Freeman Dyson's Dream of God

Freeman Dyson

Dyson's Dream Vision of God: Hotel Dan in Haifa, Israel (1974?)

We arrive at the Ein Gev kibbutz on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, looking across the water at the hills where Jesus of Nazareth walked... Two weeks later, after many lectures and much traveling, the crystal ball comes to me a second time. I am again asleep in a hotel, at the end of another exhausting day. This time, I am seeing the universe from a different angle. The still small voice comes to me, as it came to Elijah, unexpectedly...

I am sitting in the kitchen at home in America, having lunch with my wife and children. I am grumbling as usual about the bureaucracy. For years we have been complaining to lower-level officials and there has never been any response. “Why don't you go straight to the top?” says my wife. “If I were you I would just telephone the head office.” I pick up the phone and dial the number. This comes as a big surprise to the children. They know how much I hate telephoning, and they like to tease me about it. Usually I will make all kinds of excuses to avoid making a call, especially when it is to somebody I don't know personally. But this time I take the plunge without hesitation. The children sit silent, robbed of their chance to make fun of my telephone phobia. To my amazement, the secretary answers at once in a friendly voice and asks what I want. I say I would like an appointment. She says, “Good. I have put you down for today at five.” I say, “ May I bring the children?” She says, “Of course.” As I put down the phone I realize with a shock that we have only an hour to get ourselves ready.

I ask the children if they want to come. I tell them we are going to talk to God and they had better behave themselves. Only the two younger girls are interested. I am glad not to have the whole crowd on my hands. So we say goodbye to the others quickly, before they have time to change their minds. It is just the three of us. We slip out of the house quietly and walk into town to the office.

The office is a large building. The inside of it looks like a church, but there is no ceiling. When we look up, we see that the building disappears into the distance like an elevator shaft. We hold hands and jump off the ground and go up the shaft. I look at my watch and see that we have only a few minutes left before five o'clock. Luckily, we are going up fast, and it looks as if we shall be in time for our appointment. Just as the watch says five, we arrive at the top of the shaft and walk out into an enormous throne room. The room has whitewashed walls and heavy black oak beams. Facing us at the end of the room is a flight of steps with the throne at the top. The throne is a huge wooden affair with wicker back and sides. I walk slowly toward it, with the two girls following behind. They are a little nervous, and so am I. It seems there is nobody here. I look at my watch again. Probably God did not expect us to be so punctual. We stand at the foot of the steps, waiting for something to happen.

Nothing happens. After a few minutes I decide to climb the steps and have a closer look at the throne. The girls are shy and stay at the bottom. I walk up until my eyes are level with the seat. I see then that the throne is not empty at all. There is a three-month-old baby lying on the seat and smiling at me. I pick him up and show him to the girls. They run up the steps and take turns carrying him. After they give him back to me, I stay with him for a few minutes longer, gradually become aware that the questions I had intended to raise with him have been answered. I put him gently back on his throne and say goodbye. The girls hold my hands and we walk down the steps together.

— Freeman Dyson, Disturbing the Universe (1979)
      Conclusion of book, pp. 260-261


After reading Dyson's dream of the babe as God, my heart leaped in delight. I jumped out of my chair and shouted “YO! YO! YO! Beautiful! Beautiful! What a beautiful vision! O Wonderful! O Wonderful!” The ancient sages Lao Tzu, Mencius, and Christ had a similar vision, which I'm quoting below:

One who is in harmony with the Tao
is like a newborn babe.
Poisonous insects do not sting him.
Wild beasts do not attack him.
Birds of prey do not pounce upon him.
His bones are weak and muscles tender,
yet his tiny grip is strong.
Not knowing the union of male & female,
his vital organs are complete.
So intense is his vitality.
that he can cry all day and not get hoarse,
so balanced is his harmony.
Being in harmony, he abides in the eternal.
Abiding in the eternal is enlightenment.
Nourishing life is indeed a blessing.
Breathing like a babe is real strength.
Those that become strong also get old,
which is in contrast to the eternal Tao
whose spirit is always flowing and fresh.

— Lao Tzu (604-517 B.C.), Tao Te Ching, LV
      (translated by P. Y. Chou)

The sage is one who has a childlike heart.

— Mencius (372-289 B.C.), Works of Mencius, 4B.12

At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.

— Jesus Christ, St. Matthew, XVIII.1-5
      (see also Mark, IX.33-37; Luke, IX.46-48)

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© Peter Y. Chou,
P.O. Box 390707, Mountain View, CA 94039
email: (3-13-2001)