Is Science Cool Now? Mars Curiosity Rover Mission, Part 2

By Yonatan Gordon

Millions of people watched the Curiosity Rover’s landing on Mars, yet what does this mean for the future of science? As was asked by a journalist soon after the landing, did this mission turn science into something cool? If so, he postulates, its because it gave us insight into a planet far more complex than Mars. A very distant planet called Earth.


When there are two extremes, a compromise can only be reached when each side compromises on its original position. We see this today in politics. If a polarity exists between sides, common ground comes through the true compromise of both sides. This is also how Maimonides teaches us to refine our character; if one’s natural inclination tends to one extreme, he should refine it by forcefully adopting the other extreme, until after time, his nature will settle in the middle. This he calls the Golden Path or Mean whereby the center is reached only after the extreme left and extreme right have been identified.

Here on Earth it can seems like the extremes (e.g. political stances) can seem like the attempt to join inhabitants from two distant planets. No doubt this is something cool about Science Fiction. That somehow lots of races can all get along and explore the cosmos together. If science is to be seen as something cool then, as this journalist postulates, these explorations into outer space need to shed light on our very inner space down here on Earth.


In Kabbalah, there is very clear support to the metaphor we are developing here. As mentioned in the previous article, according to Kabbalah, the right and left extremes are loving-kindness (חסד) and judgement (גבורה) respectively; or in terms of colors, blue and red. Today perhaps the greatest divide is between those who considers themselves either blue or red. We can say now that in order to make science cool, it should somehow teach us how to repair relationships; whether between political parties (e.g. democrat vs republican), ideologies (e.g democracy vs. communism), and even on a personal level–between blue husbands with their red wives.

We begin to reach true compromise when we realize that the left is not opposed to the right at all. Indeed, both paths represent valid ways to serve God. As mentioned, the right path represents a path of loving-kindness (חסד), and the left path one of might and strength (גבורה). In such a case, in order to reach a state of inter-inclusion of right and left, we first move from the right to the center where God’s Essential name of compassion “Havayah” (’הוי) lies. As Earth corresponds to loving-kindness in our Kabbalistic model, our search for the center means that we are indeed in some ways, leaving Earth.


Because the hopes latent in exploring the cosmos is full of hope for our world, we will now speak in terms of blessings. That is, that our discoveries to far-flung planets should somehow bring blessings down to our world. The Zohar reveals that the preliminary words of the customary blessing formula, “Blessed are You, Havayah our God, King [of the universe]” relate to the essence of drawing blessing from Above. The first word, “Blessed’ (ברוך) is the source of blessing, while the next four words (אתה הוי’ א-להינו מלך) correspond to the three patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and then finally King David. We connect to the source of blessing with the word “Blessed” (ברוך), and fill all worlds with God’s Divine light via these four archetypal souls. Once we reach the word king (מלך) we have begun to draw down Divine blessings from above.

The first lesson here is that when we want to bring down blessings, to rectify the world, we must first go through these preliminary four words (ברוך אתה הוי’ א-להינו). As mentioned, the first word “Blessing” (ברוך) represents the source of blessing. This is like starting a journey. When we want to enjoy or partake of something, we need to first start with a blessing that our activity should be successful. This is like a Chassid, who before beginning a journey, gets a blessing from his Rebbe for the trip. This also relates to our motivation behind sending the Curiosity Rover. What are the blessings to be gained from exploring Mars? The knowledge of the left, or red (as we will explain).

The next three words correspond to the focal point of our discussion: “You” (אתה), “Havayah’
(’הוי), ‘Our God” (א-להינו). “You’ corresponds to Abraham and loving-kindness as he was the first to reveal God’s light to the world through this attribute. Loving-kindness is the first emotive sefirah and it lies on the right axis of the sefirot formation called the “Tree of Life.” The next word in a blessing, “Havayah” (’הוי), corresponds to Jacob and to the sefirah of beauty, which lies on the middle axis. “Our God (א-להינו) corresponds to Isaac and to the sefirah of might, on the left axis. Finally, “King [of the universe]’ (מלך), corresponds to the sefirah of kingdom, which contains the Divine blessing from above.


What we see here is that although the movements are right-center-left, when the right and left are at opposite extremes, the center can only be properly defined after the extremes have been explored. This is the secret behind our mission to Mars. In order to sweeten the harsh judgements of the left (as typified by Mars in our case), we need to first go from one extreme (our kind Earth) to the other (the severe planet Mars). The center sweetens the harsh judgement of the left. Whereas the left is where God’s name of judgement “Our God” (א-להינו) resides, the right corresponds to God’s Essential name of compassion “Havayah” (’הוי). By traveling to from right to left, we are actually aligning our blessing into the normative order more established for blessing (right-center-left).  Blessed are You (right) Havayah (center), Our God (left).


This explains what we hope to gain from these explorations: signs of life or something green. While the right and left correspond to blue and red respectively, the center is yellow-green. We all want that our explorations should be verdant. As explained, a green result comes about through the compromise of two extremes. Whether we find life on Mars or not, at least if we have travelled from one extreme to another (like a political camp that meets with the other side), then we can begin to reach that all elusive green state of compromise. When blessings are said in their proper right-center-left order, then the flow of abundance can then travel back down to the lowest sefirah of kingdom, represented by the word “King” (מלך). This explains why the landing of astronauts back down on Earth receives such fanfare. Like the inauguration ceremony for a king, they remind us about the task of reconciling opposite extremes.

So how does science become cool? Maybe by helping teach us the art of compromise. That by traveling millions of miles, we are actually providing a metaphor for how verdant this world can become. If the right is cold (blue) and the left (red) is hot, then the center is warmth; like in the hot/cold game, warm is the sign that we are continuously getting closer to our goal. As explained, this warmth comes about by God’s compassionate name (’הוי) which sweetens judgements. It teaches you how to turn something hot into something warm. To turn hot/red Mars and cool/blue Earth into two warm planets. This is what we mean by the expression “cool”. Not that something is actually cold, but rather, something is “cool” when the fiery hot is made comfortably warm. Imagine how cool it would be if we could travel safely to the center of the Sun? When our travels to Mars teaches us how to warm up Earth to just the right temperature. To turn blue Earth into something verdant.


Although our exploration to Mars, as with Maimonides, signifies a right-left-center movement between extremes; the order of blessing is actually right-center-left. We see from this that our mission to Mars more closely follows the logic of Maimonides. We all want to draw down blessings to this world. It seems both Maimonides and in some ways NASA agree on the approach. That in order to reach the normative order of blessings (right-left-center), sometimes first you need to travel from the right-Earth, to the left-Mars, in order to reach the green center.

By travelling to the furthest extremes, we are actually establishing the natural method for bringing down Divine blessings to this world: right-center-left as mentioned.

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