What are The Powers of the Universe?



Cosmologist Brian Swimme, assisted by Bruce Bochte, shared his thoughts on this topic some time ago in Andrew Cohen’s  now defunct magazine EnlightenNext.

Swimme begins by saying that “There are many ways of characterizing the last four hundred years of modern science. My personal favourite is this: scientists began with the assumption that they were learning about the physical processes at work “out there” in stars, hurricanes, dinosaurs, and so forth. Then, one day, it began to dawn on us that we were actually studying the processes that gave birth to ourselves….
(Emphasis in original).

He continues:

 In the following summaries, I’ve drawn on widely accepted knowledge in physics, astronomy, biology, geology, paleontology, and thermodynamics, and, for the most part, I’ve avoided speculative areas of science like string theory. I have nothing against speculation. But the planetary shift in consciousness we are in the midst of is so radical that it is helpful to proceed in a grounded way, building our understanding of who we are upon knowledge we have reason to believe is reliable.

And with that introduction he begins with number Zero and finishes, no surprise, at Ten: Amazing the power that that latter number has. Here goes:

0. Seamlessness

This is just my word for the Ground or Source of all Being – what classical Greek philosophy called apeiron, sometimes translated as the realm of pure potentiality…. I used to call it “no-thing-ness” as a way of indicating that this is not a realm of objects. But “seamlessness” carries the additional meaning of a divisionless domain replete with subtle connections … all … [having] … a common origin. This origin remains involved with the ongoing existence and functioning of each thing.

1. Centration

Centration is the universe as a whole centering upon itself in order to give birth to a new being, a new person, a new animal, a new molecule…. If you go back … to the beginnings of the vertebrate world, you realize that your lungs are formed because of the lives of fish hundreds of millions of years ago….We have billions of years of the universe present in us, in our bodies.

But it’s not just the knowledge or information that is in us. It’s also the energy, the power to act…. The energy from the birth of the universe is coursing through us. In that sense, the universe gathers all of itself together and gives birth to a new being. That’s the power of centration.

2. Allurement

Allurement is the way in which the whole universe holds itself together. At the level of the galaxies, we call this the gravitational interaction … At the level of molecules, it has a different name; it’s called the electromagnetic interaction …. The word allurement points to all these various kinds of attractions

3. Emergence

We’ve discovered that the universe is not a place; it’s a story, a story of an irreversible sequence of emergent events…. This power of emergence could also be called ongoing creativity. In some ways it is the greatest discovery in the history of the human sciences ~ that the universe as a whole, and each being within it, is permeated with the power of emergence.

4. Homeostasis

Homeostasis is the way in which the great achievements of the universe are maintained…. They don’t just come and go. The universe values its finest moments of magnificence and holds them together…. The homeostasis of Earth as a dynamic integrated system holds together its communities, including the atmosphere and the biosphere and the geosphere

5. Cataclysm

Cataclysm is the process by which the universe destroys some of its structures – not only in the sense of accidents that might happen but also as part of its ongoing emergence. The universe systematically breaks apart particular aspects of itself as a necessary process for ongoing vibrant creativity to continue. In other words, that beauty that has characterized fourteen billion years of existence would not have been possible, as far as science has been able to understand, without processes of cataclysm.

6. Synergy

A synergetic relationship is one that gives birth to causal factors in the universe that would not otherwise exist. One of the most surprising examples of this pertains to elementary particles such as neutrons and protons. For instance, if a neutron is on its own, it will disintegrate after only a few moments. But if the same neutron is brought into relationship with one or more protons, it can easily exist for billions of years…. Fundamentally, synergy shows the ontological power of relationship.

7.  Transmutation

Transmutation is the way in which the universe sometimes insists that something new come forth. The universe never seems completely satisfied…. Isn’t it enough that tiny pieces of earth … [bacteria] … jump with life?

Apparently not. Our universe is a self-transcending community of beings, and transcendence is often a necessity. That is, the universe arrives at a fork in the road with a terrible option: either transmute into a new form or evaporate from the story … which surely is what Darwinism is all about.

8. Transformation

Transformation is the way in which change takes place in an entire society or community. It is an interconnected and self amplifying dynamic; transmuted individuals give rise to new organizational codes that create a community in which it is even more likely new individuals will go through transmutation. And so forth. Transformation is the way in which entire systems advance.

9. Interrelatedness

Interrelatedness is the power of integrity and connectivity. It could even be called “wholeness.” It is the way in which each being in the universe depends in various ways upon other beings in the universe. Our own existence, for example, depends upon tiny organisms in the Pacific Ocean as well as the activity of protons in the sun. Seen from the outside, this power is interconnectivity; from the inside, this power is care or compassion.

10. Radiance

Radiance, the last power, is the power most directly referred to by the second law of thermodynamics. In simplest terms, this law explains that any being with energy will disperse that energy. To radiate is the law of the universe. This is true of everything we examine. Even the coldest group of the tiniest hydrogen atoms in the darkest night of intergalactic space are happily giving birth to, and releasing, photons of light instant after instant.

In my view, the power of radiance is an expression of the mysterious way in which the universe cannot contain the magnificence it houses. Instead, it is compelled to express itself in ten million different ways.