Teaching the Universe Story

Hope is how the universe is made. The force of fresh start is built into the fundamental powers.

How do you hear the voice of the Universe inside you?
How do you receive the Universe arising to help you?

“The profound energies that have formed galaxies and spread open the first pollen-hungry bud move within us. They have never once abandoned us, though we have abandoned ourselves and one another and have most tragically as humans succeeded in cutting certain ones of us off from self-determination of our vital capacities, which is the spawning of oppression. But always there is that which whispers through the chains—There is more to life than this. It was never meant to stop here." 
—Caroline McDade

“Deep Walking Hope” is a song that helps us talk about living inside an unfolding Universe. Peter Adair's book Sacred Universe: A Story of the Cosmos has stunning and evocative photos. It is highly recommended as well as his Earth Story calendars. The website http://www.earthstorycalendar.com has photos that give an example of the breadth and inspiration.

Here's a key activity for workshops. I learned it from Miriam MacGillis, director of Genesis Farm. Ask people to think of which transformative power of the Universe you want to call upon right now. What is the dynamic that you are working with? Here are examples. Which of these most relates to the stage of your own unfolding?

The first essence–the quarks–bombarded by anti-particles until they created the coordinated relationship and stability of an atom.

The atoms clumping up together to form stars.

Stars going supernova and scattering star seeds.

Planets cohering and coming into orbit around a sun.

Volcanoes exploding and churning up new life possibilities.

Bacteria sharing their inventions with other bacteria.

Multicellularity created by sharing a common voice and direction.

Contemplating and embodying these transformative powers is part of seeing with fresh eyes.  Take in this power you have identified as important right now for you, and journal about it. Given this power, how are you now supported to go forth and take action, or how are you now supported to have a time of reorientation?

To learn more about Genesis Farm and the continuing work of Miriam MacGillis, the phone number is (908) 362-6735. Genesis Farm is located at 41A Silver Lake Road , Blairstown, NJ 07825. Founded in 1980 by Miriam MacGillis, the mission of Genesis Farm is fostering earth literacy. They focus on “exploring the sacred unity of life, humanity and Earth within a single, unfolding Universe.”

The book, The Universe Story, was written by scientist Brian Swimme and theologian Thomas Berry. As they describe the unfolding of life, they discern central ordering tendencies of the Universe. These are the characteristics of the basic force of life. Berry and Swimme identify three core fundamentals of life. To synthesize their words:

Everything is connected.
There is an “inescapable togetherness of things.”
Everywhere there is fundamental mutuality and communion.

Everything is new and different.
There’s no identical star, tree, or person.
Everywhere there’s differentiation and diversity.

Everything has its own interior reality.
There is “not just a collection of objects.”
Everything has its own self responsibility.
interiority, and self-manifestation.

According to Swimme and Berry, whatever community we take part in rests inside of these basic dynamics. These match with social agreements. To summarize:

                     We connect to all members of the group.

                     We protect diversity.

                     We build self-responsibility.

 I think of “peace” as the state where the intersection of these three universal fundamentals is being practiced. We discover peace as we connect, support diversity, and treat each other as “sacred subjects rather than objects.” (Berry and Swimme, 1992)

When we grow in our ability to listen, or to be compassionate, we aren’t adding in anything foreign to our nature. We are growing from the seeds that already exist inside us. Here are some quotes that help foster an understanding of this:

“It is a great consolation to know that there is a wellspring of love within yourself. If you trust that this wellspring is there, you will then be able to invite it to awaken.”
– John O’Donohue, Anam Cara, p. 28

"You are never alone or helpless. The force that guides the stars guides you too." - Shrii Shrii Anandamurtii

Workshop suggestion: These words by Thomas Berry are central for Miriam MacGillis and Genesis Farm. Read and discuss.

The great historic mission of our time is to reinvent the human, at the species level, with critical reflection, within the community of life systems, in a time developmental context, by means of story and shared dream experience. -- Thomas Berry

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, 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 forcefield of the Universe. It is restoring oneself to its dynamics of caring for the whole, caring for each part, and taking self responsibility.

For further reading on this website, go to Free Downloads and see the opening chapter of the book I wrote called “Our Caring Universe.” The section is called, “Ways to Develop Ecozoic Understanding.” The inspiration for this writing comes from the teaching of Miriam MacGillis and the staff of Genesis Farm, and the work of Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme.