Life Examined

We live at an extraordinary moment

in the natural history of our planet

and the cultural evolution of our species.


 Big History, Big Problems, Big Questions

An Exploration






Applied Big History

 Explore new services, training, and marketing ideas through the lens of Big History.

Strategy by Design

Align vision and pragmatism.
Define and achieve goals.


 Insight, healing, and transformation through the power of mythic drama.

Recreating the conditions of

matter-energy in the early Universe

Atlas, LHC, Cern 2010.06.11


William Grassie is an interdisciplinary scholar, nonprofit entrepreneur, social activist, accomplished author, and organizational consultant. He loves the creative side and intellectual challenges of strategic planning and applied technology, branding and storytelling, advertising and marketing, event staging and project management. He reads, he listens, he writes, he speaks, he computes. Whether at a F500 company, an academic conference, a living room salon, or an interfaith gathering, Billy will engage with your audience with surprising insights at the intersections of multiple perspectives, diverse expertise, and illuminating stories. William Grassie is author of The New Sciences of Religion: Exploring Spirituality from the Outside In and Bottom Up (2010) and a collection of essays, Politics by Other Means: Science and Religion in the 21st Century (2010). William travels widely to speak at conferences, and enjoys many sports, including hiking, skiing, sailing, scuba, tennis, yoga, and dance.

William Grassie received a bachelor degree in political science from Middlebury College, and then worked for ten years on nuclear disarmament, citizen diplomacy, community organizing, and sustainability issues in Washington, D.C, Jerusalem, Philadelphia, and West Berlin. He completed a Ph.D. in Religion from Temple University, where he wrote a dissertation titled Reinventing Nature: Science Narratives as Myths for an Endangered Planet (1994). He has taught at Temple University, as well as at Swarthmore College, Pendle Hill, and the University of Pennsylvania. A recipient of academic awards and grants from the American Friends Service Committee, the Roothbert Fellowship, and the John Templeton Foundation, Billy served as a Senior Fulbright Fellow in the Department of Buddhist Studies at the University of Peradeniya in Kandy, Sri Lanka in 2007–2008. He was the founding director of the Metanexus Institute, which promotes scientifically rigorous and philosophically open-ended exploration of foundational questions. Metanexus has worked with partners at some 400 universities in 45 countries and publishes an online journal.

Large Scale Structure of the Universe

A web of billions of galaxies


M1 – Crab Nebula 

Remains of supernova sited by Chinese astronomers in 1054.
Birthing grounds for chemically rich solar systems.

Selected Essays

  • Climates Change—Get Over It!

    We live on a restless planet. We wouldn’t be here otherwise. Our lineage, Homo sapien, began its social conquest of the planet some 200,000-year ago. Throughout the dramatic rise of our common ancestors, climates have changed. As ice ages advanced, enormous glaciers extending down from the poles sucked up the oceans of our planet turning them into mile-deep rivers of

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  • Applied Big History: Why It Matters to Value Investors

    Based on a talk given at the Research Retreat of Canyon Partners September 10, 2014, Beverly Hills, CA “If you don’t do macro, macro will do you.” —Daniel Och, CEO of Och-Ziff Capital Management Group Hedge funds are looking for competitive advantages in long-term investments. You want to understand large-scale market trends and investment opportunities in different segments of the

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  • The Great Matrix of Big History

    Understanding Natural Hierarchies through Big History Our European ancestors once understood the universe to be a Great Chain of Being. All the entities of the world — animal, vegetable, mineral — were hierarchically organized. At the bottom were metals, precious metals, and precious stones. Then came plants and trees, followed by wild animals and domesticated animals. Humans were also hierarchically

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  • Recovery Planning for Climate Catastrophes

    Join with me in a thought experiment. Imagine a major planetary cataclysm. It could be a global nuclear war, a devastating pandemic, or perhaps rapid climate catastrophes. It could be a sleeper computer virus, wiping out all digital memory banks. In any of these scenarios, we would anticipate an economic and environmental collapse, though not necessarily in that order. The

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  • Engaging the New Metanarrative

    Science is progressive, and it tends toward consensus of necessity. Science discovers, illuminates, and crafts facts, and we rely on these complex facts in practical ways. Unlike religion, science is pretty much the same collection of complex facts in all cultures around the world. These facts are uncovered with considerable effort by peer-reviewed scientific guilds around a multitude of specializations

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  • The Neurosciences of Bar Mitzvah

    Attending a recent Bar Mitzvah ceremony, I was impressed, once again, by the wisdom of this ancient tribal initiation ceremony. The 13-year-old boy (or girl, in what’s called a Bat Mitzvah) is surrounded by family and friends as he recites the Torah portion in Hebrew and offers a short sermon about the importance of the reading. The ceremony takes place

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  • Ha! Philosophy of Science at the Comedy Club

    Back in 1989, I fell into a doctoral program when I discovered a passion and talent for teaching. Since falling in with Metanexus, I left the tenure-career track and became an itinerant professor, teaching occasional courses here and there—UPenn, Swarthmore, Peradeniya, and CCNY. Over the years, I have found myself in exciting teaching situations in universities and lecture halls all

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  • Millennialism at the Singularity

    Reflections on the Metaphors, Meanings, and Limits of Exponential Logic Imagine billions of nanobots, tiny computerized machines smaller than your red blood cells, travelling through your body, inserted in your brain, all communicating internally with each other and externally with machines outside of your body. These nanobots could repair damaged cells in your body, destroy cancer cells, eliminate pathogens, provide

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  • Post-Darwinism: The New, New Synthesis

    A review of Ecological Developmental Biology: Integrating Epigenetics, Medicine, and Evolution, by Scott F. Gilbert and David Epel (Sunderland, MA: Sinauer 2009). As a combatant in the evolution wars here in the United States and abroad, I have penned and processed quite a few papers on the interpretation of evolution. This means also reviewing the vast literature in evolutionary psychology, particularly its attempts

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  • Astrobiology and the Human Prospect

    In the Heavens as It is on Earth: Astrobiology and the Human Prospect The collision occurred on February 10, 2009 over Siberia at 0455 GMT at an altitude of 790 kilometers (490 miles) above the Earth. An Iridium communications satellite struck a defunct Soviet-era Cosmos 2251 communications satellite. Scientists estimate that the collision speed of the two orbital objects was

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  • Leeches on the Road to Enlightenment

    No one warned me about the leeches. I arrived at Nilambe Buddhist Meditation Centre early on a Saturday morning full of trepidation. The Centre is located high up on the side of a mountain about twenty kilometers south of Kandy, Sri Lanka, where I am spending the year as a Senior Fulbright Fellow teaching comparative religion in the Department of

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  • Eating Well Together

    Donna Haraway’s Companion Species Manifesto It was a rainy fall day in Pennsylvania farm country. I was assisting the farmhand and the extension service veterinarian in separating the calves from a herd of some eighty Angus cows. The process involved herding the cattle into a pen and sending them one at a time through a shoot, where a vet inspection

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Inner Life of a Cell

Protein packing animation


Selected Projects

Still to come:

  • Iran
  • Sri Lanka
  • The Two Germanys
  • Aktion Sühnezeichen
  • Science and Ultimate Reality
  • Advanced Methodologies
  • Spiritual Capital
  • ….

Emergent Properties

Burning Man 2013