The Official Website of Richard Reilly
Exploring the Essence of Life
Western science and eastern spiritual philosophy seem to point to the same place, where energy enters time and space to become matter, directed by a mindful conciousness that might be drawn from a great common pool of life-force.
What is life? What happens when we die? What is time and how is it related to space? Are we more than our bodies, more than our minds? Quantum physics and the teachings of the Great Masters are explored in detail in this treasure hunt that seeks to answer the greatest questions of all time.
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Table of Contents
Please feel free to browse through a few paragraphs taken from each main section.
In college a Professor of Religious Studies told me that I like to have everything and everyone here (he pointed to the palm of his hand) - I like to know what's in front of me in order to truly be comfortable. My first response (voiced silently within my mind, of course) was, "how dare he presume to know me, how dare he even have an opinion, I'm not so transparent that he can sum me up so simply and easily, am I?!?" But upon reflection I had to acknowledge there was truth in what he said, and my motivations were perhaps more obvious to an observer than they even were to me!
I knew, despite the bulls-eye my Professor had scored, that my deepest essence sat quietly watching the whole exchange. I watched myself deny it, then I considered giving him a burst of righteous indignation, and then I wound up using my most effective weapon of all - humor - to save face. Anything to get by the awkward moment of embarrassing "truth." I watched from an inner seat. Where was this seat? Where do these words come from when I am pouring out my heart? Where is my mind?
My Professor had identified my comfort level quite well, I had to admit. He had succinctly described my modus operandi and the persona I displayed to myself and to others as I tried to wade through this weighty thing called life. But I think my essence - all of our essences - really just serve as platforms upon which we build our human selves. The edifice I call "me" is subject to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune; it is molded by time and environment and seems chock-full of automatic responses to various stimuli. You know about automatic responses: the quick sharp response to a perceived put-down, for instance, or the defensive denial that the plate could ever have been broken by you -- even when you were never accused of the crime.
However you conceive it, though, all the matter and energy that make up all the stars and all the galaxies in the entire universe all started as one very compact dense ball - like this pea. We can assume it was round because a sphere is the most efficient form of organization. All the solid matter and all the energy of the entire universe, condensed into a ball just about this size! It staggers the imagination, yet scientists say this falls into their best models of "pre big-bang." With more stars than grains of sand on all the beaches on Earth, one can barely imagine this huge collection of "stuff" -- all massed in one central place. How tightly packed this pea must have been...
Suddenly the pea explodes, sending it's essence out evenly in all directions. This essence is in the form of pure energy. Energy, not atoms or sub-atomic particles, but the raw stuff that makes up the universe as we know it and everything in it. This explosion occurred 15 billion years ago, not into empty space, but creating space as it expanded... After 5 billion years of expansion, the uniform milk of the universe is collecting more and more into bits of curd, and in certain areas these curds are drawn together until they reach a certain comfort level, at which point they push away from each other. Even after 5 billion years the basic forces of the universe are still being created and adjusted: we have the "weak force", which holds electrons to their nucleus, and the "strong force", which hold the bits of a nucleus together...
The curds are separating from the milk more rapidly now. Hydrogen and helium make up the entire Periodic Table of Elements, at this stage. The atoms collect, and their collection draws nearby atoms to join the throng, and this in turn attracts more and more atoms, and as they gather they pack tighter and tighter in a ever dense ball, until they reach a critical mass and - flash - they ignite! The first star is born...
Like the classic symbol of the yin-yang, it is whole and complete, yet in complimentary sections, and this separation is the greatest event in the universe. The separation of bit from bit, black from white, night from day, thou from that, allow for the make-up of everything there is in the universe. All we know in this universe are just patterns and combinations - of basically an idea. Underlying all is the unity of the intelligence, for every curd came from the milk, and the milk came from the pea, and the pea is God. So, in a very real way, we are God and God is us, and all is indeed one. Isn't this just mind bending?!?
I hear some of you saying, "Maybe my atoms are made up of curds and whey (metaphorically speaking), but my mind, my personality - that's something that is mine alone. How does God, whatever we conceive it/him/her to be, relate to me?" That's a very big question, the second key question of all time, and it will take a whole lot of words to answer, so bear with me and keep reading... Though most people would agree that this is "reality", it is in truth all an illusion. We are not separated from each other by empty space; in fact, there is no such thing as empty space, anywhere, even in the realm of the very small. Between you and me is a sea of gases, which our eyes don't happen to see, (but then again, there is much that we do not see).
Even the space between planets is not empty: it is full of the "stuff" from the big bang, which our televisions and radios pick up in the form of static. If we look into the realm of the very small we see a huge amount of "empty" space between electron and nucleus, but even here Space is not empty. Space is, in fact, one continuous pool of energy. This energy drops into time for a millisecond to give a location to matter, then joins the pool.
You can't talk about time without eventually getting around to Albert Einstein and his theories of Relativity. He is acknowledged as a genius, in part because he was able to conceive of things that were beyond the world of our five senses, plus he was schooled in the language of mathematics to help him describe his theories, and all that he theorized continues to be "true" in the models of scientists many decades later. He showed how mass curves space. He worked out just how much energy was condensed into a bit of matter, and theorized what would happen if we reversed that process - an tragic accomplishment for the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He began by daydreaming in school what it would be like to move at the speed of light...
Now, time doesn't exactly stand still when you reach the speed of light - it just doesn't have any relationship. Energy, existing at the speed of light, can be everywhere at once. In theory, it doesn't matter how long it takes to reach a place, because time is not measured - at all! Energy, and information, can be passed to and obtained from any place in the universe, in no time at all. This is hard for us to imagine, but there is much evidence to support this as true...
Time is subjective. You're busy and time flies, you're bored and time drags. Thanks to time-lapse photography we can see plants grow new shoots and turn towards the sun - but how very slowly this movement occurs in "real time." There are whole varieties of life that live their entire existence in a matter of days. They come into the world (hatched from an egg, for instance) grow to maturity, reproduce, grow "old" and die -- all in a few days. A bird's heart beats so much faster than ours. Insects seem to flit back and forth with incredible speed and accuracy. Are their senses so much sharper than ours, as they fly around and through obstacles without a collision?
Or can it be that they perceive time differently from us. Just like an auto accident, when the seconds before impact seem to slow down, and people feel they can think and react with seemingly "all the time in the world" -- until the ultimate wham! Can it be that - to an insect - each day is a spring season and each night a long winter? Can it be that - to an insect - each minute seems to last a human day, and each second seems to last several minutes? If this were so, then a thirty minute walk to the corner store for a human would have a similar leisurely "feel" to an insect, but from the human perspective the insect's "thirty minute walk" would seem to be accomplished in a five second flight.
To a thousand year old redwood tree, human life would seem to be a quick visit to the planet, just as insects seem to live a full life in less time than the average human takes for a vacation. We are part of the Earth chorus for a small interval of time, and who is to say that the visit is not long enough to realize all of our potential. Redwood trees, humans and insects may all be given the same interval of time, as experienced from each of our unique perspectives. As Einstein first said, "time is relative."
The divine spark. So like electricity that Mary Shelly's Dr. Frankenstein hoped lightning would animate his collection of body parts; and EMTs use shock paddles to revive a stopped heart; and EEGs can monitor the neural discharges within the brain; that a live electrical wire can short-circuit us like a blown fuse...
So far, there is only one way we know of to create life, and that's the natural way. But we can clone living tissue, and grow cultures, and gestate a natural sperm and egg almost totally outside the womb. As a starfish grows back a spine, and a salamander grows back a tail and a limb at the same time, we humans will someday soon be able to grow back missing fingers and even limbs...
So they take some of your cells and from it clone a hand in a jar of liquid. Is it yours? Is it you? Does it retain a bit of your "soul?" (How do we define "soul" and is it more or less real than "personality" or your sense of "you-ness?") If your limbs and even your torso were "grown" back, what part of you would still be you? Conversely, you can lop off body part after body part and still you would be left - how much could be whittled away until there is no more you? Do we stop at a human head living in a pan of solution? Can we have a brain living in a jar and still retain the unique personality of a person we once knew? When does a body part sign up for a Social Security number?
In the first six years of life the brain is furiously building neural pathways; it burns with more much energy than an adult brain. Then, after the sixth year, it begins to trim back the pathways, to eliminate dendrites and axons in an overall effort to make the brain function more efficiently. It is known from experiments with puppies, to name just one example, that these formative years literally set up the basic abilities with which we live the rest of our lives... Every sound, every angle, every texture we are able to perceive, we have constructed pathways in our brains to allow us to do so. This is why children exposed to language tapes in these formative years are able to speak that language in later life without a foreign accent. The various ways we hear and can reproduce the "a" sound, for instance, is determined by our exposure to the various "a" sounds in our formative years. The moulds for entire lives are set by our sixth year of life.
Our body's vital functions are not quite beyond our control, but they are certainly automatic and self-regulating. Imagine what it would be like if we had to think our way through the digestive tract everytime we eat. Imagine having to concentrate on breathing and circulation -- especially at bed time! Our bodies do it for us. Who we think we are is not fixed; it is fluid. It changes constantly. And not only does it change to reflect our intentions. It is also affected by the full moon, by sensory deprivation, by sugar and caffeine and alcohol and other ingestables, by hormones, by sunny or cloudy weather, by movies we watch and music we listen to, by fluorescent lights, by noise, by the wiring in our homes, and I am sure you can name several more...
Our physical bodies seem to stop at our skins, but our energy radiates outward at least another six inches at all times, and often farther. The concept of a physical aura is an ancient one, and well documented. It ties in with other energy flows within the body that do not seem to correspond with our physical pathways. Acupuncture points relieve a great deal of real stress and pain by clearing blocked energy pathways, pathways that don't correspond to nerves or arteries or other physical pathways - yet their effectiveness cannot be denied. Masters of Chi (life-force) can summon up life energy and resist the pull of twenty men, or push a concentrated "ball" of chi and knock down an object without physical contact.
I believe there is nothing you have read so far that is in conflict with any religion or spiritual belief ever embraced by humankind. The common thread of all these paths is a desire to know why. We believe we know how, even if how is made solely of superstition and assumption. We believe we know who, even though who is alternately called God, Goddess, Jah, Allah, Christ, Buddha, Krishna, Jehovah, Great Spirit, and a host of other names. Everyone seems to have their own what and where stories.
But in the unraveling of the world around us, the why of life has been the domain of theologians and philosophers. You may well say, "how dare you presume to walk in the domain of learned theologians and philosophers?" And I would reply, "I am just the forerunner of many, for the schism between spirit and science is now healed, and even our leading physicists acknowledge that their studies have revealed a fundamental intelligence driving the universe, and all that we once thought was solid and inanimate turn out to be wispy and "alive" clots of energy."
Even scientists are perplexed by arriving at such a spiritual venue in their pursuit of cold hard facts. The nature of the universe, scientists are forced to admit, has much of eastern mysticism in it. This mysticism, generally speaking, teaches an underlying unity of chi, life energy, to all-that-is (the "ten thousand things" of Lao Tsu) plus gives permission to tap that energy, the novice having come to understand its nature. This has been accepted as sacred tradition for half the world's population for 2500 years...
Science reduced and measured, amassed what could be understood; quessed at or ignored what could not be understood. If it could not be proved, it did not formally exist. And the methods of proving something were at first subjective and unsophisticated, but gradually a "scientific method" was developed, based on objective, repeatable experimentation. A whole new class grew up in this time, a class of professional gatherers: biologists and botanists, internal surgeons and psychologists, oceanographers and astronomers . . . These people rivaled the priests as the local source of knowledge, and indeed, the very definition of "knowledge" was greatly expanded, yet with stricter criteria to qualify as knowledge. The classic questions of "who are we, who made us, why are we here?" were set apart from the physical reality that surrounded us, and left to the interpretations of theologians and philosophers...
But, as I say above, that schism is healing - as science comes full circle and finds that the primary answers to the physical reality they are exploring is in the nature of defining space, time, life and God itself. With science/fact, as with spirit/faith, the interpreters can go only so far, and it is the right of every individual to experience the fabric of existence directly. Spirit and physical are being revealed as unified on the primal level. Every one of us was born to experience life, which has a touchy-feely side for our fingers, and a touchy-feely side for our heart.
But we insist on driving the machine. We can't seem to let it go without our intervention. The left hemisphere of our brains practically insist on making sense of our surroundings. We've been building a better mouse trap since the little guys first started to share our cave.