Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Consciousness, the Soul, Eternity

I have mentioned in previous essays here that you and I are made up of atoms that have been around for billions of years. Indeed, since an event called Recombination, some 378,000 years after the Big Bang, when the Universe became cool enough for electrons to attach to protons. And indeed, it is posited, that most of the helium in the Universe was created within three minutes of the Big Bang. And there are those same helium atoms today, filling children's balloons.

From Wikipedia: "Most of the atoms that make up the Earth and its inhabitants were present in their current form in the nebula that collapsed out of a molecular cloud to form the Solar System. The rest are the result of radioactive decay, and their relative proportion can be used to determine the age of the Earth."

This is mind-boggling stuff. We are used to matter decaying, energy running out, but here is the very fabric of everything around us, made out of these tiny atoms made out of electrons whizzing round the nuclei for ever. Certainly from one Big Bang to the next. What these atoms consist of is something that science is slowly unravelling. At school, we were taught that an atom is no more than a nucleus made up of protons (which have a positive electrical charge) and neutrons (which have no charge), and the nucleus exists within a shell or shells of electrons (which have a negative electrical charge).

Today, however, the structure of subatomic particles is known to be far more complex. This is how particle physicists currently see the contents of the nucleus:


[Source: Wikipedia]

I cannot begin to comprehend this world of neutrinos and gauge bosons, quarks and gluons. The more physicists seem to dig into the inner workings of the atom, the more they find. What properties are associated with these particles, other than positive and negative electrical charge?

Could atoms contain... memory, for instance? Will? Could they be carriers of distributed consciousness? They last for ever, after all...

A huge leap into the unknown, flaky science I know, but not an impossibility. As I wrote two posts ago, science has yet to discover the source of human consciousness; reading the Wikipedia articles about neuroscience and subatomic science, I can see the vast disconnect between the two, and yet our world functions as a whole under one joined-up set of laws.

Now, if one accepts the Monist view that the Universe is one system (rather than the Dualist view that the material and spiritual are two entirely separate worlds), the notion of consciousness being the result of atoms at work is entirely reasonable.

Is it possible that in some way, our consciousness could be distributed within us to the atomic level, and echoes of our thoughts, our experiences - our memories - could reside within the atoms that we are made of? That our level of consciousness is at a higher level today than it was within our ancestors thousands of years ago, because we have somehow absorbed millennia of additional experience and awareness? Purely theoretical, blue-sky thinking on my part. But an attempt to seek a rational explanation for a spiritual quest for answers that's been with me since childhood.

An answer to those anomalous memory events I've had all my life, as far back as I can remember. A quest that gives meaning - spiritual meaning indeed - to life.

More to Lent than just giving up a few things!

This time last year:
On Governance, Institutions and Civilisation

This time four years ago:
My Nikon D80 four years on
(For the record, the LCD monitor died last year, it still takes photos)

This time six years ago:
Nikon D80 two years on

This time seven years ago:
Nikon D80 one year on
Eight years ago today I bought my first digital camera!

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