Nuclear secrets safety sealed

Professor James Chadwick, who discovered the neutron, had sealed the envelope containing the instructions, many decades ago.

Chadwick's prescience is celebrated by the UK's Royal Society. So is his modesty and foresight:

The sealed envelopes were accompanied by a letter from Professor Chadwick. Recognising the possible consequences of nuclear fission's massive energy releases, he wrote that the work was "inadvisable to publish at the present time."

Those were the days, when discretion could be assured by licking and sealing the back of an envelope. No email, no cellphone texting message, no uploading, no wireles transmission, no brain chip.

And of course Chadwick was a Brit in an era of discretion.

Had he lived in another culture, in the era of the Internet, My Space, Facebook, etcetera, etcetera, seeking his enduring 15-nanoseconds of fame, what then? We would probably see his "avatar" announcing astonishing revelations. He would have a circle of online nuclear physicist friends. Maybe he would be trumpeting the values of free speech and the need to assert this liberty above governmental controls. Perhaps he would bring the Promethean fire to everyman. Inhabiting the narcissistic cult of ego, perhaps he would self-promote, taping a video to his forehead and cataloguing every self-indulgent micromovement appropriate to the workings of a mental genius.

Spiritual teachings talk about ego in an entirely different way than contemporary psychology. The battle isn't about a 'healthy ego,' it's the ego itself that is asserted to be the cause for so much misunderstanding and havoc. Whatever exists within the structure of the human mind that is constantly pointing to "me." To the "I," which Gurdjieff or Winnicott or some such call the 'false self' and other metaphors for illusion.

In a dark age, it is the little "I" that makes itself big, that "projects power" in the military metaphor, while the true I, which Gurdjieff called "the man not in quotation marks" remains hidden.

Wilhelm Reich, the great and persecuted innovator of orgone energy, aptly titled one of his books, "Listen, Little Man!"

These days nothing is secret and everything is broadcast in the guise of "openness." Few make the distinction between creation and destruction, light and dark, the positive and negative polarities. Perhaps the challenge comes because these labels can be so misleading, can fix something that is imprecise and subjective. But there is an energy (strange word) underlying every action.

In ethical terms, we have beneficence and non-maleficence.

Professor Chadwick sealing an envelope with the moisture of his saliva. An action still celebrated 70 years later.
Enough said.

In praise of Chadwick and modesty.