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.