Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Journey of the Universe

Journey of the Universe

Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 192
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Journey of the Universe
    Book Description:

    Today we know what no previous generation knew: the history of the universe and of the unfolding of life on Earth. Through the astonishing combined achievements of natural scientists worldwide, we now have a detailed account of how galaxies and stars, planets and living organisms, human beings and human consciousness came to be. And yet . . . we thirst for answers to questions that have haunted humanity from the very beginning. What is our place in the 14-billion-year history of the universe? What roles do we play in Earth's history? How do we connect with the intricate web of life on Earth?

    InJourney of the UniverseBrian Thomas Swimme and Mary Evelyn Tucker tell the epic story of the universe from an inspired new perspective, weaving the findings of modern science together with enduring wisdom found in the humanistic traditions of the West, China, India, and indigenous peoples. The authors explore cosmic evolution as a profoundly wondrous process based on creativity, connection, and interdependence, and they envision an unprecedented opportunity for the world's people to address the daunting ecological and social challenges of our times.

    Journey of the Universetransforms how we understand our origins and envision our future. Though a little book, it tells a big story-one that inspires hope for a way in which Earth and its human civilizations could flourish together.

    This book is part of a larger project that includes a documentary film, an educational DVD series, and a website. The film and the DVD series will be released in 2011. For more information, please consult the website,

    eISBN: 978-0-300-17621-6
    Subjects: Astronomy, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. ONE Beginning of the Universe
    (pp. 1-16)

    Imagine experiencing Earth’s beauty for the first time—its birds, fish, mountains, and waterfalls. Imagine, too, the vastness of Earth’s home, the universe, with its numerous galaxies, stars, and planets. Surrounded by such magnificence, we can ask ourselves a simple question: Can we find a way to sink deeply into these immensities? And if we can, will this enable humans to participate in the flourishing of life?

    This book is an invitation to a journey into grandeur—a journey into grandeur that no previous generation could have fully imagined.

    We are the first generation to learn the comprehensive scientific dimensions...

  5. TWO Galaxies Forming
    (pp. 17-26)

    How are we to understand the beauty of the universe? We are surrounded by beauty. What brought it into being? Where does the intricacy of a dragonfly or a lilac come from?

    Let’s consider the birth and development of galaxies. Even a century ago we knew only about one galaxy in the entire universe: our own Milky Way. Over the course of the twentieth century we discovered nearly a hundred billion galaxies. Each of these contains several billion stars. What does this mean for understanding our place amidst such vastness?

    We are only now entering into an ongoing reflection regarding...

  6. THREE The Emanating Brilliance of Stars
    (pp. 27-34)

    Why are we so fascinated by the stars? Some of our ancestors thought stars were gods. Still others thought the stars were angels pouring forth virtue upon the Earth. Contemporary scientists refer to stars as giant balls of gas.

    The need to orient ourselves with respect to the stars continues, but the way that twenty-first century humans approach this challenge includes a growing base of knowledge about the stars that previous generations did not enjoy. Perhaps the most significant discovery is that stars are self-organizing processes. They are not just unchanging bright objects in the night sky. Stars proceed through...

  7. FOUR Birth of the Solar System
    (pp. 35-46)

    Our solar system emerged out of such fiery transformation. Five billion years ago a shimmering cloud created by supernova explosions began its gravitational collapse into a thousand new star systems. Throughout this vast cloud, new centers of attraction appeared with an infant star, like a jewel shining at the heart of each center. One of these centers became our Sun with its eight planets—a solar system. This vast ocean of our solar system is like a womb that eventually brings forth life.

    How did this happen?

    In the beginning our infant Sun was completely surrounded by hydrogen, carbon, silicon,...

  8. FIVE Life’s Emergence
    (pp. 47-56)

    What did cells give rise to? We look about us now and see trees growing from the forest floor, hawks sailing through the sky, and whales breaking the ocean surface. We see the dandelion puffs floating through the summer stillness. We watch the blackberry vines grow heavy with fruit while elk fracture the night’s peace with their fierce fight for mates. Such patterns of multicellular life arose over hundreds of millions of years, while antecedent forms of unicellular life arose over billions of years. During all that time, nothing similar took place on the other planets in our solar system....

  9. SIX Living and Dying
    (pp. 57-70)

    The ongoing deepening of life’s complexity happens because life is able to adapt to a vast variety of conditions and to remember these adaptations, sometimes for billions of years. Nearly everything of fundamental importance in life depends upon the power of adaptation and of memory. Everywhere we look we find evidence of this process. Consider our foods. Grains, for example, are composed of many different sorts of complex organic molecules. When we eat them, they need to be carefully broken down and then woven together in a new way if they are to become part of our bodies. This complicated...

  10. SEVEN The Passion of Animals
    (pp. 71-80)

    Passion—our urge to merge. What is more intimate to our souls? Our passions determine so much of our lives. They are the wild, explosive energies of love and creativity. They inexorably shape us into the sorts of people we become. Desire lives at the heart of life’s evolution.

    The ancient Greeks symbolized desire as a gift from the Gods, even as a visitation from one of the Gods—Aphrodite or Dionysus. Their imagination expressed their awareness of the power and significance of this emotion. In many of the Greek myths, the characters are portrayed as utterly at the mercy...

  11. EIGHT The Origin of the Human
    (pp. 81-92)

    What gave birth to the human?

    Our current best evidence suggests that something of profound importance took place five to seven million years ago in Africa. Something happened that ignited the human lineage of the primate world. A new line of energetic apes emerged that would, over the next several million years, bring forth massive brains and learn to dwell in a world saturated with dreams. Nothing like them had ever existed before. So what was it that gave rise to them?

    Considerable fossil and genetic evidence has been obtained on human origins, and even though much remains to be...

  12. NINE Becoming a Planetary Presence
    (pp. 93-102)

    Every place we went, we became that place. That is the brilliant power provided by symbolic consciousness. With their cultural inventions, humans could adapt to new environments much more quickly than would be the case if they had to rely solely upon genetic changes. That’s why the humans who decided to follow the reindeer rapidly became reindeer people. They walked the same pathways as the reindeer. They ate some of the same foods. At night, in their feasts and their dancing, they celebrated the thrill of being the reindeer people.

    Other humans aligned themselves with the whales and became the...

  13. TEN Rethinking Matter and Time
    (pp. 103-110)

    From its inception, modern science was committed to discovering knowledge and using it to make a better world. Why, then, with all of this scientific knowledge and technical skill, have we caused such extensive damage to Earth’s ecosystems? For the most part, this destruction is carried out without any deep awareness that life required literally billions of years to bring forth such complexity. What is it about our modern consciousness that enables us to avoid seeing the disastrous results of our way of life?

    Perhaps the destruction comes, at least in part, from an inadequate understanding of matter itself. “Deterministic...

  14. ELEVEN Emerging Earth Community
    (pp. 111-118)

    The challenge of conscious self-awareness is unlike anything that has occurred for millions of years. We are finding ourselves in the midst of a vast transition. How are we to respond? For we sense we are in a dark night—we dwell in unknowing and yet grope forward. The path is still unclear. With what shall we navigate?

    The path is uncertain because our sense of larger purpose and destiny is clouded. We are seeking patterns that connect us to a vaster destiny—a vital participation in Earth’s unfolding. There is nothing more mysterious than destiny—of a person, of...

    (pp. 119-132)
  16. NOTES
    (pp. 133-134)
    (pp. 135-166)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 167-175)