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The Museum of Lost Wonder
By Jeff Hoke
Published by Weiser Books
August 2006;$49.95US;

Welcome to Wonder

Open The Museum of Lost Wonder and step into an alternative world full of compelling images, fascinating historical tidbits, and provocative challenges to common myths. Follow your whimsy into this treasure trove to create a place where you can expand your mind. Find your way back to the wonder of your own imagination as you peruse these seven halls:

Where Physics Meet Metaphysics

Jeff Hoke blends his knowledge of science and art with his classical studies of 14th-century alchemy and the origins of philosophy and scientific theory, creating exhibits in his "museum" that dazzle the imagination. These magnificent illustrations return us to an era where the physician was also the magician, and the astronomer the astrologer.

Wander the pages of The Museum of Lost Wonder and discover new ways of seeing yourself, your place in the world, and the world itself. Jeff Hoke distills life's big questions into easy, imaginative experiments. Take a mind-expanding romp through the worlds of physics, science, art, alchemy, and metaphysics, a trip that will have you asking -- and answering -- questions about the origins of the universe, as well as your creative mind.

Jeff Hoke has been creating museum exhibits for the last twenty-five years and has recently been awarded the 2003 Curator's Award for Exhibit Design at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California, where he currently holds the position of Senior Exhibit Designer. Created by Jeff Hoke, an award-winning artist and former curator of the Field Museum, The Museum of Lost Wonder is not just a book, it's an experience.

"This informative guide, with its sharp graphic illustrations and hands-on activities to stimulate the imagination, presents a fresh way to approach many of the oldest questions pondered by humankind."
--Robert Sabuda, author of Winter's Tale

"The Museum of Lost Wonder is one of the most imaginative books ever to appear. It is filled with magic, mysticism, science and art all delightfully accurate. By reading it and following the guides to build the models, you will discover the magic that may be missing in your life today. Don't miss the opportunity!"
--Fred Alan Wolf, Ph.D., physicist and author of many books including Dr. Quantum's Little Book of Big Ideas

"A celebration of the human mind. A quirky, graphical telling of the story of everything and ourselves as the principal actors in its drama. A cabinet of curiosities brimming with marvels, astonishments, and revelations. Consistently wise in its recognition that humor is the gateway to the profound, and how Beer has transformed and shaped the major philosophies of the world. For all you seekers of truth, this book is better than a pair of transcendent socks, wiser than an oracular muffin and more entertaining than a whistling oyster."
--Brian Froud, author of Faeries and Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book

"Jeff Hoke's The Museum of Lost Wonder is a soulful delight -- an alchemical workbook designed to remap the connections between science and poetry, matter and psyche, philosophy and comic books."
--Erik Davis, author of Techgnosis and The Visionary State

"Jeff Hoke's Museum is a repository for arcane, 'lost' esoteric knowledge [that] relates to 'wunderkammer' or cabinets of curiosities of pre-Enlightenment Europe, which perceived the earliest form of museum as a model of the world. Yet Hoke's  Museum is also a metaphysical architectural model of the mind, a kind of cornucopia of hermetic knowledge."
--James Putnam, independent curator, writer, and founding curator of the British Museum's Contemporary Arts and Cultures Program

The following is an excerpt from the book The Museum of Lost Wonder
by Jeff Hoke
Published by Weiser Books; August 2006;$49.95US;
Copyright © 2006 Jeff Hoke

Four Creation Tales

On the following pages you’ll find four stories on the technology of how everything began. No one really knows where we come from, but as you’ll see, a lot of people had a good time imagining it. Some of these stories are theories, some are myths. The theories want to be facts. The myths want to be truths. Both are useful in combating the dreariness of the waking hours.

Ever since Hegel in the 1800s, philosophers seem to have given up worrying about first causes and ultimate purposes. We at the Museum of Lost Wonder think they’ve been missing out on a lot of fun. The following stories are provided to incur doubt, inspire wonder, help spur the imagination, and provide fodder for creating your own myth.

The Big Bang Theory
Big Bang is a marvelous term coined as a joke by the astronomer Fred Hoyle. (He actually believed in a steady state theory.)

According to this popularly held theory, before there was anything there was less than nothing. Not only was matter and energy created at the first moment, but so was space and time. So there’s no sense in worrying about what, where, or when it was before it happened because those things didn’t exist, not to mention anybody to worry about causing it.

* Day One was the moment of the Big Bang. It was infinitely dense, and time didn’t exist yet. 
* Day Two is called the “Particle Epoch” a period of expansion when subatomic particles were formed that lasted only an instant.
* Day Three is called the “Grand Unification Epoch” where four great forces organized matter. The weak, the strong, the electromagnetic, and gravity. Only 10-32 of a second had passed. 
* Day Four is called the “Era of Nucleosynthesis” where particles formed into atomic nuclei. It lasted 1 to 100 seconds.
* Day Five, the “Era of Recombination” is when particles and energy linked together to form different matter. This day lasted a million years. 
* Day Six is the “Era of Galaxy Birth.” Gravity condenses baryonic matter into clouds of gas. It lasted a billion years. 
* Day Seven, the “Modern Era” is 10 to 20 billion years old. Superstructures of galaxies form, stretching as gigantic sheetlike filaments spanning hundreds of billions of light-years. It makes you wonder. If the universe is still expanding, Where is it expanding to? What’s on the other side of a hundred billion light-years?

Genesis Myth
Genesis is from the Greek “gignesthai,” meaning origin or birth.

This popular myth also holds that the universe was created in seven days. Myths, unlike theories, elaborate on feelings to explain how things happened. This story credits the beginning of the universe to a very human and moody creator, who, when done, takes the day off. It maps the first geography of the planet and goes on to describe how life began.

Everybody has a job to do. For the first two humans life consists of gardening and naming everything in Eden. The fun doesn’t start until, on their time off, they seek wisdom. Once they get wisdom (that’s supposed to make them godlike), all they realize is that they’re naked. The search for wisdom only ends in embarrassment. This embarrassment is the birth of shame . . . which explains all the sorrows to come.

The first couple have two kids. They have jobs too. One becomes a farmer, and the other, a rancher. One kills the other because the creator, having no experience in child rearing, compliments one’s work and not the other, which creates jealousy. Shameful. (Must not have been a lot of thinking going on between naps on that seventh day.) The remaining kid has to leave home and goes off to the next town, Nod, to find a wife and start a family of his own.

It makes you wonder. If Eden was the first inhabited place in the world, How did Nod get there? And if we’re still in the seventh day of creation . . . When is the creator going to wake up from that nap?

Alternative Theories
to the Big Bang

These latest theories contest the validity of the Big Bang. Recent data from our new Hubble telescope find young things at the edge of the known universe when there should only be older cosmic structures. Both of these theories infer that “the universe is dynamic with creation and destruction ongoing and continuous.”

The new steady state theory sees galaxies as “huge recycling systems that go on forever.” Here matter is ejected out of a central “neutroid” and after millennia of spiraling outward falls back into itself.

In the symmetric theory the engine of the universe is located in black holes. The center of a black hole is so infinitely dense that its gravitation pulls in everything around it. Even itself. This force is so powerful that even time and space become warped, meaningless, and cease to exist. Adjacent to the central black holes are white holes that eject the stuff of the cosmos simultaneously. The known universe seems to be scattered with these holes.

The universe can be imagined as a huge mass of spaghetti, like some big, intertwined Möbius strip or even a massive bedsheet with no edges that perpetually folds in and through itself.

It makes you wonder? When did all this infinite creation and destruction start? And Who cooked it all up in the first place?

Creation Myth
This tale is adapted from the Zohar, a medieval commentary on the Kabbalah.

In the beginning is EIN SOF (“without end”), an undifferentiated light-filled essence without being, which permeates the universe in every direction. Needing to define itself, EIN SOF makes room for creation by withdrawing into itself. This withdrawal, or “TSIMSTUM,” creates a vacuum in its center which is called “AYIN,” or nothingness.

“The light withdrew like water in a pond displaced by a stone . . . Descending into the vacuum, it transformed into an amorphous mass . . . For in its simple desire to realize its intention, the emanator relumined the mass with a ray of light . . . As this light began to enter the mass, vessels were formed.” *

There are ten vessels, or “SEPHIROTH.” Each holds a particular essential quality of their creator. Out of this configuration of vessels four worlds are organized: Emanation, Creation, Formation, and Actualization. As the light breathes energy into these vessels, the first, and strongest, vessel withstands the force, but the others shatter, or “SHEVIRAH.” The pieces of these vessels fall to the ground with essences of light within them. All the pieces get trapped in material existence.

Our jobs as humans is to reconstruct these shattered remains by “TIQQUN,” or mending. Thus restoring these essence-filled vessels to their original divinity.

It makes you wonder. Why couldn’t EIN SOF make unbreakable vessels? And why are we left to pick up all the pieces?

* From the Essential Kabbalah by Daniel C. Matt

The Reverberating Yawn
or How to Get Something From Nothing

Yes, you can do this at home!

Try This With a Friend. No tools required.

Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit. Position yourself within two feet of your friend. Start by taking a deep breath and make a smooth, even “ooooooo” sound. The exact note isn’t important as long as it’s a sound you can easily hold for a while. At the same time, your friend should also take a deep breath and try making a tone that matches yours. Practice this a few times until you find yourselves making the same tone. Once you think you’ve got it, listen carefully. When you are very close to creating exactly the same note, you should start hearing a third tone. This will sound like a warbling sound. The warble will start out slow and will get faster and faster in frequency as you get closer to making the exact sound. You’ll both think that the other person is making the warbling sound! You’re not. The phenomena is called binaural beats and is caused by similar frequencies canceling each other out near the same harmonic.

Do-it-Yourself Creation Myth

This is a nifty little exercise that is assured to bring hours of amusement. A springboard for the mind sure to flex that flabby imagination muscle!


Many myths are created to explain the existence of something unusual or painful. (In “Genesis” the pain of childbirth is explained as a punishment for Eve eating an apple!) Start out with something that has always puzzled you. Something awesome, irksome, or just plain irritating.

“Get your facts first, then you can distort them as much as you please.” --Mark Twain

1. After you’ve chosen What it is that seems to have no good reason for being, you should decide . . .

2. Who created it? What is the essential agent of change. Whose fault is it anyway? This can be a human or an animal, a force, an idea, an action, or a feeling.

3. How was it made? What is the action that caused the creation to be made? What was used to make it?

4. Why was it made? One should usually be sympathetic to creators. They generally have something that bothered them in the first place. Something that caused them to create. This creation is customarily made to satisfy some need.

5. Where was it made? In outer space? Inner space? Or somewhere in between?

6. When was it made?  

A sequence of events will be important to your story. It will help give your universe the appearance of order where there wasn’t one before -- which is why we create myths in the first place.

Copyright © 2006 Jeff Hoke