Why This Book
Like so many people who left the faiths of their youth, I still wanted to believe, yearned to believe in something. But just as I found the interpretation of the stories of traditional religions deeply unsatisfying, the cold, factual stories of modern science also failed to speak to my spirit. Like the Seeker, I threw out the story of the scriptures that I was given, but couldn’t reconcile with the “Big Dumb Rock” theory of creation that emerged out of the mechanistic worldview of the European Enlightenment. More important, since I found myself in a world that seemed bent on economic and ecological self-destruction, I wanted a new spiritual direction beyond the platitudes of the self-help era.
Through the teaching and exploring I’d been doing for the past decade or so, I heard the refrain “we need a new story” from so many thinkers of our time, who wrote and talked about how the modern worldview, for all its technological progress and brilliance, had become outdated to the point of being a danger. And there were people telling a new story… most notably Brian Swimme, Thomas Berry, Elisabet Sahtouris and Sidney Leibs. Much of their material was brought into the Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream Symposium that I was helping to present (the Symposium is a creation of The Pachamama Alliance in San Francisco).
But I missed the poetry; I missed the lyricism of the liturgy, missed the sound and cadence of the Scriptures. I wanted a story that felt like the story I grew up with.
I was lamenting this state of affairs to Duane Elgin, who happened to be a neighbor of mine—Duane is one of the many authors pointing the way to this new worldview. I told him how frustrating it was to hear “we need a new story,” but how no-one seemed to be telling one that spoke to my spirit. At one point in the conversation, he turned to me and said, “well, why don’t you write this story?” (Perhaps he was impatient with my complaining.)
“Me?” I said.
“Sure! Why not you?”
“But I don’t have any credentials to write something like that.”
“Baah!” he said. “Sure you do! You’ve been studying this stuff for a long time . . . go ahead and write it!”
So, then, as audacious as it sounded and felt, I started writing a new story. Or, more accurately, I started transcribing what came to me from who knows where (Elizabeth Gilbert gave a wonderful TED talk about the idea of “instead of the rare person ‘being’ a genius, all of us ‘have’ a genius”—click here to check out Elizabeth Gilbert’s talk).
I wrote The Holy Universe for me, a person raised in a western tradition who wants a more lyrical telling of this meaningful, fulfilling story of our place in the cosmos—and who is also trying to make sense of the enormous social, spiritual, and ecological crises that all of humanity now faces—someone who seeks inspiration and motivation to act, and to face these challenges.
As I wrote, others liked what I had to say, so the book is being brought to a wider audience. It’s my contribution to the conversation.