Public Lecture: To be Announced (IOK Room 1)
Cosmology and Kabbalah
Research Project Lectures are designed as interactive discussions into unexplored domains of the Kabbalah. New ideas are welcomed and these can open the way into other realms of research. When completed, this lecture will be copied to CD for general distribution through the IOK Online Bookshop.
(Updated 24 January 2022)
In the first lecture of the series, we will describe the outline of modern Cosmology. The second lecture will describe the Fossils of Astronomy. Subsequent lectures will delve into the many different instruments of Astronomy (Magical Weapons), and how these are used to develop the latest concepts in Cosmology today. Another lecture will cover the Kabbalistic interpretation of our expanding universe (which is in fact accelerating) after the first coming into being as an infinitesimal point of pure brilliance (Kether) from the Veils of Negative Existence, followed by the Big Bang expansion of Chokmah. This will be followed by an exploration into the realm of Binah and the Kabbalistic interpretations behind the theory of Black Holes, Dark Matter, Dark Energy and the elusive nature of Time. Like the deeper mysteries of the Tree of Life, we know that they exist, even though they remain outside of our comprehension. They can be reached, however, through a leap of faith (also an aspect of Binah). Future lectures in this series will continue our journey beyond the horizon into a deeper meaning of the Tree of Life by exploring into the depths and cosmology of the Merkava (the universe in motion).
Outline of Cosmology
This lecture is the first in a series that will attempt to elucidate the Kabbalah in terms of Cosmology and, by this same token, apply the Kabbalah with the Tree of Life to explain the more abstract ideas of Cosmology as it is known in astronomy today. My motivation behind this series is to try to encapsulate a few years of practical experience both in Kabbalah and amateur astronomy and to build this series of lectures based on this experience. In this way, we can obtain deeper insights into the more abstract concepts of the Kabbalah and to try and to apply Its spiritual teachings in our physical daily lives.
Modern Cosmology is an abstract science of space and quantity. It is a branch of astrophysics that seeks to model the origin, evolution and future of specific astronomical systems, and the physical universe as a whole. Being physical, its philosophy will be elucidated in this series of papers using the symbolism of the Tree of Life in Malkuth. It can be said that when astronauts, working outside of the veils of our atmosphere, look into the beauty of deep space both in its infinity and brilliant colours, are in fact staring into the Face of God in physical existence.
A Common Denominator between the Kabbalah and Cosmology:
Apart from some meteorites that have landed on earth, a few kilos of moon-rock brought back from the Apollo missions, some cosmic dust and photographs returned from various space probes, practically all of our current knowledge and understanding of the universe and its evolution comes to us from a single source: Light. This light allowed Galileo to upset a lot of people, especially the Church, when he turned his crude telescope to the heavens. His discoveries were very controversial, especially when he realised that the moons spinning around Jupiter formed a mini planetary system. This implied that all bodies orbit other, larger bodies and that the earth was not the centre of the universe but was in fact orbiting around the sun. He also discovered that the glow of the Milky Way was nothing else but vast clouds made up of billions of stars, similar to our own sun.
The symbol of light is associated with enlightenment, spiritual power, truth and illumination. Spiritual light can also guide us through the very dark place of physical incarnation. The symbology of light and its many colours is one of the fundamental keys used in the interpretation of the Tree of Life. The word 'Kabbalah' is derived from 3 Hebrew letters, Quoph, Beth, and Lamed, and this word essentially means the 'Voice Within'. To achieve awareness of the Voice Within is the goal of the Kabbalist, and the true spiritual journey into higher (or deeper) realms of consciousness becomes possible, provided one has achieved a sufficient degree of humility, a quality that is still sadly lacking, in my case, although I still live in the hope that maybe one day... The Inner Light is also associated with the Voice Within in that truth is often communicated from within in the form of visual symbols.
With the discovery of the many colours of the spectrum associated with different frequencies of light, Newton also found that there were energies existing outside the range of what was visible. With his prism, he managed to demonstrate that heat could be detected in the invisible regions beyond the red colour bands. This discovery marked the beginning of what will later become known as the electromagnetic spectrum. With the development of radio astronomy back in the '50s, astronomers discovered that a lot more knowledge about the universe could be obtained by building telescopes that operated at other frequencies than the visible spectrum. Astronomy today operates on a wide range of light vibrations, from long wave radio, to the very high x-ray and gamma-ray frequencies.
Later on, an even deeper source of knowledge became possible, with the invention of the spectrograph. This device gave the possibility to image the spectral signatures of distant stars and galaxies. Each object returned an optical signature containing a number of characteristic dark and bright lines at specific frequencies within the star's spectrum. Called emission and subtraction lines, these lines could be compared to those from single frequency ultra-violet, calcium, sodium and other element lines generated in the lab using special mercury, calcium, sodium and other element vapour lamps. It is these that give the reference signatures that are used to calibrate the spectrograph. From this information it became possible to determine the exact composition of the stars and, from this, to calculate its absolute luminosity. By comparing this to the observed luminosity, the distance in light years to the star could be calculated.
But it was Edwin Hubble, also back in the '50s, who made a most significant discovery. He noticed that the characteristics in the spectral signatures of many stars were identical in pattern but that the entire image was shifted either to the right or to the left along the frequency axis of the graph. It dawned on him that this optical frequency shift was identical in principle to the shifting of the pitch in sound of a passing vehicle, or the whistle from a passing train, known as the Doppler Effect. If the signature is shifted towards the shorter wavelengths, the object is approaching. If shifted the other way, the object is receding. He also discovered that the more distant the object, the faster it was receding from Earth. From this observation came a realisation that the space-time fabric of the universe itself was expanding. After studying many, many spectra of distant stars and galaxies, he was able to calculate the rate at which the universe was expanding and this became known as the Hubble Constant.
By calculating the reciprocal of the Hubble Constant, we obtain the current age of the universe, now believed by most astronomers to be some 13.8 billion years. This concept gave rise to the Big Bang Theory, the idea that the universe emerged from a single point of pure, indefinable energy, smaller than a sub-atomic particle. Atomic telescopes, that is to say particle accelerators at CERN, are returning some remarkable discoveries that also seem to support the theory of the Big Bang as the originator of the universe.
The discovery of the Hubble Constant in the '50s, together with Einstein's Theory of Relativity marked the period where modern Cosmology really got going.
In Kabbalistic symbolism, the Big bang would be equivalent to the emergence of a single point of pure brilliance (beyond the concept of any colour) called Kether, the Crown. This infinitesimal point of pure brilliance then expanded, like a flash of lightning, down the planes into the universe we see today.
It is in the symbolism of Light, in all its forms, that a common denominator between the Kabbalah and Cosmology is established.
A Brief History of Cosmology:
Cosmology has existed since the early beginnings of humanity. Its origins can be traced back to Neolithic times, between 20 000 and 100 000 years ago. It was invented by primitive people, once language was developed, to try and understand the mysteries of the world that surrounded them.
Because Neolithic Cosmology was an attempt to explain the phenomena of weather, changes to the environment, natural disasters, earthquakes and other things outside of daily experience, it became known as Magical Cosmology and became the fountain head of our first religions.
Mythical Cosmology appears between 5 000 and 20 000 years ago, when humanity began to evolve culture. With a deep sense of the vastness and immutability of the environment seen in daily life, the beginnings of various creation myths began to emerge, as an attempt to explain the origin of the universe. These myths maintained a supernatural theme behind visible appearances and, as strange as these ideas may appear, they formed the first developments of scientific theory.
Egyptian and Mesopotamian Cosmology evolved from the myths created by humanity's view of the night sky, which later became the core of Egyptian religion. The principle Gods of ancient Egypt were heavenly bodies, the priesthood devoted a considerable amount of time to predict the next manifestations with the seasonal influence of the Gods. The heavens were then divided into twelve parts for the night and twelve parts for the day. This led to the development of a solar and a lunar calendar. The solar calendar was divided into twelve months of 30 days each, with a special five-day adjustment period to bring the total number of days in the year to 365.
Babylonian astronomy contributed the next step in the evolution of Cosmology. The Babylonians kept very precise records of astronomical events, such as the rising and setting of the moon, the movements and positions of the planets and other phenomena such as solar and lunar eclipses.
These records are believed to be the oldest scientific documents known and have originated around about 800 BC. The purpose of these documents was for the astrological forecasting of future events for the country and its king.
Ancient Greek Cosmology was based a more scientific approach using careful observation and experimentation in the search for simple universal laws. Also known as Geometric Cosmology, it became the central theme of Modern Cosmology and was later adopted by the Church.
Getting a handle on Geometric Cosmology was very challenging for the time and it marked the development of a profound philosophical achievement. Through the interpretation of the creation myths by Geometric Cosmology, ideas and techniques evolved that would eventually lead to the foundation of scientific theory. This was also borne out by a fundamental belief that the mysteries of the universe could be encapsulated and expressed in mathematical terms. These mathematical models lie at the centre of science and are so compelling in their bold simplicity that they have become accepted as fundamental truths. It also raises the question whether mathematics was a human invention, or was it always present in the unconscious, waiting to be revealed by superior beings.
The more abstract levels of the Tree of Life above Chesed are said to exist beyond human comprehension. The Tree of Life, together with the Veils of Negative Existence, is so elegant and simple, and yet it will always remain an unfathomable mystery. This is further borne out by the early Kabbalists who claim that it was beings from another order of existence who revealed the Kabbalah to Abraham.
The idealisation of physical events lead the Greek philosopher Plato to speculate that there are two parallel universes, the physical world and an idealised, abstract invisible world of pure form concepts. The physical world was the reflection of the abstract world. In the abstract world there exists the pure, unchanging and absolute concept of things such as a tree or a rock, or emotions such as joy or anger.
The physical world is made up of the shadows of those things in the abstract world. The concept of the fish in the abstract world, for example, was a single, perfect archetype. The almost infinite possible types of fish existing in the physical world are simply different shadows of the one abstract Fish Concept. This idea implies that truth is discerned through the ability to see the reality behind the appearances that surround us in the physical world.
The concept of these two universes led to the emergence of two schools of thought. The Platonic school maintains that nature is controlled by noumenal absolute mathematical laws that have always existed and cannot be invented. The deeper we delve beyond physical appearances, the more the physical world disappears and is replaced by one of pure maths. The second school holds that mathematical concepts are the idealisations of the physical world. This implies that the abstract world only exists and emerges from the world of physical objects.
Like all things philosophical, the reality that Cosmology attempts to embrace can be interpreted in many different ways. It is simply a question of perception. Like the Kabbalah, the broad concepts of Modern Cosmology today create as many arguments and counter-arguments as the number of students following different schools of scientific thought. Just as the Western Esoteric Schools have built up very detailed interpretations of the Tree of Life, Modern Cosmology also has its proponents and supporters of different truths.
Both the Tree of Life and modern Cosmology share a common, mainstream fundamental Cosmic Truth that flows like a golden tread throughout these ancient and modern philosophies. It is followed by dedicated students in all walks of life who draw deep inspiration and meaning from these, either through meditation on the symbology of the Tree of Life, or by the comparisons of scientific results through more and more sophisticated experiments, each of which counterchecks and corroborates the other schools of thought.
The Fossils of Astronomy
The broad band of light, both visible and invisible, also known as the electromagnetic spectrum, travels across space at the awesome speed of 300,000 kilometres per second. The cosmos is so vast, however, that even at this speed, it takes light many billions of years to travel across the observable universe. A telescope can therefore be seen as a time machine. The more distant the object is from us, the longer it has taken for the light to reach the telescope. For example, the planetary nebula M57 in the constellation of Lira is at a distance of 2,300 light-years away. We therefore see it today as it appeared 2,300 years ago.
Our nearest neighbour galaxy M31, in the constellation of Andromeda (the one in the banner at the top of this page) is at a distance of 4.5 million light-years. The light that gives us the image today began its journey 4.5 million years ago. Although unlikely, if the galaxy ceased to exist, we would not know about it until 4.5 million years into the future. So for all we know, many of the objects that are studied by astronomy, especially the more distant ones probably do not exist anymore.
Trilobites, a well-known group of extinct arthropods, existed in the early Cambrian period, some 521 million years ago. They all disappeared in a mass extinction event at the end of the Permian era, about 250 million years ago. During their existence, trilobites were one of the most successful early animals and they roamed the oceans for some 270 million years. Palaeontology, the study of the history of life on Earth, gives us an enormous amount of information about plants and animals that lived in those ancient times and have since disappeared. These organisms have left traces of their past existence in the form of fossils, an imprint in stone.
Through the study of fossil remains, palaeontologists can obtain information not only about individual life forms, but also the environmental conditions and climate in which they lived at the time. A fossilized clam shell will display, through its rings, how many years that shell lived. Each year, the clam adds a new outer layer to its shell to accommodate its growing size. Like the rings in a tree-trunk, if the rings are widely spaced, it indicates a favourable environment to growth. If the rings are thinner and more tightly spaced, this would indicate harsher conditions, such as a colder climate, shortage of food, or other constraining factors. Variations in the ring distribution indicate changing conditions during the lifetime of a clam.
In the same way that the image of a trilobite is preserved in stone, so then are the images of distant objects in space preserved in the light that brings their images to out telescopes. As already mentioned in our first lecture, it is by the study of the signatures or imprints of those objects hidden in the spectrum of the light that an enormous amount of information about the age, chemical composition and evolution of those objects can be determined.
Kabbalah teaches that life will manifest throughout the Universe, itself a living being. NASA predicts that the new James Webb space telescope, due to be launched in 2018, is so powerful that it will be capable of analysing the spectral signatures of gases in the atmospheres of planets orbiting around other stars and look for the signs of alien life.
To be continued...