It’s supernatural, naturally…

There is a great temptation in the modern mind to put things “in boxes.” We have our lives at work, at play, at home, within ourselves, and we tend to consider these separately, on their own terms… even though a realistic perception of one’s life would have one admit that all these dimensions are in fact interrelated. There is, however, a special temptation to box the natural and the supernatural, in a way that they can never, ever touch: most often this manifests in the tendency to think of God only when one is at church or “needs a miracle,” as if God weren’t important at other times, or as if He didn’t even exist. But when the hallway is dark and a strange sound is heard, all of a sudden, “It might be a ghost!”

The readership might be interested to know that the area in which our Lord was baptized (an action which symbolized His “descent” into the sins of Israel and of all mankind) occupies a privileged place on the globe in its own right, apart from such a momentous event… It is the lowest piece of land on the planet. Yes, God became man, and was plunged into the waters of the lowest place on Earth!

That is an obvious example of a crossover between the natural and the supernatural, where a natural reality is used as a symbol to emphasize a supernatural reality (almost like a sacrament). And of course, the Incarnation itself is the perfect antithesis of the separation of God and creation.

There is no reason this kind of crossover should be limited to the explicitly “theological.” Recently, black holes have been in the news. One story, while plenty interesting, is less relevant for our purposes here in this post than another story: what happens when two black holes collide? Apparently, you get a perfect Middle C.

That would be merely an odd kind of coincidence if it weren’t for St. Boethius, a 6th century Christian philosopher, claiming in his De Institutione Musica* that there is a sort of “musical schema” of the universe in which a creature with a nobler character – angels included – would tend to produce a higher sound. The note now called Middle C (261.6 hertz) has long been realized to be basically the center of the human vocal range, and Boethius figured that since humans are the existential center of creation, that would extend to the realm of music and sounds… Middle C is the Boethian center of audible reality.

What does this all mean? Are black hole collisions portals into the underlying order of creation? Who knows. Given the fact that in the world of pop-science, mystique swirls around these super-massive objects like clouds of gas do in reality, that theme could make for its own miniseries on the Discovery Channel. The point is that the idea that such “supernatural” concepts like Boethius put forward about music ought to be taken seriously in natural research, and an observation like this collision can call attention to that – the sound just as easily could have been over a hundred octaves lower! The supernatural and natural are intertwined, just like space and time. God, the Primal Logos, created the natural world with an order that goes back towards Himself and in which reason can perceive Him. Dismissing God as irrelevant to the quest for natural knowledge saws off the limb on which the scientist sits… “Where does it ultimately come from? Where is it ultimately going?” There can never be holistic science without answering these two questions, and the answer is always the Alpha and the Omega. There is not a science world and a religion world, there is just the one world.

*Unfortunately, this text of Boethius is not entirely available online, although you can see a sample of it here.