What Everything is Made Of, Part 3: Kabbalah of Information

Part III: Kabbalah of information
You can read Part 1 here, and Part 2 here

Based on the arguments presented in parts I and II of this article, I consider it justified to interpret Kabbalah’s concept of “light” as information.

This theory is described in detail in my book From Infinity to Man. The purpose of this and the following parts of the article is to briefly explain the development routes of the Kabbalah of information.

With 32 mystical paths of Wisdom
engraved Yah
the Lord of Hosts
the God of Israel
the Living God
King of the Universe
El Shaddai
Merciful and Gracious
High and Exalted
Dwelling in Eternity
Whose name is Holy –
He is lofty and holy –
And He created His universe
with three books (sefarim),
with text (sefer),
with number (sefar)
and with communication (sipur).

In my view, this quote from the foundational kabbalistic work Sefer Yetzirah further confirms the idea that the concept of “information” is at the heart of the divine creation process. In this passage, Sefer Yetzirah describes G-d creation of the world as having been executed by “text, number, and communication. Letters and numbers represent information code, and communication is a way to transmit information.

Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, in his commentary to Sefer Yetzirah, expressed similar views on information communication. Note that in the quote above, the names of God are provided in order from top to bottom consistent with the order of the sefirot, and then from the bottom up. This, in my view, confirms that the circulation of information is one of the key prerequisites for the existence of Creation. 

Given the above, Creation can be regarded as a hierarchy of informational worlds with a continuous circulation of information. It’s important to note that the light radiated in the process of the tzimtzum contained information about the entire creation in general, and the first thing that was created after tzimtzum was adam kadmon (“primordial man”), from which the following informational worlds and realities were created, the last of which is adam ha-rishon (“the first man”). This subject is discussed in more detail in the author’s above-mentioned book. 

Now let us briefly discuss the key ideas behind the development of what I would refer to as the Kabbalah of information.

  1. Sefirah — an area in information space which contains a “vessel” (information) about the manifestations of the Almighty (kindness, judgement etc.) and “light” – information about the Almighty
  2. Divine Utterances — informational commands
  3. Commandments — informational instructional commands
  4. Torah — information about Creation and its main functions
  5. Blessings — informational channels
  6. Prayer — informational appeal to the Almighty
  7. Soul — the informational structure, created in a likeness of the structure of the informational worlds

I would like to point to the fact that the divine utterances and the Torah are the perfect examples of what is called in the modern theory of information “data compression.” The divine utterances are extremely concise.  For example, the divine utterance, “Let it be light!” contains a huge amount of information. Volumes of commentaries exist regarding that utterance. The same applies to the other utterances. 

The concepts of “space” and “time” deserve a separate discussion. There is an opinion that the concept of space as we understand it does not exist in higher informational worlds (Atziluth, Beri’ah, Yetzirah).  It’s not possible to review this subject in detail in this article, so I am only going to provide a few basic points.

The concept of space does not have a clear definition in modern science. Isaac Newton proposed the idea of an absolute space which can be described figuratively as a container filled with matter and energy. He called this space, “God’s sensorium.” Aristotle believed that there was no space without contents — matter and energy. In his special relativity theory, Einstein combined the concepts of “space” and “time.”  In Einstein’s general theory of relativity, space essentially means a gravitational field. All the above theories mentioned viewed space as a continuum. The theory of loop quantum gravity, which has not yet been verified by experiments, states that space and time are discrete. The prominent philosopher Immanuel Kant (1) considered space as an external aspect of our perception of the world; time as an internal aspect.  

My own belief is that space in our world can be interpreted as the degree of information exchange. We cross distances in order to obtain information. We use conventional units of measurement to measure space (centimeters, meters, parsecs, light years), but subjective concepts that are important to us are “near” and “far.” 

From the point of view of tactile informational exchange, a distance of two meters is “far away.” From the point of view of audio informational exchange, twenty meters is “far away.” From the point of view of visual exchange, one kilometer is “far away.” From the point of view of informational exchange using electromagnetic waves (maximum speed dissemination of the information), light years are “far away.” 

I would posit that the higher “worlds” or realms of Creation (which exist beyond our physical universe) also have a space of information exchange. The metric of that space is the “chain” of levels of concealment of information about the Almighty called “the hishtalshelut” in Kabbalah) which extends from the tzimtzum to the lowest kelipot (“husks” of concealment that denote the state of evil). Thus, there is a correlation between the position of the informational substance and the degree of the concealment of the information about the Almighty. Only a human soul can change its position in the information space of higher worlds.  It’s also important to note that that concealment of information about the Almighty is conducted by means of gradually presenting other information — about the sefirot, angels, the world around us, etc.

From this point of view, elementary particles (electrons, protons, neutrons, etc.) and the forces that bind them can also be considered informational programs embedded by the Almighty during the creation. We will discuss it in more detail in the following part of our article. 

Time

As mentioned above, the tzimtzum generates a temporal succession which Kabbalah calls seder zmanim (“order of time”). This concept can be interpreted as follows:

Temporal succession in Creation manifests itself as pulsations of information, from the source to environment and back. Since we are created after the image and likeness of God, our informational interaction with the environment occurs by means of informational pulsations. We receive information from the environment, analyze it, act, and therefore give information back to the environment.

Interestingly enough, scientists encountered the problem of “pulsations” when creating programs for robots. They’ve called this a “frame program.” Here’s what it means. When a robot performs a certain action as per the program embedded in it, it makes a countless number of changes to the environment. Therefore, in order to perform the next action, the program embedded in the robot has to be able to analyze the changes that have been made to the environment due to the first action, make the right decision, and perform a new action. In practice, however, it’s impossible to account for all the changes due to resource limitations and the speed of the computer.  That’s why “frame program” means asking the following questions: which changes have to be accounted for, how to react to these changes, and which changes can be disregarded?

Part IV

Kabbalah of information and science

The concept of information is not new to our lives. 

Pythagoreans believed that the entire universe was made up of numbers, i.e. information. Later on, information was associated with Plato’s theory of forms, which claimed that everything in our world had a corresponding “form” and “idea” that were aspatial and atemporal and which exists in the world of forms and ideas. For example, different horses in our world had one corresponding idea (or form) of “horse” in the world of ideas and forms. Plato (2) believed that everything that existed and took place in our world could be measured by numbers. In that sense he was a successor of the Pythagoreans. Therefore, Plato linked forms and ideas, i.e. information, to numbers, i.e. mathematics.  

It should also be noted that contemporary mathematicians also fall into two categories — Platonists and formalists. Platonists believe there is a world of mathematical ideas that we are able to discover. Formalists claim that mathematics is a human invention. Supporters of Platonism include Kurt Gödel (3), one of the greatest 20th century scientists in the field of mathematical logic, and Roger Penrose (4), one of the most prominent contemporary mathematicians. In his book Shadows of the Mind, Penrose writes that, “Plato’s world is an ideal world of perfect forms, distinct from the physical world, but in terms of which the physical world must be understood. It also lies beyond our imperfect mental constructions; yet, our minds do have some direct access to this Platonic realm through an ‘awareness’ of mathematical forms, and our ability to reason about them.” 

 Aristotle, Plato’s student, rejected his theory of forms, but at the same time he believed that in order to understand any object, one required information about that object. Specifically, this included knowledge about the form and the structure of the object described in numbers.

Nowadays, scientists are adopting the opinion that information is the foundation of our reality and have essentially reached a consensus on this subject. The pioneer of the idea that information is the basis of our reality was one of the greatest physicists of the 20th century, John Archibald Wheeler, whom we have already mentioned in the first part of this article.

Part V 

Kabbalah of information and structural realism

The way that modern science views reality can be divided into several movements: scientific realism, anti-realism (skepticism), and structural realism. Supporters of scientific realism insist that we have to believe in unobservable physical entities postulated by our most successful scientific theories. Otherwise, they say, only a miracle can explain the success of modern science. 

Anti-realists claim that we do not need to believe in unobservable entities, because scientific development is all about abandoning old theories and replacing them with new ones (the meta-induction argument).

In 1989, John Worrall (5) presented his theory of structural realism, which aimed at reconciling the opinions of realists and anti-realists.  Worrall’s main idea was that one should not accept the views of realists who insisted that the nature of unobservable objects could be correctly described by the best scientific theories, but he also does not agree with the arguments of anti-realists. Worrall believes that we need to only focus on structural realism, which states that mathematical and structural content remains unaltered despite changing theories. In his work, Worrall named several supporters of structural realism. These include the outstanding mathematician Henri Poincaré (6); Arthur Eddington (7), the scientist who proved Einstein’s theory of general relativity by experiment; Hermann Weyl (8), one of the most prominent physicists of the 20th century; and the philosopher Bertrand Russell.

Structural realism suggests that scientific theories tell us about the form and the structure of an object under observation, but not about its nature. It echoes the ideas of the great philosopher Immanuel Kant on how in observing an object, we can see the result of its interaction with us but not its true nature (“thing-in-itself”). Therefore, the true nature of things is either uncognizable, or it doesn’t exist, and the only things that exist are form and structure (i.e., information). 

Henri Poincaré said that abandoned past theories correctly determined the true correlation between objects, whose nature has hidden from human eyes forever.

This movement is called epistemological (descriptive and structural) realism, the main idea of which can be described as follows: we cannot know the individualities that determine the structure of the world, but we do know their properties and relationships.  This was followed by the theory of ontic structural realism (ontic is a basic quality of the reality, not a description). The idea of ontic structural realism can be described as follows: there is no individuality, there are only structures.

The theory of structural realism is quite vast and cannot be reviewed in its entirety within the framework of this article, so we have only provided some key concepts. Having done so, we can now address the question raised by Saadia Gaon in his criticism of the sophists (which we have presented in Part I of this article). What is objective and what is relative?

Max Born (9), one of the founders of quantum mechanics, viewed reality as the invariant nature of structure regardless of other aspects. “The idea of invariant is the clue to a rational concept of reality, not only in physics but in every aspect of the world.”

Arthur Eddington, for his part, wrote: “What can I know? The structure.” The key idea of Einstein’s general theory of relativity was based on the concept of general covariance, which means that any models of space and time obtained as a result of certain transformations are equivalent to one another.

Mathematical category theory is also crucial to the ideas of structural realism. Here is what it entails: A category is viewed as a range of abstract elements called category objects. So-called morphisms determine the rules of transformations between some elements into others. For example, an identity morphism turns an object into itself. Category theory and its branch, group theory, play a huge role in modern mathematics and physics. 

In terms of category theory, the idea of structural realism is that different representations of physical structure can be transformed into one another, and such transformations involve an invariant state, which is objective for us. 

The use of the category theory paved the way for some important discoveries in quantum physics and other areas of science. In fact, structural realism eliminates the difference between physics and mathematics.

Part VI: Invariants of Kabbalah of information

Given all of the above, it would be interesting to review the structure of Creation described in Kabbalah to see if it contains any invariants.

The structures of the “tree of sefirot” of the world Atziluth  and the of the worlds Beri’ah, Yetzirah and Assiah identical, i.e., invariant.  The process of change in the structure of the sefirot of the above-mentioned worlds can be described in the terms of the category theory, through transformations related to the level of information concealment about the Almighty.

For instance, the sefirah of Chokhmah of the world Beri’ah is different from the sefirah of Chokhmah of the world Yetzirah, because they are located in different information spaces with different levels of information concealment about the Almighty. Similarly, there is a difference between the Chokhmah of the world Yetzirah and that of the world of Assiah. It’s important to note that according to kabbalists, our soul has the structure of the tree of the sefirot invention reportand is therefore a structural invariant. Note that it implies an identical structure, not completely identical souls.

Based on all of the above, I find it it reasonable to conclude that Kabbalah of information is an objective representation of the structure of Creation and of our reality in particular.

Conclusion

Any theory that explains existing facts is a good theory. But a theory that in addition to explaining existing facts also provides true predictions, is better theory. This raises a question: What kind of predictions with regards to the structure of our world can Kabbalah of information offer? 

One of the key differences between Kabbalah and science is the fact that science only studies our universe, whereas Kabbalah encompasses the entire Creation, of which our universe is the only one of its parts. 

Therefore, science explores the interaction between the elements of our universe, while Kabbalah also studies their interaction with the source and informational prototypes. Based on the above and on the idea of Kabbalah of information, we can put forward the following ideas and make the following predictions:

  1. The entire reality of our physical world can be described in terms of the Kabbalah of information.
  2. Time is asymmetrical. Here is what that means: none of the existing physical theories exclude the possibility of reversed flow of time, although such process has never been observed during an experiment. There are a number of retrocausal theories, including that of Wheeler—Feynman, but they have not been proven experimentally. As of now, there are no proven explanations of the asymmetry of time. Attempts have been made to explain the asymmetry of time from the point of view of the second law of thermodynamics, but they lack an actual scientific explanation and are therefore disputable. 
  3. Space and time are discrete, i.e., there are tiny indivisible particles of space and time.
  4. By means of the theory of informational prototypes, the Kabbalah of information can provide an explanation for the famous problem of measurements in quantum mechanics, as well as for the phenomenon of quantum entanglement.
  5. The Kabbalah of information can explain the role of symmetry and asymmetry in our physical world. 
  6. The Kabbalah of information can explain the so-called “hard problem of consciousness”, which is the question of how physical impulses in the neurons of the human brain produce abstract thoughts and feelings. The author, G-d willing, will provide his thoughts and detailed explanations on this matter in future articles.
  7. The Kabbalah of information can explain the reasons why Creation implies backward causation.
  8. The Kabbalah of information can also provide an explanation of the concept of “now” which has not been explained by modern science.
  9. The Kabbalah of information stands firmly on the position that our consciousness is not algorithmic, i.e., it cannot be presented in any kind of algorithm, regardless of the complexity.

Biographical Notes:
1. Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) — German philosopher, forefather of classical German philosophy
2. Plato (427–347) — ancient Greek philosopher, one of the founders of idealistic movement in philosophy
3. Kurt Gödel (1906–1978) — Austrian logician, mathematician, analytic philosopher. He is one of the masterminds of the 20th century
4. Roger Penrose (1931) — British physicist and mathematician, author of the twistor theory
5. John Worrall (1946) — professor of philosophy of science at the London School of Economics
6. Henri Poincaré (1854–1912) — prominent French mathematician, one of the last universal mathematicians who worked across different fields
7. Arthur Stanley Eddington (1882–1944) — British astrophysicist.
8. Hermann Weyl (1885–1955) — German mathematician and theoretical physicist
9. Max Born (1882–1970) — German and British mathematician and theoretical physicist. Winner of the 1954 Nobel Prize in Physics

About the Author
Eduard Shyfrin received a Ph.D. in metallurgy from the Moscow Institute of Steel and Alloys, and went on to found several businesses. He is a member of Chabad and his Torah commentaries have appeared on Chabad.org. He is the author of From Infinity to Man: The Fundamental Ideas of Kabbalah Within the Framework of Information Theory and Quantum Physics.
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