A friend of mine posted the following quip from the Global Secular Humanist on her Facebook Wall: “The Higgs Boson walks into church. The priest says we don’t allow Higgs Boson in here. The Higgs Boson says, ‘But without me how can you have mass?’”
The Higgs Boson, described as the “God Particle” (although author of the phrase Leon Lederman had a more colorful expletive deleted description of it!), is “at the center of everything…it talks to all other particles in some fundamental way,” according to physicist Joe Lykken. In the scientific adventure, Higgs Boson is seen as the environment that envelops and joins everything. It is the holy grail of the Standard Model of Particle Physics.
All of a sudden, we are on the verge of theology, but not necessarily the theology of Luddites, fundamentalists, and dualists! We are on the verge of something provocative that suggests that separation and alienation – whether ethnic, political, economic, spiritual, or global – are illusions, the fabrications of survival-driven egos and the need to dominate by knowledge, power, or possession. All of a sudden Brahman-Atman, the Buddha nature, the Tao, the Great Spirit and the Christ, make sense as the energy of love, in the sense of interdependence that joins all creation as one yet many. The songlines of the universe chant a melody of love!
As a Christian, I say “hallelujah” to any witness for unity, whether scientific or spiritual. It is clear that God is more than the Higgs-Boson, but without stretching things too much, the Higgs-Boson, the interdependent, cohesive energy of togetherness may be one of the ways God moves through this wild and wooly universe. As a theologian, I am careful about being too definitive in joining faith and science, although I believe with the Logos theologians of the early church, that wherever truth is present, God is its source. We know the divine, but the divine is more than we can know: the jubilant embodiment and poetry – dare we say incarnation of God – characteristic of the kataphatic way (all things reveal God) is always balanced by the curmudgeonly careful humility of the apophatic way (nothing full reveals God; our words and rituals, even our holy books, just point to the Holy and are not the holy we seek, and the finger pointing at the moon should never be confused with the moon itself). Even the greatest revelations are time-bound, limited, and perspectival, and that very limitation is the source of their beauty, truthfulness, and danger.
Nevertheless, the biblical tradition on particularly exuberant days says some things about God that bedazzle and befuddle and confute non-poetic and non-imaginative literalists of all faiths. Paul quotes Greek philosophers in describing God, saying more than he can imagine, “in God we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) The author of Colossians is overwhelmed when he discovers that the historical Jesus reveals a something that is far more extensive than even the Healer from Nazareth, or ourselves, can understand: “In Christ all things in heaven and on earth were created….Christ is before all things and in Christ all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17) Or as Fragment 77 of the non-canonical, but often inspiring, Gospel of Thomas proclaims, “Jesus said: I am the light that is above them all. I am the all; the all came forth from me, and the all attained to me. Cleave a (piece of) wood; I am there.”
There is no need to create a new religion out of the Higgs Boson discovery. But, there is need to rejoice at the scientific adventure and to train our eyes for wonder everywhere. We are an ecstasy deprived people: our consumerism and political wrangling reflects our failure to live by what Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel calls “radical amazement.” Let us bless the Boson! Let us be amazed – let us imagine divinity in neutrinos, quarks, and energetic fields. Let us give thanks for fireflies, toddlers, roses, and lovers’ embraces. Let us delight in a morsel of food – and insure that every child has enough to grow into God’s ever-creative vision for her – and let us dance beneath the moon and hail this glorious day.
Bruce Epperly is a theologian, spiritual guide, pastor, and author of twenty two books, including Process Theology: A Guide to the Perplexed, Holy Adventure: 41 Days of Audacious Living, Philippians: An Interactive Bible Study, and The Center is Everywhere: Celtic Spirituality for the Postmodern Age. His most recent text is Emerging Process: Adventurous Theology for a Missional Church. He also writes regularly for the Process and Faith lectionary. He may be reached at email@example.com for lectures, workshops, and retreats.