The God Code: The Secret of Our Past, the Promise of Our Future, by Gregg Braden, Hay House, Inc., Carlsbad, California, 2004.
Seek and you will find. You can find prophecies in the Bible and Nostradamus – they are surprisingly accurate (at least in retrospect). Children find animal shapes in the clouds; adults find Jesus on a taco. Abductees find aliens in their bedrooms; Von Daniken found ancient astronauts everywhere he looked. The Bible Code found amazing messages by forming grids of various dimensions from the Hebrew text and looking for words in all directions as in a “wordsearch” grid. Skeptics had fun applying the same bogus method to Moby Dick and War and Peace and finding even more amazing messages there.
Maybe God didn’t leave messages in the Bible; but never mind, there is always another inventive mind out there with a better idea. In Contact, Carl Sagan speculated that if there was a God and he wanted to leave us a message, he might have encoded it in the digits of Pi. Gregg Braden says God did leave us a message – in our DNA. He explains this in his new book, The God Code, once again demonstrating that the human brain is marvelously adept at recognizing patterns and finding analogies. We are indeed the story-telling species, and Braden has created an engaging tall tale.
Braden’s arguments only work if you are willing to accept a few ground rules. First you must believe there is a God, and only one God, and that he created humans (possibly by adding a secret ingredient to an ape). Then you must believe that of the many, many things he has been called in many, many languages, he prefers one of his several Hebrew names, and specifically prefers the 4-letter form YHVH of that name. Then you must accept Kabbalistic numerology and believe the ancient authors of Kabbalah literature knew the secrets of the universe. Madonna believes; why not you?
Once you have accepted these premises, Braden shows how the elements carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen in our DNA spell out YHVH. With a few deft tricks he can make the numbers work out just right. Then a further leap is asked of you – you are expected to accept that it translates to “God/Eternal within the body” and that this means “Humankind is one family, united through a common heritage, and the result of an intentional act of creation!” As if that weren’t enough, he tries to convince us that this message is the key to world peace.
He thinks that what we call evolution is really just adaptation, and that evolution can’t explain our origin. He says the fossils don’t show us living side-by side with our primate progenitors, so we can’t have evolved from them (but a few pages later he says that species previously believed to have evolved from one another over time appear to have lived with one another during the same period of time, making their emergence as a linear progression less likely?!). He asks typical Creationist questions. If we evolved over eons, why did we begin walking upright? And how do you explain the complexity of the eye?
Higher apes have 24 pairs of chromosomes; humans have 23. Our chromosome 2 corresponds to chimp chromosomes 12 and 13 fused together, with part of the sequence “reversed”. He says it is unlikely that natural processes could account for this, but geneticists know this sort of thing happens frequently. Braden doesn’t seem to know much about anomalies of chromosome copying. Or about evolution, for that matter: he thinks modern human skeletons were found in same geologic formations as Peking man and Java man.
He claims that there must be some force beyond the properties of chemistry that breathes life into the elements of creation. Both the Bible and the theory of evolution are incomplete explanations, so his solution is to combine both. (Does combining two incomplete hypotheses usually lead to truth? If you hybridize two animals without horns do you expect to get horns?)
In order to follow Braden’s reasoning, you are expected to swallow the “science” of gematria whole. Yes, science:
Of the many ways that we may define “science” today, The American Heritage Dictionary suggests that “any methodological activity, discipline or study” is a science. Through this widely accepted definition, the study of gematria can be considered an ancient science, as it yields precise and repeatable outcomes from specific operations between letters, phrases, and words. [page 95]
Gematria is the ancient Hebrew mystical system of numerology in which every letter is assigned a number. Aleph =1, and subsequent letters represent 2 through 9, then 10, 20 etc. and then by 100’s to the last letter Tav which represents 400. A unique arithmetic allows transformation of the number 14 into the number 5 by adding the digits 1 and 4. Braden thinks this “science” may ultimately explain quantum effects and morphogenic fields. An example of how this “science” works: NeShaMaH = soul = 395. HaShaMaYim = heaven = 395, so heaven and soul are the same! This proves the immortality of the soul (?!)
Alchemy’s air, fire and water correspond to nitrogen, hydrogen and oxygen because 79% of air is nitrogen, 71% of the sun is hydrogen, and 89% of water is oxygen. In different world views, Braden says, this corresponds to sex (male, female, child), Bible (father, son, holy ghost), physics (proton, electron, neutron), electrical charge (positive, negative, neutral) and indigenous traditions (eagle, serpent, jaguar). The fourth or hidden element is earth. The earth’s crust (why the crust and not the mantle or core?) is 90% silicon, oxygen, aluminum, and hydrogen, and two of those (hydrogen and oxygen) account for more than 99% of our bodies; this proves we are truly made of earth.
Ancient books of Kabbalah and inscriptions on Greek temples refer to a universal key – a time capsule of knowledge. We are invited to “know thyself” and “seek within”. This wasn’t just a metaphor, it was a clue to look in our DNA. Artists sign their works, manufacturers put their brand name on their products, and God signed our DNA. The Kabbalah’s Sepher Yetzirah describes the first elements of the universe as represented by the Hebrew letters of God’s ancient name, and the formation of the rest of the universe by the remaining letters. The 3 mother letters of creation are alef =breath, mem=water, and shin=fire. So YHVH must stand for nitrogen, oxygen and hydrogen.
But wait! There was a fourth, hidden element (earth), and we still haven’t accounted for carbon. Carbon is not exactly a major component of earth, but we need it for life. Braden looked at the periodic table to see if he could find a clue from one of the 17 characteristics that make each element unique: boiling point, covalent radius, etc. After 12 years of study he determined that the clue resides in only one of the 17 characteristics – atomic mass. The atomic masses of H, C, N and O are 1, 12, 14 and 16, respectively. This is not going to work, but by gematria, he is allowed to convert these to H=1, C=12=1+2=3, N=14=1+4=5. Oops, oxygen=16=1+6=7 isn’t going to work. He gets around this by using a more precise value of 15.99 for oxygen (due to the different isotopes) so he can derive 1+5=6.
He calls these new values “simple mass.” Nothing else in math or nature works this way, but so what? I like this idea. Simple is good. The book sells for $16.47 on Amazon.com. If I use “simple price” I only pay 1+6=7 dollars.
Now we have H, N, O = 1, 5, 6. Add these together and you get 1+5+6=12=1+2=3. Which, miraculously, is the same as carbon = 12=1+2=3. DNA (the “language” of the body) consists of 4 nucleotides, G, C, A and T, and these are made up of only these same four elements: H, C, N and O!
Braden says carbon is the only one of the 118 possible elements that precisely equals the number three. He returns to the Hebrew alphabet to see which letter equals three in gematria, and finds Gimel. So YHVG are in our every cell. But is carbon the only 3 in the periodic table? I looked for myself and found 7 more:
Braden seems to like adding, so I tried that. The closest Hebrew equivalents are Kuf=20, Resh=200, Vav (V – there is no W)=6, Peh=80, Lamed=30, and you can disregard the vowels A of Argon and I of Iridium because Hebrew has no vowels. 20+200+6+80+30=336=3+3+6=12=1+2=3. So all the rest of the”3” elements also equal 3 in Hebrew when lumped together. I got Gimel again! Amazing! That must mean something, right? Hey, this numerology stuff is easy.
We have now derived YHVG. Letter order is not significant in gematria, so VG=GV. In the Sepher Yetzirah’s mysterious 231 mystical gates of creation, GV represents DM, or the root of the word Adam. Now, the name of God is YHVH and the name of man is YHVG, and the first 2 letters, God’s name (YH) is in both. YHVG means “within” or “the interior of the body.” Therefore HNOC=YHVG= God in the body. A literal translation: “God/Eternal within the body.”
Braden has now proved that God created man. He thinks this is the solution to world peace: if we tell our enemies that God signed our DNA, they will surely realize that we are all the children of God and they will stop fighting us. (I would love to see Braden try to explain that to Bin Laden). What I’m not clear on is where the other animals and plants come in – don’t they have DNA too? Do we have to stop killing our brother cows and cabbages too? Come to think of it, I suppose if we gave up eating all animals and plants, human conflicts would end pretty quickly. (With the possible exception of breatharians).
There are lots of laughs in this book. He tells us it was the IGY study of earth in 1957-8 that discovered that air is not oxygen, but 78% nitrogen which “combines with oxygen to stabilize the air.” And it was NASA that discovered what water is made of. He tells us scientists have recognized a new form of energy:
Given names such as the ‘Mind of God,’ “Nature’s Mind’ and the ‘Quantum Hologram,’ this previously unrecognized field of energy is described as a force that is everywhere all of the time, has been in existence from the time of the Beginning, and exhibits a form of intelligence that responds to our deepest emotions.
He suggests that an ancient civilization in India was destroyed by an early atom bomb. His use of Occam’s razor is hilarious. He explains that he could try to make his numbers fit by four methods: addition, subtraction, multiplication or division, and that Occam requires him to pick the simplest method: addition. I think Occam would have told him the simplest method was not to mess with the numbers at all.
Many years ago I read an essay by Isaac Asimov about the planet Vulcan. The Newtonian orbital equations for the inner planets didn’t quite compute, so astronomers imagined a small planet nearer the sun whose mass would make the equations come out right. They named this hypothetical planet “Vulcan” and looked for it, but never found it. Then Einstein came along and showed that with his theory of relativity there was no need for an undiscovered planet – his equations came out right without it. Asimov then recounts an old Greek myth about the god Chronos. He was told his son would supplant him, so he killed his new-born son by swallowing him. Or so he thought. Actually his wife substituted a stone and the son did grow up to take the father’s place as ruler of the heavens. That son’s name was Zeus. Later on, Zeus threw his own son, Hephaistos (Vulcan) out of Olympus. Asimov claimed this proved beyond a doubt that the ancient Greeks had foretold the coming of Einstein. After all, Einstein means “one stone” in German, and with his theory Einstein removed the planet Vulcan from the heavens, just as Zeus (alias “the stone” swallowed by Chronos) led to the removal of his grandson Vulcan from the Greek heaven.
I found the Vulcan story very funny and I’m sure Asimov intended it that way. Braden’s The God Code is also a very funny book, and he may have intended it that way too. But being a skeptic, I doubt it. If he wrote it as a spoof of books like The Bible Code and Chariots of the Gods, he did a pretty good job. If he seriously believes what he wrote, he… [censored].
Science already tells us that all life is related and is united in an evolutionary enterprise that thrives on cooperation as well as competition. We don’t need a God code to tell us that. There are plenty of real wonders in DNA. Seek and you will find.
This article was originally published in Skeptic magazine.