The concept of the Cosmic Walk was the brainchild of Sister Miriam MacGillis of Genesis Farm in New Jersey USA after she read The Universe Story by Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry (1992) which has the beguiling subtitles of “From the Primordial Flaring Forth to the Ecozoic Era” and “A Celebration of the Unfolding of the Cosmos”.
Photo from the Hubble Space Telescope
The idea that one could embody the scientific Universe Story by going on a walk was immediately popular; first in the USA, later in Europe, and now worldwide. This kind of spiritual journeying was a novel idea!
It was Alan Shepherd who introduced the Cosmic Walk at a London meeting of GreenSpirit in the late 1990s. It made an immediate impression on my husband, Michael, and me. We both had a scientific background and were Christians who had eagerly read Mathew Fox’s Original Blessing (1983). In the year 2000 we delivered a handsome illustrated booklet of 45 pages for GreenSpirit; “Walking the Sacred Story”. It described how to organise a Cosmic Walk where the Universe is 13.7 billion years old and each step on the walk 5 million years, taking you from the Big Bang to the present day with a text for the narrator to read, detailing The Story. A walk of over 2 hours was pretty demanding. The 2003 edition also contained a restructured walk for 200m. You can see the latest edition here: www.greenspirit.org.uk/pdf/SacredStoryEbook.pdf.
Quoting from the booklet “We discover that we are related to everything that exists in the Universe; that its deeper rhythms are reflected in us…that we have been knitted into the web of life…our relationship with Nature is no longer of alienation but of intimacy. We recover a sense of belonging”.
Walking is of course what we humans have always done. In prehistoric times our ancestors walked out of Africa over long distances to settle in what is now Europe and Asia. And today they are still doing it. On the other side of planet Earth the Australian Aborigines were walking along the songlines as Bruce Chatwin tells us in his book Songlines (1998). They covered their territory by routes connecting holy places where they would sing anew the world into being, with every place possessing its own creation story. A world so lovely that they didn’t want to disturb it. So they walked and they sang over long distances. It was their way of life and how they experienced a sense of belonging.
The beauty of the Cosmic Walk is that over time it can take on new forms. It can be adapted for local needs and take advantage of the latest technologies. There is now a beautiful mural/walk in the grounds of one of the colleges at the University of Winchester, where it has been the focus of two conferences. A walk of 200m called ‘A Walk In The Spiritual Garden’ was prepared for a Plymouth college as organisers found shorter walks more practical. Robert Woodford, with Schumacher College, developed “Deep Time” resources focusing on Earth history including a “Deep Time” app. GreenSpirit has run Universe Story Walk events under the guidance of Greg Morter and Ian Mowll, the coordinator of GreenSpirit, who has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Cosmic Walk and has led several walks. Other enterprising GreenSpirit members have taken on the challenge and organised walks in their locality.
A Cosmic Walk led by Greg Morter
With Michael, I led many Earthwalks on Dartmoor and beyond. Poetry and readings were always popular. Our singing however was of the rudimentary kind; Matthew Fox’s “Air I am..” often used. Are other groups singing? How can we develop this? The world at large is full of singers and their songs; they know that singing touches the heart. The work of our feet, the imagination of our minds, and the warming of our heart, these three elements are the bedrock of the Cosmic Walk.
Why call it an adventure? Because we don’t know what form it will take next. Perhaps a large white spiral in the playground of a primary school, a colourful mural in the vicinity of a Mosque, a fixed assembly point in a municipal park, or 14 banners for the stations of the cosmos in a Cathedral.
Wherever it may be, it will be a place of celebration, guidance and spiritual nourishment.