And now we come to the great question… a topic so thoroughly contemplated and pondered throughout the ages in all cultures and within all walks of life… the subject of death. What is death? So many of us contemplate whether or not there is “life after death,” which is really just the desire for a continuation of our egos after our physical organism ceases to breathe. It is perfectly natural for us to want this continuation. After all, we cannot contemplate being without our human relationships, our pets, indeed the whole of creation as we know it. Most of us are naturally afraid of death since it is the unknown, the end of everything we know, which is our ultimate fear, but it is precisely in the unknown where there is true Life. For what is known is dead, of time, not Truth, as the life of Life only exists outside of the known, and is not of time.
If what lies outside of the known is true “Nirvana,” “Heaven,” whatever we want to call it, than on the surface, death seems to guarantee we will not be disappointed since death appears to be the end of all which is known since the brain and its collection of memories will cease to function. If the self-concept, the ego, is created in the brain, then its disintegration will assure the end of my ego, which is True Freedom. But it is a freedom I will not apprantly be able to “experience” since “I,” being the “experiencer” will no longer exist. But does the “experiencer” ever exist in moments of true oneness? No. Death is the ending of time, the dawn of Oneness with the end of the dualistic ego. Since suffering only exists within time and the self, and death brings an end to all ego, self, time, and therefore suffering, how bad can it be? At the moment of orgasm, for example, there is no self nor other. There is only that. It is interesting the French term for orgasm is “le petite mort,” or “the little death.” Has death ever been more delicious than in that moment of selfless bliss? I smile humorously at this realization, now thinking of the scripture passage from 1 Corinthians 15:55, “Where O death, is your sting?”
I now seek to look at death actually, not romantically or with illusion, but in Truth. When I took a class in college in which I looked at various religions, including atheism and agnosticism, I was confronted with the very real, and for me at the time, convincing prospect of becoming nothing more than worm food after death, as in death, there would only be an annihilation of “me.” This realization brought me to my knees in despair, and I wanted more than anything to somehow believe “I” would survive when deep down, I did not believe I would. This is the scariest proposition for virtually all of us since all of life as we know it appears to be experienced through the ego, the self, which is why death is the ultimate insult to us all, as death guarantees the end of our egos, since the ego is the self-concept put together within the brain, which will rot, which creates the “me,” the “I,” as separate from another.
Aside from what is put together within time as the “self,” which is a collection of memories, experiences, prejudices and beliefs, is there any such thing as a “self essence,” which would be a “soul?” Within several religions there is a belief in an essence of self, or a “soul,” while in Buddhism there is a denial of the existence of the soul or “self-essence.” Since belief in the soul justifies the ego, I am skeptical of this notion since anything which justifies separateness, self from other, is a lie, since the only True Reality is One. Since the only True Reality is One, then there can be no “individual essence,” since essence is of the One, not the many. The notion of individual “souls,” individual “essences” contradicts the fact of the only essence – One. Still, we cannot deny the multiplicity, the sheer variety within this oneness. Truth, God, Love, which is the All of Life is the essence of all things seen and unseen. It is this alone which lives on forevermore, not our limited egos. True immortality is knowing our True identity as the uncreated One Unchanging All. That One Unchanging All is timeless, and since it is timeless it is never born and does not die. It never began and will never end. There was never a time It has not been, and nor will there be a time when It will cease to be, for the All of Life is always.
That which is multiple is not Truth itself. There are many mirrors in God’s creation whose job is to reflect Truth, as found from John 14:2, “In my Father’s house are many dwelling places…” Every single being is just that – a dwelling place for God, Love, Truth. God’s “house” is creation, and every being is His “dwelling place.” But these “dwelling places” which live are many, temporary, and ever-changing. The Truth is always One, never changing, and is the essence of All. As Jesus said in Dialogue of the Savior 23:2, “Whatever is from the truth does not die; whatever is from woman dies.” Truth is the only which never changes, which is without beginning or end. Since Truth is never self and its limitations, then the self, the “soul” is an illusion, not the Truth, not Real, and must therefore perish, as all which is not Truth must die. There is only consciousness, Love, Truth, which is forever, and creation is the “machine” through which consciousness, God, Love, Truth, experiences itself.
Some believe consciousness is matter, the brain, but that is not correct. Consciousness is One, forever, not material, never beginning and never ending. There is only one consciousness, which is within all of manifested creation. Consciousness, God, Truth, Love, is that which uses the material world as the “mirror” in which it sees itself. Consciousness needs manifested creation to see itself, as without the mirror, manifested creation, there is no self-consciousness – that is, the One can have no consciousness of itself without the mirror of the ever-changing manifested creation. The Truth, that which animates and gives Life to all things is One, forever, and always. That which is animated by that Truth, that consciousness, is many, ever-changing and not forever, as every being is dying all of the time, every day. When you look at a person, at what point does a person cease to be a person? Is it when the brain is gone? When the heart is gone? When the eyes no longer exist? The point is, there is no one unique essential component to any given individual besides the same essence of All things – God, Truth, Love. What makes an individual unique is an assembly of many components which temporarily come together to produce an “individual.” But when those components are dismantled through death, the “individual” no longer exists, and is shown for what it is – an illusion produced within time as just another one of an infinite number of manifestations of the One. The individual ego is an illusion, like a dream. A dream is a real experience, but not reality, just as the individual ego is “real” in an illusory, dreamlike way, but not Reality, not Truth. Life as we know it, is indeed but a dream – nothing more, nothing less. Our lives, our egos, and the whole of manifested creation is both God’s dream and God’s nightmare. And just as we have no conscious “control” of our dreams and nightmares, so too God has no control over the “dreams” and “nightmares” of manifested existence. God, Life, All, simply IS.
Words are so limited because words are designed to express separateness, distinction, separation. But all distinctions and separations are ultimately not Truth. How then, can one ever speak of Truth when all words exist to express separation and distinction, which by definition is not Truth? It boggles the mind. So the first question is, what am I? The physical organism of “me” is a machine through which Love, Truth sees itself. Indeed, God sees Himself through all of creation, as creation is God’s “mirror” if you will. God is All. Being All, one cannot say God is “only apart from me” or “only within me.” To be All is to be All… everywhere and nowhere. Buddhists call it the Uncreated. They do not call it “God” persay, like the “creator God,” as a being separate from His creation, and I use the word in a general sense, along with the words “Love” and “Truth,” all of which are the same. Again, because Truth is not differentiated and fragmented, one cannot really speak of it. Being “born,” being “created” is an illusion because it is the appearance of “beginning.” But since time does not exist, then death and birth can also not exist. No distinctions, nothing within thought, nothing which is supposed “fact” is Truth.
Still, we cannot deny the apparent birth and death of organisms, the finite nature of physical existence. We cannot deny our personal sense of “self,” as all of these things are very real to us. In Truth, all of these things are illusory since all of these things appear to only “exist” within time. Since time itself is an illusion, then all of these notions of distinction are also illusory. I have defined time in the past as the intelligence of measurement, the measurement of change, and I have come to modify that definition once again. Indeed, animals too have an innate sense of fear, death, and the need to survive. And while they have a sense of the limit of their physical lives, which is in a sense, a notion of “time” as we do, and a sense of “I” as separate from “other,” they cannot measure change as we can – that is, to create clocks, calendars, and have within them a sense of questioning, of asking, “What does it all mean?” The limitations of their intelligence prevent this, and so their lives are in many ways, “simpler” than ours. They have no money, no “morality,” no “commitment” in terms of loyalty to one partner, etc.
So, there is a unique distinction between animals and human beings. But to deny we too are animals, whose only difference from them is a higher degree of intelligence is arrogant and illusory. Even some Biblical scripture reflects this as in Ecclesiastes 3:18-20, “As for men, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal… All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.” We are still at the core instinctual animals, while at the same time constantly being “governed” by so-called “morality” and external notions and pressures, both explicit and implicit of what we “should” and “should not” do. That is the difference – we live under egotistical self-made “laws” as we discussed last time, not on pure instinct as an animal does, hence our conflict. Creation, the material world, is the ever-changing state in which the distinct and the indistinct, the many and the One converge at the “crossroads” of Life. This is “Jesus Christ,” “Guatama Buddha”… the human (divided), and the Divine One (undivided). By this definition, “Jesus Christ” and “Guatama Buddha” is creation. as reflected in one of the more truthful passages in the Gospel of John, John 1:3, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” It is no accident the symbol of Christianity is the cross, as it is a profound symbol of the dual aspects of existence – material and divine – vertical (One, spiritual), and horizontal (multiple, material, earthly). It is a shame almost no Christians examine the true richness of their religions’ symbolism, instead settling for ancient dogma which contradicts so much of what we know to be Truthful and Loving, and makes little if any sense.
So, since we cannot deny the existence of our self-concept, as it is very real to us, and we have all kinds of “ghost stories” and “near death experiences,” reincarnation theories, stories of Jesus’ resurrection and the like, what can we make of all this? It is tempting to dismiss out of hand all of these things as illusions and as Sigmund Freud called them, examples of “wish fulfillment.” The problem is, there are in my opinion, too many examples of such phenomena to simply dismiss them all out of hand. I honestly am not sure what to make of these things. Nevertheless, I will still attempt to explore some possibilities. They may well be visions of “others” and experiences our human psyche subconsciously and involuntarily “creates,” just like dreams, to assure us of the Truth that we, at the core, are never born, and never die, since the essence of All is the One unchanging. It has been said “visions” are simply “waking dreams,” that is, they are not “absolute reality” like something within the material world whose existence can be confirmed by others, but something subconsciously created within the mind of the individual, to tell us deep truths about ourselves. Since that cannot be “expressed” to us without symbolism, as Truth can never be expressed except through metaphor and symbols, then our psyches create images,”visions,” “apparitions” of people, notions of “ourselves surviving,” much like dream symbolism and parables, whatever we as individuals need to digest this much-needed Truth. There is a fascinating scripture passage illustrating a hint of this, from the Gospel of Mary, 7:2-6, “I saw the Lord in a vision and I said to him, ‘Lord, I saw you today in a vision.’ He said to me, ‘Congratulations to you for not wavering at seeing me. For where the mind is, there is the treasure.’ I said to him, ‘Lord, how does a person who sees a vision see it-with the soul or with the spirit?’ The Savior answered, ‘The visionary does not see with the soul or with the spirit, but with the mind which exists between these two-“…. Still, the egotistical mind often sees and interprets these visions as a guarantee of personal, ego survival instead of seeing it as a metaphoric representation of Life’s essence living on forevermore, not our personal, egotistical selves.
Another possibility is that of another realm of existence altogether, a kind of “spiritual, unseen twin-world” behind the manifested physical universe – a realm where our “heavenly twin” picks up where we left off upon our earthly, physical death. This makes little sense to me, as since creation is One, there cannot be more than one creation. I am also skeptical of any “explanation,” whether it is reincarnation, resurrection, eternal souls or whatever have you, which attemps to somehow “explain everything,” and put a neat, tidy “bow” on the package of Life, when Life is clearly beyond the limits of such simplistic explanations which are again, merely serving to justify our egos. These afterlife theories are all extremely suspect since they serve at least two very strong ego needs – the need to answer the question of so-called “justice,” that is, the need to know that everyone will “get what they deserve” in the end, “good” or “bad,” which is really nothing more than the desire for revenge and personal vindication, and to extend the life of the ego, which instinctually knows it is not permanent. The ego is 100% self-serving, so the fact these theories serve the ego and nothing more illustrates the fact their author is the lie, the ego itself. What we call “Heaven” is a place where those who please our ego are “sent” after death, and “Hell” is a place where those who do not please our ego are “sent” after death. This clearly illustrates “Heaven” and “Hell” as understood in traditional terms, is obviously nothing more than a fabrication of the ego, and has nothing whatsoever to do with Truth. All which serves to justify our egos is never the Truth. No matter what the explanation for near-death experiences, reincarnation theories, out of body experiences, visions of apparitions and the like, the bottom line is this – all of these things are not truly “death experiences,” but life experiences since they are remembered from the brain, which upon true death, will cease to function. If you can remember it, then it is a life experience, not a death experience. There can be no true “death experience” since there is no “thing,” to experience or remember it – no brain, no “immortal soul,” no essence to the self besides that which is the essence of All – God, Truth, Love. These “afterlife” experiences as reported by many are more likely a part of our survival mechanism to calm the dying who are still living, much the way endorphins make one feel better while enduring great physical pain.
There are those who say that death robs life of all its meaning, and death without an afterlife makes what we do in this life meaningless. I cannot agree with this way of thinking. For it is precisely because our lives as we know them are not permanent which gives life all of its meaning and precious significance. If anything, the notion of one’s ego living on indefinitely can make us undervalue this life, and distort the way in which we live it. To live with love, with purpose, with every single moment filled with significance, urgency, and importance because this is the only life we have is the true key to “eternal life.” For eternal life is not about time. It is about living every moment now – in the present moment, where time does not exist.
All this being said, death will forever be the bafflng mystery of life we will never completely know. And since one cannot live without another dying, just as one must die so another may live, at least one fundamental Truth is clear – Life and Death are One, not two separate things, but aspects of the same One. As Jesus said in Thomas 22:4, 7, “When you make the two into one…then you will enter the Father’s domain.” There are no doubt aspects of existence we can know nothing about, but what we can know for sure is this – in all things, no matter what, the only Reality is Truth, God, Love, the One. That which is not Truth, not Reality is the ego, the self-concept, the many, as these things are ever-changing, passing, and illusory.
The very notion of “what happens after death” is irrelevant since now is eternity. This very moment has always been and will forever be. This very moment is the “space,” the emptiness of the question, in which Truth lives. This moment is therefore “eternity,” as the present moment, right now has always been and always will be. Time, and its belief of life being a “line” with a beginning, middle, and end is of the ego, and time is the lie which convinces us things “begin” and “end” when in Truth, nothing ever begins or ends. Time lies to us and tells us “eternity” is “forever,” when it is actually nothing more than now – Right Now, the present moment. Truth does not live within the limits of time, nor in the demand for answers. It lives in the timeless, the non-answer, the question, the open. That is why we must always question, to be forever in that Oneness of All, that state in which there is nothing concrete, nothing to hold on to, as Truth has no object, and as such, illustrates the fact that Life, like death, is about letting go.
Asking what happens after death is the same as asking who Jesus “is.” The question is not as much the issue as is the insistent demand for an “answer.” This demand is again, the demand for “proof,” which is merely the demand for assurance for our egos. While understandable, it is still an illusion. When True awareness of the timeless, choiceless One dawns, and identity with the self ends in letting go of itself, then these questions matter little. As Jesus said in Thomas 18:2, “Have you found the beginning, then, that you are looking for the end? You see, then end where be where the beginning is. Congratulations to the one who stands at the beginning: that one will know the end and will not taste death.”……..