‘CRITICAL MASS’ …a parable
BY: E. M. ‘ED’ DUPAS
There are two known forms of atomic energy – nuclear fission, and nuclear fusion – which are quite opposite in nature. Nuclear fission creates great heat and energy by the splitting apart of atoms, while fusion creates even greater heat and energy by the joining together (fusing) of atoms to form new ones. Up to now, science has not been able to achieve sustained nuclear fusion. Unfortunately, mankind must be content to watch it from a distance, as it takes place on the surfaces of the sun and stars. Because of this lack of success the only kind of atomic energy man has achieved is of the fission kind. The world understands nuclear fission very well – so well that it has been established as one of the main means of providing electrical power, as well as powerful weapons of war.
It is in connection with nuclear fission that the term ‘critical mass’ was first introduced. Of course, nowadays the term has become more widely used. Here is how it works, in very simplified terms: It starts with a highly radioactive grade of uranium, called U-235. Radioactivity refers to constantly undergoing change by decaying – the unstable mineral’s atoms give off radioactive neutron particles. Such flying particles may collide with the nucleus (center) of neighboring atoms, causing them to split, and to give off 2 or 3 neutron particles, which in turn may collide with others, giving off 2 or 3 more particles, and so on. To cause an atom to split requires a direct hit upon its center. If the particle does not strike directly on the center of an atom, it caroms off and travels on, until it eventually either does hit the center of an atom, or escapes to the air. This is why small amounts of uranium will not create atomic energy – there are simply not enough flying neutron particles. In order to increase the chance of more direct hits there must be more particles flying around. As the amount of uranium fuel is increased, more flying particles occur, until the time comes when their neutron particles, along with those always present in the air, are concentrated enough to start and sustain a chain reaction. This happens when the number of particles striking and splitting atoms exceeds those escaping from the mass of fuel. The amount of uranium needed for this to happen is what is called critical mass.
Tremendous energy is produced by these “explosions.” Since they are contained within the reactor, great friction and heat are the result. A certain kind of water is piped through the reactor, is superheated and delivered to the outside, where the heat is converted to mechanical energy, and in most cases, electrical energy.
Refer to the following drawing:
The problem with these chain reactions is that they happen so fast, releasing so much energy, that results can be devastating. To keep this from happening, some damping or controlling is necessary.
The uranium fuel pellets are placed into the reactor. These pellets are fairly small, well below critical mass, but when they are brought together with other pellets, their collective size eventually exceeds critical mass, which means that if left unchecked, a chain reaction will occur… so violent that a meltdown, or an atomic explosion is bound to result. To keep this from happening, the reactor also contains holes or shafts into which are inserted special “control” rods. Think of these as blotters or sponges, absorbing some of the flying particles, thereby reducing collisions with other atoms. In this way the devastating effects of a runaway reactor are avoided. Push the rods all the way in to shut down the reactor; remove the rods, and the reactor “runs away” uncontrolled.
This is an overly simplified look at the way a nuclear reactor operates. However, it can also be an intriguing metaphor for the operation of the Holy Spirit in a body of believers, if one considers it in the following way:
Uranium 235 – a rare element, is not found in pure form in nature. It is so rare that it makes up only 1 particle in 140 of generic uranium. Its radioactivity can affect things around it, but it must be isolated and purified to be really useful. This may be compared to the “raw” element of the Spirit in a believer which becomes more available for powerful use by God after the person has been “purified.”
Bringing the fuel pellets together may be thought of as a fellowship or gathering of believers. For many this could be a “church” service, where people are expected to interact and share with one another, resulting in a stirring up or excitement.
Critical Mass can be compared to the power of agreement of two or more believers, where the result is greater than the sum of the parts.
Coolant, which captures the energy of the reactor and puts it to use can be thought of as the warmth and love which flows out of a fellowship gathering as ministry to the outside world.
Control rods can be seen as conscious or unconscious ways in which the power of the Holy Spirit. (U-235) may be restrained or dampened.
Some examples of control rods in a gathering of believers may be:
Fixed ‘orders of service’ or liturgical activities
Limited time schedules for meeting
Certain doctrines which limit or control belief or spontaneous activity
Rote traditions or prayers
Unbelief or doubt
Ignorance of the Word
Fear or apprehension of unexpected occurrences
People coming only to receive rather than to give (these resemble most the actual control rods in a nuclear reactor)
Removing the control rods may be seen as bringing the believers into one accord, such that critical mass is obtained, unleashing the power of the Spirit of God. This is the scenario in which the fire of Pentecost fell.
- Inserting the control rods in effect quenches the Spirit. The Spirit is present, but each Spirit-filled individual can be thought of as being “on his own,” or separated from interaction with the Spirit in other believers.
One reason that men may use “conscious” control rods among believers is the desire to “do everything in good order,” so that the enemy does not interfere with the worship. The irony here is that by not allowing the Holy Spirit to lead, the gathering is more at risk of being under the control of the enemy. Usually, the main reason for the existence of “unconscious” controls is lack of knowledge, resulting in a lack of faith.
The above is not meant to be taken as a formula for wielding spiritual power, nor to be a scholarly description of a reactor. It is offered simply as a parable which may be useful in understanding why the Holy Spirit may manifest more at some times than at others. From observing the early Christian church, a case can certainly be made for saying that if there were no “control rods” among believers today, the “wild fire” of the Spirit might once again spread as in a chain reaction.
‘CRITICAL MASS’ …a parable [E. W. ‘Ed’ Dupas] March 2006 1