In both the mythological and the astro-physical models the most fundamental common feature characterizing our universe is the fact that it is out of balance, that we are children of a broken symmetry. We exist because something went awry at the moment of creation. This is the original sin that is responsible for our existence. Something, we do not know what, exploded, or to be more accurate, started expanding. A recent scientific hypotheses, based on principles of quantum mechanics, claim that the Big-Bang originated from a vacuum, assuming that "virtual" quantum particles exist in a vacuum in a state of chaos. Considering this, it seems that the concept that something can be created out of nothing is not so bizarre and is also scientifically quite sound. We do not know what happened at the first instant of creation, but we are on much safer ground a very short while after. The expansion of space that started with the Big-Bang produced particles of matter and of anti-matter which, on their first meeting, immediately annihilated each other, generating in the process a great burst of radiation. At this stage the universe was a sea of light, the light of the Biblical first day or the Orphic golden egg. And here, at this stage, a catastrophe happened. For some reason, unknown to us, not all the parts of matter could find their anti-matter siblings, some missed the meeting with their counterparts and lived to tell the tale. Not all matter was annihilated. It seems that an error of one part in a billion accounts for the origin of our universe. All that lives on the surface of the planet exists because the universe is out of kilter. Because the universe is continually striving to reach equilibrium, it is in perpetual motion. Out of this movement we emerged, ever seeking to restore the intended primordial balance, to return to the `Golden Age’ when the bright light of annihilated siblings glowed on the face of the universe.
I call this paper ‘silent pleasure’, a term borrowed from Lewis Thomas who in his last book speaks about something that was discovered exactly 40 years ago, namely: that in the brains of all vertebrates there are what used to be called "pleasure centers", unrelated to any drive or physical need, just giving immense pleasure when activated by electrodes stuck in their medial forebrains. When given the opportunity, rats, monkeys and other creatures went on turning on the electrodes as frequently as 10,000 times per hour, sacrificing sleep, food and water, stimulating themselves until totally exhausted and near dying. This discovery led to very intensive research that lasted for about 20 years until the phenomenon got a more scientific name ICSS (for Intracranial Self Stimulation) but the research was more or less neglected. After all, who wants to spend a life time researching something called ICSS, watching other creatures enjoying themselves to death?
In Celebration of Imperfection
Ruminating over the topic of this panel: Spirituality and Religion or Is Science Relevant?, I started thinking of quite a few possible openings. For a moment I felt like a person who had just fallen into a room full of beautiful girls and could not decide which one to accost. Then I remembered the story about the two bulls who while walking in the fields came upon a herd of beautiful cows. The Young one got excited and yelled: "let’s run and catch one", to which the old bull answered: "let’s go slowly and get them all". I will follow the advice of the old bull and for the sake of this paper I will put on a persona, that is, a mask, and pretend to be an intellectual. As such I will be eligible for the privilege of not having to decide, and will be able to share with you at least some of the openings that came to my mind. "I will put on a mask and pretend to be something else"…I seem to be saying that if the way to man’s heart is through his belly, the way to get your attention is through the illusional world of the "make believe". So, with these magic words of "make believe", welcome to a talk about the mystique of science and religion.
When last year it was suggested that the topic for this meeting will be The Self and the Whole I gladly endorsed it. After all, I always enjoyed talking about my-self. Thus, when sometime later Dr. Shear called and inquired about the title of my paper I thought about the age old adage: As above so below, and decided to call my paper: As Inside So Outside, with a question mark! I thought that I would speak a bit about the Socratic concept of recollection, throw in a tidbit of Jewish Kabbalah, add something from the new research about the mind, mix it all in a more or less intelligent way, remember to make a reservation for a room in the hotel and I am sure to have a nice time. But then, I started having second thoughts.