Cosmogenesis and it’s Three Creative Dynamics

by Glenys Livingstone Ph.D.

This is an edited excerpt from the author’s book PaGaian Cosmology: Re-inventing Earth-based Goddess Religion, Chapter 1


Cosmic Eggs

photo: MoonCourt spiral by Glenys Livingstone

Central to this PaGaian cosmology is Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry’s articulation of Cosmogenesis and its three “governing themes”.[1] Physicist/cosmologist Brian Swimme tells the story of the evolutionary unfolding of the Universe with a feeling for its sacred nature. He and Thomas Berry offer an interpretation of the human in the Universe and Earth community, drawn from empirical scientific knowledge. The evolutionary epic, the story of the universe, has been described as one of the best myths of our times[2] and described as a grand narrative that may utilize archetypes, use poetic form, charge people’s souls to the critical task of participation and “inspirit” the material explanation of the world.[3] Brian Swimme is a storyteller with that capacity.[4] Thomas Berry, academically trained contemplative priest, co-author of The Universe Story and mentor of Brian Swimme forged “a partnership between the sciences and humanities” that humbly takes into account and includes the wisdom of indigenous peoples and the wisdom of women.[5] Swimme and Berry’s cosmology is in keeping with latest discoveries of Western science in all fields including astronomy, physics, complexity studies, and evolutionary theory. Connie Barlow has described in Green Space, Green Time how Swimme and Berry’s work catalyzes meaning-making, that may actually make a social, political and cultural difference: and certainly that has been their point.

Amongst the broad range of influences upon their cosmological interpretations is Alfred North Whitehead’s ‘process philosophy’ which was an extrapolation from the quantum physics of the 1920’s. Whitehead included in his philosophy a “Threefold Creative Composition” which I later describe as resonant with the three faces of the Female Metaphor for Creativity (‘Goddess’)[6] and also with Swimme and Berry’s three faces of Cosmogenesis. Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry’s articulation of the three is a development of Thomas Berry’s fourth principle of a functional cosmology (See Appendix A). The three themes are offered as an interpretation of three fundamental principles of reality inductively drawn from empirical scientific knowledge. The three themes are not equations, nor are they laws like unto the laws of thermodynamics: in his last description Thomas Berry referred to them as “basic tendencies of the universe at all levels of reality”.[7] Swimme notes specifically some of the scientists whose work he and Berry draw on for the development and understanding of their three aspects of Cosmogenesis.[8]

Cosmogenesis in brief, is the ongoing creative activity of the Universe, the unfolding of the Universe – referring to the form producing dynamics of the Cosmological Unfolding. Generally it refers to large-scale structures such as galaxies and stars, but a more inclusive understanding is justified:

Rosette Nebula - a star nursery

Rosette Nebula – a star nursery

What we observe is that forms and structures in the universe arise, evolve in interactions, achieve stable if nonequlibrium processes, and then decay and disintegrate. The Cosmogenetic Principle simply states that the evolutionary dynamics involved in building the structures that appear in our own region of space-time permeate the universe as well.[9]

Certainly in their discussion of the three dynamics, Swimme and Berry cover the full gamut of creative manifestation – from particles to biological life to stars. They later describe how the three biological shaping powers of mutation, natural selection and niche creation “are further illustrations of the root creativity of the universe” that they have identified with the Cosmogenetic Principle.[10] They consider their articulations of the meanings associated with these dynamics as a beginning, “a prologue for later treatments as our direct experience of the universe’s development extends throughout space and time.”[11]

In the background to this Cosmogenetic Principle, is a principle called the Cosmological Principle defined by Einstein, and it has been essential for the entire Western scientific research enterprise on the planet today. That principle states that every point in the Universe is the same as every other point[12] – basically that hydrogen in this part of the cosmos can be assumed to be the same as hydrogen in some other part of the cosmos. This is not something that can be proved but it is assumed as a reasonable principle. Swimme and Berry note that this foundational principle of cosmology came out of a context early last century, that believed we lived in a static cosmos – a context that was ignorant of the evolution of the Universe as a whole. Now that science recognizes that we live in a cosmogenesis, a developing evolutionary reality, which appears to have had a thirteen point seven billion year story, that principle of Einstein’s is being extended to the Cosmogenetic Principle:

Even though our knowledge of morphogenesis and cosmogenesis is in its infancy, we are assuming that the heightened scientific investigation of these dynamics will make the cosmogenetic perspective entirely ordinary in the next centuries.[13]

This Cosmogenetic Principle states not only that every point in the universe is the same as every other point, but in addition, that the dynamics of evolution are the same at every point in the Universe. What that means, amongst many other things, is that the same Creative principle that gives birth to the Universe, pervades every drop of it with the same creative potency – that the Centre of the Universe is everywhere. Thus it is here as much as anywhere.

Egyptian Triple Goddess

Egyptian Triple Goddess 1354 BCE: Neith (that which is), Isis (the Throne), and Selket (she who causes the throat to breathe). Ref: Adele Getty “Goddess: Mother of Living Nature”

Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry have stated that this omnipresent Creativity will be characterized by three features “throughout time and space and at every level of reality”: named as ‘differentiation’, ‘communion’ and ‘autopoiesis’ in The Universe Story, but with some variation in other places.[14] These three have been summarized as follows: differentiation – to be is to be unique; communion – to be is to be related; autopoiesis – to be is to be a centre of creativity.[15] Swimme and Berry call these three features, “cosmological orderings of the creative display of energy everywhere and at any time throughout the history of the universe.”[16] They say these three refer to the “basal intentionality of all existence” and importantly, they are “beyond any simple one-line univocal definition”.[17] They are highly complex, interconnected and ongoing processes. The three features themselves are features of each other, for example:- a “multiform relatedness” – communion, is demanded by a differentiated universe, and that rests upon the fact of each individual thing’s infinite creative depths – autopoiesis.[18] Any creative work, as it progresses and is reflected upon, is ordered, structured and organized by these features.[19] In PaGaian Cosmology, I have recognised these three qualities in the Triple Goddess, thus recognising Her as metaphor for the Cosmological Unfolding.

© Glenys Livingstone 2015


[1] Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, p.66-79.

[2] Edward O.Wilson, On Human Nature, p.201, quoted in Connie Barlow, Green Space, Green Time, p.23.

[3] Edward O.Wilson, cited in Connie Barlow, Green Space, Green Time, p.24-28.

[4] See for example his latest award winning film with Mary Eveleyn Tucker The Journey of the Universe.

[5] Connie Barlow, Green Space, Green Time, p.53-54. See Thomas Berry, The Great Work, p.176-195.

[6] See Chapter 4 PaGaian Cosmology, pp 123-125.

[7] Thomas Berry, Evening Thoughts, p.126.

[8] In a personal communication (email 27/10/02) Swimme noted for example, G.G. Simpson The Major Features of Evolution p.243, and Karl Ernst von Baer as quoted in Stephen Jay Gould Ontology and Philogeny p.61, for differentiation; Jeffrey Wicken Evolution, Thermodynamics and Information: Extending the Darwinian Program p.8 for communion; and Ernst Mayr The Growth of Biological Thought: Diversity, Evolution and Inheritance p.533, and E.O. Wilson The Diversity of Life p.8, for autopoiesis.

[9] Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, p.67.

[10] Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, p.132. I describe these three biological shaping powers and my association of them with the Female Metaphor in Chapter 4.

[11] Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, p.71.

[12] Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, p.66.

[13] Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, p.129.

[14] Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, p.71.

[15] This summary definition of the three aspects of Cosmogenesis is on the editorial page of issues of Original Blessing, a newsletter published by Friends of Creation Spirituality Inc., in Oakland, CA., 1997. The Editor in Chief was Matthew Fox.

[16] Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, p.72.

[17] Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, p.71.

[18] Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, p.74.

[19] I refer to how this has characterized my process in the writing of the book PaGaian Cosmology – including the academic thesis, in the concluding chapter, the section The Snake Bites Her Tail- the Circle Comes Around.


Barlow, Connie. Green Space, Green Time. NY: Springer-Verlag, 1997.

Berry, Thomas. Evening Thoughts. SF: Sierra Club Books, 2006.

Getty, Adele. Goddess: Mother of Living Nature. London: Thames and Hudson, 1990.

Gould, Stephen Jay. Ontology and PhylogenyCambridge Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univerrsity Press, 1977.

Livingstone, Glenys. PaGaian Cosmology: Re-inventing Earth-based Goddess Religion. Lincoln NE: iUniverse, 2005.

Mayr, Ernst. The Growth of Biological Thought: Diversity Evolution and Inheritance. Cambridge Mass.: Belknap Press, 1982.

Simpson, G.G. The Major Features of Evolution. NY: Columbia University Press, 1953.

Swimme, Brian and Berry, Thomas. The Universe Story. NY: HarperCollins, 1992.

Wilson, E.O. The Diversity of Life. Cambridge Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1992.

___________ On Human Nature. Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1978.


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