Almost every day since the COVID-19 pandemic began, leading to radical shifts in our daily lives, fresh perceptions, epiphanies arise about life on our planet. It’s as if we are part of a global learning experience, a mandatory home schooling.
One of the effects of our self-isolation is that we are learning how much we need to be connected with animals, with nature, with natural settings, for our own wholeness and well-being. Thomas Berry said that “the natural world gives us an interior world. It gives us a healing presence, a fulfilling presence.” It was Berry who counselled many decades ago that we set aside our Bibles for twenty years, to read, to learn from the Scriptures of the Earth.
And it was Berry who introduced the young cosmologist Brian Swimme to the writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Through Teilhard, Swimme came to understand that there is a spiritual dimension as well as a physical one to everything in existence, and that the universe is in a deep process of transfiguration, moving towards beauty, embodying qualities regarded as divine, such as compassion, truth and love.
With Thomas Berry, Brian Swimme co-authored The Universe Story: From the Primordial Flaring Forth to the Ecozoic Era -A Celebration of the Unfolding of the Cosmos (HarperSan Francisco 1992)
In 2004, Swimme created the DVD series The Powers of the Universe.This astounding new moment in the planet’s history is preparing us to recognize and claim these powers within us.
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)
The Power of Centration
We are the gathered-in-ness of 13.8 billion years: the universe conscious of itself; it is 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: 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, of 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. (Margaret Brennan)
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. (Anam Cara by John O’Donohue)
Centration, the first of the Powers of the Universe, as presented by Brian Swimme, is the coming together in one life of the entire evolutionary development. Swimme asks: What if the role of the human is to allow the Powers of the Universe to be enhanced and advanced through 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 hold 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.
For Personal Reflection:
How is the global pandemic moving you beyond your individual consciousness towards a greater appreciation of the WHOLE?
What changes are you noticing in the way you view your own life within the life of the planet?