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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