Radiance at the heart of every atom


Matter looks dull and inert. The mystics had a glimpse of this, they knew this, the Sufi mystics.  For instance, Rumi, the great Sufi mystic, says the earth has a dull and sour face, but there is a laughter and a radiance at the heart of every atom. We know about the radiance now; the laughter, we haven’t yet seen. We don’t know about the consciousness, but we know about the radiance. Then this power has to be harnessed and controlled and then it can lead to the radioactive isotopes, which are now so important in medicine. It’s a little bit parallel to the ‘critical size’ in meditation practice.

It has to be done long enough for enough of the dynamic impressions to be laid down so that when one emits a radiance, it doesn’t just go off into space, but it strikes another and then another, and then another, till the whole thing begins to blaze in the form of the object of our devotion, the object of our meditation. When there’s this explosion of wisdom and energy – we’re now leaving the limited physics and going on to the Yoga – there’s an explosion of wisdom and energy.  This produces, first of all, inspiration as to the things of the world, if that has been one of our main interests, which it is for most of us; and then gradually, we shall play our part in the world.  And if we play it as a part – as an expression of the will of the Lord for us – then the Lord will reveal Himself in His true aspect in our own hearts and in our own conduct. This can happen with  any life which has become pure and is then concentrated unselfishly; then this moment of inspiration will come.

Now, I just quote two [examples] from famous scientists, although I know how impatient one can get, because one feels, ‘Well, I’m not an Einstein.’  Rutherford in 1903 [made his experimental discoveries] and had the new concept of radioactivity, and discovered how to split the atom and the transmutation of the elements. Kelvin was the great classical physicist at the time, who vigorously opposed all these ideas – vigorously. He had more letters after his name from universities and other places of distinction than any other man living, so it was a very brave man, who opposed him.

I have seen, as a matter of fact, Kelvin’s copy of Rutherford’s book published in 1905, I think. In every case where Rutherford has written, for instance, that the atom is split, Kelvin has struck out the word “atom” in pencil and written in the margin “molecule”. Where Rutherford has said, “And this is the conclusive proof of so and so and so.” Kelvin has written in the margin, “No proof at all”. He never changed his mind, but Rutherford introduced these entirely new and revolutionary ideas, which had been partially predicted by a Japanese mathematician named Nagaoka – but Rutherford demonstrated them experimentally, not simply as a prediction.

One of the most remarkable things, to describe it in Rutherford’s words, they were shooting particles through a foil. He said it was as if you were shooting 15-inch shells through tissue paper. Now he gave the most extraordinary order to one of his assistants named Marsden. “Check whether any of them are bouncing back.” Well, historians of science and the biographers of Rutherford, found this very embarrassing. Check, whether 15-inch shells are bouncing back from tissue paper, that’s what it corresponded to. It’s something absolutely impossible and yet Rutherford gave that order.  It’s never been explained; some few were reflected back and that gave Rutherford the clue that the nucleus to the atom was very small instead of large as it had been thought.  But the order was given under inspiration.

If we look at Rutherford’s life, we find he was totally devoted to his particle physics, as it would now be called. He said, “I sometimes seem to know what the little alpha articles are going to do.” He had an intuitive idea of what would happen. He had extraordinary purity of motive.  A young graduate student once suggested to him that he should attempt to patent some of his ideas and make a fortune and he said, “Rutherford sprang up. I thought he was going to attack me, and I ran out of his office.” Rutherford never sought to make a penny, and he evidently thought that any commercial interest would somehow impair the purity of his research. Well, I just mentioned that.

Now, a parallel one, which is not well known, is Fermi, who won the Nobel prize for physics. He gave an account of one of his major discoveries. He said, “We were getting results that made no sense. Suddenly, I had the idea of putting a piece of lead in the path of a neutron beam.” He said, “It’s very extraordinary. Normally, I would just have put a bit of lead in, but instead I had this piece of lead, very carefully machined and then I rejected one or two of them.” He said, “I can’t imagine why. There was something in me that didn’t want to put that lead in the path of the neutrons.” Then he said, “Finally, when it had been machined for the third time, I had to do it. But as I was walking up to do it, suddenly the thought came, ‘I don’t want a piece of lead there, I want a piece of paraffin’. So I got any bit of paraffin I could lay my hands on – just a little bit and I put it in.” That solved the particular problem he had and the results he got from that. Now, he says there, there was no previous clue at all. There was no preparatory logical thinking of any kind. It was like a flash. He gave, like Rutherford, this extraordinary order.  In Fermi’s case there was this extraordinary check and then there was sudden inspiration, ‘No, I want paraffin’.  He didn’t know why he wanted it, but it led to that discovery.

We can find a number of other such cases in the life of Pasteur. My teacher said, “Any of you in this room, can think the thoughts of Plato.” Some of his pupils used to think, “Well, the things the teacher sometimes says. Really!” He said, “I admit not all of you can construct dialogues so brilliant, but the Divine mind can inspire you with those same thoughts.” He sometimes said as regards poetry that the same could happen. Now, we think, “Oh, no, somebody like Goethe, from a very young man verse was coming into his head, rhyming lines were coming into his head all the time, this tremendous lead. How could anyone without that initial advantage, without the training that he had in the literary circle, how could they dream of producing poetry like that?”

Some of these  statements by my teacher, formed a sort of riddle for some of us. He used to say, “Search history. When you’re reading history, search for some of these things.” It struck me and I did keep my eyes open for such cases.  You want a case of a man with no literary training, not too well educated, who produces some poem which is a tremendous masterpiece, and has influenced a tremendous mass of culture. That would be a demonstration, wouldn’t it? If we look in history, we can find such cases.

One example is St. Francis of Assisi. He called himself a jongleur. A jongleur is what we would now call a busker, a street entertainer. It was miles below the troubadour.

Talks in this series are:

1. Radiance at the back of the mind

2. Radiance at the heart of every atom

3. St Francis and Ōta Dōkan

4. Inspiration comes with its own energy

The long talk is Inspiration & Energy from Yoga Practice

© Trevor Leggett

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