The Boundaries of Being
My dog Trevor and I have been hiking the Ault Park trails consistently for almost four years now. It’s healthy for both body and spirit!
Earlier this week we were walking west on the Forest Loop Trail and it occurred to me that we’ve now walked this trail well over one hundred times, hiking in conditions from beautiful sunset evenings to moonlit snow and a few very dark nights–just because.
It is fascinating that while it is the same trail with the same trees, every passing is different. On consecutive summer nights one might be dripping with heat and humidity while the next may be dry and cool. Still on another, a tree may have fallen in the wind, blocking the trail. And the wildlife changes, too. The birds of summer fly south for the winter with horned owls taking their place only to exchange seasonal turns in the late spring with the wood thrush and barred owls, among many others.
Even year to year the trails present unique faces. The colors of the fall of 2009 seemed to happen within a span of ten days, while the colors of the fall of 2010 covered nearly six weeks as drought-stressed trees and shrubs coped with the challenging conditions in different ways, some hanging onto their foliage as long as possible girding for the long winter ahead.
This reflection reminded me that no matter how familiar we are with something, no matter how much we may see it, there will always be more to learn within the infinite variability of our familiar surroundings.
Yesterday I was reviewing my feeds on Facebook and came across a link posted by The Milky Way Scientist to an episode of the DiscoveryHD Channel’s “Curiosity TV.” This episode featured the renowned physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking discussing his thoughts on whether God created the universe.1
This show follows Hawking’s previous book published in 2010, “The Grand Design,” which I also discussed in Woods Walking #11.2 In his book, written with Leonard Mlodinow, Hawking stated that due to the existence of the laws of nature “it is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.” His reasoning, discussed in the Discovery show, is that within a black hole, and before the Big Bang and the beginning of time, there was no time—there was nothing. There, time and science stop.
Hawking described the three essential elements of our temporal, observable universe as matter, space and energy. The first two certainly are contingent upon the existence of spacetime from a relativistic point of view. However, what do we know of energy? Does it pre-exist the Big Bang? Is “energy” responsible for the ‘enabling’ of the Big Bang, or spacetime?
In the discourse of the show, Hawking describes the balance between positive and negative particles, that they pop in and out of existence, even now–and spontaneously.
It is an energetic dance of Yin and Yang. How appropriate that mystical traditions would know this concept a priori over millennia.
The Temporal Boundaries
In Woods Walking #11 (WW#11), I talk about the necessity of some ‘eternal being.’ How can there ever be ‘nothing,’ from an absolute standpoint? And in the comments following Woods Walking #2 I discuss the prime contingencies of causality: substance and intelligence. This is relative to the causality that we know in our temporal, relativistc spacetime framework.
In WW#11 I draw the conclusion that the necessary intelligence coexists with, that it manifests from, the eternal substance of being. It is that substance which is self-sufficient in being and relies on no other for its existence.
Considering Hawking’s boundary between ‘time and no time,’ and that energy may pre-exist spacetime, and further considering Einstein’s elegant, fundamental equation E=MC2, where any mass accelerated to the speed of light becomes pure energy, we find ourselves at the precipice of a higher order, pre-existent state of being—a quantum state prior to the Big Bang, where energy does not express itself as mass and therefore does not occupy space as we know it.
“…the soul is everywhere that scholarly knowledge is not.” ~ Carl Jung
What this implies is that the Big Bang is the diminution of pure, pre-existent energy in a way that yields mass, which also occupies spacetime. Quite suddenly and explosively! It is a transition from a higher ordered state of being to a lower ordered state where matter is separated from energy.
In biblical terms, this is analogous to the Genesis story of God taking the rib from Adam to create Eve. Only part of pre-existent energy is required to enable our universe.
The spacetime that we know is composed of three physical dimensions plus time. However, quantum mechanics, M-Theory3, specifically, predicts 11 dimensions, inclusive of height, width and depth. Perhaps we find these extra dimensions beyond the boundary of spacetime within the quantum state of a pure, self-sufficient state of energy.
In WW#11, I talked about intelligence manifesting from this primal substance, i.e., ‘Eternal Being.’ However, within a pure energy state, energy and intelligence are likely one in being and never one without the other as matter is not separated from energy in this realm.
Such a “Grand Intelligence” would equate to what humanity has always referred to in scripture as a diety, or God. This ‘oneness’ and simplicity of an absolute energy state meets all the tests and historic descriptions of a diety.
The Boundary Between Human Knowledge and Revelation
“Scientists investigate that which already is; engineers create that which has never been.” – Albert Einstein
Some weeks back I enjoyed a morning coffee with Al Bischoff, S.J. I’ve known “Father B” since my grade-school days when I served his Holy Week masses celebrated with the good nuns of the Sisters of Notre Dame at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Chapel. Today, Fr. B opens his masses with his empowering “Welcome Saints!”
One of the things we discussed over coffee was the idea of an ever-expanding bubble of human knowledge. From the perspective of philosophy of science, we are measuring, testing and quantifying an intelligible reality. And from humble ‘flat-earth’ beginnings, humanity has evolved to expansive observations and theoretical reach out to and beyond the limits of our observable universe.
Meanwhile, Hawking and others describe the difficulty of verifying M-Theory due to our inability to directly observe that order of reality. Theoretically, there are five distinct approaches, or models, to M-Theory based on five of the projected extra dimensions. Known as model-dependent realism4, these approaches to theoretically describing observed phenomena are distinct and are correct in themselves. Nonetheless, they do overlap with points of similarity and agreement, suggesting a fundamental unity of the parts.
Humanity has arrived at all this in a mere three thousand years after the humble beginnings of flints, snares and spears.
“To help, to continually help and share, that is the sum of all knowledge; that is the meaning of art.” ~ Eleonora Duse
As discussed in Woods Walking #12, there is still so much that we don’t know, and perhaps that we cannot access from our limited quantum state of being. How many universes are there, is the Big Bang a planned, executed event, or merely a natural occurrence, like the falling of a seed on fertile soil?
So there is a bubble of human knowledge that is ever expanding into the realm of all possible knowledge, i.e., the total extent of intelligible being that resides outside of our current bubble of knowledge. And our curious, insatiable human need to know will always expand this envelope.
Nonetheless, even after or within the completeness of theoretical knowledge, there will still be the constant variability at any given moment, whether predicting the instantaneous location of an electron, or observing the current state of the trees on a favorite hiking trail.
As my earlier reference to Yin and Yang suggests, our human intelligence, itself based on a form of energy, must have, does have, access to the Grand Intelligence of Eternal Being. Therein lays the source of revelation. It is that fundamental communion between our sentient, reflective, spiritual capacity and the ultimate source of our being. It is the communication between the reflective, living person and the spiritual order.
Such personal experiences are described in Woods Walking #9 and #10.
As the waters of human knowledge lap at the shores of Eternal Being, our spirit is drawn into the Heavens to be returned to us in the life-giving rain of revelation.
Meanwhile, it can be said that the history of revelation is marked with allegory, stories that help to bridge the chasm between primitive, pre-scientific human knowledge and the radically different pure-energy state of higher being. Nonetheless such allegory, as with any good story, contains enduring, universal truths.
Perhaps eternal truths such as love and the Beatitudes are those extra quantum dimensions. However, the details have been ‘lost in translation’! Perhaps the concurrent encounter with these dimensions, the beatitudes, account for the wondrous effect of the ‘mystical moment.’ It is like no other.
At the close of this glorious Easter Day, blessed with sun, family and love, I will close this edition of Woods Walking with the short prayer from the comments after WW#2. In the knowledge, revealed and realized, that we are the human flower of the breath of God into the cosmos, we say: “Oh Lord God, truly we are of You, and truly we are for You. Amen.”
1 CuriosityHD: http://youtu.be/WQhd05ZVYWg
2 Woods Walking #11: https://excelsisdeoomnibus.wordpress.com/2010/10/31/woods-walking-11/
4 Model-Dependent Realism: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Model-dependent_realism