Brian Swimme

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Brian Thomas Swimme
Brian swimme.jpg
Alma materPh.D. University of Oregon 1978; Santa Clara University 1972; Bellarmine College Preparatory
Known forevolutionary narrative of the Universe
Epic of Evolution
AwardsEmmy, Best Documentary Northern California 2112; Thomas Berry Award 1999
Scientific career
InstitutionsCalifornia Institute of Integral Studies
Doctoral advisorRichard Barrar
InfluencesFriedrich Schelling, Henri Bergson, Alfred North Whitehead, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Loren Eiseley, Thomas Berry, Linda Hogan

Brian Thomas Swimme (born 1950) is a professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies, in San Francisco, where he teaches evolutionary cosmology to graduate students in the Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness program.[3] 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.

Swimme brings the context of story to our understanding of the 14 billion year trajectory of cosmogenesis.[citation needed] 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, The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos (Orbis, 1996), and The Journey of the Universe (Yale University, 2011), written with Mary Evelyn Tucker. Swimme is the producer of three DVD series: Canticle to the Cosmos, The Earth’s Imagination, and The Powers of the Universe. Swimme teamed with Mary Evelyn Tucker, David Kennard, Patsy Northcutt, and Catherine Butler to produce Journey of the Universe, an Emmy-winning HD film released in 2011.[4] They draw together scientific discoveries in astronomy, geology and biology, with humanistic insights concerning the nature of the universe.[citation needed]


Brian Swimme is an evolutionary cosmologist on the graduate faculty of the California Institute of Integral Studies in 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.[2] 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.

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.[3] 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.[4]


Thomas Berry introduced Swimme to the work of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Swimme's passion for understanding is 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:[5] 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 is imagined as evolving with a telos of Beauty.

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.[6]

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."[7] Harvard astrophysicist 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.[8] 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.[9]

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.[10] 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.[11]

"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."[12] 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.[13][14]

Major publications[edit]

  • Manifesto for a Global Civilization (with Matthew Fox), Bear and Company, 1982, ISBN 0-939680-05-X
  • The Universe is a Green Dragon: A Cosmic Creation Story, Bear and Company, 1984, ISBN 0-939680-14-9
  • The Universe Story: From the Primordial Flaring Forth to the Ecozoic Era: A Celebration of the Unfolding of the Cosmos, Harper, 1992 (1994, ISBN 0-06-250835-0)—a culmination of a 10-year collaboration with cultural historian Thomas Berry
  • The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos, Orbis, 1996 (1999, ISBN 1-57075-281-8)
  • A Walk Through Time: From Stardust to Us—The Evolution of Life on Earth (with Sidney Liebes and Elisabet Sahtouris), John Wiley & Sons, 1998, ISBN 0-471-31700-4
  • Chapter 5 – Cosmological Education for Future Generations - The Thirteenth Labor: Improving Science Education[15]
  • Journey of the Universe (with Mary Evelyn Tucker), Yale University Press, 2011, ISBN 978-0-300-17190-7
  • Cosmogenesis: An Unveiling of the Expanding Universe, Counterpoint Press, 2022, ISBN 978-1-640-09398-0

Swimme's media work includes the video series, Canticle to the Cosmos, The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos and The Powers of the Universe.

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).[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Brian Swimme - the Mathematics Genealogy Project".
  2. ^ "Brian Swimme". Archived from the original on 2010-12-14. Retrieved 2011-04-05. retrieved 4/4/2011
  3. ^ "Thomas Berry". Archived from the original on 2011-07-25. Retrieved 2011-04-05.
  4. ^ American Association for the Advancement of Science Archived 2007-08-23 at the Wayback Machine retrieved 4/4/2011
  5. ^ "Brian Swimme on Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: The Divinization of the Cosmos". Archived from the original on 2012-12-03. Retrieved 2011-04-05.
  6. ^ Brian Swimme retrieved 4.4.2011
  7. ^ Canticle to the Cosmos
  8. ^ Eric Chaisson, Tae-Chang Kim, The Thirteenth Labor: Improving Science Education, CRC Press, 1999, p. 9, ISBN 9057005387 [1]
  9. ^ Interview with Robert Wright (2007) Full transcript online Archived 2007-10-02 at the Wayback Machine Full video online
  10. ^ Excerpt Archived 2009-08-01 at the Wayback Machine from Pacific Sun (newspaper) retrieved 3-07-09
  11. ^ Center for a New American Dream Archived 2015-05-23 at the Wayback Machine retrieved 5.22.2015
  12. ^ Comprehensive Compassion - An Interview with Brian Swimme retrieved 4.5.2011
  13. ^ What do you get if you divide science by God? retrieved 4/4/2011
  14. ^ "Sectors of Religious Naturalism". Archived from the original on 2012-03-21. Retrieved 2011-04-05.
  15. ^ Eric Chaisson, Tʻae-chʻang Kim, Tae-Chang Kim, The Thirteenth Labor: Improving Science Education, CRC Press, 1999, p. v, ISBN 9057005387 [2]
  16. ^ "Hand Clow 2012: Book & Video". Archived from the original on 2007-05-23. Retrieved 2007-05-22.

External links[edit]