Arachnaut's Lair

Cosmology 101

mystical musings of Jim Hurley

The Hour Before the Gods Awoke

About 1.37 x 1010 years ago, as scientists understand things these days, the manifestation that we call our universe began. Before that, there was no space or time or even ideas that are ordinarily conceivable. There was a self-existent, transcendental being, however, but its nature was ineffable to the human mind and can not be described by any concepts. What can be said is that it was free of all qualities and not bound by anything except that which it freely imposed upon itself.

And then 'one day', as it were, this being entertained a new possibility, an eventuality that had to be explored if it were to test its freedom to the utmost - could it be other than itself? This idea has been described in other ways, and it is essentially unfathomable, but this is a starting point to a basic understanding.

Perhaps at the very instant of entertaining this possibility, the universe sprang into existence from a point of infinite density, infinite temperature, infinite pressure, infinite energy, and perhaps a few other infinites we know nothing about at present. Time and Space as we know them began. Cosmologists call this moment 'The Big Bang' and have some very powerful intellectual arguments on the nature of what happened physically after that moment.

Volume: 28-29 [SABCL] (Savitri -- A Legend and a Symbol), Page: 100

A Mystery's process is the universe.
At first was laid a strange anomalous base,
A void, a cipher of some secret Whole,
Where zero held infinity in its sum
And All and Nothing were a single term,
An eternal negative, a matrix Nought:
Into its forms the Child is ever born
Who lives for ever in the vasts of God.
A slow reversal's movement then took place:
A gas belched out from some invisible Fire,
Of its dense rings were formed these million stars;

The Big Bang

The details of the first moments of The Big Bang are quite fascinating, and of considerable current interest to scientists in many fields. At first, the universe is too hot for any types of ordinary particles of matter to exist, but even here, quantum theory may predict their exotic behavior. As the universe expands it also cools down and soon it becomes evident that there are more obvious physical laws that are being enforced. All these laws seem to be designed to increase the complexity of the universe and to bring about some type of evolving order. At a certain temperature, electrons and protons spontaneously pop into existence from the energy all around. At first, they move too quickly to do much more than bounce around, but as they cool they feel an attraction that overcomes their rajasic behavior. Electric fields reach out and pin these particle pairs into small orbits forming elemental hydrogen. Sometimes a lucky collision of two protons forms a nucleus which attracts 2 electrons and elemental helium is produced. The universe expands and cools quite rapidly but now the particles are too far apart for heavier elements to form. The elemental hydrogen and helium feel molecular attractions and soon form clouds of gas.

These first physical laws are rules of attraction and repulsion and they are initially concerned with quantum behavior and then electromagnetic behavior. Gravitation is too weak to affect particles of this energy and small size in any significant way. However, that will soon change. The universe is expanding and cooling and swarming with hydrogen and helium gas. For about 109 years not much would seem to happen if there were any human observers to watch and they might begin to wonder how the present material nature could ever come to be. But gradually, these clouds of gas start to feel the force of gravity as they cool down and something new starts to form. The gases condense into large balls that pull in ever more gas. For now gravity is beginning to have a chance to rule with its attractive force.

The Stellar Age

As these gas balls condense, the pressure of the gas at the center increases and the temperature grows. Over time this increase will cause the hydrogen particles to hit each other with enough energy to fuse into helium. This releases quite a bit more energy, and a fusion chain reaction starts up - a star is born. After another 109 years, there are lots of stars and they find each others' gravitational attraction forming ever larger structures of star neighborhoods called galaxies. Once again, the physical laws seem to be designed to extricate more complexity and order out of the reigning chaos.

As these stars age, they burn their hydrogen fuel and form a helium waste in their core. The amount of this helium waste in the larger stars can become quite high and the core pressure and temperature increase due to gravitational attraction. At a critical temperature and pressure, the helium can perform the same act that hydrogen had done long before - fuse into new matter. In the largest stars this process repeats in several sequential steps: (these examples are for a star of about 20 times the sun's mass):

  1. The star's hydrogen core burns to helium in about 107 years;
  2. Helium fuses to form carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen in about 106 years;
  3. Carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen fuse to form neon and magnesium and then silicon and sulfur in a few hundred years; and, finally,
  4. Silicon fuses to iron in 2 days.

At each stage of this accelerating curve of material creation the star's core temperature and pressure increase dramatically. Eventually some exotic quantum reactions occur which causes the star to explode. At the moment of explosion, the temperature and pressures are high enough to fuse some of the stellar material into the remaining elements which are mostly ejected into the surrounding area of space.

The Planetary Age

Just as the clouds of original hydrogen gas condensed and formed stars, these newer clouds enriched with material that hadn't appeared until now will do the same, only this time more complicated processes occur.

As the universe enriches with new material from older, dying, exploding stars, vast molecular clouds are formed in their wake. These richer environments offer more possibilities and may be seen as a 'second chance' for matter to redeem itself. As these dusty clouds condense they contain not only elements, but many simple molecules, such as water, methane, ammonia, and so on. When they coalesce under the influence of gravity, pressures and temperatures build up at the center of the cloud until a fusion process can once again start. As a new sun ignites, it heats the surrounding molecules and causes more reactions with that material.

One thing in particular that is likely to happen in these new clouds is for an area of slushy, dirty ice to form near the freezing point of water around the new sun. Similar slush zones occur farther out where ammonia and methane become slush. The dust and debris of the cloud tends to agglomerate around the slush zones and a planet rapidly forms circling the new sun. Around the larger planets, smaller clouds condense and miniature solar systems of moons can evolve like a fractal image.

As the planetary system evolves, trillions of objects of varying sizes form and play a game of cosmic billiards around the new sun. Eventually, random processes cause these objects to collide. Some will shatter, others combine, but finally the process stabilizes when a few large objects reach dynamic equilibrium.

About 4.571 x 109 years ago, after the universe was almost 1010 years old, our solar system formed. At about that time, it seems a 'dark' energy force that permeated the cosmos reached an activation point. This dark energy is weaker than gravity but it gets stronger as things move away from each other and it repels, rather than attracts. This caused the expanding universe to speed up a tiny bit. What this means is only now being investigated by scientists.

Another apparently random event occurred when a fairly large object, about the size of Mars, hit a larger object near where present-day Earth exists. This collision shattered the smaller object, formed a ring around the larger object, and resulted in the Earth-Moon system. The presence of such a large moon around a planet caused tides to form in the oceans. These tides formed pools of complicated chemical activity near shorelines, activity that eventually formed primitive cellular forms of life.

In the Moonlight (Collected Poems SABCL: p55)

From two dead worlds a burning world arose
  Of which the late putrescent fruit is man;
  From chill dark space his roll of life began
And shall again in icy quiet close.

The Age of Life

By now the nature of physical process would be familiar - smaller things combine and form larger more complex things. Atomic particles combine to form gases and molecules which later combine to form crystals, metals, and other solid objects with a rich chemistry. Even the chemicals combine until they find a way to move around on their own - life evolves out of matter.

It took about 108 years for the solar system to arrive at the stable structure we now observe. It is thought that primitive bacteria evolved in the next 109 years. The forces of evolution now had a mobile element and was able to respond to change more quickly. Vast quantities of life forms exploded on the favorable environment of the primitive Earth. But there was another randomizing element that ran counter to smooth progression. Occasionally, a random object left over from the birth of the solar system - a comet or asteroid - hits the earth. The larger ones can destroy all or most of the life. From the hardiest survivors, newer creatures form. Life emerges, but struggle seems to be an important element to evolutionary development.

Complex behavior patterns emerge as life finds ways to collaborate to survive. Eventually a favorable complex host develops to house a force of intelligence and will which we call the mind. It may be that this experiment, too, was performed several times before a suitable equilibrium was reached. Maybe our ancient myths about Atlantis and the 7 pralayas refer to these discarded experiments.

Volume: 18-19 [SABCL] (The Life Divine), Page: 835

A theory of spiritual evolution is not identical with a
scientific theory of form-evolution and physical life-
evolution; it must stand on its own inherent justification:
it may accept the scientific account of physical evolution
as a support or an element, but the support is not
indispensable. The scientific theory is concerned only with
the outward and visible machinery and process, with the
detail of Nature's execution, with the physical development
of things in Matter and the law of development of Life and
Mind in Matter; its account of the process may have to be
considerably changed or may be dropped altogether in the
light of new discovery, but that will not affect the self-
evident fact of a spiritual evolution, an evolution of
Consciousness, a progression of the soul's manifestation in
material existence. In its outward aspects this is what the
theory of evolution comes to, - there is in the scale of
terrestrial existence a development of forms, of bodies, a
progressively complex and competent organisation of Matter,
of Life in Matter, of Consciousness in living Matter; in
this scale, the better organised the form, the more it is
capable of housing a better organised, a more complex and
capable, a more developed or evolved Life and Consciousness.
Once the evolutionary hypothesis is put forward and the
facts supporting it are marshalled, this aspect of the
terrestrial existence becomes so striking as to appear
indisputable. The precise machinery by which this is done or
the exact genealogy or chronological succession of types of
being is a secondary, though in itself an interesting and
important question; the development of one form of life out
of a precedent less evolved form, natural selection, the
struggle for life, the survival of acquired characteristics
may or may not be accepted, but the fact of a successive
creation with a developing plan in it is the one conclusion
which is of primary consequence. Another self-evident
conclusion is that there is a graduated necessary succession
in the evolution, first the evolution of Matter, next the
evolution of Life in Matter, then the evolution of Mind in
living Matter, and in this last stage an animal evolution
followed by a human evolution. The first three terms of the
succession are too evident to be disputable. It may be
debated whether there was a succession of man to animal or a
simultaneous initial development, man outstripping the
animal in Mind-evolution; a theory has even been put forward
that man was not the last, but the first and eldest of the
animal species. This priority of man is an ancient
conception, but it was not universal; it is born of the
sense of the clear supremacy of man among earthly creatures,
the dignity of this supremacy seeming to demand a priority
of birth: but in evolutionary fact the superior is not prior
but posterior in appearance, the less developed precedes the
more developed and prepares it.

The Age of Mind

Present day man evolved from the apes, and several attempts appear to have been tried by Nature before our present form was taken. The earliest signs of civilization seem to date back about 105 years.

Man is made up of (at least) the three evolutionary principals described so far - matter, life, and mind. In Man, the mental activity seems to have created an ego-sense and the collusion of mental and vital activity created a desire-soul which caused him to think of himself as separate and individualized.

We may wonder what will happen to man's future evolution. Will he, too, become extinct and replaced by a new, improved being?

Volume: 18-19 [SABCL] (The Life Divine), Page: 486

But there is one point in the reasoning which till now we
have left somewhat obscure, and it is precisely in this
matter of the co-existence of the Knowledge and the
Ignorance. Admittedly, we start here from conditions which
are the opposite of the ideal divine Truth and all the
circumstances of that opposition are founded upon the
being's ignorance of himself and of the Self of all, outcome
of an original cosmic Ignorance whose result is self-
limitation and the founding of life on division in being,
division in consciousness, division in will and force,
division in the light, division and limitation in knowledge,
power, love with, as consequence, the positive opposite
phenomena of egoism, obscuration, incapacity, misuse of
knowledge and will, disharmony, weakness and suffering. We
have found that this Ignorance, although shared by Matter
and Life, has its roots in the nature of Mind whose very
office it is to measure off, limit, particularise and
thereby divide. But Mind also is a universal principle, is
One, is Brahman, and therefore it has a tendency to a
unifying and universalising knowledge as well as to that
which marks off and particularises. The particularising
faculty of Mind only becomes Ignorance when it separates
itself from the higher principles of which it is a power and
acts not only with its characteristic tendency, but also
with a tendency to exclude the rest of knowledge, to
particularise first and foremost and always and to leave
unity as a vague concept to be approached only afterwards,
when particularisation is complete, and through the sum of
particulars. This exclusiveness is the very soul of

A New Age

If we look at the time scale science has discovered, we can divide the cosmic evolution in three major parts. The first part may be called the evolution of matter. It required 1010 years to build a world prepared for the next stage. During the next 109 years life evolved on earth from cell to plant to animal. Mind evolved from this platform during the last 105 years.

It is clear that the process of evolution is accelerating - each stage takes considerably less time to prepare and establish the next stage. How long will it take before we experience the next stage?

According to The Mother, we are already in it, and it will soon become apparent even to the most blind.

Volume: 15 [SABCL] (The Human Cycle), Page: 173

We have seen that there are necessarily three stages of the
social evolution or, generally, of the human evolution in
both individual and society. Our evolution starts with an
infrarational stage in which men have not yet learned to
refer their life and action in its principles and its forms
to the judgment of the clarified intelligence; for they
still act principally out of their instincts, impulses,
spontaneous ideas, vital intuitions or obey a customary
response to desire, need and circumstance, - it is these
things that are canalised or crystallised in their social
institutions. Man proceeds by various stages out of these
beginnings towards a rational age in which his intelligent
will more or less developed becomes the judge, arbiter and
presiding motive of his thought, feeling and action, the
moulder, destroyer and re-creator of his leading ideas, aims
and intuitions. Finally, if our analysis and forecast are
correct, the human evolution must move through a subjective
towards a suprarational or spiritual age in which he will
develop progressively a greater spiritual, supra-
intellectual and intuitive, perhaps in the end a more than
intuitive, a gnostic consciousness. He will be able to
perceive a higher divine end, a divine sanction, a divine
light of guidance for all he seeks to be, think, feel and
do, and able, too, more and more to obey and live in this
larger light and power. That will not be done by any rule of
infrarational religious impulse and ecstasy, such as
characterised or rather darkly illumined the obscure
confusion and brute violence of the Middle Ages, but by a
higher spiritual living for which the clarities of the
reason are a necessary preparation and into which they too
will be taken up, transformed, brought to their invisible

The End?

Volume: 13 [SABCL] (Essays on the Gita), Page: 117

But the highest secret of all is the Purushottama. This is
the supreme Divine, God, who possesses both the infinite and
the finite and in whom the personal and the impersonal, the
one Self and the many existences, being and becoming, the
world-action and the supracosmic peace, meet, are united,
are possessed together and in each other. In God all things
find their secret truth and their absolute reconciliation.

Note: SABCL = Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library
See Sri Aurobindo Ashram web site for more information.