Expansion and Immensity: The Universe and Us

Ernesto Cardenal writes that “the greatest discovery of the twentieth century is the expanding universe.” But while the universe is expanding, are we? If not, we are contracting.

Protestors outside the 2016 graduation ceremony at the University of Kansas. Photo by Westboro Baptist Church. Wikimedia Commons.

Where there is fear, writes Aquinas, contraction takes over. Fear “denotes avoidance in general,” he teaches. To allow fear to take over our ways of living or our hearts or our institutions is to void a cosmic law: the need to expand through love and courage.

The fundamentalism that rules so much religious consciousness today represents a failure of love, a failure to enlarge the size of our hearts. So, too, do all expressions of racism, sexism, classism, adultism, sectarianism. These are examples of the human species settling for contraction when the universe is urging us to expansion.

Persons and institutions stuck in fear oppose the universe as they attempt to build bigger moats and thicker walls of defense or develop more orthodox litmus tests. It takes a lot of energy to fight the universe itself—energy that could be used for more productive tasks.

Amazing Journey from Earth to the End of the Universe. Video by CoconutScienceLab.

To celebrate and enter into expansion is not to deny that contraction also occurs in the universe. Limits are important. For example, a painter limits the size of her painting by a conscious decision about its form, and then she puts herself out into that form in as fully expansive a way as possible. Or consider our lungs. If they only expanded and never contracted, we would explode.

But the general message of the universe is: “When in doubt, expand.” As Jesus and other moral teachers have told us, “Love has no limits.” Love expands to the breaking point and beyond—in other words, to crucifixion and then on to resurrection.

“Gang nach Emmaus,” an 1877 painting by Robert Zünd (1827-1909), depicting the resurrected Christ accompanying two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Wikimedia Commons.

The breaking point, the end point that Jesus experienced in his crucifixion was not the end of the story. The belief in resurrection carries us beyond intimidation, which fear and contraction preach, to the world of divine surprises that, like the universe itself, are beyond our wildest imaginations.

Joy by nature is expansive. One wants to share one’s joy with others. Love is expansive, it goes out. Creativity is expansive. Meister Eckhart says what is creative “goes out but remains within.” We can expand both outwardly and inwardly at the same time therefore. 

We are built for expansion, as French philosopher Gaston Bachelard puts it, we are wired for intimacy, intensity and immensity. 

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Liberating Gifts For the Peoples of the Earth, p. 45. 

And Fox, Creativity: Where the Divine and the Human Meet, pp. 185-188.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE

Banner Image: A chiaroscuro depiction of the expanding Universe after the “Big Bang.” 2008 Painting by Cédric Sorel. Wikimedia Commons. 

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7 thoughts on “Expansion and Immensity: The Universe and Us”

  1. Avatar

    It does not matter if the universe is expanding if we cannot see beyond our own nose and the five physical senses. We need to take ourselves beyond in order to see the beyond. That is the journey of ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life’, is it not? How much more will we see if we are just sitting and idle? To pick up our ‘cross’ and carry it every day as we ‘follow’ is our spiritual duty. We, the blind, will regain our sight. — BB.

    1. Avatar
      Brigid Cannon, OP

      Thank you, Bill for your insights and I do believe we must live in unity with God’s Will to become all that we can become in God’s image and likeness which is Love.
      Love desires to give of itself. In my faith, Jesus showed us the way to love, live , die and live in love with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It takes courage to live in LOVE and if we ask, God gives us the courage as we know from our life experience. So I pray we all live in God’s Extravagant Love for us.

  2. Avatar

    For me the mystery and miracle of our expanding Sacred physical Cosmos is intimately related to the mystery and miracle of our inner expanding Sacred non-physical multidimensional-multiverse Cosmos… They are both mysteries and miracles of the Divine Love Energies of our transcendent and immanent co-Creator~Source’s Loving Evolving Diverse Oneness, including the Divine Sparks of our eternal unique evolving Souls… The mystics in our ongoing human history and evolution have been graced with a glimpse of this profound mystery and ongoing miracle through Cosmic Consciousness potentially available to all of us on our eternal inner and outer spiritual journeys of Divine Love with All living beings within our immense and Sacred Cosmos (Home)….

  3. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    The mystery and nature of Divine Love, causes expansion; for it continously moves one to unfold, evolve and emerge from all that which tempts one to contract, restrict and limit. Converging with this mystery of Divine Love causes oneself to remain open in heart, receptive in mind and surrendering in soul; to the inflowing and outpouring of awakening to one’s true nature; created in the image and likeness of this living Spirit of Divine Love… there, already seeded and sealed within… within not only oneself, but also within the all and the everything of creation.

    The key to experiencing this mystery and nature of Divine Love, is to willingly surrender in trust… to its subtle touch… intuiting its prompting movements… responding receptively to the spiritual reality of its essence and presence… allowing this living Spirit to comfort you, console you and wisely counsel you in all things… in imaginative, creative and transformative ways… awakening your remembrance to what is, was and ever shall be.

    All are BEING extravagantly and abudantly loved TO love… to expand and make manifest, the mystery and nature of this unconditional, all encompassing, compassionate and merciful love… expressed in infinite and uniquely diverse ways. All of creation is invited to participate and contribute its beautiful giveaway to the whole.

  4. Avatar

    “The world of divine surprises…” is ours if we can see beyond the constant darkness and contracting and distorting of all human potential for good that has become the increasing signs of our times. With yet another blow to humanity, the Supreme Court continues to whittle away at our rights. Yet, in patches, our humanity at its best rushes in to help whenever there is a natural or human-made disaster. Many individuals, groups, and nations are represented in the efforts to locate the submersible. In the end, love is truly stronger than death, but I for one need to focus on this truth in the face of so much suffering, and it takes a great deal of effort and contemplative practices, along with teachers like Matthew and Richard Rohr, to believe.

  5. Avatar

    The sacred mystical experience is more than just a stunning revelation. It’s an open, joyous invitation to everyone, not just mystics, to dive deep and grow/expand into the amazing teachings and intuitions that mystics have explored and shared through the ages. The revelation and many of its intuitions are truly mind-boggling. (There’s a reason that spiritual quantum physicists are drawn to the mystical texts.)
    With those intuitions, mystics have always pried open the straight-jackets of stiflingly constricted, intellectualized concepts of God, of the soul, of Creation, and of potential relationships between them. God keeps things from getting in a rut by reminding people, from time to time, that She/He will not be diminished, i.e., simplified, minimized, and put into convenient boxes of ideas. We learn to expand our concepts and our hearts, making ever more room for the One, as revealed in mystical revelation and in sacred mystical texts. We are challenged to radically grow.

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