Category Archives: Brian Swimme

Our Journey Towards Radiance: Part Four

Current conversations between mystic and physicist, theologian and cosmologist, are revealing undreamt-of possibilities for the story of our faith. (Daniel O’Leary)


We have been exploring the Powers of the Universe as described and reflected upon by Evolutionary Cosmologist Brian Swimme, In 1992 Swimme, with Thomas Berry, wrote The Universe Story.

Have you wondered how these astounding discoveries about the origins of the universe impact two thousand years of Christian belief?

Writing in The Tablet (UK pub.) in August 2014, Daniel O’Leary offers these insights:

Many Christians are astonished at the revelations of twentieth-century science, much of what is now known as the “New Universe Story”. These revelations encourage us to reflect more thoroughly on St Thomas Aquinas’ reminder that God is revealed in both the book of nature and of the Scriptures.

For too long the two stories have collided with each other. But both the love story revealed in the orthodox theology of Creation, and the emerging stories about our evolving world, reveal a fundamental interconnectedness and integration.

“Geologian” Fr Thomas Berry wrote that “we bear the universe in our being as the universe bears us in its being”. In humanity the evolving universe becomes conscious of, and celebrates, itself. These glimpses of mystery both challenge and excite us.

Christians are now called to a new level of consciousness about God’s loving energy in the first “flaring forth” nearly 14 billion years ago, and in the subsequent process of evolution. Every particle of Creation is imbued with divine love-energy and is an incarnate expression of God’s own creativity. A fundamental concept is that we all flow from one source, one relatively simple particle; some will see it as the process of evolution, others the work of the Holy Spirit.

Theologian Elizabeth Johnson’s new book, Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God of love, seeks an understanding of faith that embraces the remarkable findings of science. She wrote: “Far from being in competition with the laws of nature acting around us, the hand of the God of love empowers the cosmos as it evolves. The world develops in an economy of divine superabundance, gifted with its own freedom, and in and through which the Creator Spirit’s gracious purpose is accomplished.”



It may well be that our future lies not so much in an invisible Heaven outside time but in this world clearly understood, lived and transformed. “Earth is a physical place of extravagant dynamism that bodies forth the gracious presence of God,” wrote Johnson. “In its own way it is a sacrament and a revelation … The creating God as sustaining power and goal of the evolving world acts by empowering the process from within.”

In The Emergent Christ, scientist and Franciscan Sr Ilia Delio also called for a transformation in our consciousness as the Church merges into the framework of a new cosmology. She quoted paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ: “Creation and incarnation are two moments of the one act of God’s self-giving love … There is a deep compatibility between Christianity and evolution.” St Thomas Aquinas warned us that “if we get Creation wrong we get God wrong”.

The evolutionary process towards deeper expressions of beauty and goodness is guided by the careful, absolute love of God. To reject evolution, according to Teilhard de Chardin, is to reject God, because evolution is love incarnate. He called for Christians to “divinise” the earth by our consciousness of being at the heart of evolution, and by blessing and ¬facilitating its unfolding in our commitment to peace, compassion, justice and creativity. “We who are baptised into cosmic evolution have a responsibility to evolve and to help this Creation evolve towards unity,” wrote Delio.

So much of the mystery is about inter¬relatedness. Theologian Rudolf Bultmann wrote that the light that shone in Jesus first shone in Creation. Jesus is a unique evolutionary step in the development of humankind, embracing the world from the very beginning. “In this respect, the whole of Creation beginning with the Big Bang is ¬incarnation,” wrote Delio. When we talk about incarnation, we are talking about Creation – God’s dynamic Word uttered into time and space in the first nanosecond of existence.

Evolution…is not background to the human story; it is the human story, the unfinished process of continuing incarnation. It is profoundly changing our understanding of the world, the Church, ourselves and God. And the Risen Christ is the unifying heart of it all.

“Resurrection is a qualitative leap in the history of evolution towards a new world which already permeates this world of ours, transforms it and draws it to itself …” wrote Pope John Paul II. In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis wrote of a love that encircles the world like an irresistible force field “secretly woven into the fabric of history”.

For believers, these insights may first threaten, then challenge, and finally transform their relationship with the God of all Creation.

In “Canticle to the Cosmos”, cosmologist Brian Swimme wrote that every child should be told this: “You come out of the energy that gave birth to the universe. Its story is your story; its beginning is your beginning.” Children’s hearts will recognise these wondrous words, and will soon learn to protect and to nourish the loving, evolving heart of their divine Mother Earth. And then to adore.

(excerpts from “Divine Evolution” The Tablet 21 August 2014 by Daniel O’Leary)




Our Journey Towards Radiance: Part Three

Transmutation, as we have seen, is slow, gradual change occurring over time.

Transformation is sudden. The Irish poet WB Yeats expresses it well:

… changed, changed utterly. A terrible beauty is born.

When we experience transformation in our lives, we need to look for guidance from the mystics, writers and poets who have experienced it. We welcome beauty into our lives. We have within us a visionary process which is a source for the re-coding of the planet. All the codings for the life of the unborn future are available in us. We are the recoding, the reset button.

The twentieth century mystic Caryll Houselander writes of her experience of transformation. After a long illness, suffering as well from scrupulosity, she had an experience of God that removed her obsessive fears and gave her a profound peace:

It was in the evening, I think. The room was dark, and the flames of firelight dancing on the wall seemed almost to cause me pain when I opened my eyes….I no longer attempted to translate my torment as particular sins; I had realized in a dim, intuitive way that it was not something I had done that required forgiveness, but everything I was that required to be miraculously transformed.

Interrelatedness: Rather than removing us from concern for others, the experience of transformation fires us with a vision of caring, with a sense of the whole, an invitation from the cosmos to see all of life as interconnected. This is how the mystics see life, how today’s physicists see life. It is what the astronauts experienced when they saw earth from space:

From space I saw Earth –indescribably beautiful
with the scars of national boundaries gone.
Muhammad Ahmad Faris Syria

During a space flight, the psyche of each astronaut is reshaped.
Having seen the sun, the stars and our planet, you become more full of life, softer.
You begin to look at all living things with greater trepidation
and you begin to be more kind and patient with the people around you.
At any rate, that is what happened to me. 
Boris Volynov, USSR

We need an overarching vision that is so simple and alluring that we can see what the world can be…. What does a world look like that really works for everyone? This is an incredible grace and opportunity for us, born on this beautiful planet at this time in history.


Radiance: The sun gives off messages as gravitons that pull us to the sun; the sun interacts with the moon and new gravitons feed us; the earth responds with a flood of gravitons…. We are frozen light…

Brian Swimme says that every being you meet holds fourteen billion years of radiance. Radiance is the primary language of the universe. We develop a container that can respond to the beauty of the other. We enter into resonance with the radiance of the universe, and that is the primary form of prayer. You become the radiance that is flooding the world.

Radiance, the tenth Power of the Universe, is celebrated in the Book of Wisdom where Solomon says of the Wisdom/Sophia Presence: I loved her more than health or beauty, preferred her to the light, since her radiance never sleeps. (Jerusalem Bible 7: 10)
She is indeed more splendid than the sun, she outshines all the constellations; compared with light she takes first place, for light must yield to night, but over Wisdom, evil can never triumph.(7: 29,30)

Teilhard de Chardin, the French Jesuit priest and paleontologist who died in 1955, wrote:

Throughout my whole life during every moment I have lived, the world has gradually been taking on light and fire for me, until it has come to envelop me in one mass of luminosity, glowing from within…The purple flash of matter fading imperceptibly into the gold of spirit, to be lost finally in the incandescence of a personal universe…This is what I have learnt from my contact with the earth- the diaphany of the divine at the heart of a glowing universe, the divine radiating from the depth of matter a-flame. (The Divine Milieu)

Hildegard of Bingen, the astonishing 12th c. abbess and genius, tells us this:

From my infancy until now, in the 70th year of my age, my soul has always beheld this Light, and in it my soul soars to the summit of the firmament and into a different air….The brightness which I see is not limited by space and is more brilliant than the radiance around the sun…. I cannot measure its height, length, breadth. Its name, which has been given me, is “Shade of the Living Light”….Within that brightness I sometimes see another light, for which the name “Lux Vivens” (Living Light) has been given me. When and how I see this, I cannot tell; but sometimes when I see it, all sadness and pain is lifted from me, and I seem a simple girl again, and an old woman no more!

And so, empowered by the Universe itself, we shine on!


Our Journey Towards Radiance: Part Two

We continue our reflections on the Powers of the Universe as described by Brian Swimme with elucidating teachings from Jean Houston and quotes from the mystics.

Cataclysm: For the next level of growth, of deepening, something has to wake us up, shake us up. It may take a tornado to blow us all the way to Oz…. because “there is no way to that place” where the greatest gifts await us. “But thither (we) shall come, soon or never” as the old fairy tales say.


We must orchestrate the breakdown for the breakthrough to occur.

The mystics endured cataclysm in different ways: Julian of Norwich was sustained in her near-death experience by the presence of love; Angela of Foligno, who lived in Spoleto, Italy just after the time of Francis of Assisi, learned in the darkness where she lost everything that love would never leave her.

Afterwards did I see him darkly, and this darkness was the greatest blessing that could be imagined and no thought could conceive aught that would equal this. Then was there given unto the soul an assured faith, a firm and certain hope, wherein I felt so sure of God that all fear left me. For by that blessing which came with the darkness I did collect my thoughts and was made so sure of God that I can never again doubt but that I do of a certainty possess him.

Trust in the darkness and loss finally brings us through to the light.

Etty Hillesum, the 20th c. Jewish mystic who died in Auschwitz, wrote:

I shall try to help you, God, to stop my strength ebbing away, though I cannot vouch for it in advance. But one thing is becoming increasingly clear to me: that you cannot help us, that we must help you to help ourselves. And that is all we can manage these days, also all that really matters: that we safeguard that little piece of you, God, in ourselves. And in others as well. Alas, there doesn’t seem to be much you yourself can do about our circumstances, about our lives. Neither do I hold you responsible. You cannot help us but we must help you and defend your dwelling place inside us to the end.

Jean Houston says that the call is to “radical reinvention” in order to speciate, to become a deepening spirit of the earth for her new emergence.

Like the seed, the mystic must go down into the darkness of the earth, let go of the success of walking in the midday sun of her own achievements, her own goals and triumphs.

images (5)

The mystic sinks down to earth, down to the ground of our being, so that there results a letting go, a giving up of all control. The mind stops grinding out thoughts and becomes simple. The most primitive feelings emerge. The practice and the behaviour are meant to bring one into the deepest introversion and to release all attachments to and projections on external objects or persons. With that the inner world becomes enriched and enlivened. There comes a reunion of what is human with the divine. (Here All Dwell Free by Gertrude Mueller Nelson p. 142)

We ask, but it must be for nothing – nothing that belongs to the world of power or ego. We seek passionately, we knock madly. We weep. We pray. We call out. When everything is given up and opened out, we empty ourselves. And God fills in. ( Nelson p.141)

Synergy: mutually enhancing relationships allow us to recreate after cataclysm

images (1)

Life at the Benedictine Monastery of Helfta was an illustration of this: four mystics lived there in the 12th century, sustaining one another in faith and love and their mystical experiences. The writings of the mystics can offer synergistic energy, the guidance and wisdom we need; now we are more deeply aware of the earth and its living beings, of the universe itself as offering shared energies to us; the bio-mimicry that teaches us how creatures on our planet survive cataclysm; the characters in the Wizard of Oz, representing heart and brain and courage are a splendid example of synergy.

Transmutation: slow but deep change over time releases us from old powers that hold us in check: the personal unconscious (Freud); the collective unconscious (Jung); the whole biological nature (Bateson). The universe is at work within us: we are part of the cosmological unconscious (Swimme); the universe reflecting upon itself through us. (Teilhard de Chardin)

On the mystic journey, our own efforts to be still, to listen, to pray, to seek inner guidance seem small and yet slowly bring a change in our sensibilities, opening us to the Powers of the Universe that are within, awaiting our engagement.

Terese of Lisieux said our efforts are like a child trying laboriously to lift her feet to climb high steps until at last love scoops her up in her arms, carries her to the top…

We know of the slow evolution of species; the ancient tale of the earth gradually being created by bits of soil being placed on the back of a turtle… we recognize transmutation taking place in us when we no longer fit into old patterns, relationships, structures. Then we must seek out others to help us to keep going.

(Next: The Power of Tranformation)

Our Journey Towards Radiance

What dreams and desires do you hold for your own unfolding?


All the Powers of the Universe are seamlessly one, trying to bring forth Radiance.

The Mystics of the Christian tradition as well as those of other faith paths show us the radiance of a life fully realized, though their paths may seem harsh, even unattainable, to our twenty-first century eyes.

The journey to fullness of life can be found in other images, other metaphors now available to us. We can follow the footprints that lead to wholeness through ancient stories, myth, poetry, and the writings of the great mystics. These are in surprising harmony with the scientific discoveries made in our time about the unfolding of life on the planet, the unfolding of the universe itself. Like the Mystics, the Universe moves through a process of unfolding into radiance. It is our process as well, our story, and our most urgent call in this time.

Seamlessness: All the powers of the universe are seamlessly one, trying to bring forth radiance. These powers can be understood mystically as within ourselves waiting to assist us to bring forth a world that works for everyone. (Jean Houston)

The universe is bound together in communion, each thing with all the rest. The gravitational bond unites all the galaxies; the electromagnetic interaction binds all the molecules; the genetic information connects all the generations of the ancestral tree of life. (Brian Swimme)

Centration:We are the gathered-in-ness of 13.8 billion years: the universe conscious of itself; it is also important that we are self-aware of WHO we really are and of all that we are; the mystics knew themselves in the presence of the Holy.

Theologian Margaret Brennan, IHM, teaches that

Mystics are people who come in touch with the sacred source of who they really are and are able to realize and experience that in their lives. When we have come in touch with the deep centre of ourselves/our lives we realize that we are more than what we seem to be, that there’s something deeper in ourselves than meets the eye.

John O’Donohue, Irish mystic poet writes: For millions of years, before you arrived here, the dream of your individuality was carefully prepared. You were sent to a shape of destiny in which you would be able to express the special gift you bring to the world. Sometimes this gift may involve suffering and pain that can neither be accounted for nor explained. There is a unique destiny for each person. Each one of us has something to do here that can be done by no one else. If someone else could fulfill your destiny, then they would be in your place, and you would not be here.

Allurement: As the mystics did, we draw unto ourselves, are lured towards, the love that holds the universe together; we allure all we require to grow in that love, within the calling, the shape of destiny that is uniquely ours; we ourselves can be principles of allurement.

Jean Houston advises us to have leaky margins, to be able to fall in love with everything. If fears and worries are blocking allurement, bring in an inner guide to care for them, to set you free… be aware of the negative quality of allurement: notice what you draw to yourself.

It is in the depths of your life that you will discover the invisible necessity that has brought you here. When you begin to decipher this, your gift and giftedness come alive. (O’Donohue)

Emergence: the universe flares forth out of darkness Our lives begin to blossom with gifts that grow through our co-creative love relationship with the Holy; we begin to see what is possible as we open to joy. We can learn how to work with the universe in what it is trying to emerge within us. Set up a schedule. Show up at the page, or in the listening or prayer place regularly to signal our intent to be open. We can create internal structures that are ready to receive what wants to emerge in us. Then we drop in an idea that puts us in touch with essence, creates in us a cosmic womb so the universal power can work in us, so that, like Hildegard of Bingen we become a flowering for the possible, attracting the people and resources that we need.

Your heart quickens and the urgency of living rekindles your creativity. (O’Donohue)

Homeostasis: Here what has been developed is sustained, maintained… The goddess Sarasvati in India plays only one note on her long-stringed instrument; body temperature stays at 98.6F…. We may reach a level of sameness in our prayers and practices, our work and relationships, the structures of our lives, our liturgies…. but if kept too long, safety leads to stagnation. We reach a plateau as the urgency subsides, the joy fades into the commonplace; what seemed wonderful becomes the everyday, the expected. Our lives slip in to the “nothing-happening” of an Austen novel, and we may not even notice how dull it is. The universe gets bored with us. That was Dorothy’s life when we first meet her in the Wizard of Oz. Grey skies, grey land, grey telephone poles.The only thing really alive was Toto; then he was taken away.

(Next week: What follows: Cataclysm)

Wisdom in the Universe

Evolutionary Cosmologist Brian Swimme writes that “the cosmological Powers of the Universe are coursing through us moment by moment. To become aware of these powers is to touch the Source of Life.”
In his DVD set “The Powers of The Universe”, Swimme offers this summary of the ten powers, held together in Seamlessness:

Centration: the coming together in one life of the entire evolutionary development

Allurement: what holds it all together; in societies, the values and ideals that help them cohere

Emergence: the Universe is a story, not a place or a thing, always bringing forth newness

Homeostasis: the Universe holds onto its achievements: the oyster shell – it works!

Cataclysm: the Universe sometimes destroys its achievements purposely in addition to accidental destruction

Synergy: complexification as things come together; diversity creates more complex systems

Transmutation: newness begins, builds

Transformation: always, always newness is being created

Inter-relatedness: when diversity and commonality come together, as now on the planet: people are discovering diverse gifts, beginning to have common concerns

Radiance: a new evolutionary reality, as Teilhard de Chardin foresaw, something beyond what has been until now.

Out of seamlessness, a person is here (centration) seeing the universe involved in her unfolding. Through allurement, she begins to pursue dreams which emerge in relationships. Through homeostasis she finds her role in society, where she fits in …

But then cataclysm arrives where things fall apart… marriage, health, job… One way or another, the person’s cataclysm will relate to the present cataclysm of the planet. The collapse of what one thought was real eliminates illusion, a glimmer of the need for synergy, a larger vision for the community and for others.

Transmutation comes from awareness that I need to change parts of my life (consumerism? militarism? competition?) This can lead to a deep unlearning, a metanoia, metamorphosis, connecting one to the origins of things, developing a creative vision for moving forward, a vision that itself needs to be tested internally against the other powers of the universe…moving one towards transformation where inter-relatedness happens at a more elegant level as one sees the light in the other, and finally radiance.

Recalling that we are beings in whom the Universe resides, we begin our exploration of Swimme’s teaching with the first power that he identifies in the Universe: Centration.

CENTRATION, Swimme teaches, is the coming together in one life of the entire evolutionary development. What if? he asks, what if the role of the human after 13.8 billion years, is to allow the Powers of the Universe to be enhanced and advanced though us? What if we understood that the Universe is centered on us, with the aim of bringing forth another form of life, one that will draw life itself forward? Our challenge, Swimme says, is to learn how to participate in this process by removing obstacles so that the power of centration can proceed. The main obstacle, he says, is that modern individual consciousness prevents our appreciation that the WHOLE is real, and has its own intentions.

How would our lives look if we opened ourselves to allow the power of centration to grow in us? The shift in consciousness, should we as a species open ourselves to this fully, would rival the shift that occurred when, in the sixteenth century Copernicus declared that the earth revolved around the sun, not the sun around the earth….

In 1905, Einstein realized that life is not boxed in with a clock ticking beside it but rather that space and time in the Universe depend upon the observer, that the Universe rises up with respect to a particular orientation. Half a century later, Carl Jung would understand that each of us experiences the universe in our own way.

The story of the evolution of life holds the teachings we require to allow the power of centration to be enhanced through us. Life created the membrane to allow creation to withstand the onslaught of the sea. Swimme advises that in this time when our planet is threatened with destruction we too need to develop a permeable barrier whose intelligence will determine what goes through and to find a way to keep out what is leading to degradation, refusing to give entry.

We need also to identify and amplify what we do want to pass through the membrane: those elements which will enhance our journey into ourselves.

The second thing required for the development of life is a catalyst that, like the molecule, accelerates the process. For this, Swimme suggests we find a way to contact the primordial energy of nature, to drop into contact with the Universe, knowing that the Universe is longing to center itself in a new way. Spend time in a storm, by the waves of a shore, beside a birdfeeder, Swimme suggests. Find a way to channel this energy of 13.8 billion years.11261593_1064331516930152_2458458929397885903_n

Reflecting on Centration:

What would change in my life if I were more fully open to the power of Centration, understanding that my life is part of a WHOLE? How would my life be different if I saw it as a journey for which the UNIVERSE holds intention, holds a hope for something far beyond what I can see or imagine?

How do I /we develop an intelligent sieve, a membrane with wisdom to keep out of my consciousness what would harm me while recognizing and allowing the passage of elements that will enhance and assist the journey to the sacred centre of my life?

What ways have I found and which do I seek that will bring me into closer contact with the power of nature? Knowing that the Universe is longing to be more fully centred in me, how do I encourage this closeness?