Book Review

The Universe is a Green Dragon. A Cosmic Creation Story

Brian Swimme, Ph.D

Bear & Company Publishing, 1984 (173pp.,$14,ISBN 0-939680-14-9)


The author of this book is Brian Swimme, a mathematical cosmology specialist.  He is currently a professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies. Some of his other books are: The Universe Story (Harper San Francisco, 1992), The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos(Orbis, 1996), and The Journey of the Universe (Yale University, 2011), for which he has won an Emmy for best documentary.

This book tells the creation story, as the title indicates.  However, this story is very different from creation stories we are familiar with.  There is no Adam and Eve here.  No one eats the forbidden fruit, and gets cast out of heaven.  In this story we are informed that the universe follows several laws or dynamics that helped create it, and that keep it going, and expanding. The entire book is a conversation between a youth, and Thomas Berry (A Catholic Priest of the Passionist Order).


It is divided into three chapters as follows:

In the first chapter, Thomas tells the youth that humanity was created by the universe for the purpose of witnessing its splendor just as a parent witnesses their child. According to him, the universe is entirely based on attraction or allurement as he calls it.  Allurement is a mysterious force, we cannot understand it but we can become aware of it by pursing what we are attracted to in our life.  Allurement can also be defined as “evolving fascination or love”.


However, Thomas reminds the youth, it helps to remember that the universe is inherently violent, there is violence in the forces of the cosmos, because evil comes from cosmic risk.  The universe must take risks in order to expand.  This is why beauty, and allurement are at the root of all evil.   Hence the violence in humanity.  But it is not the dominant fact. The enchantment of being alive is what draws creation into violent acts.  Humanity brings a new quality of violence one that comes from the power of self- reflection. Humanity is self-absorbed and does not think about how we may benefit the universe, instead we exploit the earth and its resources. To choose an allurement that leads to beauty is to relinquish control and possessiveness, and just be, just live.  We can transform the earth by becoming authentic, and refusing to pass on our inherited suffering.

Chapter two is a conversation about the dynamics that fashioned the cosmos, or the forces behind this creation.  For us to become authentic we must become these forces, that is experience them in a non-dual way. Within the cells of our body. The ocean has the power to dissolve the universe. Anything submerged in the ocean will dissolve over time.  The power of the land is memory, reconnecting and remembering our evolution is what brought us to this moment without this memory we cannot be who we are now.  He says that eating from what the earth produces is a form of remembering, and so is exercise.  The power of life is not death but play, embracing our death is to show our-self and deepen our adventure.  The power of fire is the self-organizing activity, a human is similar to a flame.  The self is “unseen shaping”.  The power of the wind is the cosmic dynamic of expansion. It is present in the wind but also the expansion of the universe. This is the second law of thermodynamics were there is dispersal behavior. He calls this behavior: celebration!

The third and last chapter is about social transformation and how in order for us to transform life on earth we need to include all previous views of the universe in a comprehensive whole.  In this chapter Swimme also elaborates on how the universe gives us fire and psychic energy to accomplish expansion, which I understood to be creativity, and imagination!

The book ends with an explanation of the title: The Universe is a Green Dragon, green because everything is alive, and dragon because it is a mystical being, and emerges from nowhere and disappears in mystery it is filled with fire.  So is the universe, it is alive, emerges from the void and disappears into the void, and it is filled with fire! Humanity is the dragon fire: we are the creative scintillating, searing, healing flame of the awesome and enchanting universe.

Book Review

The Shiva Samhita. A Critical Edition

And an English Translation. James Mallinson. Publishers, 2007 (177 pp., $14,99, ISBN 978-0-916466-4-3)


The Shiva Samhita is a core text of Hatha Yoga. There are certainly many translations of the Shiva Samhita, and this is just one of them.  The text consists of a collection of verses composed by an unknown author in a city by the Ganges river in India, around 1300- 1500 AD.  These are verses addressed from Shiva to his divine companion, Parvati.

Eighty-four asanas(yoga postures) are mentioned in the text, although only four of them are written down in detail. It also covers five types of prana, and a range of subjects such as meditation, tantra, mudras, and yogic philosophy.

The translator of the text provides a concise summary of each chapter, and therefore I will not repeat everything here, however, what I would like to do with this review is pull out a few of the quotes that really spoke to me, and provide a short commentary.

Chapter one is titled the Vital Principle.  This chapter is a discussion of the Vital principle, and talks about the non- dual existence of life as this principle of interconnectedness of the universe and one source of creation.  Interestingly in this chapter there is mention of sin as a dualistic way of looking at the world:

People in the world who are thus certain in their knowledge of what is and what is not to be done are freed from their sins, but only end up deluded (p.3)

What I took this to mean is that certainty or the idea that something is good or bad, is an illusion that makes people think they are free from sin but in reality they are just delusional.

Anyhow, this was a bit confusing because soon after that quote I found this one:

Through the power of sin there is sorrow; through the power of good deeds, pleasure (p.7)

The text calls for renouncing the world and then goes on to say that when the yogi renounces both good and bad deeds, (which I took to mean achieving equanimity) they can move on to the next chapter which is the chapter on knowledge.  The author forgot to mention that this may take a lifetime or more to achieve.  What is most interesting about this chapter is the description of the way the elements are created:

From space arises air, from space and air, fire; from space, air, and fire, water; from space, air, fire, and water, earth. (p19)

Chapter two is titled Knowledge and is basically a description of the body as the microcosm of the macrocosm.  There is also a detailed description of the energy channels of the body and the main chakras. I was struck by this quote:

People who are attached to the objects of the senses and seek pleasure from them are prevented from reaching nirvana by words and abide in sin (p.39).

So the text was asking to release this dualistic idea of sin, and yet here it actually employs the same exact word.  This would mean that the objects of the senses, and pleasure are what create sin… Don Miguel Ruiz may object to this notion, and I would have to stand with him on that…but would add one more important note, I would say that the objects of the senses are a DISTRACTION from finding nirvana or Samadhi.

Chapter three is entitled Practice and is a description of the benefits of practice and what the practice is like.  Here the writer includes the importance of honoring one’s guru. The text goes on to describe the power of breath:

 By means of pranayama the lord amongst yogis attains the eight powers, crosses the ocean of sin and merit, and becomes the lord of the three worlds (p.54).

Furthermore, I found it really interesting that the asanas prescribed as the best are the simplest: siddasana, padmasana, pachimotanasana, and svastikasana or sukhasana.

These are meditative postures.

In chapter four, Mudras, aside from and extended discussion on tantra, the text prescribes three mudras to be done four times a day and says that one can conquer death by using them daily.  I will not go into the mudras here but am happy to teach them to you if you schedule a session with me in person or through skype. I may also do a separate video on those!

Chapter five titled, Meditation, speaks of obstacles and types of practitioners, and meditating on various aspects such as the third eye, the throat, and other chakras. This chapter is highly esoteric, and is a detailed description of the process of kundalini rising.

I am surprised this was not one of the readings we had when I did my numerous yoga trainings.  I highly recommend this text to all the yoga shalas, and yoga practitioners.  It is definitely one of those texts that are indispensable for a serious practitioner.