Spiritual Wisdom for Secular Times

The search for meaning and faith.

The Big Bang and the Holy Spirit

Discovering where we came from may help us clarify why we're here.

Searching for our Origins in the Night Sky
According to yesterday’s BBC announcement, the signal has been found: left by the super-rapid expansion of space that occurred fractions of a second after everything came into being. It takes the form of a distinctive twist in the oldest light detectable with telescopes. Waves of gravitational energy produced ripples in the fabric of space, leaving an indelible mark on the oldest light in the sky. Everything we see today—every atom and molecule, the galaxies, the stars, the planets—was imprinted at that moment, in less than a trillionth of a second.

And were we human beings not equally pre-ordained? Are we not also among the products of that primal cosmic vibration? We, too, must have existed in some form or potentiality within the Big Bang event. There was no-thing, no-one, nothing human, outside it. So, to say that I am a work of the Holy Spirit is no grandiose claim. It is no more than saying that I—like everyone—am the product of the cosmic wind or energy vibrating throughout the universe.

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From its singular origin, the universe has remained a continuous whole. Its apparently separate parts are nevertheless seamlessly connected by the laws of physics. The word ‘holy’ is related to wholeness, and ‘spirit’, from the Latin ‘spiritus’, means wind or breath. For billions of years, the universe has been expanding and evolving. During this process cosmic energy, the vibrating cosmic wind, has become cosmic breath, the very song and breath of life.

Feelings of awe and wonder arise naturally whenever we humans become fully conscious of the great whole to which we belong, or to any part symbolic or resonant of that whole. This is how we come to designate something as divine or sacred. The universe itself can therefore be thought of as sacred; and it is not too great a step from there to thinking of the energy vibrating throughout the universe as both ‘holy’ and ‘spirit’.

Is this the same ‘Holy Spirit’ of Christians like me, who consider it an indivisible part of the Holy Trinity: Father God, Messiah Son and Holy Spirit? I do not know absolutely. There is a way, though, to establish for oneself any possible correspondence between the two; and this depends on developing a strong degree of cosmic consciousness or spiritual awareness. This is the next, highly personal experiment we are each wise to undertake, and it involves nothing more than to contemplate deeply the great mysteries of the universe, of origin, growth, change and development, and in the human realm of birth, relationships, maturity, ageing and death.

Merton's "The Road to Joy"
I have written before about the capacity for spiritual awareness in children that, in most cases, is suppressed and grows dormant by the teenage years; and how this kind of universal sensibility can be re-awakened and rekindled in adult life in a variety of ways. As well as being important for the relationship between an individual and the divine realm of the Holy Spirit, it is also essential to good, peaceful, creative relations between people, communities and nations.

In the same way that, birthed by a cosmic wind, every atom in the universe is related to every other atom, so every person is linked to every other person, and similarly to the majesty of nature through our individual, deeply personal connectedness to the cosmic whole. This is not an unfeeling process, but one characterized by affection, love, compassion and understanding. It is mediated through human qualities involving both heart (empathy) and mind (intuition).

In a circular letter to friends, shortly before his death in 1968, the inspirational monk and spiritual writer Thomas Merton distilled his wisdom into a single sentence. “The real journey of our life is interior: it is a matter of growth, deepening, and of an ever greater surrender to the creative action of love and grace in our hearts”. [Road to Joy, p118]

Arasteh's Book
A. Reza Arasteh, a psychology professor at Tehran, Princeton and George Washington Universities, who died in 1992, and whose writings have remained largely unnoticed by the psychological community, suggested that the prevailing psychological axiom, whereby 'in every adult there is a child who is responsible for certain aspects of his behaviour', is incomplete. Missing is the complementary axiom, that 'inherent in every child is a potentially mature person who should be given a chance to unfold' [Toward Final Personality Integration, p13].

For Arasteh, the maturity of ‘final personality integration’ depended upon a high degree of what he called ‘existential awareness’. Anyone—whether a Christian, some other form of religious believer, or rejecting of all faith traditions—can foster this unfolding, can improve his or her capacity for this kind of cosmic or spiritual sensibility, and so find one’s true place in the universe, in nature, and among one’s fellow beings. I would call this our true birthright. It started with the Big Bang, and is arguably why we are here.

Copyright Larry Culliford

References:

Merton, T. 1989. The Road to Joy: letters to new and old friends; selected and edited by Daggy, R. E. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: p118. 

Arasteh AR. 1975. Toward Final Personality Integration; 2nd Edition. New York & London; John Wiley & Sons: p13.

Larry’s books include ‘The Psychology of Spirituality’, ‘Love, Healing & Happiness’ and (as Patrick Whiteside) ‘The Little Book of Happiness’ and ‘Happiness: The 30 Day Guide’ (personally endorsed by HH The Dalai Lama).

Listen to Larry’s Keynote Address to the British Psychological Society’s Transpersonal Section via You Tube (1 hr 12 min).

See Larry interview JC Mac about ‘spiritual emergence’ on You Tube (5 min).

Larry Culliford, M.B., B.Chir. (Cantab), M.R.C. Psych. (UK), is the author of the Psychology of Spirituality and a psychiatrist in Sussex, England.

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