‘The Universe Story’ by Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry

Harper, 1992, 306 pp

 ISBN: 978-0-06-250835-5

Reviewed by Marian Van Eyk McCain

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Most cultures have creation stories. And for many centuries, those creation stories have served to bond people together in a shared sense of history and of destiny. Our modern, Western culture, with all its book learning and its technology and its scientific knowhow has long since outgrown tales of Adam and Eve and fig leaves and yet there has been nothing coherent to put in their place.  For a long time now, we have been a people in need of a creation story.

However, that does not mean that there isn’t one. In fact there is. It is a dramatic, amazing and thrilling story and what’s more, it is 100% factual and true. It is the story, gifted to us by science, of how we were created and how we got from those early beginnings to where we are now. And for the first time, that story has been fully, comprehensively and eloquently told.

In this important, landmark book, cosmologist Brian Swimme and geologian Thomas Berry tell us our own authentic creation story, from the Big Bang right through to the present time. It  begins with the primordial Flaring Forth and proceeds through eons of turbulence, as the gases cooled and condensed to the point where our planet began to take on a stable shape and eventually, after more eons, to the emergence of the very first simple organisms. Then it traces the evolution of life forms over millions of years: a story full of stops and starts, battles, cliff-hangers, collaborations  and later the amazing transformations that took place as some of the simpler organisms, by forming themselves into communities, fused to become complex organisms.

Humans, as we know, are relatively recent arrivals on the scene. Swimme and Berry continue the story from the early hominids up through the centuries of recorded history to where we now stand poised on the threshold of perhaps another transformation. For we are on the cusp of what they have labelled the Ecozoic era and we humans, once a very small and insignificant part of the Earth’s story, now have enormous power, either to encourage and sustain life or to destroy it.

These authors believe that the purpose of our existence is to be the self-reflective consciousness of the universe. Our true role, they say, is to know, to be inspired, to be awestruck and to celebrate. Shall we, one wonders,  be wise enough to steer ourselves into a fruitful, ecologically balanced future or will our narcissistic love affair with our technology cause us to continue destroying Nature instead of celebrating and respecting it?

This is a wonderful and inspiring creation story and like all good creation stories it could serve to bond us and bring us into a shared sense of history and destiny and a new era of cooperation. Whether it will or not remains to be seen, but it is a story I think every human being alive should read.

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