We have talked recently on the forum about story and "Big Stories," so I wanted to post something on a new book I just picked up:  The New Universe and the Human Future.  It's in a similar vein to the work of Brian Swimme, Thomas Berry, and Michael Dowd: telling the story of the universe from the perspective of cosmological science, and issuing a call for renewed human self-understanding and ethical relationship to the planet and to each other.  I'll post some of my own thoughts on the book -- and on the role of "Big Stories" in postmetaphysical spirituality and the current movement to give "mythic-quality" voice to the scientific picture of the cosmos that has emerged through the collaborative efforts of individuals across the globe -- in a future post.  For now, if you're interested, I invite you to check out the authors' website, or to read the following excerpt from a review by Matthew Fox.

 

Voyage to Virgo from New-Universe.org on Vimeo.

 

~*~

 

What Hubble Could See

A photo of the Andromeda Galaxy by NASA/Swift/Stefan Immler (GSFC) and Erin Grand (UMCP).

 

"Joel and Nancy have looked hard and analyzed deeply the amazing findings of the Hubble Space Telescope and other instruments from the past two decades of explosive findings in cosmology. Here is one metaphor that they put forth for our understanding:

Imagine that the entire universe is an ocean of dark energy. On that ocean there sail billions of ghostly ships, made of dark matter. At the tips of the tallest masts of the largest ships there are tiny beacons of light, which we call galaxies. With Hubble Space Telescope, the beacons are all we see. We don't see the ships, we don't see the ocean — but we know they're there through the Double Dark theory.

They take on the literalists of science (who have so much in common with the literalists of the Bible) when they say:

If taken literally, scientific cosmology is completely misleading. There was no loud bang at the Big Bang, and it wasn't big. (There was no size to compare it to.) Metaphor is our only entrée into invisible reality.

I have often said that the most important things in life are metaphors, whether we are speaking of life or death, spirit or sex, love or body. And the universe too is metaphor and accessible by metaphor. All the prophets knew these things. Metaphor carries us on wings larger than despair, self-pity, talk of "selfish genes," and pessimism — all of which is so often a cover-up and escape from responsibility.

This is a book on ethics, a book about renewing our foundation for ethics. The authors talk passionately about the folly of our race as we face our own potential extinction and the extinction of this marvelous planet as we know it. They see our uniqueness not just in terms of this planet but also in terms of what we know about the universe. They urge us to "crack open our imaginations" and to wake up to the "accident" of our being "born at the turning point." And what turning point is that? It goes back to the fact of the rediscovery of how unique we are as a species: "It took a series of outrageously improbable events on Earth, plus multiple cosmic catastrophes to earlier species like the dinosaurs before humans could evolve.… Our level of intelligence (and higher) may be extremely rare" in the universe.

We Are the Self-Consciousness of the Universe

With our uniqueness comes a special responsibility, for if humans go down, like many primate species before us have, then something very precious will be lost in the universe.

From the point of view of the universe as a whole, intelligent life may be the rarest of occurrences and the most in need of protection…. We — all intelligent, self-aware creatures that may exist in any galaxy — are the universe's only means of reflecting on and understanding itself. Together we are the self-consciousness of the universe. The entire universe is meaningless without us. This is not to say that the universe wouldn't exist without intelligent beings. Something would exist, but it wouldn't be a universe, because a universe is an idea, and there would be no ideas.

We are living at a "pivotal" moment in the history of the universe for today we can "see" the entire history of the universe, but there will come a time when, because of the expansion of the cosmos, the past will no longer be visible; distant galaxies will disappear over the horizon. We are able to take in more galaxies today than ever will be perceived in the future. And, in our own local group of galaxies, because of gravity at work, there will be a blending of the Milky Way and Andromeda that will shut our descendants off from the rest of the universe. No wonder Joel and Nancy feel so called to sing the universe's story at this time.

The authors recognize our moral obligations to change as a species. With the human race now at almost 7 billion people, the inflation we have been undergoing is not sustainable. We could — and are — destroying our planet as we know it. This is why they call for an ethic of sustainability that is itself sustained by the wonder of the world we now know we live in, the universe at its pivotal moment. They point out how we do not know if there is other intelligent life out there but we do know what we have here. Moreover:

We randomly-alive-today people actually have the power to end this evolutionary miracle, or not…. Without human beings, as far as anyone knows, the universe will be silenced forever. No meaning, no beauty, no awe, no consciousness, no "laws" of physics. Is any quarrel or pile of possessions worth this?

We need to adjust to realities as we now know them. For example, talk of "space war" is beyond dangerous because if we launch just a truckload of gravel into space we will destroy not only all sophisticated weaponry but also the satellites that we all depend on for weather information, global positioning systems, and communication.

Enough Is a Feast

We must move beyond the inflationary period of economics, of judging things by growth of GNP. We have to realize that spiritual relationships can grow continuously — but economic ones can't. Joel and Nancy write:

Our drive for meaning, spiritual connection, personal and artistic expression, and cultural growth can be unlimited … if we valued them above consumer goods, then we would have a new paradigm for human progress. For our universe the most creative period, which brought forth galaxies, stars, atoms, planets, and life, came after inflation ended, and this could also be true for humanity. A stable period can last as long as human creativity stays ahead of our physical impact on the earth.

If this isn't a call for a simpler lifestyle I don't know what is.

What is right action? "The goal should be sustainable prosperity, which is perfectly defined by the Zen saying 'enough is a feast.'… Nonstop creativity will be essential to maintain long term stability."

This is a daring book. The authors take on the hypothesis of multiple universes and draw a stunning conclusion:

If the theory of Eternal Inflation is right, then our universe — the entire region created by our Big Bang — is an incredibly rare jewel: a tiny but long-lived pocket in the heart of eternity where by chance exponential inflation stopped, time began, space opened up, and the laws of physics allowed interesting things to happen and complexity to evolve.

Just as our Earth is an "incredibly rare jewel," so too is our universe, whether it has happened alone or is one among many. The authors of this book have not grown numb to awe and wonder.

The authors also take on the subject of God's causation when they ask this question:

Is this then at last the place to credit God as the literal first cause? That's an option. But rather than skipping lightly over eternity itself to paste in the idea of God 'causing eternity,' we might do better to think of the beginning as being just as unknown as the distant future, and ourselves, as true explorers, moving outward from the center in both directions. In cosmology both the distant past and the distant future are in a real sense ahead of us, the one waiting to be discovered, the other to be created.

As a theologian, I hear this as a clarion call to rediscover the apophatic Divinity, the God of Darkness, the pathway of letting go and letting be, the God who "has no name and will never be given a name" (Eckhart), where the alpha (beginning) and omega (ending) are both bathed in mystery and in darkness — a double darkness, we might say. It's a call for a transcendence that is not "up" so much as deep down, into the depths of things where all is dark, and all is silent and beyond naming, but where creation and new birth gestate in the invisibility of the cosmic womb, where all that dark sea and dark energy and dark matter dwells and even dark ships sail. A call to silence. A call to depth; a call to divine Nothingness. No-thingness. Only relations. Some micro, some macro. How amazing that we have the minds to study them! How grateful we all should be. John of the Cross: "Launch out into the depths."

There is wisdom and passion in these pages. There are sacred cows to let go of, inner work to do, and outer work to accomplish. But we have the tools. Do we have the will and the heart? Anyone who studies this book will be deepening and strengthening both. Read this book and grow your soul. Right behavior can and should follow."  ~ Matthew Fox.

 

[Read his full review here.]

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In the first chapter, Abrams & Primack make an argument for the unique value of the emerging new 'cosmology story' that is very close to what Dowd and Swimme have both made in their own books:


The new scientific picture differs from all earlier creation stories not only because it's based on evidence but also because it's the first ever created by a collaboration among people from different religions, races, and cultures all around the world, each of whose contributions is subject to the same standards of verifiability.  The new universe picture excludes no one and sees all humans as equal.  It belongs to all of us, not only because we're all part of it but also because around the world the work to discover it has been largely funded by the public.  The fruit of this transnational collaboration could become a unifying, believable picture of the larger reality in which Earth, our lives, and the ideas of all our religions are embedded.


Elsewhere they argue that such a story is important because, in an age where we are capable of acting on a global scale, we need a contextualizing story that is 'cosmic' rather than 'local.'  At present, they see many individuals and groups acting globally out of primarily local interests and narratives, and argue that wise action on  such a scale requires being able to hold a trans-global (cosmic) perspective.  Thinking primarily on a local and communal scale, we have a difficult time appreciating the long-term global consequences of our actions -- for instance, with regard to our impact on the environment.  This is, of course, a common enough insight, but they argue that a deepened familiarity with the 'creation story' that has emerged through collaborative scientific research over the past century could provide the needed perspectival context and principles for wise decision-making on the long term, and on global scales.


The authors suggest that this is the first time humans are able to adopt a truly trans-global or cosmic perspective to guide their actions.  If they mean by this, an empirically rigorous 'cosmic' perspective, then I can go along with that, but obviously many other cultures have subscribed to "global" or "trans-global" myths which aim to encompass and meaningfully situate all human activity.  And there is a quality of absoluteness and presumed universality that has often attended such myths that has actually exacerbated conflict and, ironically, perhaps even increased our myopia.  Not that all such myths have only had such negative consequences; I am thinking, for instance, of myths in Kabbalistic or Mahayana (say, Hua Yen) scripture, for instance, which make appeals to mind-bending spatial and temporal trans-worldly vistas, which have served laudable roles in the spiritual and moral development or 'formation' of individuals.  But I think we should be somewhat cautious in our embrace of global narratives, for reasons Kela has highlighted, for instance, and for some of the reasons postmodernists are suspicious of grand meta-narratives.


But with that said, I do think the authors (Dowd and Swimme as well as Abrams and Primack) have a good point, that for the first time we are now on the cusp of creating a truly trans-cultural creation story -- one not pieced together by a single transpersonalist in his living room, but one growing out of trans-cultural disciplined inquiry.  I think it would remain important to see the story as 'story' and to relate to it postmetaphysically and enactively, rather than as a final or 'finally objective' representationalist account of reality-in-itself (and therefore avoiding, for instance, one of the problems I believe Kela referenced in an essay he linked, which I just skimmed: that of restricting our self-understanding to a scientific depiction of human nature), but I do tentatively hold out hope that such a trans-culturally enacted, deep-time narrative could help provide perspective to better inform long-term, collaborative action across the globe.

http://physics.ucsc.edu/cosmo/primackabrams.html

 

i'll chew through these articles and give a critique later. he looks competent, not sure bout her.

@ balder.

hi. i wasn't being totally serious in my off the cuff remarks and i deleted the most flippant ones. those initial remarks were a kinda preemptive strike at what i could fore-"feel" (haha) would be an outpouring of positivity. hehe. i'm not really that caustic. i'll read a bit deeper into what this couple are up to. i notice that one of their articles is on kabbalah and the "new cosmology." hmmm. i'll try and get back to this topic with a response and weave together material from the three links i provided.

 

cheers.


i think a case can be made for the idea that, at least in greek thought, the practice of metaphysics itself arose -- in ionia, a port and trading centre -- where there was a need apparently to synthesize various competing myths into a transcultural cosmopolitan vision. and that basically was what metaphysics and philosophy were supposed to be about -- finding some sort of universal picture. so i'm not entirely convinced with the, "this is the first time..." rhetoric.

 

a case might also be made for indian texts like the chandogya upanishad supplying a similar synthesizing function. in the chandogya up, at least three different accounts -- possibly from different parts of india -- are woven together under one theme. interestingly both the chandogya up. and parmenides locate the most universal stuff available: "being" as such.

 


Balder said:

In the first chapter, Abrams & Primack make an argument for the unique value of the emerging new 'cosmology story' that is very close to what Dowd and Swimme have both made in their own books:


The new scientific picture differs from all earlier creation stories not only because it's based on evidence but also because it's the first ever created by a collaboration among people from different religions, races, and cultures all around the world, each of whose contributions is subject to the same standards of verifiability.  The new universe picture excludes no one and sees all humans as equal.  It belongs to all of us, not only because we're all part of it but also because around the world the work to discover it has been largely funded by the public.  The fruit of this transnational collaboration could become a unifying, believable picture of the larger reality in which Earth, our lives, and the ideas of all our religions are embedded.


Elsewhere they argue that such a story is important because, in an age where we are capable of acting on a global scale, we need a contextualizing story that is 'cosmic' rather than 'local.'  At present, they see many individuals and groups acting globally out of primarily local interests and narratives, and argue that wise action on  such a scale requires being able to hold a trans-global (cosmic) perspective.  Thinking primarily on a local and communal scale, we have a difficult time appreciating the long-term global consequences of our actions -- for instance, with regard to our impact on the environment.  This is, of course, a common enough insight, but they argue that a deepened familiarity with the 'creation story' that has emerged through collaborative scientific research over the past century could provide the needed perspectival context and principles for wise decision-making on the long term, and on global scales.


The authors suggest that this is the first time humans are able to adopt a truly trans-global or cosmic perspective to guide their actions.  If they mean by this, an empirically rigorous 'cosmic' perspective, then I can go along with that, but obviously many other cultures have subscribed to "global" or "trans-global" myths which aim to encompass and meaningfully situate all human activity.  And there is a quality of absoluteness and presumed universality that has often attended such myths that has actually exacerbated conflict and, ironically, perhaps even increased our myopia.  Not that all such myths have only had such negative consequences; I am thinking, for instance, of myths in Kabbalistic or Mahayana (say, Hua Yen) scripture, for instance, which make appeals to mind-bending spatial and temporal trans-worldly vistas, which have served laudable roles in the spiritual and moral development or 'formation' of individuals.  But I think we should be somewhat cautious in our embrace of global narratives, for reasons Kela has highlighted, for instance, and for some of the reasons postmodernists are suspcious of grand meta-narratives.


But with that said, I do think the authors (Dowd and Swimme as well as Abrams and Primack) have a good point, that for the first time we are now on the cusp of creating a truly trans-cultural creation story -- one not pieced together by a single transpersonalist in his living room, but one growing out of trans-cultural disciplined inquiry.  I think it would remain important to see the story as 'story' and to relate to it postmetaphysically and enactively, rather than as a final or 'finally objective' representationalist account of reality-in-itself (and therefore avoiding, for instance, one of the problems I believe Kela referenced in an essay he linked, which I just skimmed: that of restricting our self-understanding to a scientific depiction of human nature), but I do tentatively hold out hope that such a trans-culturally enacted, deep-time narrative could help provide perspective to better inform long-term, collaborative action across the globe.

the universe is indeed a work of art and beautiful in its configurations... just like a dancer's gluteus maximus. and the chance of a consciousness arising upon a pinhead in a vast sea of dark, cold emptiness that for some unknown reason has the aesthetic and mystical sense to ponder that chance... does set one's mind a spinning...

 

and beyond that mere aesthetic sense must arise a love, and compassion, for that, for which one gazes aghast and almost stupefied in its wonder...

 

don't think i don't get it. ;-)

peace.

Brian Swimme on the Cosmic Story:

 

"My fundamental starting point is cosmology. It’s important to begin with the universe as a whole. Indeed, I think that our difficulties today are rooted in the way we are caught up in a human world. We can’t seem to break out of this anthropocentrism. To ask, “What’s the best story we can tell?” is a great starting point. That’s what cosmology basically is: It’s the fundamental story that people live within. Margaret Mead said that every culture she looked at had a “cosmic sense” and needed to know how it related to the cosmos as a whole, how it related to the sun or the sea. Mircea Eliade claimed that for the tribal people, their central organizing pattern is the cosmogonic myth, the creation story. A living cosmology enables the human being to hold these immense realities in mind. Without a cosmic story, they escape us. We focus on the GNP and we ignore this vast realm in which we find ourselves.


What’s required of us is nothing less than a reinvention of what it means to be human. I don’t mean making an adjustment. I mean complete reinvention. We’ve been on the planet for two million years and we’ve constantly reinvented ourselves. And now we have to do it in a new way and the proposal is that the most effective way to reinvent a human being is within the cosmic story. After studying all the major cultures of the world for 50 years, Thomas Berry came up with a conclusion which startled me. He said that in the history of humanity, the scientific enterprise is the most sustained meditation ever carried out on the universe. And furthermore, what has been discovered in the scientific era has to be regarded as equally important with the revelations of the great religions. That approach is worth consideration.

 

Thomas Berry is not the only person who has come to this conclusion. Stephen Toulmin, a philosopher at the University of Chicago, who wrote The Discovery of Time , says that science’s discovery of this evolutionary story has to be regarded as the most significant achievement of human mentation. This is a large claim, but it’s worth considering. Why is the change so vast, why is it so enormous? It’s because we’re just now beginning to understand what this story might mean for us. This enormously fascinating story is breaking into human awareness. It is only now dawning on us what has happened.

 

Why is it only now dawning on us? Because we had to go into a shamanic trance to arrive at the story. Humans for the last two centuries have had to close down an enormous number of sensibilities, sensitivities, to get the story right, to focus entirely on empirical evidence and scientific understanding without any interference with religious tradition or spiritual thinking. And so the interpretation I would make of our moment is that science now is coming out of its shamanic trance and has returned to the culture at large, but more importantly to the planet as a whole. And now it’s telling the story of this universe exploding into being 20 billion years ago.

 

I spend a lot of time looking at the creation myths of the different religions and there’s some wild stuff! The stories that they would tell one another! You’d think about it and you’d think, “Oh, how can this possibly be?” But none of them are as unbelievable as this story, as fantastic as this story. I’m trying to emphasize that it has that dimension of a myth. Obviously it’s mythic, but why do we not consider it myth? Precisely because it is empirical. This became obvious to me when I was teaching physics to undergraduates. They learn about myths from the religion department, or the philosophy department, or from literature; and yet when they listen to me, there’ll be no question about whether this is myth or not. I could say that photons come from the beginning of time, 18 billion years ago. Or I can say, “We came out of the stars.” The students are soaking it up.

 

I would say that this story in particular is not the story of Western science. That’s a wrong way to think about it, because science itself is a pan-human accomplishment. We would never have gotten anywhere without the concept of zero. That came from India. We needed the concept of numbers that came from Islam, and the practical engineering techniques that came out of Egypt. And the scientific effort wouldn’t have begun unless we had the careful empirical evidence of the heavens that came out of Babylonia. I think it’s important to see that this is the work of the whole human species. Wars are waged against people who live outside one’s own story. We don’t live in the communist story; they don’t live in the capitalist story. But now for the first time on every continent this cosmic story is being taught. We have a species story. It’s a magnificent moment for the planet.

 

But there is a difficulty. The story is told in a one-dimensional language. Basically we’re all fundamentalists of one sort or another. And scientists in particular are fundamentalists; they have a notion that language itself has a one-to-one correspondence with meaning. There has to be a fuller telling of the story so its larger dimensions can be celebrated. When Charles Darwin was at the peak of his career, he was asked, “Is it necessary for scientists to lose the capacity to appreciate beauty?” He answered, “You know, as a young man I used to respond to poetry. Now I look at it as just being meaningless.” The initiation rite into science, for the most part, eliminates a large number of the powers of the human. So until this story is actually told with power and understanding, no change can occur in human relationships. But I see what is happening in many different places; especially, I see many women in the field of science. I see it as a very hopeful time."

Hi, Kela, I am also skeptical of the "first time" claim -- unless, as I mentioned, they mean that this is the first time that such a meticulous and rigorously empirical pan-human creation story has emerged.  I hadn't thought about the cosmopolitan context of the emergence of Greek metaphysics being analogous to the present situation that Primack, Abrams, and others are describing, but that makes sense.

 

I have skimmed the articles you linked -- most closely reading Nagel's piece -- and find them interesting, so I look forward to whatever you may put together.

Brian Swimme:

"Why is it only now dawning on us? Because we had to go into a shamanic trance to arrive at the story. Humans for the last two centuries have had to close down an enormous number of sensibilities, sensitivities, to get the story right, to focus entirely on empirical evidence and scientific understanding without any interference with religious tradition or spiritual thinking. And so the interpretation I would make of our moment is that science now is coming out of its shamanic trance and has returned to the culture at large, but more importantly to the planet as a whole. And now it’s telling the story of this universe exploding into being 20 billion years ago."

 

 

The advances in technology through science has made many new big stories possible that were not available to our ancestors. Do we really understand the scope of possible openings of awareness through these stories?

Just now we are most urgently lacking in our capacity to integrate these stories into a coherent whole.



Wow, what gorgeous scenery in that film clip, Irmeli.  And yes, I agree -- I think there is great (still untapped) potential in the new emerging stories, but we are still struggling with finding coherent ways to link them.  I think Swimme, Berry, Dowd, and Primack/Abrams are attempting to do this in their own ways, but in many fields -- including cosmology -- the science itself is not "decided" and the evidence not unambiguous, so choosing which narrative to tell involves something of a leap of faith.  For instance, Primack and Abrams favor the "Double Dark" theory -- emphasizing the role of Dark Matter and Dark Energy in the constitution and evolution of the universe -- and that is indeed one of the dominant views, with a great deal of empirical support, but there are other competing theories which would involve a rather different "narrative." 


Dowd acknowledges this in point 6 of his discussion of the "core attributes" of the Great Story:


1.  A creation story not yet over.  The creation of the world did not occur "once upon a time" in the distant past.  Creation continues.  Evolutionary change at all levels is ongoing, and we humans bear a responsibility for how the story will continue on Earth.


2.  A planetary perspective.  Individuals from diverse cultures contribute to the Great Story, which all, in turn, can celebrate.  The scientific enterprise is now global, so this story is influenced by people of all ethnicities, all religious traditions, and hailing from all regions of the planet.  Scientists of diverse heritages are each doing their part in discerning the foundational facts of our common creation story.


3.  Open to multiple interpretations.  The Great Story not only tolerates a multiplicity of interpretive meanings; it welcomes them.  The empirical and theoretical sciences search for material explanations of the world.  When we venture into the realm of meaning, our diverse interpretations necessarily go beyond science.  Multiple interpretations are encourage by Great Story enthusiasts.  Like evolution itself, this cosmological story thrives on diversity.


4.  The marriage of science and religion.  The Great Story seamlessly weaves together science, religion, and the needs of today's world.  Because the creation stories of classical religions and native peoples emerged well before the revelation of an evolutionary Cosmos, those venerable stories can fulfill their deep-time potential only if the ancient cosmologies are creatively reinterpreted to mesh with the fruits of today's science.  In contrast, the Great Story emerges out of scientific awareness and thus evolves in step with new discoveries and with the needs and challenges of the day.


5.  A metareligious perspective.  The Great Story is not a new religion in competition with existing religions; rather, it offers a meta-religious perspective that can deepen profound insights of every one of Earth's spiritual traditions.  The Great Story will fulfill its potential for humanity only when it is taken into and absorbed independently by each faith and worldview.  Necessarily, its gifts will manifest in distinct ways in different contexts.


6.  The story of the changing story.  Whenever a new discovery is made and broadly verified in the sciences, our understanding of the Great Story of the Universe changes.  Such change is to be welcomed -- not feared.  [But he acknowledges elsewhere that big change in narrative can sometimes be pretty inconvenient!]

 

 

I have learned to appreciate the power of old symbols, and conscious symbolic thinking through my almost 30 years in Freemasonry.

The old symbols have great power to contain phenomenon and structures that are still above and hence out of reach of the conscious thinking mind. Working with these powerful symbols can step by step reveal their secrets, and  help in the appearance of more encompassing insights to the awareness.

Words are symbols, and by combining these symbols we create a  language with which we can symbolically communicate with others and tell strories. We often have little connection to what functions the words we use initially were created symbols for. We may even forget that they are just symbols.

In Freemasonry there are many simple, concrete symbols with which to operate and which are free to ever new and fresh interpretations. In that system everything including the rituals are consciously symbolic, and hence free to interpretation.

Mathematics is also a  language, though an abstract one, governed by exact rules for the different operations. In astrophysics and quantum physics the abstractions in the formulas can become so complex, that the revelations brought forth through the operations tend to become too difficult to comprehend for most people, maybe even to the scientists  themselves.

I love the way Primack and Abrams use symbols from old traditions to make the revelations of astrophysics easier to comprehend for laymen. In this way  the new understanding astrophysics brings forth through its accurate measurements and mathematical formulas can, when expressed through powerful old symbols, become cosmological creation and evolution stories, that touch us deep inside, and give powerful meaning to our lives.

The world we cognize and see may be illusory, but it should not be meaningless to us. All stories are not equal, some are more truthful, more life supporting and evolutionary than others.

In Balder's  post above there are pictures of two powerful symbols Primack and Abrams use:

The Cosmic Uroboros symbolizing the different size scales in the universe.  Different laws of nature govern those size scales. This serpent swallows its tail, and this swallowing may have existed before the serpent.

The other symbol is the  Cosmic Spheres of Time. This is how the medieval people saw their universe. They felt themselves to be at the stable center of a great spherical universe. We know now that our earth is not at the center, but this symbol is valid now in a different way. The universe must be viewed from the inside, not from some perspective on the periphery or even outside. It expresses a truth not only about the universe but also how people experience the universe. Since looking out into space is looking back in time, each concentric sphere in the figure above, moving outward from today, represents an earlier epoch in the evolution of the universe.

 

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What paths lie ahead for religion and spirituality in the 21st Century? How might the insights of modernity and post-modernity impact and inform humanity's ancient wisdom traditions? How are we to enact, together, new spiritual visions – independently, or within our respective traditions – that can respond adequately to the challenges of our times?

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