Humanity’s Cosmic Awakening: An Astrophysicist Speaks

In their book, The View from the Center of the Universe, astrophysicist Joel Primack and cultural philosopher Nancy Abrams teach that we humans are living in a unique moment in the history of the universe that makes it possible to know the universe in an intimate way. 

Joel Primack and Nancy Abrams explore cultural and social implications of the emerging scientific understanding of the universe at TheCosmicSociety

Ours is “the midpoint of time for our solar system” because in six billion years the sun will grow so hot that it will expand, swallowing up Mercury and Venus and burning Earth to a crisp. 

But, they say, ours is also a special time to be living in the universe because distant galaxies are moving away ever faster, and are disappearing over the cosmic horizon.  

Our visible universe is emptying out: our distant descendants, no matter how advanced their telescopes may be, will never be able to see as many galaxies as we can see now. 

[Today represents a] special window of time that can only happen during a relatively brief epoch in the entire history of the universe: late enough that intelligent beings have evolved who have instruments to observe the distant galaxies, but not so late that the galaxies have begun to disappear.  Without this period of overlap it might have been impossible for intelligent beings ever to get the chance to figure out the nature of the universe.

But that is not all.  We humans are

“Nerve Cell Stars.” Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.

the only size that conscious beings like us could be.  Smaller creatures would not have enough atoms to be sufficiently complex, while larger ones would suffer from slow communication—which would mean that they would effectively be communities rather than individuals.

The “Goldilocks Principle” informs us that 

creatures much smaller than we could not have sufficient complexity for our kind of intelligence, because they would not be made of large enough number of atoms.  But intelligent creatures could not be much larger than we are, either, because the speed of nerve impulses—and ultimately the speed of light—becomes a serious internal limitation….The speed of light seems dizzyingly fast to us, but on the scale of the visible universe it is excruciatingly slow and would prevent the parts of any large intelligence from communicating with each other in a reasonable amount of time compared to the age of the universe. 

Flock London in partnership with The Open University challenge the prevalent Western concept of humanity as separate from nature. BBC Ideas.

Stephen Gould taught that humans are “a fortuitous afterthought” of the cosmos but such a mind-set “reinforces our collective irresponsibility” as Primack and Abrams see it. 

The authors conclude that we humans are significant to the universe.  We are special.  Special for our size, special for our intelligence and creativity; and special for the time in which we are living on earth, in the solar system and in the universe as a whole. This is recent information that modern cosmology never knew.

It seems our powers of praise are special—and timely–too.  Along with our responsibilities.  For we are special also for our capacity for lies and self deception and violence and evil unfortunately.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Hidden Spirituality of Men, pp. 9-12.

Banner Image: Neolithic tomb capturing solstice sunrise: “Newgrange Triskele” by Seán Doran is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

NOTE: Unfortunately, due to malfunctions in our video platform, there are no subtitles for today’s video. To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Queries for Contemplation

How does it feel to learn that we humans are special in the universe in the eyes of today’s science?  How does this relate to the Webb Telescope?  And to the archetype of Father Sky and the renewal of a healthier masculinity?

Recommended Reading

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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14 thoughts on “Humanity’s Cosmic Awakening: An Astrophysicist Speaks”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, Today you write: “In their book, The View from the Center of the Universe, astrophysicist Joel Primack and cultural philosopher Nancy Abrams teach that we humans are living in a unique moment in the history of the universe that makes it possible to know the universe in an intimate way.” What can make this clear is what is called, the “Goldilocks Principle.” The Goldilocks Principle states that, “This porridge is too hot, this one is too cold, but this one is just right!” So in their book, Primack and Abrams show how we are at the midpoint of our evolution–half way through the cycle of our sun (after which our planet will be incinerated). And so you ask in our Queries for Contemplation today: “How does it feel to learn that we humans are special in the universe in the eyes of today’s science?” Primack and Abrams feel that we humans are significant to the universe. “We are special. Special for our size, special for our intelligence and creativity; and special for the time in which we are living on earth, in the solar system and in the universe as a whole. This is recent information that modern cosmology never knew.” And in light of what we have been reading, the last few days about the Webb Telescope we can see it as another way that we are searching out the most accurate cosmology we have ever had in all the history of the human race. And this all adds to the expansion of the archetype of Father Sky, and the renewal of a healthier masculinity. A question I have however is, we have discussed the sacred masculine and the divine feminine, and even the Black Madonna, but where does all this leave “Mary, the Queen of Heaven?”

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      Wow Richard, you close your summary and commentary of today’s DM with a very loaded question: “…where does all this leave “Mary, the Queen of Heaven?” ” Somehow this leads me to Thomas Kuhn’s understanding of the the nature of scientific revolutions, that new questions are invitations to move beyond a settled paradigm through a phase transition to a new paradigm. Scientific paradigm shifts have lead to cultural paradigm shifts, often through phase transitions that rapidly push beyond accepted world views.

      To me your question speaks to a human Mary [Miriam] mother of a human Jesus [Yeshua] and their specific historical relevance to our relationship with the cosmos. What have the Queen of Heaven and the Christ have to do with each other? And can we understand them without including Joseph representing the Sacred Masculine? Should the Trinity be revised to Father, Son and Lady Wisdom with specific reference to actual historical figures? Why was Mary given a seemingly separate category as “Queen of Heaven”? And how does this affect the archetypes of Mother Earth and Father Sky???

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      Richard, I’d love to address your “Queen of Heaven” question, but am reluctant to take up the space required to do so here. Suffice it to say, for reasons listed in my comments today, that the Christ is the reconciled expression of ALL religions and All fields of knowledge, and ALL apparent contraries — though forgive me, I failed to list masculine and feminine among the contraries to be reconciled. As an androgynous expression of same (“male and female made he them — Gen 1: 26), there is no need for a mediatrix, just an integrated mediator, something much more agreeable to the lopsidedly male Hebrew culture of the times. There’s wisdom in taking an intermediate step toward co-equality in a murderously toxic male-dominated culture. Hence, “there is only one God, one Mediator between God and mankind, the man (person) Jesus Christ” (1 Tim. 2: 5,6). There aren’t two and never have been, The term “queen of heaven” is only used twice in Scripture, both in the OT (Jeremiah), both times in a critical way, chiding the Israelites for venerating a fertility goddess, the wife of Baal. There is no mention of a heavenly queen in the NT, only a King, one who is ALL-inclusive, in All people and in All things equally and universally. Scripture is given for a reason, Richard. Its not, as Peter said, “a cunningly devised fable,’ but men of God wrote it “as they were move by the Holy Ghost.” Not all conservatives are Nazis, just like not all Scripture is outdated or irrelevant.” If interested in discussing more on the origins of Mariolatry, I’m at

      1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
        Richard Reich-Kuykendall

        Joe, thank you for your response. I totally agree with you from a Protestant perspective. And Protestants would point out the same kind of evidence that you have shared here: “The term ‘queen of heaven’ is only used twice in Scripture, both in the OT (Jeremiah), both times in a critical way, chiding the Israelites for venerating a fertility goddess, the wife of Baal. There is no mention of a heavenly queen in the NT, only a King, one who is ALL-inclusive, in All people and in All things equally and universally. Scripture is given for a reason, Richard.” There is another perspective that embraces almost half of all the Christians in the world, and that is the Catholic perspective. What I was hoping for in my comment was that Matthew might enlighten us on why he speaks of the Sacred Masculine, the Divine Feminine and the Black Madonna, but never the “Queen of Heaven”–which is one term applied to the Virgin Mary by Catholics. I thought he should know having been a priest for many years…

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          I too would love to hear Matt’s answer, though one must be careful, as multiplicity, race, gender and all divisions and denominations (including religious) are hallmarks of space-time, and primarily of human making. My perspective, however, is not a Protestant one, as I only hold to the foundational truths (not distinctive I’ve doctrine) common to all denominational stripes, as in that vein the Scripture record is common to therm all, including Catholics. I prefer not to play loose with the ‘canon,’ disregarding what it says in favor of sectarian slants that have no basis in early church history, tradition and apostolic doctrine. Such is far from having a doctrinaire perspective, however. The word ‘canon,’ as you may recall, means “standard” or “measure,” that by which all teachings and doctrines are to be measured against, their litmus test. It’s similar to a ruler, say, for example, if two persons disagree on the measurements of a board or a room size, the use of a tape measure or yardstick (as canon), would settle their differences of opinion. Each person wouldn’t be allowed to have a measure less or more than the standard. Ditto Scripture. So please, Richard, show me via my email where in the canon, early church tradition, apostolic doctrine, gospels, or for that matter, the words of Jesus himself that his mother was to mediate God for us. My Scripture says “we are complete in him, “ not him “plus” anyone or anything. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion or beliefs, but not everyone is entitled to his own facts. The standard of measure for a carpenter must be the same across all carpenters, not just some who hold to their own units of measure. Wouldn’t want one of the latter building my house. Ditto, doctrinally, God’s house.

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            I basically agree with you. As an aside, I am an ordained ruling elder at a Presbyterian Church (belong only because of social justice and openness to all), but the ruling does not mean “above” but simply measuring how the congregation is doing.

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    Humans are the mediating bridge (crossroads) between the eternal and temporal, the microcosmic and macrocosmic, between the visible dust and the invisible spirit that organizes and holds all things together. As such, humanity is created to be a living expression of all of those universal forces, the totality of their reconciled tensions incarnate. So humanity is at once the unifying point of origin and gathering, oneness and separateness, evolution and involution, human and divine, spark and fire, and Alpha and Omega. More importantly, reflected in the sacred architecture of creation, it’s the organic name for Christ, which is another name for everything who “is all and in all” (Col. 3:11). Such is out-pictured geometrically (as symbol) in the cross, the axis mundi, da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, the Merkaba, and the Caduceus images. What remains for the Abram’s couple in today’s DM, is to tie that in with their science, and explain to us the role and significance of the myriad of tornadic (spinning) spirals that fill the entire universe, and which, before their unseeing eyes, gloriously bedeck the images they’re viewing on the big screen. Unbeknownst to them and everyone, such is key to the successful integration of science and spirituality, and key to unlocking the mystery Jesus referred to, “hidden since before the foundation of the world.”

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    Jeanette Metler

    Really appreciated the BBC video clip! One thing that caused me to pause and reflect was Mathew’s comment regarding the wrinkle in time… creating imperfection. We do seem to be living in an imperfect world… and we definetely are imperfect people. So this got me to thinking that perhaps imperfection is a necessary part of our evolution… in which we are afforded the opportunity to learn from our mistakes, and the error of our often destructive ways… and perhaps make the neccessary course corrections we need to, in order to restore balance and harmony. Perhaps out of this time of imperfection there emerges a pearl of great price… something slowly being discovered, as of great value… that being the preciousness of all life, all that exists.

    Perhaps, the imperfect wrinkle in time is an opportunity to iron out all of our illusions and delusions of seperateness and superiority and the many things attached to these. Perhaps the pressure of this wrinkle in time, which we are experiencing in all the crisises we are facing… is the neccessary heat and steam we need to iron out our imperfect ways and untangle our distorted perceptions of the reality of what truly is… so that we may begin to consciously awaken to the weft and the warp of the threads of the great webb that holds all together in an interconnected, interreliant, interdependant tapestry of wholeness and oneness… in which humanity is but one of the beautifully interwoven chords.

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    Yes Matthew, it is very honoring yet humbling that we as human beings are a very special species in the evolution of ongoing co-Creation~Evolution. Like indigenous people (especially their Shamans) and mystics in all our human history have experienced and taught us, we are a sacred part of the very Being of our Creator and Creation… But tragically the history of our Western civilization has been ignorant of this deep intimate sacred relationship with our Creator~Creation as demonstrated in human history by the killing and destruction of many indigenous peoples and their cultures, and Mother Nature and Her creatures and natural abundance/blessings. Indigenous peoples have always had that intimate sacred relationship/Oneness with Mother Nature. Now, our historically developing Global Industrial Civilization with its ongoing destruction of nature (climate crisis around the world) is coming to an end in the next 10~20yrs. (see Michael Dowd’s for more information)… We can still learn from our surviving indigenous sisters and brothers to learn to adjust to the drastic social changes approaching and begin to heal and spiritually become a sacred part of Living (but wounded) Mother Earth again… Our deeper faith/trust is that God’s Spirit of Love~Wisdom~Peace~Justice~Healing~Creativity~Mercy~Compassion~Guidance~Strength… is
    always present within and among us in Loving Diverse Oneness in our eternal Souls and in our ongoing co-Creation~Evolution of our spiritual multidimensional and multiverse Cosmos….

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    Mathew, where does this leave the Soul? All of this seems to reflect the old idea that humans are the center of the universe because of their intelligence and creative attributes. It tell me that we are singular in importance as we watch fireworks of the deep past. We are still in the dark about happenings before the proverbial Big Bang. and no set of mirrors will penetrate that Mystery.

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    And isn’t it possible (even probable) that there is Someone Else “out there” in all those galaxies spinning in those images we see–who also probably think they are the center of the Universe too? Just a thought…

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    It seems to me that we are back at an anthropomorphic view of humans as the center of the universe, just from a different point of view. Clearly, we are at least the imperfect reflections of an imperfect universe, and as Richard Rohr has written, perfection may lie in accepting our imperfections. It is exciting to think that in some scientific views we are at the midpoint in the life of the universe, and we have the opportunity to make radical changes in the story of how humanity will proceed. But we should have learned that already from the many political, health, and climate crises that face us.
    From what little I understand of quantum mechanics, uncertainty and probabilities are the rule. And space is mainly dark matter and dark energy, which cannot be directly observed but are inferred. These seem also descriptive of the human condition, as if we reflect those aspects of how everything works and how the cosmos is composed.
    I still have hope that enough people will wake up and make the radical changes that will benefit all of creation.

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      Anyway, the balance of healthy masculinity and femininity, and of all things reside in the Christ — as the Creator, Redeemer, and universal Whole-maker who has assigned to us “the ministry of reconciliation.” No need for black, white, red, or yellow madonnas. No need for madonnas at all, or queens of heaven. Such, like world religions, are of human invention, multiplying the Oneness and unity of God into so many divisions, while neglecting their common core, unifying principle, and universal Spirit. How many ways can you divide One? With God this is not possible; only with humans is it possible, and accounts for the absurd towering Babel the inhabitants of earth have made for themselves.

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