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Ancient Creation Stories told by the Numbers
by H. Peter Aleff
The mathematics of Genesis 1
in the layout of the Jerusalem Temple
The seven days of Genesis One may be the best known part of the biblical creation story, but they represent only its conclusion. Before God said his Ten Sayings to make the world with two places for the waters and for the thousands upon thousands of stars, he had to make those numbers and places.
This scenario resembles the Mesopotamian and Egyptian traditions where the creator god’s first deed was also the making of the world order. It further anticipates the modern assumption that numbers and mathematical as well as physical laws must have existed from the very beginning of our universe or even before.
How else could quantum energy levels in the pre- Big- Bang pseudo- vacuum have fluctuated if Number, in such forms as “higher or lower” and “more or less”, had not existed to fluctuate against? And where could space have come from if it had not expanded already before the later creation?
The interplay of the constants describes also this prelude to the seven days of making the physical world. We saw above that Wisdom was the Ten and included all the Ten Sefirot, so her account implies the early existence of the number world when she said in Proverbs 8:22-31:
“The Lord created me the beginning of his works, before all else that he made, long ago. Alone, I was fashioned in times long past, at the beginning, long before earth itself. When there was yet no ocean I was born, no spring brimming with water. Before the mountains were settled in their place, long before the hills I was born, when as yet he had made neither land nor lake, nor the first clod of earth.
When he set the heavens in their place I was there, when he girdled the ocean with the horizon, when he fixed the canopy of clouds overhead and set the springs of ocean firm in their place, when he prescribed its limits for the sea and knit together earth’s foundations.
Then I was at his side each day, his darling and delight, playing in his presence continually, playing on the earth, when he had finished it, while my delight was in mankind.”
In this translation from the New English Bible, Wisdom appears as just a bystander. However, the way the Bahir author reads verse 30 in the last sentence above, she did not only play but also participated actively in the work:
“I was with him as a craftsman, I was his delight for a day, a day, frolicking before Him at every time.”
That Bahir author further commented that “a day, a day” means in this time before time “two thousand years, which are the beginning”1, because Psalm 90:4 says that in God’s sight, “a thousand years are as yesterday”. He also stated that “the Torah was created two ‘days’ before the seven days of creation”2.
The first of these two preparation periods matches a pair of quasi- equations in which Wisdom and the Image of God produce first the Ten Sefirot which stand for all the integers, and then the four constants that supplied the tools and materials for creation in the quasi- equations of Genesis One.
The above two quasi- equations are so basic that anyone who explored the permutations of the four foundation constants would soon have encountered them. It seems therefore likely that the allusions in the Bible and in the Bahir tradition to an initial measuring and limit setting might refer to these numerical relationships.
It also appears that the Temple designer may have been aware of them. The many multiples of Ten in the layout dimensions, and particularly the 100 x 100 cubit Temple footprint, could easily be due to the base- Ten counting system used by the builders, or to the fact that they had ten fingers in their hands. However, combined with the many occurrences of phi in the main proportions of the Temple precinct, they might also have referred to this number- making as the first step of the pre- creation that the designer embedded in the layout.
If the above pair of equations describes the making of the dimensionless numbers as the first of the two preludes to creation, the next day’s task would logically have been to produce the space and the dimensions in which the physical creation was to take place.
Accordingly, in the next quasi- equation the constants phi and e, symbolizing Wisdom and the Image of God, are no longer squared but now lower themselves to the level of the world to be created. There, they stretch out the sky number to its sixth power.
This means they make the six directions: up and down, east and west, north and south. They further divide or measure this result by 100,000 which is the Ten Sefirot to the fifth power, or in all five of the dimensions these define in Stanza 1:5 of the Sefer Yetzira:
“Ten Sefirot of Nothingness:
The large divisor for the sky number indicates that the distances in those six directions are huge, so this stretching of the world and its dimensions resembles the inflationary phase of the current creation scenario, right after the Big Bang. It also corresponds well to the large- scale activities in Wisdom’s above quoted description of the prelude to creation:
“He set the heavens in their place (...) he girdled the ocean (...) he prescribed its limits for the sea and knit together earth’s foundations.”
The Temple layout included the result of that stretching and girdling in the reciprocal of its Court diagonal. This length matched the digit sequence in the sum of phi and e and in the sixth power of the sky number about as closely as the designer could approximate it while keeping the main dimensions of that Court in whole cubits, and while also obeying the constraint of the 187 cubit length.
If this were an isolated match we could easily dismiss it as one of the coincidences which are bound to occur when you manipulate a lot of numbers. However, when you combine it with the many other matches between the relatively rare quasi- equations and the few major distances in the Temple layout, the quantity and accuracy of the agreements go far beyond what you can plausibly expect from random coincidence.
Add to this the consistent fit of the symbolic values in the quasi- equations with the transmitted narratives, and it becomes more probable that the designer had made a conscious effort to embed in the layout the results of this astonishing interplay between the constants.
That Court diagonal also came close to the “231 gates” through which God had created the world in the Kabbalistic tradition and which are formed by all the possible pairings of the 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet4. This tradition fits thus again the role of this number in the quasi- equation that shows the making of the conditions necessary for creating that world.
Did the constants form the name of God?
The four constants played such an important role in the creation story that they invite the speculation they might also have formed the letters in the Yud- Heh- Vav- Heh Tetragrammaton, the holy four- letter name of God.
Kaplan says in his comments to the Bahir that the Yud and Heh which form God’s name Yah correspond to those two thousand years before creation. The Yud was the letter of Wisdom and so is equivalent to phi5.
The Heh had two forms, so one of them could well have represented the e in the quasi- equations for the creations of numbers and space.
The C to the sixth power in the second quasi-equation suggests that this sky number corresponded to the Vav because in the Bahir, the six directions are specifically identified with that letter6.
This would then leave the other Heh as the letter corresponding to pi in this speculation.
If said holy name was indeed made from those constants, then these would automatically have enforced the taboo against pronouncing it. Three of them are transcendental, which means their decimal expansions have no repeating order and no end. Phi is an algebraic number which can be derived from a simple expression, but its digits behind the decimal point are equally non-repeating and unending. No one could therefore ever recite all the digits of these constants, not even by rattling them off really fast and until the end of time.
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