Throughout history, prominent thinkers have been convinced that the everyday world observed through our senses represents only the surface manifestation of a deeper hidden reality, where the answers to the great questions of existence should be sought.
So compelling has been this belief that entire societies have been shaped by it. Truth seekers have practiced complex rituals and rites, used drugs and meditation to enter trancelike states, and consulted shamans, mystics and priests in an attempt to lift the veil on a shadowy world that lies beneath the one we perceive.
Attempts to gain useful information about the world through magic, mysticism, and secret mathematical codes mostly led nowhere. But about 350 years ago, the greatest magician who ever lived finally stumbled on the key to the universe — a cosmic code that would open the floodgates of knowledge. This was Isaac Newton — mystic, theologian, and alchemist — and in spite of his mystical leanings, he did more than anyone to change the age of magic into the age of science.
The word science is derived from the Latin scientia, simply meaning “knowledge.” Originally it was just one of many arcane methods used to probe beyond the limitations of our senses in the hope of accessing unseen reality. The particular brand of “magic” employed by the early scientists involved hitherto unfamiliar and specialized procedures, such as manipulating mathematical symbols on pieces of paper and coaxing matter to behave in strange ways. Today we take such practices for granted and call them scientific theory and experiment.
We really are in possession of the key to the universe. The ancients were right: beneath the surface complexity of nature lies a hidden subtext, written in a subtle mathematical code. This cosmic code contains the secret rules on which the universe runs. Newton, Galileo, and other early scientists treated their investigations as a religious quest. They thought that by exposing the patterns woven into the processes of nature they truly were glimpsing the mind of God.
— Cosmic Jackpot by Paul Davies