Book Excerpt
Museum of Lost Wonder
by Jeff Hoke

An excerpt from Museum of Lost Wonder by Jeff Hoke, published 2006 by Weiser Books.
Book excerpt reprinted with the permission of the publisher.
Copyright © 2006 Jeff Hoke



Four Creation Tales

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 M”bius 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.

Museum of Lost Wonder by Jeff Hoke,


The Museum of Lost Wonder is a book with a mission, simply stated: To illuminate life's mysteries. The execution is nearly indescribable. Think McSweeney's production values and design pyrotechnics. Think traditional esoteric symbols in a childhood garden of wonder. Think graphic novel and an adult version of the coolest activity book ever made. And you'll be somewhere in the neighborhood.

Jeff Hoke has created a history of the human imagination with visual cues and clues and wonderment about and around everything you ever thought and everything you wish you'd been crafty enough to think. He has built a museum accessible to all, in book format, arranged with 7 halls (representing the seven stages of alchemical process) in which the questions of the universe unfold. All one needs to enter is some basic understanding of the human experience.

Open The Museum of Lost Wonder, and step into an alternative world full of beautiful drawings, interesting historical tidbits, thoughtful challenges to common myths, and projects and pursuits to complete at home. Pages pull out with cutouts for building models. Hoke's museum is graphic novel meets quantum physics meets mythical journey meets spirit.

Hoke begins with The Calcinatio Hall where the featured exhibit is The Beginning of Everything and leads us into halls like The Sublimatio Hall, with the exhibit How To Have Visions. In The Separatio Hall the exhibit Where Are You Going challenges us in our own journey. Through each hall we are led into an exhibit that questions our own understanding of life and urges us into new ways of thinking. As in wandering the great, immense halls of an ancient museum with endless corridors and fascinating exhibits, the reader is instantly pulled into this enormously imaginative pursuit. Each page is full of depth and questions. And each hall features a special fold-out interactive page.

The Museum of Lost Wonder is a ray of hope in a dreary world. It is an oasis in an age when we are inundated everywhere we go with messages of consumption and materialism. It is an invitation into the imagination of a brilliant artist as well as a welcome back into your own imagination. It is a call to challenge your mind and your mind's eye to re-assess what you believe to be true and what you know to be true. Once you enter the museum, there is no turning back. For the price of admission you get a whole new perspective on the meaning of life and your purpose in it.

Museum of Lost Wonder by Jeff Hoke,


Jeff Hoke holds the position of Senior Exhibit Designer at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Previously he worked as an exhibit designer for the Field Museum in Chicago. He lives in Monterey, California.

He has been creating museum exhibits for the last twenty-five years. He was recently been awarded the 2003 Curator's Award for Exhibit Design at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Museum of Lost Wonder by Jeff Hoke,


(not currently available)

Museum of Lost Wonder by Jeff Hoke,