Religious Influences and Development of Space Concept

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Religious Influences and Development of Space Concept

Post by Ponentino » Wed Jul 15, 2020 1:07 am

Dear Gentlemen of Sci.Physics. Forums,

I'm Ponetino the author of - The concept of space-
published June 28, 2020,
I kindly ask you to replace my June 28 post
with this new post that I send today with the new title:
- Religious Influences and Development of Space Concept -,
if it pass Your examination.
I put the new title that is more significant and it can interest more people,
and I added the final considerations,
while in the rest of the text I changed only a few words
and added two lines at the botton of the text.
Thank you very much.

Giovanni Ruffino


by Giovanni Ruffino (Genoa)

Judeo-Christian religious traditions and to a lesser extent, but not null, that of Islam, had a strong influence on the concept of space in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
During the previous centuries, instead, the theory of Aristotle (385-322 BC) was predominant, which defined space as a place (topos), that is, as the position it occupies between the bodies that it contains. So for Aristotle space exists only if there are also objects; and the universe is geocentric and is a finite whole whose limit is the sky. And it is made of two spheres: the first sub lunar containing the material elements: water, air, earth and fire; the other super lunar, or celestial, composed of the fifth essence (the ether) and characterized only by a perfect, continuous and eternal circular movement.
The radius of the celestial sphere was believed to be about twenty times the Earth - Moon distance, which was then estimated much smaller than distance that we currently know.
Against these theories, which we can easily define wrong, all the valid thinkers of history had to struggle hard, even in the dark ages, but their voices remained almost completely irrelevant.
Only in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, especially thanks to the Italian Renaissance, new concepts of philosophers emerged that overwhelmed Aristotle's ideas and extended the space to infinity; many of them claimed that there is also the presence of God, with inspiration specially from ancient Jewish esotericism.
Religious influence is described extensively by Jammer in his - History of the concept of space -. Below is a brief summary.
The Palestinian Hebrews of the first century after Christ indicated God with "makom" which means place or space, as he is a virtue without limits and he is not contained in anything, indeed himself contains everything. The omnipresence of God soon became a fundamental precept, acquired also by Christianity. For both religions we have the presence of God in the sky, on earth and everywhere, therefore also in the "empty" space.
During the expansion of the Ottoman Empire many erudite Jews arrived in Italy as refugees, among them Elia del Medigo (1458-1493) that, in addition to having written numerous works, he also translated important texts from Hebrew to Latin for Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494) with whom he had intense cultural exchanges; after that Pico introduced the study of the * Jewish Cabale into the Christian world.
The development of movable type printing, invented by Gutenberg in 1455, contributed greatly to spreading new ideas of new philosophers throughout Europe. Also the book ** Zohar circulated in Italy and in Northern Europe and contributed to the dissemination of Jewish cabalistic doctrines containing the assimilation of space with God, which soon inspired many philosophers. Let's see some of them.

Bernardino Telesio (1509-1588) was the founder of the new philosophy of nature with an openly anti-Aristotelian conception of space and time, and in those days it was not an easy position to support. The success of his works was therefore a decisive step in the history of scientific thought. With Telesio, space becomes homogeneous, infinite, immobile and independent of the presence of bodies, and all its parts have the same aptitude for containing objects.

Francesco Patrizi (1529-1597) describes space as a measurable but not material entity, which serves as intermediary between the world of matter and that of spirituality because it can also contain all non-corporeal manifestations. So we have space as a necessary condition for everything that exists. Therefore the study of space should precede that of matter in order to arrive at true knowledge of nature.

Tomaso Campanella (1568 - 1639) follower of Telesio's works, in his - Metaphysicarum rerum juxta propria dogmata - (Metaphysical things according to own principles) argues that - space is in God, but that God is not limited by space -. He proposed a homogeneous, immobile and incorporeal model of space, which can be penetrated by matter and which penetrates matter, with divine characteristics such as immortality, that is the basis of all creation and precedes everything by origin and nature, with meaning that everything originates in space.

The identification of space with light was also important since it can expand anywhere. But also God is often associated with light: burning bush, pillar of fire, cloaked in light, or the phrase: - I am the light of the world -. Therefore light shared the idea of space with God.
During the ‘Renaissance’ the influence of Islamic mysticism on European philosophers was very limited, for obvious religious and political reasons. However, some Islamic writings translated into Latin arrived in Europe, among them the Kalam, which means word or speech (Kalam Allah - word of God) composed in the Middle East and in Samarkand between the ninth and tenth centuries. Like the Judeo-Christian writings, the kalam also affirms the transcendental principle of divine origin for matter and space, attributing to both an atomic structure, therefore discontinuous.
Its influence can be found on some writings of Leibniz (1646-1716) which present a strong resemblance to the atomistic theory of Kalam.

Other philosophers dealt the very difficult work of giving a physical sense, or at least a container, to all incorporeal manifestations: soul, spirit, divinity and even to light. And other important contributions to the development of the concept of universe and space were made by the following philosophers and scientists:

Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) proposed an infinite universe containing infinite worlds, all full of the infinite love of God. In support of the infinite extension of the universe, against the limits of Aristotelian theories, Bruno stated: - Beyond any apparent limit, there is always something else-.
And this sentence should be remembered by modern day astrophysicists.

John Rainolds (1549-1607) made important studies on rabbinic doctrine and esotericism.

Robert Flud (1574-1627) followed the Hebrew texts and taught the - immediate presence of God in all nature -.

René Descartes (1596-1650), a very important mathematician, he denied the existence of the void stating that the measurability of the "empty" space proves that the parts of the space, that may appear empty, are actually full of a " thin matter", not composed of material particles and difficult to define, but existing; however, he didn’t attribute any spiritual property to it.

Evangelista Torricelli (1608-1647) carried out his important experiment in 1644 with a glass tube containing mercury closed at the upper end, that we all know. We learned that the tube does not empty and inside it remains a 760 mm high mercury column, while in the upper part of the tube a vacuum is created, at least apparently; in fact today we know that there are mercury vapors due to its surface tension, but in those days they believed that there was a vacuum.
The experiment taught two important things: 1) Air weighs and atmospheric pressure can be measured. 2) It is possible to create a vacuum.
In fact, that was the first time that the "vacuum" was created, since the first vacuum pump was built a few years later, around in the 1650, by Otto Von Gueriche.
Philosophers immediately wondered what were the nature of the "empty" space that had been created at the top of the tube. It was an existing and measurable space, albeit devoid of all matter and air. Someone, however, hastily identified it with - nothingness - and this immediately inspired atheists to support the consequent non-existence of God.
Today we know that inside the "empty" space there may also be one hundred television broadcasts in one hundred different languages, and thousands of other telecommunications, besides gravity.

Henry More (1614-1687) was a great studious of rabbinic texts and cabbalistic philosophy, and an important supporter of the divine presence in "empty" space.
More had realized that the affinity between "empty" space and the "subtle matter" proposed by Descartes, inevitably led to materialism and atheism. And in his book - Antidote against Atheism - he states that is necessary a clear understanding of nature, and above all of the "empty" space, which also includes the presence of a spiritual entity that permeates space and nature.
On the contrary, Cartesian philosophy risked excluding God from the world, although Descartes declared himself a believer.
Jammer writes: - For both thinkers (More and Descartes) empty space, in the sense of nothingness, does not exist; but, in addition to this, according to More's point of view, even if space can be empty as regards matter, the spirit of God is always present in it.
For Descartes, and also for More, extension is not an exclusive attribute of matter, but also belongs to space even when it is empty of matter, and the attribute of measurability demonstrates the substantiality of space. Of course the word - substantiality - here it does not refer to matter but to an "incorporeal substance", not known, which can also allow the existence of spiritual phenomena and the mutual interaction between the world of matter and the world of the spirit. This "subtle substance", says More, necessarily exists and would exist even if all matter were annihilated. And the existence of space, even without matter, leads More to affirm the presence of God in space.
We report a writing of More taken from the book - History of the concept of space - :
<< If after the removal of body matter there will still be space and distance where real matter lay, when there was; and if this space is neither impenetrable nor tangible, but is always measurable in extension and volume, then there must necessarily exist an incorporeal substance, by its very nature eternally existing, which, constituting the clearest idea of perfection and incorruptibility, and this will indicate fully and precisely its divine nature >>.
So for More the space has divine attributes and lists them: unique, incomparable, simple, immobile, eternal, complete, independent, existing for itself, for itself subsisting, incorruptible, necessary, immense, uncreated, not circumscribed, not understandable, omnipresent, incorporeal, that everything permeates and surrounds everything, existing by essence, being in act and pure act.
And More concludes by recalling that the ancient Jews called God - makom - which means precisely place or space. Also the list of adjectives attributed to space is clearly inspired by Jewish mysticism.

Benedict Spinoza (1632 - 1677), born in Amsterdam to Sephardic Jewish parents of Portuguese origin, made a further significant contribution to the search for the nature of space, always of divine inspiration and derived from Judeo-Christian original concepts.
For Spinoza the main idea is: << Whatever exists is in God, and without God nothing can exist or be conceived >>. And precisely, adds Spinoza: - as stated by
S. Paul and the ancient Jews, although the translations of their writings have come to us corrupt in various ways -.
Spinoza, in his Ethics, attributes to God not only the spatial extension, but also all matter, affirming that the World has reality only in God and not in itself, thus reaching a completely pantheistic and impersonal conception of God.
His writings, perhaps too radical, caused scandal in Christian and Jewish circles and he was accused also of atheism. Instead he expressed deep religious sentiments and considered God as an immanent cause of the World and the universe.

Isaac Newton (1642-1727). Jammer writes of him: << Certainly a believer in God and religious, he never denied the existence of transcendent entities. He only stated that their existence has no function for the purpose of scientific explanation >>.
In other words, Newton argues that all theory must be based on the results of experiments and on the logical application of physical laws (derived from previous measurements and observations) using mathematics, as Galileo (1564-1642) had already established. And this is the modern method of proceeding for the study of scientific disciplines, fully valid even in our day, which was defined by Galileo and subsequently adopted by Newton and all the scientists of the world.
The concept of space is treated by Newton in his famous book Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, briefly called Principia, written in Latin, and precisely in Scholium 2 °.
We report only the first line, which is very significant:
<< Spatium absolutum, natura sua sine relatione ad externum quodvis, semper manet similare & immobile >>.
The book was translated into English by Andrew Motte in 1729, two years after Newton's disappearance, and the phrase became: << Absolute space, in its own nature, without regard to anything external, remains always similar and immovable >>.
Which clearly expresses the concept of space as a passive scenario, precisely immobile and immutable, independent of the objects and events that may occur within it.
At this point, however, it is necessary to specify that Newton, like almost all scientists of the time, also believed in the existence of the ether as a medium contained within space, which often occurs in his writings.
In fact, in his book ‘Opticks’, third edition of 1717, Query 21, he finally decided to propose a hypothesis on gravity and wrote:
<< This medium is not much rarer inside the dense bodies of the Sun, stars, planets and comets than in the empty celestial space between them? And in passing from those at much greater distances, it does not continually become denser and denser, and thereby itself causes the gravitation of these large bodies towards each other and their parts towards the bodies: each body making an effort to go from the denser parts to the rarer ones? ... >>
(His famous Latin phrase referring to the force of gravity - Hypoteses non fingo - is from 1713 and is in the second edition of the ‘Principia’).
In summary, we can say that Newton supports the idea of absolute space, immobile and immutable, but containing a medium, also called ether, which changes its density according to the presence of the objects. And this idea, clearly expressed in Query 21, is often omitted from textbooks.
Also in 1693 Newton referred to the presence of a "medium", or "agent in space", and wrote:
*** << That gravity must be innate, inherent and essential to matter, in such a way that one body can act on another at a distance through a vacuum, without the mediation of anything else, through which their action and strength can be transmitted from one to the other, it is for me an absurdity so enormous that I do not believe that a man endowed with an adequate faculty of judgment in philosophical questions can never fall into it. Gravity must be caused by an agent who works constantly in accordance with certain laws, but if this agent is material or immaterial I left it to the evaluation of my readers >>.
We have seen that Newton proceeds in the exposition of Physics considering only the events and proposing laws and hypotheses without any reference to the spiritual aspects. However, he also added that everything takes place in harmony with the will of God.
For example in the Scholium Generale of ‘Principia’ he wrote: **** << This very elegant team of the Sun, the planets and the comets could not be born without the design and power of an intelligent and powerful entity… .. This Being rules all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord of everything. And as a consideration of his dominion He wants to be called Lord God Almighty or Universal Sovereign. >>
Newton also wrote of theological works, some appreciated, instead for others he risked the accusation of heresy because he denied the Trinity of God.

In the following centuries space was gradually deprived of any property.
Until the end of the nineteenth century the concept of the ether remained as a physical entity, or medium, contained in the space that was used to give a physical sense to electromagnetic fields and gravity.
But, on the other hand, the old models of ether were wrong because they considered it as a material substance inside the space, with objects moving inside it like foreign bodies. And this inevitably implies the problem of the ether wind that moving objects should encounter, which instead it does not exist.
For the same reasons the old ether would have constituted a privileged reference system, contradicting the principle of relativity of motions. Therefore in the twentieth century, leveraging also on a false interpretation of the Michelson-Morley experiment, the ether was suppressed and the space was identified with - nothingness -. And this again caused great satisfaction and enthusiasm among atheists.
But it is completely wrong to identify space with nothingness, because "empty" space is well measurable in extension and volume, and a cubic meter of space exists and has a true and evident physical meaning. Instead a cubic meter of nothingness does not exist and doesn’t have logical meaning. Furthermore, as we have already said for the Torricelli experiment, today we know that the "empty" space can also contain hundreds of television broadcasts and thousands of other telecommunications, in addition to gravity. It follows that equate space with nothingness, but with the news inside, is a further big absurdity.
It should be added that the old and incorrect models of ether "had filled the sky with cobwebs" with their mechanical and complicated theories; for this reason it was useful to eliminate them; in fact in this way science has been able to proceed freely in its development.
But instead of identifying the space with nothingness it would have been appropriate to imagine and propose something different and alternative to the previous models of ether.
In this logic towards the end of the nineteenth century P. Drude and M. Abraham proposed to attribute physical properties directly to space and no longer to the ether, but their ideas (still incomplete) were not followed; this at least until 1916, when A. Einstein (1879-1955), after the theory of General Relativity to give a logical sense to the curvature of space, proposed: ‘physical space with physical properties’ like a new model of ether. So for Einstein space is a physical entity that with its properties and states gives a true meaning to the curvature, electromagnetic fields, gravity, waves, displacement current, energy and everything that happens in it. And Einstein has clearly written that without a space-ether General Relativity would not make sense. *****
Consequently, with the GR, space ends up being a passive, immobile and immutable scenario and becomes a true physical entity that is changeable and participating with the events that happen in it.
However, it was necessary to take a further step forward to solve the ether wind problem that moving objects should encounter, which instead does not exist at all. Also this time the answer came from Einstein who proposed the origin of particles of matter as - effects of energy in space - which are created at the points where energy exceeds a certain density value. Since energy can move freely in physical space, then also particles can form in different points equally freely, without any resistance to their motion anymore.
Electromagnetic and gravitational fields and waves are also physical entities in space and they also contain energy, although in smaller quantity, or rather: much, much less than that of matter.
For Einstein, therefore, we have the space that by means of energy generates particles, matter, fields, waves and all physical reality.
Quantum mechanics also confirms the physical nature of space and states that there is a continuous fluctuation of energy and virtual particles in it. And it has also been defined - the zero point energy - as the minimum energy level of the "empty" space.
But in the twentieth century the new concepts of space proposed by Einstein after the GR remained unheeded, they did not appear in textbooks and were not taught in universities and schools, and few people know that after 1916 he proposed the space-ether.
On the contrary, almost everyone knows that in 1905, with the Special Relativity, he denied the ether (referring to the previous models of the nineteenth century) because a great emphasis was given to this fact.
And this form of boycott towards ideas that express a physical substantiality of space had already occurred also for Newton's Query 21, which is almost never mentioned.
In this way in the twentieth century prevailed "the nothingness of the void" as model of space and all the physical phenomena that occur in it, which we have already mentioned, were reduced to pure mathematical descriptions, as if only the mathematical formalism that represents them existed, and not also, and primarily, the real and concrete physical fact.
But now, thanks to Internet, we can access the original writings of the great physicists of history, directly from home, and we can verify that after GR Einstein actually proposed the new concept of space-ether and stated that the particles of matter and all physical reality originates in it by effect of energy, which is finally itself a state of space.
Practically we return to the ideas of Patrizi, Campanella, More, Spinoza, and others, who describe space as - the basis of all creation and that precedes everything by origin and nature -.
Compared to those models, in that of Einstein there is not the divine presence, but, on his own, he certainly believed that there was, in fact he has mentioned God several , even if he did not refer to God revealed by the Jewish and Christian Sacred Texts, but rather to God as an immanent entity, as Spinoza had proposed.

Final Considerations
It is necessary to recognize that the concept of space as "the nothingness of the void", proposed in the twentieth century and still in use today, is absolutely wrong, as well as absurd.
Currently we have new elements, in addition to those already known in the twentieth century, to affirm that space is a real physical entity; for example today we know that in space there are also gravitational waves and there is a continuous fluctuation of energy and virtual particles .
It is therefore necessary to reconsider the hypotheses that Einstein proposed after the GR (which instead have been almost hidden for all these years) and imagine the particles, fields and all physical reality as effects of energy in physical space, which appears more and more as an important and extraordinary entity.
And these concepts completely change our vision of the world and of ourselves: no longer autonomous subjects in an empty and extraneous space, but energetic entities, before being material subjects, in this exceptional and incredible physical medium that is space.
Giovanni Ruffino (Genoa)

* Jewish Kabbalah - Includes mystical interpretations given by the rabbis to the esoteric meaning of the Bible. Born in oral form after the end of the "second temple period", 597 BC - 70 AD, while the writings are of 12th - 13th century AD. in southern France and Spain.

** Zohar (Splendor) book written in the 13th century AD in Castile to reveal the esoteric truth hidden in the Pentateuch, including also the teachings of the Kabbalah.
According to Jewish tradition the Zohar was written many centuries earlier.

*** Letter from Isaac Newton to Richard Bentley, February 25, 1693, from The Correspondence of Isaac Newton, ed. by H.W. Turnbull, 7 vol., Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1959-77, vol. 3, pp. 253-254.

**** Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica 2nd edition 1713, General Scholium.

***** Conference at the University of Leiden 5 - 5 - 1920.

Main reference texts and writings:
History of the concept of space – of Jammer
Einstein and the ether – of Kostro
Principia - of Newton
The new ether of Einstein (On Google)
Energy mass particles fields forces and new ether of Physics (On Google)
Others files are on the site


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