This is an excerpt from the fourth chapter:
λ is a very small number close to zero, a cosmological constant that describes the weakest force in nature and seems to control the universes expansion and its eventual fate
If it weren’t very small, stars and galaxies would not have formed
(Martin Rees – Just Six Numbers)
– – – – – – – * – – – – – – –
A writer is not a camera. A writer is expected to present that which is invisible at first. Ilya Ehrenburg
Landing in Leh, the capital of Ladakh in northern India, Hazael disembarked from the Air India Boeing 747 and was struck by the intensity of the sky. He had never seen such a deep blue. To the west he could see the Himalaya with their snow-capped peaks glistening in the sun. A monk by the name of Ganesh from the Hemis monastery met him as he came out of the customs area. He helped Hazael by carrying his bags to a taxi waiting for them in the car park, and instructed the driver to head straight into the city centre.
Hazael’s arrival in Leh coincided with the start of the July festival commemorating the birthday of Padmasambhava, the celebrated guru who was primarily responsible for the transfer of the knowledge and practice of Buddhism to Tibet. Ganesh wanted him to experience some of the festivities on his way to Hemis, hence the diversion through the city centre. As they came close to the main square, gyrating monks dressed in coloured robes, and wearing grotesque masks to remind the faithful that life on earth is a transient state, blocked their way. He felt slightly uneasy and a little intimidated by a massive Sakyamuni statue inside one of the temples next to them, its gold-foil covering in full, refulgent glow. Adding to the visual impact of these two strange sights was the crushing mass of the crowds pushing up against his taxi and the effect of the high altitude, making him feel light-headed. Ganesh noticed his discomfort and ordered the taxi to take a short cut and head straight to the environs of the monastery.
Hazael’s objective for his visit to Hemis was to view the thousands of manuscripts housed within the monastery, which had rarely been seen by any westerners. The first access to these manuscripts, albeit limited, was accorded to a Russian called Notovitch who had toured the area nearly a hundred years earlier.
The taxi dropped him off at a modest inn close to the monastery, and Ganesh informed him that he would have an hour to freshen up before he came back to collect him. Precisely an hour later he returned to the lobby where Ganesh was already waiting for him. They left together for the monastery. They entered and were shown into what appeared to be a reception room and told to wait a few minutes. Hazael took the opportunity to peer past a drab and tatty curtain hanging in what appeared to be a doorway on the other side of the room. He saw a wooden bed about a hand’s width off the floor, covered with a blanket. Next to the bed was a small table, intricately carved. On the table were several books and an ancient-looking scroll. An older monk suddenly appeared at his elbow holding a tray of tea. Looking startled for a moment, Hazael then pointed to a nearby table. The monk smiled benignly, bowed and then placed the tray next to him. His facial features were similar to those of Ganesh.
‘Namaste, Sir,’ he said, without introducing himself by name.
‘Namaste,’ Hazael replied, taking his cue from the monk.
‘How may I help you, Mr Hazael?’ the monk asked, raising his eyebrows. The deep crows’ feet wrinkles at his temples indicated that he was a man of humour. Hazael began to feel a little more at ease.
‘I’d like to see any manuscripts you may have concerning the person, Issa, please,’ Hazael asked, watching the monk closely as he poured out two cups of chai tea.
‘And why your interest, please, Sir? I know that you are from the esteemed University of Cambridge and your academic record speaks for itself, but can you be a little more specific, please?’ he replied, offering him a cup filled to the brim.
‘I am led to believe that there is a manuscript here that dates back to the time of the dispersion of the disciples of Issa, in particular the disciple Thomas, who ended up in the south of India. If such a manuscript exists I believe that it may hold a key to understanding the texts associated with Issa that form a part of the Puranas. I believe this text may contain a number, or numbers, that are relevant to my ultimate objective, which is to perform a mathematical study of the word structures within the Puranas in order to locate and understand any subtext meaning that may exist.’
The monk looked at him, puzzled, and then asked, ‘Do you mean to say that you are not concerned as to the content in the plain text? That your only concern is its mathematical structure?’
‘On the contrary,’ Hazael said, detecting a potential trap in the manner he posed the question, ‘I’m interested in both its content and structure.’
The monk didn’t seem to be convinced. ‘In truth, what do you really want?’ he asked opening the side of his robe. The monk took out a notebook that was bound in a rough leather skin. He began to write in a strange hieroglyphic that Hazael had not seen before.
Hazael pondered, sipping his tea, a thick milky substance with far too much sugar for his liking, and a strong taste of cinnamon. He knew he only had one shot at this opportunity to convince them to allow him unfettered access.
‘I believe that there might be a text, or texts, that could act as a key to the understanding of other sacred texts.’
The monk laid his pen down and looking vague, said, ‘Go on, please.’
Hazael studied his face, unsettled by his distant demeanour.
‘I’m of the opinion that ancient texts such as these will have clearly defined word structures which lie hidden from those without the proper tools to decipher them. My assessment is that there will be some link between the plain-text meaning and any subtext information contained therein, so given the uniqueness of the text concerning Issa’s sojourn in India, I think this might be a good place to start.’
‘How would you go about this?’
‘I would select a block of text which in the plain sense has a certain meaning or message. Then I would take that text and assign numerals to each letter and analyse the texts numerical structure to see if there is any coherent pattern.’
This straightforward explanation seemed to surprise the monk. He rose to pour some more tea. Hazael thought he was gaining ground and waited for the monk to reply. After handing him a fresh cup of tea the monk walked into the next room, brushing the curtain aside with a sharp sweep of his hand. He was back in a few seconds with the manuscript Hazael had noticed earlier on. He saw that it was written in Pali, a middle Indo-Aryan language, which differs from Rgvedic Sanskrit in its dialectal base. It was clear that there was no possibility of assigning numerical values to such characters. After a while the monk smiled at him and rolled it up.
Frustrated, he asked, ‘Do you have any other manuscripts?’
He knew of the so-called, “Dark Treasury”, a room under lock and key which contained thousands of unique manuscripts. In fact this was the reason for his choice of coming to Hemis in the first instance. The monk answered with the dispassionate mien of one who had been asked the same thing many times before. ‘Yes, but my superior is the only person who can authorise access. You will meet him later.’ He rose to indicate the end of the conversation. ‘Come back tomorrow and we shall talk again.’
Hazael thanked the monk and left the room. He stepped into the bright sunshine and started walking, deep in thought, much to the consternation of the taxi driver who had been waiting just outside the main entrance. He watched morosely as the opportunity of another quick, overpriced fare disappeared down the road under his own steam.