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Creating Heaven



We can now watch a supernova seed a galaxy with all the compounds of new life, but can we envision a sacred relationship to our universe that tells us how to live?

This article appeared in the Spring 2002 issue of Spirituality & Health. Finding Meaning in Our Expanding Universe On a clear night in medieval Europe, a person looking into the sky would have seen hard, transparent spheres nested inside one another, encircling the center of the universe, the Earth. Each sphere carried a planet, the moon, or the sun. Heaven itself was outside the most distant sphere, which carried the “fixed stars.” The hierarchies of Church, nobility, and family mirrored this cosmic hierarchy. Everything and every creature in the universe tended toward its proper place for love of God. Every traditional culture known to anthropology had a cosmology — a story of how the world began and continues, how humans came to exist, and what the gods expect of us. Cosmology made sense of the ordinary world by defining a larger context and grounding people’s sense of reality, their identity, and their codes of behavior in that grand scheme. This is how they knew who they were. The absence of a cosmology was as inconceivable as the absence of language. Their pictures of the universe …

Nancy Ellen Abrams is a lawyer, writer, and performance artist, and her husband, Joel R. Primack, is a professor of physics at the University of California, Santa Cruz. They taught a course at UCSC on cosmology and culture for many years. [1999]

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