May 29, 2011
By Duane Elgin
A growing understanding of our universe reveals two remarkable dynamics at work that together intensify and expand our feeling for the spiritual nature of existence. The first dynamic is the universe story: A grand narrative that portrays humanity as descendants of a vast, creative lineage of life that stretches over nearly 14 billion years. The second dynamic is the universe emerging as a fresh creation at every moment.
While the universe story provides a stunning narrative of the "horizontal" unfolding across time, the insight of an emerging universe adds the "vertical" dimension of the universe continuously arising in time. The vertical dynamic of continuous creation slices through all that exists and reveals everything as a single orchestration happening all at once. At every moment, we are a part of this grand unity of creation.
The unfolding of the universe through time demonstrates an amazingly powerful and patient process at work. The continuous creation of the cosmos in time reveals another, stunningly powerful dynamic. When we put these two extraordinary processes together at an intersection called "now," it reveals how we simultaneously exist in a place of both creative freedom and profound communion. Being and becoming converge into an experience beyond words -- and we recognize that we already live in the realm of the sacred.
Our awakening to a new understanding of the universe in both its horizontal and its vertical aspects represents a stunning re-imagining of where we are as a species. Realizing that we live at the intersection of both the horizontal unfolding of the universe and the vertical arising of the universe presents a view of existence that reaches beyond any particular nation, region, or ethnic group. We are bio-cosmic beings who are waking up to the fact that we live in an ever-emergent universe and our evolutionary task is to grow into the bigness of who we are, both personally and collectively. This vision of the human journey is big enough to honor the diversity of our past and to act as a beacon for our collective future.
Although the idea of an ever-emergent universe has ancient roots in human experience, it is also radically new as the frontiers of modern science offer a growing recognition of how dynamic the universe truly is. The universe is not static, sitting quietly in empty space; instead, the totality of the universe is everywhere in motion and being regenerated moment by moment -- a process requiring the flow-through of a stupendous amount of energy. In the words of cosmologist Brian Swimme, "The universe emerges out of an all-nourishing abyss not only fourteen billion years ago but in every moment." Moment by moment, the universe emerges as a single orchestration -- a uni-verse or single verse of manifestation. Because nothing is left out of the regeneration of the universe, we are participants in a cosmic scale process whether we are conscious of it or not.
This insight is not restricted to science. Based upon decades of research described in my book "The Living Universe," harvesting the wisdom of human experience is like watching a picture gradually come into focus and seeing an extraordinary image of the universe emerging before our eyes. Within each major tradition -- Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Confucian, Indigenous, and more -- we can find remarkably similar descriptions of the universe and the life force that sustains it: Christians affirm that God is not separate from this world but continuously creates it anew, so that we live, move, and have our being in God. Muslims declare that the entire universe is continually coming into being, and that each moment is a new "occasion" for Allah to create the universe. Hindus proclaim that the entire universe is a single body that is being continually danced into creation by a divine Life force or Brahman. Buddhists state that the entire universe arises freshly at every moment in an unceasing flow of interdependent, co-arising where everything depends upon everything else. Taoists state that the Tao is the "Mother of the Universe," the inexhaustible source from which all things rise and fall without ceasing. Confucians view our universe as a unified and interpenetrating whole that is sustained and nourished by the vitality of the life force or ch'i. Indigenous peoples declare that an animating wind or life force blows through all things in the world and there is aliveness and sacred power everywhere. And many Western thinkers portray the universe as a single, living creature continually regenerating itself as it evolves toward higher levels of complexity and consciousness. Beneath the differences in language, a common reality is being described -- our life is part of a larger life that is being continuously renewed. The universe inhabits us as much as we inhabit the universe.
The unity of existence is not an experience to be created; rather, it is an always-manifesting condition waiting to be appreciated and welcomed into awareness. The "power of now" derives from the entire universe arising at every moment as an extremely precise flow. When we are in the now, we are "reality surfing" -- riding the wave of continuous creation. Each moment is a fresh formation of the universe, emerging seamlessly and flawlessly. It is the doubly powerful nature of life at the intersection of emergence and evolution that gives such intensity and span of meaning to existence, and awakens naturally a spiritual appreciation for all of life.
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