The work of the Center for Education, Imagination and the Natural World is a work born of relationships and love. The collaborative endeavor of this work would not have been possible without the vision and support of Carolyn Toben, who provided a home for the Center for Education, Imagination and the Natural world at Timberlake Earth Sanctuary in Whitsett, NC from 2000-2012. As Founder of the work, dear friend and soul teacher, Carolyn has brought deep inspiration and wisdom to the shaping of the new social forms that create a vessel for this work.

Carolyn founded the Center after serving for more than fifteen years as a seminar leader at the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching and at the Center for the Advancement of Renewal for Educators in San Francisco. Always on the side of soul and renewal, Carolyn embodies a deep courtesy toward the earth and all earth pilgrims who travel as seekers of wholeness.

Through Carolyn, many mentors visited the Center and engaged in lively conversations with us about the child’s relationship to the universe, among them Richard Lewis, Founder of the Touchstone Center for Children in New York City, Joseph Cornell, Founder of the Sharing Nature Foundation, Anthony Weston, author of The Incompleat Eco-philosopher, Tobin Hart, Founder of the ChildSpirit Institute and Richard Louv, author of The Last Child in the Woods, Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder. All have become friends and all have offered programs at the Center that have greatly enriched our work.

But it was Carolyn’s friendship with cultural historian and author Thomas Berry that provided an ongoing context for the formation of the Center. Thomas led our very first Earth Guides Program and offered many talks at the Center during the early years of our existence that included such themes as “The Universe as Cosmic Liturgy” (2000), “Human Presence” (2001), “Where Science and Religion Meet” (2001), “The Tao of the Universe” (2001), “Sacred Dimensions of Ecological Consciousness” (2002), “A Sense of the Sacred” (2002), and “The Poetry of Thomas Berry” (2003). Ongoing conversations between Carolyn Toben and Thomas Berry from 2000-2009 were the creative context within which this work was formed. Carolyn Toben's memoir, Recovering a Sense of the Sacred: Conversations with Thomas Berry, was published in 2012.

Thomas Berry with the Center’s first intern, Jessie Towle