You will need:
For services during the season of Conflatorium you will need the following:
- a bowl of ice cubes with a fossil frozen into each (one for each participant and several additional ones)
- A bowl of hot water
- A hand snack for each participant in the shape of an aquatic creature (gold fish crackers, shrimp, strips of Nori glued together with honey to look like jelly fish)
- a candle
- a bell or signing bowl
- a candle snuff
Leader: Who would like to share?
The participants briefly update each other on how they're doing and what's going on in their lives.
The season of Conflatorium (melting) is the second Liturgical Season in the SolSeed Movement's Liturgical Calendar. It symbolizes and celebrates the emergence of complex life in the Ediacaran and Cambrian periods, after the melting of Snowball Earth 590 million years ago. During this season the Weekly Service Calls use the following Opening ceremony:
We gather to mark the passing of a week
To align our hearts as one.
(Light the Sol candle) (take an ice cube from bowl and hold it in your hand)
Ice ... just ... ice ...
and then ... [gasp] ... Melting
(Drop the ice cube into warm/hot water)
Warm Sun! Open Water! Dry Land! Scented Breeze!
The sea teems with new lifeforms ...
As the ice melts, they emerge to tell their story!
(pour the ice cubes (or big block of ice) that have things (e.g., trilobites) frozen in them, into the bowl of warm water)
Cells transcend themselves
Uniting with multitudes of sisters to become something more;
Complex life explodes into a dazzling diversity of forms!
(Participants clasp hands, or join two hands clasped if you are alone)
Next opens the mouth, the first structure,
Both the feeder of animals,
and the singularity that
gave animals direction.
("Chase" and then eat some food, e.g. seaweed, suishi, shrimp, or goldfish crackers ... participant's choice)
Then come the senses!
Taste, smell, sight, touch, hearing
((Put fingers on mouth, nose, eye, temple, and ear, thus touching all five senses))
The sensing which gave the first animals reason to swim.
The sensing which still directs us today!
Finally, Animals secrete calcium,
Armour, Shells, Teeth, Bones,
Massive, piling, surfaces fold through open water,
A billion allies emerge,
Life learns to make new reefs, new worlds,
(building motions of one hand on top of another going up up up?)
Cells Join to Cells.
Mouths. Senses. Shells.
From silent ice ... teeming reefs!
(schooling fish motion where each finger is a fish)
You are riding your Elephant across the surface of a vast black bowl. As you ride down toward the center of the bowl you feel hotter and you can see some kind of force shield around you and your elephant glowing hotter and hotter. It is protecting you from intense energies outside. You wonder if the bowl shape is real or an illusion created by the heat. Still at the bottom of the bowl you see something shining and you are curious about it, so you continue toward the center and bottom of the bowl. As you get closer you see El sitting on his golden throne in the center of the bowl.
"What is this place, El?" you ask as you finally approach him.
"Uncertain One," El replies kindly, "Welcome to this place. Perhaps this place is the South Pole of the Earth.”
"But that doesn't make sense, El." you reply glancing at the force shield surrounding you. In places it is glowing white hot, "The South Pole is cold not hot."
El laughs, "The Metaphorium makes this place confusing. I don't think it is really a place. I think it is a time; the beginning of time."
"Oh!" suddenly your surroundings make sense, "The Big Bang; no wonder it is so hot."
El laughs again, "Was the Big Bang, the beginning of time? I thought that was out of fashion now. I do love physicists; they are forever changing their stories. They make a tiny change to their math and then completely rewrite the story which they had been using to explain the math. They are quite capable of losing stories they only just made up."
"And Sophia tells me," you reply, "That you are the personification of lost stories."
"Uncertain One," El replies with a mysterious smile, "You should take what Sophia tells you with a grain of salt."
You laugh, "You would say that. So, is this metaphorical place really bowl shaped or is that an illusion created by the heat?"
"Hard to say, " El replies amused, "Uncertain One."
"Well, if it is the beginning of time and it is bowl shaped then it matches Hawkings thought experiment about the Big Bang," you explain hoping to be able try a contemplative activity you once heard about, “the one where he claimed there was no need for a boundary condition at the beginning of the universe."
"Oh, I know that story, " says El, "It is the one where you walk back and forth through the North Pole contemplating directions."
"Yes, that is the one, " you say hesitantly; do you dare ask this of a God, "Umm. ... Could you move your throne a little to the side so that I can perform the contemplation?"
"Just go under my throne, " El laughs, "Uncertain One."
Your Elephant takes a few steps forward and in doing so realizes that you are not as close to El as you thought. You are still very far away, and he actually towers over you like a mountain. You ride forward and find that you are like a spec of dust beside his immense feet. Around the base of his throne there is a shimmering curtain of many glowing colours. It seems familiar and after a moment you recognize the stippled pattern and colours of the false colour image of the Cosmic Background Radiation produced by the Plank team. You continue riding toward it for some time until you pass between El's feet and approach the curtain itself. But before you cross through it you hesitate.
El speaks from high above you, "Go ahead Uncertain One, it is only a metaphorical Cosmic Background Radiation Map. You can never see what is on the other side of the real one. The innumerable stories on the other side are lost to you. But you can pass through this metaphorical pale imitation of the real thing. The metaphorical realm on the other side may teach you something about lost stories."
Encouraged, your elephant charges forward and through the curtain. And then stops. On the other side it is immensely hot; your force shield is bright white but beyond it is just a dark fog. You can see nothing. You are afraid; your elephant trumpets in fear and turns to head back, but after a few steps you find that you are still in the dark. Your elephant turns again deciding that it didn't turn enough and didn't head straight back. But a few more steps and you find you are still in the dark. You are lost. You fear that this is what El meant, "El help me. I can't find my way."
El's voice is booming and muffled in the dense fog, "I will light your path, Uncertain One, " and with that the fog is flooded with a golden light. You can see the floor of the bowl beneath your elephant’s feet stretching off in all directions. You can see the back side of the curtain of the Cosmic Background Radiation and it looks the same as the front side did but now illuminated with golden light. You see the feet of El's throne, four great posts each an immense distance away stretching upward into the fog and disappearing beyond sight into it. You see that the path to the center of the bowl is plain and that down at the bottom of the bowl some tiny thing glows golden. You begin to ride toward it as El explains, "No real light can pass through this fog. This is the fog of the early ionized universe in which a sea of electron filled the world and absorbed all light. That is why the Cosmic Background Appears as a curtain to you. From beyond the Cosmic Background no light can reach you. But the Cosmic Background is not a curtain that separates two places; it separates two times. It is the earliest part of the universe that you can see, and no light emitted earlier than its time can reach you. This is why the Big Bang and its story is lost to you. What you are seeing is only metaphorium illuminated with metaphorium-based light."
You ride down toward the bottom of the bowl and as you approach it you see that the tiny glowing thing at bottom is El on his throne. You look back to see if you can see the feet of the instance of his throne that you are under but they are now lost in the fog behind you. Still you ride on toward El and the bottom of the bowl. How long it takes for you to ride the distance is confusing. Is it seconds, only an instant, eons? You cannot tell. How long does it take to take a step backward in time? Does that question even have an answer?
Finally, you approach El and his throne. Once again, his throne is standing over the exact bottom of the bowl. This time you know what to look for through the heat haze and you can tell that even as your elephant stands before El, he is still an immense distance away and you are but a spec beside his feet. You stop and speak to El, "May I ride under your throne again to finally reach the bottom of the bowl and perform my contemplation?"
El laughs, "You may indeed ride under my throne again, Uncertain One. But what you will find under this throne is uncertain. At least last time, when you rode through the Cosmic Background, you could have guessed that you would end up lost in a dark hot fog. That much you could know about the Cosmic Background. Your only means of observing what is under this throne, is through mathematical models and hints in the patterns on the Cosmic Background. But how can you test your models except by travelling back in time to the real beginning and you are unable to make that trek? So, your models are truly uncertain. What the metaphorium under my throne will show you is anybody's guess. It may be the first split second after the Big Bang or it may be something else."
So, your ride up to the throne. It must take days or years but maybe it is only a split second. Once again you pass between El's feet and come to a curtain surrounding the base of his throne but this time the curtain is covered in equations. The equations keep manipulating themselves substituting into one another and rearranging themselves to bring new subjects to the fore; they are full of unfamiliar symbols and they change so quickly that you can't follow them even if you could understand them. A jackal-headed member of the Elohim steps through the curtain and reaches up to you where you sit on your elephant, handing you something. You take it and see that it is a pocket scientific calculator. You hold the calculator before you and ride forward into the curtain. You have no real reason to believe that the calculator will help you get through the curtain other than the fact that an Elohim handed it to you right at that moment.
You pass through the curtain and it is darker than even it was in the ionized universe before El's golden light showed you the way. You wonder if the calculator needed to be turned on to help, so you gently run your thumb over the keys feeling for the one in the corner that you remember as being the 'on' button. You tap it and the calculator comes on. A blue number shines forth through the gloom, 1E-12. Your only thought is that it is a very small number. You know that immediately after the Big Bang in a tiny fraction of a second a lot happened. A trillionth of a second, 1E-12 seconds, sounds familiar. You wish you remembered what happened at that time. Your elephant trumpets and brings your attention back to your surroundings. Your elephant is concerned because you have left the ground. Your elephant's feet are swinging haplessly several feet above the floor of the bowl and you are rising. Shining the light from the calculator at the floor you see it slowly drifting away from you. You too become concerned.
"El", you call at the throne lost in the darkness above you, "I can't explore this realm if there is no gravity. Can you turn gravity back on?"
"Gravity is fine," El's booming voice responds, "it is mass that has failed. In the first trillionth of a second after the Big Bang, it was too hot for the Higgs mechanism to function and so nothing had mass."
"Could I have just a little metaphorical mass so that my elephant can walk around?" you plead.
"Very well, metaphorium allows for that." El says and you gently accelerate back down to the floor.
You take a step forward and the calculator shows 1E-13. Another step 1E-14 and so on. You can feel the floor of the bowl descending below your feet, but the calculator does not show you much ahead. All you see is gloom. 1E-15, 1E-16, 1E-17. You think that if you are approaching the center of the bowl logarithmically then you will never get there! 1E-22, 1E-23, 1E-24. A trillionth of a trillionth of a second. Such a tiny fraction of a moment and yet here you are experiencing it as many seconds ticking by uneventfully. 1E-29, 1E-30, 1E-31, 1E-32 and suddenly there is a change. The bowl begins to shrink rapidly, from every direction the floor of the bowl is racing toward you. The center of the bowl which was so far away from you appears out of the gloom and races toward you and suddenly you are there. At the center. At least the center seems just a few steps away. You glance at your calculator, 1E-43.
"Um?" you call out, "El, what just happened?"
"You just passed through the Inflationary Epoch during which the universe expanded," El replies, "Uncertain One."
"Then why did the floor appear to shrink?" You ask.
"The floor is actually a metaphor for time and as you walk toward the center of the bowl you are walking backward in time, Uncertain One," El laughs, "You just passed through a metaphor for the Inflationary Epoch backwards."
You take another step toward the center of the bowl, ... and everything changes. You and your elephant are one thing. Not two beings, not even two collections of atoms. You are just one particle-wave and so is the rest of the universe. The only thing in the universe other than this one particle-wave is a shimmering quantum field of metaphorium. The metaphorium allows you to speak even though you have no speaking parts, lips, vocal cords, "El," You cry out in fear, "Now what happened?"
"You have passed into the Plank Epoch, " El laughs, "The universe is so small that there is no room for more than one particle. There are rules about wavelength and frequency, Uncertain One. Anything with a wavelength small enough to take up only part of the universe now must have so much energy that it will collapse into a black hole."
"So if I take another step forward I will fall into a Black Hole," You ask, "The singularity at the beginning of the universe?"
"Maybe," El laughs again, "You have passed through two almost impenetrable curtains, metaphorically. But you did and cannot pass through them physically. How do you expect to know how it would be here and now beyond these two curtains? You cannot know. The metaphors around you are just guesses, made up stories you have created to replace the ones that were lost, because no one was around to watch them unfold."
"I just wanted to explore the Hartle-Hawking state as a contemplative activity." You reply and you detect a certain whine in your voice of which you are not proud.
"The beginning of time, emergent from space?" El's voice drifts off as if he is considering your request. "But did time emerge at the Big Bang? Today Eternal Inflation is the fashion. After a fashion, Eternal Inflation is Boltzman's Story retold in a new way. Not Hartle-Hawking's."
"That is your specialty isn't," you say hopefully, "Stories that are out of fashion."
"Ha!" El yells and suddenly there is a change. You are you. Your elephant is your elephant and you are riding your elephant. Before you stands a great arch and the arch is standing at the middle of the bowl. The bowl is empty, no thrones, no curtains, no fog, no unimaginable heat. It is well lit by the golden light of El. You look over and see El sitting on his throne beyond the edge of the bowl. The arch you realize is standing over the center of the bowl.
You ride your elephant under the arch and see that the center point of the bowl is marked with a Dot. Meridian lines radiate out from the dot and concentric circles encompass it. The arch is huge and you have plenty of room to ride your elephant in any direction under the arch.
Every point on the surface of a sphere is the same and to the degree that the Earth is a sphere this is true for the Earth also. Only when you take the daily rotation of the Earth into account does the South Pole in any way become special. Unless you carefully watch the sky for several hours you won't notice the rotation of the Earth. With great effort you have come to this spot but you could just as easily have done it anywhere on the Earth, the South Pole or any particular spot you were prepared to pretend was the South Pole.
You look down at the Dot and imagine it to be the South Pole. You stop your elephant facing it about one pace away from it. You Imagine the snow swirling about you. The southern Aurora is dancing in a dark sky filled with stars above your head. The South Pole is directly in front of you so obviously you are facing south. Now, you take a step forward and stand on the dot. Now you are standing on the South Pole. You are at the furthest point South on the whole Earth. You are facing north. Staying on the South Pole you spin slowly around. As you turn you continue to face north. Every direction is north from here. Is that true? You look down at your feet. That direction is still down. It is not south or north. Just as with any place on Earth, if you look down toward the centre of the Earth you are looking Down not East or West or North or South. You look up. You imagine the bright stars and swirling aurora above you. That is still Up. It is not South or North or East or West.
Now you imagine that this place is not the South Pole but instead the Big Bang and that the surface of the bowl is actually time. Instead of cold, snow, stars and aurora, you imagine that you are surrounded by some kind of plasma which is almost infinitely dense and hot. This is the beginning of time. You slowly turn around keeping your eyes on the horizon. You are looking into the future no matter what direction you face. You take a step away from the Big Bang and then turn back to face it. You imagine that the step you took represented a thousand years. You are now standing in a very young universe, only one millennium old. You imagine that although it is much less dense and hot here it is still much hotter and denser than you could survive if this were real rather than contemplation. You are facing the past. You can time travel. You take a step back in time to return to the moment of the Big Bang. You have just traveled back in time to the beginning of time. You take another step. You have gone past the beginning of time and are travelling forward into the future again. You turn and walk right through the Big Bang. You began by travelling back in time but as you crossed the Big Bang, without turning you changed direction and began going forward in time again.
No matter how many 'times' you walk back and forth through the Big Bang you always end up in its future. The direction past ends at the Big Bang. But to turn from going into the past to going into the future, there must be a moment where you are travelling neither into the future nor into the past. You flip your imagination over to the snow and stars and Aurora again and pass through the South Pole again. As you approach the South Pole, you are heading South and a moment later you are through it and heading North. There must be an instant right as you pass over the Pole that you are traveling neither North nor South and yet you are still moving. What direction are you travelling at that instant, at the point of inflection between Southward and Northward.
You look down at the Dot and the lines passing through it. They are meridians. If this were the South Pole, then half of those lines would be Eastern Meridians and half would be Western Meridians. If you came down a Western Meridian, then you would leave by an Eastern one. So, you would be travelling East for just an instant at the point of inflection between South and North. You would be travelling East for no time. But East is normal to North and South.
Now you return to the Big Bang, the heat and a landscape of time. You look at the Dot again. As you come down the meridian in a Pastward direction and you pass to another meridian in a Futureward direction what would the direction be for that instant at the point of inflection? Normal to Time is Space. You must for an instant be travelling in a Space-like direction and so you go up a different meridian, a Time-Like path at a different point around the bowl. So, the concept that bowl represents Time is wrong. Time is one dimensional. Only one dimension of the bowl represents Time. Travel toward or away from the Dot at the bottom of the bowl and you are travelling in a Time-like direction. Travel in a circle with the dot at its center and you are traveling in a Space-Like direction. Travel across the dot and for a moment you are travelling in a Space-Like direction with infinite speed. You end up in a different place (displaced around the circle of the bowl 180 degrees) even though you traveled through Space for no time at all; just for the instant it took to cross the Dot.
You pass through the Dot one more time and try to feel that moment when, as you flip from Pastward to Futureward, you jump through space. The bowl is made of metaphorium and you feel it. A subtle kick and flicker.
"Thank you, El" You call, "I understand a little more deeply the moment of the Big Bang."
"Ha," El cries, "You just experienced a lost story. Perhaps that was something like the moment of the Big Bang. Perhaps it was a moment far more ancient, a moment when the time of the Eternally Inflating Multiverse came into existence. Perhaps at larger scales there are patches of time-like direction in a sea of space. And then perhaps at a larger scale still there are patches of space-like directions in a sea of multi-dimensional time. There is no way for you to know. I am the curtains that block your vision. Those stories are lost to you."
You listen to El and the many possible geometries he describes. As you return to reality, you quietly contemplate this idea for a while. You open your mind to unintuitive geometries.
Leader: Please join me for seven minutes of silence while we contemplate ...
(Service Leader rings the bell)
(Service Leader rings the bell again at the end of the seven minutes)
Leader: Who would like to share?
The participants take turns talking about what they were thinking about during the contemplation.
Reading of the SolSeed Creed
Please respond to the portions of the Creed highlighted in bold in unison:
- Life is precious.
- It has always been precious,
- it will always be precious.
- Life exuberant
- bursting through boundaries
- to flower and spread
- creates the conditions for more Life,
- in an Upward Spiral
- of ever-growing possibilities.
- As you are alive, and I am alive,
- and in kinship with all other beings
- who call Terra home,
- we are Gaia --
- the body of all Life.
- The Destiny of Gaia
- is to take root and flower amongst the stars --
- to give birth to a family of living worlds.
- As intelligent sparks of Gaia,
- we are called to express her excellent nature,
- we are called to attend the Great Birthing.
- We who answer this call
- dedicate ourselves to Gaia,
- We join together
- in a community of practice
- to align our words and actions
- with our highest aspirations.
- Through awesome experiences
- of cosmic, biological, and cultural creativity,
- we awaken within ourselves and others
- the Cosmic Religious Feeling
- that ignites wonder,
- fosters compassion, and
- inspires invention.
- Our three sacred duties are to
- embrace Passion,
- cultivate Empathy, and
- pursue Wisdom,
- So that our being honors Gaia
- and our striving hastens the Great Birthing.
- Passion drives us.
- Without Passion
- Empathy and Wisdom are lethargic.
- I pledge to stoke the fire in my belly,
- to compassionately care for my inner elephant ---
- to really be me, Happy in the Sun!
- Empathy is transcendent.
- Without Empathy,
- Passion and Wisdom are evil.
- I pledge to love others as I love myself,
- to consider their needs as if they were my own --
- to Grow Ours, not just Get Mine!
- Wisdom is effective.
- Without Wisdom,
- Passion and Empathy are reckless.
- I pledge to train my elephant through regular practice,
- to stand ready to transform my worldview in the face of new evidence --
- to cultivate sound instincts.
- Through Passion, Empathy, and Wisdom
- we have come to know that:
- We are Gaia's People --
- children of the Earth and Sun,
- awakened by starlight,
- discovering --
- We Bring Life!
Leader: We extinguish this flame, but not the light of truth, the warmth of community or the fires of commitment ... these we carry in our hearts until we are together again.
Leader extinguishes the candle with the Candle Snuff
Leader: May your week be blessed with life and love. Blessed be.