Aquinas, Sanders, Goodall on Cosmos & Soul Expansion

If the greatness of the human person consists in our being “capable of the universe,” (Aquinas) doesn’t that mean that in a time like ours, when we are daily receiving news about our ever-expanding universe, we ought to be digging more deeply into our greatness?  And spend less time replaying the folly of human preoccupations with war, greed, power and conflict? 

Raw power and delicacy: Hozomeen Mountain, WA. Photo by Ron Otsu on Unsplash.

A new cosmology would seem to be calling us to an expansion of consciousness and wisdom, of knowledge and heart.

In his book Hunting for Hope, writer Scott Russell Sanders testifies how his soul expands in the presence of the cosmos. 

I still hanker for the original world, the one that makes us rather than the one we make.  I hunger for contact with the shaping power that curves the comet’s path and fills the owl’s throat with song and fashions every flake of snow and carpets the hills with green.  It is a prodigal, awful, magnificent power, forever casting new forms into existence, then tearing them apart and starting over.

Jane Goodall, recipient of the 2021 Templeton Prize, speaks on Living a Life of Purpose

Notice how he recognizes the very power that works the sky with that which also works our earth.  He is echoing Thomas Berry’s teaching that “ecology is functional cosmology.”  Waking up to Father Sky is also waking up to Mother Earth, one serves the other. 

In a recent interview Jane Goodall spoke of the “divinity” she finds in things of the earth.* She says:

The world is in an awful mess right now.  There’s no question about it.  We’ve disrespected animals…We’ve brought loss of species diversity, climate change and this pandemic on ourselves.  It’s going to take every bit of energy and commitment if we are going to save the future of our own species.

Sewage pollution in the Gulf of Thailand forces herring to the surface for oxygen, where an Eden’s Whale traps them in newly-adapted feeding behavior. Video by @bertiegregory .

From living with chimpanzees in Gombe, we are told,

…she built a strong spiritual connection with the natural world, recognizing a ‘spark of the divine’ in every creature—even the trees.

Indeed, every species has a special role to play in what she refers to as the tapestry of life. 

When one little species goes extinct, it may seem unimportant, but every time one species disappears it’s like pulling a thread from the tapestry and eventually that tapestry hangs in tatters and that can lead to ecosystem collapse.

How important is that? 

Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, Costa Rica, 2014. Photo by Ulf Rydin on Wikimedia Commons.

We depend on healthy ecosystems for everything—food, water, clean air, regulation of temperature rainfall…and we go on destroying it to our peril.

Sanders insists that opening ourselves to the “world we have not made” takes faith. 

Faith in what?  In our capacity for decent and loving work, in the healing energy of wildness, in the holiness of Creation.

That the universe exists at all, that it obeys laws, that those laws have brought forth galaxies and stars and planets and—on one planet, at least—life, and out of life, consciousness, and out of consciousness these words, this breath, is a chain of wonders.  I dangle from that chain and hold on tight.

Father Sky is returning. 


Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors To Awaken the Sacred Masculine, pp. 13f.

Banner Image: The Veil Nebula, 2,100 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Cygnus (the Swan), photographed by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, Z. Levay. Image on

Are you busy recovering the “holiness of Creation” that Sanders talks about?  And recognizing the “spark of the divine” in all creatures that Goodall is talking about?  What follows from that?

The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine

To awaken what Fox calls “the sacred masculine,” he unearths ten metaphors, or archetypes, ranging from the Green Man, an ancient pagan symbol of our fundamental relationship with nature,  to the Spiritual Warrior….These timeless archetypes can inspire men to pursue their higher calling to connect to their deepest selves and to reinvent the world.
“Every man on this planet should read this book — not to mention every woman who wants to understand the struggles, often unconscious, that shape the men they know.” — Rabbi Michael Lerner, author of The Left Hand of God

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3 thoughts on “Aquinas, Sanders, Goodall on Cosmos & Soul Expansion”

  1. Avatar

    I love Scott Russell Sanders remark
    “We still hanker for the original world, the one that makes us rather than the one we make”.
    How our souls expand in the presence of the universe.
    Of late I have been reading James Finlays commentary on Meister Eckhart.
    He talks how when we have those moments of utter connection with the divine so often aroused by the magnificence of the universe(mystica Union?) We and God are on the same ground . God expresses and gives herself away so willingly that there is such a divine connection and Union which surpasses anything we can understand but its pure experience or isness. ( intense, immense intimacy..?).
    I,m no theologian but maybe this is eluding to God luring us, playing with us to return, reconnect, with The Godhead?

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Thank you for your comment, Steve. I too have a hankering for the original world, where our souls expand in the presence of the universe. When it comes to Meister Eckhart, I personally feel that you can do no better than Matthew’s, PASSION FOR CREATION: THE EARTH-HONORING SPIRITUAITY OF MEISTER ECKHART…

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