During a meditation not too long ago I found my mind carried away by a quote that I heard during the new Cosmos series I had been watching the day before.
The quote in and of itself wasn’t particularly significant but it’s what it stimulated in my subconscious that then found its way to the surface the following day that caught my attention and dragged me away from a perfectly good meditation.
So what was the quote you may ask? It came from the son John of William Herschel, the 18th -19th century astronomer and composer, then a young boy when he asked his father, “Father do you believe in ghosts?”
His father said yes, but not in the human kind and then went on to explain how the light from many of the stars we see in the night sky has taken millions or even billions of years to reach our eyes and how those very stars may no longer exist because they have long since died. In this way he explained we really do see the “ghosts” of the dead, the ephemerae of the past.
The truth is that you and I are always seeing what was, that every event, every object that we see is but an image from the past. This is because it takes time for our brains to process a sensory input. Not very much time, granted i.e. 80milliseconds to be precise and we wouldn’t even notice except in those cases when there are two sensory inputs such as visual and auditory and if the object of the sound/vision stimulus takes more than 80 milliseconds to reach our eyes/ears. When this happens sound and vision are out of sync thus producing a lag between the two. Ever notice that during a fireworks display that there’s a lag between the flash and the bang? In this case the “ghost” is two fold i.e. the flash is 80 milliseconds dead while the bang is at least 160 milliseconds from the past. What we see and hear is but a ghost from the past. Fundamentally what we are conscious of doesn’t exist in the here and now. Consciousness is only of the past. Consciousness is but a ghost.
No wonder science has trouble with consciousness and try as they might scientists can’t even agree on what ”consciousness” is, they don’t seem to be able to account for it. They know a lot about ‘how’ the brain functions but can’t explain what consciousness is or how it works– science simply cannot measure it and if you can’t measure it, then you can’t do what science does, test it. We know it’s there because we’re all walking around with it, but how do we find out what it is if we can’t use the scientific method on it?
What do I mean by consciousness? It’s the ability to have mental experiences and we do that all the time whether awake or asleep (your dreams are part of your consciousness).
Some scientists and philosophers have wondered if at the atomic level of existence our consciousness may be like that of a photon of light i.e. massless. It seems as though neither light nor consciousness exist within the same time/space paradigm as we do, as our bodies do. “How is that so?” you may well ask. Our bodies have mass and can never attain the speed of light because, according to the Einsteinian equations, that would require that they become infinite in their mass. But light can travel at the speed of light (186,000 miles/second) because it has no mass. And from the point-of-view of a photon of light time has stopped– it “lives” within no time i.e. the present. If you look at consciousness closely it also seems to have no mass therefor not a part of the body. In a material world of bodies space and time exist as a single entity, space/time, but in the world of the photon and perhaps as I’m suggesting the world of mind, time doesn’t exist and thus nether does space. As Einstein suggested time/space may be only a function of the observer, the brain.
So let me get back to this hypothetical photon. This is the same as the light that left the body of a star and traveled across time. If this photon could think it wouldn’t know that its body may already be dead and that what it “sees” of itself is only its ghost.
This seems to be what happens at the event horizon of a black hole, that line of demarcation that defines what’s outside the hole and what’s inside. If you were to step across this line it would look to others outside as though you were forever trapped within the horizon itself when in reality you had early on been crushed and torn into atomic flotsam. All we see out here is the “ghost” of who you were.
There are some theories that suggest that we ourselves are dead the moment we are born, that our light has traversed time and that like my make-believe photon we only see the ghost of ourselves and that it is always in the present moment. Light does funny things to time and because it helps to define existence we may see that our existence is relative to the observer as well. While in the ship of our bodies we see one reality but to an observer outside this reality quite another reality exists.
Now, I’m not suggesting that any of this proves my musings, but it does perhaps show that ghost images of what once was can far outlive their original existence especially from an observer (the brain) on the outside of consciousness.
Do you believe in ghosts? Perhaps we are one!