Joan Poelvoorde

Psychotherapy & Healing Arts

Some Thoughts on Cosmology

Cosmology (from Greek κοσμολογία - κόσμος, kosmos , kosmos, "universe"; and, λογία, -logia , "study), is the study of the Universe in its totality, and by extension, humanity's place in it.



This is what you should do:

Love the earth and sun and animals,
despise riches; give alms to anyone who asks,
stand up for the crazy and stupid,
devote your income and labour to others,
hate tyrants, argue not concerning God,
have patience and indulgence toward people,
re-examine all you have been taught in school or church, or any book,
dismiss what insults your very soul,
and your flesh shall become a great poem.

Walt Whitman
From the preface to
the 1885 edition of Leaves of Grass

[Something of a cosmology written by one of our great poets, making clear the explicit link between cosmology and personal values. – Joan Poelvoorde]


"Bless me Father, for I have sinned.
It has been two weeks since my last confession.
Since then … Father,
I think I am losing my faith.
I don't know what to do."

"My daughter, pray for faith."

"Father, to whom shall I pray?"

"Say five Our Fathers and five Hail Marys."

Thus, after much agony, did I retire my first and inherited cosmology.

III - Risking Everything

"You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.

… Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting— over and over announcing your place in the family of things."

Mary Oliver
Wild Geese

IV - Pascal's Wager

The Cynical Position

But how do religious beliefs operate, how do they work? There seems to be two difficulties with them. First of all, it is not easy either to falsify or to verify them …
How do we verify the existence of God or even falsify the matter? You can get round this difficulty, to some extent, by saying you choose to trust your intuition, or you are persuaded by some philosophical arguments which deal with the matter, or you have decided to bet on the possibility, following Pascal, on the grounds that if you win you win everything, and if you lose you only lose nothing."

Richard Holloway
Doubts and Loves: What is Left of Christianity

V – The Empirical Skeptic

Taleb's Black Swan

A Black Swan is a highly improbable event, with three principle characteristics: it is unpredictable, it has a massive impact, and after the fact we concoct an explanation that makes it appear less random and more predictable than it was.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb The Black Swan, The Impact of the Highly Improbable

[9/11 was a Black Swan event. It was highly unpredictable, had massive impact, and after the fact most of us created explanations that made it seem less random than it was. Many of our cosmologies began as a Black Swan; cosmologies such as Christianity, the Big Bang theory, Quantum physics, and the New Age. – Joan Poelvoorde]


Why a cosmology at all? Might we merely take for granted the latest paradigms of science? Might we allow spiritual cosmologies to be handled by church, clergy, and spiritual teachers? Why bother at all, since we can get by so easily without defining a cosmology—until we are challenged in a place that, as Whitman says, "insults your very soul"?

Many of us feel the need to define a personal cosmology for ourselves, because, at bottom, I believe, we are a species run by a curiosity that demands explanations and an understanding of the universe in which we live, and our place in it—no matter that these beliefs are revised and revised, and revised again.

Joan Woodbridge Poelvoorde

Joan Poelvoorde, a professional psychotherapist in Manhattan (NY) offering relationship, personal growth, anger management, creativity, shamanistic & Imago Relationship Therapy