Standing on a cliff at Big Sur and overlooking the Pacific Ocean on a still, clear, and moonless night in 2016 tears streamed from my eyes. I could not tell where the earth ended and the sky began. Every visible star and planet and the wide, sweep of the Milky Way glittered from a black background both above and below as far as I could see. Whether my tears arose from awestruck terror, elation, or some more subtle power, I felt something moving both within and without. Energy, a property of matter enabling movement, that’s the simple definition for both my thoughts and feelings. My body, a material object, emitted energy as thought and feeling, sensation and emotion, movement both internally and externally. Why? I did not know, and so began a meditative process that continues to the present day as I began to peel back the great onion of why.
If energy is a property of matter, then where does matter come from? The great physicists of the 20th Century theorized on the relationships between mass, light, gravity, and the fabric of space-time. These theories shared the word “relativity,” a word with the same root as relationship: the English root relate formed from the Latin roots re, meaning “again,” and ferre, meaning “to bear” as in a burden. It is interesting to note that ferre is also the root for iron and suffering. Ferre comes from a the Latin lucem ferre, a term that means “bringer of or bearer of light.” Cycling back to our physics theories, if energy is a property of matter then it must be distinguishable from matter. It is, of course, when separated it expresses itself as light, heat, and motion as long as energy is present.
In the theory of general relativity, Albert Einstein described a relationship between energy and mass using the speed of light to express the amount of energy potential within a given quantity of mass. So, what is mass? It is a measure of matter, and matter is any object that occupies space. It sounds like mass and matter are two ways of expressing the same thing. This still doesn’t tell me where matter comes from. One group of scientists holds to a theory that mass is frozen energy and energy is moving mass. This means mass occupies space and is defined by the space it occupies as shape, size, and weight. Energy is measured as velocity, showing the movement of an object through space by speed and direction. So if we know where an object is then we are describing it as mass or matter. If we know the speed and direction, as seen in movement across the electro-magnetic spectrum which includes light, heat, and sound, then we are describing energy. And if we do this in relation to a single object, then we are talking about the same thing. Energy and Mass in relation to the speed of light cannot exist independently of one another.
But are they the same thing? We all understand how mass converts to energy. A very simple example is to strike a match. The friction of striking the match creates heat that causes a bit of phosphorous to change from a solid to a gas which generates more heat. The burning phosphorous ignites a sulfur core and the heat from that burns the matchstick, which is generally made of wood or paraffin-coated cardboard. A flame is produced, which is energy as heat, light, and movement of matter as it breaks down into carbon and other elements. Now the big question: Can this process occur in reverse?
When attempting to convert matter back into energy, Einstein’s formula suggests it might be a bigger job than releasing it. Think of the potential energy in an object as being like a coiled spring. An object with a mass of one kilogram (2.2 lbs.) multiplied by the speed of light squared (approximately 300 million meters per second squared or nearly 671 million miles per hour squared). Squaring these equals 90,000,000,000,000,000 meters per second or 4,502,410, 000,000,000,000 miles per hour of energy. Not only is energy abstract (given it is an expression of the movement of mass), but in the classic formulation it produces a number that is beyond my ability to imagine. We know it is a lot because the mass used to produce the first atom bombs came out of a quantity of matter about the size of two grapefruits, slammed together with enough force to destabilize their atoms and release the energy within, to allow the spring to uncoil. It was enough to level and incinerate a city. However, my question is, can mass be created out of energy, can we put the match back together?
In 1997, a team of physicists at Stanford University used a particle accelerator to dump enough energy to power the United States for a tiny fraction of a second onto an area less than one billionth of a square centimeter.
It worked. Two billion photons, which have no mass, in a stream from a megawatt laser collided head on with a stream of electrons, which have almost no mass, to near light speed in the two-mile long particle accelerator. The electrons hit the photons with such force that some of the photons were knocked backwards into other photons and clumped together sufficiently to form a measurable mass consisting of one electron and one positron. A positron has the same mass and charge as an electron, therefore the collision of nearly massless electrons with massless photons produced mass double that of the colliding electron. Literally, something was produced from nothing.
The ability for energy to produce mass and mass to release energy suggest that they are indeed the same thing enabling the theoretical conclusion that neither produces the other, it is simply a change of form. Mathematically, we can restate Einstein’s formula by defining the speed of light as “c” and saying c=1. If we plug that into E=Mc2 we get E=M x (1 x 1). Work that out and it ultimately becomes E=M, or energy equals mass.
Having the basic understanding that according to the best scientific theories we presently have energy and mass are equivalent, representing the same object in either a state of rest as mass or motion as energy, is the foundation of understanding karma and the wisdom of the ancient Rishis, scholars from the distant past who through close observation of the relative behavior of all visible matter developed the practices of Vedic Astrology. They called it Jyotish, the science of light. Upon seeing the night sky at Big Sur on that night in 2016, I began to understand the idea that everything relates to everything else and by closely studying one part we can understand all of the rest. Remember the Latin lucem ferre, the bringer of bearer of light and the origin of the word relativity, as well as iron, suffering, and relationship.
Jyotish will help those who are ready and willing to see how the light of the stars, the motions of the planets, and the cycles of the universe are all connected to the individual as an expression of energy and matter across time and space, from infinity to infinity.
Here’s a brief link explaining the conversion of energy to matter as Einstein theorized it: https://youtu.be/n8wXKRBLcn4