An Exposition of the Nature of Physical Creation

based on an extract from the Law-i-ikmat (Tablet of Wisdom)
(Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 140 ff.)

 

     As regards thine assertions about the beginning of creation, this is a matter on which conceptions vary by reason of the divergences in men’s thoughts and opinions.

§  People have disagreed and debated about the nature of the creation of the universe for a very long time, and the differences are due primarily to their knowledge and opinions.

Wert thou to assert that it hath ever existed and shall continue to exist, it would be true; or wert thou to affirm the same concept as is mentioned in the sacred Scriptures, no doubt would there be about it, for it hath been revealed by God, the Lord of the worlds. Indeed He was a hidden treasure. This is a station that can never be described nor even alluded to.

§  Both assertions: ‘The universe has always existed’ and ‘God created the universe’ are true. How can this be so? Simply because of our lack of understanding about the essence of time. We perceive only ‘physical time’, yet all of physical time is but an eye-blink to God, Whose Existence is unconstrained by the limitations of physical time.

And in the station of ‘I did wish to make Myself known’, God was, and His creation had ever existed beneath His shelter from the beginning that hath no beginning, apart from its being preceded by a Firstness which cannot be regarded as firstness and originated by a Cause inscrutable even unto all men of learning.

§  The temporal relations ‘before’ and ‘after’ have no meaning outside of time. The physical universe has always existed within the constraints of time. Yet God stands apart from time. “Before” He created the universe, there was no time. This is one reason that the divine ‘Firstness’ cannot be regarded the same as temporal ‘firstness’. They are distinct and utterly unrelated.

§  To elaborate on this slightly, consider how ‘time’ is conceptualized differently in different domains of physics. In general relativity, time is considered to be one of the dimensions that, together with the three spatial dimensions, forms the four-dimensional spacetime fabric of our universe, mathematically modelled as a differentiable manifold. As such, time is static, much like the spatial dimensions of length, width, and depth. On the contrary, in quantum physics, which mathematically describes the behaviour of elementary particles such as electrons and photons, time flows, much like our daily experience of it (although, in some formalisms of quantum physics, antimatter is represented as normal matter travelling backwards in time). These two incongruent models of the nature of time show how, as of yet, our understanding of time’s essence is deficient.

     That which hath been in existence had existed before, but not in the form thou seest today.

§  The universe used to have a very different form. For example, shortly after it came into existence, it consisted of an undifferentiated high-energy soup of elementary particles (according to the currently accepted theories).

The world of existence came into being through the heat generated from the interaction between the active force and that which is its recipient.

§  The ‘active force’ can be regarded as bosons, the elementary particles of force (photons, gluons, and the W, Z, and Higgs). The recipients of that force are the fermions, the elementary particles of matter (electrons, quarks (the ‘sub-components’ of protons and neutrons), and neutrinos).

§  Conversely, this line may refer to the conditions immediately after the “big bang,” the theoretical instant when the physical universe came into existence from a singularity (a dimensionless point). The nature of the big bang is a speculative area of cosmology; it is not possible to directly measure it.

These two are the same, yet they are different.

§  This may refer to quantum field theory (the merger of quantum mechanics and special relativity), in which both the particles of matter and the particles of force are modelled mathematically as localized excitations of a quantized field that extends throughout three-dimensional space. This is an accepted theory of physics today (known as the ‘standard model’), which explains much of what is known about the behaviour of subatomic matter.

§  On the other hand, there are some unproven theories of physics, such as string theory, loop quantum gravity, supersymmetry, and the preon model, which hypothesize an even more fundamental level than the ‘standard model’ of fermions and bosons. In these theories, all the ‘components’ of the universe are unified within a single mathematical theory. One of those theories may explain how matter and force can be the same.

Thus doth the Great Announcement inform thee about this glorious structure. Such as communicate the generating influence and such as receive its impact are indeed created through the irresistible Word of God which is the Cause of the entire creation, while all else besides His Word are but the creatures and the effects thereof. Verily thy Lord is the Expounder, the All-Wise.

§  Regardless of its physical nature, God created it all.

     Know thou, moreover, that the Word of God—exalted be His glory—is higher and far superior to that which the senses can perceive, for it is sanctified from any property or substance. It transcendeth the limitations of known elements and is exalted above all the essential and recognized substances. It became manifest without any syllable or sound and is none but the Command of God which pervadeth all created things.

§  The Word, or Command, of God, is not physical in the way the universe is physical. It transcends substance, energy, space and time. And this ‘Word’ is eternally and intrinsically ineffable. It cannot be apperceived, nor described, nor comprehended, by humans in the way that ordinary words are comprehended.

It hath never been withheld from the world of being. It is God’s all-pervasive grace, from which all grace doth emanate. It is an entity far removed above all that hath been and shall be.

§  The Word of God permeates the entire physical universe. The Word of God is so superior, so much higher, so much greater than His Creation, including Man, that His Essence is, and ever shall be, incomprehensible to us.

     We are loath to enlarge on this subject, inasmuch as the unbelievers have inclined their ears towards Us in order to hear that which might enable them to cavil against God, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting. And since they are unable to attain to mysteries of knowledge and wisdom from what hath been unravelled by the Source of divine splendour, they rise in protest and burst into clamour. But it is true to say that they object to that which they comprehend, not to the expositions given by the Expounder, nor the truths imparted by the One true God, the Knower of things unseen. Their objections, one and all, turn upon themselves, and I swear by thy life that they are devoid of understanding.

§  Unfortunately for us today, because of the disputations and objections of Baha’u’llah’s enemies during His life (and their lack of understanding), we are left with only this glimmer into the truth of the essence of the physical universe.

     Every thing must needs have an origin and every building a builder. Verily, the Word of God is the Cause which hath preceded the contingent world—a world which is adorned with the splendours of the Ancient of Days, yet is being renewed and regenerated at all times. Immeasurably exalted is the God of Wisdom Who hath raised this sublime structure.

§  The universe is ‘causal’: everything must have a cause. And therefore, any theory of physics claiming to represent the nature of the universe must also be causal.

§  The ‘contingent world’, that is, the physical universe, is continually being renewed by the Power of God. But, we have not yet begun to understand how this occurs, or what it signifies, beyond our complete and utter dependency upon Him.

     Look at the world and ponder a while upon it. It unveileth the book of its own self before thine eyes and revealeth that which the Pen of thy Lord, the Fashioner, the All-Informed, hath inscribed therein. It will acquaint thee with that which is within it and upon it and will give thee such clear explanations as to make thee independent of every eloquent expounder.

§  God has created Man in such a way that he, through the use of his intellect, can discover the workings of the physical universe. The ‘book of the universe’ is the universe itself, and though its study (that is, the process of science: hypothesis, experimentation, and revision), we can discover its mysteries.

     Say: Nature in its essence is the embodiment of My Name, the Maker, the Creator. Its manifestations are diversified by varying causes, and in this diversity there are signs for men of discernment.

§  The diversity of the universe contains signs for mankind to discover.

Nature is God’s Will and is its expression in and through the contingent world. It is a dispensation of Providence ordained by the Ordainer, the All-Wise. Were anyone to affirm that it is the Will of God as manifested in the world of being, no one should question this assertion. It is endowed with a power whose reality men of learning fail to grasp. Indeed a man of insight can perceive naught therein save the effulgent splendour of Our Name, the Creator.

§  ‘Nature’ is the physical manifestation of the Will of God. Beyond the diversity of forms, there is an essential Oneness to the universe, as it was created by God and therefore reflects His Oneness and Singleness.

Say: This is an existence which knoweth no decay, and Nature itself is lost in bewilderment before its revelations, its compelling evidences and its effulgent glory which have encompassed the universe.

§  ‘This existence,’ that is, spiritual existence as opposed to physical existence, will never cease to be nor become degraded. ‘Nature itself,’ a literary figure of speech for mankind (and possibly other sentient beings that may populate the universe),will never be able to fathom the workings of Nature (the physical universe), much less comprehend the higher plane of spiritual existence or the essence of the Will of God.

 

— Jeffrey R. Brown