Universe Story

"The reason we are able to be creative,
to be patient, to be responsive, to be compassionate, 
the reason we are able to think 
about the needs of a whole community, 
is because we are Earth 
and this is how Earth is. 
Through our caring we express the fundamental nature 
of this caring Universe."

— Sarah Pirtle

Sarah offers teacher training, circle dance experiences, school workshops, adult workshops and sermons called "Waking Up in the Arms of the Universe" which are based upon an awareness of this context.

Also see the Heart of the World recording for children's songs about science.
Click on "Interesting Reading" to learn more about this perspective.

An essay about the Universe Story

Peace Discoveries: Waking Up Inside the Tree of Life

Inside us, the earth is growing peace. We are invited today into a profound time of world-wide change and deep transformation.

The ancient archetype of the Tree of Life reminds us of our fundamental connection. In cultures around the globe, people intuited a World Tree in which all forms of life belong. As we share our peace discoveries, we water this Tree of Life. Its fragrance and bounty stretch forward for generations to come. Moving through anguish and fear for the future, we remember we are interconnected and find the power to keep contributing to the sacred center that holds us all.

We are awakening and coordinating together as a human species committed together to evolving. Seven hundred million years ago cells learned how to coordinate around a common impulse, a common purpose. Single cells combined and became multi-cellular. Today we are involved in a similar evolutionary leap.

We are living on a planet engaged in a world-wide conversation on world peace. An emerging consensus is saying with increasing clarity: we choose peace-building, not war making; we envision and commit to a world organized for peace. We have the potential to coordinate together in our own multi-cellularity. The force that within a spring flower powers a push so strong that the shoots move up between stones is the same tenacious force expressing uniquely within us, defying obstacles and setbacks to digest the core coherent intelligence of the sun.

There are peace discoveries that only humans can make. May we stretch forward to make them. There are ways that humans can discover and express love that increases the love in the Universe. What we do day by day matters more than we can know.

My lifelong focus on peace education was transformed through studying with the staff of Genesis Farm. Thanks to Miriam MacGillis, Jean Edwards, Larry Edwards, and Marya Grothwohl of Genesis Farm, and thanks to the breakthroughs of Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme that pour out in their books and videos.

Ecozoic Education works

  1. To catalyze awareness of our participation in an unfolding caring Universe.
  2. To develop learning methods that bring the context of the Universe into education.
  3. To encourage dialogue on the implications of the Universe Story in educating the next generations and foster networking among people teaching the Universe Story.

Deep nourishment comes for me from talking with trees, walking through forests, bending to touch plants and sense their being. Songs arise in these moments. I hope the new songs in "Everyday Bravery" and "Heart of the World" will pass some of this fire and joy.

Guiding Questions

Ways to Develop Ecozoic Understanding

What is the Ecozoic Era?

Thomas Berry created the term "Ecozoic Era" to help us face that we are living in a time when one single species, humans, have actually brought about the end of a geological period, the 67 million years of the Cenozoic Era. He writes, "This new period in history might be called the Ecozoic Era to indicate the order of magnitude of the change that is taking place and of the expanded role of the human."

Miriam MacGillis, director of Genesis Farm in New Jersey, adds, "Our present moment is similar to when Galileo asserted that Earth revolves around the sun." It is perhaps even more challenging to live from the knowledge that we are not just on the earth looking into the universe but we ourselves are the earth and we ourselves are the universe. By reorienting ourselves to the newly available scientific story of the Universe and by centering our actions around it as a new Cosmological Story, we have an immense opportunity to gain the psychic energy required to participate in the monumental changes which are necessary if the human story is to continue.

Herman Greene, director of the Center for Ecozoic Studies, says:

The Ecozoic Era – a time when human live in a mutually enhancing relationship with the larger community of life systems... The Center for Ecozoic Studies is dedicated to the principle that we are embedded in a meaningful universe that is irreversibly and continuously evolving. In such a universe, the Ecozoic Era is a process concept ... not something to be arrived at, but something ever to be created...It crucially involves more than just and cooperative relationships among humans, as well as transformed relationships of humans with the larger natural world.

Entering the Ecozoic is entering the force field of the Universe. It is restoring oneself to its dynamics of caring for the whole, caring for each part, and taking self responsibility.

Moving into the Ecozoic is moving into a way of living that has been part of humans throughout history; it is at once timeless and modern. It's not a shift that begins from an external force out there, for it includes internal and community transformation. By seeing it, by naming it, by living there, the Ecozoic Era has begun. This is an invitation that comes from the Universe.

Berry and Swimme put forward, "The immediate goal ... is not simply to diminish the devastation of the planet that is taking place at present. It is rather to alter the mode of consciousness that is responsible for such deadly activities." How do we nurture and develop such consciousness within the next generations?

Living Inside the Universe Story:
The Dynamic Dance of Wonder, Change, and Hope

The Universe Story has the power to orient us to the forces of continual change, loss, dynamic interaction and growth that are woven into the fabric of existence. The New Cosmology articulated by Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme grounds us in scientific reality while awakening us to the wonder of where we really are. As the story touches us, we are more able to meet an inner source like a lantern that helps us navigate.

Sarah shares the story, heart to heart, and leaves space for people to ask questions and share insights. Poetry, discussion, journalling, music, circle dance, and artwork help us meet the universe stirring us as we affirm our individual sense of leading that could be called hope.

More details

The Universe Story is a story of re-orientation. It has the power to orient us to the dynamics of continual change, loss, and growth which are woven into the fabric of existence. The New Cosmology articulated by Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme grounds us in scientific reality in such a way that we awaken to the wonder of where we really are.

Hearing the story, heart to heart, we follow the Flaring Forth, the creation of the atoms, the Super Nova explosion that led to the birth of the earth, and the development of the living books of DNA. The emphasis in the workshop is the way in which the story activates us. We encounter more clearly our inner source that helps us navigate, that leads us like a lantern. Humans have called such a voice by many names – the muse, the daemon, our inner being, and that still small voice. Just as a bird hears when to fly south and how to travel, we have inside us an inner whispering voice of the universe.

According to Swimme and Berry, the universe is always talking to us in the language of three fundamental forces: communion, differentiation, and interiority. Yet we live in a time when our world feels antithetical to this and we are asked to be efficient parts of a great machine heading toward planetary destruction. Hearing the Universe Story in a community of other caring listeners, we can feel anew the paradox that we are each navigators profoundly with each other inside a shared dance and at the same time profoundly unique and individually responsible for our choices. The workshop will be conducted with these three principles in mind. Story, poetry, discussion, journalling, music, and artwork will help us enter a place where the universe stirs us. We ask – "What is my role in this unfolding story?"