Brian Swimme

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Brian Swimme
Brian swimme.jpg
Brian Swimme
Born 1950
Seattle, Washington
Institutions California Institute of Integral Studies
Alma mater Ph.D. University of Oregon 1978; Santa Clara University; Bellarmine College Preparatory
Doctoral advisor Richard Barrar
Known for evolutionary narrative of the Universe
Epic of Evolution
Notable awards Thomas Berry Award 1999

Brian Thomas Swimme (born 1950) is a member of the faculty of the California Institute of Integral Studies, in San Francisco, where he teaches evolutionary cosmology to graduate students in the Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness program. He received his Ph.D. (1978) from the department of mathematics at the University of Oregon for work with Richard Barrar on singularity theory, with a dissertation entitled Singularities in the N-Body Problem.[1] Swimme was a faculty member in the department of mathematics at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, 1978–81. He was a member of the faculty at the Institute in Culture and Creation Spirituality at Holy Names University in Oakland, California, 1983–89, and is adjunct professor for Holy Names University's Sophia Center.

Swimme brings the context of story to our understanding of the multi-billion-year trajectory of cosmogenesis. His published work includes The Universe is a Green Dragon (Bear and Company, 1984), The Universe Story (Harper San Francisco, 1992), written with Thomas Berry, and The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos (Orbis, 1996). Swimme is the producer of three DVD series: Canticle to the Cosmos, The Earth’s Imagination, and The Powers of the Universe.

Jerome Stone, author of Religious Naturalism Today, lists Swimme as a contemporary religious naturalist.[2] Mary Evelyn Tucker, historian of religions at Yale University, teamed with Swimme to produce Journey of the Universe, an Emmy-winning HD film released in 2011.[dated info] They draw together scientific discoveries in astronomy, geology and biology, with humanistic insights concerning the nature of the universe.


Swimme is a mathematical cosmologist on the graduate faculty of the California Institute of Integral Studies and in 2011 was an instructor for the Philosophy, Cosmology and Consciousness Program, an area of study within the Philosophy and Religion Program. It is designed to help shape the intellectual, moral and spiritual leadership of its students.[3] Swimme's primary field of research is the nature of the evolutionary dynamics of the universe. He has developed an interpretation of the human as an emergent being within the universe and earth. His central concern is the role of the human within the earth community, the cultural implications of the Epic of Evolution, and the role of humanity in the unfolding story of earth and cosmos. Toward this goal, he founded the Center for the Story of the Universe in 1989.[4]

His published work includes The Universe is a Green Dragon (Bear and Company, 1984), The Universe Story (Harper San Francisco, 1992) written with Thomas Berry, and The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos (Orbis, 1996). Swimme’s books have been translated into eight different languages. Swimme was featured in the television series Soul of the Universe (The BBC, 1991) and The Sacred Balance produced by David Suzuki (CBC and PBS, 2003). He is the producer of a twelve-part DVD series Canticle to the Cosmos, which has been distributed worldwide. Other DVD programs featuring Swimme’s ideas include The Earth’s Imagination and The Powers of the Universe.[5] Swimme founded the international Epic of Evolution Society in 1998. This was a result of his participation in the conference Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion organized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science the year before.[6]


Thomas Berry introduced Swimme to the work of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Swimme's passion for understanding were deeply influenced by Teilhard's ideas. Swimme describes his discovery of Teilhard in his foreword to Sarah Appleton - Weber's new translation of The Human Phenomenon:[7] He adopted Teilhard’s thinking that everything in existence has a physical as well as a spiritual dimension. He believes the universe is a deep transfiguration process. Love, truth, compassion and zest—all of these qualities regarded as divine become powerfully embodied in the universe. In this way, the universe becomes divine.

Suzanne Taylor, founder of Mighty Companions, says Swimme is a charismatic person who seeks to place scientific technology in its context of the infancy of the earth community as it struggles for reconnection to its sacred source. She believes that he sweeps us into the grand picture of human beings as the current culmination of the still-evolving universe. Swimme tells the story of the evolution of the universe and attempts to pull us into a universe of meaning, where there is not only connectivity, but directionality as well.[8]

In Canticle to the Cosmos he says "If you look at the disasters happening on our planet, it's because the cosmos is not understood as sacred... a way out of our difficulty is a journey into the universe as sacred."[9] Eric Chaisson writes that Swimme, a mathematician by training, seeks a larger, warmer, more noble science story. Our story is not merely a collection of facts; science should be a student’s guide to a grand world view, including, if possible, meaning, purpose and value. He sees the cosmological perspective as one to which all modern scientists can subscribe, yet the meaning and purpose of its being a subjective outgrowth of an individual’s reflections upon that cosmology remains.[10] In a 2007 interview with Robert Wright, Swimme says

... if you take Buddhism and Christianity and so forth there's a kind of battle — a subtle sort of struggle taking place because they're not standing in a common ground but... take the Earth or ecology then suddenly they can begin to explore what they have to offer. So I do think absolutely that... there will be a flourishing of religions, not a withering away. And they will flourish to the degree that they will move into the context of planet and universe.[11]

Pacific Sun magazine reports that Swimme is at the forefront of a new movement that integrates science and spirituality. Swimme believes there is a new story, the Epic of Evolution, a cosmological narrative that begins with the Big Bang, which started the whole process, and proceeds to the evolution of the universe and life on earth. This manner of study, which engages heart and mind together, seems to teeter on the brink of religion. He believes that science, holistically, has a soul-shaking impact on people. Big history science is filled with little mysterious coincidences, upon which our entire existence rests. Swimme notes that this inspires awe and humility, and that this cosmology puts people in their proper place. He thinks that the popular view is that the earth is like a gravel pit or a hardware store, that the earth is just stuff to be used.[12] He believes that consumerism has become the dominant world faith, exploiting the riches of the earth. His fundamental aim is to present a new cosmology—one grounded in a contemporary understanding of the universe but nourished by ancient spiritual convictions that help give it meaning.[13]

"This is the greatest discovery of the scientific enterprise: You take hydrogen gas, and you leave it alone, and it turns into rosebushes, giraffes, and humans."[14] This statement by Swimme has been widely quoted. For him the universe is a radiant, numinous revelation, and contemplating the wonders of the unfolding creativity of the cosmos is a mystical, ecstatic, awe-inspiring event. Swimme says the universe is attempting to be felt, which makes him a pantheist: someone who believes the cosmos in its entirety can be called "God."[15][16]

Major publications[edit]

Swimme's media work includes the video series, Canticle to the Cosmos and The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos. With Elisabet Sahtouris, he wrote the narrative of the book for the exhibit A Walk Through Time.

Swimme introduced Barbara Hand Clow in her books, Heart of the Christos: Starseeding from the Pleiades (1989, ISBN 0-939680-59-9) and The Pleiadian Agenda: A New Cosmology for the Age of Light (1995, ISBN 1-879181-30-4).[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 
  2. ^ Journal of Liberal Religion retrieved 3/30/2011
  3. ^ [1] retrieved 4/4/2011
  4. ^ [2]
  5. ^ [3]
  6. ^ American Association for the Advancement of Science retrieved 4/4/2011
  7. ^ [4]
  8. ^ Brian Swimme retrieved 4.4.2011
  9. ^ Canticle to the Cosmos
  10. ^ Eric Chaisson, Tʻae-chʻang Kim, Tae-Chang Kim, The Thirteenth Labor: Improving Science Education, CRC Press, 1999, p. 9, ISBN 9057005387 [5]
  11. ^ Interview with Robert Wright (2007) Full transcript online Full video online
  12. ^ EXCERPT FROM PACIFIC SUN MAGAZINE retrieved 3-07-09
  13. ^ How do our kids get so caught up in consumerism? retrieved 4.5.2011
  14. ^ Comprehensive Compassion - An Interview with Brian Swimme retrieved 4.5.2011
  15. ^ What do you get if you divide science by God? retrieved 4/4/2011
  16. ^ Sectors of Religious Naturalism
  17. ^ Eric Chaisson, Tʻae-chʻang Kim, Tae-Chang Kim, The Thirteenth Labor: Improving Science Education, CRC Press, 1999, p. v, ISBN 9057005387 [6]
  18. ^ Hand Clow 2012: Book & Video

External links[edit]