We are stardust

we are golden………………..

(“Woodstock’ Joni Mitchell 1969)

Credit image NASA: Hubble

While we are discussing the whole process of what happens to our bodies post-mortem, we need to recognise that when the first mother of our species was ‘created’, it was done so by the cooperation and precision organisation of about forty trillion living cells to form a mammal with all the operational functions that we think of as making us distinctively human. Those cells are combinations of molecules which then form the building blocks for every type of mass. To understand the creation of mass we can start with our own solar system. Stars that go supernova at the end of their multi-billion-year lifespan disperse stardust seeds into the garden of the cosmos. These stardust seeds are composed of the chemical elements such as hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen etc., that make up the periodic table from which everything in the universe is created. This is the cycle of life in the cosmos. Our solar system was created from a huge cloud of stardust swirling in the cosmos that eventually became so dense and hot that it collapsed into itself and caused hydrogen fusion, becoming the furnace of our solar system that we call our Sun. The left-over molecular dust and gas, after the sun was created, went into a frenzied, billion+ year primordial dance around the sun God until, after a lot of crashing, exploding and negotiating, they formed a cohesive circuit of gassy, ice and rocky planets and moons and a few rogue comets and space rubble.

Every lump of mass in the solar system, from grains to pebbles to planets has a molecular structure. When organic molecules (nucleic acids, proteins, carbohydrates and lipids) organise themselves into the mix, then cellular life is created. In the nucleus of each cell is the DNA molecule, packaged into the chromosomes threadlike structure.

But going deeper down this wormhole, what makes up molecules? A molecule is a structural unit combining two or more atoms, with atoms being a single unit of one of the chemical elements: hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen etc.. The ancient Greek philosopher Democritus first theorised that all matter would continually be divisible until it gets down to a point where it could no longer be divisible and that point he called an atom. ‘Atom’ literally means indivisible although physicists today might say indestructible is the correct description. The atom is the fundamental building block of the universe. As we know when one atom of hydrogen pairs up with another and the two of them hook up with an atom of oxygen then they have created a molecule of water. Just repeat this 1.5 sextillion times and we have a droplet.

It was the invention of the cathode ray tube in the 1890’s that enabled physicist, JJ Thomson, to ‘see’ the effect caused by an atom within the beam of light and in his experiments, he identified the negatively charged cloud within the atom which was named the electron. New Zealand’s own Ernest Rutherford worked out that there was more to an atom than the electron. With experiments he identified a nucleus within the atom. It wasn’t easy to spot because atoms are not big things. I am reliably informed that about a million of them standing one behind the other would bridge the width of a needle. And if we then imagine the atom as the size of a basketball, the nucleus would be the size of a marble inside it (about 1:1000). Following on from that he eventually found the proton, the little positive charge housed within the nucleus. He named it ‘proton’ after the Greek word ‘protos’ meaning ‘first’.

Rutherford then discovered that he could disintegrate the nuclei of nitrogen atoms by firing particles from a radioactive source which, in turn, resulted in the release of fast protons. This was the first ever artificially induced nuclear reaction, a breakthrough that would lead ultimately to nuclear power and the atomic bombs that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II. In effect it was an offence by Rutherford against the natural order of the atom that unleashed unimaginable and catastrophic results. But while smashing atoms into each other may change the structure of the atom, he did not end up with two half-atoms split down the middle as the common language would imply. An atom does not die, it always was and always will be. Life was destroyed by the atomic bombs, but the atoms survived. Cells have a timespan, some very short as it turns out. Our skin cells last only a few days before dying and being replaced. The molecular structure of inorganic rocks however can survive millions of years. But the atom lives on eternally, it existed at the beginning of the universe and will be here at the end, it is the alpha and the omega.

In 1932 an English physicist, James Chadwick, identified the neutron, the neutral particle within the nucleus and finally we had the trinity of energy that makes up the one atom; the positive, the neutral and the negative, like the red, green and black wires in the cord that turns on our electric light.

Moving onwards to us humans and we discover that, in the beginning, our atoms sort themselves out into the appropriate molecular and cellular structures (I read that seven billion, billion, billion molecules make up the forty trillion cells that make a 70kg human and I am not going to try to challenge those maths). So how do all these atoms, molecules and cells actually cohabit within a body in a way that does not create chaotic collisions everywhere? The answer must be some form of communication. It is what makes the world go round. Just as the 3.5 million humans walking through Tokyo’s Shinjuku Railway Station each day, by intuitive cooperation and unspoken signals of communication, do not continuously bump into each other, so too zillions of atoms organising the daily operation of a human body must have a communication system that allows them to co-operate harmoniously and creatively to avoid collision. Which then leads us onto the really big question of consciousness. If these units of creation are communicating, then does consciousness exist within the atomic structure?

Common scientific presumption is that consciousness is the creation of the brain. As our brain starts to record what our senses observe, then we become aware of our environment; we now have consciousness. But when the brain ceases to function, consciousness is lost, forever. Religions challenge that scientific presumption with a separation of temporary body and an eternal soul. Religions believe not only in the afterlife of humans but also that humans in their physical realm can communicate with their creator, their God.

When you ask a physicist to describe the properties of an atom they will tell you:

  • It is invisible to the eye. We can only perceive its existence by its effect on things we can see.
  • It is a trinity of three sub-particles in one.
  • It is eternal. It had no beginning and has no end.
  • It is the building block that creates the universe and everything in it.
  • It exists everywhere. There is nowhere that the atom is not present.

I was raised in Christian schools. I know by heart the Christian theologian’s description of God. It is exactly as the scientists describe the atom. If you dispense with the obvious, that God is not a patriarchal human form with a flowing white beard, then science and religion seem to be merging to a consensus. But if this gets us closer to understanding God, are we any closer to understanding whether humans actually able to communicate beyond the physical realm of our planet?

There are many psychics who claim to be able to communicate with the deceased. Despite a healthy scepticism, I was much more drawn to psychic shows on television than any of the magician shows, even though the magicians are far more entertaining and delightful. But even though you have no idea how a $10 note you saw torn up before your eyes subsequently turned up intact in the wallet of a random spectator, you still knew that it was just an illusion. Not even the magician denies that it is just an illusory trick. In fact, the whole point of a magician’s performance is to demonstrate the skill level in deceiving the senses of the audience.

Psychic performances, despite being less impressive than the great magicians, claim to offer a genuine psychic experience, not an illusion. It would be easy to dismiss them as fakes. It is possible they spike the ‘audience with stooges. Sceptics generally claim that the psychic simply throws out enough generalisations as bait until he/ she spots a reaction and builds from that with just some shrewd intuition until he/ she gets close enough to the truth, usually by taking advantage of unsubtle leads from the emotional subject. Yet, probably for that very reason, I cannot so easily dismiss them as such (or did I so much want to believe it I shut out the obvious, just like the fans of WWE pro-wrestling?). A good question, so when a psychic, well known from a TV series and his amazing troupe of dead people rolled into town for a performance, I thought, why not?

I expected to be one oddball amongst a couple of dozen gypsies, but was quite stunned that, arriving 20 minutes before the start, I could hardly find a seat. Almost as far from the performance as I could be. There was also quite a range of ages and characteristics represented. It was a congregation that most churches would be very envious of, and even if they had those numbers, they surely would not be getting $65 in the collection box as Kelvin Cruickshank was (plus book sales).

He spent quite a bit of time warming up (or calming down) his audience before deciding that he could see enough dead people to make a decent show and then over a couple of hours he spoke on behalf of a dozen or so dead people to the relevant people in the congregation. None of my late lot turned up to pass on a message to me, but then they wouldn’t, would they? Just not their thing. There were tears and laughter among the chosen few as he passed on messages. He certainly appeared to be picking up some specifics that you would not expect; like the ‘dead man’ reminding his wife about his dentures in the glass and asking why? It turned out they hadn’t put his dentures back in his mouth when they buried him.

The lady next to me, not being shy, stuck up her hand to catch his attention and insisted on being told about her family; a bit out-of-order but he quickly told her that her mother was not a nice lady and then asked who the alcoholic was. That settled her down as she later told me she had nursed an alcoholic brother who had since died, and her mother had been such an unpleasant person that she had not even gone to her funeral. He also told her that her friend (beside her) had a spirit visitor called William (it was her father).

So where am I at the end of that. Any the wiser? To be fair this psychic was the one leading the audience in the pursuit of contact and was taking no leads from anyone. Is there a chance that he spikes the audience with stooges? Anything is possible, but I would almost bet the house that the lady with the bitch mother and alcoholic brother beside me was no stooge. I don’t think a stooge-based show could be toured around NZ, to so many small, intimate towns, and sustained for too long before the secret was blown. And he has been going around the country for a few years now. 

So if we rule out fraud in this psychic performance, while conceding there will be situations where scamming will not be ruled out, what are the possible explanations for the performance I observed? The conviction of the grief-stricken who he spoke to is that the message comes from the souls of the dearly departed. That this pinpoint of energy, the soul, manifests itself and other images in hologram form in the mind of the psychic and transfers written or verbal messages to be passed on. Who am I to say that is impossible? No one living through the last fifty years can rule anything out as impossible as the inconceivable has become reality in so many fields.

The great philosophical debate that emerges from all this is whether consciousness is created by the brain of the newly conceived child or whether, on formation, the new brain connects to a universal consciousness during gestation and begins to apply that consciousness to situations that the individual experiences throughout life. The medical pragmatists deal only with what is empirical evidence before them and so believe that the brain creates its own consciousness and on the death of the brain that consciousness ceases. Spiritual people believe that through meditation and prayer they can connect more closely with the supreme consciousness. Some spiritual people believe in reincarnation whereby those unique creations of consciousness have a rest period in the non-physical form and then continue to recycle through new physical forms in this physical world until the state of perfect consciousness is achieved. 

There is another possible explanation for the ‘psychic experience’ that also cannot be dismissed. The one thing I do not underestimate is the huge amount of capacity in the human brain as a result of different ‘wiring’. We refer to some people as ‘gifted’ or ‘genius’ because their brains seem capable of achievements that are well beyond the capabilities of 98% of humans. There are those who possess what is called a photographic memory, there are outstanding child prodigies in music and again others who can make the most complex mathematical calculations in their brain. The wiring differentiation may be left sphere dominant (language and logic) or right sphere dominant (creative, intuitive, holistic).

I do not think it unreasonable to think that among those people with brain-wiring that accentuates the right brain sphere at the highest end of the intuitive spectrum, one brain may be capable of receiving messages and images from the energy waves sent out from another brain. That it is possible for some brains to communicate at a non-verbal level. You may mock, but if you do not accept this possibility then you must conclude that the psychic I saw communicates with dead people.

So are psychics truly in contact with the dearly departed on another dimension or are they just in contact with the brains of the dearly grieving? At this time, it still all comes down to a matter of faith; not necessarily what you believe, but what you most want to be true. I doubt I could convince anyone to change their mind on the subject, but whether the travelling psychic was communicating with a spiritual consciousness or with the minds of the bereaved, he was receiving messages without use of his physical senses and that just keeps the fundamental question going. Is that atomic dust the network of consciousness that connects us all?

When the original humans were ordered ‘out of the garden’ they were given these parting words:

‘For remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.’ Genesis 3:19.

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