Fortean Times Review: July Issue
SOLVING THE RIDDLE OF THE SPHINX
The Universal man, interstellar genes, galactic double-helices, group consciousness and the magic of the octave make a heady brew. The hot search among physicists and other game scientists is the 'theory of everything'. One physicist quipped that the answer to the question 'Why is everything the way it is?' would be an elegant equation which could then be put on a T-shirt. This 'been there, done that' approach to cosmological riddles is typical of the nerdy sensibility that informs much hubristic science. What will scientists do once everything has been neatly accounted for? A too successful summing up of the Universe will put a lot of other people out of business. This reflection has spawned several 'end of science' books, with gloomy predictions about the boredom that will descend on our intellectual life once our speculative Alexanders have no new worlds to conquer.
As Michael Hayes argues in this intriguing book, the search for a theory of everything has a long and fascinating history, though contemporary thinkers on the subject will probably look askance on Hayes' more mystical approach. He argues that there isn't a 'final equation' to the Universe, but a code, which he calls the Hermetic Code, based on the musical scale of octaves. (The alchemical aphorism, 'as above, so below', associated with the legendary Hermes Trismegistus, is the most concise expression of the Code). With diligence and a little maths, he suggests, the open-minded seeker can find evidence for it in, well, just about everything.
Hayes' central thesis is that the musical symmetry of the octave can be found in phenomena as disparate as the DNA molecule, the major world religions, the holographic character of the brain and the ancient Chinese I-Ching, or Book of Changes. Hayes argues that the code was known to the ancients and was inherited by them from a hitherto unrecognised earlier civilisation. Readers of Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval will be in familiar territory in the opening chapters, but Hayes does more than re-present their arguments. Building on speculations about these early Atlanteans, for want of a better name, Hayes links architectural and engineering marvels like the Sphinx and the Great Pyramid to a host of other fields and thinkers. Stan Gooch's reflections on Neanderthal man, David Bohm's ideas about the 'implicate order', the precession of the equinoxes, elementary physics and the nature of light, non-Darwinian evolution, Sri Aurobindo and Pythagoras and many others, are brought together to form a heady, stimulating alternative to mainstream accounts of what makes the world tick. Following the insights of another philosophical maverick, G.I.Gurdjieff, Hayes argues that at bottom, the key to understanding the fundamental structure of reality lies in vibrations. Hayes suggests that the builders of the Sphinx might have created a 'group mind' to 'tune into' the vibrations of elementary particles in order to move the massive stones needed to construct the Sphinx enclosure and other ancient monuments.
Speculations like these might strike sceptical readers as groundless. Yet when we grasp that the more orthodox methods of transport available then can't account for how blocks weighing 200 tons or more were shifted, the notion of homonoia, Pythagoras's term for group consciousness, doesn't seem too far-fetched. Hayes argues that consciousness then was radically different from our own, and that in some strange way, people were able to intuit the presence of the Hermetic Code and use it to perform what would strike us as miracles.
We may have heard this before, but Hayes does an admirable job of marshalling enough mathematics, historical evidence and persuasive speculation to warrant a fresh look. He suggests that the fundamental insight of the Hermetic Code is, contrary to accepted belief, that the Universe is in some way alive and, perhaps even more odd, growing. Bringing together kabbalistic ideas about Adam Kadmon - the universal man - and DNA, Hayes speaks of 'interstellar genes' and 'galactic double-helices'. Rejecting notions of chance, he instead argues that human evolution is part of a vast 'cosmic octave', which in ourselves is reaching a higher level through increasing consciousness. Richard Dawkins devotees may groan, but anyone looking for a new approach to understanding our world will find much to ponder over in this book. Gary Lachman