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time and eternIty


part IV - Freemasonry, Science and Mankind

W. M. Don Falconer PM, PDGDC

Light is the fundamental element connecting time with eternity.


The concept of immortality


A belief in God and in the immortality of the soul is a fundamental precept of Freemasonry. God is recognised as the divine creator of the universe and the soul is that element of the divine spirit that resides in every person and distinguishes it from all other living things. The philosophical and theological aspects of these precepts are of special interest. The world's most widespread and enduring religions, from ancient times to the present, have important elements in common, of which a belief in a Supreme Being is pre-eminent. The Supreme Being is assigned a wide range of attributes and is known by many titles, commonly referred to under the name of God. A closely allied belief is that God has endowed every person with an inner life spirit, or immortal soul. Within each of these beliefs there is a wide range of philosophies and a broad spectrum of interpretive detail. For example, the soul generally is believed either to be a part of God's spirit, or at the very least to be at one with God's spirit. In Hinduism, which dates back more than 5,000 years, it is believed that the soul is immortal and coeval with God's spirit, having neither beginning nor ending and consequently eternal. By contrast, Christian theology generally considers each human birth as a new creation that is immortal and consequently everlasting. Between these extremes there are many nuances of interpretation. A familiar statement that reflects this spectrum of belief was made by the preacher in Ecclesiastes 12:7 who said Then the dust shall return to the earth as it was and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.”


The word immortality came through Middle English and Old French from the Latin mortalitas, signifying that which cannot or will never die. Immortal is usually used to describe that attribute of the Deity or of the soul, which would be said to be deathless or undying in relation to inanimate. Imperishable is sometimes used poetic passages to convey, perhaps more vividly, that something is not subject to death, decay or change, which introduces the concepts of eternity and eternal life. Eternity also came through Middle English and Old French from the Latin aeternitas and in the strictest sense signifies something that has always existed in the past and will exist forever in the future, thus having neither beginning nor ending. In contrast, everlasting relates to something that has been created and signifies that will then endure throughout time, never ceasing to exist. Thus there is a subtle difference between life eternal and everlasting life, because life eternal signifies something that has neither beginning nor ending, whereas everlasting life allows for creation by birth followed by never‑ending life. Infinity also is a closely related concept. The word infinity is derived through Middle English and Old French from the Latin infinitas, signifying a state that is beyond measure, extending without end in space, time or number. In the theological sense, infinite connotes something that is absolute or perfect, such as God's infinite wisdom, power and mercy. These concepts are directly related to elements of the creation.


Elements of the creation


It cannot be a coincidence that space and time, two of the fundamental elements required in the creation process, are both intangible. We cannot touch space. Our comprehension of space depends entirely upon our ability to visualise that space exists between those objects we can see that are located in space. Nor can time be touched. Its very existence seems even less substantive than space, because our conception of time is necessarily based on the observation of transient events, not of tangible objects. When Albert Einstein (1879-1955) was developing his theories of relativity, he visualised the universe as a curved elastic space‑time continuum. A consideration of space‑time in the creation reveals that space and time cannot be regarded as independent entities, because time expands and contracts synchronously with the expansion and contraction of intergalactic space that take place as a result of the forces of gravity.


Space and time are conjoined by a third essential element in the creation process, which is light. Although light also is intangible, insofar as we cannot feel it by the sense of touch, nevertheless it is visible and seems all pervasive, so that its substance is more readily perceptible than that of the other intangible elements. It is common knowledge that light behaves in a wave-like manner, even though it is transmitted as photons that are discrete particles of energy. Because it appears to the naked eye that light is initiated or extinguished instantaneously, it seems natural and is readily accepted that nothing can travel faster than light. By extension it is not difficult to accept that all other electromagnetic waves, such as those of radio, travel through space at the velocity of light. Light is a fundamental energy that can be equated with matter and is subject to the same laws of conservation of energy. Light defines a finite boundary for velocity, thus also defining the boundaries of space in the finite expanding space‑time continuum that Albert Einstein envisaged our universe to comprise. For this reason light can be regarded as a direct, positive and continuing link from the primeval explosion assumed to have initiated the creation, through the present and on into an endless future. Thus light is the fundamental element that connects time with eternity.


A Scottish physicist and astronomer, James Maxwell (1831-1879), carried out extensive investigations into the propagation of light. He developed equations that describe how light and all other radiations are propagated through space in the form of electromagnetic variations, which have a minuscule wavelength of about three thousandths of a centimetre and travel at the velocity of light, or approximately 300,000 kilometres per second in a vacuum. James Maxwell's equations made no allowance for light to be slowed down by the force of gravity when propagated from a star, whereas the established laws of motion derived by Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) take the forces of gravity into account. In order to reconcile this apparent incompatibility, Albert Einstein developed his special theory of relativity for bodies travelling at constant velocities. Albert Einstein's famous equation E = mc2 interrelates the velocity of light with energy and mass, which demonstrates that energy and mass are interchangeable and proves that nothing can exceed the velocity of light. His equation also shows that time on a moving object must slow down as its velocity and hence its energy increases, so that time comes to rest, or ceases to elapse, at the velocity of light. This concept appears to be contradicted by the discovery, early in 2002, which indicates that the rate of expansion of the universe will ultimately exceed the velocity of light.  It also seems to be contradicted by the evidence that some subatomic particles, called tachyons, always travel faster than the velocity of light.


Albert Einstein realised that his special theory of relativity did not give a complete explanation of the universe, which Sir Isaac Newton also had realised when he published his Philosophia Naturalis Principia Mathematica in 1687, generally referred to as Newton's Principia. To overcome this deficiency, Albert Einstein spent another ten years developing the general theory of relativity that he published in 1916. Albert Einstein's general theory takes acceleration and the forces of gravity into account. It explains how space-time is warped by the gravitational influences of bodies in space, as a result of which space-time acts like a lens and deflects beams of light as they pass bodies in space. It also explains how a dark body is formed, when its mass to volume relationship produces a gravitational force that requires an escape velocity greater than the velocity of light, which precludes the escape of light. If any human beings could be located on a dark body, or within a black hole region such as the one recently proven to be in the centre of our Milky Way, they would be unaware of their peculiar situation. Because the observed rate of expansion of the universe is only increasing by about 32 kilometres per second per million light years, which is very small in comparison with the velocity of light, many millions of years are likely to elapse before complete darkness prevails over the universe.


The arrow of time


A German surgeon and physicist, Hermann von Helmholtz (1821-1894), was a leader in the study of cause and effect and of the relationship between heat and motion. Helmholtz coined the expression conservation of energy and in 1847 he proclaimed that the law of conservation of energy is of universal application, applying to all things both living and inanimate. Then in 1854, after he had given further consideration to the implications underlying the then evolving science of thermodynamics, Helmholtz put forward the concept that the universe is dying progressively and that ultimately it will reach a state of thermodynamic equilibrium, when all of its useful energy had been exhausted. An Austrian physicist, Ludwig Boltzmann (1844‑1906), was the first scientist to carry out a systematic investigation of the progressive deterioration of elements from order to disorder, or chaos. During the 1880s Ludwig Boltzmann studied the behaviour of molecules of gas on a statistical basis, using Newton's laws of motion as the foundation of his experiments. On the basis of his results he derived the theorem of equipartition of energy, called the Maxwell-Boltzmann law, which correlates the distribution of energy among the various parts of a system at a specific temperature. He also established the Boltzmann constant used in physics, known as k, which relates the kinetic energy of a gas atom or molecule to its temperature and has a value of 1.380662 x 10-23. The constant k occurs in nearly every statistical formulation used in both classical and quantum physics. A British astronomer, Sir Arthur Eddington (1882‑1944), aptly described the relationships that exist between space, time, light and energy as the arrow of time, which is a vital concept in the relationship between time and matter.


The arrow of time is the signpost called entropy, which points irrevocably from order to disorder. Entropy is a measure of the disorder that inevitable takes place in any system when a change of any kind occurs in the system. The fundamental laws of thermodynamics affirm that energy can be changed from one state to another, but that energy cannot be created or destroyed, so that the total energy that came into existence at the creation of the universe is all that can exist and will always continue to exist in one form or another. These laws also confirm that, as a result of natural events, everything moves towards a state of balance or equilibrium. The only thing that can be devoid of entropy is a perfect crystalline solid at the absolute zero temperature of -273şC, which would then be in a state of perfect order. An important implication of these laws is that time is irreversible and that it progresses in one direction only, which is towards the future. An inevitable corollary of the irreversibility of time is the fact that matter progressively decays, which also is an irreversible process. Thus entropy continually and inexorably increases with time until eventually complete disorder must prevail, which is amply evidenced in nature.




If the many and varied creation beliefs, which are the foundation of all ancient religions, are considered in respect of their essential elements, stripped of the mythical connotations that are used to convey their message to primitive minds, they are not incompatible with modern scientific explanations of how the universe evolved. Modern cosmological concepts do not negate religious concepts, nor do they negate the precepts of freemasonry. Nevertheless many people use particular elements of cosmology or of religion in an attempt to denigrate one with the other, instead of accepting that each is an alternative strand of perception that leads to the same ultimate goal. The acceptance of cosmology and religion as complementary strands of awareness would enable different avenues of research to be developed harmoniously, for the beneficial advancement of the human race.


Over the centuries repeated attempts have been made to disprove the existence of God, whether as the creator of the universe or in any other capacity, but none has succeeded. When the big bang theory of creation was first advanced, even some eminent scientists hailed it as conclusive proof that creation could be initiated without any input from some external force or power. Ultimately this proposition failed, because the big bang theory was founded upon the existence of an infinitely compressed nucleus from which matter could emanate, even if space‑time was not prerequisite as an environment within which matter could exist. This is a classical example of the circular reference to which a computer program draws attention if a formula refers to itself.


Theories for the evolution of life on earth have also come to nought in the absence of an external influence or generator. All attempts to produce life in the laboratory, without some form of living catalyst, have failed for want of the breath of life. That missing link, which is the breath of life, is as elusive as the infinitely compressed nucleus that is required in the big bang theory, which even if it could be found would be uncontrollable by the presently available human resources, because it would comprise the total nuclear energy of our universe. The input of a divine force, or breath of life, is the simplest solution for the initiation of creation and evolution, eliminating the circular reference that otherwise appears to be unavoidable. Nature usually adopts the simplest solution. Probably the simplest solution is also God’s way.


Light is a vital component of the universe. Without light, life as we know it could not exist. Light undoubtedly is the most comprehensible of the intangible natural elements and it is a perfect symbol of God. The law of conservation of energy allows for change, but neither a gain nor a loss of energy can occur in a closed system. The law of conservation of energy therefore does not preclude some form of life from continuing in eternity, even if that form is unknown to us, but on the contrary it would appear to support the concept. The arrow of time points irrevocably towards the ultimate decay of the universe in which we live, as foretold in the scriptures of all major religions.


Will the ultimate degradation of our present universe coincide with the time when its ever-dispersing physical components achieve the velocity of light, when time comes to rest and intergalactic darkness prevails? Or, as discovered early in 2002, when the rate of acceleration of expansion of the universe exceeds the velocity of light? Would this event merely be another milestone in eternity, the beginning of another cycle of regeneration? These things we do not yet know. Speculative freemasonry evolved from operative freemasonry as a philosophical society. Freemasonry urgently needs to be regenerated to fulfil its original and primary role, so that it can take a prominent stance in seeking answers to questions such as these. Denominational religions and sects almost invariably are possessive and dogmatic, whereas freemasonry is diverse in its approach and free in its thought. Freemasons therefore must take a positive lead in achieving reconciliation between science and universal religion, for the betterment and advancement of the human race. All petty differences must be put aside to achieve this end.


In conclusion, a quotation from P Deussen’s Philosophy of the Upanishads is worth special consideration in relation to the precepts of freemasonry:


“The thought common to India, Plato and Kant, that the entire universe is only appearance and not reality, forms not only the special and most important theme of all philosophy, but is also the presumption and ‘conditio sine quâ non’ of all religions . . . . The necessary premises of all religions are, as Kant frequently expounds –

(1)     the existence of God,

(2)     the immortality of the soul, and

(3)     the freedom of the will (without which no morality is possible).


These three essential conditions of man’s salvation – God, immortality and freedom – are conceivable only if the universe is mere appearance and not reality (mere ‘mâyâ’ and not the ‘âtman’) and they break down irretrievably should this empirical reality, wherein we live, be found to constitute the true essence of things.”

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