6. What Is "Spirit"? A Scientific Answer

Ezekiel continues: “And I saw the living creatures, and look! one wheel in the earth beside the living creatures with their four faces. The appearance of the wheels and their works was like the sparkle of beryl, and the four of them had one likeness; and their appearance and works being, as it were, the wheel in the midst of the wheel.” 1
   If these living creatures symbolize helium-4 nuclei, then the addition of “wheels” makes them fully-fledged atoms with energy shells that can capture and bind electrons. We have moved from the “radiation era” into the “recombination era” of the universe, where full atoms could form.
   The helium-4 atom has two electrons with the same orbital path, but because they are two separate objects, they each trace out an orbit, making two orbits. This could be why Ezekiel sees “the wheel in the midst of the wheel.”
   Now, atoms don’t really have “shells” or “wheels.” However, we represent them to children as balls with hoops around them, so if Ezekiel is being given a symbolic vision of an atom, we can hardly be surprised if he saw something similar to how we portray them to children!
   Incidentally, most English translations say the wheel is “on the earth,” but the Hebrew actually says it is “in the earth.” This would make sense if the vision is trying to tell us these aren’t just wheels, but are part of the atoms that make up the Earth itself. Atoms are literally “in the earth.” They are what the Earth is made of.
   The description of the wheels continues: “As they go, they go over their four quarters, without turning as they go. And their rims were high and awesome, and their rims were full of eyes around the four of them.” 2
   The presence of wheels is the reason why the thing Ezekiel saw is often referred to as “Ezekiel’s Chariot.” However, they don’t seem to function like normal wheels. Apart from their enormous size, they don’t actually turn, and the rims are full of eyes.
   However, this fits perfectly with the description of an electron shell, relative to the nucleus of an atom. (Incidentally, the word “nuclei” is simply the plural of “nucleus.”) The diameter of the nucleus is about 10,000 times smaller than the atom with its electron shell. In other words, if Ezekiel was being shown the nucleus of an atom before, the appearance of the electron shells would indeed appear “high and awesome” by comparison! What Ezekiel saw could more accurately, although slightly less poetically, be called “Ezekiel’s Helium-4 Atom.”
   According to the Uncertainty Principle taught by physicists, the precise location of each electron in a atomic shell can’t be determined with the eye or instrument of the human observer. This is perhaps why the rims are “full of eyes.” Ezekiel is being given the privileged position of seeing the electrons at every potential location. Furthermore, that they are described as “eyes” might indicate the means by which God can observe our reality, even though we struggle to see his. Electrons are also arranged in a series of shells, which are themselves broken up into smaller sub-shells. In every way then, the arrangement of electrons around an atom could be described symbolically as something similar to a wheel within a wheel.
   Ezekiel continues: “As the living creatures go, the wheels go beside them,” for “the spirit of the living creature is in the wheels.” 3 Up until now, nobody has been able to explain the term “spirit” using anything more than vague metaphysical language. But if Ezekiel is being given a vision of an atom here, as I am suggesting, then we are being told what “spirit” is. It is energy, and in the case of an atom, it is stored in electrons bound by energy shells.
   Ezekiel talks about “the appearance of the wheels and their works.” The Hebrew word here translated as “works” is the same word used to describe physical works or deeds. By yet another intriguing coincidence, physicists also have a word for what is done to an object when a force moves it. That word is “work.”
   Indeed, there are so many correspondences to physics in this vision, you could teach your children the basics of quarks, protons, neutrons and electrons, and the four fundamental forces, using this vision as a template.
   Incidentally, there are only a few colors mentioned in the vision. The first is “the sparkle of amber out of the midst of the fire” near the beginning of the vision. Translations differ over this word. The King James Version translates it as “amber.” Remarkably, the Greek for “amber” is elektron and the Latin is electrum, from which we derive the words “electron” and “electricity” in English. In other words, if this is a vision of the early universe, then amber or “elektron” would be the perfect choice of color to symbolize electrons!
   Another color mentioned is in the description of the wheels: “The appearance of the wheels and their works was like the sparkle of beryl.” The King James Version uses the word “beryl” although some translations say “topaz” here. Actually, the Hebrew word used is the same as the word for the place called Tarshish.
   However, beryl is an interesting choice made by some translators, because in the very early universe, beryllium, found in the mineral beryl, was the heaviest element that could be formed. After the period when atomic shells formed, two helium-4 nuclei could fuse to become one beryllium-8 nucleus; and then by the addition of another helium-4 nucleus, they could become carbon-12.
   This process is well-known by physicists, and is called the “triple-alpha process.” Furthermore, one more helium-4 can be added to carbon-12 to produce oxygen-16. In other words, if the four living creatures also symbolize helium-4 nuclei, it takes four of them to create carbon and oxygen, the basis of life on Earth.
   Maybe this is another reason why one of the wheels like beryl is “on the earth,” or more accurately, “in the earth.” It perhaps alludes to the pathway through helium and beryllium to get to carbon and oxygen. It would perhaps also explain why the living creatures, despite their bizarre description, are also said to look like a man. In the symbology I am proposing, humans are also made up of the same forces and atoms, particularly carbon.
   Ezekiel’s vision continues: “And the likeness of the expanse over the heads of the living creature was as the sparkle of awesome ice stretched out upwards over their heads. And under the expanse their wings were upright, each to the other, two covering them for each, and two covering their bodies for each.” 4
   The formation of electron shells allowed electrons to cling to the nuclei of atoms, and the “recombination era” began. The universe went from being like a cloud to transparent. The expanse of the heavens would have become visible. This was the origin of the Cosmic Microwave Background. The Hebrew word for “stretched out” is here used in conjunction with the expanse, and it harmonizes with the idea that the universe is expanding.
   However, the account doesn’t tell us how long the initial stretching took, to create an expanse in the first place. Scientists say that a period of cosmic inflation stretched out the universe to hundreds of millions of light years across, faster than the blink of an eye. If that rate of expansion had continued just a little longer, our universe would have been the size it is today after just a few more blinks of the eye.
   These verses could also be describing the creation of the Earth’s atmosphere, “under the expanse” as it were. In this case, the idea that the four living creatures are helium-4 nuclei would fit nicely, because the Earth’s atmosphere consists primarily of oxygen, which can be created from four helium-4 nuclei in the process I just described.
   Now, one of the other effects of the early universe was Baryon Acoustic Oscillations, which are sound waves that propagated through the early universe, and that left a faint imprint in the clustering of galaxies and matter.
   Sound is also what Ezekiel’s vision talks about next: “And I heard the sound of their wings, like the sound of many waters, like the sound of the Almighty. As they go, there was the sound of speech, like the sound of a camp. As they stand, they relax their wings, and there came a sound from the expanse that was over their head. As they stand, they relax their wings.” 5
   The Hebrew word here translated “sound” is used six times in the above passage. The same word can also be translated as “voice.” Sound is a wave, and I suggest that the reason sound is repeatedly emphasized here is to link it to the wings. In other words, wings and waves are related, or even the same thing.
   Indeed, I will go further and propose that the entire vision is trying to show, in symbolic terms, even deeper concepts of reality that have only been revealed by modern science.
   For example, quantum physics has the concept of wave-particle duality, where every particle is really also a wave; or more accurately, an entity can act like both a particle and a wave. This, I propose, is why the living creatures seen by Ezekiel seem so strange. The vision is trying to convey the quantum nature of reality. Their faces represent their particle nature, and their wings represent their wave nature.
   This would explain why their wings “go across the faces of each.” Some translations suggest they simply go straight, but the original Hebrew says that the wings go across their faces. When a wing covers a face, the face is hidden. This is also true in quantum physics. If you are looking at a wave, you cannot see its particle nature, and vice versa. However, Ezekiel could see them both because the vision was trying to reveal, in symbolic terms, both the particle and wave nature of reality.
   Just like the wings in this vision, waves with a higher wavelength are “stretched out” and can become almost straight, and a lower wavelength would give the appearance of wings being let down or relaxed.
   In case we needed further proof that the wings really represent waves, there are two kinds of waves – traveling waves and standing waves. Sound waves are an example of traveling waves. The vision also makes this point. “As they go, there was the sound of speech, like the sound of a camp.” Traveling waves can travel in large numbers, like an army camp.
   Standing waves act like strings on a guitar, or like elastic bands. Electrons are more like standing waves around the orbit of an atomic nucleus. Ezekiel’s vision also seems to refer to standing waves, when it says, “As they stand, they relax their wings.”
   Frequency is the inverse of wavelength, and is the number of times a wave pattern repeats in a period of time. If Ezekiel is being given a vision that also includes how waves work, is it any wonder that when they “relax” their wings, “there came a sound from the expanse that was over their head”?
   Relaxed wings perhaps also represent lower electromagnetic frequencies, the lowest or most “relaxed” being radio waves. It is true that we don’t directly hear these, but how better to symbolize things like radio waves to someone who had no concept of a frequency spectrum, than to have a sound come from the expanse?
   Taken in its entirety, the vision harmonizes with how modern science says the universe was formed. It starts with the equivalent of a great cloud and fire, and then progresses to an expanse like awesome ice stretched out. Science says the universe began intensely hot, and became cold as it expanded rapidly.
   We have also found symbolic comparisons to the four fundamental forces, and wave-particle duality; the formation of helium-4 from hydrogen, and then beryllium, carbon and oxygen from helium; up and down quarks, virtual particles, photons scattering off the nuclei, the appearance of electron shells and the beginning of the “recombination era” when the universe became transparent, and a description of how traveling and standing waves work. We have found all of this in one vision, given to an ancient prophet of Israel, in which he claimed “the heavens were opened.”
   In the remaining part of the vision, Ezekiel sees something even more remarkable: “And from above the expanse that was over their head, was what appeared to be a stone of sapphire like a throne; and on the likeness of the throne was the likeness of a man’s appearance on it upwards.
   And I saw what looked like fire inside it and around what appeared to be his waist and upward, like the sparkle of amber; and from what appeared to be his waist and downward, I saw what appeared to be fire, and a brightness all around.
   Like the appearance of the bow which comes in the cloud in a day of rain, this is how the brightness around him appeared. It was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of YHWH. And I saw it, and I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of the one speaking.” 6

   This remarkable description is a far cry from the traditional view of God as an old man with a beard, sitting on a cloud. Nevertheless, if my hypothesis is true, that Ezekiel’s vision is really about the formation of the early universe and its particles, then we have extraordinary evidence that Ezekiel’s claim, made at the start of his vision, is true – that the heavens were opened, and he saw visions of God.

1 Ezekiel 1:15,16. 2 Ezekiel 1:17,18. 3 Ezekiel 1:19,21. 4 Ezekiel 1:22,23. 5 Ezekiel 1:24,25. 6 Ezekiel 1:26-28.


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