NEEDED: A "cosmological orientation," which " opens the human mind to wonder, gratitude, humility, and creativity"

To paraphrase Einstein, a problem is not solved at the same level within which it arose, but must be placed within a larger framework, within which it is not solved, but dissolved.

Here are reviews of two new books, both from Yale University Press, which aim to enlarge the framework for humanity as we seek to move beyond duality, polarity, war, fear of “the other.”

What if there is no Other. What if we are everywhere, and all in communion, breathing in and through the cosmos, as one.

Journey of the Universe

by Brian Thomas Swimme and Mary Evelyn Tucker

Reviewed by Mitchell Thomashow

Review published in the July/August 2011 issue of Orion magazine

HERE’S AN EQUATION for knowing where you are: Cosmology + Bioregionalism = Sense of Place.

The deepest mysteries of the place where you live are linked to the origins of life on Earth and, then, the origins of the universe. Mary Evelyn Tucker and Brian Swimme propose that cosmology is necessarily the basis of our planetary condition. Such awareness is a daunting perceptual challenge, rarely taught in school and unlikely to be the subject of your daily conversations. Yet, ultimately, one cannot grasp the profound dilemmas of species extinction and climate change without a cosmological orientation.

What’s most striking about Swimme and Tucker’s work is a simple but beautiful assumption: a cosmological orientation opens the human mind to wonder, gratitude, humility, and creativity. Further, they propose that science and the humanities—together—are the convergent voices of that opening. The origins of the universe and the unfolding of humanity reflect the grandest narrative, a “universe story.” The telling of that story is empowering, inspiring, and provides the preconditions of human adaptation and survival. No dire warnings here; rather, we bask in the glow of what humans are capable of conceiving.

“Our human destiny is to become the heart of the universe that embraces the whole of the Earth community,” write the authors. “We are just a speck in the universe, but we are beings with the capacity to feel comprehensive compassion in the midst of an ocean of intimacy. That is the direction of our becoming more fully human.”

Journey of the Universe is a stand-alone supplement to an exciting project, including a spectacular film of the same name, curricular suggestions, and a brilliant group of advisors that includes scientists, philosophers, and representatives of the arts and humanities. The book remains true to its task of telling a wonderful story and writing it well. It can and should be simultaneously scanned and savored. However, to gain the greatest learning, read it as a supplement to the film. Then share it widely.


Here’s the trailer to the film.

And here’s a review of the second book, from a yalebooks press release.

The New Universe and the Human Future: How a Shared Cosmology Could Transform the World

by Nancy Ellen Abrams, Joel R. Primack

After a four-century rupture between science and the questions of value and meaning, this groundbreaking book presents an explosive and potentially life-altering idea: if the world could agree on a shared creation story based on modern cosmology and biology – a story that has just become available – it would redefine our relationship with Planet Earth and benefit all of humanity, now and into the distant future. Written in eloquent, accessible prose and illustrated with magnificent colour images throughout, including innovative simulations of the evolving universe, this book brings the new scientific picture of the universe to life. It interprets what our human place in the cosmos may mean for us and our descendants. It offers unique insights into how this newfound knowledge could potentially be used to find solutions to seemingly intractable global problems such as climate change and unsustainable growth. It explains why we need to ‘think cosmically, act globally’ in order to have a long-term, prosperous future on Earth. More

The New Universe and the Human Future is part of Yale’s Terry Lecture Series, a comprehensive collection of titles that explore religion and faith from a variety of different perspectives and academic disciplines. Authors in this series include the literary author Marilynne Robinson and the indomitable philosopher Terry Eagleton. We will be looking at this series in more depth in future blogs so please subscribe if you are interested in keeping up to date with books that challenge, explore and interrogate contemporary religious thought.

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