Lawrence L. Edwards (1941-2022)
The above image is of Larry and Jean Edwards in the redwood forest of Santa Cruz, CA, two weeks before he said goodby.
Lawrence L. Edwards
A Life Story by Jean Edwards
Lawrence L. Edwards died peacefully on November 10, 2022, at home, in Paso Robles, CA, surrounded by family. He was 81. In 2021 he survived prostate cancer, and in 2022 he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He chose not to receive medical treatment but accepted alternative treatments that slowed the aggressive cancer and gave him time to be with family and friends sharing the meaningful life he lived.
He chose to die with medical legal support, Death with Dignity, and donated his body to Western University in Pomona, California, an osteopathic medical school, to further support his love of scientific research.
His undergraduate work was at Occidental College, in Los Angeles, After graduating valedictorian of his college class, he traveled in Europe, and lived with families in France and Germany to learn the languages. He loved languages and said one does not understand people unless one knows their language. He continued his love of languages throughout his life and dabbled in 7 other languages. He earned his PhD at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts in Chemical Physics, studying photosynthesis.
He taught as a chemistry professor in Beirut Lebanon for 5 years and a year at the University of California at Northridge, California. He did research at CalTech, for a year, analyzing moon rocks. He was a programmer for The National Science Foundation in Washing D.C. in the division of Middle Eastern Countries for 17 years. He did research for a summer in Monaco in oceanography. He also worked for a year In Saudi Arabia as a consultant helping to build their National Science Foundation.
Larry met his lifelong partner and wife, Jean, at Occidental College in California and they were married for 58 incredible years. They traveled extensively and lived in 3 other countries experiencing the beauty of diverse cultures. They had two great children, a son, Tim, who preceded his father in death, and a daughter, Tasha, who is living in Santa Cruz, Ca. with her husband and 2 daughters. Tasha’s work as a medical doctor with multiple expertise and cutting-edge ways of healing continues her father’s search for new discoveries to better our world. Being grandparents to Michaela 24, and Ariela 22 and experiencing the miracle of both home births were extraordinary unforgettable moments in our family life.
What was the Invitation to Larry and Jean by Miriam MacGillis in 1990?
Larry and Jean met their life’s fulfilling work, at age 50, in 1991 when they decided to leave mainstream culture, their jobs, their health insurance, their retirements and accept an invitation by Miriam MacGillis to come to a 240-acre Ecological Learning retreat center, Genesis Farm, in a beautiful rural area in New Jersey. They both heard the call to become a teaching team, accepted the creative challenge, and walked into the unknown.
The call was to design a live-in master’s degree Program, called Earth Literacy, based on the work of Thomas Berry. There were 3 basic components to the live-in program and seminar program: The evolutionary scientific Story of the Universe, the context for all life; The Earth as Primary Teacher, the interdependence of the Web of all life; and living the implications in each of our individual Bioregions.
What was it like to move out of mainstream culture?
Larry was motivated by the enormous creative challenge/opportunity of telling a story of the evolutionary Universe Story uniting all from its single birth, through the scientific topics of math, physics, chemistry, biology, geology, archeology, human history, and including all the unfolding life forms on Earth. All other challenges paled by comparison.
Jean was motivated by the creative opportunity to contribute to changes in our competitive educational system and the possibility of providing an experience to deepen individual understandings of a Universe/Earth-based spirituality. As we reflected on our culture we could see the need for a mega-transformation on this planet. We both felt guided to participate by a strong creative force, willing to step into the unknown yet unable to put it in words other than, “Yes, we will!”
How did the invitation to work at Genesis Farm Happen?
Previously to the invitation, Miriam MacGillis had been speaking at other Beyond War groups around the world on Thomas Berry’s insights expressed in his Books, The Dream of the Earth and The Great Work.
We were working with Beyond War in Reston, VA. at the time so we invited Miriam to come to our home to speak to our group. We developed a friendship and began taking her courses at the Farm. Larry took a week-long course at Genesis, where each participant was challenged to write the Story of the Universe in their own words and present it. That sparked his interest. He also took another seminar in California with Miriam’s tape, To Know The Place for the First Time.
At the same time, Jean had completed the 6-week course at Genesis, the first Earth Literacy Program, combining Miriam’s profound lectures of Thomas Berry’s work, and including required time alone to experience the silent language of forest, stream, hills, and garden, a time to Be, developing our own experience of a meaningful connection with Earth.
Miriam and Jean were having lunch, just after the Earth Literacy program, reflecting on the program. It was such a creative offering Miriam had brought together. We both experienced it as extraordinary with the potential for life-changing future programs. Then Jean expressed a concern: the work of the program of setting up and preparing lectures while maintaining and running the farm didn’t seem sustainable to her.
There was a pause in our conversation and Miriam turned and said “Why don’t you and Larry come and help me?” I responded with shock. She continued to share her plan for an accredited Master’s Program and could Larry fly in tomorrow to talk with the curriculum specialist of St. Thomas University in Miami Florida? She continued. ‘I can’t offer you any money at least for the first year but we can feed you great organic food and we can offer you housing.”
I called Larry and shared Miriam’s invitation and asked him if he could get on a plane right away and come for the conversation with St. Thomas University on developing a new curriculum and program for the Farm. She was inviting us to help create the program and be on the teaching team.
Larry usually took time to make big decisions but this time he didn’t. He got on a plane and was there for the meeting the next day. We met with the university curriculum director of St. Thomas University in Miami Florida. There was something in us both that knew this was significant and we were being guided. We never looked back.
How did Larry get involved in this work?
The journey of saying yes to the 1991 invitation by Miriam McGillis was preceded by 5 decades of life-learning. Coming back home in 1975 to California after living in Beirut, Lebanon for 5 years opened our eyes to the privilege of living in a democracy. We realized that if we wanted to keep democracy in our country it required our participation. We looked for organizations that we could be a part of and grow our skills. College friends recommended a group at Stanford and Palo Alto that was giving a series of seminars called Challenge to Change with a non-profit organization called Creative Initiative. We took part and that was the first of many chapters of change and growth.
What Prepared Larry and Jean for the Great Work?
1975-1980, Our Personal and Spiritual Work.
Creative Initiative series of workshops was a time of personal work. The message was, “Get yourself out of the way if you want to contribute to the good of the whole.” During this 5-year period, we asked, Who am I and how can I become a change agent in today’s world? It was a time of self-reflection and exploring the ways humans make meaning in their lives.
We attended 5-day retreats, interpreted our dreams, and used the tool of the Enneagram, to know more about our patterns, Larry a 5 and Jean a 2. We practiced ways to move to a more compassionate state for ourselves. We studied the recent scholarly work and meanings of Jesus as Teacher, as well as the major world religions. We developed new celebrations bringing Christians and Jews together. It was a rich time of reflection and growth.
In the 80s, Our Leadership Training With Global Issues
We worked on a project called Beyond War, holding discussions in our living room, about the oneness of our human family and all life on our Planet. We were helped by curriculum created by the Beyond War office in Palo Alto making it easier to hold down our full-time jobs and hold mini universities in our living room.
We graphically demonstrated how we in the US had enough nuclear weapons to eliminate every person 3 times over, highlighting the absurdity of more weapons or a nuclear war. At the same time, we practiced eliminating personal negativity in our relationships. We considered our personal work fundamental, and a way to contribute to global changes. We referred to our work as a Both/And approach to a better future.
It was during this time we held several book discussions with the book, Dream of the Earth, by Thomas Berry that fundamentally and profoundly changed both of us. The content of Thomas’ book catapulted us both out of mainstream culture and pointed the way to say “Yes” to Genesis Farm, and to the powerful vision for the well-being of our planet.
How did this work Influence Larry and Jean?
There were many changes over time that happened to both of us each in our own way. One day Larry said, “I used to do science and now I light candles.” He learned that there is a tone or spirit that is created with the tone of voice, as well as preparing the place with beauty and intention. He began to sing and write poetry.
He gained connections to diverse loving people outside his field of science. He began to experience the loving connection to the earth community, experiencing the silent language of the forest, pond, and forest and particularly the darkness of night.
Over time he deepened his own understanding. He realized that the Story of the Universe was not just an intellectual scientific story but a life-changing Story that happens to be true. It is a context that changes the way we humans understand everything in our culture, our language, our systems of education, economics, religion, governance, and our relationship with all beings.
Larry developed what E.O. Wilson called Biophilia, a Love of All Life and what Barbara McClintock stated, “ developed a feeling for the organism.” He, like Darwin, was captured by the evolutionary theory of the oneness of all life.
This work showed us both that all life came from the same beginning, the great mystery of the thread of stardust running through everything, demonstrating the interconnectedness of the water, soil, plants, air, Sun, and all of Earth’s Beings. There are no separate objects in this universe. It is all one interconnected community.
Being invited to Ireland and spending a month with many sisters who were forming Earth Literacy groups all around Ireland deepened both our appreciation of the diversity and capacity of possible ways to communicate the significance of this work. Larry’s invitations to speak with Australian groups also added to his appreciation for human ingenuity and dedication.
Jean saw that the Story could move us from human disconnect to interconnectedness. It could change dualistic thinking to both/and understanding. And that each day has never been before, moving us from a static world to a dynamic world, viewing all life on Earth in continuous change. She enjoyed creating new rituals and was invited to shepherd a local charter school K-8 grades, based on the Universe Story and outdoor education. She combined Waldorf, Montessori, and project learning to address the student’s needs while introducing the new understandings of the Universe Story.
After Leaving Genesis Farm
Leaving Genesis Farm after 3 full years and 14 more part-time years, Jean and Larry returned to California to care for their aging parents. It was a time to experience aging and death first-hand, contemplating the fears around death and how the Story had changed our own beliefs about health and dying. Being with all 4 of our parents during their dying process took us even deeper into the amazing gift of Life.
During that period Larry continued to give lectures at California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco and at Matthew Fox’s Creation Spirituality in Oakland, CA. He also was invited to present the Universe Story for the opening program of Matthew Fox’s institute in Boulder, Colorado. During this time Jean received her Master’s in Cosmology and Spirituality at Holy Names College in Oakland.
We moved into a co-housing community in Paso Robles, called Oak Creek Commons, 8 years ago. Our community, Oak Creek Commons, is a multi-aged group of 36 families, self-managed, sharing 10 acres of beautiful blue oaks and creeks with 5 acres of our clustered town homes and common house. We continued to deepen our learnings of cooperative governance, resolving conflict, and participating in local government and the local Unitarian Universal fellowship. We participated in Earth-sustaining programs such as Climate Crises, solar energy, and permaculture projects. Jean continues to coordinate the community’s organic garden and the orchard of 20 heritage fruit trees. She also offers simple rituals celebrating the four seasons.
Our Work at Genesis Farm included the work of Thomas Berry, Miriam MacGillis, Brian Swimme, Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim, Sisters of Earth, and so many many other creative individuals. Today, Jennifer Morgan is one of those who saw the transforming gifts the Story of the Universe offers and is carrying on this significant work.
Larry’s hope would be that many many more persons will be touched and transformed as he was by this Great Work. The Universe Story and the challenge of The Great Work of our times were life-changing for both of us in so many ways that there are no adequate words to express the full extent of our appreciation.
Written by Larry Edward’s wife, Jean Edwards, in deep Gratitude and Love to have experienced the Mind, Heart, and Soul of Larry, a unique, and amazing human being who accepted his gifts and found a way through this work to express his experiences and understandings of Love.
Included is one of his favorite poems:
I was born of the shining of distant stars,
I drew their beams with me from afar.
I was born of the radiant Sun,
Of the light of the world ere the Earth begun.
Born I was of the silver eye,
Of the guardian moon keeping watch on high.
Born of the wild wing roaming free,
Born of the flame’s intensity.
Born of the waves that lap the shore,
And the rock that hides the glistening ore.
Born I was from out of the whole,
I bear the world within my soul.