A TOUCHSTONE REVIEW
Marcelo Gleiser, A Tear at the Edge of Creation: A Radical New Vision of Life in an Imperfect Universe, 2010
Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution, 2004
. . . says Satan to Adam: “O Adam, by reason of your fall you are under my rule, because you hearkened to me and transgressed against God. There will be no deliverance from my hands until the day promised you by God. Inasmuch as we do not know the day agreed upon with you by your God, nor the hour in which you will be delivered, for that reason will we multiply war and murder upon you and your seed after you. This is our will and our good pleasure, that we may not leave one of the sons of men to inherit our orders in heaven. . . . and we will not cease our evil doing, no, not one day nor one hour.”
* The Two Books of Adam and Eve, Chapter 52
Creation myths convey profound truths to the human culture that repeats them and believes in them. For the ancient Egyptians, the actions of deities provided explanations for terrestrial phenomena, like the laughter of the earth god Geb creating earthquakes; or they illustrated the process by which a single divine being that is the underlying substance of the world evolves into a multiplicity of elements, like the body and soul of the creator god Atum becoming all things.
Better known creation myths attempt to articulate the whole of reality. Of this sort is the Theogony of Hesiod, which describes the origins and successive generations of functioning Greek gods. So is the Babylonian narrative on the creation of the world Enuma Elish, which focuses on the supremacy of the storm-god Marduk over the older Sumerian gods: he slays Tiamat, goddess of the primordial sea, and slices her body into pieces to form the heavens and the earth and he creates human beings to serve a new generation of non-Sumerian deities. Of this sort also is the Native American myth of the Zuni people, whose supreme being, the creator god, is of Sky and whose emergence as a people is of child-bearing Earth Mother.
Myths of these kinds describe the origins of matter only incidentally. Another kind of creation myth invents metaphors for primordial origins. One of the most fertile of these metaphors is the cosmic egg. For the ancient Egyptians, the primordial egg hatched to give birth to the sun god Ra in the stage of creation known to them as “the first occasion.” In the mythology of China, the formless primordial state coalesced into the cosmic egg, wherein the principles of Yin and Yang reached a state of perfectly opposed equilibrium for 18,000 years. When the egg hatched, the hairy giant Pangu emerged from it and separated Yin from Yang with a single swing of his giant axe and so created Earth of murky Yin and Sky of clear Yang. For another 18,000 years, he separated the two principle forces further by pushing them apart. Then he died. His breath became wind, mist, and clouds. His voice, thunder. His left eye, the Sun. His right eye, the Moon. His head, the mountains and extremities of the world. His blood, rivers. His muscles, fertile land. The hair on his face, the stars and the Milky Way. His fur, bushes and forests. His bones, valuable minerals. The marrow of his bones, precious jewels. His sweat, rain. The fleas on his fur, carried across Earth by the wind, animals.
More universal than these is the narrative of the Fall in The Two Books of Adam and Eve. This elaborate spiritual allegory holds remarkable correspondences to the popular modern narrative of astrophysics on the origin of the material universe. The Two Books of Adam and Eve explains the why behind the generation of the material dimension and represents Man’s anguished responses to the event. The narrative of astrophysics measures the structure of the universe and describes its successive actions—the what, the when, and the how of materialization. Yet the account is no less incredible.
The modern myth of creation is based on two things: the observation by astronomer Edwin Hubble in the 1920s that distant galaxies are moving away from each other in an expanding universe and, second, the confirmation of the main idea of the Big Bang model developed in the 1940s by physicist George Gamow. Both the 20th-century origin story and the spiritual allegory posit an original primordial light and energy that existed before the universe went through its first phase transition. The narrative of natural science, however, differs from the spiritual allegory in that it does not posit the existence of nonphysical beings who possess primordial bodies of Light.
In the contemporary literature of cosmogony, the version of the etiological myth told by Marcelo Gleiser (2010) is perhaps the most elegant, thorough, and heartfelt. The summary that appears here presents the essential narrative of actual cosmic events contained in Gleiser’s 250-page book—purified of scientific argument and explanation and the author’s personal concerns.
Before the Beginning
According to Gleiser’s story of the early universe, the first physical events took place with primordial matter in primordial space in incredible time and with incredible energy. Before the beginning, there is only primordial light of a nature unknown and immeasurable; there is symmetry and a unified field of incomprehensibly high energy. Then, at the beginning, 14.8 billion years ago, the Big Bang occurred, the event that marked the beginning of time. (A fossil of this event is the cosmic microwave background radiation left over from the Age of Atomic Formation, which NASA scientists have observed today, after billions of years of cosmic expansion and cooling.)
Before the first second of time has elapsed, five cosmic epochs pass.
The Epoch of Separation
During the first 10-45 second of time—when the large was small—black holes formed spontaneously, then disappeared, and formed again out of the energy of the unified field; and gravity, following unknown laws, separated itself from the unified field and warped for all time the fabric of space and time.
From this tiny region of space filled with a scalar field displaced from equilibrium, the universe was generated.
The Epoch of Expansion
Just after the beginning, there was only high-energy light with no mass. Then, in the moment from 10-37 to 10-34 second, the primordial light ruptured, and a tiny region of primordial matter one hundred times smaller than a proton, with its associated field (called by science the “Higgs field”), generated a great negative pressure. Like Aether, this field of energy varied in quantity continuously and with no direction as the invisible matter followed the new cosmic imperative to expand. The field, displaced from its state of equilibrium, like a body rolling down the side of a mountain, filled the patch of early cosmos and made it expand with superluminal speed.
This tiny region ballooned outward faster than the speed of light, the density of its energy and pressure constant and undiluted as it expanded and curved—a gurgling, spongy, foam-like structure—to the size of a grapefruit. Following natural law, a conquering nomadic tribe that is growing into an empire will convert its local customs into universal ones. In the same way, this single, tiny region of space converted its local properties into universal ones: The once-unified field divided again into two new forces, one electric and one nuclear; and as inflation progressed, the unstable field converted itself and its energy into particles of matter in a process similar to radioactive decay.
The Epoch of Annihilation
At 10-34 seconds the universe remained hot enough for the radiant photons to spontaneously convert their energy into matter-antimatter pairs that immediately annihilated each other and returned their energy back to photons. Before one-trillionth second, the field—omnipresent throughout this small, high-energy universe—was hot enough to be transparent, and all particles were, like photons of light, massless. After the expansion, the field became particles of various kinds and explosively dumped what remained of its energy into this particulate maelstrom. The cosmos was then filled with hot matter.
The Epoch of Division
It was then, one-trillionth second after the beginning, that particles like the proton and neutron originated; and the electric force divided again to bring into existence the four distinct and familiar forces of nature.
From that moment, these transmogrified physical forces imbued the cosmos with its fundamental properties and the interplay of matter and energy continued incessantly: one nuclear force began to control radioactive decay; another began to bind together massless particles in every massless atomic nucleus; the electromagnetic force began to hold massless atoms together in massless molecules; and gravity began to bind massless matter in bulk. At the same time, antiparticles and particles continued to be born together out of the pure energy of photons and to annihilate each other as they reconverted their combined mass back into energy.
This early in the process, the cosmos began to become more matter than antimatter—an asymmetry that dictated that material existence would ultimately prevail throughout the cosmos.
At first, there were equal amounts of matter and antimatter; then, as the universe expanded more quickly than particles could interact and exchange information with each other, the cosmos continued to cool, and the energy of photons continued to fall, until pairs of matter-antimatter particles could no longer be created spontaneously from the photons available in the cosmos. All remaining pairs were swiftly annihilated.
(Unexplainably, about one second after the beginning, a universe was left behind with one particle of ordinary matter for every billion photons and no antimatter. Without this imbalance, this tiny primordial imperfection, the expanding universe would have been forever composed of light and nothing else . . . except for the invisible substance of an unknown nature which science calls “Dark Matter”—a substance that exerts gravity according to the same laws as ordinary matter but with a force that is six times the mass of ordinary matter, yet does not interact with light in any way, a substance that permeates all material bodies and forms around them a kind of “dark” halo.)
After one-trillionth second, the field lost its transparency and began to interact with all particles of matter and force, giving them bodies with mass—all except the photons.
The Epoch of Expansion
When the universe was one-millionth second old, it was one trillion degrees hot, aglow with an unimaginable brilliance. As the universe continued to expand and cooled down below one trillion degrees Kelvin to a temperature too cool for the spontaneous generation of particles, heavy particles grew out of new bonds. The main agenda was now expansion. And as the universe continued to expand, to grow cooler and dimmer, it became a glowing fog, luminous, translucent, reddish-white in color, and bright as the surface of the Sun.
The Age of Equilibrium
When the first second had passed, the universe had cooled to one billion degrees Kelvin. The temperature is hot enough for electrons and their antimatter partners to continue to pop into and out of material existence and annihilate each other. Yet, in time, one electron in a billion remained alone without its antimatter partner. The other billion pairs, minus one, extinguish and flood the universe with an even greater sea of photons, and material electrons began to appear alongside the matter that had already become protons and neutrons. The material universe was now frozen into another phase of existence with one electron for every proton, an equilibrium of charge throughout the universe.
As the universe expanded further, it cooled to a temperature below one million degrees Kelvin, and protons fused with other protons and with neutrons to form lightweight atomic nuclei.
At a few seconds old, the universe became as we see it and measure it now: homogeneous and flat. Over the next three minutes, the ongoing expansion of the universe robbed photons of their energy. Electrons began to scatter photons to create a vast mixture of matter and energy, and for the next 380,000 years the universe remained opaque.
The Age of Atomic Formation
In all previous epochs, photons had had energy enough to break apart any newly formed atoms. For 380,000 years, heat and violence had kept matter in simple structures. At 380,000 years, photons lost their energy again: their wavelengths grew larger and they began to roam the universe without hitting anything. Photons once in the gamma-ray spectrum morphed into X-rays, ultraviolet rays, visible-spectrum rays, and infrared photons.
When the universe cooled to below 3,000 degrees Kelvin (still hotter than a blast furnace) the loose electrons began to move more slowly. Now photons no longer had enough energy to prevent electrons from orbiting around protons. Roving nuclei snatch up electrons to make the first complete atoms of the lightest elements. Radiation was unable to prevent electrons and protons from consummating their electric affairs, and the Universe was all aglow.
When light ceased to interact with matter in the old way, the universe became transparent to visible light for the first time. From that moment on, atoms have persisted. And photons, each with a diminishing amount of energy, have continued to roam a transparent universe ever since.
During the 100,000 years that followed that moment, almost all the atoms currently in existence came to be, and photons began to form into an expanding shell around the expanding universe. Matter began to coalesce, and gravity grew stronger. As more and more matter gathered together, massive regions took shape and began to seed the formation of galaxy superclusters.
The Age of the Titans
Gravity competed with expansion, and for the next 500,000 years, as the universe doubled in size and continued to expand and cool, and as matter gravitated into massive galaxies, high-mass stars formed, and at their cores high pressures and temperatures formed heavier elements.
For the next several billion years, these ancient titanic stars continued to live. Then, too large for life in an expanding universe, they were torn apart by the expanding field, exploding in death and scattering their heavy elements throughout the galaxies. By about 5 billion years ago, shortly after the Sun and Earth were born, this ancient race of stars had been completely extinguished.
The acceleration in the rate of expansion that destroyed these ancient titans was prompted by the invisible energy that science calls “dark.” (Widespread, formless, and homogeneous, it is an energy very much like that called Aether.) The effect of this mysterious and diffuse medium, though always present, was not recognizable in the beginning when the large was small. The effects of this field of energy, which even now acts upon all beings of the material dimension, can be distinguished only at the farthest distances, at distances the size of the cosmos itself. As solar systems and galaxies pass through it, this ghostly field exerts upon them a kind of negative pressure that is, again as it was in the beginning, stretching the fabric of space faster than the speed of light.
Intermezzo: “The Fall” or “Descent into Matter”
As we approach the end of our tale, it is time to explain the correspondences of time and action that exist between the ancient creation tale told in The Two Books of Adam and Eve and the modern narrative on the origin of the universe told by astrophysics.
We might equate, for example, the Fall, or Man’s descent into matter, with the abortive rupture of primordial light and the displacement of the original scalar field from equilibrium. We may equate as well the mourning and fear of Adam and Eve during their first night in altered flesh with the surprising transformation that followed the primordial rupture in the transparent universe during the first one-trillionth second. The demonic deception of Adam and Eve on their first day with the robbing of photons of their primal energy during the first three seconds of the expanding material universe. The second night Adam and Eve spent in the Cave of Treasures with the opaque universe of the first 380,000 years of time. The time when Cain and his sister Luluwa fled from the Garden into a new world of dark forests at the foot of the mountain to multiply and fill the place with a new race that prized lust and violence with the first million years when gravity gathered matter into galactic superclusters and the universe doubled in size. The mutation of the sons of Seth, changed in nature after they were lured into fellowship with the sons of Cain with the formation of the first stars under the negative pressure of the ghostly field of dark energy. And Enoch and his righteous sons being taken down from the mountaintop into a strange land with the formation of Earth and the first physical life on the planet.
Of course, in our present age we must take care when we draw such correspondences too closely, unlike in ancient times, when the language of knowledge, whether of spirit or of nature, was one and the same. If we attempted today to put together the equivalencies of these two tales into any sort of literary exercise that makes their parallels explicit—say, a work of historical fiction where Adam and Eve meet astrophysics—the result would, and could only be, disastrously grotesque.
At some future time, however—when the nonmaterial (that is, the spiritual) is better understood and the race of Man possesses a common language of words or symbols to represent the life and dynamics of the spirit—such a tale will be possible, and the ability of such a tale to educate and delight will be immeasurable.
The End of Time
For the present, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, one of Gleiser’s colleagues, provides an ending to the scientific tale of creation, and the ending is truly terminal. I state it here briefly:
“Cosmic expansion implies an arrow of time. As the universe grows, time moves forward and only forward. Expansion is a cosmic imperative that points resolutely toward a bleak future in which the universe will never contract or recycle itself. This cosmic direction of time on the galactic and the subatomic levels, this asymmetry, is the trademark of the expanding universe. A hundred billion years from now, most stars will have burned themselves out and all but the closest galaxies will have vanished. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, will have coalesced with its nearest neighbors to form one giant galaxy in the middle of nowhere. Our night sky will contain orbiting stars, living and dead, and nothing else. Future astrophysicists will have no galaxies to track cosmic expansion and will erroneously conclude that they live in a static universe. The cosmological constant and its dark energy will have turned out the universe to a point where scientists cannot measure or even dream of these powers. Later, when all movement in the universe ceases, only a tepid radiation will remain.”
Needless to say, in this version of the story Satan wins.
The creation story of astrophysics, like the creation story of The Two Books of Adam and Eve, is a story of exile from a primordial world. (This correspondence may not be readily visible to someone who does not see every action in the universe as a manifestation of spirit.) The creation story of natural science, however, unlike the creation story of The Two Books of Adam and Eve, does not provide the promise of a return. The reason is obvious. The process of return to a primordial world is not inherent in matter or generated by it, and so the process cannot appear to the perceptions and measurements of natural science.
Spiritual restoration can only be seeded from spiritual or nonmaterial worlds, the primordial Worlds of Light. The potential of return, and the process involved, is a spiritual matter, and it can be addressed only through a spiritual science. This is what Cosolargy offers.
Robert G. Petrovich