Cosmology and Spiritual Life

Beside flowing springs the birds of the heavens dwell; they sing among the branches. (Psalm 104:12)

Blue Heron (2016)

Since last June, I have been reading about the intersection of science and faith. It is an effort to bring my science knowledge up to date and to integrate that knowledge with my faith. It has been a struggle, probably because I started with scholars for whom I was not yet prepared. My steps on this spiritual path are reflected in previous posts filed in the category of “Ecological Spirituality.”

I just finished a book that I want to share with you. It is Field of Compassion: How the New Cosmology Is Transforming Spiritual Life by Judy Cannato (Sorin Books, 2010). It is for me the perfect integration of knowledge of the cosmos and faith experiences. In the Introduction, Cannato explains that “the human person is a field of energy and information rooted in the body but extending out from the body, interacting with the energy and information of others. None of us is a discreet, separate unit, but an integrated system of intereactions and relationships connected to all.” (p. 7) She describes Field of Compassion as a book that “rests on the conviction that we can become increasingly aware of who we are and how we influence our environment, and that we can and must make choices that are life-giving for all.” (p.7)

The science in the book may be daunting if this is the first time you read about cosmology (holons, morphogenic fields, morphogenic resonance, etc.) but Cannato explains the concepts clearly. A key theme in the book is the convergence of the Universe Story (cosmology) and the Christian story (faith). Cannato helps us to rethink what we believe about Incarnation, salvation, and repentance, for example, in light of what science knows.

Each chapter concludes with a “Pause for Contemplation.” Cannato uses three R’s to frame the questions:

  1. Resonance: What part of what you have read rings true with your own experiences and affirms what you know to be true?
  2. Resistance: Is there incongruity between what you have read and what you hold as true? Is there something that you don’t want to see or hear, something that grates against your normal way of viewing things? Is there something that makes you want to dig in your heels or turn away?
  3. Realignment: As a result of what you have read, has something shifted in you? Has something reconfigured so that you may live out of a slightly different place? What has shifted, what is different? (p.11)

These questions resonate with me and I plan to use them to frame the discussions and reflections in my classes and retreats. In fact, I find that most concepts in Field of Compassion resonate with me and I am being challenged to realign some long-held ideas. I begin to see, for example, that my love of photography is not separate from my spiritual life; it is an expression of my faith in a loving Creator. Cosmology gives me a “God-sized picture” of the created world; faith gives me a God who is larger than all of creation. I want to conclude with a psalm of praise for all of creation. This is an excerpt from Psalm 104 and a song that is based on that psalm.

Supermoon (2016)

Psalm 104

Bless the Lord, O my soul!
O Lord my God, you are very great!

You set the earth on its foundations,
so that it should never be moved.
You covered it with the deep as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.

The mountains rose, the valleys sank down
to the place that you appointed for them.
You set a boundary that they may not pass,
so that they might not again cover the earth.

10 You make springs gush forth in the valleys;
they flow between the hills;
11 they give drink to every beast of the field;
the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
12 Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell;
they sing among the branches.
13  From your lofty abode you water the mountains;
the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.

White Ibis (2016)

The song is “Send Out Your Spirit” by Bernadette Farrell from the album Love Goes On (2009)

How many are your works, O Lord, in wisdom you have made them all,

the moon to mark the end of day, the sun to rise and light our way.


Send out your Spirit upon the earth and let your Spirit bring us to birth.

Send out your Spirit and make us new till all creation return to you.

You set the earth upon its base from age to age in time and space.

The universe your care conveys, the planets echo with your praise.


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