The cosmic perspective

“Of all the sciences cultivated by mankind, Astronomy is acknowledged to be, and undoubtedly is, the most sublime, the most interesting, and the most useful.  For, by knowledge derived from this science, not only the bulk of the Earth is discovered … but our very faculties are enlarged with the grandeur of the ideas it conveys, our minds exalted above low contracted prejudices”.

James Ferguson, Astronomy Explained Upon Sir Isaac Newton’s Principles, And Made Easy To Those Who Have Not Studied Mathematics (1757).


The title for my March blog takes its name and inspiration from an article with the same name written by Neil deGrasse Tyson and published in the April 2007 magazine, Natural History.  Astrophysicist and director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, Tyson writes with an exquisite eloquence, like Ferguson quoted above, about our place in the cosmos and offers an invitation to acknowledge a “collective immaturity of view”.

Tyson is talking about the possibility of a shift in one’s view of themselves and of their place in the universe from one deluded and influenced by notions of vanity, superiority and self-grandeur, to one in which a sense of connectedness forms a relationship with something bigger, something vaster than ourselves.  Many years ago, I entered a School which taught how to do just that and reading Tyson’s words took me back to the first time I encountered the teacher of that School and the knowledge of the Fourth Way.  Little did I know then what the impact of that would be, nor how it would continue to shape my view of myself and my place in the universe.

Everyone has unique life experiences which shape and influence how they live in the world and how they treat others, and realising one’s nothingness, one’s insignificance before the utter majesty and grandeur of the universe can be a profound humbling experience as much as a rich educational one.  When we feel our nothingness, when we understand and experience the meaning of that, the implication becomes clear.  It is our ego and its arrogance and its self-love and vanity which is seen for what it is, and it can be a bitter pill to swallow.  But with that bitterness comes the knowing, the assuredness, the certainty that there is a vast and loving intelligence, far greater than any human being is capable of, which is responsible for the gyrations of the universe and our connectedness with those gyrations.


Michele T Knight Written by:

Dr Michele Knight is a Social Worker, Social Scientist, researcher and independent scholar. Her interest and research in the end-of-life has its origin in the lived experiences of her own bereavements, her near-death and shared-death events, the returning deceased and attitudinal responses to those experiences. Since 2006, she has been extensively involved in community development, support and advocacy in both a professional and community services/voluntary capacity in the areas of bereavement and grief, hospital pastoral care, and academic lecturing/tutoring. Her PhD, Ways of Being: The alchemy of bereavement and communique, explores the lived experience of bereavement, grief, spirituality and unsought encounters with the returning deceased.

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