Tag Archive | Jacob Berkowitz

Capturing the Depth

Capturing the Depth

Brian Swimme notes that “Life created the human to capture the depth of things.” To capture: interesting choice of verb. How do we capture the depth of things?

Enduring Depth

6039037-fish-bread-and-wine-as-symbols-of-jesus-lifeJesus came that we might have life, abundant life (John 10:10). His hearers had to discover new ways to integrate what they always believed with the new depth that Jesus offered: the Life he said he was. People then and now sometimes had/have major challenges capturing Jesus’ message of love and forgiveness, inclusion and self-giving.

Believers listen to the still small voice of God within, the voice of our souls, the whispers of our hearts. We earnestly listen to the signs of the times to direct our ministry. We’ve done it for decades, but many now feel the need to update our methods in light of the new stories from science. Are these new revelations calling us to develop new ways of capturing previously unguessed depths?

I think it’s safe to say that those interested in ecospirituality (by whatever name) are eager to deepen their understanding of the depths: not just of the Universe, but of its Source, enlivening Power, Creator, Mystery (again, by whatever name). We also want to capture how Jesus fits into the new story.

About Receptors

Thinking about the way things are captured reminds me of three recent experiences:

A while ago I watched Barry Kibrick, host of PBS’ Between the Lines, interview UnknownGerald Schroeder, author of Genesis and the Big Bang,  Science of God, and Hidden Face of God. Gerald  was explaining why, if a tree fell in the forest, there would be no sound. The energy waves exist, but something or someone with the physical equipment to receive (capture) the waves is required to make noise possible. As would be expected considering the titles of his books, the interview continued with his insights about the big questions of personal consciousness, God, and death. But he had me with capturing sound.

images-1More recently I was rereading sections of Mary Jean Irion’s She-Fire, A Safari Into the Human Spirit. Her book has treasures of several types, and I always gain from perusing the many pages I have dog-eared. This time I stayed with her reflection on the blue sky she saw in Kenya. Mary Jean writes: Blue is not a thing in itself. It does not exist. It happens only in the relationship of matter, light, and cones in the eye. Take away dust in the air, or take away light, or take away eyes — and there is no color. Yet there it is: who cannot see it? The sky, so help me, is blue today. Like Gerald Schroeder, Mary Jean goes on to explore thoughts about God. But she had me at capturing blue.

One more: Jacob Berkowitz’ The Stardust Revolution recounts the recent discoveries images-2concerning our origin in the stars. Essentially connected are the stories of the prescient scientists who developed the tools that made possible these discoveries. Whereas the equipment to catch sound waves and to see color came without human help, learning about the stars required patient human perseverance. Thanks to these scientists, we can now “catch” information unknown and probably unguessed until our time.

Praying Attention

Like many who are transitioning from prayers to a God-out-there and who have dealt with changing and always inadequate images of God, my journey in prayer has taken various paths. We live in a worldview that past mystics might have intuited, but which none knew scientifically. With no clear road from the past (and perhaps reluctance of some to share too honestly how they now travel) we are the generation making the prayer path. Rarely does this challenge — How do I pray? — not come up when faith-filled individuals transition from the Genesis Story to the Universe Story.

M. Basil Pennington, in his classic Centering Prayer in 1962, said: Our practice, our prayer, must be a response to reality, to what truly is. Well, think of all we’ve learned about reality since 1962! Think how Earth’s travails, and our awareness of them, have deepened since 1962! Think what we’re learning about the unity of all life! Can we capture the new depths when our minds have not yet had time to evolve ways to grasp these new realities?

Might prayer in our time require evolving new receptors so we can better “tune in” to the Universe — where the Transcendent lives and acts? Every religious insight and major figure, including Jesus, is part of that primary story and cannot be adequately known divorced from it, yet no religious founder knew it. Might dedicated pray-ers be called to evolve adequate receptors simply by their persevering efforts to stretch their minds and hearts and lifestyles?


New Depths from Science

Exploring and relating to the depth of the Mystery we call God is different now that we’re aware of being interconnected with the consciousness and totality of the Cosmos, aware of contributing to its evolution, aware of the inadequacy of any image to capture that reality. We know about energy popping in and out, fluctuating between waves and particles; we are learning about exoplanets and cosmic kin. We try to grow our Christian beliefs in this new soil, but no wonder we sometimes feel inadequate!

For example, even Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault acknowledges that her brilliant The Holy Trinityimages and the Law of Three will be challenging. Her description of the ternary principle  and its applications to theology force a forging of new brain paths. Yet how worth the effort to follow her journey into a new model for God and its more spacious container for the rich mythological and personal language of traditional Christian understanding. Hinting at what’s coming, she says: . . . most of the paradigm distress besetting contemporary trinitarian theology has arisen out of trying to bottle into particle format what is intrinsically a wave. How shall we capture these depths?


Our Part

I like thinking that my/our loving and persevering (and oftentimes tedious and confusing) efforts to capture the depths of things never before known will contribute to the evolution of new receptors. Isn’t this sure to happen? We do influence evolution, we do alter cosmic consciousness, we do create morphogenic fields. Our efforts contribute to easing the task of future generations to comprehend theological insights as evolution progresses to the Omega Point.





Stardust and Cosmic Water

images-2“Water, water everywhere,” Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote. He didn’t know the fraction of water’s ubiquitousness!

My usual water focus includes its importance as more than a resource, important as that is. Water, in its many forms, deserves our respect for other reasons, such as these:
– It is the origin of, and requirement for, life on Earth;
– It is a revelation of the Creator; it is sacred;
– It is an essential component of life (e.g., blood) and for enriching our lives;
– It helps us  “metaphor” divinity;
– its precarious future because of climate chaos, waste, and pollution.

Those using my “I Thirst” reflection this Lent will spend time reflecting on water and how it enables and enriches our lives. Understandably, “. . . nor any drop to drink” [sic] is a mighty fearsome possibility!

Origins of Earth’s Water 

In the Genesis version (which is respected as fertile myth but not historical account),images-3 water is the “watery abyss” that’s just there. God creates sky to separate the water under and above the sky/heaven. God gathers the water into one place so that land appears. “He named the pooled water Ocean.” (Gen. 1: 10) Water, a progeny of stardust,  predominates on our planet and is one source of our unity. I want to share some things I’ve learned (primarily from The Stardust Revolution by Jacob Berkowitz) that expand my understanding of water’s being “everywhere.”

Readers might know what follows, but no matter how much we already know about water, reviewing or learning more always seems to be a source of wonder. Maybe that’s because we’re learning about our ancestry! (Berkowitz: “We’re really made up of trillions of bags of water — our cells.”) Increased wonder was certainly true for me as I delved into facts discovered since the 1920’s about water — beyond Earth. I was and am also awed that humans have figured out ways to discover these facts. It earned Nobel Prizes for several scientists, and certainly earns them my respect and gratitude.

images-4For decades I thought water on Earth was the result of steam turning to rain and deluging the land. Relatively recently, I learned that water on Earth most probably came from comets and asteroids that regularly strike Earth. I admit I didn’t think much about how water got into them.

Scientific breakthroughs

Prior to the 1920’s, people thought the Universe was dry. In 1927, scientists at Bell Labs in New Jersey accidentally tuned in to the cosmos and heard radio waves. These waves are the principle behind radar, which eventually led to experiments in locating and identifying molecules that permeate the universe, the remains of supernovas and even of the Big Bang.

It turns out that the radio wavelengths of elements emit distinct signatures; each broadcasts a particular frequency. First scientists discovered vast, diffuse clouds of hydrogen, the element that had its origin in the first flaring forth. Researchers knew that hydrogen was abundant and the basic building block of the cosmos. That hydrogen atoms were “out there” was not too amazing.

Astronomers believed that molecules could not form or survive beyond Earth. Finding molecules in the cosmos — two or more atoms bonded together to form a chemical compound — would be a “quantum leap” in the non-scientific understanding of that word. Free-floating molecules rotate, vibrate, or both. This forms a unique fingerprint, making it possible for scientists to identify – and potentially find — each chemical. And in time, scientists did find them!

By 1937 “as simple a molecule as there is,” composed of a single carbon atom joined with a single atom of hydrogen — carbon hydride — had been discovered. Ammonia, too, had been discovered. Would it be possible to discover water molecules in the cosmos?

Discovery of Cosmic Water! 

Most people know that three atoms are required to form a water images-5molecule (H2O):
2 of hydrogen, the most common element from the Big Bang, plus
1 of oxygen, the most common element formed by stars.

The very next year, 1938, Charles Townes and his research group identified this three-partner dance in the cosmos — water! I either didn’t know or didn’t care at the time. Did you, if you were born by then?

And why might one care? Well, it’s good to live in the real world. Cosmic water is part of the story of who you and I are, the story of where we live. Genesis helped us think that water was not only always part of Earth, but was uniquely here. We thought Earth had cornered the water market! Turns out we needed a major thought-revision.

images-7Our beautiful, blue, wet planet is floating in a Universe awash in water in some form, mostly very cold gas or ice.
Ice is found around new stars and old ones;
it’s near black holes as well as in the heart of galaxies;
it forms around dust grains and it is frozen in ice balls.
Astronomers have detected water vapor whose light fingerprint had traveled from 12 billion years ago, and
the amount in the Universe is staggering. 

Stardust Connections

None of this water was “just here” in the cosmos; each single water molecule was formed from stardust elements!

How could we ever comprehend the creativity, the love, the source of this? Indeed, “The heavens are telling the glory of God!” (Ps. 19:1) images-8

Many Earthlings enjoy being in or near moving water: rivers, lakes, oceans, pools, even bath tubs. We instinctively feel a unity, a peace, a renewal.

Knowledge about cosmic water and our mutual beginnings from stardust can add to our feeling united to the entire Universe!

Ice Connections

Much of the North has had a lot of ice this winter — for better and for worse. We might now feel more united with cosmic ice when we enjoy ice skating and hockey, when we are awed by ice formations, when we plop ice cubes to cool our drinks.


Call to

It turns out that Earth is just one more place within the Cosmos where ice exists — and we have the awareness to appreciate it wherever it is!
Let’s deepen our appreciation of water everywhere on World Water Day March 22.
Let’s deepen it during Lent when we read stories about water and think about our sacraments.
Let’s deepen it whenever we look out at the heavens.
And, for sure, let’s deepen it by using Earth’s water reverently and sustainably.
Let’s not take it for granted!
Let’s stop individual and industrial pollution, waste, and contributions to climate change.

To adapt St. Francis’ words: Let us praise you, Lord, for Sister Water . . . .