Words

This is an excerpt from the sixth chapter:

is a number 1 x 10-5 that is the ratio of the force that binds a cosmic structure together to the force needed to disperse them

If smaller the universe would be inert and structure less. If larger there would be no stars and be dominated by vast black holes.
(Martin Rees – Just Six Numbers)

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YUSEF
Near Dogsar, Bhutan
1990

“In fiction, one single fact that is true gives legitimacy to the entire work.” Gabriel Garcia Márquez

Yusef was born in Amman in 1970, where as a child prodigy of thirteen he finished high school coming top of his class. After completing his Bachelor’s degree in half the normal time, he went on to do his Master’s in mathematics at Jordan University converting it midstream into a PhD. He was awarded this degree in less than three years and since then has been working with a core group of senior Imams analyzing mathematical correlations within Qur’anic texts.

Out of the dim fog Vee could just make out the two solitary figures of Prem and Yusef striding purposefully through the valley way below. She estimated that they would arrive within the hour. She shuffled back into her private room and extracted her working papers from an old, worn-leather bag and began to study them. The bag had the sweet fetor of grass mixed with manure, a ploy arranged to put off anyone who might try to accost her and see what she had inside the bag while she herself was traversing the mountain trails alone. The dzong above Dogsar was little known and remote but the perfect place to reflect and work.

An hour later Prem stood at the entrance to the circular meditation hall struggling for breath, his chest heaving from the exertion of the steep mountain passes he had spent the last three days walking through. Once he had stabilised his condition he made his way to Vee’s room and greeted her. She greeted him in return and replaced the notes she had been reading from in her bag, she clapped her hands for the attendant to bring some tea for her visitor.
Prem cleared his throat and gave her a briefing on the tough journey they had just completed. She listened attentively without interruption and when he had finished she asked where Yusef was.
‘Resting.’
‘Good,’ she said adjusting her seating position on the cushion, ‘And your initial impression of Yusef?’
Prem thought for a moment before replying, ‘He’s quite mature for his age I must say. Quiet, modest, and intense at times. He is a man of huge intellect and he claims that he has the respect of the Imams who have been working closely with him of late. He is also one of a small number of people who can recite the Qur’an word for word from beginning to end, or so he told me. Simply, my view is that he is a genius, which no doubt is the reason why he was selected for this project in the first place.’
She leaned forward to ask, ‘Ah! A hafiz! What was his reaction when you briefed him on the objectives for the immediate future?’
‘Enthusiastic I would say, although he was intrigued as to how it was that we had manuscripts relating to the Qu’ran… ’
‘And?’ she interrupted, an uncharacteristic tension showing through the agitated movement of her fingers resting on her knees.
‘… I was about to explain when he suddenly embraced me and said that he had been expecting a call from the East for some time, and was very excited about the project.’
Vee relaxed a little then asked, ‘Was there any suggestion that he would need permission from the Imam to participate in researching texts other than the Qur’an? After all the Muslims believe that the Qur’an is all there is to believe.’
Prem answered, ‘No, he didn’t bring the subject up… ’
‘Good. It means he’s his own man, which we would expect given his academic achievement at such a young age,’ she interrupted with enthusiasm.
‘Early on in our meeting he asked me whether I had come across any evidence that a Jewish brotherhood called the Essenes had spent time in India.’
Vee looked surprised, ‘And how did you respond?’
Smiling, Prem replied, ‘I said that I hadn’t but then I told him that some of the manuscripts describe a man called Issa who spent many years in India and that as far as I was aware Issa was an Essene… ’. Prem paused, as if trying to recall Yusef’s exact words.
She waited for him to continue.
‘Yusef then proceeded to tell me in great detail about his current investigation into the influence of the number 19. Apparently it is quoted in a passage of the Qur’an, the Surah Al Muddaththir 74. He said that it was in relation to the number of guardian angels set over man to guide the powers which may be used for his spiritual advancement, or misused to his spiritual detriment.’
‘What has that to do with his comment about the Essenes?’
‘Without being too specific, he alluded to the possibility of Issa being a manifestation of the number 19 on the basis that there are many references to angels in the religious literature of the Jews and Christians and that this particular verse, the one in the Qur’an, was appealing to the “People of the Book”… ’
Vee stood and went to the bookcase on the wall and retrieved an ancient Qur’an. She flicked through the pages to the relevant Surah and read aloud ‘“Over it are nineteen… And we have set none but Angels as guardians of the fire and we have fixed their number… ”’
Her forefinger slid down the page, skipping several lines, and turning over the page she continued, ‘… “In order that the People of the Book may arrive at certainty… what symbol does Allah intend by this… a warning to mankind”. I can only think that Yusef might consider that Issa’s presence in India had something to do with pattern and number symbolism between the Vedas and the Torah?’
Vee’s heightened interest was electric. She asked Prem to continue.
’Possibly, and following on with your line of thinking, what was of interest to me was his observation that while the mystical significance of numbers is viewed with deep scepticism within Islam, the fact is that there is a sweep of numbers used across all religions, and therefore there must be a way to tie them all together. I thought that was quite an important statement to make in the circumstances.’
‘That’s why he is the right person for this research, Prem. I knew he would be. His academic credentials and standing within the Muslim fraternity are second to none. Did he elucidate any further on what his theories might be concerning the relevance of numbers made prominent within the Qur’an itself?’
Prem looked to his notes before replying, ‘He did talk around this but his comments were mostly theoretical and over my head. He knows his subject, but what I found of interest was a statement he made that 19, although prime, is made up of 2 times 7 plus 5. We know seven is a mystical number but he emphasised this on the basis that the earth has seven layers and there are seven heavens, and together with five being the number of senses we have, the number of mystical influences controlling our conduct may be counted as nineteen.’
‘I am aware of that but it is only one part of the puzzle. Did he have any comment on why a mandala may be significant?’ Vee queried, clapping her hands for another tray of fresh tea for them both.
‘No. Not specifically. All he said was that he is well-acquainted with the notion that the mandala is a tool to access progressively deeper levels of the conscious finally allowing the observer to experience oneness with the ultimate unity.’
‘You did very well Prem. Thank you. You may go and freshen up now,’ she said. settling into a meditative pose and giving serious thought to Prem’s information. She was acutely aware that humankind was approaching a point in time where knowledge was being attained at an exponential rate through the advancement of technology. She had also made it clear to all of her close confidants at the beginning of the project that secrecy was paramount at each stage of the process. Up to the point where one of of their research prodigies made a breakthrough that required vigorous peer review, they would be able to remain out of the global limelight. From then on their strategy of controlling the dissemination of information would be impossible. Notwithsatnding this they had a back-up plan in place to go underground indefinitely if necessary. The activation of the plan would depend on the political environment at the time, and the level of influence their researchers had within their respective religious communities. It now remained for them to allow the two additional researchers the latitude to draw their own conclusions in their own time. They would allow the studies to advance as far as possible before reassessing.