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The Café at the Beginning of the Universe

An encounter with Howard Bloom

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to witness the birth of the universe? To watch in slo-mo as matter and energy, space and time, explode and unfurl into being? Well, this might be your chance—as it was ours, one very surprising winter's night, when a group from our editorial staff visited the New York apartment and virtual universe of the remarkable Howard Bloom. Bloom is most widely known as the author of the acclaimed books The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History and Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century. But perhaps because he is “omnivorously curious about everything in the cosmos,” as he puts it, Howard Bloom is one of those rare human beings who defies simple description. Schooled as a scientist, he probes the human and planetary psyche with the patience of a historian, the precision of a quantum physicist, and the passion of a poet.

After graduating magna cum laude from New York University, Bloom turned down four graduate fellowships in science to become, of all things, a very successful rock and roll publicist, helping to polish the stardom of such giants as Prince, Michael Jackson, Bette Midler, and the Talking Heads. “I wanted to move into the center of the myth-making machine of mass society,” he explains, “where the human mind froths and foams.” It wasn't until 1988, when he contracted chronic fatigue syndrome and took up an almost hermit-like residence in his Brooklyn apartment, that he returned to the world of science full time, plunging headlong into the study of biology, psychology, sociology, physics, and history. He even invented his own field of study—paleopsychology—along the way.

Perched atop a king-sized bed, surrounded by stacks of books and a potted ficus that had shed several seasons' worth of leaves, Howard Bloom took us on such a journey through cosmic history that the most basic realities we take for granted—like matter, gravity, and time itself—began to shift and morph around us. As the blue-jeaned genius danced his story of the universe through our minds (occasionally rising to do a jig atop the mattress that nearly filled the room), the wild and mind-boggling precision of the universe's creative intelligence came ever more fully into bloom.

–Melissa Hoffman

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This article is from
Our Collective Intelligence Issue


May–July 2004