This inquiry began for me when I was working as a geologist in northern Canada, engaged with others to examine a uranium prospect. We were half a dozen men, camped beside a lake, with forested hills all around, and quite some distance from any settlements. A float plane had brought us in to the site. My work was to prepare a map of the local geology while the others ran a geophysical survey to try and delineate zones of mineralisation. One man looked after the camp and cooked for us.
We sat around the fire at night, talking about the ultimate purpose of our work. Why are we looking for this particular element. The answer we already half knew. How uranium is a complex material, weakly radioactive, which means it is slightly unstable. This suggests that it can be manipulated so that the energy normally locked up in its atoms, comes free. We talked about the “energy in the atom” and I realised I didn’t exactly know what this term meant.
I read up on the subject. Nuclear physics says there are “four interactive forces” in each and every atom, and these forces, or forms of energy, are sufficient to explain all the behaviour of the atomic particles. That was an intriguing statement. Only four forces. I was sure I could get my head around this sort of detail.
In the earlier times, say 1890 – 1930’s, when physicists began to realise how matter was made of atoms, and the atoms in turn are like little family systems of particles, and the particles appear to be as adults and children … in those early days, the diligent physicists developed processes to observe and measure the different kinds of energy that burst out of a fragmented atom.
Four different kinds of energy were eventually identified and are known to this day as: Gravity, Electromagnetism, the Strong and the Weak Nuclear Forces.
So far, so good. When I put my geologist mind to learn about these four forces, I realised soon enough that our knowledge of these forces is entirely concerned with their objective properties. In other words, their physics. And being also an introspective man, I wondered about the subjective qualities of these ‘four forces’. What, for instance, might they feel like, individually and collectively.
Our field work on the uranium prospect came to a close. Winter was approaching. We packed up the camp. The float plane took us out to a small town where we could get a plane going south and that evening I was home with my wife and our three children.
Pleased as anything to be coming home to my family, with my mind still ringing with interest about the ‘four forces’. But family life, need I say, waits for no one. The moment I was in the door I needed to pick up my roles and duties in the family and re-establish relationships with the kids and my woman. Then, in the course of easing myself back into the hurly burly of the family dynamic, it slowly dawned on me that those ‘four forces’ physics observes in every atom, they are equally present and at work and play in our family lives.
Here then is an outline of my understanding of the subjective and symbolic nature of the ‘four forces’, that physics observes in the atom and I experience being present and influential in the natural processes of family life. This is an average scenario, okay. Families are not always a perfectly balanced system: but everyone, it seems to me, everyone is doing their best.
The force that physics knows as Gravity, in the family settingisan archetypal masculine force. Typically, this is me, a serious man with an air of gravitas. A quality much admired in patriarchal society. Many people gain authority by way of their “gravitas”. The police, for instance, commonly speak with Gravity to emphasize their authority. The “long arm of the law” indicates the long range quality of this universal force. While Gravity is associated with being serious and heavy, at the best oft-times Gravity is a form of Light. Then it is delightful and illuminating. “Paternal Authority” and “masculine strength” are other terms we might use for this mainly vertical quality of universal energy.
Gravity can be a fairly impersonal, demanding obedience without explanation. Orders coming down from on high. “God’s Will” is how the Church names this quality.
Electromagnetism is the physicist’s best attempt to pin down and name the ever-shifting field of magnetic flux and electric charge that is men’s experience of women’s feminine nature. When this field stabilises and settles, a power becomes available that we recognise as “Maternal Love”.This power permeates the family, and seems able to operate efficiently for long periods without duress.
The Strong Nuclear Force is know to physicists as the ‘binding energy‘ that holds the atom together, when there are competing forces that would otherwise cause this family unit to disintegrate. In subjective terms, it is an expression of the family energy, the group energy, that is formed of the love and loyalty and commitment that individual particles contribute to the whole system. The Strong Nuclear Force becomes evident at weddings and births and funerals, or when times are hard. In other social settings and configurations, it is as the ‘team spirit’.
The Weak Nuclear Force. In the early years of Atomic Physics, the physicists were able to precisely determine the sum of the energy within the three forces already mentioned. But this sum never quite matched the sum of the whole quantum energy of the atom. They needed to postulate the existence of a small weak fourth force in order to balance the ledger. This Weak Nuclear Force was itself quite minimal and insignificant, only existed for a very short time, and only operated across a very small distance. And yet, in that moment when it fired, it was stronger than all the other forces.
Now, doesn’t that sound like sexual energy. For me, it makes this interpretation of the same energy in us as is downstairs in the Atomic World rounded and sensible. Sexuality being anessential force in the particle world, as it is with us, and all forms of life.
The same energy in us humans as is downstairs between and amongst the atomic particles. Yes, this makes absolute sense. I was a bit stunned when I first realised the reality of this insight. Is this a religious realisation ? Well, yes, in a certain unexpected way. All the religions make symbolic reference at some point in their theologies to a unified Universe. It is an instinctive belief. This is why we know it as a uni-verse. Yet I needed to learn of this reality from a scientific inquiry, which paradoxically is itself oblivious of the universal nature of the energy that is within us and within the atoms.
The same four kinds of energy at work amongst and between us humans, as is downstairs between and amongst the particles. Three of them are forms of Love, while the fourth (Gravity) is as a form of Light.
This is a deeply sensible and symmetrical Universe, more than we are able to see while we are focused on the physical and material nature of universal phenomena, and decline to register and value the subjective and metaphysical qualities of this same phenomena.
Nuclear Energy, says the analytical mind of physics, is a composite of these four forces. So we humans are clearly host to a singular force that we don’t name exactly, though the religious term of the “Holy Spirit” makes good sense. Makes for a god sense of the energy within us.
If we look at the ‘four forces’ with Christian curiosity, then these four forces can be described with traditional Church terminology as:
God’s Will (Gravity), Amos (Electromagnetism), Agape (The Strong Nuclear Force), Eros (The Weak Nuclear Force).
So here we are. With three different ways of registering the “energy of the Universe”. Being observant of its physical properties, observant of its emotional effects, observant of our experience of its spiritual nature. All of this gives us different nomenclature for what is essentially the same etheric stuff. Nuclear physics helps us know that it is made up of four different qualities. This is very valuable information.
While in theory this ‘energy’ exists as a singular effect, we tend to know it for its four different qualities, which together then create the singular effect.
We need to use and combine the full range of our intellectual abilities in order to observe and determine the wholesome, universal nature of the energy in the atom. In this context, the Atomic World makes sense as as another dimension, another “level of life”, in this shared multi-dimensional uni-verse we are within, and whose energy and energetic processes are equally within us.
We need to be as curious and concerned for the social and spiritual processes going on amongst the atomic particles, as we are for the same processes going on amongst and between ourselves. The magnitude of the atomic particles is so very different to ours: but otherwise, we are so very similar to each other. The same pre-occupation with family life, with the raising of our electron children, with our affinity and loyalty to a larger society or nation. The same flux of forces, the same universal spirit influencing our personal and collective behaviour.
The table below seeks to show the different nomenclature we use to describe what are in effect the very same universal forces, as we meet them in different circumstances.
To wind up these thoughts, look again at these images of the nuclear fission process: which we know generally as the “mushroom cloud”. (The topic in fact of the next few pages).
In effect, we are observing a column of Gravitation energy, penetrating a horizontal circular cloud of Electromagnetic energy. This is the basic form of the energy released out of matter by the fission process. We need to look at this whole process with clear eyes. That we can become yet more sensible of the universal nature of this process.