Science and Mysticism.
An excerpt from Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol:
“The key to our scientific future,” her brother often said, “is hidden in our past.” A lifelong scholar of history, science, and mysticism, Peter had been the first to encourage Katherine to boost her university science education with an understanding of early Hermetic philosophy. She had been only nineteen years old when Peter sparked her interest in the link between modern science and ancient mysticism.
“So tell me, Kate,” her brother had asked while she was home on vacation during her sophomore year at Yale. “What are Elis reading these days in theoretical physics?”
Katherine had stood in her family’s book-filled library and recited her demanding reading list.
“Impressive,” her brother replied. “Einstein, Bohr, and Hawking are modern geniuses. But are you reading anything older?”
Katherine scratched her head. “You mean like . . . Newton?”
He smiled. “Keep going.” At twenty-seven, Peter had already made a name for himself in the academic world, and he and Katherine had grown to savor this kind of playful intellectual sparring.
Older than Newton? Katherine’s head now filled with distant names like Ptolemy, Pythagoras, and Hermes Trismegistus. Nobody reads that stuff anymore.
Her brother ran a finger down the long shelf of cracked leather bindings and old dusty tomes. “The scientific wisdom of the ancients was staggering . . . modern physics is only now beginning to comprehend it all.”
“Peter,” she said, “you already told me that the Egyptians understood levers and pulleys long before Newton, and that the early alchemists did work on a par with modern chemistry, but so what? Today’s physics deals with concepts that would have been unimaginable to the ancients.”
“Well . . . like entanglement theory, for one!” Subatomic research had now proven categorically that all matter was interconnected . . . entangled in a single unified mesh . . . a kind of universal oneness. “You’re telling me the ancients sat around discussing entanglement theory?”
“Absolutely!” Peter said, pushing his long, dark bangs out of his eyes. “Entanglement was at the core of primeval beliefs. Its names are as old as history itself . . . Dharmakaya, Tao, Brahman. In fact, man’s oldest spiritual quest was to perceive his own entanglement, to sense his own interconnection with all things. He has always wanted to become ‘one’ with the universe . . . to achieve the state of ‘at-one-ment.’ ” Her brother raised his eyebrows. “To this day, Jews and Christians still strive for ‘atonement’ . . . although most of us have forgotten it is actually ‘at-one-ment’ we’re seeking.”
Katherine sighed, having forgotten how hard it was to argue with a man so well versed in history. “Okay, but you’re talking in generalities. I’m talking specific physics.”
“Then be specific.” His keen eyes challenged her now.
“Okay, how about something as simple as polarity—the positive/negative balance of the subatomic realm. Obviously, the ancients didn’t underst—”
“Hold on!” Her brother pulled down a large dusty text, which he dropped loudly on the library table. “Modern polarity is nothing but the ‘dual world’ described by Krishna here in the Bhagavad Gita over two thousand years ago. A dozen other books in here, including the Kybalion, talk about binary systems and the opposing forces in nature.”
Katherine was skeptical. “Okay, but if we talk about modern discoveries in subatomics—the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, for example—”
“Then we must look here,” Peter said, striding down his long bookshelf and pulling out another text. “The sacred Hindu Vendantic scriptures known as the Upanishads.” He dropped the tome heavily on the first. “Heisenberg and Schrödinger studied this text and credited it with helping them formulate some of their theories.”
The showdown continued for several minutes, and the stack of dusty books on the desk grew taller and taller. Finally Katherine threw up her hands in frustration. “Okay! You made your point, but I want to study cutting-edge theoretical physics. The future of science! I really doubt Krishna or Vyasa had much to say about superstring theory and multidimensional cosmological models.”
“You’re right. They didn’t.” Her brother paused, a smile crossing his lips. “If you’re talking superstring theory . . .” He wandered over to the bookshelf yet again. “Then you’re talking this book here.” He heaved out a colossal leather-bound book and dropped it with a crash onto the desk. “Thirteenth-century translation of the original medieval Aramaic.”
“Superstring theory in the thirteenth century?!” Katherine wasn’t buying it. “Come on!”
Superstring theory was a brand-new cosmological model. Based on the most recent scientific observations, it suggested the multidimensional universe was made up not of three . . . but rather of ten dimensions, which all interacted like vibrating strings, similar to resonating violin strings.
Katherine waited as her brother heaved open the book, ran through the ornately printed table of contents, and then flipped to a spot near the beginning of the book. “Read this.” He pointed to a faded page of text and diagrams.
Dutifully, Katherine studied the page. The translation was old-fashioned and very hard to read, but to her utter amazement, the text and drawings clearly outlined the exact same universe heralded by modern superstring theory—a ten-dimensional universe of resonating strings. As she continued reading, she suddenly gasped and recoiled. “My God, it even describes how six of the dimensions are entangled and act as one?!” She took a frightened step backward. “What is this book?!”
Her brother grinned. “Something I’m hoping you’ll read one day.” He flipped back to the title page, where an ornately printed plate bore three words.
The Complete Zohar.
Although Katherine had never read the Zohar, she knew it was the fundamental text of early Jewish mysticism, once believed so potent that it was reserved only for the most erudite rabbis.
Katherine eyed the book. “You’re saying the early mystics knew their universe had ten dimensions?”
“Absolutely.” He motioned to the page’s illustration of ten intertwined circles called Sephiroth. “Obviously, the nomenclature is esoteric, but the physics is very advanced.”
Katherine didn’t know how to respond. “But . . . then why don’t more people study this?”
Her brother smiled. “They will.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Katherine, we have been born into wonderful times. A change is coming. Human beings are poised on the threshold of a new age when they will begin turning their eyes back to nature and to the old ways . . . back to the ideas in books like the Zohar and other ancient texts from around the world. Powerful truth has its own gravity and eventually pulls people back to it. There will come a day when modern science begins in earnest to study the wisdom of the ancients . . . that will be the day that mankind begins to find answers to the big questions that still elude him.”
That night, Katherine eagerly began reading her brother’s ancient texts and quickly came to understand that he was right. The ancients possessed profound scientific wisdom. Today’s science was not so much making “discoveries” as it was making “rediscoveries.” Mankind, it seemed, had once grasped the true nature of the universe . . . but had let go . . . and forgotten.
Modern physics can help us remember! This quest had become Katherine’s mission in life—to use advanced science to rediscover the lost wisdom of the ancients. It was more than academic thrill that kept her motivated. Beneath it all was her conviction that the world needed this understanding . . . now more than ever.