Quintessence Means Fifth Element

Plato defined four basic elements as earth, water, air, and fire. In his analysis of geometry he defined five regular solids. He paired up the four elements with four of the five regular solids and this suggested to him that there might be another element. He assigned earth to the cube, water to the icosahedron, air to the octahedron, and fire to the tetrahedron. This leaves the dodecahedron unassigned.

“Quintessence” means fifth essence or fifth element. Aristotle picked up where Plato left off and postulated that a fifth element did exist. This theory was expanded over the centuries and eventually described a transparent “luminiferous aether” which was a medium responsible for propagating waves of light through empty space.

The concept of aether included the idea that such a medium could influence movement through the medium including some form of drag. In 1887, the Michelson-Morley experiment claimed to show that no such drag was detected and therefore, the aether does not exist. This experiment was based on the concept that the aether was stationary and Earth was moving through the aether, making it possible to detect a difference. It seems somewhat problematic to use ripples in a hypothetical medium to detect the same medium. The Michelson-Morley experiment seems to have proved that the definition of the aether at the time was not correct, but not that some other form of aether could not exist.

After Michelson-Morley, Lorentz modified his theory of aether to include the idea of contraction in the transformation mechanics. This suggests that length measurements shrink as objects move at high speed and was incorporated into relativity theory.

In describing quantum field theory, Dirac postulated a “quantum vacuum” that contains no physical particles, and is the quantum state with the lowest possible energy. This “zero-point” state is similar to many theories of aether.

Some of the behavior of galaxies is determined by the influence of mass in the neighborhood. But the mass we can estimate from visible light sources is not enough to explain the behavior of galaxies. This leads us to imagine there is some other source of mass at work. It is often called “dark matter” because it seems to have mass but is not visible. Some models of aether might also explain the galactic behavior.

Modern science describes matter as slow energy, energy as twisted space, and leaves space and time only described in terms of each other. If there is a progression of causality, it would seem that time needs to come first, followed by space, and then energy and matter. Each step also seems to involve some form of “twisting” and/or slowing down or entropy. Further, we notice there is a similarity in the two progressions of matter-energy-space-time and earth-water-air-fire-aether. Both sequences begin with a kind of fifth element that seems to be more spiritual than material in that it precedes time and space and is often described as a force of creation or even “the breath of the gods”.

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