Powers of the Universe
Visionary cosmologist Brian Swimme has devoted his life to exploring our cosmological origins and envisioning how we, as humans, can live fully within the vast powers and capacities that are as much a part of us as they are the atoms and molecules, the planets, stars and galaxies. He has articulated 10 ‘Powers of the Universe’ to help us understand how we can personally embody these cosmic dynamics, combining contemporary scientific terminology with metaphor and imaginative imagery to bring to life his deep revelatory experiences of the ways in which the creativity of the universe is alive moment by moment. As yoga practitioners, we can use the postures as entryways into these dynamics and allow the poses to expand our consciousness to the far reaches of the universe.
As Brian is fundamentally a non-dual scientist, he introduces the powers of the universe with a scientists perspective on the formless or eternal ground of being which he calls Seamlessness. This is his term for the underlying unity in which all dimensions of the universe have a common ground. It is a “divisionless domain replete with subtle connections.” Some scientists refer to this as the quantum vacuum of elementry particle physics. Discovered in the 1940′s, this is an all pervasive realm where an incessant stream of particles spontaneously emerge from and dissolve back into the background seamlessness of the universe. It is the source of all powers, all creativity. Quantum physicist David Bohm, famous for his dialogues with Krishnamurti, refers to this ground of being as ‘the implicate order’. In Vedanta it is Atman/Brahman. Deepak Chopra calls it the ‘realm of pure potentiality’.
How does the universe act as a whole? Centration is the continuous urge of the universe to give birth to more and more centers of activity. At the very beginning, with the Great Flaring Forth 13.7 billion years ago, the creation billowed out from an infinitesimally small center point into a vast expanding cloud of particles and energy. It could have remained just a big cloud, but because of various asymmetries in the expanding structure, the cloud split into millions separate mini clouds, the proto galaxies, centers of their own dynamic activity. And each of these galactic clouds split into billions of mini-mini clouds, the first stars, which became centers of their own activity. Universe is omni-centric!
Universe activity is driven by the nature of the four cosmic interactions. In the early stages, gravity dominates, but as we follow the unfolding of evolution and the emergence of more complex atoms created in the stellar furnaces, we find the other interactions becoming more prominent. With the coming of more complex molecules and finally life, we find more and more centers of cosmic activity. The original oceans on earth were like the early cosmic cloud. A vast complex sea of molecules, movements and transformations ultimately bursts into multiple centers of activity, cells. Membrane and catalysts. Catalysts accelerate processes. Membranes allow a unique center to emerge.
Being centered on particular tasks that insure survival of the individual and future generations. How do we as humans participate in this centering? Remove obstacles. What are they? Modern industrial consciousness blocks our participation in centering. (Boxed universe , its a place, with a big clock and we are inside of it. the whole isn’t real!) Einstein saw through this! Not a box! The observer affects the universe! The universe is organized to provide meaning to all individuals. Jung calls this synchronicity.
What does it mean to be centered? To find your Center. Center as place of balance. How do we contact the universe, nature, below language, before language, not impeded by modern consciousness, by thought. Longing to find center, timelessness, seamlessness. Humans get to participate consciously in creation, rooting in energies that go back to the beginning of time.. What kinds of people are engaged in centration? Ones with depth of confidence, people unafraid to be original, to step outside of group think, joy at being a center of activity, of being the whole. Focus, meditation. Centration in immature form: intense narcissism, based on the inability to imagine another perspective. What do other species see? Grandiosity, self absorption
Allurement: Allurement is the power of attraction, of how the whole universe holds itself together. In the macro-phase level, it is gravity that drives the dynamics of the galaxies, stars and solar system. At the molecular level, it is electro-magnetism that allows atoms and molecules to arise, to come together, to come together in a multiplicity of ways. What attracts you! What is the difference between healthy and unhealthy forms of attraction?
Emergence: The universe is not a static place. The creativity of the universe did not just happen at the beginning of time and then stop. The universe is an on-going creative event with newness bursting out moment by moment everywhere. Every being is an expression of this emergence. Suzuki Roshi’s famous book, Zen Mind, Beginners Mind introduces emergence as the heart of Zen meditation practice. Every moment is new, alive, pregnant with new possibilities, if only we are awake if only we see and understand the nature of reality.
Homeostasis: Homeostasis is the way the great accomplishments of the universe are maintained through time. First expressed as the capacity of living organisms to maintain the delicate inner environment that allows the life processes to continue and thrive, here we have expanded the meaning to all ways that the universe holds onto what is valuable. Four billion years after the first cell appeared on the planet, life forms still are cellular. When the chlorophyl molecule first appeared, the early cells used it to covert the solar energy to food. But this molecule also became the precurser of the retinol molecule and thus the capacity to see was born. all of us with vision share a depth of gratitude to chlorophyl and the capacity of the universe to maintain its power through time.
Cataclysm: destruction, entropy, breakdowns, Shiva/Kali
Synergy: mutually enhancing relationships
Transmutation: power of self change, discliplines and constraints
Transformation: Power to change the whole, communion
Interrelatedness: power of care, response to other
Radiance: Radiance is a direct expression of the second law of thermodynamic which essentially states that and body or system with energy will give it away to its surrounding. As Brian says, “Even the coldest group on the tiniest hydrogen atoms in the darkest night of intergalactic space are happily giving birth to and releasing, photons of light instant after instant.” We all know of the power of the sun and how its radiance allows there to be life on earth. But we all have the capacity, the possibility, of being ever more radiant in our own lives. The great saints such as St. Philomena are often represented as having a halo of light surrounding them. Plants and animals, as living beings, have a radiance that can be seen by shamans and visionaries. The whole universe is radiant!
(“Dr. Brian Swimme is a mathematical cosmologist on the graduate faculty of the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. He received his Ph.D. (1978) from the University of Oregon specializing in gravitational dynamics, mathematical cosmology and singularity theory. Swimme was a faculty member in the Dept. of Mathematics and Physics at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington from 1978-1981. He was a member of the faculty at the Institute for Culture and Creation Spirituality at Holy Names College in Oakland, California from 1983-1989.
Brian Swimme’s primary field of research is the nature of the evolutionary dynamics of the Universe. Swimme brings us a meaningful interpretation of the human as an emergent being within the Universe and Earth. His central concern is the role of the human within the Earth community. Toward this goal, in 1989, Swimme founded the Center for the Story of the Universe, a production and distribution affiliate of the California Institute of Integral Studies.
His published work includes The Universe is a Green Dragon (Bear and Company, 1984), The Universe Story (Harper San Francisco, 1992) written with Thomas Berry, and The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos (Orbis, 1996). Swimme’s books have been translated into eight different languages.
Swimme was featured in the television series Soul of the Universe (The BBC, 1991) and The Sacred Balance produced by David Suzuki (CBC and PBS, 2003). He is the producer of a twelve-part dvd series Canticle to the Cosmos which has been distributed worldwide. Other dvd programs featuring Swimme’s ideas include The Earth’s Imagination and The Powers of the Universe.”)
Powers of the Universe