If we begin with the Big Bang, we are beginning in the middle – or maybe, just maybe, at the end of creation. If we begin with infinity, we begin on a scale we were made for. Time on this scale would not record the formation of the earth, the separation of land and sea, the fish, the reptiles, the birds, the mammals. Time would not record the evolution of humankind – or its devolution. It would recall not the deed but the heart, not the error but the impetus. Not the answer but the question. It would record energy. It would record the soul.
“The Last Question was asked for the first time, half in jest, on May 21, 2061, at a time when humanity first stepped into the light,” wrote Isaac Asimov in his (and my) favourite short story. It turned out to be a very serious question. In this profound and camouflaged tale – a science fiction midrash - the last question asked by sentient beings gives rise to the first answer ever given and thus does a single question become the alpha and omega of creation.
Most things, of course, happen outside creation (that is, what we call “creation” -createdness – ordinary matter). Only 4% of the universe is ordinary matter: Things. Planets, stars, you, me. 26% of the universe is dark matter. And 70% is dark energy.
Dark Matter is not the same as Dark Energy. Dark matter is invisible – it dominates everything in a cloud. That is to say, there is dark matter surrounding every object. Galaxies, solar systems, you, me. Or in terms of quantum theory:
Dark matter causes things to form. It attracts. It calls out to Light.
Dark energy causes things not to form. It repels. It causes space to expand, dissipating Light. It is detectable.
Dark energy is a property of space itself, the fabric, the matrix of the universe. Einstein, alone among his colleagues and the first in the history of his discipline, in the history of the world, in fact, realized that empty space is not nothing. Space has endless properties, only a few of which are beginning to be explored and even fewer understood. The first of these, Einstein discovered, is that space begets space. Because of space, more space comes into existence. More space for stars, more space for light. Infinite expansion.
The Talmud says the Temple may not be built at night (Shevuot 15b) – and, given other inherent beliefs in the properties of space, it seems that it was because of a suspicion that a temple in formation would be drawn into the dissipation of light, that this prohibition was instituted. It is said further that the Temple shall not be built in gloom and doom and yet Shabbat – the holy, the joyous, the light of every observant Jewish person’s life, begins at sundown. It begins in dusk and continues, into the height of its celebration, in darkness. It begins the minute the candles have been lit. The darkness causes joy and peace. It causes the lighting of candles. Conversely the return to the workday week (of doom and gloom) also happens at night (in the Havdalah service) and is cemented by the lighting and quick extinguishing of a candle. Both darknesses, both ushering entries into separate worlds. 
This says to us that there are different kinds of darkness. Dark energy and dark matter. One to be avoided, at least while on this plane, and one to be embraced as a canopy of peace. And yet, it seems to me that it is not the fault of Dark Energy that Light dissipates – it is doing what it is meant to do. It is the fault of lightmakers that there is less light in the presence of Dark Energy.
Et lux in tenebris lucet et tenebrae eam non conprehenderunt.
The mistake in the English translation of this passage from John (1:5) is that “comprehend” does not – and certainly did not – always mean “understand” in Latin. I don’t know what the Greek says and my Hebrew isn’t good enough either, but starting with the Latin – with the big bang of biblical studies in the Catholic Church (and I realise this is starting in the middle) comprehendere can mean one of the following:
- To seize upon In a hostile manner, lay hold of – occupy, capture (of a place); arrest, detain, apprehend catch
- (a crime or deed) To discover, detect, come upon, reveal
- To intercept -a letter.
- (of plants) To take root, take hold
- (of a woman) To become pregnant, conceive
- (of space) To contain, comprise, enclose, include, comprehend
- (with ignem) To catch (fire).
- (Late Latin) of medicines) To combine, unite
- (Figuratively) To comprehend by sense of sight, perceive, observe. see
- (Figuratively) To comprehend something by the mind, understand, perceive, grasp, comprehend.
- (Figuratively) To include or comprehend in words, comprise In discourse, express, describe, recount narrate.
- (Figuratively) To number, enumerate, reckon
- (Figuratively) To comprehend someone in affection, embrace with kindness, bind or put under obligation
- (Figuratively) , Late Latin) To shut in or include
So any number of interpretations of the relationship between darkness and light can arise. The darkness was not impregnated by light. The darkness did not combine with the light. The darkness did not bind the light to itself in obligation. The darkness did not take root in the light. The darkness did not catch or occupy or enumerate or embrace or include or shut in, the light.
If we look at this darkness as Dark Energy of course it did not connect with light. It was not supposed to. If we look at the darkness as Dark Matter, we must realise that it is already there – protecting the light.
In either case, although I know that darkness in this passage is symbolic – that it stands for ignorance and/or evil – it stands for nothingness, I cannot help but think that darkness as it is, and not as a symbol, has been maligned. For darkness is also a centre of genius – it is the blessed womb, it is the healing sleep, it is the vastness of space and it is the heart of God.
“And if, happy in the lot of no created thing, he withdraws into the center of his own unity, his spirit, made one with God, in the solitary darkness of God, who is set above all things, shall surpass them all.” ~ Giovanni Pico della Mirandola
Darkness isn’t nothing. Space isn’t nothing. Even zero is not nothing.
“We were wrong a hundred years ago. We know more now. And if what we formerly took for nothing turns out, on closer examination, to have the makings of protons and neutrons and tables and chairs and planets and solar systems and galaxies and universes in it, then it wasn’t nothing, and it couldn’t have been nothing, in the first place. And the history of science — if we understand it correctly — gives us no hint of how it might be possible to imagine otherwise.
And I guess it ought to be mentioned…the whole business of approaching the struggle with religion as if it were a card game, or a horse race, or some kind of battle of wits, just feels all wrong …”  - David Albert
There is great meaning in darkness.
“This meaning, this secret plan of Creation, flames out [from its place of darkness], had we eyes to see, from every department of existence. Its exultant declarations come to us in all great music; its magic is the life of all romance. Its law – the law of love – is the substance of the beautiful, the energizing cause of the heroic. It lights the altar of every creed…Divine Fecundity is its secret.”
The ability to see is described by Evelyn Hill as engendered by a process in which the soul retreats into her “cell of self-knowledge” – a dark and holy place which protects one from premature light.
Accepting the conventional metaphors of light means missing out on the holy properties of darkness, both spiritually and physically - the solitude it affords, the gestation it provides, the expansion it allows.
"The light shineth in the darkness..."
Yes. Because that it the only thing in which it can shine.*
©Harrison Solow, June, 2012
 “The Last Question,” in Nine Tomorrows by Isaac Asimov
 Havdalah means separation.
 I am reading Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea by Charles Seife again.
 http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/books/review/a-universe-from-nothing-by-lawrence-m-krauss.html David Albert is a professor of philosophy at Columbia and the author of “Quantum Mechanics and Experience.”
 Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism, pp 302-304
* I am not a creationist, by the way - I am thinking cosmically about the origins of the universe - about the origins of the particles that caused the big bang. These are musings. They are not a creed.
Causes Harrison Solow Supports
Lupus Foundation of America
Museum of Tolerance