The Luminous Web (Book Review with Quotes)

The Luminous Web (Book Review with Quotes)

The Luminous Web Book Review, Barbara Brown Taylor quotes

I loved this thought provoking book, and give it a hearty five stars. In it an Episcopal priest explores the connections between science and religion. Even though I did not agree with every detail, it is a brilliant synthesis that I highly recommend taking some thoughtful time with. The notes I took will best give you a taste for the depth and profundity of this book.

  • “‘Scientific studies show’… carries more weight than ‘Thus says the Lord…'”
  • NAS adopted this policy statement:’Religion and science are separate and mutually exclusive realms of human thought whose presentation in the same context leads to misunderstanding of both scientific theory and religious belief.’
  • “Many of us grew up on the classical distinction between science as the study of how the world works and religion as the study of why we are here and how we we should behave, but this boundary is eroding as science advances into areas that were once the exclusive domain of religion.”
  • “Although Albert Einstein was not a conventionally religious man, one of his most often repeated quotations is ‘Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.'”
  • “Today’s certainty can always become tomorrows’ antique notion, which makes doubt an essential tool in the scientific investigation of reality.”
  • Stephen Jay Gould: “No scientific theory, including evolution, can pose any threat to religion– for these two great tools of human understanding operate in complimentary (not contrary) fashion in their totally separate realms: science as an inquiry about the factual state of the natural world, religion as a search for spiritual meaning and ethical values.”
  • “Because I have a mind like a layer cake, I have never felt compelled to choose between the story Genesis tells and the story Darwin tells. At least I am in good company. In 1996, Pope John Paul II endorsed evolution as part of God’s master plan, just four years after he lifted the Roman Catholic Church’s three-hundred-fifty-year-old condemnation of Galileo. When he ordered a reexamination of Galileo’s case in 1980, he made a statement that might have applied to Darwin as well. ‘Research performed in a truly scientific manner can never be in contrast to faith,’ he said.”
  • “One reason I believe so many lay people are reading science right now is that it offers them a way to approach the mystery of the universe without all the dogma and divisiveness they have come to expect from religion.”
  • “When I survey this fifteen-billion-year-old-history (which has more good guesses in it than hard facts), it is difficult to miss the most stunning miracle of creation: that in us, the universe has become conscious.”
  • “Physics is less concerned with what nature is than what can be said about nature… As a preacher, I spend most of my life pressed up against the limits of language. I do not have the foggiest idea who God really is. I’m not sure I really want to know, since such knowledge would by definition blow all my existing circuits. Still, it is my business to say what I can.”
  • “There was simply no telling what would happen, especially when people listened to each other.”
  • “Reality is not a well-oiled machine that behaves in logical, pre-determined ways. Instead, it is an ever-unfolding process that defies precise prediction.”
  • “There is nothing wrong with Newton’s old model, as far as it goes. The problem is that Newton believed the atom was indivisible – that it was the smallest possible particle in existence. Now we know that there are even tinier bits of matter at the sub-atomic level, which do not operate the way Newton said they should. While his rules still work in the world we can see, there is another, very different set of rules at work in the world that makes up the world we can see.”
  • “When studying chaos theory I understood why life would not run along straight lines… I began to glimpse a deeper level of physical reality at which my life was behaving exactly as it should.”
  • “As a believer in one God, I think everything is connected to everything else. What is exciting to me is that believers in science are beginning to think the same thing– not the God part but the connection part.”
  • “You cannot observe the phenomenon without entering into relationship with it, and the relationship changes the equation.”
  • “At the macro level of trees and rocks, Newtonian mechanics work just fine… Everything in this world happens for a reason and can be explained in terms of cause and effect. At the micro level of quantum particles, however, these rules no longer apply… Furthermore, you cannot know any of these things without interacting with them. which means you will never know how they behave when you are not watching. While quantum mechanics is set up so that it works at the macro level, using it on that large scale would be like measuring the distance between Chicago and New York with a six inch ruler. Meanwhile, Newtonian mechanics is so unwieldy at the micro level that employing it there would be akin to doing brain surgery with a bulldozer.”
  • “The new science requires a radical change in how we conceive the world. It is no longer possible to see it as a collection of autonomous parts, as Newton did, existing separately while interacting. The deeper revelation is one of undivided wholeness, in which the observer is not separable from what is observed.”
  • “Our experience of light as both particle and wave may give us a way to express our experience of Jesus as both human and divine. As different as they may be, both languages are necessary. The deep truth is not either but both.”
  • “When I am dreaming quantum dreams, what I see is an infinite web of relationship, flung across the vastness of space like a luminous net… God is all over the place… God is the web, the energy, the space, the light– not captured in them, as if any of those concepts were more real than what unites them– but revealed in that singular, vast net of relationship that animates everything there is. Paul Tillich’s name for this divine reality was ‘the ground of all being.'”
  • “As Joseph Campbell once asked, what is the universe if not merely the product of God but also the manifestation of God?”
  • “Because science does not deal in ethics or morals, it cannot tell me how to live or whom to love.”
  • “Jesus was born into  the physical world, not to remain above it all but to live through it al and in it all, so that we might discover the holiness of our own lives in the flesh.”
  • “Because I believe all this, I take the physical universe very seriously. It matters to me because it mattered to Jesus and it matters to God. No part of it seems negligible to me. I read science for the same reason I read theology: because I am a seeker after truth.”
  • “When I feel positively stifled by religion’s fear of the future and suspicion of change, a little dose of the new science does me a world of good.”
  • “This definition of faith I want to go forward with: a radical openness to the truth, whatever it may turn out to be.”
  • “Everything we can see– all the millions of galaxies with their billions of stars– must account for no more than one percent of the cosmos.”
  • “We live in an expanding universe so vast that light from the frontier takes more than twice the age of the earth to reach our telescopes.”
  • “If we could feel ourselves sliding through space at the rate of size hundred thirty kilometers per second, would we still pester God about good weather for the family reunion or the new members drive at church?”
  • “In simplest terms, what the math asserts is that matter is frozen energy.”
  • “Einstein said that the only incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible. Through us, the cosmos knows itself.”
  • “Rather than invoking God only when natural explanations fail, it may make more sense to understand God as the God not of facts but of meaning. This would excuse religion from the doomed enterprise of trying to explain the undiscovered and unknown, and free its energy for the discernment and communication of meaning. However far humans turn out to be from the center of the universe, we remain at the center of the generation of meaning.”
  • “Science cannot explain where complexity comes from any better than religion can explain why bad things happen to good people. Every effort to understand reality begins with a leap of faith. Whichever ones we choose, there does not seem to be any way around the experience of awe.”

I really enjoyed pondering the implications of the ideas shared in this book, The Luminous Web. It will enlarge both your view of the world, but of God as well.

I work to amplify good wherever I find it. I love color, texture, beauty, great ideas, nature, metaphor, deliciousness, genuine spirituality, and exploring new territory. I encourage authenticity, nurture creativity, champion sustainability, promote peace, and hope to foster a new renaissance where we all are free to be our most fulfilled, multifaceted, and terrific selves. Read more here.


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