The Test of a Poet

Albert Einstein believed that the creative principle itself resides in mathematics and in his “Essays in Science” he says, “In a certain sense, therefore, I hold it true that pure thought can grasp reality, as the ancients dreamed.”

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Preston Harold asks:

If the pure thought of an ancient led him to realize that there is but a single reality – all manifestation of matter, mind, and energy but different aspects of it – and if he grasped the nature and significance of its supreme law so that he must state the entropy concept as it relates to time, as it works within the universe, how would the ancient have done it? He could speak as a poet, using simple words fully…

From what we read of Jesus in the gospels (especially the synoptics), he certainly knew how to use simple words to their maximum effect, distilling the principles he was espousing with breath-taking economy. Within Jesus’ simple words, though, we find infinite meaning if we have the ears to hear.

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Many of the passages reporting Jesus’ teaching are as profoundly beautiful as a poem and as complex as the equation concerning the generation of waves by wind that Eddington presents. Others, such as “The kingdom of God is within you,” are as profoundly simple as Einstein’s famous E=mc squared. Can a poet express truly, albeit symbolically, abstract concepts such as are enfolded in a mathematical formula?… Jesus must meet the most severe test of a poet in describing the many aspects of the second law of thermodynamics and its significance. A poetic statement indicating that energy operates always in changing arrangement resulting in increased measure is found in two of Jesus’ enigmatic remarks about the working of God.

It is these two remarks of Jesus we will look at in our next installment. Until then, peace.

The Random Element

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Preston Harold says that entropy is a measure of disorder, of the increase in the random element. Sir Arthur Eddington asks, “When a stone falls it acquires a kinetic energy, and the amount of the energy is just that which would be required to lift the stone back to it original height…. But if the stone hits an obstacle its kinetic energy is converted into heat energy. There is still the same quantity of energy, but, but even if we could scrape it back together and put it through an engine we could not lift the stone back with it. What has happened to make the energy no longer serviceable?”

The short answer to his question is the random element. Once the stone hits the obstacle the molecules in the stone constantly collide and rebound, and this continuous shuffling of energy can only decrease organization. The hitting of the obstacle has introduced the random element.

Eddington points out that “Organization of energy is negotiable, and so is the disorganization or random element; disorganization does not forever remain attached to the particular store of energy which first suffered it, but may be passed on elsewhere.”

Ah, so where does that energy of disorganization go? Where is it passed onto?

Preston Harold reminds us that all is one:

Entropy, then, is concerned with changing arrangement, within and without. Like the number one, it is definite, but its measure cannot be spelled out, for one draws all from zero into infinity. Like one, entropy’s significance is too small or too large to be captured on paper… Introduction of the concept of entropy turned scientists from the view that everything could be discovered by microscopic dissection of objects; it demands consideration of the qualities possessed by the system of the whole.

Entropy has opened science into the realm of quality as well as quantity, it has lead it into considering seriously a holistic view of the universe; all the little microscopic parts don’t exist separately from a greater whole. The question for us at this point is:

Did Jesus realize that what is now called the second law of thermodynamics is life’s supreme law that operates throughout creation?

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We will begin exploring this possibility in our next post. Until then, peace.

Entropy, Entropy; All is Entropy!

ecclesiastes

Vanity of vanities, says the teacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity….All things are wearisome; more than one can express….There is nothing new under the sun. -Ecclesiastes chapter 1

Thus is the poetical scriptural witness to the second law of thermodynamics. It is the law that entropy always increases. The International Dictionary of Physics and Electronics states:

Application of the “second law” of thermodynamics leads to the conclusion that if any physical system is left to itself and allowed to distribute its energy in its own way, it always does so in a manner such that this quantity, called “entropy,” increases; while at the same time the available energy of the system diminishes. This law applies to the universe as a whole, hence the proposition that the total entropy increases as time goes on.

Sir Arthur Eddington says:

“The law that entropy always increases…holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature…if your theory is found to be against [it] I can give you no hope…From the property that entropy must always increase, practical methods of measuring it have been found. The chain of deductions from this simple law have almost been illimitable.”

Might there be a “yes, but…” response to this iron-clad law? Is all really vanity? Is there any hope that can rise above and beyond this theory? Preston Harold comes to the rescue:

As physicists understand this law today, it appears to spell in some billions of years the heat-death of the universe. But as Dr. Rolf Alexander points out, the anti-entropic nature of living things may point to a “simultaneous process of entropy and creation…the process of nature observed by physical science are but a fraction of the picture…”

Here we see the door opening into the realm of “both-and,” leaving the area of “either-or.” Not either creation or destruction, but both creation and destruction. And in the Hindu god Shiva we see that the ancient Shaivas, the oldest sect of Hinduism, had a hold of this concept millennia ago.

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Preston Harold continues:

Structural alterations are going on in the realm of physics, and physicists themselves project that there are other laws yet to be discovered, so that all one can say with certainty is that the real meaning of entropy in universal terms may not yet be known.

Ah, the realm of not knowing; the unknown. So frustrating to some of us. Seems to be connected to the “both-and” realm which is full of paradox and uncertainty.

In our next post we’ll continue to explore the second law of thermodynamics and more specifically the “random element.” Until then, peace.

Chapter 6: Nature’s Supreme Law

To begin Chapter 6, which focuses on the 2nd law of thermodynamics, Preston Harold sets us up nicely:

The realm of physics is paradoxical, topsy-turvy, poetic, as inexpressible in the last reaches as any mystic revelation that has confronted man.

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In his “The Nature of the Physical World” Sir Arthur Eddington writes, “Sir William Bragg was not overstating the case when he said that we use the classical theory on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and the quantum theory on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.” Preston Harold says this shift of theory is necessary because scientists have had to divide their laws into different compartments, classic and quantum. Eddington continues, “Unfortunately, our compartments are not watertight…The classical laws are the limit to which the quantum laws tend when states of very high quantum number are concerned…The disagreement is not very serious when the number is moderately large; but for small quantum numbers the atom cannot sit on the fence. It has to decide between (classical) and (quantum) rules. It chooses [quantum] rules.”

Preston Harold pulls us into the realm of religion:

Here, the first parallel may be drawn; when large numbers are concerned, men must operate under classical law, outgrown from the Ten Commandments, and humanity at large will tend to operate according to the classical patterns history presents; but operating within each human being are quantum psychic laws that contradict the classical picture he presents, and as an individual, he is subject to these laws primarily. Just as one psychic law – the Golden Rule – bridges the dichotomy between man and society, so the physicist deals with one law that fits in either quantum or classical compartment. This is the second law of thermodynamics which, in Eddington’s words, “has been equally successful in connection with the most recondite problems of theoretical physics and the practical tasks of the engineer.”

'I thought the Golden Rule covered all this?'

In our next installment we will hone in on the second law of thermodynamics and explore it’s meaning and consequence. Until then, peace.

Reconciling Science and Religion, Part 3

light

But as important as the second law of thermodynamics is to scientists, the study of energy, of light, is of first importance. Jesus appears to have seen that the secret of the universe must rest in light, primordial energy, and that in the creation of light rests the secret of creation itself. If He realized the nature of it, He must tell its story in large drama because prime energy, or elementary particle, cannot be identified and is not an individual. In making Himself a symbol of light in order to reveal its nature, and in being a symbol of saving grace in man, He took care to insure that someday men would realize His revelation was of universal truth. This is to say, He did not forget to enfold in the being of all humankind the primordial energy of God that He represented…for to the multitudes before Him, Jesus said:

“…you are the light of the world…”

From a scientific point of view, what is light? Is it a wave or is it a particle? It is actually both, depending on how we observe it. Notice what Preston Harold said above: “elementary particle…is not an individual.” Just this past week the first visual representation of actual light as both wave and particle has been documented. Here is a brief summary:

Please note how quantum theory, part of the “new physics” comes into play in this situation. Preston Harold says:

To evaluate Jesus’ revelation of the law upon which the universe operates and its psychic parallel, and to appreciate His dramatization of light, one must attempt to grasp, at least in some small measure, some of the basic ideas of the new physics. The relationship between science and psychology, which today largely substitutes for religion, cannot be determined by exploring only one realm or the other. To make the acquaintance, to have at least a nodding and speaking acquaintance, with the doctrine of science, psychology, and religion is incumbent upon [modern] man.

Just as light is neither particle or wave but rather both particle and wave, we as humanity can no longer approach meaning using either science or religion/psychology but rather both science and religion/psychology.

Either/Or is out the door.

Both/And is where we land.

But it takes some work on ourselves to “repent,” to change our way of thinking. Preston Harold continues…

To attempt to grasp in small measure some of the basic data of the new physics is not an easy task. And to see in the working of the physical world something of a mirror-reflection of the operation of man’s psyche might strike many as being too far-fetched to give the subject much consideration. A question must also arise – how could Jesus have known anything of physics in today’s sense of the word? His realization arose from the unconscious…. Aniela Jaffe says:

“The parallelism between nuclear physics and the psychology of the collective unconscious was often a subject of discussion between Jung and Wolfgang Pauli…The space-time continuum of physics and the collective unconscious can be seen, so to speak, as the outer and inner aspects of one and the same reality behind appearances.”

If only Hyacinth Bucket was aware of the reality from which appearances arise! Richard’s, Emmet’s, and the Vicar’s lives would have been so much simpler!

hyacinth

Now that we’ve thought about light a bit we will return to the second law of thermodynamics. To prep us for chapter 6, we will listen to Preston Harold’s last words of chapter 5:

This study does not attempt to show that Jesus precisely formulated the secondary law of physics – rather that His words and drama are congruent with the physicists’ explanations of these laws… Jesus’ view of the cosmic significance of nature’s supreme law differs from the nihilistic view of many scientists, disputed in some circles, but His descriptions of its working harmonize with those given for the layman. Jesus must speak to a world wherein even among the learned there was no language or mathematics to couch His realizations if they were as advanced as their congruence with scientific data indicates. Thus, He must be a poet, or in drama show nature’s operation that He grasped – and to be congruent with today’s science, His words must be as enigmatic, contradictory, yet true, as are the secondary laws of physics versus the classical, or as is the wave theory versus the quantum theory of light.

With that we are ready to tackle chapter 6 and how Jesus’ poetic and dramatic ministry expressed truth for the listeners in His day to the same extent that science and math express truth abstractly through numbers and data for modern mankind. Until next time, peace.

Happy 2nd Birthday!

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Today is the 2nd birthday of “The Shining Stranger” blog!  A big thank you to all the readers out there! If you are new to the blog I recommend you begin at the beginning and follow from there.  We are working through the book chapter by chapter. It’s hard to believe that we aren’t even a third of the way through Preston Harold’s opus. There’s still A LOT left to explore and ponder.  In the meantime, lift a glass and toast to the second birthday and to yourself for journeying with us. Have a great weekend!

Reconciling Science and Religion, PART 2

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Second Law of Thermodynamics – Increased Entropy
“The Second Law of Thermodynamics is commonly known as the Law of Increased Entropy. While quantity remains the same (First Law), the quality of matter/energy deteriorates gradually over time. How so? Usable energy is inevitably used for productivity, growth and repair. In the process, usable energy is converted into unusable energy. Thus, usable energy is irretrievably lost in the form of unusable energy. 

“Entropy” is defined as a measure of unusable energy within a closed or isolated system (the universe for example). As usable energy decreases and unusable energy increases, “entropy” increases. Entropy is also a gauge of randomness or chaos within a closed system. As usable energy is irretrievably lost, disorganization, randomness and chaos increase.”

-From AllAboutScience.org

Today, the supreme law, the “iron law,” in the physical world is seen to be the second law of thermodynamics. But it gives rise to a view of the universe and entropy’s meaning that is seriously questioned by many experts in various fields who suggest, indeed insist, that this law is correct insofar as it is stated, but that as yet it is incompletely stated or its meaning is misunderstood.

The second law of thermodynamics began to come into being with the first theory of the conversion of heat into mechanical work in the early 19th century. Rudolf Clausius was the first person to formulate the second law in 1850. Yet Jesus intimated the law poetically, from an inner aspect, in his teachings:

Jesus spoke of an “iron law”-that is, of a law that could not fail, and He indicated that all in creation is involved with and rests upon its operation. In the view of this study, He realized that man cannot understand himself until he also understands the natural universe of which he is a part and in which life manifests itself. He saw that in the psychic working of man a parallel to nature’s supreme law operates, and he described this operation in His descriptions of the workings of the kingdom of God, setting forth what might be called “secondary psychic law” as well as describing in poetic terms the most important of the secondary laws of physics. The “secondary psychic law” He enuncidated complements the law of Moses, which Jesus upheld, and forces a synthesis or the higher law of love when it operates in conjunction with the Ten Commandments.

Let’s look at some quotes from Jesus on the idea of law:

The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.

-Luke 16:16-17

Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass, not one jot or tittle shall in no wise pass from the law until all be fulfilled.

–Matthew 5:17-18

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Preston Harold continues:

Jesus did not come to destroy the promise of the high ethic inherent in Jewish law…He came to fulfill this promise which flowered in his teaching… But his words must have referred to more and something other than the mass of rules and regulations which comprised “the law” of His day, upon which time’s accretions bore heavily. For having said, “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven,” Jesus, Himself, repudiated more than a “jot and tittle” of the Jewish law… In short, Jesus sets up so large a contradiction as regards “the law” of which He spoke in conjunction with the working of the kingdom of God that one must seek beyond the explanation of His upholding Mosaic law to find the full and deepest meaning of His words. Not until one compares His descriptions of the working of the kingdom of God with descriptions of the operation of the second law of thermodynamics, as will be done in the following chapter, does the parallel between the two concepts become apparent, albeit Jesus’ description is poetical.

But before we move on to the next chapter, we will make a brief detour to explore how Jesus’ teachings reflect the scientific working of light. Until next time, peace.

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