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The Spiritual Revolution

Sculptured by Dea Shea

Copernicus did not have it all figured out. Neither did Galileo. They had the right instincts but got caught up in circles. Kepler refined it by thinking elliptically but it took Sir Isaac Newton to finalize the heliocentric view of our solar system with the discovery of gravity.
Why did it take so long for human beings to consider that the earth was not the center of the “known” cosmos? It could be argued that telescopes were needed, but Copernicus who died in 1543, came to his revolutionary thought well before the invention of the telescope. Clearly, it was a mindset—a belief that the planets (including the sun) were rotating around the earth. In the human assessment of reality we always start from the person centric view.
In the Tree of Life, the Sefirot rotate around a center point—that being the Sefirah of Tiferet—usually translated as beauty or harmony. Each of the Sefirot have an associated color and in the color system we teach, Tiferet is the color yellow. The Tree of Life then is also heliocentric.
While the heliocentric view of the planets is now embraced by all when it comes to religions we are still stuck in a pre-Copernican point of view, each religion purporting that it is the “center.” Pick the religion—it is the truth. Other religions are either in elliptical or erroneous orbits around the “true” religion.
In a less religion centric view each religion can be viewed as a planet orbiting around a center star. What then is that star? If we take the Tree of Life as a metaphor the yellow star in the center is Tiferet, with its meaning of beauty and harmony. The inner dimension of beauty and harmony—how those energies or qualities are seen in human relationships–is compassion. If we extend this to the planetary model of religion we could then suggest that all religions orbit around compassion. Compassion is what provides warmth, healing energy, and nurturance.
In order to have true religion one has to first be compassionate and to be compassionate one has to first see the other as equally deserving of concern and care whatever planet they may be rotating on. How many times have humans turned the other way, or worse inflicted suffering, on those that deserved care and concern, and all too often in the name of religion?
All religions are just planets orbiting around a star of compassion. The closer the orbit the better to appreciate what is at the center.
Note: Copernicus, Darwin, Freud and Einstein are among those who challenged the accepted notions of science in their day—Copernicus was challenging

This view of the universe, cumbersome as it was, survived, virtually unchallenged, for thirteen hundred years, until the early sixteenth century when the Polish astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus, put forward a radically different model. The reason the stars appeared to orbit the earth was, he suggested, because the earth itself was moving, rotating on its own axis once every twenty-four hours. The apparent movement of the heavens was an illusion, caused by the movement of the observer.
Suggesting that the earth moved was heresy enough. But Copernicus went on to argue that the wandering motion of the planets could be explained if they were orbiting the sun rather than the earth. This led to the theory that the earth was itself just another planet also in orbit around the sun. (This was not a totally new theory. A little know Greek philosopher, Aristarchus, had advanced the idea that the earth and the other planets moved around the sun in 270 BC. If his views, rather than those of Plato and Ptolemy, had held sway, history might have taken a very different course.)
Being a distinguished churchman, Copernicus knew the views of the Vatican on the earth’s all important position at the center of the universe, and how tenaciously it held to that view. In proposing his theory, he was not just challenging orthodox science; he was challenging the established religious view of reality — which in those days held even greater sway than the scientific view. So, fearing the wrath of the church, he kept his ideas to himself for thirty years. Only as he was nearing death, and feeling that he did not want to take this important knowledge with him to the grave, did he finally decide to publish his little book On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres. When it was eventually published, in 1543, (Copernicus first saw a copy on the day he died) it was immediately placed on the papal index of forbidden books.
So it remained, ignored and forgotten, for nearly eighty years, until the Italian scientist Galileo Galilei took up an interest in planetary motions. Utilizing the newly invented telescope, he found convincing evidence in favor of the Copernican model. He saw that Venus had phases, just like the moon, when only half, or just a crescent, of it would be lit — which is what would happen if Venus orbited the sun. He also found that Jupiter had its own moons in orbit around it, dispelling the idea that everything went around the earth.
After publishing his findings, Galileo was contacted by Pope Paul V, who demanded he retract his heretical ideas. Fearing for his life, he did so. But a few years later, unhappy that so important a truth should remain suppressed, he published a brilliantly composed dialogue in which he defended and supported the Copernican theory. Again, under threat of torture, he was forced to “abjure, curse, and detest” the absurd view that the earth moves around the sun. He was then put under house-arrest so that he could be watched and prevented from causing any further trouble — and remained there till his death.
At the same time as Galileo was making his critical observations of the planets, a German mathematician, Johannes Kepler, was putting into place another key piece of the puzzle. Copernicus had argued that the sun, not the earth, lay at the center of things, but he still adhered to the Platonic ideal of circular motion, and although his model explained planetary movements much better than the old geocentric model, there were still unexplained irregularities, which Copernicus tried to account for with various epicycles. Kepler had the good fortune to be a student of the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, who had accumulated volumes of accurate astronomical observations. Brahe set Kepler to work on the motion of Mars, the planet with the most troublesome orbit. Kepler’s breakthrough was the discovery that the movements of Mars, and all the other planets, could be accounted for, without any need for epicycles, if their orbits were ellipses rather than circles. But as to why the orbits should be circles rather than ellipses, he had no idea.
The final piece of the puzzle was put in place some 50 years later by the English mathematician, Sir Isaac Newton. He realized that heavenly bodies were governed by exactly the same laws as earthly objects; the force that causes an apple to fall is the same force that holds the moon in its orbit around the earth. Working out the resulting equations of motion he established that any orbiting body would indeed move in an ellipse — just as Kepler had discovered

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Comments 6

  1. Well put. When we get stuck in the small egocentric view, thinking we are the center of the universe, we experience division – ‘I’m right, you’re wrong’. When we realize we are all part of the same solar system of humanity, all of us circulating around the same source of light, we can have more compassion and learn from one another. Thanks for the great article.

  2. “We must uncenter our minds from ourselves; We must unhmanize our views a little, and become confident As the rock and ocean that we were made from.”
    ― Robinson Jeffers

  3. DAVE PRUETT -“We are in trouble just now because we do not have a good story. We are between stories.”

    — Father Thomas Berry

    Our species — Homo sapiens — is endangered.

    Never has humankind faced simultaneous crises on so many fronts: over-population; a rapidly deteriorating biosphere; competition for oil, water, and arable land; wars and rumors of wars; proliferating nuclear weapons; failed nation states; unprecedented extremes of wealth and poverty; terrorism on a global scale; and a climate on the brink of spinning out of control.

    It seems utterly naive to suggest, as does eco-theologian Thomas Berry (1914-2009), that our woes stem from an inadequate “story.”

    By “story” Berry means “mythology”: a grand meta-narrative that guides our relationships with the creator (however conceived), with one another, and with all creation.

    On second thought, what could be more vital than getting this story right?

    In the West, our prevailing mythology is woefully flawed. It’s flawed because it’s incomplete. And it’s incomplete because, as Berry recognizes, “we are between stories.” We have yet to integrate into a seamless narrative our scientific and religious creation myths.

    From time immemorial, religion informed our guiding myths. “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it!” commands God in Genesis. Mainstream religious traditions — in contrast to indigenous ones — have long taught that humans arose by divine fiat, were made in the image of God, occupy the center of a static cosmos, and exist on an earth created expressly to satisfy our needs.

    The religious worldview went largely unchallenged until 1543, when Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) — a Polish astronomer, mathematician, and cleric — upset the mythological apple cart. By shifting from a geocentric cosmological perspective to a heliocentric one, Copernicus literally made the earth move. All hell broke loose.

    The deathbed publication of Copernicus’ masterpiece, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, launched a revolution in cosmology that dislodged humans from the center of the cosmos, exploded the boundaries of the known universe, turned a static cosmos into a dynamic one, and called into question the religious story.

    Moreover, Copernicanism — in the skilled hands of Galileo, Kepler, and Newton — gave rise to modern science. The Age of Reason, the industrial age, the nuclear age, the space age, and the information age all followed in rapid succession.

    Before we’d fully assimilated the Copernican Revolution, Darwin’s theory of evolution landed what Freud termed a “second blow to human narcissism,” sending intellectual shock waves around the world.

    The back-to-back punches thrown by Copernicus and Darwin disfigured the human face in the mirror of self-perception. Are we not what we thought we were: the central focus of the physical and biological universes?

    The message from science is oddly dissonant to that of religion, which yet proclaims our divine origins and exalted status. Which story are we to believe?

    The scientific story speaks to our rationalism, but is devoid of meaning. The religious story speaks to our intuition, but denies the facts. “Do we really have to make the tragic choice between an antiscientific philosophy and an alienating science?” pleads Nobel chemistry laureate Ilya Prigogine.

    The tragedy of dichotomous worldviews is compounded by the current myopia of conventional science and traditional religion, each convinced it has cornered the market on truth. “The true disease of the age is . . . literalism,” observes mythologist Michael Meade:

    Literalism has two factions that often oppose each other while secretly conspiring . . . One side champions positivism and a tyranny of scientism that obsesses over facts and figures and relies solely upon a statistical worldview. The opposite extreme insists upon fundamental religious beliefs that reject facts or alter them to conform to literalized stories. Each side gains some surety at the cost of a tragic loss of imagination and a dramatic reduction in the sense of wonder of the immediate world.

    “Without wonder,” observes mystical theologian Matthew Fox, “the world becomes a marketplace.” In a commodified world, creatures, mountains, rivers, oceans, forests — and humans — have no intrinsic value, only economic value to be extracted or exploited.

    Following Galileo, science and religion separated. After Darwin, they divorced. Perhaps divorce was necessary for science to escape the heel of religious authority and thrive. But humans, the children of that divorce, have experienced what cultural historians term “disenchantment of the universe.”

    Having taken refuge in materialism, science discounts the numinous qualities of the cosmos. Philosophical materialism lies at the core of our economic and ecological woes. “The technological mind sees nature as an insensate order,” laments Pope Francis in Laudato Si’.

    2016-01-24-1453668108-3916458-hs201013afull_tif.jpg
    (Hubble Space Telescope: “Mystic Mountain”)

    It need not be so. Fundamentally, science and religion are soulmates, each grounded in the experience of awe.
    “[W]e never cease to stand like curious children before the great Mystery into which we are born,” Einstein wrote to an elderly friend. And in reflecting upon his life, he concluded, “The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mystical. It is the source of all true art and science.”

    There are hopeful signs for re-enchantment of the universe through the reconciliation of reason and wonder.

    On the one hand, the materialistic paradigm is crumbling. Following the revelations of quantum theory, “The world begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine,” in the words of Sir James Jeans, the late English astronomer.

    On the other hand, official pronouncements from the Church herself herald a new era of dialogue. In his recent encyclical, Pope Francis devotes an entire section to “Religions in Dialogue with Science.” Francis builds upon the legacies of predecessors like John Paul II, who, to dress still-festering wounds of the “Galileo Affair” — the incident of 1616-1633 that forced the schism between science and religion — attempted to set a new tone in 1983:

    The Church is convinced that there can be no real contradiction between science and faith. It is certain that science and faith represent two different orders of knowledge, autonomous in their processes, but finally converging upon the discovery of reality in all its aspects.

    Around the globe, individuals and organizations labor to articulate a holistic “new story” that is faithful both to modern science and to spiritual wisdom. Noteworthy pioneers among these individuals are the Jesuit paleontologist-priest Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) and Thomas Berry, whose quote begins this essay.

    Among the organizations are the Institute of Noetic Sciences, Metanexus Institute, and Science and Nonduality, which seek to foster the integration of objective and subjective modes of knowing, to tell “the whole story of the whole cosmos for the whole person,” and “to forge a new paradigm . . . informed by cutting-edge science . . . and grounded in direct experience,” respectively.

    Given the tight race between catastrophe and awakening, the future is hard to predict.

    Some see transformation around the bend; others only Armageddon. Both are possible given the universe’s predilection for chaos and creativity.

    From a lifetime of studying the mythologies of world cultures, American mythologist Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) caught a glimpse of the future that is simultaneously sobering and hopeful:

    The world, as we know it, is coming to an end. The world as the center of the universe, the world divided from the heavens, the world bound by horizons in which love is reserved for the members of the in group: that is the world that is passing away. Apocalypse does not point to a fiery Armageddon but to the fact that our ignorance and our complacency are coming to an end.

    If indeed we rise to the challenge of our time, it will be by living up to the name science has bestowed upon our subspecies: Homo sapiens sapiens — “doubly wise human.”

    Only by appropriating internal and external wisdom — spiritual and scientific — will we summon the wherewithal to heal what ails us.

  4. The Physics of Angels: Exploring the Realm Where Science and Spirit Meet
    An excerpt from Matthew Fox and Rupert Sheldrake’s latest book.
    by Matthew Fox and Rupert Sheldrake – November 23, 2014

    It may seem unlikely that a scientist and a theologian would discuss angels in the twenty-first century. Both disciplines at the end of the modern era appear equally embarrassed by this subject. For theologians it became an embarrassment for three hundred years even to mention angels. During the Newtonian-Cartesian industrial age, angels were banished, trivialized. The Baroque churches built in the seventeenth century, the same century that science and religion split, depicted angels as chubby, cute, little babies that you want to pinch. Basically, religion took the soul, which became more and more introverted and puny, and scientists took the universe.

    Through the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century, the universe was mechanized, and at the same time the heavens were secularized. They were made up of ordinary matter gliding around in perfect accordance with Newtonian laws. There was no room in them for angelic intentions. Angels had no place in a mechanistic world, except perhaps as psychological phenomena, existing only within our imaginations.

    But this mechanistic worldview is now being superseded by science itself. And although the scientific and theological establishments have ignored angels, recent surveys have shown that many people still believe in them. In the United States, for example, over two-thirds believe in their existence, and one-third state that they have personally felt an angelic presence in their lives

    We are entering a new phase of both science and theology, where the subject of angels becomes surprisingly relevant again. Both the new cosmology and the old angelology raise significant questions about the existence and role of consciousness at levels beyond the human. When the two of us held our first discussions on this subject, we were fascinated by the parallels between Thomas Aquinas speaking of angels in the Middle Ages and Albert Einstein speaking of photons in the last century.

    The grassroots revival of interest in angels is timely. Much of the present interest centers on experiences of help and assistance at times of need. It is intensely personal in nature, and individualistic in spirit.

    The traditional Western understanding of angels is much deeper and richer than the more individualistic modern angel literature would suggest, and far more concerned with community and our common development and our relationships with one another, God, and the universe. These values fit with a more holistic or organic understanding of nature and of society.

    Furthermore, it is important to acknowledge common experiences that emerge in all world cultures and religions when we are living in an ever-shrinking global village. All cultures, including our own, acknowledge the existence of spirits at levels beyond the human. We call them angels, but they go under different names in other traditions (Native Americans call them “spirits”). Angels constitute one of the most fundamental themes in human spiritual and religious experience. It is difficult to imagine deep ecumenism or interfaith advancing among the world’s cultures and religions without acknowledging angels in our midst and angels in our own traditions.

    Experiences that we human beings face together, including the ecological crisis, require all the wisdom we can muster. Angels may be able to assist us in this work and may well prove to be indispensable allies, truly guardian angels, instructing us in safeguarding our inheritance of a once healthy but today endangered planet.

    For all these reasons it is important to return to our own spiritual tradition to examine what it tells us about angels, and to connect that wisdom to today’s evolutionary cosmology. This is necessary in order to set the stage for deeper explorations in the future—a future we believe will be characterized by a more eager effort to examine consciousness on this planet and beyond.

    To assist us in this task of exploring our own spiritual tradition, we have chosen to concentrate on three giants of the Western tradition whose treatment of angels is particularly broad, deep, and influential. They are Dionysius the Areopagite, a Syrian monk whose classic work The Celestial Hierarchies was written in the sixth century; Hildegard of Bingen, a German abbess of the twelfth century; and St. Thomas Aquinas, a philosopher-theologian of the thirteenth century.

    Dionysius the Areopagite made an amazing synthesis of the currents of the Neoplatonic philosophies of the Middle East in the light of his own Christian theology and experience. Hildegard of Bingen, though she called on the tradition of angelology handed down through the monastic tradition of the Western church, nevertheless worked especially out of her visionary experiences with the angelic realms. Thomas Aquinas created a synthesis of the study of angels, including the views of the Muslim philosopher Averroës, the writings of Dionysius the Areopagite, the science and philosophy of Aristotle, and the biblical tradition. He also raised profound, speculative questions that are provocative even today, and are especially interesting in light of the cosmology now emerging from today’s science. It is likely that these three thinkers devoted more of their intellectual labor to angelology than any other three major thinkers of the West.

    What is an angel? And what do they do?

    First, angels are powerful. When an angel appears in the Scriptures, the first words are, “Don’t be afraid.” Angels are awesome. The poet Rilke says that every angel is terrifying.

    Angels are essentially understanding beings. They think deeply. They are experts at intuition, and can assist our intuition. Angels are also special friends to the prophets, and we need prophets today in every profession, in every role of citizenship, in every generation.

    In addition, angels have very strong wills and have serious cosmic duties to perform, relating to the wisdom and the knowledge that they carry. One of these tasks is to praise.

    Both Hildegard of Bingen and Thomas Aquinas teach that the devil does not praise, and that’s what makes the devil different from the angels—a refusal to praise. How much of our culture in the last few centuries has indeed been a refusal to praise?

    The angels are agents and co-workers with us human beings. Sometimes they guard and defend us; sometimes they inspire us and announce big news to us—they get us to move. Sometimes they heal us, and sometimes they usher us into different realms, from which we are to take back mysteries to this particular realm. Aquinas says, “We do the works that are of God, along with the holy angels.”

    Angels make human beings happy. It is very rare to meet someone who has met an angel who doesn’t wear a smile on his or her face. They call us to be greater beings ourselves.

    In the Middle Ages, as in all previous ages, it was generally believed that the heavens were alive, the whole cosmos was alive. The heavens were populated with innumerable conscious beings associated with the stars, the planets, and maybe the spaces in between. When people thought of God in heaven, they were not thinking in terms of some vague metaphor or some psychological state, they were thinking of the sky.

    “Our Father, who art in heaven.” Nowadays, many Christians assume that this is a merely metaphorical statement, nothing to do with the actual sky. But this isn’t how people used to think. They thought that the heavens were full of spirits and of God. And indeed if you think of God as omnipresent, everywhere, divinity must be present throughout the whole universe, of which the earth is but an infinitesimal part.

    In the first century, when the Christian scriptures were written, the number-one question going around the Mediterranean basin was: Are the angels our friends or our foes? Everyone believed in angels in Greece and Rome; they were part of the accepted cosmology. But the question was: Can we trust these invisible forces of the universe that are moving planets and the elements? How trustworthy is the universe?

    That’s so interesting because in the twentieth century Einstein was once asked, “What’s the most important question you can ask in life?” And his answer was, “Is the universe a friendly place or not?” It’s the same question. I tell my students that every time you see angels mentioned in the Bible you should think Einstein, because you’re dealing with the same issue. It’s the ultimate cosmological issue. Can we trust the cosmos? Is the cosmos benign?

  5. Watch on you tube – The journey of the universe by Brian Swimme.
    His book in coloboration with Thomas Berry – The universe story – from the primordial flaring forth to the echoic era – a celebration of the unfolding of the cosmos.

  6. The Story of Everything
    Kealoha is now touring his newest, biggest, and most ambitious work ever… The Story of Everything. The Story of Everything is a creation story (in epic poem format) that traces our origins from the big bang to now using science, poetry, storytelling, movement, music, visual art, and chanting. Based on multiple knowledge systems. It explores the question “Where do we come from?”

    Through this work, made possible through the support of a Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Community Inspiration Award (with additional funding support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Leonard & Rose Freeman Family Fund of the Hawai`i Community Foundation, the Engaging the Senses Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Kalliopeia Foundation), the poet dramatizes explanations for human origin, drawing from sources as diverse and yet interconnected as the Big Bang Theory, disco, physics, biology, Michael Jackson, and the Kumulipo. It explores how various cultural elements and scientific disciplines can be used to approach a question about existence that has challenged humans from the very beginning. Kealoha’s performance traces the beginning of life from simple forms that evolve into complex relationships, and ends with a provocation: “Where do we go from here? What’s next?”

    “The Story of Everything” is a multi-media show featuring visual art projections by Solomon Enos, music by Makana, Taimane, and the Quadraphonix, oli presented by Kau’i Kanaka’ole, and dancing by Jamie Nakama, Jonathan Clarke Sypert, and Lorenzo Acosta in collaboration with Wailana Simcock. This production is co-directed by Cristian “See” Ellauri, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, and Harry Wong. This 1 hour and 45 minute performance includes one 15 minute intermission. If you are interested in booking this show, please contact Pasifika Artists Network, LLC; Karen A. Fischer, President; 1-808-283-7007; karen@pasifika-artists.com

    The next performances of The Story of Everything are on November 1st, 2018 in Fayetteville, Arkansas at the Walton Arts Center and on November 16th, 2018 at the University of Utah, Kingsbury Hall. Visit the upcoming performances page for more details
    Please do go see his performance. We saw his at the Bioneers conference in San Rafael 2017. Kealoha has a Phd from MIT. It is one of the most amazing shows we have seen on the creation story.

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