Written By:


Fritz Hull*

Brian Swimme’s new book Cosmogenesis is of major importance in the emerging work of the Whidbey Institute. It revives vivid memories of Thomas Berry who taught here. It reminds us again that the universe itself is primary for understanding what human beings do next to secure our future. What is especially great about Cosmogenesis is Brian’s passion. He wants us to see what he sees, and to sense with him how great the mystery of our universe is. He writes with non-stop intensity. His stories are vivid, his style is compelling, his energy palpable, and his determination fierce. He is willing to be bravely intimate. He asks that we understand the importance of what he is saying and that it really matters. I read the book the first time for the story because it was exciting, and the second time to make notes on key passages that I wanted to reflect on later. Then I found myself reading it again wondering why I had failed to underline more passages that were so insightful and essential.

Cosmogenesis is watching Brian Swimme listening to Thomas Berry, watching Brian observe Thomas at short range, and seeking earnestly understanding, meaning, and implications for our personal lives and the life of the planet. Brian, a man of great intellect and heart, is one rare human being telling us about another rare human being.

There is also a certain lightness that flows through Brian’s book. He surprises us with his self-effacing humor that is a joy to experience. Brian writes with a spirit of celebration as he considers how we can and must find our own relationship with the universe. To him, to use his favorite word, the universe with its constant unfolding is truly amazing. Follow our fascinations, he says. This is how we will move ahead as a species and help shape the future. Thomas Berry wrote: “In our present context, failure in creativity would be an absolute failure.” In Cosmogenesis you feel a call to all of us to join with those creative forces in the world to bring forth at this critical moment what is now needed. In Brian you feel the trust that we will get better at what we are doing, and in fact excel beyond what we currently imagine. I can remember Thomas telling us to “make a creative response.” And this is what Brian is doing, and what he wants for us.

This book will stay close to me for a long time so I can reach for it and have it inform me and move me again. I have friends who also have given it repeated readings. Thank you Brian for this book, and since it only goes to 1983 it feels like there must be at least one more coming!

I am personally pleased to announce that in the summer of 2024 Brian and a group of his colleagues will present a conference at the Whidbey Institute on Whidbey Island north of Seattle. As Brian explains in his book, it is here that he first learned of Thomas Berry. How fitting that Brian comes again to lead the conference using a title from years ago: The New Cosmic Story. This will be an annual event sponsored by the new Center for Knowing Home and will take place in the Thomas Berry Hall.

Thomas Berry Hall, the Whidbey Institute

* Fritz Hull and his wife, Vivienne, founded the Whidbey Institute and its predecessor, the Chinook Learning Community and served as co-directors for decades. Fritz is the author of Wild Idea—The Whidbey Institute Story and Iona Report: Story of an Enduring Vision,and he edited Earth & Spirit: The Spiritual Dimension of the Environmental Crisis.