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Along with Andrew Wiles and Linus Pauling, Stephen Hawking is one of the very few modern scientists whose name is a household word.

Hawking, the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics (Isaac Newton’s chair) at Cambridge University, has an insight and an imagination that soar across the cosmos, devising dreams and schemes of how the universe works. The legend of Hawking is of course immensely augmented by the fact that he is afflicted with motor neurone disease (commonly known in the U.S. as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”). In fact he has known that he had the disease since the age of twenty-one (Hawking is now sixty). He did not expect to live to the age of twenty-five and was tempted to despair. Instead, by his own telling, the knowledge of having this deadly illness gave him courage and hope and a will to live. It took his aimless and futile life (which Hawking himself has described elsewhere in painful and shamefaced detail) and gave it direction and purpose. And he has applied that newfound Gestalt to the development of ideas in theoretical physics.

To read any of Hawking’s many books, one would never realize just how devastating Hawking’s illness is. He speaks of it only rarely and as if it were just a minor in- convenience. However, his friend Roger Penrose has told me quite frankly that it requires an army of people just to keep Hawking going: He cannot speak, he can- not walk, he cannot pick up a pen, and he cannot even breathe on his own.

Hawking’s popular writing is redolent of joy and good humor and great high spirits. One cannot but think that the world would be a better place if we all had the good and optimistic frame of mind of Stephen Hawking. His is truly a profile in courage.

Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time [HAW] has been a publishing phenomenon. Penned in 1988, it spent more than four years on the bestseller lists and sold more than ten million copies in forty languages. As Hawking’s postdoc Nathan Myhrvold (of Microsoft fame) has said, Hawking has sold more books on physics than Madonna has on sex. Part of the appeal of Time is the Hawking mystique, but a considerable part of its charm is the breezy and friendly style in which the book is written. Like mathematics, physics is stark and rigorous and forbidding, enshrouded by technical lingo and recondite ideas. Although “relativity”, “the uncertainly principle”, “the speed of light”, and “black holes” hold great charm and fascination for the layman, most writings on these topics are either facile and incorrect or onerous and obscure. Hawking forges a brilliant path between these two extremes. Obviously everything he says is author- itative and accurate; in those instances where he must blow smoke, he is quite honest about it and still gives the reader a sense of what is going on. Hawking uses analogy and humor and example and metaphor to depict his ideas in an attractive and compelling manner.

So if A Brief History of Time is the be-all and end- all of the popular conception of cosmology, then why is there any need for another book? Well, pub- lishers like to sell books; and Stephen Hawking is a best-selling author. But let us be more charitable. By Hawking’s own telling, Time is a tough go for the untrained reader. As I was reading the book’s description of the forward and backward light cones, I was struck by how simple and obvious these ideas are to a trained scientist (like myself), and how utterly obscure they must be to a tyro. The rather more expensive “illustrated edition” of Time has many attractive graphics, but the original and widely disseminated first edition has only a few sim- ple line drawings. As a result, and in spite of its immense popularity, the book comes off as a bit dry and uninviting. The common wisdom is that millions bought the book, but few have gotten past the first twenty pages.

Enter The Universe in a Nutshell. In his preface, Hawking acknowledges the difficulties noted in the preceding paragraph and touts the importance of good pictures. This new book, he claims, will be much more accessible to the lay reader. He points out, wisely I think, that Time is written in a linear order—just like a mathematical monograph. Chapter n + 1 in Time depends strictly on Chapters 1 to n. Of course the mathematical scientist is accustomed to this type of vertical development. The average reader is not. In a much-read article [THU] on mathematics education, William Thurston points out that mathematics is a “tall subject.” The student painstakingly climbs up the pole to the point where he loses his grip, and then he falls down (never to rise again). Thurston argues for the value of making mathematics a “wider subject” with a broad-based infrastructure. Hawking has got this message. In his new book, his organization pattern is a tree: After the introductory material, the book branches out in several different directions. The reader may dip into the succeeding chapters at will and jump around as interest and inclination dictate. Perhaps more important is that Nutshell has marvelous figures, many of them in full color. These are pictures (very elementary ones) of sci- entific ideas, or of equations, or of the scientists themselves. There are sidebars on Kurt Gödel and Kip Thorne and Richard Feynman and John Wheeler and Star Trek and any number of other familiar people and topics. The book is just plain fun. Even when the casual reader gets lost, and he certainly will, he will be encouraged and carried along by the graphics and by the verbal byplay that accompanies the more serious text proper. An added feature is that the book has a concise and useful glossary. Many a reader will have difficulty keeping track of terms and ideas, and this tool will certainly keep many an aficionado going.

There are perhaps those who will criticize Nut- shell for not being sufficiently serious. Popular singer/songwriter Neil Sedaka says that people fault him for having too much fun with his music. Certainly Hawking has tremendous fun with his physics. A few sample passages suggest the over- all tone:

 

Newton occupied the Lucasian chair at Cambridge that I now hold, though it wasn’t electrically operated in his time.
This [time dilation as explained by relativity theory] might suggest that if one wanted to live longer, one should keep flying to the east so that the plane’s speed is added to the earth’s rotation. However, the tiny fraction of a second one would gain would be more than canceled by eating airline meals.
…I estimate the probability that Kip Thorne could go back and kill his grand- father [using time travel] as less than one in ten with a trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion zeroes after it. That’s a pretty small probability, but if you look closely at the picture of Kip, you may see a slight fuzziness around the edges. That corresponds to the faint possibility that some bastard from the future came back and killed his grandfather, so he’s not really there.

 

The reader of this review can surely see that I am a great admirer of Stephen Hawking. His strength and his courage and his exuberance are both infectious and inspiring. But I also appreciate the tremendous intellectual effort that it takes to explain a subject as technical and deep as cosmology to the lay public. It takes real gifts, and tremendous determination, to pull this off. It requires a certain amount of chutzpah even to try it. The likelihood of failure is considerable, and the likelihood of embarrassment before one’s colleagues is huge. Yet we in the mathematical sciences have suffered in the public eye, have suffered in the derby for funding, and have suffered among the sciences because we have not been willing to take these risks. I can only hope that we will all see Stephen Hawking as a role model and that we will therefore try—even in a small way, perhaps by consenting to an interview with the campus newspaper—to communicate as Hawking has. There is much to be gained, and the risks are well worth it. Now that Hawking has forged the path, it is much easier for the rest of us to follow.

Hawking confesses that when he wrote A Brief History of Time he felt that physicists were on the verge of a great overarching theory that would, in particular, reconcile general relativity with quan- tum mechanics. Part of the purpose of the present book is to bring the reader up to date with progress on this unified theory in the past thirteen years. Hawking addresses this goal by way of describing various avenues of research that he, himself, has pursued. This of course makes perfect sense, and he does a splendid job of giving the reader a feel for p-branes, string theory, Feynman’s multiple histories, black holes, and many other cutting edge ideas. I am not at all sure that, having labored through the book, the reader will have a clear idea of where we are now as compared to where we were in 1988. One is tempted at this point to compare Hawking’s new book with Brian Greene’s The Ele- gant Universe [GRE]. Greene states point blank in his preface that “… physicists believe that they have finally found a framework for stitching these insights together into a seamless whole—a single theory that, in principle, is capable of describing all physical phenomena.” He then proceeds to spend 387 pages telling us (by way of superstring theory and the like) how the physicists have achieved this end. Greene is less interested in en- tertaining us than in telling a very serious story. As a result, his book is rather more cerebral and ponderous than Hawking’s. It has nevertheless been well received and has certainly acquainted a broad cross-section of the populace with some important scientific developments. But the book is perhaps more austere than even A Brief History of Time. It contains much more solid information than, and will reach a much more limited audi- ence than, The Universe in a Nutshell. This is a trade-off with which both authors should be comfortable.

The Universe in a Nutshell has many features going for it. Like A Brief History of Time, it has a delightfully wry and enticing title. It draws the reader in quickly and painlessly and sustains him with wit and popular touchstones and fun. The reader of Nutshell will know, because Hawking has told him quite explicitly, that we have not yet reached our goal of a unified theory and that we probably never will. To Hawking’s mind, and to mine as well, this is all to the good because the journey is much more enthralling than the finish. The reader of Nutshell will have been left with many opened doors and unanswered questions, and this is clearly how Hawking wants it. Readers of his next book will have all the necessary prerequisites.

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Christian Parenting – To Choose


Christian parents face the difficult task of raising children in a world of “correctness.” In the past, children grew up in a society that clearly defined what was right and what was wrong. Parents were recognized as the primary authority figure in their children’s lives. Now as the world conforms, our children react to the unprecedented immorality, anti-family, and anti-parent concepts in schools and media.

Parents show increasing concern as their children are encouraged to shun strict rules and biblical truths. Whenever the application of God’s laws is mentioned, a flurry of organizations warn parents not to impose their own values upon their children. But the Christian parent understands the wickedness of exchanging God’s truth for a lie. The Bible speaks of the“insolent, arrogant, and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents. . .” (Romans 1:30). Rebellion and disobedience are just as pervasive today as parental authority disintegrates. Today, parents must choose who and what shapes their children’s lives. Without a doubt, God still holds parents responsible for their children – to instruct them and to discipline them.

Christian Parenting – To Instruct


In the Old Testament, Moses reminds the Israelites of their responsibility to their children and grandchildren. “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them” (Deuteronomy 4:9-10). We would all like to believe that our children will make the right choices based on lessons taught. If our child found a dollar bill at the playground, what would he do with it? What sort of “measuring rod” will a child apply as his benchmark for honesty? Perhaps that child will recall how his father returned over-paid change to a cashier.

When we instruct our children, we are not simply presenting a list of rules to follow. We are letting our “actions speak” by training them according to God’s standards. By living a righteous life, parents provide their children with the understanding of how God’s rules govern all our lives. Then, as our children mature, they develop a habit of doing right, serving God by making their own decisions.

It is the goal of every parent to see their children accept responsibility for their decisions. If our children learn from their mistakes and accept godly correction, then we are on the right course. One father tried to take a short-cut in explaining responsibility by saying, “It’s not what you do, but whether or not you get caught. And if you get caught. . .be willing to pay the consequences!” Obviously, there’s no fast-track for instructing children. Parental instruction is an arduous journey that begins at birth and continues for many years. And there may be countless times when our children make careless decisions and even choose to reject instruction. These are the times when discipline is most necessary.

Christian Parenting – To Discipline


Theories on “correct” discipline change every few years – the Bible never changes. If children do not obey, they must receive correction. The Bible teaches this should be done by using a rod of correction. “The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother” (Proverbs 29:15). Often parents become weary disciplining young children. At times, a typical day seems to consist of nagging and scolding. Parents wonder if they have ruined every chance for a loving relationship with their children. They may even be tempted to give up altogether. “Only God knows what to do with this child,” they groan. YES GOD DOES!!

God chooses each parent with great care. “For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just. . .” (Genesis 18:19). God entrusts your children to your specific care. He wants you to know that kind, firm correction will train your children to obey Him. “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord” (Colossians 3:20). Consistent, loving correction helps children learn biblical truths like self-discipline. God knew Abraham would raise godly children and God blessed him. By applying God’s standards, we too can receive God’s blessings as parents.

And stress? Can stress play a constructive role in raising God-living Christian children?

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Son of Hamas

One of the most amazing stories is that of Mosab Hassan Yousef: a Palestinian who worked under-cover as a spy for Israel’s Intelligence Agency – The Shin Bet.

 

Pastor Jack Schaap, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, interviews Mosab Hassan Yousef (author of the book, Son of Hamas) on Thursday, July 22, 2010, in front of 7,000 youth workers and teenagers during a Youth Conference. This is Yousef’s first public interview after being granted political asylum in the United States.

Born in Ramallah in the West Bank, Yousef’s father, Sheikh Hassan Yousef, is a founding leader of Hamas, internationally recognized as a terrorist organization and responsible for many suicide bombings against Israel. Yousef played an important role of this movement, but after trusting Jesus Christ as his Saviour, he has embraced Christianity and has chosen to expose the secrets of the Islamic organization, risking everything, including his life.

Interview with Mosab Hassan Yousef

 

Since he was a small boy, Mosab Hassan Yousef has had an inside view of the deadly terrorist group Hamas. Young Mosab assisted his father for years in his political activities while being groomed to assume his legacy, politics, status . . . and power.

But everything changed when Mosab turned away from terror and violence, and embraced instead the teachings of another famous Middle East leader. In his book, Son of Hamas, Mosab Yousef–now called “Joseph”–reveals new information about the world’s most dangerous terrorist organization and unveils the truth about his own role, his agonizing separation from family and homeland, the dangerous decision to make his newfound faith public, and his belief that the Christian mandate to “love your enemies” is the only way to peace in the Middle East.

 

Buy:

Son of Hamas

Son of Hamas (Kindle Edition)

Escape From Hamas DVD

Do Aliens Exist?

THE aliens are out there and Earth had better watch out, at least according to Stephen Hawking. He has suggested that extraterrestrials are almost certain to exist — but that instead of seeking them out, humanity should be doing all it that can to avoid any contact.

The suggestions come in a new documentary series in which Hawking, one of the world’s leading scientists, will set out his latest thinking on some of the universe’s greatest mysteries.

Alien life, he will suggest, is almost certain to exist in many other parts of the universe: not just in planets, but perhaps in the centre of stars or even floating in interplanetary space.

Hawking’s logic on aliens is, for him, unusually simple. The universe, he points out, has 100 billion galaxies, each containing hundreds of millions of stars. In such a big place, Earth is unlikely to be the only planet where life has evolved.

“To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational,” he said. “The real challenge is to work out what aliens might actually be like.”

Stephen Hawking: ALIENS – Part 1 of 4

More:

He suggests that aliens might simply raid Earth for its resources and then move on:

“We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach.”

Stephen Hawking: ALIENS – Part 2 of 4

Hawking has suggested the possibility of alien life before but his views have been clarified by a series of scientific breakthroughs, such as the discovery, since 1995, of more than 450 planets orbiting distant stars, showing that planets are a common phenomenon.

So far, all the new planets found have been far larger than Earth, but only because the telescopes used to detect them are not sensitive enough to detect Earth-sized bodies at such distances.

Stephen Hawking: ALIENS – Part 3 of 4

Another breakthrough is the discovery that life on Earth has proven able to colonise its most extreme environments. If life can survive and evolve there, scientists reason, then perhaps nowhere is out of bounds.

Hawking’s belief in aliens places him in good scientific company. In his recent Wonders of the Solar System BBC series, Professor Brian Cox backed the idea, too, suggesting Mars, Europa and Titan, a moon of Saturn, as likely places to look.

Stephen Hawking: ALIENS – Part 4 of 4

Similarly, Lord Rees, the astronomer royal, warned in a lecture earlier this year that aliens might prove to be beyond human understanding.

“I suspect there could be life and intelligence out there in forms we can’t conceive,” he said. “Just as a chimpanzee can’t understand quantum theory, it could be there are aspects of reality that are beyond the capacity of our brains.”

Click here for the full DVD of Stephen Hawking’s Universe

The Qu’ran: It may be the most controversial book in the world. Some see it as a paean to peace, others call it a violent mandate for worldwide Islamic supremacy.
How can one book lead to such dramatically different conclusions?

 

New York Times bestselling author Robert Spencer reveals the truth in The Complete Infidel’s Guide to the Koran: not many Westerners know what’s in the Koran, since so few have actually read it — even among the legions of politicians, diplomats, analysts, and editorial writers who vehemently insist that the Koran preaches tolerance.

 

Now, Spencer unveils the mysteries lying behind this powerful book, guiding readers through the controversies surrounding the Koran’s origins and its most contentious passages. Stripping out the obsolete debates, Spencer focuses on the Koran’s decrees toward Jews, Christians, and other Infidels, explaining how they were viewed in Muhammad’s time, what they’ve supposedly done wrong, and most important, what the Koran has in store for them.

The Complete Infidel’s Guide To The Koran – Part 1

 

The Complete Infidel’s Guide To The Koran – Part 2

 

The Complete Infidel’s Guide To The Koran – Part 3

 

Click here to buy The Complete Infidel’s Guide To The Koran by Robert Spencer

Today all of us are in such a situation that by no way it is possible to separate ourselves from the world. What is the true faith? We live in the world of religious pluralism. We face so many missionaries, each of whom offers his ideals, his life standards, his religious views that the previous or my generation would not envy you for this. We had it easier. The major choice we faced was the choice of religion and atheism.

Now your choice is wider, but by far more difficult. Finding the answer to the question, whether God exists or not is only the first step. If a person comes to believe there is God, what happens afterwards? There are many faiths, but which should one convert to? Should one become a Christian, or why not a Moslem or a Buddhist or a Krishnaite? I am not going to call all of them. Today there are so many religions, you it better than me. Why? Well, having made his way through the thickets and jungle of this multireligious tree a person has become a Christian. He understood that Christianity is the best, the right religion.

But what kind of Christianity? It has so many faces. What should one be? An Orthodox, a Catholic, a Pentecostal, a Lutheran? Again it is beyond number. This is the situation that young people face today. Besides, as a rule representatives of new and old religions, of non-Orthodox denominations actively raise their voice and have better chances to declare their views in mass-media, than we, the Orthodox.

Thus the first thing one faces today is wide variety of faiths, religions, views. That is why I would like to walk quickly through this enfilade of rooms that opens today before the people who search for the truth and consider briefly, however taking into consideration the fundamental features, why one should be not only Christian, but an Orthodox.

Thus, the first problem is “Religion or atheism”. At different conferences, even at high-level ones, I meet well-educated, erudite people, not smatterers, who always ask me the same questions: Who is God? Does He exist? And even: Why should I need Him? Or, if God exists, why does not He make a speech at a UN session and declare His existence? People say even such things. What should I answer?

In my opinion, we can answer this question using the central idea of modern philosophy, which is best of all expressed in the concept of existentiality. What is the objective of human existence, what is the sense of human life? Certainly, first of all the life itself. What else can it be? What sense do I strive for when I sleep? The sense of life can only be in comprehension, “enjoying” the fruit of one’s life and activity. And no one ever claimed or believed and will do in future, that the ultimate sense of human life may be death. This is where the impassable divide between religion and atheism lies. Christianity states: for human this earthly life is only the beginning, the precondition and the means to prepare oneself for eternity: Get ready, eternal life is waiting for you. Christianity says: to enter it you have to do this and be like this. And what is the idea of atheism? There is no God, no soul, no eternity, so believe, human, eternal death is waiting for you! Don’t you feel terror, pessimism and despair at such words? It makes one’s blood creep: Man, eternal death is waiting for you. Not to mention strange argumentation, to put it mildly, to substantiate this idea. Just this phrase makes human soul shudder. – No way, I cannot accept such faith.

If one has lost his way in the woods and is looking for the way home and having found somebody asks him: “Is there a way out here?” And the other one answers: “No and don’t look for it, settle in here as you can” so would one believe him? I doubt it. Would not he search further? And finding another man, who would say: “Yes, there is a way out, I’ll tell you the signs and marks how you can get home”, – would not one believe him? The same happens, when one chooses his views between religion and atheism. As long as a person retains a spark of searching for the truth, for the sense of life, he cannot accept the concept, that at the end he as a personality and accordingly all other people will find eternal death, and on the way to it we should prepare better economical, social, political, cultural medium. And afterwards everything will be O.K. – tomorrow you will die and we will bury you at the cemetery. Wonderful!

I have showed you just one side, psychologically a very important one, which I believe is enough for each person with still alive soul to understand that only this religious view of the world allows us to tackle the sense of life, when we accept for our foundation the One, Whom we call God.

So I believe in God. Let us assume we have passed the first room. And with faith in God I enter the second one… My God, what do I see and hear here? Lots of people, and each is shouting: “Only I have the truth”. That’s really a problem… There are Moslems, Confucians, Buddhists, Judaists, and what not. There are also many, adhering to Christianity. So here is a Christian missionary among others, and I am looking for the one, who is right, who I can believe.

There are two approaches here, perhaps there are more, but I’ll point out only two. One of them to understand which religion is the true one (which objectively corresponds to the human nature, human strivings, human understanding of the sense of life) is the method of comparative theology. It is quite a long path; to pass it one should study each religion. But not everyone is capable of doing it, it takes time, strength and certain abilities to study all this – all the more that it takes so much effort of soul.

But there is also a different way. After all each religion is aimed at the man, it says: the truth is this and nothing different. At the same time all views and all religions state one simple thing: the present state of things, the conditions we live under (political, social, economical ones on the one hand and spiritual, moral, cultural one on the other) are not normal, cannot content us and even if someone is personally satisfied with it, the overwhelming majority suffer from it to a greater or lesser extent. It does not content the mankind as a whole, it is looking for something different, something bigger. It is striving somewhere, to the unknown future, is waiting for the “golden age” – the present state of things does not content anyone.

From this it becomes clear why the essence of each religion and all sorts of worldview comes down to the doctrine of salvation. And just here we face something that gives us a chance to make a reasonable choice in this religious diversity. In contrast to other religions Christianity states something, which is absolutely unknown to other religions (not to mention non-religious views). It is not only, they do not know it, they indignantly reject it when they face it. It is the idea of the so-called original sin. All religions, and even all worldviews and ideologies talk about sin. They call it differently, but it does not matter. But none of them considers human nature in the present state to be corrupted, ill. And Christianity states the state in which we, the humans, were born, have been growing, educated, maturing, the state, in which we enjoy life, recreate, study, make discoveries and so on – this is the state of a deep illness, deep corruption. We are ill. It goes not about flu or bronchitis or a psychic disease. No, we are psychically and physically sound – we can solve problems and fly into space, but we again are seriously ill. In the very beginning of human existence there happened a strange and tragic separation of the one human being into autonomously existing and often antagonistic mind, heart and body, like a swan, a crawfish and a pike in the Krylov’s fable. It is absurd, what Christianity states, isn’t it? People are indignant: “Am I insane? Sorry, perhaps the others, but not me”. But if Christianity is right, it is just here for the very root, very source to be found why human life (individually or in the universal scale) leads to one tragedy after another. For if a person is seriously ill, does not see and consequently does not cure the illness, it will kill the person.

Other religions do not recognize this illness in the human. They reject it. They believe, the man is a healthy seed, which can develop either normally, or abnormally. Its development is conditioned by social environment, economical conditions, psychological factors, and many other things. That is why the man can be good or bad, but by nature he is good. This is the main antithesis of the non-Christian perception. I do not mean non-religious, for their slogan is “Man sounds proudly” (Maxim Gorky – translator’s remark). Only Christianity claims that our present state is the state of deep corruptedness, which is impossible for man alone to cure it. This idea is the foundation of the greatest Christian dogma of Christ the Saviour.

This idea is the principle divide between Christianity and all other religions.

Further I will try to show Christianity in contrast to other religions has an objective confirmation of this statement. Let us have a look at the history of mankind and its purposes in the whole period accessible for our review. Certainly the mankind wanted to create the Kingdom of God on earth, to create paradise. Sometimes with God, and in this case He was regarded as the means to attain well-being on earth, but not as the ultimate purpose of life. Sometimes it was without God. But what is important here is that everybody understood, the Kingdom of God on earth is impossible without such basic things as peace, justice, love (it is clear, paradise is impossible, where war is going on, injustice and malice prevail, etc.), perhaps, respect to each other. Everyone perfectly understands, without such basic moral values, without their realization it is impossible to achieve any well-being on earth. Is it clear? Yes. But what is the mankind busy with all its history? What are we doing? It was well-said by Erich Fromm: “Human history is written with blood. It is history of incessant violence”. Very much to the point.

I think, historians, especially the military ones, could very clearly show what mankind history is filled with: wars, bloodshed, violence, and cruelty. The 20th century theoretically had to be the century of the highest humanism. And it showed humanism in its “perfection”, surpassing all previous centuries of the mankind by the shed blood. If our ancestors could see what happened in the 20th century, they would shudder with horror for the scale of cruelty, injustice, deceit. There is a sort of incomprehensible paradox that in the course of its history the mankind does exactly the opposite to its main goal and idea, to which all its efforts were originally aimed.

That is why I ask a rhetorical question: “Is it possible for a reasonable being to behave like this?” History is merely jeering at us: “Verily, the mankind is reasonable and sound. It is not insane, by no means. It just does more and behaves worse, than the patients in the asylum.”

Alas, it is the fact, from which there is no way to hide. And it shows not just few in the mankind err, no way (unfortunately merely few do not err), but this is some paradoxical feature typical of the whole mankind.

Now if we examine a single person, or to be more exact, if a person has enough moral strength to look at himself, he will see an astonishing picture. Apostle Paul exactly characterized it: “O wretched man that I am! For what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I”. And indeed, who pays just a little attention to what happens in his soul, who faces himself, cannot but see, how seriously he is spiritually ill, prone to various passions, enslaved by them. It is senseless to ask: “Why are you, wretched man, surfeiting, getting drunk, lying, envying, fornicating, etc? Doing this you are killing yourself, destroying your family, maiming you children, poisoning the whole atmosphere around you. Why are you beating, cutting, stabbing yourself, ruining your nerves, your psyche, and your body? Do you understand it is disastrous for you?” Yes, I understand this, but I can’t but do this. Once Basil the Great said: “The worst of the passions ever born in human souls is envy”. As a rule, even suffering, one cannot cope with this illness. In the depth of his soul each reasonable man comprehends the words of Paul: “I do not do the good that I would, but the evil, that I hate”.

At the same time let’s have a look how a person leading the right Christian life can change. Those who managed to get rid of passions, acquired humbleness, “gained, – according to the word of St. Seraphim of Sarov, – the Holy Spirit”, achieved a psychologically very interesting state: they started to see themselves to be the worst sinners. Pimen the Great said: “Believe me, brethren, where the Satan will be cast, I will be cast too”; when Sisoi the Great was dying, his face lit up like sun and it was impossible to look at it, and he implored God to give him some more time for repentance. What was it? Hypocrisy, pretentious humility? Nothing of the kind. They were afraid to sin even in their thoughts, that is why they spoke of their heart; they sincerely said what they felt. However we do not feel it at all. I am full of all sorts of dirt, but believe I am a very good man. I am a good man! But if I do something wrong, then who is without sin, the others are not better than me, and it is not me, who is at fault, but the others. We do not see our soul that is why we are so good in our eyes. You see what a big difference between the spiritual eyesight of a saint and of a common man!

I would like to emphasize it once again. Christianity states that in his nature, in his present, so called normal state the man is deeply corrupted. Unfortunately, due to this strange blindness we are almost completely unable to see our illness. It is most dangerous, because when one sees his illness, he takes medicine, goes to doctors, looks for help. But when one sees himself being healthy, he would himself send to the doctor those, who tell him, he is ill. This is the heaviest symptom of the corruption present in us. And its presence is unambiguously testified by both mankind history and individual history of each person. This is where Christianity is pointing at.

This objective confirmation of just this fact, just one truth of the Christian faith (about the corruptedness of the human nature) suggests me which religion I have to choose: whether to the one, which uncovers my diseases and offers means to cure them, or to a religion that conceals them, nourishes one’s pride and says: everything is good, everything is wonderful, one should not be healed, but should heal the world around him, one should strive to development and perfection? Historical experience has shown what it means to reject treatment.

Good, we came to Christianity. Glory to the Lord, I finally found the true faith. Now I enter the next room, and again there are lots of people, and again I hear shouts: My Christian faith is the best of all. The Catholics invite: Have a look, we are 1 milliard 45 million in the world. The Protestants of various denominations say they are 350 million. The Orthodox are the fewest of all – only 170 million people. Somebody gives a prompt the truth is not in numbers, but in essence. Still the question is extremely serious: “Where is it, the true Christianity?”

There are also various ways to solve this question. At seminary we made studies of dogmatic systems, comparing Catholicism and Protestantism with Orthodoxy. This way is interesting and trustworthy, but still in my opinion it is not perfect, because for a person without profound education and knowledge it is not easy to get to the bottom of dogmatic disputes and clear up who is right and who is wrong. Moreover, quite often the opponents use strong psychological tricks that can be very confusing. For example, we discussed the problem of Pope’s primate with the Catholics, and they say: “Pope? Well, this primate and infallibility of Pope is such a trifling, you know. It is the same as the Patriarch’s authority with you. Pope’s infallibility and power is not actually different from the authority of statements and the power of the Head of any Local Orthodox Church”. Though in fact we have to deal with absolutely different dogmatic and canonical levels here. So the comparative dogmatic method is not that simple. Especially when we face people who not only know the field, but try to convince you at any price.

But there is a different way, which shows apparently, what Catholicism is and where it leads one to. This is also a method of comparative investigation, but investigation of the spiritual sphere of life, demonstrated in the life of saints. Here the whole deception (as it is called in the ascetic language) of the Catholic spirituality gets revealed, the deception fraught with very grave consequences for an ascetic who chose this way. You know, sometimes I give public lectures, attended by different people. Frequently they ask me the question: “What is the difference of Catholicism from Orthodoxy? What is its fault? Is it not just a different way to Christ?” Many times I saw it is enough to give a few examples from the life of catholic mystics for the inquirers to say: “Thank you, now it is clear. It’s enough.”

Indeed, any Local Orthodox Church or non-Orthodox church can be judged by her saints. Tell me who your saints are and I will tell what your church is. Any church calls as saints only those who realized in their life the Christian ideal, as this Church understands it. That is why canonization of a certain saint is not only testimony of the Church about this Christian, who according to her judgment is worthy of the glory and suggested by her as an example to follow. It is at the same time a testimony of the Church about herself. By the saints we can best of all judge about the true or imaginary sanctity of the Church.

I am going to give you a few examples to illustrate the idea of sanctity in the Catholic church.

One of the great Catholic saints is Francis of Assisi (13th century). His spiritual mentality is revealed through the following facts. Once Francis prayed for a long time (the subject of his prayer is very indicative) “about two mercies”: “The first is … that I can go through all the sufferings that You, O Sweetest Jesus, have gone through in Your excruciating passions. And the second mercy… is that I could feel the infinite love, with which you, Son of God, were burning.” As we see, Francis was concerned not about the feeling of being sinful, but he openly claimed for equality with Christ! During this prayer Francis “felt absolutely turned into Jesus”, Whom he saw at once as a six-winged Seraph, striking him with firing arrows at the points of cross wounds of Jesus Christ (hands, feet and the right side). After this vision painful bleeding wounds (stigmata) appeared – the traces of “Jesus’ passions” (M.V.Lodyzhensky. Invisible light. – Pg. 1915. – P.109).

The nature of such stigmata is well-known in psychiatry: permanent concentration of attention on the Christ’s passions excites nerves and psyche of a person and may cause such effect after long exercise. There is grace-giving in it, because in such compassion with Christ there is no true love, about which the Lord directly said: He who has my commandments, and keeps them, he is the one who loves me (Joh.14:21). That is why substitution of struggle with one’s old man by imaginary emotions of “compassion” is one of the gravest mistakes in the spiritual life, who leads many ascetics to self-conceit, pride – to apparent spiritual deceit accompanied by direct mental disorder (comp. Francis’s “sermons” to birds, wolf, turtle-doves, snakes, flowers, his awe of fire, stones, worms).

The goal of life set by Francis is also very indicative: “I laboured and want to labour further…, for it brings honour” (St. Francis of Assisi. – M., Izd.Frantsiskantsev, 1995. – P.145). Francis wishes to suffer for the others and atone their sins (P.20). And at the end of his life he frankly said: “I do not know any transgression of mine that I have not atoned by confession and repentance” (M.V.Lodyzhensky. – p.129). All this testifies for his not seeing his sins, i.e. his total spiritual blindness.

For comparison I’ll describe to you a moment from life of St. Sisoi the Great (5th century). “Just before his death, surrounded by the brethren, when Sisoi looked like talking with invisible ones, to the question “Father, tell us, whom are you talking with?” he said: “The angels have come to take me, but I pray to them that they let me stay here for a short time for repentance”. Knowing that Sisoi was perfect in virtues the brethren objected to him: “Father, you have no need in repentance”, and Sisoi answered like this: “Verily, I do not know, if I have at least started the cause of my repentance” (Lodyzhensky. – p.133). This deep understanding, sight of one’s imperfection is the main distinctive trait of all true saints.

And here are some extracts from “Revelations of blessed Angela” (†1309) (Revelations of blessed Angela. – M., 1918).

The Holy Spirit, she writes, says to her: “O, My daughter, My sweetest, I love you so much” (p.95). “I was with the Apostles and they saw Me with their bodily eyes, but did not feel Me like you feel Me” (p.96). Angela reveals also such things about herself: “In the darkness I see the Holy Trinity, and I feel I myself dwell within the Trinity in the darkness in the very middle of It” (c.117). Her feelings to Jesus Christ she expresses in the following words: “I could put my whole self inside of Jesus Christ” (p.176). Or: “I cried of His sweetness and sorrow for His departure and wanted to die” (p.101) – and in such moments she would start to beat herself so violently that nuns had to take her out of kostel (p.83).

One of the greatest Russian religious philosophers of the 20th century A.F.Losev gives a sharp, but true appraisal of Angela’s “revelations”. He wrote: “Being tempted and enticed by flesh results in the Holy Spirit’s appearing to blessed Angela and whispering such amorous words to her: “My daughter, you are My sweetest, My daughter, you are My dwelling, My daughter, you are my delight, love me, for I love you so much, much more than you love Me”. The Saint is in sweet languor, born away with love languishing. And the beloved appears again and again and more and more burns her body, her heart, her blood. The Cross seems to her to be the bride-bed… What can be more in contrast to the Byzantine-Moscow austere and chaste ascetics, than these continuous statements: “My soul was accepted into the Divine light and enskied”, – her passionate looking on the Lord’s Cross, on Christ’s wounds and individual members of His body, her intended calling forth of blood marks on her body, etc? To crown it all Christ embraces Angela with His hand, nailed to the cross, and she says to Him being full of languish, torment and happiness: “Sometimes in this strong embrace my soul seems to enter the side of Christ. And it is impossible to relate the joy and illumination one feels there. They are so mighty that I could not stand on my feet, but was lying and my tongue grew numb… And I was lying and my tongue and members of the body grew numb (A.F.Losev. Essays on antique symbolism and mythology. – M., 1930. – V.1. – p.867-868).

St. Catherine of Siena (+1380) is one more vivid example of Catholic sanctity. She was canonized by Pope Paul VI in the highest rank of saints – “Doctors of the Church” (Doctor Ecclesiae). I’ll quote a few extracts from Catholic book by Antonio Sikari “Portraits of saints”. To my mind these extracts need no comments.

Catherine was about 20 years old. “She felt, a decisive turning point in her life was coming near, and she kept devout prayers to Her Lord Jesus repeating a beautiful, most tender formula that became habitual to her: “Unite in matrimony of faith with me!” (Antonio Sikari. Portraits of saints. V.II. – Milano, 1991. – p.11).

“Once Catherine had a vision: her divine bridegroom embraced her and drew her to Himself, then He took the heart from her chest to give her another one, which was more like his one” (p.12).

Once it was said, she died. “Later she said that her heart was lacerated by divine love and that she went through death having seen the gates of paradise”. But “return, My child, the Lord told me, you have to return… I shall lead you to princes and masters of the Church”. “And the humble young lady started to send her messages all over the world, long letters, which she dictated with an astonishing swiftness, at times three or four at a time and on different subjects, however without floundering and doing it ahead of secretaries. These letters end with a passionate formula: “The sweetest Jesus, Jesus the Love” and are often opened with the words: “I, Catherine, Jesus’ servant and slave of His slaves, am writing to you in His precious blood…” (12).

“The main thing that arrests attention in Catherine’s letters is her insistent repetition of the words: “I want” (12).

“According to some researches in ecstasy she addressed these resolute words “I want” even to Christ” (13).

In her correspondence with Gregory XI, whom she tried to persuade to return from Avignon to Rome: “I say unto you in the name of Christ… I say unto you, Father, in Jesus Christ… Answer to the call of the Holy Spirit, addressed to you” (13).

She addressed the king of France with the following words: “Fulfill God’ will and mine” (14).

“Revelations” of Teresa of Avila, canonized by the same Pope Paul VI as a Doctor of the Church (16th century), are no less indicative. Before death she cried out: “Oh, my God, my Spouse, at last I will see you!” This cry, an extremely strange one, did not sound by chance. It is a natural result of Teresa’s whole “spiritual” exercise, the essence of which is revealed for example in the following fact.

After numerous appearances “Christ” says to Teresa: “From this day you will be My spouse… From now on I am not only your Creator, God, but also the Spouse” (D.S. Merezhkovsky. Spanish mystics. – Brussels, 1988. – P. 88). “Oh, Lord, I want either suffer with You, or die for You!” Teresa prays and collapses utterly exhausted with these caresses…”, D. Merezhkovsky writes. After this it is no surprise, when Teresa confesses: “The Beloved calls my soul with such penetrating whistle that I cannot overhear it. This call so touches the soul that it breaks down with desire”. It is not by chance that renowned American psychologist William James, analyzing her mystical experience, wrote that “her understanding of religion was reduced to endless flirting between the worshipper and the deity” (James W. Variety of religious experience./Transl. from English. – M., 1910. – P.337).

One more illustration of the idea of sanctity in Catholicism is Teresa of Lisieux (Teresa the Little, or Teresa of the Child Jesus), who died in the age of 23, and in 1997 marking the 100th anniversary of her death John Paul II by his “infallible” decision declared her to be one more Doctor of the Ecumenical Church. Here are a few quotations from spiritual autobiography of Teresa “Story of one soul”, expressively testifying her spiritual state (Story of one soul // Symbol. 1996, No.36. – Paris. – P.151).

“In an interview before taking the veil I revealed what I was going to do in Karmela: I have come to save souls, and first of all to pray for the priests” (to save not herself, but others!).

Speaking about her unworthiness she adds: “I invariably keep a bold hope to become a great saint… I thought I was born for glory and looked for the ways to achieve it. And then the Lord, our God… let me know that my glory would not be revealed to judgment of a mortal, and the essence of it is I will be a great saint!!!” (comp. Macarius the Great, whom people called “earthly god” for the rear highness of his life, prayed: “O God, cleanse me, a sinner, for I have never done anything good in Thy sight”). Later Teresa wrote even more frankly: “In the heart of my Mother-Church I will be Love… through this I will become everything… and my dream will come true!!!”

Teresa’s doctrine about spiritual love is also extremely “remarkable”: “It was kissing of love. I felt beloved and said: “I love You and commit myself to You forever.” There were no requests, no struggle, no sacrifices; long ago Jesus and small poor Teresa understood everything after a single glance… This day brought not only mutual glances, but fusion, when there were no more two of them, and Teresa disappeared like a water drop lost in the depth of the ocean”. I think no comments are necessary to this dreamy romance of a poor girl – a Doctor of the Catholic Church.

Mystical experience of one of the pillars of the Catholic mystics, founder of the Jesuits Order Ignatius Loyola (16th century) was also based on the methodical development of imagination.

His book “Spiritual exercise”, which has enormous authority with the Catholics, calls a Christian to imagining and contemplating the Holy Trinity, Christ, Mother of God, angels, etc. All this fundamentally contradicts the foundations of the spiritual feats of the saints of the Ecumenical Church, for it leads the faithful to the total spiritual and mental disorder.

An authoritative collection of ascetic writings of the ancient Church “The Dobrotolubie” (“The Philokalia”) strictly forbids this kind of “spiritual exercise”. Here are a few quotations from it.

Saint Nilus of Sinai (5th century) warns: “Do not desire to see sensually Angels or Virtues, or Christ, otherwise you’ll go mad taking a wolf for the shepherd and bowing to demon-enemies” (St.Nilus of Sinai. 153 Chapters on Prayer. Ch.115 // The Dobrotolubie: In 5 volumes. V.2. 2nd edition. – M., 1884. – p. 237).

St. Simeon the New Theologian (11th century) reasoning about those who “imagine heavenly blessings, angel hosts and abodes of saints” in prayer definitely says “this is a sign of prelest” (spiritual deceit). “Going this way even those who see light with their bodily eyes, smell fragrance with their nose, hear voices with their ears and the like get seduced (St. Simeon the New Theologian. On three forms of prayer // The Dobrotolubie. V.5. M., 1990. p.463-464).

St. Gregory the Sinaite (14th century) reminds: “Never accept things when you see something sensual or spiritual, inside or outside, even if it has an image of Christ or an angel or a certain saint… The one who accepts it easily gets seduced… God does not resent one being attentive to himself, if one fearing to get seduced does not accept what He gives,… but rather praises him as a wise one” (St. Gregory the Sinaite. Hesyhast instruction // same. – p.224).

So the landowner, whom St. Ignatius Brianchaninov described in his work, was quite right, when he seeing a catholic book “On the Imitation of Christ” by Thomas a Kempis (15th century) snatched it out of her hands and said: “Stop playing a romance with God”. The above examples do not leave any doubts in the truth of these words. Unfortunately, the Catholic church has lost the art to distinguish the spiritual from the sensual, and sanctity from reveries, and thus also Christianity from paganism.

That’s what I wanted to say about Catholicism.

To make it clear with Protestantism it is enough to have a look at its dogmatics. To see its essence I’ll limit myself to the main doctrine of Protestantism: “Man gets saved only by faith and not by deeds, that is why sin is not counted to the believer for sin”. Here is the main question where the Protestants got confused. They start to build the house of salvation from the 10th floor having forgotten (if they remembered it at all) the teaching of the ancient Church what kind of faith saves man. Not the faith that 2000 years ago Christ came and did everything for us?!

What is the difference in understanding the faith in the Orthodoxy and the Protestantism? The Orthodoxy says that man is saved by faith, but sin is counted to the believer for sin. What sort of faith is it? – Not a mental one, but the state acquired trough correct Christian life, thanks to which one gets assured that only Christ can save him from bondage and poignant passions. How can one achieve this faith-state? Through compulsion to observe the Gospel commandments and sincere repentance. St. Simeon the New Theologian says: “Through strict observance of Christ’s commandments man learns his infirmity”, that is one discovers his inability to extirpate passions without God’s help. For man alone it is impossible, but together with God everything is possible. Correct Christian life reveals to man, first, his passions-illnesses, second, that God is near each of us, and finally, that at any instance He is ready to come to the rescue and save us from sin. But He saves us not without us, not without our efforts and struggle. Act of faith is necessary to make us able to accept Christ, for they show us that we cannot heal ourselves without God. Only when I am drowning I realize I need a Saviour, when there is nobody on the bank, and only when I feel I am drowning in the poignant passions, I turn to Christ. And He comes and helps. This is where the living saving faith starts. The Orthodoxy’s teaching is about freedom and worthiness of man as a God’s co-worker in his salvation, and not as a “salt pillar” according to Luther that cannot do anything. This makes clear the meaning of all Gospel commandments, leading a Christian to salvation, not faith alone, and makes obvious the truth of the Orthodoxy.

This is how the Orthodoxy opens for a person, not just Christianity, not just religion, not just faith in God.

I have told you everything; there is nothing more to say. However you can ask questions, but only the ones I can answer.

– In the arguments with the Catholics using the comparative method we give various facts. However in the Hagiography by St. Dmitry of Rostov we can find certain things looking like catholic mystics. And today pure apocripha are published.

– Good question, I’ll answer it like this.

First, concerning the Hagiography by St. Dmitry of Rostov. There is no secret that unfortunately St. Dmitry of Rostov used catholic hagiographical sources after the 11th century without sufficient critical verification. According to the study of Fr. Seraphim Rose these sources are very unreliable. The epoch when Dmitry of Rostov lived was the epoch of a very strong Catholic influence. You yourself know: Kiev-Mogilian Academy in the beginning of the 17th century, Moscow Theological Academy till the end of the 17th century and our whole theological thought and theological education developed under the very strong influence of the Catholic and Protestant theology. Even today non-Orthodox influence is quite noticeable, almost all textbooks are old reprinted ones, and new ones are complied on their basis. That is why our theological schools had and have significant scholastic character. Such schools have to be organized in the monasteries; all students of theological schools have to go through the monastery, irrespective of what life they choose for the future – monastic or family life. So, you are right, in the Hagiography by St. Dmitry of Rostov there are some unverified materials. Sometimes they confuse the reader. But if the Catholics show us something what you call Apocripha, our Church would easily reject them. But I doubt if the Catholics can reject Teresa the Great or the Little?

 

The problem of the origin of the universe, is a bit like the old question: Which came first, the chicken, or the egg. In other words, what agency created the universe. And what created that agency. Or perhaps, the universe, or the agency that created it, existed forever, and didn’t need to be created. Up to recently, scientists have tended to shy away from such questions, feeling that they belonged to metaphysics or religion, rather than to science. However, in the last few years, it has emerged that the Laws of Science may hold even at the beginning of the universe. In that case, the universe could be self contained, and determined completely by the Laws of Science.

The debate about whether, and how, the universe began, has been going on throughout recorded history. Basically, there were two schools of thought. Many early traditions, and the Jewish, Christian and Islamic religions, held that the universe was created in the fairly recent past. For instance, Bishop Usher calculated a date of four thousand and four BC, for the creation of the universe, by adding up the ages of people in the Old Testament. One fact that was used to support the idea of a recent origin, was that the Human race is obviously evolving in culture and technology. We remember who first performed that deed, or developed this technique. Thus, the arguement runs, we can not have been around all that long. Otherwise, we would have already progressed more than we have. In fact, the biblical date for the creation, is not that far off the date of the end of the last Ice Age, which is when modern humans seem first to have appeared.

On the other hand, some people, such as the Greek philosopher, Aristotle, did not like the idea that the universe had a beginning. They felt that would imply Divine intervention. They prefered to believe that the universe, had existed, and would exist, forever. Something that was eternal, was more perfect than something that had to be created. They had an answer to the argument about human progress, that I described. It was, that there had been periodic floods, or other natural disasters, which repeatedly set the human race right back to the beginning.

Both schools of thought held that the universe was essentially unchanging in time. Either it had been created in its present form, or it had existed forever, like it is today. This was a natural belief in those times, because human life, and, indeed the whole of recorded history, are so short that the universe has not changed significantly during them. In a static, unchanging universe, the question of whether the universe has existed forever, or whether it was created at a finite time in the past, is really a matter for metaphysics or religion: either theory could account for such a universe. Indeed, in 1781, the philosopher, Immanuel Kant, wrote a monumental, and very obscure work, The Critique of Pure Reason. In it, he concluded that there were equally valid arguements, both for believing that the universe had a beginning, and for believing that it did not. As his title suggests, his conclusions were based simply on reason. In other words, they did not take any account of observations about the universe. After all, in an unchanging universe, what was there to observe?

In the 19th century, however, evidence began to accumulate that the earth, and the rest of the universe, were in fact changing with time. On the one hand, geologists realized that the formation of the rocks, and the fossils in them, would have taken hundreds or thousands of millions of years. This was far longer than the age of the Earth, according to the Creationists. On the other hand, the German physicist, Boltzmann, discovered the so-called Second Law of Thermodynamics. It states that the total amount of disorder in the universe (which is measured by a quantity called entropy), always increases with time. This, like the argument about human progress, suggests that the universe can have been going only for a finite time. Otherwise, the universe would by now have degenerated into a state of complete disorder, in which everything would be at the same temperature.

Another difficulty with the idea of a static universe, was that according to Newton’s Law of Gravity, each star in the universe ought to be attracted towards every other star. So how could they stay at a constant distance from each other. Wouldn’t they all fall together. Newton was aware of this problem about the stars attracting each other. In a letter to Richard Bentley, a leading philosopher of the time, he agreed that a finite collection of stars could not remain motionless: they would all fall together, to some central point. However, he argued that an infinite collection of stars, would not fall together: for there would not be any central point for them to fall to. This argument is an example of the pitfalls that one can encounter when one talks about infinite systems. By using different ways to add up the forces on each star, from the infinite number of other stars in the universe, one can get different answers to the question: can they remain at constant distance from each other. We now know that the correct proceedure, is to consider the case of a finite region of stars. One then adds more stars, distributed roughly uniformly outside the region. A finite collection of stars will fall together. According to Newton’s Law of Gravity, adding more stars outside the region, will not stop the collapse. Thus, an infinite collection of stars, can not remain in a motionless state. If they are not moving relative to each other at one time, the attraction between them, will cause them to start falling towards each other. Alternatively, they can be moving away from each other, with gravity slowing down the velocity of recession.

Despite these difficulties with the idea of a static and unchanging universe, no one in the seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth or early twentieth centuries, suggested that the universe might be evolving with time. Newton and Einstein, both missed the chance of predicting, that the universe should be either contracting, or expanding. One can not really hold it against Newton, because he was two hundred and fifty years before the observational discovery of the expansion of the universe. But Einstein should have known better. Yet when he formulated the General Theory of Relativity to reconcile Newton’s theory with his own Special Theory of Relativity, he added a so-called, “cosmological constant”. This had a repulsive gravitational effect, which could balance the attractive effect of the matter in the universe. In this way, it was possible to have a static model of the universe.

Einstein later said: The cosmological constant was the greatest mistake of my life. That was after observations of distant galaxies, by Edwin Hubble in the 1920’s, had shown that they were moving away from us, with velocities that were roughly proportional to their distance from us. In other words, the universe is not static, as had been previously thought: it is expanding. The distance between galaxies is increasing with time.

The discovery of the expansion of the universe, completely changed the discussion about its origin. If you take the present motion of the galaxies, and run it back in time, it seems that they should all have been on top of each other, at some moment, between ten and twenty thousand million years ago. At this time, which is called the Big Bang, the density of the universe, and the curvature of spacetime, would have been infinite. Under such conditions, all the known laws of science would break down. This is a disaster for science. It would mean that science alone, could not predict how the universe began. All that science could say is that: The universe is as it is now, because it was as it was then. But Science could not explain why it was, as it was, just after the Big Bang.

Not surprisingly, many scientists were unhappy with this conclusion. There were thus several attempts to avoid the Big Bang. One was the so-called Steady State theory. The idea was that, as the galaxies moved apart from each other, new galaxies would form in the spaces inbetween, from matter that was continually being created. The universe would have existed, and would continue to exist, forever, in more or less the same state as it is today.

The Steady State model required a modification of general relativity, in order that the universe should continue to expand, and new matter be created. The rate of creation needed was very low: about one particle per cubic kilometre per year. Thus, this would not be in conflict with observation. The theory also predicted that the average density of galaxies, and similar objects, should be constant, both in space and time. However, a survey of extra-galactic sources of radio waves, was carried out by Martin Ryle and his group at Cambridge. This showed that there were many more faint sources, than strong ones. On average, one would expect that the faint sources were the more distant ones. There were thus two possibilities: Either, we were in a region of the universe, in which strong sources were less frequent than the average. Or, the density of sources was higher in the past, when the light left the more distant sources. Neither of these possibilities was compatible with the prediction of the Steady State theory, that the density of radio sources should be constant in space and time. The final blow to the Steady State theory was the discovery, in 1965, of a background of microwaves. These had the characteristic spectrum of radiation emited by a hot body, though, in this case, the term, hot, is hardly appropriate, since the temperature was only 2.7 degrees above Absolute Zero. The universe is a cold, dark place! There was no reasonable mechanism, in the Steady State theory, to generate microwaves with such a spectrum. The theory therefore had to be abandoned.

Another idea to avoid a singularity, was suggested by two Russians, Lifshitz and Khalatnikov. They said, that maybe a state of infinite density, would occur only if the galaxies were moving directly towards, or away from, each other. Only then, would the galaxies all have met up at a single point in the past. However, one might expect that the galaxies would have had some small sideways velocities, as well as their velocity towards or away from each other. This might have made it possible for there to have been an earlier contracting phase, in which the galaxies somehow managed to avoid hitting each other. The universe might then have re-expanded, without going through a state of infinite density.

When Lifshitz and Khalatnikov made their suggestion, I was a research student, looking for a problem with which to complete my PhD thesis. Two years earlier, I had been diagnosed as having ALS, or motor neuron disease. I had been given to understand that I had only two or three years to live. In this situation, it didn’t seem worth working on my PhD, because I didn’t expect to finish it. However, two years had gone by, and I was not much worse. Moreover, I had become engaged to be married. In order to get married, I had to get a job. And in order to get a job, I needed to finish my thesis.

I was interested in the question of whether there had been a Big Bang singularity, because that was crucial to an understanding of the origin of the universe. Together with Roger Penrose, I developed a new set of mathematical techniques, for dealing with this and similar problems. We showed that if General Relativity was correct, any reasonable model of the universe must start with a singularity. This would mean that science could predict that the universe must have had a beginning, but that it could not predict how the universe should begin: for that one would have to appeal to God.

It has been interesting to watch the change in the climate of opinion on singularities. When I was a graduate student, almost no one took singularities seriously. Now, as a result of the singularity theorems, nearly everyone believes that the universe began with a singularity. In the meantime, however, I have changed my mind: I still believe that the universe had a beginning, but that it was not a singularity.

The General Theory of Relativity, is what is called a classical theory. That is, it does not take into account the fact that particles do not have precisely defined positions and velocities, but are smeared out over a small region by the Uncertainty Principle of quantum mechanics. This does not matter in normal situations, because the radius of curvature of spacetime, is very large compared to the uncertainty in the position of a particle. However, the singularity theorems indicate that spacetime will be highly distorted, with a small radius of curvature, at the beginning of the present expansion phase of the universe. In this situation, the uncertainty principle will be very important. Thus, General Relativity brings about its own downfall, by predicting singularities. In order to discuss the beginning of the universe, we need a theory which combines General Relativity with quantum mechanics.

We do not yet know the exact form of the correct theory of quantum gravity. The best candidate we have at the moment, is the theory of Superstrings, but there are still a number of unresolved difficulties. However, there are certain features that we expect to be present, in any viable theory. One is Einstein’s idea, that the effects of gravity can be represented by a spacetime, that is curved or distorted by the matter and energy in it. Objects try to follow the nearest thing to a straight line, in this curved space. However, because it is curved, their paths appear to be bent, as if by a gravitational field.

Another element that we expect to be present in the ultimate theory, is Richard Feynman’s proposal that quantum theory can be formulated, as a Sum Over Histories. In it simplest form, the idea is that a particle has every possible path, or history, in space time. Each path or history has a probability that depends on its shape. For this idea to work, one has to consider histories that take place in “imaginary” time, rather than the real time in which we perceive ourselves as living. Imaginary time may sound like something out of science fiction, but it is a well defined mathematical concept. It can be thought of as a direction of time that is at right angles to real time, in some sense. One adds up the probabilities for all the particle histories with certain properties, such as passing through certain points at certain times. One then has to extrapolate the result, back to the real space time in which we live. This is not the most familiar approach to quantum theory, but it gives the same results as other methods.

In the case of quantum gravity, Feynman’s idea of a “Sum over Histories” would involve summing over different possible histories for the universe. That is, different curved space times. One has to specify what class of possible curved spaces should be included in the Sum over Histories. The choice of this class of spaces, determines what state the universe is in. If the class of curved spaces that defines the state of the universe, included spaces with singularities, the probabilities of such spaces would not be determined by the theory. Instead, they would have to be assigned in some arbitrary way. What this means, is that science could not predict the probabilities of such singular histories for spacetime. Thus, it could not predict how the universe should behave. However, it is possible that the universe is in a state defined by a sum that includes only non singular curved spaces. In this case, the laws of science would determine the universe completely: one would not have to appeal to some agency external to the universe, to determine how it began. In a way, the proposal that the state of the universe is determined by a sum over non singular histories only, is like the drunk looking for his key under the lamp post: it may not be where he lost it, but it is the only place in which he might find it. Similarly, the universe may not be in the state defined by a sum over non singular histories, but it is the only state in which science could predict how the universe should be.

In 1983, Jim Hartle and I, proposed that the state of the universe should be given by a Sum over a certain class of Histories. This class consisted of curved spaces, without singularities, and which were of finite size, but which did not have boundaries or edges. They would be like the surface of the Earth, but with two more dimensions. The surface of the Earth has a finite area, but it doesn’t have any singularities, boundaries or edges. I have tested this by experiment. I went round the world, and I didn’t fall off.

The proposal that Hartle and I made, can be paraphrased as: The boundary condition of the universe is, that it has no boundary. It is only if the universe is in this “no boundary” state, that the laws of science, on their own, determine the probabilities of each possible history. Thus, it is only in this case that the known laws would determine how the universe should behave. If the universe is in any other state, the class of curved spaces, in the “Sum over Histories”, will include spaces with singularities. In order to determine the probabilities of such singular histories, one would have to invoke some principle other than the known laws of science. This principle would be something external to our universe. We could not deduce it from within the universe. On the other hand, if the universe is in the “no boundary” state, we could, in principle, determine completely how the universe should behave, up to the limits set by the Uncertainty Principle.

It would clearly be nice for science if the universe were in the “no boundary” state, but how can we tell whether it is? The answer is, that the no boundary proposal makes definite predictions, for how the universe should behave. If these predictions were not to agree with observation, we could conclude that the universe is not in the “no boundary” state. Thus, the “no boundary” proposal is a good scientific theory, in the sense defined by the philosopher, Karl Popper: it can be falsified by observation.

If the observations do not agree with the predictions, we will know that there must be singularities in the class of possible histories. However, that is about all we would know. We would not be able to calculate the probabilities of the singular histories. Thus, we would not be able to predict how the universe should behave. One might think that this unpredictability wouldn’t matter too much, if it occurred only at the Big Bang. After all, that was ten or twenty billion years ago. But if predictability broke down in the very strong gravitational fields in the Big Bang, it could also break down whenever a star collapsed. This could happen several times a week, in our galaxy alone. Thus, our power of prediction would be poor, even by the standards of weather forecasts.

Of course, one could say that one didn’t care about a breakdown in predictability, that occurred in a distant star. However, in quantum theory, anything that is not actually forbidden, can and ~will happen. Thus, if the class of possible histories includes spaces with singularities, these singularities could occur anywhere, not just at the Big Bang and in collapsing stars. This would mean that we couldn’t predict anything. Conversely, the fact that we are able to predict events, is experimental evidence against singularities, and for the “no boundary” proposal.

So what does the no boundary proposal, predict for the universe. The first point to make, is that because all the possible histories for the universe are finite in extent, any quantity that one uses as a measure of time, will have a greatest and a least value. So the universe will have a beginning, and an end. However, the beginning will not be a singularity. Instead, it will be a bit like the North Pole of the Earth. If one takes degrees of latitude on the surface of the Earth to be the anallogue of time, one could say that the surface of the Earth began at the North Pole. Yet the North Pole is a perfectly ordinary point on the Earth. There’s nothing special about it, and the same laws hold at the North Pole, as at other places on the Earth. Similarly, the event that we might choose to label, as “the beginning of the universe”, would be an ordinary point of spacetime, much like any other, the laws of science would hold at the beginning, as elsewhere.

From the analogy with the surface of the Earth, one might expect that the end of the universe would be similar to the beginning, just as the North Pole is much like the South Pole. However, the North and South Poles correspond to the beginning and end of the history of the universe, in imaginary time, not the real time that we experience. If one extrapolates the results of the “Sum over Histories” from imaginary time to real time, one finds that the beginning of the universe in real time can be very different from its end. It is difficult to work out the details, of what the no boundary proposal predicts for the beginning and end of the universe, for two reasons. First, we don’t yet know the exact laws that govern gravity according to the Uncertainty Principle of quantum mechanics. Though we know the general form and many of the properties that they should have. Second, even if we knew the precise laws, we could not use them to make exact predictions. It would be far too difficult, to solve the equations exactly. Nevertheless, it does seem possible to get an approximate idea, of what the no boundary condition would imply. Jonathan Halliwell and I, have made such an approximate calculation. We treated the universe as a perfectly smooth and uniform background, on which there were small perturbations of density. In real time, the universe would appear to begin its expansion at a minimum radius. At first, the expansion would be what is called inflationary. That is, the universe would double in size every tiny fraction of a second, just as prices double every year in certain countries. The world record for economic inflation, was probably Germany after the First World War. The price of a loaf of bread, went from under a mark, to millions of marks in a few months. But that is nothing compared to the inflation that seems to have occurred in the early universe: an increase in size by a factor of at least a million million million million million times, in a tiny fraction of a second. Of course, that was before the present government.

This inflation was a good thing, in that it produced a universe that was smooth and uniform on a large scale, and was expanding at just the critical rate to avoid recollapse. The inflation was also a good thing in that it produced all the contents of the universe, quite literally out of nothing. When the universe was a single point, like the North Pole, it contained nothing. Yet there are now at least 10 to the 80 particles in the part of the universe that we can observe. Where did all these particles come from? The answer is, that Relativity and quantum mechanics, allow matter to be created out of energy, in the form of particle anti particle pairs. So, where did the energy come from, to create the matter? The answer is, that it was borrowed, from the gravitational energy of the universe. The universe has an enormous debt of negative gravitational energy, which exactly balances the positive energy of the matter. During the inflationary period, the universe borrowed heavily from its gravitational energy, to finance the creation of more matter. The result was a triumph for Reagan economics: a vigorous and expanding universe, filled with material objects. The debt of gravitational energy, will not have to be repaid until the end of the universe.

The early universe could not have been exactly homogeneous and uniform, because that would violate the Uncertainty Principle of quantum mechanics. Instead, there must have been departures from uniform density. The no boundary proposal, implies that these differences in density, would start off in their ground state. That is, they would be as small as possible, consistent with the Uncertainty Principle. However, during the inflationary expansion, they would be amplified. After the period of inflationary expansion was over, one would be left with a universe that was expanding slightly faster in some places, than in others. In regions of slower expansion, the gravitational attraction of the matter, would slow down the expansion still further. Eventually, the region would stop expanding, and would contract to form galaxies and stars. Thus, the no boundary proposal, can account for all the complicated structure that we see around us. However, it does not make just a single prediction for the universe. Instead, it predicts a whole family of possible histories, each with its own probability. There might be a possible history in which Walter Mondale won the last presidential election, though maybe the probability is low.

The no boundary proposal, has profound implications for the role of God in the affairs of the universe. It is now generally accepted, that the universe evolves according to well defined laws. These laws may have been ordained by God, but it seems that He does not intervene in the universe, to break the laws. However, until recently, it was thought that these laws did not apply to the beginning of the universe. It would be up to God to wind up the clockwork, and set the universe going, in any way He wanted. Thus, the present state of the universe, would be the result of God’s choice of the initial conditions. The situation would be very different, however, if something like the no boundary proposal were correct. In that case, the laws of physics would hold, even at the beginning of the universe. So God would not have the freedom to choose the initial conditions. Of course, God would still be free to choose the laws that the universe obeyed. However, this may not be much of a choice. There may only be a small number of laws, which are self consistent, and which lead to complicated beings, like ourselves, who can ask the question: What is the nature of God? Even if there is only one, unique set of possible laws, it is only a set of equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations, and makes a universe for them to govern. Is the ultimate unified theory so compelling, that it brings about its own existence. Although Science may solve the problem of ~how the universe began, it can not answer the question: why does the universe bother to exist? Maybe only God can answer that.

The time has come to face up to the truth,
whatever the consequences, those are the rules.
Nothing happens by luck or by chance,
the timing is perfect and your world is enhanced.

You’re reading this message because of a light,
that has guided you inward, to see toward what’s right.

Some of the travelers who get on this ride,
are not ready to see it, to think or decide.

They just need a push, a shove or a guide,
the great illusion is inward, and not just outside.
It’s the secret of life that flows in us all,
but why understand it and why climb this wall?

Nothing is simple as we hide under our beds,
all is a paradox and it’s all in our heads.

Fantasy is lucid on this trip through the dream,
the path travels inward ~ building high self esteem.

Overcoming all images of fear and of strife.
thought creates reality  …that’s the Mystery of Life!