by Sam Candler
The naming of the Nobel Prize for physics is always cool. But it is especially cool this year, because the winners were involved in the conceptualization and discovery of the Higgs Boson, a particle so tantalizing and theoretically necessary that it came to be called the “God Particle.” Congratulations to Peter Higgs and Francois Englert, winners of 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics!
The Higgs Boson, a sub-atomic particle, was theorized many years ago as the particle which allows other particles to have mass. (Higgs and Englert were the first to document its possible existence, way back in the 1960’s.) I make no claim to know theoretical physics, but the Higgs Boson is apparently the reason other particles in our universe cohere together instead of simply flying off in a hundred million different tiny directions (okay: many more than a hundred million). If your physics knowledge is as shallow as mine, you might enjoy the short and delightful explanation in this video: “The Higgs Boson Explained.”
But I was going to talk about God. Since it was theorized so long before its actually detection (detection came in July of 2012, at the Large Hadron Collider), the Higgs Boson came to be called the “God Particle.” It was the reason every other particle had mass. It was the reason every other particle came to be created; it was, and maybe is, the “God Particle.”
Well, I like that name: the “God Particle.” Yes, God is someone I talk about a lot. God is someone I have theorized about, though I have sure had a hard time detecting God sometimes. Yes, God is someone I have spent a large part of my life trying to discover. My understanding is that many, many other people have been trying to discover God, too!
It used to be that we thought the “atom” was the smallest indivisible particle of the universe. Over two thousand years ago, the very word was formed from “-a,” meaning “not,” and “temno,” meaning “cut.” An “atom” is uncuttable, indivisible. As recently as the nineteenth century, we considered the “atom” the smallest indivisible part of creation.
But we’ve come a long way in a hundred years. We human beings have discovered that atoms consist of protons and electrons and neutrons, and then they consist of leptons and quarks and muons and charms and stranges and who knows what else. And it goes on and on. I am convinced that it goes on and on. I want our discovery to go on and on. The world is a better place when we make scientific theories and discoveries and confirmations.
However, I have another hypothesis for what we might truly call the “God Particle.” I discovered an energy long ago, which I believe is responsible for life and growth and energy at all levels of existence. It goes by many names, but I have come to call it the “Christ Particle.” And it is not restricted to Christians (Raimundo Pannikar writes about The Unknown Christ of Hinduism).
It is the Christ Particle which creates life and makes things hold together. From primal elements, creation is formed; the Christ is the power of that creation. From dismal misery, love explodes; the Christ is that power of love. Even in times of destruction and betrayal, the Christ brings forgiveness and reconciliation. That power is massive and incredible. It is also the Christ energy which inspires learning and discovery!
The Christ Particle will never be measured by our technology and machines. It is undiscoverable by empirical or scientific means. I have nothing against science. We need empiricism and science; in fact, we need more of it! But science will never discover this particular God Particle. This Christ Particle is what we are looking for, the energy point of creation. It is why other particles attract to each other. One might even claim that the true Christ particle is the opposite of entropy. It is the energy particle, the ultimate force that loves us together.
Yes, it is the smallest particle in the universe. But, it is also the largest. It is the most mysterious, and it is right before us every day. Blessings to all who seek the seemingly impenetrable secrets of the universe; I am pulling for you, and you will go on and on! But blessings, too, to who all who seek the mystery of Christ, who is the image of God, and in whom all things hold together. “Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in Christ all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through Christ and for Christ. Christ himself is before all things, and in Christ all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:15-17).
The Very Rev. Sam Candler is dean of St. Philip’s Cathedral in Atlanta. His sermons and reflections can be found at his blog, “Good Faith and the Common Good”.