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Cosmology and the Big Bang

Cosmology and the Big Bang

A modern creation myth

Most cosmologists today believe that the universe we inhabit exploded into being some 15 billion years ago in a titanic fireball called the big bang. The modern big bang theory does not state that a concentrated lump of matter located at a particular point in space suddenly exploded, sending fragments rushing away at high speed, but that space itself came into being at the moment of the big bang. The birth of the universe is said to have happened in the following manner . In the beginning, a tiny bubble of spacetime, a billion-trillion-trillionth of a centimetre across (10-33 cm), popped spontaneously into existence out of nothing as the result of a random quantum fluctuation. It was seized by an intense anti-gravitational force which caused it to expand with explosive rapidity. In scarcely more than a billion-trillion-trillionth of a second the universe swelled to about 10 cm, the size of a grapefruit. The anti-gravitational force then disappeared, and the inflationary phase of accelerating expansion came to an abrupt halt amid a burst of heat. The heat energy and gravitational energy of expanding space then produced matter and, as the universe cooled, more and more structure began to 'freeze out' -- first nuclei, then atoms, and finally galaxies, stars, and planets.

Paul Davies and John Gribbin write: 'the big bang was the abrupt creation of the Universe from literally nothing: no space, no time, no matter. This is a quite extraordinary conclusion to arrive at -- a picture of the entire physical Universe simply popping into existence from nothing' . This theory is not just 'extraordinary' -- it is utterly absurd! If there was no space, matter, or energy before the hypothetical big bang, then there was obviously nothing to undergo a random fluctuation and nowhere for it to occur!

To avoid the illogical idea that the universe emerged from an infinitesimal point, or 'singularity', of infinite density and temperature, big bang cosmologists have invented the equally fanciful notion of a 'smeared-out singularity'. They claim that prior to 10-43 seconds after the big bang, when the universe measured 10-33 cm across, the distinction between space and time becomes blurred as a result of 'quantum fluctuations', so that an infinitesimal point can never form and the origin of the universe cannot be said to occur at a precise moment but is 'smeared out'.

Big bangers also theorize that if the universe contains sufficient matter, space should curve round upon itself so that the universe is 'closed' and finite but has no boundaries or edges. However, to get three-dimensional space to perform this remarkable contortion, advanced mathematical acrobatics are required! If the amount of matter in the universe is below the critical value, the universe is said to be 'open'; according to this scenario, although space popped into being a finite period ago and expands at a finite pace, it somehow, and probably instantly, became infinite -- and yet even though it is infinite it still manages to keep on expanding! We are told that a closed universe will eventually stop expanding and start to contract, culminating in a 'big crunch' in which it annihilates itself, leaving behind nothing -- no space and no matter. If, however, the universe is open, it will expand forever; eventually stars will burn out, matter will become utterly cold, all forces will fade out, and the universe will suffer a 'heat death'. Such are some of the claims made by the standard creation myth of modern science.

The big bang theory is based on three main pieces of observational evidence. Firstly, in the early decades of the century it was discovered that the light from distant galaxies is 'redshifted', i.e. the spectral lines are displaced towards the red or long-wavelength end of the spectrum as compared with similar spectra on earth. One possible explanation is that the galaxies are rushing apart at great speed and that the universe is expanding; from this it was inferred that the universe originated in a huge explosion. Secondly, the universe is filled with a uniform microwave radiation, which is claimed to be the faint echo of the big bang. Thirdly, the big bang theory is believed to explain the relative abundances of hydrogen, helium, and other light elements in the universe. Commenting on the evidence for the big bang, an editorial in the New Scientist stated: 'Never has such a mighty edifice been built on such insubstantial foundations' .

The nonexpanding universe

As a general rule, the spectral lines in the light from stars in our galaxy are redshifted if the stars are moving away from us and blueshifted if they are moving towards us, resulting from the stretching and compressing of light waves respectively (the Doppler shift). Since the light from all the galaxies, except for a few nearby ones, is redshifted, this could mean that the universe is expanding. The redshift of the light from distant galaxies increases with their apparent distance, as indicated by their reduced brightness or size. This is interpreted to mean that galaxies are moving apart at a velocity which also increases with distance, with the velocity of the furthest galaxies approaching closer and closer to the speed of light. In actual fact, the standard big bang theory does not say that galaxies are receding from one another through space, but that space itself is expanding, so that the gaps between the galaxies are stretching like a rubber sheet. Cosmologists frequently cite the analogy of a balloon with spots spread evenly over its surface; as the balloon expands, the spots 'move' further apart. The spots act like clusters of galaxies and the balloon like the structure of spacetime.

The reason the big bang is said to have been an explosion of space rather than an explosion in space is because an explosion of matter in preexisting space would have had a definite, measurable location. Since the redshift is interpreted to mean that everything is moving away from us and that the velocities of expansion are the same in all directions, this would mean that we would have to be situated at or close to the centre of the explosion. To avoid the conclusion that we are located in a special place in the universe, it is therefore claimed that space itself popped into being with the big bang and has expanded ever since, carrying the galaxies with it. As no expansion of space is observable within our own solar system or galaxy, big bangers simply assume that the stretching of space must be taking place between galaxy clusters and superclusters -- where it is safely beyond observational investigation. In this big bang model, the redshift is therefore not strictly speaking a Doppler effect, since the galaxies remain stationary while space itself expands. However, as we study other galaxies which lie closer to earth, the redshifts arising from the supposed stretching of space must at some point revert to normal Doppler shifts, in order to agree with the physics of motion as measured on earth. This weird theory suffers from a lack of logic as well as a lack of any supporting evidence.

One of the main alternative explanations of the redshift is the 'tired light' hypothesis, according to which the redshift is produced by light losing energy as it travels through space. One possibility is that light loses energy when it collides with dust particles in the intergalactic medium. However, to account for the whole of the observed redshifts, the intergalactic medium would have to be 100,000 times denser than has been observed locally. Another possibility is that light loses energy as it passes through the ether, a subtle medium pervading all space and forming the substratum of physical matter. Scientists used to believe that lightwaves propagated through an etheric medium, but the ether was abolished by mainstream science earlier this century in favour of the fiction of 'empty space'. To some extent, the ether is now making a comeback in the guise of the 'quantum vacuum' or 'zero-point field'.

The tired-light hypothesis has been proposed by several scientists, beginning in 1921 . It is ironic that the supposed expansion rate of the universe -- the 'Hubble constant' -- is named after Edwin Hubble, the discoverer of the redshift-distance relation, for he had serious doubts about the expanding-universe hypothesis and came to favour the tired-light model. Paul LaViolette and Tom Van Flandern have reviewed several observational tests of the different interpretations of the redshift, and show that the nonexpanding-universe interpretation explains the data much better than the expanding-universe hypothesis [2]. To bring the big bang model into line with observations, an increasing variety of ad-hoc assumptions and 'free parameters' (fudge factors) have to be introduced concerning the way the universe has evolved since its creation. Moreover, the adjustments made to enable the big bang theory to fit one set of data often undermine its fit on other kinds of cosmological tests, throwing the theory as a whole into confusion. Van Flandern concludes: 'despite the widespread popularity of the big bang model, even its most basic premise, the expansion of the universe, is of dubious validity, both observationally and theoretically.'

If extragalactic redshifts were caused purely by recession velocities, as in the big bang theory, or if they were caused purely by light losing energy as it travels through space, as in the tired-light theory, then redshifts should always be proportional to distance. However, there are numerous instances where galaxies at the same distance have very different redshifts -- which shows that other factors must be at work.

Groups of galaxies consist of a central galaxy orbited by companion galaxies. The redshift of the group as a whole is supposed to be caused by its recession velocity. However, the redshifts of the companion galaxies should be slightly higher or lower than that of their central galaxy due to their orbital velocity around it. And since, at any given time, about the same number of companion galaxies should be moving towards us as away from us in their orbital motion, we would expect about half to have slightly higher redshifts and half to have slightly lower redshifts. However, the redshifts of all 22 major companion galaxies in our Local Group and the next major group are systematically higher than that of the central galaxy. Since the probability of this occurring by chance is a mere 1 in 4 million, the logical conclusion is that companion galaxies have intrinsic, excess redshifts, and that their redshifts are not simply the result of velocity. The systematic redshift of companion galaxies has been confirmed in every group of galaxies tested. Halton Arp points out that the excess redshifts of companion galaxies were routinely announced in Nature magazine in 1970, when the significance was one part in a few thousand. But now that the evidence has grown to overwhelming proportions, there is little likelihood of the results and their implications being discussed in the major professional journals.

As Arp has demonstrated in great detail, excess redshifts are correlated with younger ages . Companion galaxies, for example, appear to be created in or near the centres of older galaxies and then expelled into their near neighbourhood. In galaxy clusters, too, smaller, younger galaxies have excess redshifts. In addition, it has been known since 1911 that the youngest, most luminous stars in our own galaxy have excess redshifts which generally increase with the relative youth of the stars. But obviously these hot, young stars cannot all be exploding away from us in every direction we look. As Arp says, if this empirical evidence had been heeded, the assumption that redshifts are purely a product of velocity would never have been made, and the conclusion that the universe was expanding would not have been promulgated to the public for some 70 years.

There are also many cases of low-redshift galaxies that are physically associated with high-redshift galaxies and quasars. The latter generally appear to have been ejected from the low-redshift galaxies, and here, too, Arp argues that their excess redshift is due mainly to their younger age. Pairs of ejected objects often line up on either side of active galaxies and are connected to their parent galaxy by luminous filaments ('umbilical cords'). However, establishment scientists insist that all such cases involve chance combinations of foreground and background objects, and they attribute the connecting filaments to 'noise' or 'instrument defects'. Big bangers therefore persist in their belief that the usually very high redshifts of quasars indicate that they are situated close to the edge of the visible universe, despite all the evidence that they are actually quite nearby.

To explain how redshift might be related to age, Arp and Jayant Narlikar suggest that instead of elementary particles having constant mass, as orthodox science assumes, they come into being with zero mass, which then increases, in steps, as they age. When electrons in younger atoms jump from one orbit to another, the light they emit is weaker, and therefore more highly redshifted, than the light emitted by electrons in older atoms. To put it another way: as particle mass grows, frequency (clock rate) increases and therefore redshift decreases.

A fierce struggle has been going on for many years between those who advocate a Hubble constant of about 50 and those who put its value at 70 to 80. The latter value gives an age of the universe which is younger than the age of about 17 billion years estimated for the oldest stars (which may itself be an underestimate!). Arp argues that the discrepancy in the values of the Hubble constant arises from the different ages (and intrinsic redshifts) of the galaxies measured by the two sides: the higher value is the result of observing higher-redshift, and therefore younger, objects, whereas the lower value relies more on measurements of local objects.

If the universe is expanding, redshifts should show a continuous range of values. Instead, however, they are quantized, i.e. they tend to be multiples of certain basic units, the main ones (expressed as speeds) being 72.4 km/s and 37.5 km/s . This discovery has inevitably met with fierce resistance from orthodox cosmologists as it is impossible to explain on the assumption that redshifts are caused by velocity. Not only is the universe as a whole not expanding; if galaxies were orbiting one another at the rapid speeds expected on the basis of Newton's or Einstein's theories of gravity, this, too, would destroy quantization and produce a continuous range of redshifts. But this is not what we observe: the redshifts often deviate from exact multiples of the basic units of redshift by only a few km/s. This implies that the individual members of galaxy groups and clusters are moving only very slowly in relation to one another, and that the visible universe is far more static than is generally believed. Arp suggests that redshift quantization could be due to episodes of matter creation taking place at regular intervals.

G. de Purucker rejected the theory proposed in 1927 by the Belgian priest and cosmologist, Georges Lemaître -- the father of the big bang -- who argued that the observable universe had expanded to its present size from a 'primeval atom'. The theory of an expanding universe, says Purucker, is 'purely imaginary', 'a scientific fairly-tale', and 'all wrong'. He wrote:

Occultism affirms that in all things both great and small, whether a universe, a sun, a human being, or any other entity, there is a constant secular cyclical diastole and systole, similar to that of the human heart. [This cosmic heartbeat] is nothing at all like the expanding universe. The framework or corpus of the universe, whether we mean by this term the galaxy or an aggregate of galaxies, is stable both in relative structure and form for the period of its manvantara [active lifetime] -- precisely as the human heart is, once it has attained its full growth and function.

Purucker argued that the redshift might be caused by light undergoing some form of retardation as it passes through the ether of space before reaching earth .

As LaViolette says, with the abandonment of the myth of the expanding universe, we can look out on a new cosmic landscape: 'Galaxies no longer rush away from us at incredible speeds, but instead float gently in the waters of the cosmos, like so many glittering lilies on a vast lake' .

The microwave background

The microwave background radiation, which was discovered in 1964, has a temperature of 2.73 degrees kelvin. Big bang theorists had earlier predicted a microwave temperature of 28 degrees kelvin left over from the big bang. This represents a ten-thousand-fold error in estimating the energy density of this background radiation, which varies as the fourth power of temperature. Static, tired-light models, on the other hand, predicted values around 2.8 K. Moreover, the big bang theory predicts that there should also be a cosmic background radiation at infrared wavelengths, but no signs of its existence have ever been found.

In a universe expanding faster at each further distance observed, the 2.7-K black-body energy curve of the background radiation would be smeared out unrecognizably. Therefore, one must only observe a single, thin shell. In the big bang model, it is assumed this is the shell at which radiation decoupled from matter some 300,000 years after the big bang. However, the extreme uniformity of the microwave background radiation indicates that matter in the early big-bang universe must have been distributed incredibly smoothly -- which makes it extremely difficult to explain how the universe ended up being so clumpy. In April 1992 it was announced that NASA's Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite had found tiny fluctuations or 'ripples' in the background radiation. However, these temperature variations are much too vast in extent to be the ancestors of the galaxies and clusters observed today, and are less than a hundred-thousandth of a degree -- far too minuscule to act as the seeds for structures to form from. So although COBE's findings were welcomed by big bang theorists, they 'simultaneously relegated most of cosmologists' specific models for the formation of the universe to the trash bin' .

In a nonexpanding universe an obvious and much simpler explanation of the microwave background is that we are seeing the temperature of the underlying intergalactic medium. If all the observed helium were produced in stars, the energy released would be just the right amount to generate the microwave background. To smooth out large variations and leave only the tiny fluctuations seen by COBE, the radiation would have to be scattered by a process of absorption and reemission. One suggestion is that this could be done by high-energy electrons spiralling around magnetic field lines in intergalactic space. The existence of such a plasma filament fog between the galaxies is backed up by other observational evidence. If it does exist, it would rule out a big bang origin for the microwave background since it would produce distortions in the black-body spectrum of a microwave background resulting from a big bang, but no such distortions have been observed .

Another claim made for the big bang is that it can account for the origin and abundances of certain light elements. However, observations show that there is less helium and far less deuterium and lithium in the universe than the theory predicts. By altering the assumed value for the density of matter in the universe, the amount of helium or deuterium or lithium can be accounted for -- but never all three at the same time.

Large-scale structure

While big bang cosmologists are extremely good at concocting highly speculative and untestable mathematical theories about what was happening during the first few microseconds after the big bang, they have been spectacularly less successful in explaining the large-scale structure of the universe that we observe today. The microwave background radiation is supposed to be the afterglow of the big bang. However, all the hypothetical steps leading from this radiation to the development of normal, full-sized galaxies are currently missing from the observations. The big bang theory predicts that all galaxies formed within a relatively short period, and should all be between 10 and 15 billion years old, but surveys have found evidence of much younger galaxies. The most distant galaxies ought to consist solely of very young stars, but their spectra provide no evidence for this. Furthermore, extremely distant galaxies have been discovered that apparently formed long before the big bang universe could have cooled sufficiently.

Each time astronomers acquire more powerful telescopes allowing them to see deeper into space, they discover new scales of structure: first it was galaxies, then clusters of galaxies, then superclusters of galaxies, then in 1986 came the discovery of supercluster complexes -- huge sheets of galaxies stretching over a billion light-years of space, separated by enormous voids. The largest of these megagalactic structures stretch for nearly half the radius of the visible universe, and their discovery has filled big bangers with dismay, for no version of the big bang had predicted the existence of such colossal structures. By measuring the speeds at which galaxies move today and the distance they would have travelled to form such structures, it has been estimated that it would have taken at least 100 billion years to build these complexes -- 7 to 10 times the age assigned to the universe by the big bang theory. It is possible that matter moved much faster in the past and later slowed down, but this deceleration would have distorted the spectrum of the microwave background to a degree that has not been observed .

In their efforts to explain the large-scale structure of the universe, big bang cosmologists invoke gravity in conjunction with their latest fad: dark matter. Most dark matter is believed to consist of as yet undiscovered physical particles (WIMPs, or weakly interacting massive particles) and hypothetical flaws in the fabric of spacetime (such as one-dimensional cosmic strings) left over from the big bang. Dark matter is thought to be concentrated around galaxies in vast halos, with just the right amounts in just the right places. Cold dark matter models are unable to accurately simulate the structure of the universe on both galactic and multigalactic scales simultaneously, and attempts to solve the problem by adding a bit of hot dark matter (such as massive, fast-moving neutrinos) have not proven successful. Some big bang theorists are now pinning their hopes on a revival of the 'cosmological constant', a cosmic repulsion force whose existence is still largely hypothetical -- which enables them to assign it whatever value suits them best!

According to the popular 'inflationary' model of the big bang, the universe underwent a very brief period of accelerated expansion (many times faster than light) in the first split second after the big bang. This ad-hoc model was first proposed in 1980 to explain the smoothness of the microwave background radiation and to solve a number of other problems. The model dictates that the matter in the universe must have a certain critical density, and since the density of visible matter is only a fraction of this value, many big bang theorists conclude that dark matter must make up 99% of the mass of the universe. There is no observational evidence for such a huge quantity of dark matter. It is theorized that this large mass density should cause space to curve back on itself so that the universe is closed and finite, but no real evidence for the slightest curvature of space has ever been found .

Observational evidence leads most astronomers to conclude that up to 90% of the mass of the universe consists of dark matter. In our solar system, the orbital speed of planets declines with increasing distance from the sun, so that the solar system has a falling 'rotation curve'. However, many galaxies have flat rotation curves, and the anomalously high speeds are attributed to the gravitational effect of large quantities of unseen matter. Observations of the speed with which galaxies move in groups and clusters are also interpreted as evidence of dark matter.

However, some scientists have interpreted the evidence in other ways that do not require the existence of any new, exotic forms of physical matter. As far as galaxy rotation curves are concerned, some scientists propose a modification of the inverse-square law of gravity [4], and others invoke the operation of galactic-scale electromagnetic forces .
Another approach questions whether the outer parts of galaxies (including our own Milky Way) really are rotating anomalously fast. The only evidence for such fast rotation is the altered frequencies of light, which are interpreted as Doppler shifts caused by receding or approaching motions as seen from earth. An alternative interpretation of the spectroscopic data is that the altered frequencies are caused by particles in the outer parts of galaxies having slightly different masses (and therefore clock rates) than those closer to the centre. H.R. Drew writes: 'Such a gradient of energy or frequency is well-known in biology, and is usually called a "developmental gradient", as seen across the widths of growing embryos.' The same may be true of any highly organized system of matter, including a growing galaxy.

As far as galactic motions in groups and clusters are concerned, the fact that companion galaxies have excess redshifts and that their redshifts are quantized proves conclusively that they are not simply velocities. Redshift quantization indicates that the orbital velocities of galaxies must be less than 20 km/s otherwise the periodicity would be washed out. Once this is recognized, the need for dark matter vanishes.

Alternative cosmologies

The big bang hypothesis clearly has serious shortcomings, and it is therefore important for all the alternatives to be considered with an open mind. Unfortunately the big bang has become an article of faith for a great many scientists; in 1951 it even received the blessing of Pope Pius XII! Geoffrey Burbidge points out that astronomical textbooks no longer treat cosmology as an open subject, and that cosmologists are often intolerant of departures from the big bang faith . Researchers who question the prevailing orthodoxy tend to find it more difficult to obtain access to funding and equipment and to get their articles published. In the early 1980s Halton Arp was denied telescope time at Mt. Wilson and Palomar observatories because he had found evidence that was very embarrassing to the big bang establishment; he was told that his observing programme was 'worthless'. Since then, his requests for time on other major ground-based and space telescopes have frequently been rejected.

There are several rival cosmological theories, though they tend to receive little publicity [2]. Arp is one of a growing number of scientists who are returning to the idea of an infinite, eternal universe, subject to constant transformations . He argues that redshift anomalies prove that we live in a nonexpanding universe, and that the redshift of extragalactic objects is caused primarily by the tendency of particle mass (and time-counting rate) to increase with age, and only secondarily by light losing energy on its journey through space. The reason all the more distant galaxies are redshifted is because we see them as they were when light left them, i.e. when they were much younger. About seven local galaxies are blueshifted. The orthodox view is that they must be moving towards us even faster than the universe is expanding. But in Arp's theory, they are simply older than our own galaxy, as we see them.

Arp believes that matter is created continually -- not from nothing, but from the materialization of mass-energy existing in a diffuse state, in the form of the all-pervading 'quantum sea' or zero-point field. The universe, he says, is constantly unfolding from many different points within itself. He also believes that after a certain interval elementary particles may decay, so that matter merges back into the quantum sea.

Powerful telescopes reveal many faint, fuzzy objects with high redshifts that are assumed to represent distant clusters and superclusters, which form immense sheets of galaxies, separated by huge voids. However, Arp says that since there is abundant evidence that redshifts are not accurate indicators of distance, our picture of extragalactic space could be completely erroneous. He presents many pieces of evidence indicating that some faint 'galaxy clusters' actually consist of young objects ejected from nearby active galaxies. We have no reliable way of knowing how far the local Virgo and Fornax Superclusters are from the next superclusters, and there is therefore no certainty that any of the objects we observe lies outside them.

The steady state theory was first put forward in 1948, and once enjoyed equal status with the big bang. In 1993 Fred Hoyle, Geoffrey Burbidge, and Jayant Narlikar published a detailed 'quasi-steady state' model of the universe. They suggest that instead of matter being created continuously, as in the original model, a series of large creation events, or little big bangs, occurred 10 to 15 billion years ago, which caused our part of the universe to expand. Since then smaller creation events have continued to occur, producing energetic objects such as quasars and radio galaxies. However, in the future the expansion of our part of the universe will weaken, allowing the formation of new creation centres and another episode of large creation events.

Hoyle and his colleagues say that this new model 'is not intended to give a finished view of cosmology [but] to open the door to a new view which at present is blocked by a fixation with big bang cosmology' . Arp points out that if, instead of assuming that new matter is created with terrestrial particle masses, they had assumed that it comes into being with zero mass, which then increases with time, they would have explained all the redshift anomalies (whose validity they fully recognize), and done away with the need for an expanding universe. Indeed, both Hoyle and Narlikar have made theoretical contributions to just such a model.

Another alternative to the big bang which is slowly gaining ground is plasma cosmology, a theory pioneered by the Swedish astrophysicist and Nobel laureate Hannes Alfvén beginning in the 1950s. Like the steady state theory, it proposes that the universe is infinite in space and time and is continuously evolving. Alfvén, too, interprets the redshift as a sign that the galaxies are flying apart, but believes that this may apply only to our own part of the universe, having been produced by a series of matter-antimatter explosions billions of years ago. However, Eric J. Lerner , another supporter of the 'plasma universe', believes that far more work needs to be done to test the different interpretations of the redshift.

Plasma -- also called the fourth state of matter -- is an electrically conducting gas consisting of a high density of electrons and ions. Over 99% of the ordinary matter in the universe is believed to exist in the plasma state, including stars, the outer atmospheres of planets, and interplanetary, interstellar, and intergalactic media. Largely thanks to Alfvén's pioneering work, the importance of plasmas, electric currents, and magnetic fields in the formation and evolution of the solar system is now well established. However, most cosmologists still believe that electrical and magnetic forces are of minor significance in explaining the formation and evolution of galaxies and multigalactic structures. Indeed, the big bang theory predicts that galactic magnetic fields should be weaker the more distant the galaxy and the younger it is in relation to the big bang, but observational evidence contradicts this prediction .

Plasma cosmologists envision a universe crisscrossed by vast electrical currents and powerful magnetic fields, ordered and controlled by electromagnetism as well as gravity. The inhomogeneous and filamentary structure of the universe is no surprise, for almost any plasma generates inhomogeneities naturally, pinching itself together into dense, swirling filaments, and these have been observed in the laboratory, in the sun, in nebulas, and at the heart of our galaxy. Tiny plasmas fired at high speed towards each other in the laboratory pinch and twist themselves into the graceful shapes of spiral galaxies, suggesting that galaxies themselves might have been created by vortex filaments on a much larger scale.

The meta model developed by astronomer Tom Van Flandern proposes that the universe is not only infinite in space and time, but comprises objects and entities spanning an infinite range of sizes. There is nothing unique about our own scale of things; the universe should look essentially the same on all scales. Flandern proposes that there is a light-carrying medium and a gravity medium, which play an important role on our own scale, but that there are infinite numbers of other media composed of particles of every conceivable size; even what to us are galaxies may be particles in a medium on a super-cosmic scale. He argues that the redshift is caused by light losing energy as it travels through space and that our own part of the universe is not expanding.

The subquantum kinetics cosmology developed by Paul LaViolette proposes that physical matter emerges from a preexisting ether. LaViolette, too, believes that the redshift arises because photons lose energy while travelling through intergalactic space, and that the universe is not expanding. His theory also predicts that photons gain energy in certain regions of space, such as within galaxies. This 'genic energy' is produced in the interior of all celestial bodies, and may shed light on the origin of solar energy and the energy that powers supernova and galactic core explosions.

Evolution and involution

Hindu mythology speaks of the inbreathing and outbreathing of Brahmâ, the cosmic divinity, when worlds are evolved forth from, and later withdrawn into, the bosom of Brahmâ. Some people have drawn parallels between this idea and that of an oscillating universe which alternately expands and contracts. But there is another interpretation. In The Secret Doctrine, when discussing the origin of worlds, H.P. Blavatsky quotes the following from the Stanzas of Dzyan: 'The mother [Space] swells, expanding from within without like the bud of the lotus' (Stanza III.1). She adds the following explanation:

The expansion 'from within without' of the Mother, called elsewhere the 'Waters of Space,' 'Universal Matrix,' etc., does not allude to an expansion from a small centre or focus, but, without reference to size or limitation or area, means the development of limitless subjectivity into as limitless objectivity. . . . It implies that this expansion, not being an increase in size -- for infinite extension admits of no enlargement -- was a change of condition.

In other words, expansion can refer to the emanation or unfolding of steadily denser planes or spheres from the spiritual summit of a hierarchy, until the lowest and most material world is reached. At the midpoint of the evolutionary cycle, the reverse process begins: the lower worlds gradually dematerialize or etherealize and are infolded or indrawn into the higher worlds; the heavens are 'rolled together as a scroll' (Isaiah 34:4). Thus, outbreathing and inbreathing can refer to the expansion of the One into the many, and the subsequent reabsorption of the many into the One.

The evolution and involution of worlds does not mean that space itself pops into existence out of nothingness, expands like elastic, and later contracts and vanishes into nothingness. It is the worlds within space -- planets, stars, etc. -- that materialize and etherealize. Our physical senses allow us to perceive only physical-plane objects composed of the same type of matter as ourselves. But if the matter of the physical universe makes up only one tiny range in an infinite continuum of possible grades of matter, there must be countless interpenetrating worlds and planes, both grosser and more ethereal than our own, that are beyond our range of perception. The infinite totality of worlds and planes not only infill space but are space.

In theosophy, no thing or entity -- whether atom, human, planet, star, galaxy, or universe -- appears randomly out of nowhere. A physical entity is born because an inner entity or soul is returning to embodiment, and each new embodiment is the karmic result of the preceding one. There is no absolute beginning or end to evolution, only relative starting places and stopping (or resting) places. During the lifetime of a solar system, planets are said to reembody many times on many different planes, making arcs of descent into material realms, followed by arcs of ascent into spiritual realms. By analogy, stars reembody many times during the lifetime of a galaxy. The observable universe contains about l00 billion galaxies. This immense collection of galaxies may form a relatively independent whole, which is just one of an infinite number of such 'universes'. And these universes may, in turn, be collected into 'superuniverses', and so on, ad infinitum.

A popular theory nowadays is that when stars above a certain size die, they collapse under their own weight to an infinitesimal point, forming a hypothetical 'black hole'. Likewise, big bangers believe that in the far distant future space might start to shrink, so that all the matter and energy in the universe is compressed into a single point in a 'big squeeze'. In contrast to these wild theories, theosophy says that on the upward arc of evolution cohesive forces begin to relax and matter becomes increasingly ethereal, and that when planets and suns die their constituents are dispersed and enter a dormant, relatively homogeneous condition . At the dawn of the next cycle of manifestation, life impulses from inner realms will quicken sleeping matter into renewed activity in certain 'fertile' regions of space, following which this primal physical substance will begin to differentiate and condense into galaxies, stars, and planets. Once the various worlds or globes have been formed by the elemental and mineral kingdoms, guided by the most spiritual kingdoms, the other kingdoms of nature -- plant, animal, human, and superhuman -- can gradually make their appearance, as their sleeping prototypes on the astral plane reawaken, and physicalize, becoming once more the dwellings of evolving souls.

According to the big bang theory, the universe was created about 10 to 15 billion years ago. Plasma cosmologist Eric Lerner, on the other hand, has suggested that the observable universe may actually be trillions of years old. He describes a scenario in which the current cycle of evolution began over 3 trillion years ago with the stirring into life of a primordial homogeneous hydrogen plasma, which then differentiated and agglomerated into astronomical structures . The figure of trillions of years begins to approach the vast time periods suggested in theosophy, according to which the current major cycle of evolution -- of which our own solar system forms part -- has been in progress for over 155 trillion years. During this period there have been many planetary and solar reembodiments.

In the middle of the seventeenth century Archbishop James Ussher of Ireland made the startling revelation that God created Heaven and Earth on Saturday evening, 22 October 4004 BC! Our understanding of the physical world has increased immeasurably since then, thanks mainly to advances in the physical sciences. However, tremendous gaps in scientific knowledge remain, and physical science can shed little light on the nonphysical factors which in occult philosophy are said to play a crucial role in shaping and organizing the physical world. Many big bang theorists may believe that they know what was happening during the first trillionths of a second after the moment of creation of the entire universe, but as one scientist remarked, 'Every generation thinks it has the answers, and every generation is humbled by nature' .


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