The Unseen Hand

A glance upwards from the floor of a Gothic cathedral raises the question: How were the arched ribs and masonry vaulting placed there, hundreds of feet above the ground? For most of these medieval structures, we don’t know the exact answer and can only speculate about the elaborate scaffoldings that must have supported the unfinished arches before the keystones were placed and the ceiling pavers of cut stone while the mortar set, let along the workmen who placed these elements and the hoists that lifted them. These intermediate and temporary structures are long gone, but without them, the finished building could not exist. They are, to borrow a phrase from the Sanskrit grammar, “lopa” – reflected in the effect that they made possible but no longer seen.

In Sanskrit, the third person singular verb ending is “tip” and when added to a verb root such as “sidh” (to go), forms the verb “he goes” or “sedhati.” The “p” of “tip” is “lopa” and not visible in the final form but has the effect of causing the short “i” to be replaced by the dipthong “e”; the third person dual ending “tas” lacks this “p” which indicates or signals this vowel change, and is therefore simply “sidhatas” or “they two go.”

To take another example from science, the human insulin protein, secreted by the pancreas to control blood sugar levels, has 51 amino acids and is a dimer consisting of two discontinuous sequences, an A chain and a B chain, connected by three disulfide bonds. This was the form of insulin discovered initially and only later was it found that insulin is first synthesized in the β cells of the pancreas as preproinsulin, a single much longer polypeptide. At the terminal end is a 24-amino acid sequence signal peptide which directs the molecule to the rough endoplasmic reticulum (RER) of the cell, where the signal peptide is cleaved, leaving proinsulin. After folding into the correct conformation and forming the 3 disulfide bonds, the proinsulin undergoes cleavage at two internal points, releasing a 31 amino acid fragment called the C peptide located between the A and B chains in the order “B-C-A” and leaving mature insulin in its final form. The signal peptide and the C peptide (and two additional 2-amino acid fragments as well) are “lopa”, as are the endopeptidase and carboxypeptidase enzymes that cause these cleavages.

Take the professional athlete or musician, the physician, the attorney, and the engineer, for examples – we do not see the hours upon hours of learning and practice that went into the highly skilled and sophisticated performance of their vocations. These influences and efforts are “lopa” and we see only the present manifestation.

This principle of the “causal unseen”, enunciated in the rules of the Sanskrit grammar (which, tradition has it, reflect the laws of creation), can illuminate many phenomena in this universe, from geology and astrophysics to economics, nations, families, and societies.

“We see neither the beginnings nor the ends, but only the intervening formations.”

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