Friday, October 1, 2010

Bridges between Science and Spirituality

Galaxies by Peter van Laeys

       As scientists learn more about the universe, their discoveries are beginning to close the gap between science and spirituality. Recently I read The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos by Brian Swimme, Ph.D., a mathematical cosmologist. Not being of a scientific bent myself, I find his story both informative and fascinating.
       One revelation I learned about is that the source of the “Big Bang” was discovered by astronomers Penzias and Wilson to be 15 billion light years away from earth. And yet, in terms of the expansion of the galaxies, discovered by Edwin Hubble, the earth is at the very center of the universe. As Swimme points out, these two discoveries seem to contradict each other, but the the evidence is there. He does an excellent job of explaining how this is possible, but to understand it requires the ability to think FAR out of the usual box! As Swimme says: “A re-education of the mind is necessary to make sense of what we have discovered.” 
       The answer to this seeming contradiction includes the premise that any intelligent beings on any other planet in the universe will also find themselves at the center, as the other galaxies will appear to be moving away from them, just as they are moving away from us. Swimme illustrates this by asking the reader to imagine herself inside a loaf of raisin bread while it's baking. No matter which raisin you sit on, you will see all the other raisins moving away from you, putting you at the center of expansion no matter where you are in the loaf of bread. Swimme's conclusion is that "We exist then at the very origin point of the universe, because every place in the universe is that place where the universe flared forth into existence." (p. 89).

       Even more mind-boggling than this is the discovery that elementary particles are constantly emerging in the emptiness of space where there are no atoms, no elementary particles, no protons, and no photons. In other words, there is no true vacuum in the universe. For as Swimme says: "These elementary particles crop up out of the vacuum itself -- that is the simple and awesome discovery." The very foundation of the universe "seethes with creativity, so much so that physicists refer to the universe's ground state as 'space-time foam.'" (p. 93)
       Swimme calls this foam the "all-nourishing abyss" which leads to "The great news of our time . . . that we humans are all embedded in a living, developing universe, and that we are therefore cousins to everything in the universe." (p. 99) And so, the scientist comes to the same conclusion that the world's mystics have always claimed: that all of Creation is One.


  1. Hi mom,
    The second picture you posted is possibly my favorite astronomical photo of the antennae galaxies, two galaxies merging together. I'm sure that isn't what I was supposed to take away from this but I thought I'd mention it because i'd like to base a painting on it.

    Besides the spontaneously emerging particles, the universe is also believed to be filled with a kind of matter we have no way of seeing or detecting that scientists refer to as 'dark matter.' There would be about five times as much of this invisible material than the matter we are actually aware of.

  2. Peter - I know you will create a beautiful painting of the galaxies. I look forward to seeing it!

  3. Hi Emily, very interesting post. Thanks for writing it and for getting me to read it.



  4. Peter, Dark Matter is weird enough, but even more bizarre is what they call "dark energy" which comprises most of the matter/energy in the Universe, ie more dark energy in the universe than normal energy, normal matter, and dark matter combined.

    masterymistery at cosmic rapture

  5. Just posted Peter's painting for the first illustration.