I’ve been “born again”. Well at least that’s what I’ve deduced from researching my condition and talking to people who are in the know. I used to be embarrassed to pledge any allegiance to God despite enthusiastically sharing my reasoning for a Creator after a couple of drinks when the subject arose and the Big Life questions unfurled. You know the ones – why are we here? Are we the only life in the universe? What is consciousness? I’d vouch for the complexity of molecular biology and how so many of a cell’s components need to exist simultaneously for everything to function. It defies logic that such a system could “evolve”. For the molecule, DNA, to spontaneously arise from a bubbling of chemical constituents in a primordial soup and manage to encode the blueprint for a whole organism is laughable, nevermind the enzymes and molecular machinery required to transcribe, translate and replicate it. “Yeah but when you factor in the billions of years… anything is possible!” “It’s impossible for us to grasp the timescale this occurred at” are the main counterpoints. Which is fair enough. I wasn’t there at the creation of the universe, in the world described in Genesis or the “big bang” which is more palatable for materialists. Francis Crick, arguably not the discoverer of DNA (Rosalind Franklin is) but the understander of its significance devoted a whole book to this topic: Life Itself: It’s Origin and Nature where he uses an analogy of a billion monkeys typing on a typewriter from the creation of the universe to this moment in time and never by chance coming up with an exact string of letters that would compose a coherent nucleotide code for a living organism, be it even the simplest life form such as prokaryotes e.g. bacteria. Embarrassing on retrospection is an earlier blog post where I entertained panspermia and the notion of DNA being a molecule that fell from space to seed life on Earth. So close, yet so far. Francis Collins, who led the Human Genome sequencing project has written a book in the same vein called The Language of God but takes it a step further in suggesting DNA was created.
So using my tiny brain and gut I had intuitively and somewhat deductively reasoned that our world was created. Subconsciously I knew something was up, a zombie process was running in the background but I never searched for it to validate its requirement. I’d known this for quite some time. Yet something kept me from having a relationship with Him. I didn’t even know I could actually have a connection with God. That’s mental, right?! Um, no, not if you’re a Christian or a member of the ~50% of the population who practises monotheism. It’s all there in the Good Book. I used to roll my eyes and grow weary at Christians prattling off bible verses. My Mum would tell me what’s playing out before us is all in the bible. I thought they were simple-minded to place complete autonomy on a single book, the words of which went over my head and lulled me to sleep whenever I tried to read them. I thought they were crazy. The irony of this doesn’t escape me as I reflect on how insane my contrary belief system was and the autonomy I’d place on calculating planetary angles.
I observed the zeal and fortitude Christians had and I wanted to understand. I wanted to be part of the club but Jesus wasn’t the trendy option and I had to try on every other theology before landing on Christ. I’d absentmindedly swipe away the daily Bible verse notification without reading it. I had a friend who prayed for me to turn to the faith and tried to pull me into the Light. He invited me to join an Alpha Chrisitanity course hosted by his parish. My attendance waned, I hummed and hawed, I didn’t like the vibes of the alpha course creator and questioned his motives, as well as the motives and sanity of my friend. Who would even invite me on such a thing? I judged the whole charade to be a brainwashing program run by a cult. I wouldn’t mind but I’d already had 2 run-ins with God before this program, but I was too stubborn to submit. Lost, blind and prideful is a bad combination. I guess it didn’t help that the Alpha course corresponded with my time on the PhD residential training program where my science peers didn’t exactly make the greatest soundboards to bounce theology off. “Do you believe?” they’d mock and I’d be embarrassed and say “I’m not sure”, regretting ever mentioning it. I’ve no one to blame but myself, as I too knelt at the altar of science. For my birthday my “friends” got me a card which said “good friends and crazy friends make the best memories”. It’s been a lonely road to redemption.
Then the scales fell from my eyes as happened to Saul in Acts 9:18. I rang my Mum crying and she said I had a “road to Damascus” experience and to read what happened to Paul. I wasn’t exactly persecuting Christians before God made himself apparent but my faith was feeble and I straddled the line of Light and darkness, thinking I could have my apple and eat it too. To say the past few weeks have been tumultuous would be an understatement. I’ve read a lot about the Grace of God, his mercy and faithfulness once you give up your life to Him but very little about the birthing pains into Christianity brought about by a brand new clarity and understanding. Part of me wishes to tread carefully so as to not be labelled insane as there are people who would cling to the terms “epiphany”, “enlightenment”, “visions”, and revel in the task of categorising me into a nice little disorder box in the DSM. But the majority of me thinks: who cares! Look around you. Look at what’s happening in the world. In the words of C.S. Lewis: “Enemy-occupied territory—that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.” I have been called. Thank God! And about time. I genuinely feel shame and embarrassment that it took me this long for the penny to drop. “I tried to tell you lol” is the response I got from my friend when I exclaimed how stupid I’d been all this time and that I now know God is real. I always pondered the meaning behind the quotes: “the truth is stranger than fiction” and “the truth will set you free”. It’s bizarre to finally understand and subsequently embark down the correct rabbit hole for once in my life.
Well what exactly was keeping me from turning to the Heavens? Was it my dabbling in divination – signing my autonomy over to astrology and tarot cards, was it my entrenchment in Eastern philosophies and New Age dogma which trains you to always look inward, framing yourself as the utmost authority and ruler of your life, instead of surrendering your life to a higher power and understanding that no matter how hard you try to bend life to your will, God is the utmost authority and only he knows how it will play out. “We’re all part of the masterplan” as Noel Gallagher says. Was it thinking the path to enlightenment was paved by a consciousness altering psychedelic? No drug has ever given me an “a-ha” moment and has only ever muddied my waters with confusion and paranoia, believing I’d reached an all-encompassing “understanding” but the next day I grasped to remember what it was. My strong science background didn’t help either. The education system moulds you into a good little materialist. Trust the science! I’m sure there are many brilliant scientists out there with a quiet faith. Sir Isaac Newton “saw God as the masterful creator whose existence could not be denied in the face of the grandeur of all creation”. He kept his beliefs to himself though and it wasn’t until after his death in 1727 that his writings on Chrisitanity became public. It’s a shame even now you have to pretend to be spiritually bankrupt to play the game. Most don’t have to pretend though.
It’s hard to know who to blame when the roots of deception are this deep but now that I know Christ is real, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out who’s behind the influences in media conditioning you to waltz down the broad road to hell rather than steer you through the narrow gate. You can’t buy a bible in your local bookshop but you can buy any amount of “self-help” spirituality books which will pitch you breathing, gratitude and “manifestation” exercises but there’s no real truth to be found there. You can probably buy tarot cards too. That’s how I got started with my first deck of cards when I was 21, allured by the shiny red box with female goddess artwork.
I couldn’t understand why it always seemed like I was on the outside looking in. How I was looking at the path I wanted to be on but I always found myself walking parallel to it. No matter how nice I was, I couldn’t understand why people could be so cruel and wicked. Now I understand there is a spiritual aspect to every encounter and I have the protection of the Holy Spirit. Before, the devil had my soul and I was using his feedback from tarot cards and astrology to navigate my life. I was a lost sheep, and a black one. I’d strayed from Christ’s flock. I wasn’t able to just trust in things as they were and as they would be, I actively tried to predict what was coming down the pipe. Zero faith whatsoever. It was pure naivete on my behalf buying into the tumblr witch aesthetic thinking I could study my way into predicting the future and ultimately manifest my success, like I was reading tea leaves in Professor Trelawney’s class. It was highly addictive too. I had no idea the depth and darkness to what I was doing, the destructive feedback loop I had initiated and portal I had opened. I was just curious and experimenting with beautiful artwork and planetary lore. Harmless fun. Or so I thought. This isn’t some underground practice either. This stuff is mainstream, and growing. Oh I’m going through my Saturn return that’s why my life has gone to the dogs! 3 of pentacles – I’m on the right track. Tarot and astrology are not like a sum, there’s no right answer. It’s up for interpretation. It also goes against the notion of free will – the idea of choosing your path independent of a predetermined or set state of future events. If your personal planet is in detriment there’s nothing you can do, it’s a weakness and a limitation hardcoded into the fibre of your being. It’s a load of shite if you ask me! I had even started reading about biodynamics – a farming process whereby you consult astrology before tending to your crops. This imposes limitations and complications on when you can or cannot plant, harvest etc. I think the underlying reason I took my time to really see Christianity and orient my sails in accordance with it was because I didn’t believe the answer could be this simple. It really is as simple as light vs darkness and good vs. evil. This theme of duality is central to the matrix of our reality.
The day before I became a believer I whatsapped a friend to read my chart as I said I was going through some “tumultuous times”. Now I see the astrology crowd for what they are – the blind leading the blind – encouraging people to internalise and reinforce self-limiting beliefs. I’m nauseous thinking about the people I paid for guidance in reading my chart and the wrong turns I made based off of that. I apologise to anyone I led astray with my amateurist astrology or tarot quackery. The bible has plenty to say about divination. One particularly frightening verse is Micah 3:7: The seers shall be disgraced, and the diviners put to shame; they shall all cover their lips, for there is no answer from God. Isaiah 8:19: And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living?
I wish I’d invested that time into reading about anything else or practising playing music. It’s funny because I wanted to believe in magic and the enchantment of the world. I was just looking in the wrong places. There’s nothing more magical than reading what Jesus did in the gospels. I’m truly ashamed of my seemingly benign hobby and had no idea I was in league with satan. Once you see it you cannot unsee it. The symbolism is in plain view. This awakening has forced me to critically examine my favourite music artists and their work as well as other aspects of our mainstream culture such as yoga which Christians reveal for what it is – worshipping Hindu deities. I’m equally invigorated by artists who have clearly found God. Florence + the Machine is my all time favourite and listening to her latest album now makes me raise an eyebrow and wonder at the tracks “Girls against God” and “Dream Girl Evil”. The woman has the cross tattooed on her but I guess anyone can drift away. I’ve also been listening to Kanye’s album Jesus is King as well as his orchestra project Sunday Service Choir which is absolutely incredible. I’m shocked Eminem was rapping about Christianity in 1996! “In the midst of this insanity / I’ve found my Christianity / through God and there’s a wish he granted me / He showed me how to cope with this stress and hope for the best / instead of moping depressed.” I’m not alone in this insanity. There are (b)millions of us.
Understanding all of this at once was a shock. I can only describe what I’d call a download from God where in an instant I understood everything in the context of Good and evil, the people who led me astray, how I’d led myself astray, and the people who protected me. The “root node” is something I’d been searching for in my research and in my podcast. When this happened to me I was thinking “Woahhh! God is the Root Node!” It was like I finally understood myself. What was especially disconcerting was “waking up” and examining my current path and career. It was as if I’d snapped out of a trance. I find myself in the middle of a PhD jumping through neverending hoops with the goal of breaking a paywall ceiling down the road. Money was my god. I am interested in the microbiome, bioinformatics and of course biology, I always have been, but how did I end up studying bacteriophages, which no matter which way I anthropomorphize it are “the bad guys” or parasites bacteria labour to evade. I got so freaked out thinking that I was studying a microcosm of what is happening to us spiritually, what was happening to me and how I ended up on this path. The poetic irony of it all. When you stare into the abyss it really does stare back! The terminology I’d become accustomed to – “host” and “target” – suddenly creeped me out. The more I think about it, the more parallels there are between phages and demons.
Here we go you’re probably thinking but hear me out. Phages are the most abundant entity in the biosphere and demons are the most abundant spiritual entities on earth. If you read Mark 5:1–13 where Jesus heals a possessed man: For he had said to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” As above, so below. You probably think this is getting into wacky territory but I can assure you there is a spiritual dimension to our existence we cannot see with our eyes, the exact same dynamics are played out at the microbiological level. Hopefully I can write a book about this someday to flesh out the comparisons while having the credibility of a PhD. If not, I’ve made peace with not jumping through the doctorate hoop. Meeting my friend’s beautiful 2 month old daughter and seeing how happy and healthy both are really put everything into context. I’d fallen hard into the girlboss, feminist trap, convincing myself to be an ambitious striver rather than seek life’s simple and innate pleasures. If I had put God first all those years ago and ditched the divination would I be married with kids and working a humble but well paid job? Not trapped in an arduous, lonely, crushing process of metamorphosis being exploited for below minimum wage. It’s hard to know. Phage are still part of God’s creation. To try to finish my PhD, I’ll justify that I’m a ghostbuster of the microbiome: capturing the complexity of the ghosts but not eliminating them. I still think bioinformatics is extremely cool and I’m privileged to have weaselled my way into such a niche area. Even if it is studying the “bad guys” of the microbiome, it’s better than programming conveyor belt robots to lift boxes in a warehouse.
Everything clicking was bittersweet for me, I’ve found God, I’ve repented and know Him, yet here I am 2 years into a PhD and wondering is this really my calling? Would God want me on this path? I went to a bible fellowship in Dublin and got chatting to a couple of lovely girls – one works for a charity, another is a Christian radio producer. I was impressed! And a little jealous that they had aligned their careers to honouring God with direct intent on giving back to the world. They grew up in the church so had stronger ties to Christianity than I did but I still felt a bit silly. What contribution to humanity or the environment am I making by classifying microbiome viruses? I’m not entirely sure. I know this is just a stepping stone to what could open doors to something which could potentially give back to humanity in the future. The phd offers a form of escapism in these dark times.
Figuring this all out so suddenly deeply upset and unnerved me. My worldview is radically altered. Like seeing the world for the first time, I’m a new person since I’ve discovered my faith. It hurts looking back at fumbled opportunities in my persistent pursuit of whatever it was that was driving me and all the time wasted hanging out with the chaff instead of the wheat. I will have to work on overcoming the feelings of shame from building my life on a foundation of sand but I’m certain things will only get better now that I’ve found rock. At the same time I’m happy I arrived here, with this awareness. At least all of this did click, I try to reassure myself. So that’s it. I’m filled with a zeal and enthusiasm for pursuing and talking about Christianity but feel like I can’t talk about it while appearing rational. Such is the world we live in. I’m also the least qualified person to talk about it having read only 2 chapters of the entire bible and I know from experience you can lead a horse to water…