Q: What do Purim and St. Patrick’s Day have in common this year?
A: They are the same day that the Big Bang became for real.
At least that is the point of a spectacular announcement made by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics this past Monday, March 17th. The event made headlines all over the world, and Dr. Alan Guth, an MIT physicist, the father of an until-now unproven theory called inflation, became famous. As the New York Times put it,
“On Monday, Dr. Guth’s starship came in. Radio astronomers reported that they had seen the beginning of the Big Bang, and that his hypothesis, known undramatically as inflation, looked right.” (“Space Ripples Reveal Big Bang’s Smoking Gun,” NYTimes online, March 17, 2014.)
The Race Was Won Before the Starting Gun
Yet who is going to tell Dr. Guth and his beaming associates that the Theory of Inflation was explained and developed in great depth hundreds of years before he was born?
Turns out the full-fledged Theory of Inflation is:
1. Far more developed than Guth’s idea;
2. Practically unknown, having never been published in English;
3. More than 450 years old.
Enter the Original Theory of Inflation
That’s right. You’re hearing this for the first time. The Original Theory of Inflation was developed by a 16th century metaphysicist named Isaac Luria, and faithfully written down by his chief student, Chaim Vital. Vital’s book of Luria’s teachings is called “The Tree of Life”, and in its most recent printing, is a massive treatise 462 pages long that traces, among other things, the spawning and development of the cosmos since the beginning of time.
Here is what “The Tree of Life” has to say about the formation of the universe:
“KNOW that before all the emanations were emanated, and all the creations created, there existed a supreme, simple light that filled all of reality. There was no place vacant, from the standpoint of empty air, or space; rather everything was filled with that simple light with no end. ( …)
Then, the endlessness contracted itself from the central point that was directly in the middle of its light, and the light contracted and was distanced to the sides surrounding the central point. Then, there remained a vacant place, an empty vacuum space, from the middle point itself. And this contraction was equidistant around that central empty point, in a manner such that that empty place was spherical, from all of its sides in complete equality.
(…) Now there existed a place in which there could come into existence the emanations and the creations and the formations and the constructs.” (The Tree of Life, p. 22)
Compare that with what the Times article explains to us laymen about the meaning of Guth’s theory:
“From our position in the Milky Way galaxy, we can observe a sphere — the visible universe — extending 14 billion light-years in every direction. But there’s a mystery. Wherever we look, the universe has an even temperature. (…) Inflation solves this problem. The theory proposes that, less than a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang, the universe expanded faster than the speed of light.”
In Luria’s original theory, there is no problem with equal temperature, because the spherical universe from the very beginning was created equally from all sides.
It turns out that modern astrophysicists are literally poking around in the dark. One of the things they wonder, without any real answer, is: is our universe the only one out there? As the New York Times article explains,
“Moreover, beyond our own universe there might be an endless number of other universes bubbling into frothy eternity, like a pot of pasta water boiling over.”
However, this is dealt with matter-of-factly in Luria’s narrative:
“Know that there is in this emanation [the first instance of time/space emerging within the great sphere described above] numbers of worlds without end, though this is not the time for their explanation …” (The Tree of Life, page 24).
Alas, this is all just the tip of the cosmic iceberg, or rather endless numbers of icebergs, as described in detail in Vital’s ancient book.
Isn’t it time that the world’s physicists, before they spend yet one more trillion dollars operating their radio telescopes and particle accelerators on the ground and in space, take a look at the full theory published with such care centuries ago? They might find what they need to know long before they flip a single switch of a vast telescope system or miles-long atom smasher.