Let us for a moment consider the convergence of the view of modern physics with that of ancient mystics worldwide. This topic has become very popular and many books have been written about it.
Both physics and mysticism come to the same conclusion, namely, ‘if there is any ultimate stuff of the physical universe, it is pure energy.’ However, how does this pure energy conspires to create everything in the universe?
The world of science is rapidly merging into the world of mysticism, as scientists are expanding their understanding to grasp the unavoidable truth that reality is not divided, but is in fact, a unified whole.
It seems reasonable and plausible that there was something like a Big Bang. In addition, if so we can in all fairness ask what the boundaries between physics and metaphysics are and what came before the Big Bang?
Physicists define the boundaries of physics by trying to describe them theoretically and then testing that description against observation. Our observed expanding Universe is very well described by ‘flat space’, with critical density supplied mainly by dark matter and a cosmological constant that should expand forever.
If we follow this model backwards in time to when the Universe was very hot and dense, and dominated by radiation, then we have to understand the particle physics that happens at such high densities of energy.
Our present understanding of experimental particle physics starts to breakdown after the energy scale of electroweak unification, and theoretical physicists have to reach for models of particle physics beyond the Standard Model, to Grand Unified Theories, super-symmetry, string theory and quantum cosmology.
Firstly, M-theory looks at ‘events before the Big Bang’. To understand M-theory (also known as U-theory or String theory), we can think of a guitar string that has been tuned by stretching the string under tension across the guitar. Depending on how the string is plucked and how much tension (energy) is in the string, different musical notes (vibrations) will be created by the string. These musical notes could be said to be ‘excitation modesof that guitar string under tension’. Remember everything in the universe is vibration (i.e. Spirit?).
I.e. Spirit --> Consciousness --> Vibration --> Pure Energy (or maybe Pure Energy leads to Vibration)
In a similar manner, in string theory, the elementary particles physicists observe in particle accelerators could be thought of as the ‘musical notes’ or excitation modes of elementary strings.
In string theory, as in guitar playing, the string must be stretched under tension in order to become excited.
String theory leads us to consider the three Gunas of Hindu philosophy.
Although the doctrine of the three Gunas of Maya (Sanskrit: ‘Illusion’), or Prakriti (Sanskrit: ‘Nature’) may be implicit in the Upanishads (700-500 BCE), it was developed earlier, principally by Samkhayan philosophers and subsequently by Sankara (circa 700-750 CE), the most renowned exponent of the AdvaitaVedantaSchool of philosophy.
Gunas are the three constituent ‘forces’ (vibrations?) of the universe. They are wave-like principles or modes, which pervades the whole of creation. The three Gunas, in Sanskrit, are Sattva (roughly equivalent to ‘harmony’), Rajas (roughly equivalent to ‘activity’), and Tamas (roughly equivalent to ‘inertia’).
Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas are not substances (matter-energy), forces, qualities, or properties in the usual sense of those terms. Since Gunas cannot exist on their own, but only as a triad, they cannot be any of the above.
Another meaning of the word Gunas is ‘thread’, ‘strand’, or ‘string’, as in a cord, rope, or guitar, which implies their interdependence in the ‘rope’ of Maya or Prakriti.
The Gunas are not qualities either, for of what would they be qualities? As the constituents of nature, they are not mere qualities of it, still less can they be qualities of God, for God has no qualities. Qualities are limitations. Whatever is red or male, for example, cannot be another colour or gender – and God is Absolute.
The three Gunas can only be described, however, particularly through their effect on the entities of nature which embody them.
According to the Hindu philosophies, everything except the transcendent Godhead (Brahman) is nature (Prakriti). The three Gunas thus constitute nature, even in its unmanifest form as the potentiality of all created things. For although unmanifest nature is completely undifferentiated, yet the Gunas as fundamental ‘forces’, ‘energies’, ‘string tension’, or ‘vibrations’ exist as its constituents in a state of equilibrium.
When the equilibrium is disturbed, they become manifest as threefold, and while they remain as such, disequilibrium continues. Hence when the potential of nature is realised in created entities, like humans, animals, plants, or minerals, it is always in a condition of change or movement. Nothing in nature stays precisely the same.
The physical world exhibits all three Gunas at any one time. Since they always exist in a state of disequilibrium, one is always predominant. This largely determines the character of the physical entity or event concerned.
Now, String theory in particle physics is a theory that attempts to merge quantum mechanics with Einstein’s general theory of relativity. The name string theory comes from the modelling of subatomic particles as tiny one-dimensional ‘string-like’ entities rather than the more conventional approach in which they are modelled as zero-dimensional point particles.
The theory envisions that a string undergoing a particular mode of vibration corresponds to a particle with definite properties such as mass and charge. In the 1980s, physicists realised that string theory had the potential to incorporate all four of nature’s forces – gravity, electromagnetism, strong force, and weak force – and all types of matter in a single quantum mechanical framework, suggesting that it might be the long-sought unified field theory.
While string theory is still a vibrant area of research that is undergoing rapid development, it remains a purely mathematical construct because it has yet to be observed in experimental observations as opposed the mystical observations.
The nearest prospect to the scientific strings and the Hindu Gunas that I can find in the Kabbalah is the concept of the three columns or pillars of the Tree of Life as well as the three mother letters in the Hebrew alphabet.
In the holy Hebrew Kabbalah the ten Sephiroth of the Tree of Life are organised into three different columns or gimel kavim (‘three lines’ in Hebrew).
Kether heads the central column of the tree, which is known metaphorically speaking as the ‘Pillar of Mildness’ and is associated with Hebrew letter Aleph, ‘the breath’, and the air element. It is a neutral one, a balance between the two opposing forces of male and female tendencies.
Chokmah heads the right column of the tree, metaphorically speaking the ‘Pillar of Mercy’, associated with the Hebrew letter Shin, the fire element, and the male aspect.
The left column is headed by Binah and is called the ‘Pillar of Severity.’ It is associated with Hebrew letter Mem, the water element and the female aspect.
The Sepher Yetzirah (Hebrew: ‘The Book of Formation’) dating from somewhere between year 200 and 600, is perhaps the most important cabbalistic text. It describes how the world is being created in terms of the ten Sephiroth and 22 Hebrew letters.
It divides the Hebrew letters into three groupings: Three ‘mother’ letters corresponding to three elements Air, Water and Fire, seven ‘double’ letters corresponding to the ‘old’ planets, and finally twelve ‘simple’ letters corresponding to the signs of the astrological Zodiac.
The three mother letters, Aleph (Air), Mem (Water) and Shin (Fire) form the basic coordinates of the created universe. Each of the mother letters preside over a triad of Sephiroth related to its element.
The seven double letters related to the planets all have two pronunciations, one hard and one soft. They represent opposing factors affecting us in incarnation, like the planets.
The simple letters symbolically correspond to the Signs of the Zodiac, our organs and everyday activities.
In Chapter 3 of the Sepher Yetzirah it is stated that, “Three Mothers: Aleph, Mem, and Shin. The product of Fire is the Heavens, the product of Air is Air, and the product of Water is Earth. Fire is above, Water is below, and Air tips the balance between them. From them the Fathers are generated and from them, everything is created.
“Three Mothers: Aleph, Mem, and Shin are in the universe: Air, Water and Fire. Heavens were created first from Fire, Earth was created from Water, Air was created from Air and it tips the balance between them.
“Three Mothers: Aleph, Mem, and Shin are in the year: Cold, Heat and Temperate‑state. Heat was created from Fire, Cold was created from Water, Temperate‑state was created from Air and it tips the balance between them.
“Three Mothers: Aleph, Mem, and Shin are in the body of male and female. Head, Belly and Chest: Head was created from Fire, Belly was created from Water, Chest was created from Air and it tips the balance between them.”
The three letters of Aleph (ALP) enumerate to 111, and mean ‘ox’ in Hebrew.
In ancient cultures, the ox that pulled the plough was a supreme symbol of the fertilising force of creation. As the plough penetrates and aerates the soil, so the breath of life penetrates and vivifies all of creation. The air of Aleph is more than just the atmosphere that surrounds the earth – it is the Life-Force (i.e. vibration), the Prana of the Hindus, the active ingredient that makes the Holy Spirit holy.
The three letters of Mem (MYM) enumerate to 90, and mean ‘water’ in Hebrew. It also suggests all things liquid, especially the life-giving or life-supporting fluids, such as blood, semen, or even beer and wine.
The three letters of Shin (ShYN) enumerate to 360, and mean ‘tooth’ in Hebrew. If Aleph is the active ingredient of the Holy Spirit, Shin is the Holy Spirit. Shin represents both the element fire and the Spirit itself.
Scientific and mystical problems are always expressed in the language available at the time. Scientists use advanced mathematics, and so far, the 21st-century’s best expression of the mystics’ intuition about life and creation still utilises the vibrant language of poetry and art.