International Society for Science & Religion - Library Project

The Universe Story

by Brian Swimme , Thomas Berry

Introductory Essay by Christopher Corbally

This book is well subtitled “From the primordial Flaring Forth to the Ecozoic era – a celebration of the unfolding of the cosmos.” The reader finds in it the whole story of the universe that includes the physics of the Big Bang and of the subsequent appearance of galaxies and stars, the geology of the Earth’s development, the chemistry and biology of life’s forming and evolving, the paleontology of human ancestors, the anthropology of Neolithic villages, the politics of urban civilizations, the technology of planet transforming operations, and the ethics of sustainability. The book is truly multidisciplinary, but this is done in a light-handed style that does not get bogged down in technical language. It tells, after all, a story.

The inclusion of a timeline, a glossary, and a selective bibliography shows that the book is written for the general reader and for all students, whatever their primary discipline. As the introduction describes, it gives an orientation to the origins and long sequence of transformations of the universe that provides a coherent unity to those changes. This unity joins every component in the universe to every other. So it involves the reader himself and herself. The story of the universe is one’s own story.

Throughout the book, and particularly in the Epilogue, the reader is urged not to be passive but rather to celebrate the story, fully and responsibly. One’s celebration participates in the Celebration of the whole universe for, despite the afflictions attendant on living and dying, existence and life and consciousness have a grandeur inherent in their processes. This human participation in the Celebration is the unique component through which the universe become self-aware, self-conscious. Moreover, it is in this relatedness to the whole universe that we find the sense of the sacred, which will provide the necessary psychic energy for renewal of the Earth.

Subsidiary themes in the book and major historical figures can be picked out in the index. One such theme, autopoiesis or self-organizing power, may become too personified for the taste of some readers. An example is the statement, “The power that evoked the universe evoked a new power in the form of the galactic cloud” [34].

Religion is generally implicit in The Universe Story, except in the Epilogue. Since it does not tackle the relation of religion and science directly, it is best read as background to other volumes in the ISSR Library Project, and it will be especially helpful as an overview of evolution in its multidisciplinary aspects. It will also provide an essential perspective to volumes dealing with ecology.

The book was published in 1992. Advances in science since then, particularly in regard to cosmology and the origins of life, should be borne in mind, but these do not affect the goal of its authors, which is a change in one’s perspective towards the universe. Consideration of that perspective is recommended for all scholars of science and religion.