For the scientist radiation is the emission, transmission, and absorption of energy by different bodies. A prime example is electromagnetic radiation, which includes a range of waves with varying wavelengths and frequencies that transmit energy across time and space: radio waves, microwaves, infrared radiation, visible light, ultraviolet radiation, X-rays, and gamma rays. Most forms of radiation are invisible to the eye.
In a process context energy is feeling and feeling is energy. Quantum events in the depths of atoms are energy-events which feel the presence of other events; human experiences on earth are likewise energy-events that feel the presence of others. Process theologians add two types of radiation can be felt by humans and other living beings, but which are not often considered by scientists.
One is inter-subjective radiation by which creatures emit, transmit, and absorb emotions, feelings, purposes, aims from their own experiences to one another. This can occur through physical media, as when bacteria and living cells communicate with one another. They are communicating feelings, which are themselves forms of energy. Inter-subjective radiation can also occur independently of obviously physical media through what Whitehead calls "hybrid physical prehensions." These prehensions, or feelings, can receive and absorb the feelings of other creatures without the mediation of touch, impact, collision, or spatio-temporal contiguities. An example would be empathy in which a person "feels" what someone else is experiencing who is a distance way, small or large.
Inter-subjective radiation can be negative as well as positive. An angry mob in the process of killing someone is sharing feelings of hatred. A group of corporate executives whose lives are about making money can share a culture of greed. The need in our time is to cultivate cultures of peace and compassion, gentleness and justice, that embody positive inter-subjective radiation.
A second form added by process theologians is divine radiation, through which the very soul of the universe, God, likewise emits and transmits force or power to the universe and, importantly, absorbs the energies of the universe.
Process theologians often speak of the emission and transmission of divine energy as occurring through what they call "initial aims." Initial aims are fresh possibilities available to a finite creature for responding to what is given to experience by the past in creative ways, as felt through physical feeling, intuition, or imagination. The initial aims include within them an emotional tone or, as it were, a "charge" that comes from God. Thus, they are inwardly felt aims for responding to given situations combined with a felt desire (charge) that they be actualized. Such aims are how humans and other living beings receive guidance from God. Sheri Kling speaks of them as part of what she calls the whole-making nearness of God.
Initial aims, however, are not the whole story. It is imaginable that the emission and transmission of energy from God can come in ways that are more comforting than guiding, affirming than directive. It can come, for example, through a sense of being accepted and loved by an encircling presence as described by the process theologian John Cobb:
"As a soldier in World War II, at one time, I was serving in the Pentagon and living in Washington. I was a pious youth and customarily knelt to pray by my bed before getting into it each night. One night, just after I knelt, I felt my context transformed. I heard nothing. I saw nothing. But I was surrounded and pervaded by a presence. In a way that I had not known to be possible before and have not experienced since, I felt totally loved, totally accepted, totally affirmed. I learned the meaning of “bliss.” The bliss lasted, probably, only a minute or two. Then faded. I can write with some detachment about God loving every creature. I believe that. But my experience of being loved was not just the realization of that. It was more, much more. And I still cannot really understand how the Spirit that loves everything can also make itself felt so intensely and profoundly in an individual case. I almost left it out here, as so often, because I am so deeply shaped by our “nothing but” culture that I am almost embarrassed to admit that I have experienced much “more,” and still can hardly believe it myself. Still, I am deeply, very deeply, grateful to Jesus’ Abba."
In the case of finite creatures and in the case of God, radiation is not limited to emission. It also includes absorption. In science it is called radiative absorption,
This is the process by which a material or substance absorbs energy from electromagnetic radiation (such as light or heat) that passes through it. The absorbed energy is typically converted into another form of energy, such as heat or chemical energy, which can then be used by the material or substance in various ways. Radiative absorption plays a critical role in many natural and technological processes, from photosynthesis in plants to the functioning of solar panels and the warming of the Earth's atmosphere by greenhouse gases.
The parallel in human life is the absorption of emotions from other human beings and other animal, and perhaps also from plants and elements, too. We can feel the energies, feel the feelings, of the world and their feelings become part of us consciously and unconsciously.
Something like this also happens in the Consciousness of the universe. God feels the feelings of each and every creature and those feelings become part of God's life. God is an ongoing process of absorption, an everlasting love that is a repository for all that creatures in the universe undergo.
Does God convert the energies of the word into another form of energy? If so, what kind? Process theologians will quickly say that God converts the energies of the world into love, but Roland Faber suggests something more. He suggests that God may also convert the energies into an energy of containment: more specifically, an energy of containing destructive forces:
"the ability to spiritualize, that is, to withstand and absorb, pervade and envelop, the explosive energies of the creative activity of the numinous elements, which are driving apart the multiverse, is the ultimate transformation of the forces that boil over from divine essence."
This containment is what keeps the universe from falling into utter chaos, pure entropy. It is itself a form of love.
- Jay McDaniel
Absorbing and Containing
If there is a cosmic Spirit—Earth being one nucleus in the matrix of this spiritual cosmos—it is this Spirit that weaves the elements of destruction into elementary forces of life. Perhaps, we will not understand the cosmic Spirit if we don’t admit that, under its gentle veil, it covers these destructive forces—much like the veil that Moses carried in order to protect the people from the radiation of his face after the encounter with the Glory of God on Sinai (Exodus 34:29–35). Spirit can be violent wind and consuming fire! Maybe, “purpose” is not the opposite of “power,” weakness, or lack of force, but the ability to contain the destructive powers by a strength that can withstand their chaos and direct their release—like the containment of the sea in ancient imaginations of divine power (Psalm 89:9)?
The process theologian Bernard Loomer (d. 1985) spoke of the “size” and “stature” of God to withstand but embrace all destructiveness and suffering without either succumbing to or operating on them. Perhaps, divine creativity is divine and benign only by being able to absorb the elementary forces of existence to some measure of coordination, harmonization, and unification, but without losing the intensities that burn in them. Creation may be the divine potential of taming—not necessarily by fighting chaos and containing an evil principle, as in Babylonian and Manichean cosmologies, but by vibrating over, harmonizing, rhythmizing, composing the divine poem of the face of the deep (Genesis 1:2).
Perhaps, in this sense, the ability to spiritualize, that is, to withstand and absorb, pervade and envelop, the explosive energies of the creative activity of the numinous elements, which are driving apart the multiverse, is the ultimate transformation of the forces that boil over from divine essence (Meister Eckhart’s ebullitio). Like the sun’s emanating energy, its heat and light distribute life and death, depending on the right distance."
- THE COSMIC SPIRIT, Awakenings at the Heart of All Religions, the Earth, and the Multiverse, 2021 Roland Faber, Cascade Books
Melvyn Bragg and guests Jim Al-Khalili, Frank Close and Frank James discuss the history of the discovery of radiation.Today the word 'radiation' conjures up images of destruction. But in physics, it simply describes the emission, transmission and absorption of energy, and the discovery of how radiation works has allowed us to identify new chemical elements, treat cancer and work out what the stars are made of.Over the course of the 19th century, physicists from Thomas Young, through Michael Faraday to Henri Becquerel made discovery after discovery, gradually piecing together a radically new picture of reality. They explored the light beyond the visible spectrum, connected electricity and magnetism, and eventually showed that heat, light, radio and mysterious new phenomena like 'X-rays' were all forms of 'electromagnetic wave'. In the early 20th century, with the discovery of radioactivity, scientists like Max Planck and Ernest Rutherford completed the picture of the 'electromagnetic spectrum'. This was a cumulative achievement that transformed our vision of the physical world, and what we could do in it.Jim Al-Khalili is Professor of Theoretical Physics and Chair in the Public Engagement in Science at the University of Surrey; Frank Close is Professor of Physics at Exeter College, University of Oxford; Frank James is Professor of the History of Science at the Royal Institution.
"Since the end of the 19th century, and especially since the dropping of the atomic bomb in 1945, the word radiation has carried a fearful resonance. But in physics, it doesn't just mean the emissions of radioactive material. Radiation is any process through by which a body emits energy, travels through a medium or no medium, and is absorbed by another body."
- Melvyn Bragg, BBC, In Our Time
Light is radiation. Heat is radiation. Shared moods are radiation. Divine love is radiation. Wherever energy is emitted, transmitted or absorbed, there is radiation. In Whitehead's philosophy the "emission" comes from momentary energy-events (occasions of experience) as their subjective immediacy perishes and some portion of their energy is transmitted into what comes after them; the "absorption" is the reception of that energy by the other energy-events.
The "bodies" that emit and absorb energy may or may not be in three-dimensional space. We live in a multi-dimensional universe and three-dimensionality is only a small part of the space-time continuum. A body can be real, for example, and not be seen with the eye or touched by the hands. Alpha particles and Gamma rays are like this. Human consciousness, too, is this kind of body and so is God. God is a Consciousness that includes all regions of the space-time continuum. This Consciousness is everywhere at once.