"to become Love in Human form ...” By Hamid Edson
In Brian Swimme’s best-selling book, The Universe Is a Green Dragon, Brian employs a form of Socratic dialogue to explore the teachings of New Cosmology. In honor of his mentor and colleague, Thomas Berry, Brian names the teacher in his work Thomas. He refers to the student simply as “Youth.” In this excerpt Brian asks Thomas to explain to Youth the implications Wof science’s discovery of the origin of the universe in the Big Bang, the creative and annihilating dynamics of quantum mechanics, and the refinement of our understanding of the essence of life in the context of the evolutionary creation story from which we now understand humanity cannot stand apart. Here, Swimme writes about the positive and negative impacts the divide between science and spirituality has had upon humanity’s development of greater self-understanding and he voices many ideas also explored by prophets and mystics the world over. In Islam, the most fundamental statement of the nature of existence is: La Illaha illa Allah - There is nothing but the One, the Divine. Brian in his own way also speaks to this fundamental statement. He posits, “the ultimacy of no-thingness that is simultaneously a realm of generative potentiality,” and further asserts that the universe is a living entity and “a single energetic event, a whole, a unified, multiform and glorious outpouring of being.” Brian is, in essence, saying, “There is nothing, but the whole, the single, the unified, the One.” In the traditions of Islam, this One is further described as Divine and is known by ninety-nine Divine Names. From within the pages of The Universe is a Green Dragon, Brian describes this One as a “generative potentiality” and a “multiform and glorious outpouring of being.” These descriptions in turn evoke the Divine Name with which the Holy Qur’an begins: Ar-Rahman, the Most Gracious.
Sufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 1
From the different descriptions that science and spirituality give the One Whole of Existence, we can learn to extend more serious contemplation of the descriptions of reality provided in spiritual texts such as the Qur’an. In our Western culture, we have come to regard science as having a very strong, objective foundation and to consider spirituality as being based upon psychological delusions, or at best, subjective experiences. Since its inception, however, the culture of Islam has championed the growth of scientific inquiry and played an important role in the evolution Brian celebrates of the emerging evidence-based awareness of the incomprehensible scope of “the glorious outpouring of being,” which science calls the Big Bang or as Brian prefers, the flaring forth. At the same time, the practical and experiential inquiry of Sufism has led many Sufis to establish an awareness of Ar-Rahman as an ultimate reality, beyond all illusion. Brian Swimme sees our ability to receive the teachings of cosmology as a key to fulfilling humanity’s highest potential: the mystery of embodying love. In Islam, this potential is signified by the Divine Name, Ar-Rahim, the Most Merciful, which directly follows and complements Ar-Rahman in opening the Qur’an. Allah’s graciousness or Rahmat is the universal outpouring of being that is all of existence and that is the expression of Allah’s love, but Allah’s mercy is the endowing upon each manifestation of being the capacity to receive and embody that outpouring of love. By equating fulfillment of human potential with the goal of “becoming love in human form” through the awareness arrived at through cosmology, Brian describes an effort very similar to that of the student of Sufism. That is, the Sufi student or salek seeks from the teacher instruction in how to strengthen his or her connection to the outpouring of Allah’s Rahmat and thereby to increase his or her ability to receive, appreciate and embody Allah’s love.