The Unified Field Theory
by Robert Fritz
Albert Einstein coined the phrase unified field theory in his elusive quest to find the way everything fits together. What is interesting is the two parts of Einstein’s creative life. In the first part, he made his most revolutionary discoveries, special relativity that described gravity, and general relativity, which described spacetime. These magnificent breakthroughs came from Einstein’s ability to begin his thought experiments without a frame of reference, past ideas, or a hypothesis. But later in his life, he came to a conclusion, especially in reaction to the discoveries of quantum electrodynamics in which linear order seem to be overturned. Einstein’s famous comment against the new quantum ideas was, “God does not play dice with the universe.” And so, the second chapter in his creative life began with the notion that behind it all, the universe has rules that tie everything together. This was in direct contrast to his most creative period in which he began his process by observation, and by allowing his imagination to lead him into unknown territories, guided by finding the truth of whatever there was to find.
In some ways, this is a sad story. One can imagine what he might have found if he didn’t have belief in a unified field theory.
In physics, it is good and proper to look for basic connections, the latest being string theory, which comes closer to finding the “key” to everything. But that is physics. And the best discoveries in physics, historically, have come from pure research without a cause to uphold. Simply, “What are we seeing,” rather than, “Here is what I expect to find.”
Throughout the ages, people have attempted to construct their own unified field theories, although usually not based on the mathematical rigors of science. The quest to tie everything together is a human instinct. We want to know that there is rhyme and reason in the universal design. We want to know our part in it. We want the great mysteries to be explained and made clear.
And so, people adopt plausible sounding ideas that are generalized theories which say, in one way or another, “look, it all fits.”
If you have a field theory about your life, you might feel more of a sense of place, but you will reduce your creative attitude. Moreover, and more importantly, you will dampen your creative spirit, that of looking without an agenda, of imagining without a concept that demands adherence.
Your mind will make connections, even when there are none to make. Your mind hates not knowing. Your mind will invent answers to questions that have no answers. This is its structural makeup. But the down side to this is the illusion of certainty. When we think we know something we don’t actually know, we fail to explore the unknown territory. Instead, we insist. Some wars and strife are about territory and power. But more often they are about one unified field theory against another. I know that is an odd way to put it, but I think there might be some insight gained.
Is there an inherent conflict between religion, science, and the creative process? NO, especially when you don’t try to tie them all together. Each realm has it special place. And when you try to mix them, you do not do justice to any of them. But, your mind wants them to fit a consistent blueprint. The discipline and wisdom required is to understand them as unique elements in life, better respected in their own domain and by their own terms. If you don’t insist on a notion of a unified field theory, new worlds open that may not fit conveniently into anything you’ve seen before. And, like Einstein’s first creative period, the most unbelievable things become available.