Book Review : “The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos” Brian Swimme

The Whirlpool Galaxy
The Whirlpool Galaxy

Brian Swimme “The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos” (Orbis Books April 2003) pp115

For as long as I can remember, the questions cosmologist Brian Swimme raises in the Preface to this wonderfully lucid, accessible and poetically written book have fascinated me:

“Where did it all come from? Where is the center of reality? Where is the heart or source of the universe? Where is that place where everything sprang forth into existence?”

In “The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos” he sets about confronting these questions, with due modesty, and without “any naive expectation that we will now answer with certitude questions which eluded our ancestors.” He does so in a positive and optimistic spirit, stating that “the opportunity of our time is to integrate science’s understanding of the universe with more ancient intuitions concerning the meaning and destiny of the human.”

Swimme makes it clear that cosmology isn’t simply about scientific teaching about the facts and theories of the universe. It is “a wisdom tradition, drawing upon not just science but religion and art and philosophy” .

The book centres on the major cosmological discovery of our time: that the Universe came into existence 13.7 billion years ago and (in Swimme’s own words from his website)” ….is so biased toward complexification that life and intelligence are now seen to be a nearly inevitable construction of evolutionary dynamics.”

His approach in explicating this shattering discovery is one of evocation rather than merely conveying the facts, although he does the latter extremely well in language which elucidates rather than obfuscates. It is hard for people like me, who lack a grounding in science, to get to grips with the kind of world in which we live from the perspectives of  modern physics and cosmology, when so much of what is now known is so counter-intuitive to how our five senses perceive both the earth and the starry heavens.

Each chapter I read, from The Sun at the Center, through Looking Down at the Milky Way, via The Large-Scale Structure of Space and Time, to A Multiplicity of Centers, helped me to understand  more clearly than I ever had before not only the nature and structure of “the vast ocean of the cosmos”, but also evoked a deep sense of the numinosity of belonging to that cosmos.

Everyone interested in humanity and the new story, which is being revealed to us by modern cosmology, should read this book.

400 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2008
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

10 thoughts on “Book Review : “The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos” Brian Swimme

  1. Thanks Anne. A good summary of your response to the complex shift towards cosmology, which I have also been experiencing.

    The fruit of this shift is beginning to reveal itself in many ways, artistically, philosophically, liurgically, in business and in ecological awareness.

    I will take some more time on your blog, but the question I am now asking is “What is the twelfth house?”

    1. Hi Nic

      pleased to hear from you and I , too, will return to your blog. May I list it in my ‘Writers I like’ Links section at the bottom right of the Home page? A reciprocal link would be appreciated, but only if you feel comfortable to do so.

      In answer to your question, I offer you an article on my blog! Scroll down Categories on left of Home Page, and you will find a post called “Evoking the Twelfth House” – where I also mention Brian Swimme’s book again, incidentally. There is also a post called “Sea as church” which you will find relevant to the Twelfth House theme.

      It feels good to be gradually ‘plugging-in’ through the Net to a world-wide community which is increasingly able to express ‘the indivisibility of all things’ in a multitude of ways, many of which you have just now mentioned yourself, suited to the times in which we live.

      Best wishes from wet and windy Scotland!


  2. What a question, Sandy! Given that the monotheistic religions arose from what we knew around 4,000 to 2,000 years ago, and that our current cosmological knowledge has advanced incredibly rapidly only over the last century, it would not have been possible for the latter to provide the context in which the monotheistic religions arose. Short answer: this cosmology could not have affected the monotheistic religions at the time they were arising in human consciousness.

    A most interesting contemporary question is: how, if at all, are the monotheistic religions adapting to contemporary cosmological knowledge? I think I shall try googling that one!

    Thanks for dropping by.

  3. – What is the Source of the Universe ?
    Where did Existence come from?
    Now we have three ( 3) sources of the Universe:
    Big bang , vacuum and God.
    Which of them is correct ?

    About big band and God my opinion is:
    the action, when the God compressed all Universe
    into his palm, physicists had named -a singular point
    And action, when the God opened his palm,
    physicists had named – the Big Bang
    And about vacuum Paul Dirac wrote:
    ‘ The problem of the exact description of vacuum, in my opinion,
    is the basic problem now before physics. Really, if you can’t correctly
    describe the vacuum, how it is possible to expect a correct description
    of something more complex? ‘
    In the book “Evolution of Physics” Einstein and Infeld wrote:
    “ We have the laws, but we are not aware what the body
    of reference system they belong to, and all our physical
    construction appears erected on sand ”.
    They are right. Why?
    Because :
    The Universe ( as a whole ) is Two- Measured,
    there are two Worlds: Vacuum and Gravity.
    What was before Vacuum or Gravity ?
    Does Gravity exist in Vacuum or vice versa?
    No answer.
    == .
    Fact and Speculation.
    The detected material mass of the matter in the Universe is so small
    (the average density of all substance in the Universe is approximately
    p=10^-30 g/sm^3) that it cannot ‘close’ the Universe into sphere and
    therefore our Universe as whole is ‘open’, endless Vacuum.
    But what to do with the infinite Universe the physicists don’t know.
    The concept of infinite/ eternal means nothing
    to a scientists. They do not understand how they could
    draw any real, concrete conclusions from this characteristic.
    A notions of ‘more, less, equally, similar ’ could not
    be conformed to a word infinity or eternity.
    The Infinity / Eternity is something, that has no borders,
    has no discontinuity; it could not be compared to anything.
    Considering so, scientists came to conclusion that the
    infinity/eternity defies to a physical and mathematical definition
    and cannot be considered in real processes.
    Therefore they have proclaimed the strict requirement
    (on a level of censor of the law):
    « If we want that the theory would be correct,
    the infinity/eternity should be eliminated » .
    Thus they direct all their mathematical abilities,
    all intellectual energy to the elimination of infinity.
    Therefore they invented an abstract ‘dark matter and dark energy’.
    They say: ‘ 90% or more of the matter in the Universe is unseen.’
    And nobody knows what it is.
    Unknown ‘dark matter ‘ it is matter which makes up the difference
    between observed mass of a galaxies and calculated mass……
    which….will …’close ‘ ….the Universe into sphere, as …….
    as……the astrophysicists want.
    How can the 99% of the Hidden ( dark ) matter in the Universe
    create the 1% of the Visible matter ?
    ========================== . .
    Now it is considered that Newton / Einstein’s laws of gravitation
    are basis of physics, the first laws / source of Universe.
    But the detected material mass of the matter in the Universe
    is so small that gravitation field, as whole, doesn’t work
    in the Universe.
    So, the Newton / Einstein’s laws of gravitation are correct only
    in the small and local part of Universe and we cannot take them
    as the first ones.
    What can the first law of the Universe be?
    All galaxies , all gravitation fields exist in Vacuum (T=0K).
    Gravitational effects took place only in a small area of Infinite Vacuum.
    It is impossible to use GRT to the Universe as a whole.
    Vacuum is “ The first law of the Universe.”
    The Physics first of all is Aether / Vacuum.
    Vacuum is the Source of the Universe .
    Vacuum is the Absolute Reference Frame.
    Without Eternal, Infinite Vacuum Physics makes no sense.
    Best wishes.
    Israel Sadovnik. Socratus.
    ======================== .
    Although we are used to thinking of empty space as containing
    nothing at all, and therefore having zero energy, the quantum
    rules say that there is some uncertainty about this. Perhaps each
    tiny bit of the vacuum actually contains rather a lot of energy.
    If the vacuum contained enough energy, it could convert this
    into particles, in line with E-Mc^2.
    / Book: Stephen Hawking. Pages 147-148.
    By Michael White and John Gribbin. /

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