“We are part of something greater: a vast web of existence constantly expanding and evolving. When we gaze at the nighttime sky, we can ponder that we are made of elements forged within stars, out of particles born in the big bang […] Beyond any star or galaxy we will ever identify lies the horizon of space-time, fourteen billion light years away. But neither God nor the big bang is that far away. The big bang didn’t happen somewhere out there, outside of us. Rather, we began inside the big bang; we now embody its primordial energy. The big bang has never stopped.”
This beautiful theological credo comes from one of my absolute favourite books, Daniel Matt’s God and the Big Bang. Professor Matt is one of my heroes– he is a passionate advocate for the Kabbalah as a theology while rejecting the pseudo-magical self-help tendencies of some that claim the title. Instead, he is thoughtful, modern, focussed on myth, and incredibly well-spoken. Matt spent the better part of the last twenty years translating the Zohar into English and, as those of you who have learned Zohar with me will know, that’s no mean feat.
Yet above and beyond his monumental work on the Zohar, his take on articulating a mystical but modern theology in God and the Big Bang has been immensely influential for me. I’m really happy to see that now, 23 years after it was originally published in English, אלוקים והמפץ הגדול is available in Hebrew. I think this is essential– as any Jewish theology that isn’t in Hebrew won’t survive long term. I hope that the translation brings Prof. Matt’s ideas and erudition to Israeli audiences. and I look forward to picking up the new version when I’m next in Israel.
The first sentence above is: We are part of something greater: a vast web of existence constantly expanding and evolving. That may seem like a lovely, if metaphorical, sentiment– but actually the last few weeks have seen scientific discoveries which may lead us to realise that Prof. Matt is a lot closer to reality here than conventional scientific models.
I was struck reading about recent research into what is mildly called ‘Large Scale Structures.’ What this underwhelming name denotes is the fact that scientists have observed that galaxies which are separated by humungous distances are moving in conjunction with one another. As if connected by some invisible string, two apparently-unrelated galaxies often move in sync! This discovery, published in October, (for the nerds: here) means that our basic notion about how the Universe is structured is flawed.
All of those galaxies, galaxy-clusters, etc.– all of the objects we normally think about being ‘really big’ are, it turns out, actually part of even bigger constructs. Yet again we are reminded that our vantage point is infinitesimal compared to the immensity of the universe. Realising that there are structures which exist but are unseen, which connect apparently-disparate things, should remind us that a spiritual orientation to the world is not foolish, ‘illlogical’ or unreasonable. Rather, as we increasingly discover how little we know, we may find, as Prof. Matt suggests, that ‘neither God nor the big bang is that far away’.