Brian Swimme trained as an astrophysicist and then joined up with Mary Evelyn Tucker, John Grim, and others at the Riverdale Center for Religious Research , founded by Thomas Berry, to explore the spiritual and moral implications of Everybody’s Story. His 1984 book, The Universe is a Green Dragon, was important to me, and doubtless many others, in honing my cosmic sensibilities, and he went on to write books and produce videos and films in collaboration with Berry, Tucker and Grim, the most ambitious being the outstanding Journey of the Universe. He is a professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies where he leads the graduate Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness program. He is simultaneously humble and charismatic, an endearing combination. He tells me that he resists all labels, including religious naturalist, but his quotes deeply resonate with the religious naturalist orientation.
The great discovery of contemporary science is that the universe is not simply a place but a story – a story in which we are immersed, to which we belong, and out of which we arose.
The forms of creativity that pervade nature are neither haphazard nor determined but are rather profoundly exploratory, capable of bringing forth such a display of magnificence that it endlessly evokes our wonder.
The creation story unfurling within the scientific enterprise provides the fundamental context, the fundamental arena of meaning, for all the peoples of the Earth. For the first time in human history, we can agree on the basic story of the galaxies, the stars, the planets, minerals, life forms, and human cultures. This story does not diminish the spiritual traditions of the classical or tribal periods of human history. Rather, the story provides the proper setting for the teachings of all traditions, showing the true magnitude of their central truths.
Four billion years ago the planet Earth was molten rock; now it sings opera!
The universe shivers with wonder in the depths of the human.
If you let hydrogen gas alone for 13 billion years it will become giraffes, rose bushes and humans.
Humans enter this world and awaken to a simple truth: We must find our story with this great epic of being.
I have a sense that something amazing is at work … I think our planet is actually moving into a time of profound harmony and fecundity and peace, but whether that’s going to take 600 years or 6 days I don’t know.
It’s a matter of intimacy: the closer we get to an understanding of the dynamism of the integral Earth, the more obvious it becomes that the four and a half billion years of terrestrial evolution resembles one vast embryogenesis. Something is developing, hatching, unfolding, and we are the self-reflexive mind and heart of the whole numinous process
Our reverence for life’s preciousness and fragile beauty is our gift to the universe … to see it, to feel the moment, to speak it, to celebrate its truth.
The universe is one huge celebration – expanding, exuberantly rushing away from a centre with news of that centre .. it is the innate urgency of Being to unfold.
When I say that the universe is the principal moral authority, I mean by this the manner in which we are taught the value of the earth. The elements were bestowed on us by the stars, the complex compounds given to us by the young Earth, the informed sequences of the genes by the microorganisms, our limbs and organs by advanced life forms, and the linguistic symbols carrying our thoughts and feelings by the human venture. We could not see without the work of those who shaped the eye; could not hear without the work of those who shaped the ear. The Universe created these gifts, lavishing them upon us; our first and deepest response is infinite gratitude.
The switch out of an attitude where the human is the center of everything, to a biocentric and cosmocentric orientation where the universe and the Earth are the fundamental referents, is the radical transformation that we are presently involved with. It is disruptive.
I am convinced that the story of the universe that has come out of three centuries of modern scientific work will be recognized as a supreme human achievement, the scientific enterprise’s central gift to humanity…For the first time in human existence, we have a cosmic story that is not tied to one cultural tradition, or to a political ideology, but instead gathers every human group into its meanings…We are in the midst of a revelatory experience of the universe that must be compared in its magnitude with those of the great religious revelations. And we need only wander about telling this new story to ignite a transformation of humanity.
Only now we can see with clarity that we live not so much in a cosmos as in a cosmogenesis, a cosmogenesis best presented in narrative; scientific in its data, mythic in its form.
It is easy for anyone to become momentarily fascinated or titillated with the wild data of the new story of the universe, but it is another thing altogether to absorb this over time into the center of one’s being. Facts by themselves are not enough; what is needed is embodiment.