“Ashes to ashes and dust to dust” is a phrase that is commonly said by a priest or a funeral celebrant when somebody has passed. The origins of this phrase are likely based on the biblical reference from Genesis 3:19, “By the sweat of your face, You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.” I suppose the phrase is to give the surviving family and friends comfort that the cycle of life is complete and the essential elements of the body, such as carbon, have returned to exist in another form. It is no wonder we care so much about burials and spreading of ashes. We are all made up of essentially six different kinds of recycled atoms. Perhaps your atoms were once part of tree or a dinosaur or a star. As the late Carl Sagan once put it, “We are all made of star stuff.”
I think we are much more than “star stuff.” I think the least interesting part of people is their stuff. There are only two things that exist in the universe: matter (stuff) and energy. I think the really interesting thing about people and all living things is the energy – the forces which bind the stuff together and cause it to move, act, react and give them spirit. The matter, which is at a quantum level, just atoms and subatomic particles which when bonded together form molecules and macromolecules such as DNA which determines your eye colour, femur length, colour of your skin, and shape of your body is really a superficial way of seeing the person. We are biased to see only the matter because that is what is most obvious to people. Most of us see people or physically touch people and their solidity gives us a sense that they are matter and that’s all that matters but without energy, it all falls to ashes and dust.
So what happens to the energy when the matter falls to the earth? Certainly some of the energy such as strong forces holding the nucleus together stays in tact – even as dust. What about this thing we call spirit or soul? What is that? Some might suggest it is non-existent because we have never seen it or touched it or measured it but perhaps this is a “matter-bias.” If we were to accept for a moment that the spirit a field of energy that is the product of biophotons produced by cellular functions such as making energy, then we could conceive that each person has a unique spirit. We might then ask ourselves if we could sense this vibrating energy field in another person? I believe we can indeed do this. Admittedly, “I am energy-biased.” To me, the essence and truly interesting part of another person is their spirit. To me, nothing else “matters.”
So what happens when the body turns to ash? I believe the spirit remains as a coherent energy field of light. You can communicate with the spirit just as you did before. Sure, they don’t appear to be the same – they are without matter. The eternal spirit remains – perhaps in a spirit world or perhaps taking a turn in a new body -either way it is omnipresent. I believe this, not because it brings me some comfort, but because it makes sense; I recognize my energy-bias. I am inspired to write these things which I rarely share in hopes that it resonates with some people and maybe helps my family and friends who have recently witnessed loved ones become ashes but no less present. Whether you believe the deceased goes to heaven or reincarnates or just becomes ash, something happened to the light which means that there had to be a light (spirit) to begin with.