter ascent of an Adirondack peak, Bill experienced a “call to adventure,” leading him to abandon academia in search of his true calling. Bill is the author of Soulcraft: Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche (an experiential guidebook) and Nature and the Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World (a nature-based stage model of human development through the entire lifespan). His doctorate is in psychology from the University of Colorado at Boulder. (More about Plotkin)

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PavelMargaret Paloma Pavel, PhD, works in the Bay Area and internationally consulting to individuals, communities, and organizations in areas such as strategic visioning, communication, diversity, and leadership development. Dr. Pavel's organizational clients reflect a core values commitment in areas of health, justice, education, and sustainable development. Her academic background includes graduate study at the London School of Economics and Harvard University. Her dissertation, "Organizational Culture and Career Development: Gender and Leadership," was part of a five-year study of the workplace in America sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation, which culminated in the publication GOOD WORK. Dr. Pavel is a keynote presenter at national and international conferences, (e.g. ‘The Future of Education – Re-imagining Leadership’ – Japan; ‘Eco-Psychology: New Paradigms of Science’ – Mexico; and Building Sustainable Metropolitan Communities – Cairo, Egypt.) Her current research focuses on the shift from mechanistic models (pyramids) to biological models (webs) for organizational development and the restoring of sustainable communities. (More about Pavel)

Parks photoSophia Park, PhD,SNJM Sophia's emphasis is about indigenous spirituality such as Korean shamanism and spiritual empowerment though intercultural configuration in the global context. As part of her study for her recent Ph.D. from GTU, she looked at what it means to be an outcast and at how marginalized women gather together to empower each

PrejeanSister Helen Prejean, MA, Sister Helen Prejean has been instrumental in sparking national dialogue on the death penalty and helping to shape the Catholic Church's newly vigorous opposition to state executions. She travels around the world giving talks about her ministry. She considers herself a southern storyteller.

Sister Helen is a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph. She spent her first years with the Sisters teaching religion to junior high school students. Realizing that being on the side of poor people is an essential part of the Gospel she moved into the St. Thomas Housing Project in New Orleans and began working at Hope House from 1984 – 1986.

During this time, she was asked to correspond with a death row inmate Patrick Sonnier at Angola. She agreed and became his spiritual adviser. After witnessing his execution, she wrote a book about the experience. The result was Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States. It became a movie, an opera and a play for high schools and colleges.
Since 1984, Sister Helen has divided her time between educating citizens about the death penalty and counseling individual death row prisoners. She has accompanied six men to their deaths. In doing so, she began to suspect that some of those executed were not guilty. This realization inspired her second book, The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions.

Sr. Helen is presently at work on another book, River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey. (More about Prejean)

rehak photoCarrie Rehak received her Ph.D in theology, with an emphasis in the arts, from the GTU, in Berkeley. She is also trained in fine arts (B.F.A.) and Byzantine iconography. Foremost, Carrie is committed to formal and informal communities of makers, seekers, and learners as creative agents for transformation, liberation, and fulfillment.

RohrRichard Rohr, OFM, is a Franciscan priest of the New Mexico Province. He founded the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque in 1987, where he still serves as founding director. His concerns, recordings, and book themes range from eco spirituality, to Scripture and social justice, to action and contemplation, to the Enneagram, to emerging Christianity, to non dual consciousness, to male liberation, to group spiritual direction. (More about Rohr)

RooksBelvie Rooks, MA, is a writer, educator and producer whose work weaves the worlds of spirituality, feminism, ecology, racial and environmental justice and a passion for dialogue. She is the producer and host of Conversations that Matter: Frontiers of Race, Cosmology, and Consciousness, which brings consciousness studies down to earth, making them real and relevant for everyday life. She is also the creator of Hey, Listen Up! Race, Cosmology and the Environment, a ground-breaking multimedia-based urban eco-literacy project and curriculum. Her published works have been included in a number of books and anthologies including My Soul is a Witness: African Women's Spirituality (Beacon Press, 1996)

ruetherRosemary Radford Ruether, PhD, is theologian and historian. She is also on the faculty at Clermont school of Theology. Her publications include Gaia and God, Women and Redemption, Sexism and God-Talk and Women Healing Earth. (More about Ruether)

rothbergDonald Rothberg, PhD, is one of the nation's foremost leaders in socially engaged spirituality. He has practiced Buddhist meditation for over 25 years and has been significantly influenced by other spiritual traditions, particularly Jewish, Christian, and indigenous. Currently, Donald is directing a two-year training program in connecting individual and social transformation, "The Path of Engagement," through Spirit Rock Meditation Center and the Buddhist Peace Fellowship. His book, The Engaged Spiritual Life: A Buddhist Approach to Transforming Ourselves and the World, was named one of the best spiritual books of 2006 by Spirituality and Practice. (More about Rothberg).

RuppJoyce Rupp, MA, describes herself as a ‘spiritual midwife,” one who assists others in birthing their true self. She is a Servite sister, the author of twenty books, and gives conferences and retreats both nationally and internationally. She is also the co-director of The Institute of Compassionate Presence and a volunteer for Hospice. She lives in Des Moines, IA (More about Rupp)

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SahtourisElisabet Sahtouris, M.S., PhD, is an evolution biologist and futurist who travels. Lectures and consults all over the world to show how knowledge of biological evolution can guide us in solving problems of inequity and ecological crises. (Life Web


SharperStephen Scharper, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Religion and Environmental Studies with the Center for the Study of Religion and at Innis College at the University of Toronto where he serves as Associate of the Institute for environmental Studies. He is author of Redeeming the Time: A Political Theology of the Environment and coauthor with his wife Hilary Cunningham of The Green Bible.

SchmittMary Schmitt, PhD, has a B.S. from Marian College of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin; a Master's degree from Marquette University, and a Ph.D. in neurophysiology from the State University of New York, Downstate Medical Center.  She is currently teaching at the Sophia Center at Holy Names University, and John F.Kennedy University, Pleasant Hill. CA.  Her passion is the study of consciousness in all of nature, and especially the human role in its evolution.

SchneiderMichael S. Schneider has a B.S. Degree in mathematics and a Master's Degree in Mathematics Education, and has been teaching 33 years. He's the author of A Beginner's Guide To Constructing The Universe: The Mathematical Archetypes Of Nature, Art and Science and five related workbooks. Michael was a Fulbright-Hayes Scholar in India studying ancient mathematics and sciences. In 1993 he designed the geometry harmonizing the statues on the south side of the "Portal of Paradise" (central entrance) to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. He has worked at the United Nations, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and MTV. Presently Michael is an Adjunct Professor at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco and occasionally holds workshops for educators, artists, and children on the wonders of mathematics in nature, science, art and culture. (More about Schneider)

SheaJohn Shea, PhD, is a research professor at the Institute for Pastoral Studies at Loyola University, Chicago, and senior scholar at Park Ridge Center for the Study of Health, Faith and Ethics. He is a renowned storyteller and the author of The Legend of the Bells, Gospel Light and Elijah at the Wedding Feast and other Tales.  (More about Shea)

smithHustonHuston Smith, PhD, is a teacher of world religions and author of the international best-selling The Religions of Man. Through his landmark books and documentary films, Huston Smith has opened the eyes of the world to the "invisible geometry" that shapes human spirituality. Born in China over 80 years ago to missionary parents, Huston Smith served briefly as a pastor in the mid-west. Since the 1950s, he has held teaching positions on the faculties at MIT, Syracuse, and the University of California–Berkeley.

Smith_TerryTerry Smith, MA. is a priest from Cincinnati. He has done graduate studies in Spirituality at Fordham and Creighton Universities. He has taught courses in spirituality, been a spiritual director and supervised people in training for spiritual directions. Terry is presently in parish ministry and is a graduate of the Sophia program.

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someSobonfu Somé is an internationally-known West African teacher and author of Welcoming Home Spirit and The Spirit of Intimacy. Her reliance on spirit, community and ritual that has allowed Sobonfu's personal and professional path to become on&e. Since the beginning of her journey in the West Sobonfu has traveled extensively throughout North America and Europe, conducting workshops on spirituality, ritual, the sacred and intimacy. Her work has moved African spiritual practices from the realm of anthropology, to a place alongside the world's great spiritual tradition, with a message of profound significance and practical application in the lives of Westerners. (More about Sobonfu)

Rebecca Strong photoRebecca Sophia Strong, MA, founder and director of Movement As Medicine™: The Embodied Cosmology Project; has been joining the science of cosmology together with the body and movement for over twelve years. Her work creates opportunity for the human imagination to embody its 13.7 billion year old wisdom and ancestry; turning crisis and wound into healing and art; solutions that feed the children of all species for the next 1,000 years. Rebecca is a teacher, dancer, artist, cosmology geek, and storyteller. Rebecca is currently writing and performing; "Moving The Universe Story," an educational, interactive storydancing performance art piece based on the book; The Universe Story by Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry. She is deeply affiliated with The Pachamama Alliance and Bioneers. She currently lives in Ojai, CA. (More about Strong)

SpretnakCharlene Spretnak, MA, is an internationally known theorist and activist of the Green Politics movement. She has written several books on the eco-social analysis and vision, including Green Politics: The Global Promise (1984), The Spiritual Dimension of Green Politics (1986), The Resurgence of the Real: Body, Nature, and Place in a Hypermodern World (1997). She was a co-founder, in 1984, of the Green Politics network that later became the Green Party of the United States. Through her books, articles, op-ed pieces, and presentations at conferences here and abroad, she has articulated the evolving Green perspective in numerous issue areas. In 2006 the British government's Environment Agency named Charlene Spretnak to an international list of "the 100 people of all time who have done the most to help save the environment.

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Brother DavidBrother David Steindl-Rast, OSB, PhD, is author of Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer, A Listening Heart, Belonging to the Universe (with Fritjof Carra) and The Music of Silence (Sharon Lebell). A member of Mount Saviour Benedictine Community, Br. David has been involved in the renewal of monastic life and contemplative prayer, both East & West, for more than three decades. (A Network for Grateful Living)

SwimmeBrian Swimme, PhD, is a cosmologist, and the author of Hidden Heart of the Cosmos, Universe Story (with Thomas Berry), The Universe is a Green Dragon and the video series The Canticle of the Cosmos and Earth's Imagination. He is a professor on the graduate faculty at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco.

Afia Walking Tree, MEd, is recognized for her restorative facilitation of African Diasporic courses, processes, and performances, internationally.  She uses drumming, rhythm, song, movement, storytelling, ritual, and affirmative communication as vibrational vehicles for co-creating with nature a hearth for our bio-chemical renewal, where we revitalize our indigeneity with mama earth.  (More about Walking Tree)  

weiss photoEric Weiss, PhD, MFT, is a professor of Philosophy and Cosmology at the Sophia Center and at the California Institute of Integral Studies; he is also a psychotherapist in private practice. He explores the evolutionary story with a perspective informed on the one hand, by Western philosophy, psychology and yogic psychology grounded in the teachings of Buddhism and in the works of the great twentieth century mystic and philosopher, Sri Aurobindo. (More about Swimme)

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TuckerMary Evelyn Tucker, PhD, is a Senior Lecturer in Religion and the Environment at Yale University, holding joint appointments as a Research Scholar in the Divinity School, the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, and the Department of Religious Studies. With John Grim, she cofounded the Forum on Religion and Ecology (FORE). Tucker and Grim also coordinated a ten-conference series on World Religions and Ecology at Harvard's Center for the Study of World Religions. (More about Tucker).

WallaceMark Wallace, PhD, graduate of The University of Chicago, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Religion and member of the Interpretation Theory Committee and the Environmental Studies Committee at Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania. He has authored Finding God in the Singing River: Christianity, Spirit, Nature, Fragments of the Spirit: Nature, Violence, and the Renewal of Creation, The Second Naïveté: Barth, Ricoeur, and the New Yale Theology, edited Paul Ricoeur's Figuring the Sacred: Religion, Narrative, and Imagination.

WellerFrancis Weller MA, is a psychotherapist, workshop leader and community builder. He has been actively involved in creating community-based study exploration of traditional knowledge. His focus is on recovering a connection with our ancestral roots and on translating the essential wisdom of indigenous traditions into our modern culture. He is the founder and director of WisdomBridge, which offers workshops, trainings and consultations on the recovery of the indigenous soul. He has two Master's degrees and is currently completing a book entitled Unforgotten Wisdom: Reclaiming Our Indigenous Soul.

WeiseEric Weiss MFT,PhD, is a professor of Philosophy and Cosmology at the Sophia Center of Holy Names University and at the California Institute of Integral Studies; he is also a psychotherapist in private practice. He explores the evolutionary story with a perspective informed, on the one hand, by Western philosophy, psychology and science and, on the other hand, by a deep knowledge of Eastern philosophy and yogic psychology grounded in the teachings of Buddhism and in the works of the great twentieth century mystic and philosopher, Sri Aurobindo.

Bonnie Wills, MA, a graduate of John F. Kennedy, and Holy Names University. She is a Certified Diversity Facilitator and a Licensed Spiritual Practitioner. Bonnie is committed to a just, compassionate, and inclusive planet. Through her work, she strives to eradicate the “isms” within our workplaces, our communities, and the planet.

WinterMiriam Therese Winter, MMS, PhD, Miriam Therese Winter is a Medical Mission Sister who has been writing and publishing Spirit-inspired songs since the Second Vatican Council. She is perhaps best known for Joy Is Like the Rain (1966), the first of her fifteen recordings, and for "Mass of A Pilgrim People," recorded live at Carnegie Hall (1967). WomanSong, EarthSong, SpiritSong, Hymns Re-Imagined, and Keepsake are the titles of her more recent CD’s. Since 1968 she has been named annually to the Popular Awards List of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) of which she is a member. Her hymns are included in a number of national and international hymnals.(More about Winter)

WorceloGail Worcelo, CP, MA, is a Passionist Nun originally from St. Gabriel's Monastery in Clarks Summit,. PA. She is currently co-founding, along with Bernadette Bostwick, a new monastic community—Green Mountain Monastery—with the guidance and support of Thomas Berry. The mission of this new community is the health and protection of Earth. Gail has been a student of Thomas Berry for the past 23 years.

ZimmermanMary Jane Zimmerman, PhD, Trusting the Universe: A Journey of Healing and Reconnection which analyzes the imbalance in Western culture from the perspective of “Dine” thought. Interested in the bridge between native sciences and western sciences, she studies Native ways of knowing and healing with traditional “Dine” elder Leon Secatero, as well as continuing her studies in cognitive science and evolutionary psychology. She currently teaches literature and honors classes at Central New Mexico Community College in Albuquerque, NM.

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