Substantial Lineage: Back to the Roots of Being
As the January moon waxed, its beauty in the woods increased. We’d had a blanket of snow on the trails over the course of a week and as the moon revealed itself more and more each night, its reflected light yielded more and more contrasting shadows while hiking on the Ault Park trails.
The fresh snow from early that week was delightful to walk on. With the temperatures in the low twenties, the snow was smooth and silky under foot. It also made for vigorous walking before any trails were broken across its fresh surface, with feet slipping along each step, much like walking in loose, quicksilver sand on a beach. Later evenings gave us warmer temperatures, turning the snow into a slushy, slippery mess. Those were nights to stay on well-trod trails. Then in later days, with temperatures back in the twenties, the slush was frozen into a hard, icy surface. Thankfully, the Vibram lugs on my boots provided excellent, necessary traction.
The moon on the snow really is delightful. With the bare woods, it is easy to make out the rolling terrain ahead and across the valley, all benchmarked by the emerging trunks. One moonlit night there were high, thin clouds that created a diffuse light effect on the snow that, in the deepest woods, made the snow radiant as if the light of day were turned down low by a dimmer switch, offering the same warm glow of soft, reflected light in a holiday dining room.
I shared a location check-in on my cell phone during that walk saying, “Hello Halo. Radiant Moon, Luminous Snow!”
Causality in Nature
During my walks, it’s natural to revisit the age-old question of “why.” Why are we here? Why are we — at all? In Woods Walking #2 we discussed the metaphysics of a common fork. We drilled down into the detail of its being, reviewing a fork on the order of causality, from the final cause – the desire to have a fork – to the formal and efficient causes. The efficient cause being that person or process that imposed the form of the fork on its material substance.
That process of causality is plain enough. Consumers want forks, so companies develop and market all manner of forks for dining. Anything that is “man-made” follows this same path: some need arises, a concept for its solution and implementation is developed and that idea is realized in the efficient process of gathering materials and making the desired object. From the implements on the dining room tabletop to the very homes in which we live, this same process is repeated over and over, creating utility, value and prosperity.
But as I walk through the woods, I wonder: who desired that there be trees and animals – and people?! There is a distinctly different causality at play in nature. The efficient cause of a tree coming to life is the innate process of the species’ lifecycle. Men and women can certainly plant and tend to trees, but their existence is not contingent upon human industry.
A tree is the result of a seed that drops to the ground and germinates and grows in “the good soil.” No person has acted on it; the tree just “is” as a result of a natural occurrence and evolution. Each tree results from the tendency for life to arise from the chemistry of nature, given the right environment.
Nature, arising from the very stuff of being, provides the chemicals for the nucleic acid that yielded the first single-celled organisms. And so, as discussed in my comments after Woods Walking #11, the tree that we admire, under which we stand, is the product of a long line of evolution, and a long line of continuous living – trees growing, seeds produced, dropped and germinated into new growth across countless generations.
Given adequate contemplation, it really is an amazing continuum of life, life that began in some primordial soup in the earliest habitable days of this good Earth some 3.8 Billion years ago.1 And from that first life, a long progression of evolution and living and dying has led to the trees of our own woods, and to the people that walk their paths, delighting in the natural beauty of the foliage.
Natural Cause and Substantial Lineage
In the comments following Woods Walking #2, I discussed the idea of substantial lineage:2 the traceable continuum of the “stuff” of being. Let’s examine this idea in more detail.
When we push the clock of temporal being back in time, there are several key benchmarks. The first, and most notable, is the Big Bang,3 or alternatively the Big Bounce. In either case, from a singularity of absolute density, there was a burst, a moment of “creation.” Recalling the comments of ancient Philosopher Parmenides, “Nothing comes from nothing,” therefore it is more likely a moment of quantum transition from some primal substance – a meta-substance from Eternal Being, perhaps — to the yielding of a homogenized, inflating soup of super-heated plasma. In other posts I’ve used the phrase, “The breath of God into the cosmos.”
The key at the Big Bang is the de facto singular point generating not only everything that “is” in our known universe, but also that the initial substance is thought to be a homogeneous plasma, from which all future elements evolved as expansion and cooling permitted.
After approximately 400,000 years, this primal plasma had yielded the first atoms and then, due to gravitational forces, the first stars – the proto stars4 of our universe. And from these stars we know, thanks to the work of Geoffrey Burbidge5 and his teamin the mid 1950s, about stellar nucleosynthesis – the making of the elements essential for life within the pressure of the stars in the heavens. Stellar nucleosynthesis creates ever more complex atoms – increasing counts of protons, neutrons and electrons, yielding the elements of the Periodic Table, including heavy metals forged in the largest stars. The gold in our rings and jewelry only comes from the immense pressures of short-lived super-giant stars. Our own sun, a yellow dwarf, will not yield gold.
Hold a piece of your gold jewelry and contemplate its real substantial lineage – from the single source of “creation” and the homogenous substance of the Big Bang through the generation of this very gold in the heart of a star that was from hundreds to thousands of times the mass of our own Sun.
These specific gold atoms have followed quite a fascinating cosmic path to our hands! (As have the very atoms of our bodies!)
The chemicals of the Periodic Table of Elements, which many of us studied in chemistry class, in fact, came about in the billions of stellar furnaces that existed and died (Supernova6) during the 13.7 Billion years since the Big Bang. All of this material beginning with a single, common source.
I’ve sometimes jokingly (only by half) referred to our human death as being the ultimate religious ecumenism. Yet, the moment of temporal coming to be truly is an ecumenical moment, both from a religious and a physical perspective. Humanity is contingent upon this original, primal substance, just as is the “stuff” of the forks we considered in the metaphysical discussion in Woods Walking #2. It is a fundamental connectedness between the inanimate and the animate, aware and reflective beings that we are.
Again, through evolution and natural processes, we are the human flower of the breath of God into the cosmos.
We all share the common roots of this moment of “creation” of our temporal reality. And just as the tree, discussed at the beginning of this entry, emerged from a single seed, so did the primal substance of our universe, inflating in space, time and in complexity; flowering into the diverse set of chemical elements that yielded the potential for life. The life of our tree, the life of our pets and our own uniquely human aware and reflective lives all share this common substantial lineage.
So, what “caused” our trees to exist? It is the very fact of being – that the underlying substance of being holds the potential for life in its chemical evolution, composition and interactions.
It is reasonable to ask, then, does God sow the seeds of being with the Big Bang? Is our temporal reality a planned event, or is it like the natural occurrence of a seed falling from a tree that arises from Eternal Being? Is temporal creation a purely natural occurrence, or is there some degree of Divine “husbandry”? This answer perhaps awaits us only in the milieu of the afterlife.
Eternal Being, Multiple Universes and The Expanding Body of Humanity
In Woods Walking #11 we discussed the concept of Eternal Being: the most basic, foundational substance of all being and the likely concurrent manifestation of spirit from the energy that emanates from that primal being. We also considered the possibility that, given the eternal existence of this primal being, creation of temporal universes is likely regenerative, i.e., our own universe is in an initial phase of expansion to be followed by some contracting, recycling event. Scientists and researchers use a term “deep time” to describe the imagined “googol” 7 of years for the life span of one universe.
Given the eternal nature of being, there can conceptually be an eternal number of universal generations, and in fact, there could be many that exist concurrently, much like there are many trees that arise from the one earth. Perhaps many universes (multiverses) arise from Eternal Being, just as many trees arise, live and die within the lush grounds of the woods.
In the fullness of Absolute Being, is the proportion of a single universe similar to that proportion of a single tree to our great, good Earth? How can we know?
Imagine the view of our Earth on a clear day when you can see to the true horizon, with the Earth the analog of Eternal Being. Now, further using the metaphysical tool, analogy of being, imagine that each tree encountered is a unique universe – each grows from a singular seed and continually branches into smaller and smaller segments, yet is rooted in its earth, its equivalent of eternal being. And each tree has its own life span, from growth and expansion to death and decay back into the soil of its earth, only to be followed by others; its own progeny as well as the progeny of other nearby trees.
- “Even the leaves of the tree
become as pages of the sacred book
once the eyes of the heart are open.
The implied scales of time and space for all the above are truly mind bending — truly deep time and the ultimate, unimaginable expanse of space. We can be overwhelmed by the absolute scale of Eternal Being. Yet the very fact that we have even come to comprehend such concepts is miraculous in its own way. The very fact of our abstract conception of such a vision is testament to the fundamental value of our personal, individual being, as well as that of the Body of Humanity that naturally arises from this very process of temporal, universal generation.
We, the body of humanity, have arisen from the stuff of creation to comprehend our roots, and to contemplate our Loving Source of Life!
The theology of the above concepts imply many universes and many worlds that harbor intelligent, reflective life. And many worlds and many universes imply an eternal, yet ever expanding Body of Humanity. What we know on our own Earth through revealed — and lived — Scripture as the Body of Christ could be God made Man, or in other cases, God Made Woman (depending on the dominant social norms of any given world) offering a Salvific message and the Good News within the core commandments to love ourselves and love one another.
We can contemplate not only the loving being of our Creator, but we can also encounter the joyous, eternal heavenly host of the Body of Humanity; to those of us on this good Earth, the Body of Christ.
Copyright © 2011 Rudolph Siegel
An entertaining perspective on our substantial makeup – The Atoms Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DBjZz0iQrzI
E.T. has phoned home! Microbes in Meteorites: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2011/03/05/exclusive-nasa-scientists-claims-evidence-alien-life-meteorite/
A contemplation of our personal soil: http://www.loyolapress.com/assets/Bookcovers/119529_ears-to-hear.swf
1 Hecht, Jeff Glimpses of an Evolving Planet. Sky and Telescope, August 2010
2 Woods Walking #2: https://excelsisdeoomnibus.wordpress.com/2010/08/07/woods-walking-2/#comments
3 Big Bang: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Bang
4 Hotz, Robert Lee, The Making of the First Star, The Wall Street Journal, August 22, 2008
5 Geoffrey Burbidge: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geoffrey_Burbidge
6 A Supernova yielding its diverse elements: http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap070215.html