The Universe Story

Thomas Berry and I began our conversation in 1982, in the middle of the coldest winter in Chicago’s history–Thomas from the South, a child of the Carolinas, a student of cultural history; myself from the North, born in Seattle, a student of the natural sciences. And although he would travel to the East to his research center in New York, and I to the West to work in California, our common probing for a new story of the universe and the role of the human began there under the spacious skies in the middle of our continent. 

From the beginning we regarded the articulation of a new cosmology as a task for the species as a whole. Both of us realized this story was being told by everything–by galaxies, birds, Earth, the winds, the stellar explosions, as well as the rising and falling of the mountain ranges. Our primary task was to learn how to listen, and to establish rapport with others who were listening. No one person or culture or intellectual discipline, by itself, has the capacity to hear the full story the universe is telling.

Thomas and I benefited from conversations with many original voices. Fresh from Africa, Jane Goodall presented the cosmological orientation she learned from the chimpanzees; poet Phil Cousineau shared his research in the powers of the universe as understood in ancient mythology; paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould contributed his observations on the fossils from the Burgess Shale; anthropologist Jim Swan celebrated the Miwok and the Salish peoples and their understanding of the spirit of place; philosopher of religion Robert McDermott detailed the evolution of consciousness as understood in the Western esoteric traditions; animal behaviorist Robert Fagen came from Alaska to share what he had learned while watching brown bears for most of a decade; and physicist Minh Duong-van brought his reflections on how chaos dynamics affect the unfolding structures of the cosmos.

It is important to understand that The Universe Story, grounded in the insights and experience of so many different researchers both living and dead, has humanity as its author. And since humanity emerged out of the processes of cosmic evolution, The Universe Story is best understood as the autobiography of the universe as a whole.