Deep Ecology Contents   Cosmic Resources Kit
Timeline of Light Workshop

* "Child of the Universe" youtube clip sung by John Seed in May 2012 at Mooncourt

* The Cosmic Walk - Background Information

* 1. brief layperson version and 2. more lengthy and scientific version from Ruth Rosenhek

* John Seed version

* Glenys Livingstone version, MOONCOURT

* Larry Edwards has posted 9 versions of the Cosmic Walk at http://www.threeeyesofuniverse.org/cosmicwalks/TheCosmicWalk.html including one from Sister Mirriam

* For an extensive referenced cosmic and earthly timeline (which extends into the future) see http://www.jrmooneyham.com/genes1ref.html#section95.2
Some sections were last updated in 2004, and perhaps earlier.
As it's a collective endeavor resulting from random submissions, it's probably not authoritative.

More reliable may be
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_evolution
This timeline of the evolution of life outlines the major events in the development of life on the planet Earth.

* A group at the UU Church of Boulder evolved the cosmic walk text into
a broader "Cosmic Evolution" talk and service on 2003-05-11

THE COSMIC WALK

BACKGROUND INFORMATION (written by Mary Coelho)

We're told that the Earth is 4.6 billion years old and the elements of the Earth and of our bodies are even older than that. We're told the Universe is 12-14 billion years old so that the stuff of which we are made is unfathomably ancient. The cells in our bodies have a direct lineage to ancient cells with a nucleus that developed around two billions years ago. This remarkable new knowledge, as much as it fascinates us, seems initially to be impersonal scientific information about a vast cosmos and to not really matter or affect our daily comings and goings. But this information actually crystallizes with a great deal more, to form a coherent story of the unfolding and differentiation of the universe from the beginning to its present condition. This story challenges and informs our most basic, often unquestioned assumptions about how things are. We need great acts of imagination, of intuitive perception and celebration to help us embrace the revelatory material being offered us.

The cosmic walk, developed by Sister Miriam Therese McGillis of Genesis Farm in New Jersey, is a symbolic re-enactment that helps us enter personally into the story. Participants walk along a long rope laid out in a spiral that represents the entire story of the unfolding and gradual differentiation of the Universe and the Earth from the beginning to the present. It initially seems that it is a walk along a time-line since major events in the history of the Universe and Earth are marked on the rope by small candles at appropriate distances. For example, the beginning of life on Earth is marked, as is the first flight of birds. But actually it is much more than a time-line since we don't observe passing events as objective observers looking from the outside but we walk into and join the unfolding of our very being and that of the entire Earth and the ecosystems of which we are a part. By walking along the symbolically very long path and lighting a candle to mark a particular event we seek to identify with our history. After all, our present world is a new structuring in the Eternal Now of the very substance that was previously a long succession of other beings and relationships. The walk enables us to celebrate the noble creatures of the Earth, both ancient and new, to identify with the Earth and to grasp the depth of our interdependence and communion with the Earth and other beings as we participate in its unfolding out of a common origin. Have we realized just how amazing it is to be self-aware, conscious beings, a very recent form that the Universe and Earth have become? Have we known what remarkable creatures our brothers and sisters, the plants and animals are, each with their unique sensitivities and awareness? In this time of great need the cosmic walk can help nurture a transformed consciousness enabling us to join the great work of bringing about what Thomas Berry so aptly calls the Ecozoic era.


THE TIMELINE - TEXT FOR THE COSMIC WALK

This text was first developed by Sister Miriam Therese McGillis based on the works of Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme.

It has since been adapted by Ruth Rosenhek using the works and words of Elisabet Sahtouris, John Fowler and Lynn Margulis.

Version one - brief layperson version

Version two - longer and more scientific version


COSMIC WALK - Version one

Mystery generates wonder and wonder generates awe. The gasp can terrify or the gasp can emancipate.

Today we take a glimpse at the beauty of the Story, something of its deep mystery. It is the story of the universe, the story of Earth, the story of the human, the story of you and me.

(1) * From the great mystery, all of us came to be. From the void, from the dark, came the light and the spark. Some 15 billion years ago, a great ball of fire expanded outwards into the creation of the Universe - space and time, shadows and light. The universe expands and cools rapidly. After a million years, things cool sufficiently for hydrogen and helium to bring with them new forms of matter.

(2) *A billion years later, Galaxies come forth. Stars are born, live, and die. Larger stars in their death throes explode and become supernovas. As they blast out into the cosmos Supernovas create in their wombs the elements of life.

(3) *10 billion years later or 4.6 billion years ago, our Grandmother Star becomes a supernova. She gives up her life in an explosion that gives rise to our Star, what we call the Sun.

(4) *4.5 billion years ago, our Solar System forms from the remains of the supernova explosion.The sun and a great disk of matter emerge--all the planets and other members of our solar system family. Here begins the story of what will become one blue-and-white pearl of a planet.

Great Bombardment! Comets and meteorites pelt the Earth’s thickening crust as it cools off. The moon is born when Earth is impacted by a mars-sized body that causes the Earth to tilt to the side giving rise to the seasons of the year.

(5) *4.4 - 4.1 billion years ago - Over hundreds of millions of years, Earth has grown from dust particles to a large, hot, molten planet with a thin rocky crust. The crust thickens as cracks and exuberant volcanoes expel hotly agitated deep Earth magma to the surface.

As steam condenses above the Earth, the miracle of rain and weather cycles begin. The first rains fall, then torrential rains fall on, and on, and on until rivers run over the land and pool into great seas.

(6) *4 billion years ago, the rich chemical brew brings forth invisibly small creatures that we call bacteria. The first lving cells!

(7) *3.9 billion years ago, bacteria run out of free food supplies. They invent ways to capture energy from the sun which they then use to create new sources of food from water and simple minerals. In the process, however, they give off oxygen, a deadly corrosive gas that eventually piles up in the atmosphere and threatens life.

(8) *2 billion years ago, oxygen loving cells emerge. The first global environmental crisis is averted by the creativity of these tiny cellular creatures who invent a use for oxygen as they breathe it in (like we do) and use its energy. Oxygen levels continue to rise until they reach near present-day levels.

Individual bacteria learn to cooperate and specialize within giant cell cooperatives. Within one cell, some creatures make food while others invent tiny electric motors that move the colony into sunlight, where others capture the energy of the sun. The individual parts become less independent but more secure as inseparable parts of the new wholes. These types of organisms are the same stuff of all plants and animals today. Cooperatives!

(9) *1 billion years ago, Organisms begin to eat one another in the predator-prey dance that promotes the vast diversity of life as predators pick off the least healthy members among their prey species.

(10) *700 million years ago, some organisms begin living together in colonies, finding ways to communicate with each other using chemical messages. Life on Earth rediscovers Community!

(11) *600 million years ago, light sensitive eyespots evolve into eyesight. The Earth sees herself for the first time.

The first animals to evolve in the oceans are soft-bodied. Over the next 70 million years, previously naked animals protect themselves with shells. Jaws, beaks, and skeletons follow suit.

(12) *460 million years ago - Leaving the water, animals such as worms and mollusks and crustaceans seek the adventure of breathing air, surviving weather, and raising themselves against gravity. Algae and fungi venture ashore as well. The first plants evolve as mosses. Insects evolve with nearly weightless bodies that permit them to take to the air as the first flying animals! Algae, fungi, insects!

(13) 395 million years ago - The first amphibian animals hop and lumber onto land, trading in their gill slits for air-breathing lungs, transforming fins into stubby legs and continuing to return to the water to lay their eggs. Frogs and toads!

(14) * 335 Million years ago, the first forests evolve. Over generations, these forests load themselves with carbon extracted from the atmosphere which later becomes fossilized as coal and oil. As the forests spread, amphibians transform into pre-reptilian creatures with the grand innovation of self contained eggs that allows them to move inland. The Great Age of Reptiles begins.

(15) *235 million years ago, Following the 4th and greatest mass extinction, the end of the Permian period is followed by the emergence of dinosaurs. For 170 million years these creatures flourish. Dinosaurs, sometimes as large as 40 meters, are social animals that often travel and hunt in groups. Dinosaurs develop a behavioral novelty unknown previously in the reptilian world - parental care. Some of them carefully bury their eggs and stay with the young after they hatch, nurturing them toward independence.

(16) *225 million years ago, the first mammals, small and nocturnal, jump, climb, swing, and swim through a world of giants. Some rodent-sized insect-eaters evolve lactation, enabling mothers to spend more time in the nest keeping their young both fed and warm.

(17) *150 million years ago. Birds emerge as direct descendants of certain dinosaurs whose foreleg bones evolve into wing bones, jawbones into beaks and scales into feathers. Far larger than today's birds, wing spans are as large as 12 metres. Birds!

(18) *114 million years ago, Flowers evolve gorgeous and overt sexual organs, making themselves irresistible to insects by way of colors, perfumes, and delightful nectars. Insects, drawn to the nectar, unknowingly transport pollen from one flower to the next, fertilizing the plants on which they feed. The Earth adorns herself magnificently and invites the sky creatures into a new dance. Flowers!

(19) *65 million years ago - Shortly after primates appear on the scene, the Cretaceous period ends with the 5th mass extinction after an asteroid 6 miles in diameter hits the Yucatan peninsula leading, in time, to a severe drop in temperature. This marks the end of the age of dinosaurs and the beginning of the age of mammals, the Cenezoic era. With the dinosaurs gone, the once dark and sheltered small mammals stride into daylight moving quickly to occupy available ecological niches.

Over the course of the next 60 million years Earth greets rodents, whales, monkeys, horses, cats and dogs, antelopes, gibbons, grazing animals, orangutans, gorillas, elephants, chimpanzees, camels, bears, pigs, baboons and the first humans. The Age of Mammals!

(20) *4 million years ago, Hominids leave the forest, stand up, and walk on two legs. The savanna offers the challenges and opportunities for these early creatures to evolve into humans. They move over the surface of the Earth eventually spreading themselves over all six continents.

*100 thousand years ago, Modern Humans emerge. Language, shamanic and goddess religions, and art become integral with human life.

*11,000 years ago, Agriculture is invented. Humans begin to shape the environment, deciding which species shall live and which shall die.

*3,000 years ago, Classical Religions emerge. Hinduism, Confucianism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam.

*250 years ago, scientists begin to calculate the Age of the Earth. Humans try to understand how old the Earth is through empirical observations.

*70 years ago, empirical evidence of an Expanding Universe is discovered.

*33 years ago, scientists find evidence of the Origin of the Universe as they see the Primordial Flaring Forth.

*30 years ago Earth is seen as Whole from space.The Earth becomes complex enough to witness her own integral beauty.

*Today The Story of the Universe is being told as our sacred Story. The Flaring Forth continues as this moment, as us, as one.


COSMIC WALK - Version two

In the beginning was the mystery, the churning quantum foam of potentiality. Through the mystery all things came to be. Not one thing had its being but through the mystery. Some 15 billion years ago our Universe flashed into existence, lit by the power of the eternal matrix of being. From the quantum foam was born the Universe. Time, space, and energy were the gifts of existence.

THE FIRST SECOND - The light is everywhere and everything. Its heat is incredible - perhaps a trillion degrees centigrade at first. A heat such as this cannot be maintained for long. As you know, hot air rises. When we think of rising, we think of up. When we think of up, we think of down, but there is no up or down at the beginning. There is only out, and out goes this ball of fire creating and filling space as it expands into the creation of the Universe.

The heat is so intense that nothing can hold its shape. Each point in the Universe is on fire. In this first second, there are no laws and nothing is permanent. Everywhere there is light bumping into itself, jostling, cracking its own particles out of existence only to draw others back in through some invisible line of primordial attraction.

As the Universe expands, space is created and for the first time there is room to create new forms and to bond together in the first enduring relationships. Shadows become possible. Light can dance. Particles of light, photons, emerge from the Primordial Flaring Forth. Imagine the zig-zag dance that these first particles perform in the dawn of time’s creation.

As the expanding and cooling continue, the primal force of the Universe is no longer capable of drawing more and more particles into being. The total number of particles declines at an incredible rate until only one billionth of the original matter remains. The rest have vanished forever.

As space unfurls, energy begins to pack itself more and more tightly. Density gives shape to matter and gradually, mysteriously grows. When the Universe cools sufficiently, a single electron and proton can join to create hydrogen, the simplest and most abundant element in the Universe. Hydrogen is an energy that creates change and causes the Universe to adapt in new orderly patterns. Eventually, as hydrogen fuses with other nuclei, helium is formed.

(2) A billion years later, the Universe continues to expand and cool. Now light can pass through and form completely new patterns. As the small bundles of helium grow, clouds are formed and billions of enormous structures, galaxies, come forth.

Stars are born, live, and die. As they live, stars transform their hydrogen and helium into heavier elements: carbon, oxygen, aluminium. Many of these stars die and cool slowly to become dark tombs. But the larger stars in their death throes explode, become supernovas, blasting out to the cosmos their precious gifts of selenium, boron, lithium, iron. These treasures are gathered together and supplemented in the life of second generation stars. Supernovas are the mothers of the Universe, creating in their wombs the elements of life. Birth, death, and resurrection are ancient themes of the Universe.

(3) 4.6 billion years ago - our Grandmother Star gives up her life in an explosion of possibilities. She becomes a supernova giving rise to our Star, what we call the Sun. Our sun, although it is not a first-generation star, is made like one, composed of Hydrogen and Helium.

(4) 4.5 billion years ago - The Solar system forms. Many of the atoms from the exploding supernova star are too heavy to form a new star and begin to form themselves into planets circling around our Sun which is made of the lightest elements. Earth itself appears to have formed largely from a swarm of cold, solid bodies, which ranged in size from grains of dust to larger than the planet mars.

The planets grow and their gravitational fields increase. Earth becomes massive enough and cool enough to retain the lighter gaseous compounds of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and hydrogen, the star stuff from which life will spring.

The Great Bombardment ensues as Earth is bombarded by very large comets, meteorites and planetoids that are so energetic as to almost completely melt the proto-Earth and remove the original atmosphere. The moon is born when Earth is impacted by a mars-sized body. This impact is probably also responsible for the 23 degree tilt of the Earth which gives rise to the yearly seasons.

(5) 4.4 - 4.1 billion years ago - Lightning storms rage for millions of years during the Hadeon eon. As Earth cools, water in the atmosphere condenses; torrential rains fall on, and on, and on. Great seas form. Exuberant volcanoes expel hotly agitated deep earth to the surface. Over hundreds of millions of years, Earth has grown from dust particle to a large, hot, molten rock.

(6) 4 billion years ago -- Following the end of the Great Bombardment, bacteria emerge in the Archaen eon, as the first living cells. In the boiling waters, organic chemicals, perhaps sojourners from outer space, catalyze themselves into life and the Earth comes alive. Gaia is born.

(7) 3.9 billion years ago cells invent Photosynthesis. Small creatures learn to capture the sun and store the energy chemically. These early blue green algae take hydrogen for photosynthesis directly from the seas. Since water is made of hydrogen and oxygen, this early diet breaks the atomic bond of water and leaves oxygen floating free into the air. Similarly, carbon is take from atmospheric carbon dioxide and oxygen is emitted. Today we think of oxygen as something positive, a helpful element. During the Archaen eon, it is quite the opposite.

Free floating in the environment, oxygen is a scavenger that searches everywhere for food and threatens all life. It invades the rocks and living cells. As the oxygen invades these primordial cells, they begin to slowly disintegrate from the excess heat. The majority of species are unable to adapt to the new conditions and the first great extinction spasm takes place in a mass of lifeless chemicals.

(8) 2 billion years ago, oxygen loving cells emerge. The first global environmental crisis is averted by the creativity of these tiny cellular creatures who invent a use for oxygen as they breathe it in and use its energy. Oxygen levels continue to rise until it reaches near present-day levels.

Cooperatives emerge as individual single cell organisms learn to cooperate and specialize within giant cell cooperatives. Perhaps this begins as one cell forces its way into another refusing to leave. Eventually some evolve into symbiotic relationships. Within one cell membrane, some bacteria specialize in photosynthesis, others make food, and still others move the organism here and there. Eventually, a new kind of gene pool or information center is set up as each bacteria gives up some of its DNA to a common gene pool which becomes the shared cell nucleus. The individual parts become less independent but more secure, more inseparable parts of the new wholes. In the communion of a larger, single cell. cooperation is the emergent quality of the life force.

(9) 1.5 billion years ago, crisis conditions such as food shortages, lack of moisture or extreme temperatures drive hungry ancestral cellular organisms to resort to cannibalism. Sometimes, these cellular beings cannot digest the nuclei of what they have devoured and a type of sexual union arises. Death simultaneously emerges as many perish through this enterprise. With the evolution of sex, the genetic possibilities for life increase enormously with the power of preserving the achievements of a particular lineage.

(10) 700 million years ago the first multicellular organisms emerge. Some single celled organisms begin living together in colonies and find ways to communicate with each other using chemical messages. This ability to communicate soon becomes useful in many new ways of cooperating, especially in divisions of labor among different cells: some cells specialize in making food, others break food down and digest it, and still others specialize in sexual reproduction of the organism as a whole. At this time, life on Earth discovers Community through the rise of multi-cellular organisms.

(11) 600 million years ago light sensitive eyespots evolve into eyesight. The Earth sees herself for the first time.

The first soft-bodied animals evolve in the oceans. Over the next 70 million years, previously naked animals protect themselves with shells made of minerals such as phosphorus and calcium. Jaws, beaks, and skeletons follow suit.

(12) 460 million years ago organisms seek the adventures of land. Leaving the water animals, such as worms and mollusks and crustaceans seek the adventure of weather and gravity. Algae and fungi venture ashore as well. The first plants evolve as mosses. Insects evolve with nearly weightless bodies which permit them to take to the air as the first flying animals.

(13) 439 million years, global environmental change and continental glaciation precipitate the end of the Ordovician era in the second great extinction spasm. Over half of the species world wide decline and then vanish. As with each of these spasms, this sets the stage for the explosion of great novelty into the vacuum created by the emptying out of so many niches for life. Within 25 million years, Earth recovers its rich biodiversity, much of it with new creatures.

The first amphibian animals hop and lumber onto land, trading in their gill slits for air-breathing lungs, transforming fins into stubby legs and continuing to return to the water to lay their eggs.

(14) 335 Million years ago, the first subtropical forests evolve. Over generations, these forests load themselves with carbon extracted from the atmosphere which later becomes fossilized as coal and oil. As the forests spread, amphibians transform into pre-reptilian creatures with the grand innovation of self contained eggs that allows them to move inland. The Great Age of Reptiles begins.

(15) 235 Million years ago - Following the 4th and greatest mass extinction, the end of the Permian period is followed by the emergence of dinosaurs. For 170 million years these creatures flourish. Dinosaurs, sometimes as large as 40 meters, are social animals that often travel and hunt in groups. Dinosaurs develop a behavioral novelty unknown previously in the reptilian world - parental care. Dinosaurs carefully bury their eggs and stay with the young after they hatch, nurturing them toward independence. Reptiles evolve a grand variety of sizes, shapes, and habitats, including water, deserts, and forests.

(16) 225 million years ago mammals emerge. Inhabiting small niches in a world of giants, the first mammals, small and nocturnal, jump, climb, swing, and swim through the dinosaur world. Some rodent-sized insect-eaters evolve lactation, enabling mothers to spend more time in the nest keeping their young both fed and warm.

(17) 150 million years ago Birds emerge, a direct descendant of the dinosaur as leg bones evolve into wing bones, jawbones into beaks and scales into feathers. Far larger than today’s birds, wing spans are as large as 12 metres.

(18) 114 million years ago Flowers evolve gorgeous and overt sexual organs and make themselves irresistible to insects by way of colors, perfumes, and delightful nectars. Insects, drawn to the nectar, unknowingly transport pollen from one flower to the next, fertilizing the plants on which they feed.

Whereas a conifer requires 18 months to produce its seeds, a flower can grow from seed to a mature plant capable of releasing its own seeds, all in a few weeks.

(19) 65 million years ago - Shortly after primates appear on the scene, the Cretaceous period ends with the 6th mass extinction after an asteroid 6 miles in diameter hits the Yucatan peninsula leading, in time, to a severe drop in temperature. This marks the end of the age of dinosaurs and the beginning of the age of mammals, the Cenezoic era. With the dinosaurs gone, the once dark and sheltered mammals stride into daylight moving quickly to occupy available ecological niches.

Over the course of the next 60 million years Earth greets rodents, whales, monkeys, horses, cats and dogs, antelopes, gibbons, grazing animals, orangutans, gorillas, elephants, chimpanzees, camels, bears, pigs, baboons and the first humans.

(20) 4 million years ago Humanoids leave the forest, stand up, and walk on two legs. The savannah offers the challenges and opportunities for these early creatures to evolve into humans.

100 thousand years ago Modern Humans emerge. Language, shamanic and goddess religions, and art become integral with human life.

11,000 years ago, agriculture begins. Humans begin to shape the environment.

3,000 years ago classical religions emerge. Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam

250 years ago scientists calculate the age of the Earth. Humans try to understand how old the Earth is through empirical observations.

68 years ago empirical evidence of an expanding Universe. For the first time humans are aware they live in a developing universe.

31 years ago scientists find Evidence of the Origin of the Universe.

28 years ago Earth is seen as Whole (from space). The Earth becomes complex enough to understand her own integral beauty.

Today, the Story of the Universe is being told as our sacred Story. The flaring forth continues as this moment, as us, as one.

Your additions and suggested changes are very welcome.
Please send them to ruthr@ozemail.com.au


Deep Ecology Contents    Cosmic Resources Kit