"Primordial Light": Another all-sky image and reflections upon it . . .

Excerpted from an editorial, Primordial Light, at www.ecobuddhism.org.

First published in July 2010, this remarkable microwave all-sky image of the Universe was produced by ESA's Planck satellite.The main disc of our Milky Way galaxy runs across the centre of the image. Striking streamers of cold dust reach above and below it: this galactic web is where new stars are being formed, and the Planck mission found many locations where individual stars are edging toward birth or just beginning their cycle of development. The mottled backdrop at the top and bottom is the cosmic microwave background radiation, the oldest light in the Universe - the remains of the fireball out of which our Universe sprang into existence 13.7 billion years ago.

Why Are We Here? Why Ask Now?
Descartes’ logic and Newton’s science led us, step by empirical step, towards our extraordinary modern knowledge of the Universe. However they are themselves inherently reductionist, and this has had serious psycho-spiritual consequences. A particularly pernicious one has been to deny the mysterious, numinous quality of the Universe and the Earth.

World religions appear to have been overwhelmed by the industrial growth society, and offer little resistance to the psychopathic tendencies of the business corporation. Contemporary science is largely held hostage to the technological imperative—an engineering project. Even quantum physics is respected primarily for its technological applications, rather than the scientific contributions it could make to biology, medicine, psychology and spirituality.

The scientific revelation of the creativity and beauty of the evolutionary process now provides us with a coherent reason and context to celebrate our own existence as a species. The human emerged from the community of species that make up the amazing biodiversity of our geological era. Our brilliant new sciences like molecular genetics, evolutionary biology and ecology confirm our biological origin beyond doubt.

Here we are, at a pinnacle of scientific knowledge about our own species, about its place in planetary evolution and about the nature of the Universe as a whole. It is a potentially overwhelming fact that we also find ourselves face-to-face with a full-scale evolutionary crisis of our own making. Fossil fuels and “business-as-usual” are rapidly bringing our entire geological era to an end. We are living through the sixth great “extinction event” in Earth’s geological history, and we ourselves are its cause.

The new global human society desperately needs meaning, wisdom, a new story of why we are here. To know the fourteen billion-year-old story of the self-emergent Universe and the four and a half billion-year-old story of our mother planet, Earth, is to know how and why we are here. It saves us from the extremes of nihilism or eternalism. It saves us from thinking all is lost. We can draw every day from resources far greater than the merely human realm. Quite possibly we could thereby save our species and a habitable, living world.
– August 2010

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