Spirituality For Life
Page: Our Picture of the Universe

What is Spirituality?
Aspects of Spirituality
Spiritual Practices
Theology / Spirituality
Misc. Topics
Contact Us



The Universe Beyond  


Hawking, a distinguished theoretical physicist, explores the big picture of the universe. Excerpts have been taken from Hawking’s material, and sometimes adapted, in these notes. 


Recent breakthroughs in physics, made possible in part by fantastic new technologies, suggest answers to some of humankind’s longstanding questions: 


·   What do we know about the universe, and how do we know it? 

·   Where did the universe come from, and where is it going? 

·   Did the universe have a beginning, and if so, what happened before then? 

·   What is the nature of time, and will it ever come to an end? 


As long ago as 340 B.C., the Greek philosopher, Aristotle, in his book On the Heavens, believed that the earth was round sphere rather than a flat plate. He thought that the earth was stationary, and that the sun, moon, planets, and stars moved in circular orbits around the earth – that the earth was the centre of the universe. 


In 1514, a Polish priest, Nicholas Copernicus, proposed that the sun was stationary at the centre, and that the earth and planets moved in circular orbits around the sun. Nearly a century later, two astronomers – the German, Johannes Kepler, and the Italian, Galileo Galilei – supported the Copernican theory. Kepler suggested that the planets moved not in circles, but in ellipses (elongated circles). 


In the 17th century, Sir Isaac Newton postulated a law of universal gravitation – according to which each body in the universe was attracted toward every other body by a force that was stronger the more massive the bodies and the closer they were to each other. It was this same force that caused objects to fall to the ground. Also, gravity causes the moon to move in an elliptical orbit around the earth, and causes the earth and the planets to follow elliptical paths around the sun. 


Newton realized that, according to his theory of gravity, the stars should attract each other, so it seemed they could not remain essentially motionless. We now know it is impossible to have an infinite static model of the universe in which gravity is always attractive. 


The question always arises as to the beginning of the universe. According to a number of early cosmologies, and the Jewish/Christian/Muslim tradition, the universe started at a finite, and not very distant, time in the past. One argument for such a beginning was the feeling that it was necessary to have a “First Cause” to explain the existence of the universe. Also, the concept of time has no meaning before the beginning of the universe. (This was first pointed out by Augustine.) 


In 1929, Edwin Hubble made the landmark observation that wherever you look, distant galaxies are moving rapidly away from us. In other words, the universe is expanding. This means that at earlier times, objects would have been closer together. This discovery finally brought the question of the beginning of the universe into the realm of science. Hubble’s observations suggested there was a time, called the big bang, when the universe was infinitesimally small and infinitely dense. One may say that time had a beginning at the big bang. 


In an unchanging universe, a beginning in time is something that has to be imposed by some being outside the universe; there is no physical necessity for a beginning. One can imagine that God created the universe at literally any time in the past. On the other hand, if the universe is expanding, there may be physical reasons why there had to be a beginning. 


Today, scientists describe the universe in terms of two basic partial theories – the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. The general theory of relativity describes the force of gravity and the large-scale structure of the universe. Quantum mechanics, on the other hand, deals with phenomena on extremely small scales. Unfortunately, however, these two theories are known to be inconsistent with each other. One of the major endeavours in physics today is the search for a new theory that will incorporate them both – a quantum theory of gravity. 


Now, if one believes that the universe is not arbitrary, but is governed by definite laws, one has to ultimately have to combine the partial theories into a complete unified theory that will describe everything in the universe. 


Today we still yearn to know why we are here, and where we came from. Our goal is nothing less than a complete description of the universe we live in. 


Source: Stephen Hawking, “Our Picture of the Universe”, in A Brief History of Time (New York: Bantam, 1991), 1-13.

Photo credit: Intellimon Ltd. 

Spirituality for Life
Interfaith Spirituality
Underlying Premises
What is Spirituality?
Christian Spirituality
Spirituality and Human Existence
A Broader View of Spirituality
Descriptions of Spirituality
Reaching One's Potential
Authentic Christian Spirituality
What Is Christian Spirituality
Three Elements of Spirituality
Spirituality and Religion
Community Aspect of Spirituality
The Cycle of Spirituality
Aspects of Spirituality
Forgiveness - Four Steps
Forgiveness - Vital Aspect
Forgiveness - Crucial Element
Forgiveness and Health
Forgiveness - 10 Truths
Hiddenness of God
Living with Paradox
The Paschal Mystery
The Trinity
The Triune God
Trinity Reflections
Spiritual Practices
Communing with God in Nature
A Country Garden
Sea and Sky
Spring Flowers in Australia
Sunrise and Sunset
By the Lake
By the Sea
Australian Countryside
Springtime Flowers
Spring Flowers
Country Lake
Sunrise Splendor
Late Spring Flowers
Early Light
Morning Walk
Flower Festival
Quiet Waters
Contemplative Living
Contemplative Prayer Overview
Contemplative Path
A Heart Experience
The Contemplative and Active
Lectio Divina
Christian Meditation
Meditation to Meaning
Meditation on Death
Death of Two Young Men
Mindfulness Overview
Mindfulness in Everyday Life
Prayer - Lord's Prayer
Theology / Spirituality
Introduction to Spirituality
Formative Spirituality
Prayer and Prayerfulness
Spirituality of the Heart
Spirituality of Pastoral Care
Spiritual Autobiographies
Writings on the Spiritual Life
The Psalms
Ten Genres of Psalms
God's Kingship in the Royal Psalms
Psalms-Language of Prayer
Psalms 44 and 104
Vengeance Is God's
The Hiddenness of God
Liturgical Spirituality
Liturgy and Spirituality: Definitions
Liturgical Spirituality: Implications
Anglican Spirituality
Book of Common Prayer
Ecology, Cosmology, and Spirituality
Our Picture of the Universe
Mystery at End of Universe
Evolution and God
The Scientific Priesthood
The Ecological Age
Contemporary Economic Model
Aboriginal and Biblical Creation Accounts
Aspects of Aboriginal Religion
Reflections on Nature and Spirituality
Historical Spirituality
Biblical Studies
Old Testament
Creation Theology
Notes from My Notebook
Theodicy: Evil if God Is Good?
Is Suffering from God?
Belief in a Creator God: Implications
New Testament
The Church
History of the Early Church
Mission of the Church
Christian Education
Misc. Topics
Exploring Spirituality
Timeless Spirituality
Lord's Prayer Spirituality
Spirituality and Lord's Prayer
A Spirituality Sequence
Spiritual Traditions
Spiritual Classics
Spirituality Snippets
Spirituality Quotations
Loving Kindness Meditation
Francis of Assisi Prayer
Prayer of Trust
Prayer to Perceive God
Prayer for Strength and Love
Abandonment to God
Look Well to This Day
God Is Love
New Identity in Christ
Learning and Growth
Nature of Truth
God and Creation
Anger of Another
Sacramental Life View
The Resurrection
Mystical Wisdom
Islam's Inclusiveness
Love, Joy, Obedience
Peace of Mind
Peace Versus Violence
Later Life Spirituality
Longevity and Spirituality
Thoughts about Life
Thoughts on Life and Death
Contact Us
Privacy Statement
Personal Background