Man’s place in the Universe

Mind and the Universe

Please observe how the Quran draws an analogy between human mind and the universe, while depicting both of them as complicated webs.

What is harder to create: Man or Universe?

The Quran asks the important philosophical question: What is more difficult to create: a part (man), or the whole (the Universe) that includes the part?

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Mind and the Universe

Mind and the universe


MIND IS A GIANT WEB, LIKE
THE UNIVERSE

Please note how the Quran draws an analogy between human MIND and the UNIVERSE, while defining both of them as complicated webs:

By the Heaven knit with ways and waves,

Surely you are of diverse opinions. 51:7-8

Apparently, in this sketchy depiction of the cosmos as an interwoven network of ‘ways and waves one may sense some vague projection of the concepts of relativity, including space-time curvature and gravitational waves, as well as the concepts of string theory.

More importantly, however, the passage portrays the complex diversity and endless depth of humankind’s intellectual Universe (‘Surely you are of diverse opinions’) as comparable to those of the physical cosmos (‘By the Heaven knit with ways and waves’).

DIVERSE MINDS MAKE A HEAVENLY RAINBOW

The above verses are explained by a similar passage 23:17-32, which, after referring to the infinite celestial pathways (23:17, 51:7-8, 70:3-5), describes the internal Universe of human minds in terms of multicoloured, diverse fruit gardens vivified by Heavenly rain. Please note this constant Quranic emphasis on pluralism and multidimensionality of the Truth in human comprehension:

And We have created above you SEVEN PATHS and We are never unmindful of creation.

And We sent down WATER from the Heaven according to a measure, then We gave it lodging in the Earth, and most surely We are able to carry it away.

Then We cause to grow thereby GARDENs of palm trees and grapes for you; you have in them many fruits and from them do you eat:

Including a tree that emerges from Mount Sinai, yielding oil and a COLOURANT for the eaters. …

So We sent a MESSENGER to them from amongst them: “Serve God, you have no other god besides Him.” 23:17-20, 32

Here ‘And We have created above you seven (infinite) paths’, especially when read in context, reminds us of the ‘seven (infinite) colours’ of the humankind’s spiritual rainbow (35:19-28, 30:9-24, 16:2-69, 39:18-69, 2:22-87, 2:136164, 23:17-32) and thus, once again, draws an analogy between the complicated webs of MIND and the UNIVERSE.

SIMILARITIES BETWEEN MIND AND THE UNIVERSE

Interestingly, there are striking similarities at all levels across the human mind and the Universe.

A neurone, or a brain cell, which is microscopic in size, resembles a whole galaxy, which is a Universe in itself, millions of light-years across.

Then our brain consists of some 10000000000 (10 billion) neurones, interconnected – through innumerable extensions of axons and dendrites – into a colossal network.

These associations correspond to dark matter and black holes – which are portals to other Universes – where information can be exchanged and shared across the ‘event horizon’ because of quantum entanglement.

This interlacing of nerve fibres and their junctions then allows a nerve impulse to follow any of a virtually unlimited number of pathways. The effect is to give humans a seemingly infinite variety of responses to sensory input, which may depend upon experience, mood, or any of numerous other factors. During both sleep and consciousness, these ceaseless electrochemical activities in the brain generate technically detectable brain waves.

This defines our mind as an extremely complex giant web, made up of potentially an infinite number of Universes, like a cluster of galaxies.

If mind is a vast Universe, then, reversely, is the Universe a huge mind?

Then the interaction of all the minds of all times and places can be further collated with the interaction of billions of clusters of galaxies, making the intellectual Universe of humanity infinite in both variation and extent.

DIALECTICS IS THE SOURCE OF ALL DIVERSITIES OF MINDS

This dialectics – i.e. interaction between opposites – is the source of all the complex diversities and unfathomable depths of human minds:

By the Night as it veils,

And by the Day as it reveals,

And by that which created the male and the female,

Certainly your striving is to diverse ends

Certainly upon Us is to direct the way,

And certainly unto Us is the Last and the First. 92:1-4, 12-13

Here the phrase ‘that which created the male and the female obviously refers to the law of universal dialectics, which is responsible for the differentiation into two opposites – thesis and antithesis – represented here by ‘male’ and ‘female’.

This – together with the symbolism of night and day, darkness and light, male and female, and last and first – states that it is the same polarity evident in the whole Universe – from galaxies to living organisms to societies to human thoughts – which continues as the dichotomy that produces the endless multiplicity of mankind’s intellectual Universe3 (‘Certainly your striving is to diverse ends’).

Please note that the Quran, in the same way, repeatedly associates this dialectics of thought (42:4-12, 53:42-48, 91:1-10, 92:1-13) – that leads to the infinite diversity of human minds – with the law of universal dialectics (30:22, 36:36, 42:4-12, 43:12, 51:49).

This diversity of minds – which has been expressing itself as various religions, cultures, concepts, views and visions throughout the ages and the places – is, according to the Quran, not only something natural as divinely intended (2:38, 2:62, 2:111-112, 2:135-136, 2:256, 3:64, 3:113, 3:199, 4:124-125, 5:48, 5:69, 6:149, 7:35, 10:47, 10:74, 11:118, 13:31, 13:38, 16:9, 16:13, 16:36, 16:63, 16:84, 16:93, 22:40, 22:65-67, 23:17-32, 24:35, 24:41, 29:46, 29:69, 30:22, 35:19-28, 42:4-12, 49:13, 92:1-4) but also profoundly beautiful (13:4, 23:17-32).

But where are the limits, if there is any, of all this dialectics – causing the ‘endless’ diversities and depths – of both mind and the Universe?

The passage above answers to this. That ‘the both ends’ or ‘the utmost limits’ of all the dialectical chains, including those of human minds, are to the Divinity alone (‘unto Us is the Last and the First. 92:13’; cf. 28:70, 53:42-48, 57:3, 79:44).

At this point, we need to have a look into the utmost limits of human minds …

 

Related reading: Meaning of ‘colours’ in the Quran

What is harder to create: Man or Universe?

What is harder to create

 
A GENUINE QUESTION

The Quran persistently foreshadows the modern concept of Big Bang that the newborn cosmos was incredibly contracted in the earlier days of creation (2:117, 6:73, 13:2, 21:30, 36:81-82, 79:27-31, 88:18). Also, it supports the observation of an expanding Universe (13:2-3, 30:25, 35:1, 35:41, 51:47-49, 52:1-7, 55:7-9).

Thus the Quran accords with our recent knowledge that, though the Earth was ‘initiated’ together with the rest of the ‘Heaven’ (21:30, 41:11), it was formed in a later stage of cosmic evolution.

Please read this interesting passage:

Are you the more difficult to create, or is the Heaven that He has constructed?

On high has He raised its height, then fashioned it with due proportion.

And He made its night dark and brought out its brightness.

And the Earth, after that, He spread it out.

He brought forth from it its water and its pasturage. 79:27-31

Here we are asked a thought-provoking question: What is harder to create: man or the Universe?’

In other words: What is more difficult to create: a part, or the whole that includes the part?

The Quran immediately provides some clues that help us to answer to it. While mentioning the issue of origin, expansion and evolution of the Universe, it states that man’s creation is but only a very tiny part of the creation of the whole, i.e. the creation of the Universe, and, therefore, logically it is the Universe, the whole, which is more difficult to create.

Let us unlock our reading of the above with modern scientific terms.

To initiate the Universe out of nothing (‘Heaven that He has constructed’), followed by a tremendous expansion of an infinitely small space-time singularity to such a colossal extent which is beyond all imagination (‘On high has He raised its height’) …

And its subsequent consolidation, out of primordial chaos – through various forces and factors like gravitation, inertia and dark energy – into highly organised individual clusters, galaxies and nebulae, all existing and functioning in wondrous order (‘then fashioned it with due proportion’) in the immense darkness of the huge cosmos containing mainly dark matter and dark energy (‘He made its night dark’) …

With further individual lumps of matter progressively splitting away to organise themselves into new entities in the form of light-emitting bright stars, and stellar and Solar systems (‘brought out its brightness’) …

With planets, satellites etc, and thus, in a later stage of cosmic evolution, leading also to the expansion of Earth’s structure and function to an utmost vastness with gradual physical, chemical and then biological diversification (‘And the Earth, after that, He spread it out’) …

With formation of water from primitive Earth’s own atmosphere that is vital as bio-environment for origin and evolution of life on our planet (‘He brought forth from it its water and its pasturage’) …

All this is obviously more difficult than creation of man (40:57).

Interestingly, the sura containing this passage, called an-Naziat (‘Those who attract’), starts with a description of the forces of attraction and their link to the celestial bodies in motion (79:1-5). Please note that the term ‘Heaven’ here signifies the whole Universe (‘the Heavens and the Earth’), as implied by a related verse 40:57.

HERE COLLAPSES THE MAN-CENTRED WORLDVIEW

At this point breaks down anthropocentrism, which arrogantly places man at the centre of the Universe:

Then ask their opinion: Are they the more difficult to create, or those whom We have created? Surely them have We created out of a sticky clay! 37:11

This verse follows a depiction of the solar planets arranged by balancing centrifugal forces (37:1-7) and then a reference to the difficulty of space travel (37:8-10).

Then it suggests that – while man’s composition from simple earthly material causes him to be burnt and disintegrated by the stellar ‘flames’ of thermonuclear fusion (37:8-10) – his creation from ‘sticky’ clay (‘Surely them have We created out of a sticky clay!’) tends to ‘stick’ him to the Earth due to gravitational pull that makes his space travel even more difficult.

Note the interesting similarity between the above verses, 79:27-31 and 37:11, and the ‘strange’ reciprocity in their contexts: while the former describes ‘forces of attraction’ (79:1-5), the latter describes ‘forces of repulsion’ ( 37:1-7).

Then the verse further suggests that there is such a tremendous variety of wonderful creation and untold marvels in the multidimensional, multiform cosmic domains (‘those whom We have created’) that man’s creation from clay – i.e. out of primitive simple substances existing in their elementary forms in the Earth (23:12) – and so his resurrection, is as nothing when compared with the immense complexity of the creation of the Universe:

And none knows the hosts of your Sustainer but He Himself alone. 74:31 (cf. 48:4, 48:7)

Are they then not aware of how little of the Heaven and the Earth lies open before them, and how much is hidden from them? 34:9

WE GET THE QUESTION ANSWERED

Then, to this repeated Quranic question ‘What is more difficult to create: man or the Universe?’ (37:11, 79:27), we eventually get elsewhere a direct answer:

GREATER indeed than the creation of man is the creation of the Heavens and the Earth; but most people know not. 40:57

As the whole is definitely ‘greater’ (‘akbaru’) than any of its parts, and as man’s creation is but only a very tiny part of the creation of the whole of the Universe, logically it is the Universe, the whole, which is more difficult to create.

Please note that the word in the above answer, interestingly, is ‘akbaru’ (greater), not ‘ashaddu’ (‘more difficult’, appearing in the question, 37:11, 79:27). The reason ‘ashaddu’ (more difficult) appears only in the question, but not in the answer, is that nothing is really difficult for God.

This is an example how the divine revelation invariably chooses the right words.