Hitting the Wall, then Oblivion?
Posted on 17 August 2020, 8:50
With Hurricane Douglas on a direct path toward Hawaii, where I live, during the last week of July, I had doubts about making it to my next age milestone of 1000 months on August 2. Hurricanes are fairly new to us, apparently the result of global warming, and the homes here are not constructed to resist such strong winds. We have few shelters – just enough for the homeless – and we can’t jump in our cars and flee from it as people on the mainland do. Thus, as Douglas moved closer and closer, I had visions of flying off with our house while grasping the leg of the heavy oak table in the dining room and embracing my wife.
A much greater fear was that I would survive the hurricane with no house and all worldly goods strewn over the nearby mountain range. I could envision living my final days in this realm of existence in a grass shack much like the one in the accompanying photo. If my house were to survive the hurricane winds, I thought about the good possibility that we would be without electricity for weeks, if not months, and I recalled the time a few years ago when less-than-hurricane winds left us without electricity for the better part of a day, during which time the temperature in the house, with windows boarded up, rose to an almost unbearable 115 degrees. Those fears of living far outweighed the fear of death.
The conviction that I will survive death in a greater reality does much to mitigate the fear of death, whether from a hurricane or bodily functions shutting down. Many of my friends share such a conviction, but I have encountered a number of nihilists who say they do not fear death because they’ll never know it when they are dead. They think like Lucretius, the Epicurean poet, that death is a restful sleep. “Personally, I’ve never been persuaded by the argument that ‘oblivion’ is a terrible fate,” lawyer David Niose, a past-president of the American Humanist Association, expressed this humanist view in Psychology Today a few years ago. “Sure, given the choice of living or not – to be or not to be – I’d really prefer the former, but sooner or later we must all come down to the homestretch in life, and to many humanists the non-existence that awaits at the finish line is nothing to be feared.” Niose added that he expects non-existence after death to be much like it was before birth, which he didn’t mind at all.
Niose’s seemingly fearless approach may very well work for some, especially those still fairly distant from what they see as the abyss of nothingness. I recall a friend with somewhat the same heroism, if it can be so called, until he was diagnosed with a terminal illness. As I tried to console him in his final days, his fear manifested as severe trembling and a paralyses that prevented him from even talking. “The moralist must hold his breath and keep his muscles tense; and so long as this athletic attitude is possible all goes well – morality suffices,” wrote William James, one of the pioneers of psychology. “But the athletic attitude tends ever to break down and it inevitably does break down even in the most stalwart when the organism begins to decay, or when morbid fears invade the mind.”
Carl Jung, another pioneer of modern psychology, took something of a Pascalian view. He wrote that “death is an important interest, especially to an aging person.” He added that everyone should have a myth about death, “for reason shows him nothing but the dark pit into which he is descending. Myth, however, can conjure up other images for him, helpful and enriching pictures of life in the land of the dead. If he believes in them, or greets them with some measure of credence, he is being just as right or just as wrong as someone who does not believe in them. But while the man who despairs marches toward nothingness, the one who has placed his faith in the archetype follows the tracks of life and lives right into his death. Both, to be sure, remain in uncertainty, but the one lives against his instincts, the other with them.”
Jung likened life’s energy flow to that of “a runner who strives with the greatest effort and utmost expenditures of strength to reach his goal.” Sooner or later, however, the striving ends. “With the same intensity and irresistibility with which it strove upward before middle age, life now descends; for the goal no longer lies on the summit, but in the valley where the ascent began.” As psychologist Herman Feifel noted, Jung stressed the point that the rationalistic view of death – that of the nihilist – tends to isolate man from his psychological self and underlines the need for psychology to digest certain parapsychological findings. Many nihilists, however, are successful in repressing the idea of complete extinction, of obliteration, by engaging in mostly meaningless world activities – reading fiction, playing golf, watching ball games, whatever, until death comes knocking.
Jung’s runner analogy, Niose’s metaphorical reference to the “homestretch,” and James’s to the “athletic attitude” all bring to mind the marathon running experience. If I accurately recall the physiological aspects of running the 26.2-mile endurance challenge, the runner depends on carbohydrates in his or her body for energy and then somewhere around 20 miles, when the “carbs” are depleted, he or she switches over to fat burning to avoid “hitting the wall,” as it is called. The runner not properly conditioned to switch from carbs to fat burning will hit that wall and painfully struggle to make it to the finish line. As I see it, the nihilist is much like that unconditioned runner. As he approaches life’s homestretch, his heroic approach dissipates and he begins to flounder. His early courage is now seen as nothing more than bravado. There may be exceptions, but I don’t recall having met one.
Most of the nihilists I have encountered over the years are rebels against religion and have little or no understanding of the survival evidence gathered outside of orthodox religion. When such evidence is called to their attention, they’ll check Wikipedia and parrot the debunker’s view of whatever phenomenon is being cited. They apply terrestrial standards to celestial matters of which science has no clue. They assume that it is necessary to prove an anthropomorphic God before considering the evidence for survival of the consciousness at death. They further assume that the afterlife is nothing more than strumming harps and praising an angry God, something that seems inconceivable for an eternity. They are victims of scientism, scoffing and sneering at all those subscribing to “religious” superstitions.
Alan Harrington, author of the 1969 book, The Immortalist, seems to have been a more objective humanist, or nihilist. “An unfortunate awareness has overtaken our species,” he wrote. “Masses of men and women everywhere no longer believe that they have even the slightest chance of living beyond the grave. The unbeliever pronounces a death sentence on himself. For millions this can be not merely disconcerting but a disastrous perception.”
As Harrington viewed it, when people are deprived of rebirth vision, they “suffer recurring spells of detachment, with either violence or apathy to follow.” Harrington saw mass-atheism as responsible for most, if not all, of society’s ills, including misplaced sexual energy. “Orgies, husband and wife swaps, and the like, more popular than ever among groups of quite ordinary people, represent a mass assault on the mortal barrier,” he opined. If Harrington were alive today, I suspect he would see much of the turmoil and chaos in today’s world resulting from nihilism.
“The state of anxiety, the feeling of powerlessness and insignificance, and especially the doubt concerning one’s future after death, represent a state of mind which is practically unbearable for anybody,” wrote Erich Fromm, another humanist philosopher.
The nihilist usually interprets all that to suggest that those who are interested in an afterlife are not making the most of this life. Sir Oliver Lodge, a renowned British physicist, was asked about this after devoting much time to psychical research. “It is no doubt possible, as always, to overstep the happy mean, and by absorption in and premature concerns with future interests to lose the benefit and training of this present life,” he responded. “But although we may rightly decide to live with full vigour in the present, and do our duty from moment to moment, yet in order to be full-flavoured and really intelligent beings – not merely with mechanical draft following the line of least resistance – we ought to be aware that there is a future, a future determined to some extent by action in the present; and it is only reasonable that we should seek to ascertain, roughly and approximately, what sort of future it is likely to be.”
Hurricane Douglas took a little turn and missed Hawaii by a hundred miles or so, allowing me to make that 1000-month milestone. With other hurricanes expected to follow and with bodily functions gradually shutting down, I don’t know how many months I have left in this realm of existence, but the conviction that my consciousness will survive my physical death permits a certain peace of mind, one which I am pretty certain I would not have as a nihilist. As the great philosopher and poet Goethe put it, “When a man is seventy-five he cannot help sometimes thinking about death. The thought of it leaves me perfectly calm, for I am convinced that our spirit is absolutely indestructible…it is like the sun which only seems to sink and in reality never sinks at all.”
Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His forthcoming book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is due in January 2021.
Next blog post: August 31
Wonderful discussion and article per usual You
Karen Herrick, Sun 23 Aug, 13:40
guys have made my Sunday morning more pleasant. Blessings to all Karen
Yes, I agree with much of what you are saying in your first para. The Vedantic tradition would tend to say that the answer to “Why us and all this stuff?” is “That’s not the sort of question that can be answered.” But, on the basis of my own studies, I think the best answer is very much along the lines of what you propose: the Real has immediate and direct Self-knowledge, but out of Its infinitude, also ‘generates’ mediated and indirect Self-knowledge. The ‘Dreamer dreams’, you might say. That is, if you like, where we and the world come in: we are the Real’s indirect, mediated knowledge of Itself. The Islamic tradition has a saying that captures this as well and pithily as anything I have ever come across. “I was a Hidden Treasure that loved to be known. Therefore, I created the creatures that I might be known.” (Hadith Qudsi). Let me recommend three authors that I think would be very amenable to your outlook and go into great metaphysical depth along the lines you suggest. First, Thomas Troward, particularly his “Edinburgh Lectures on Mental Science”. Second Raynor Johnson, particularly his “Nurslings of Immortality”. Third, E. Douglas Fawcett, particularly his “Zermatt Dialogues” and “Oberland Dialogues”. Troward’s and Fawcett’s work may be found in pdf via book search at Internet Archive.
As for Spira’s views on the postmortem state, I would view these as provisional. He is, if you like, a ‘subject matter expert’ on a very important subject, but does not possess ‘trumping’ knowledge on other specialized topics by virtue of his own direct insight into the nature of Being. If you were to ask him a question on, say, tensor calculus, he might have something of relevance to say, but only if he had studied that particular topic. Let me give another, somewhat related case, that of Paul Brunton, who first introduced Ramana Maharshi to the West and who had a great depth of knowledge on a wide variety of spiritually-related topics as well as a great depth of realized insight. Yet, in his two masterworks, “The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga” and “The Wisdom of the Overself”, he has a chapter in the former, titled ‘The Scorpion of Death’, in which he – in my view, based on my own wide-ranging studies – has only a highly partial and incomplete view on discarnate reality. For all his deservedly-earned reputation, he is not the best resource on the topic. One could make similar statements regarding Swedenborg and Steiner, individuals of immense accomplishment. One has to look at where the bulk of consistent testimony leads.
Regarding your third para, yes I agree, and this is in agreement with the bulk of consistent testimony that we have. This is apart from the question of reincarnation vis-à-vis continued discarnate progression, which has been worked over at length in recent posts – in part by myself – and which you have likely already seen. A last thought, one that ‘mashes up’ Vedanta with Robert Crookall: if the ‘sage’ – the apparent individual in which Being or the Real has realized Itself – possesses individuality while in the body, why should this only apply to the outermost, physical body? Following Crookall, the ‘sage’ (and everyone else) has multiple, nested subtle bodies, which form in turn outermost ‘vehicles of consciousness’ as various ‘stages’ of discarnate ‘progression’. What if the ‘sage’, in his ‘astral/etheric body’, also has need, given that subtle embodiment, of a sense of individuality? This would make a great deal of sense, given that embodiment is practically synonymous with a limitation of perspective to a particular locus, consistent with the very notion of individuality, which might be seen as a limitation of ‘generalized’ awareness to a particular locus. This would be good question to put to Dennis Waite, who fields questions on his blog and has a tremendous depth of knowledge in the Advaitic tradition.
A final thought, based on what I have stated above. I haven’t seen this formulation before, but one way of conceiving what a ‘realized sage’ is may be in terms of Being or the Real simultaneously possessing in an individual locus both indirect, mediated Self-knowledge (the general situation for us all) as well as direct, unmediated Self-knowledge. The ‘realized sage’ sees both the world and himself in conventional terms – ‘out there’ and ‘in here’ – but also sees them as nothing other than the Real in Self-expression.
Paul, Sat 22 Aug, 13:07
I am very aware of the evidence for afterlife, thanks in no small part to Michael’s efforts over the years, but I doubt that evidence is ever enough to make one believe unless it’s first-hand or it’s what you want to believe. At age 78 I feel no need to believe in an afterlife.
coyd, Sat 22 Aug, 00:26
My own writing has failed to interest anyone. That weighs more heavily on me than the possibility of extinction.
Yes, I will continue to listen to Rupert Spira because I do wish to understand non-duality. I do recognise the absolute, the singular source of all and that the all is yet the absolute. My own take is perhaps somewhat different to his, however. I see that the absolute is finding ways to experience its potential by creating self-aware avatars (I hope that’s the right word). In short, the source is aware of everything experienced by each and every avatar but the avatar is not aware of that experienced by the source (except, perhaps, in profound glimpses).
Is there a requirement or an inevitability that the avatar be recalled to merge back into the source? If so, is this immediately following physical death? Spira speaks of a short interlude after death in which the personality finds itself in the bardo. That, I think, is how he explains the well documented NDEs we are all so familiar with these days.
Yet I find this is still at odds with other evidence that the human personality not only survives long enough to experience another reality but is around for a considerable time (in earthly terms) thereafter. I can relate a personal anecdote concerning my aforementioned step-mother: I attended a Spiritualist church a couple of years ago out of curiosity and a medium there described my step-mother pretty well and delivered a message which was specifically related to the nature of our relationship. Not a slam-dunk proof but pretty convincing. My step-mother has been in the afterlife for over 50 years.
David Chamberlain, Fri 21 Aug, 21:35
Why is there a need for spirit entities to materialize in physical form; they are spirits after all. What is the need for a spirit to have fingerprints, sweating glistening skin or a beating heart, pulse or other physical manifestations including a direct voice before a crowd of on-lookers. If there is an expectation for spirits to materialize in physical form then why isn’t there also an expectation that every one of us in physical form should be able to manifest in spiritual form. What is preventing that from happening? (Actually rare individuals say they can do this.)
Well, the same thing that prevents those in the physical from manifesting in spiritual form in the afterlife is the same thing that prevents spirit beings from manifesting in physical form from the afterlife. That’s just not the way things work. It just normally can’t be done without great effort by gifted individuals.
If one is disappointed that one’s dead grandmother does not appear in full form at one’s bedside then why isn’t one disappointed that an appearance at her bedside in the afterlife is not possible by those in physical form?
Actually I think that some people may expect that departed spirits become omniscient or omnipotent after transitioning to the spirit world. That they suddenly are granted special powers which they did not have while embodied on earth. But what is often reported through mediums and near death experiencers and others is that life in the spirit realm it not a whole lot different from life in the physical realm with a few exceptions. Most importantly it seems that movement in a spirit environment and communication between spirits is accomplished by desire, thought transference and symbols. And, that seems to me to make a lot of sense. Language is only a set of agreed-upon written and sound symbols within a culture which in spirit communication are not necessary as communication seems to be by direct thought transference allowing all peoples from all cultures and times to communicate.
There seems to be some people who are disappointed that spirits don’t materialize in front of them, make a radio appearance or call up on the telephone . To expect that seems to me to expect two vibrational world energies to merge somehow Granted, on rare occasions that may happen and there are believable reports that it has happened at times but that is not the norm nor is it a reasonable expectation. It takes tremendous effort on both sides of the veil to interconnect and most physically embodied spirits and disembodied spirits just can’t muster up the degree of energy necessary to do that
Amos Oliver Doyle, Fri 21 Aug, 21:15
One needs to keep in mind that aging eyes and certain mental conditions can generate visual hallucinations also. I myself have ocular migraines, macular degeneration, cataracts and a detaching vitreous as well as deteriorating visual acuity due to age all of which contribute to my seeing things that are not there. - AOD
Stealing a line from Chico Marx in the 1933 movie “Duck Soup” I am sure that Sir William Crookes would have said at the Florence Cook/Katie King sittings “Who are you going to believe, me, or your lying eyes?”
I think I will go with my lying eyes on this one. - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Fri 21 Aug, 18:17
It’s interesting that you should mention Rupert Spira, as I’m just in the middle of reading the manuscript of his forthcoming book. I know his teachings very well, as well as those of other expositors in the broader tradition in which he is placed, known as the Direct Path, which traces back to Atmananda Krishna Menon, and which is a particular expression of Advaita Vedanta
With regard to your take on Spira’s teachings, it is not so much a question of abandonment as it is that of clear seeing. To take a page from traditional Advaitic instruction, the core of the teaching is that “The Absolute is real, the world is not; the individual soul is not other than the Absolute.” The typical three-fold pattern of taking on the teaching is that of, first, hearing the teaching, second, reflecting upon and absorbing the teaching, third, stabilization of one’s understanding of the teaching.
At first, one’s understanding is merely intellectual, but as this deepens with reflection, questioning, clearing up of confusions, and absorption, eventually “the penny drops” and one sees clearly and directly that there is nothing other than the Absolute, both within and without. However, in actual practice, what happens is that following the first taste of this clear and direct insight, the ego “comes roaring back”. Thus the need for further stabilization of one’s understanding even following initial clear and direct insight.
The irony of the teaching is that there are no “enlightened beings or sages,” as there is in fact only Being itself. And we, even now in our egoic limitation, are that. Nevertheless, those who have stabilized this insight and are, in conventional terms, recognized as “enlightened sages”, still have “egos”, still have individual personalities, although no doubt considerably purified ones, and could hardly function in the world without such. Further, a comparison of such individuals will clearly reveal that they are not “cookie cutter copies” of one another, but rather retain distinct individuality. The conveyed personality of Ramana Maharshi was quite different from that of Nisargadatta Maharaj, for instance.
Traditional Advaitic teaching holds that such an individual egoic personality is maintained until the death of the body and then absorbed back into the Absolute. I don’t know if this is true. If you look at Michael’s blog post of May 25th 2020, he comments on my reconstruction of the Green Book, which is a collection of teachings by an apparently discarnate enlightened sage. For my money, it is one of the most metaphysically interesting discarnate communications we have in the entire literature. If this communication is to be accepted as legitimate, then it would appear to contradict traditional Advaitic teaching regarding the dissolution of the individual personality upon bodily death
In Frederic Myers’ posthumous book “The Road to Immortality”, he writes of the seventh level and absorption into the Godhead - to paraphrase - also commenting that such a path is not for all souls. He does also say however (and here, I am quoting from memory as I don’t have the book in front of me, given that I’m still on vacation) that one’s individuality is not wholly lost even at that stage.
So this gives you three “data points” as it were, the evident individualities of incarnate sages, the apparent individuality of at least one discarnate sage, and the pointing from a deeply knowledgeable discarnate researcher that, even at the highest level, some sense of individuality is maintained. Of course, this is a kind of unity with distinctions, or an apparent multiplicity in actual unity, and does not violate the deeper metaphysical truth of the unity of Being.
In closing, if it wasn’t already evident from my other comments, I certainly recommend Spira’s teaching to you, as well as those of Greg Goode and Francis Lucille, all of whom are within the same teaching lineage mentioned above. I might also recommend you look at the many writings of Dennis Waite, who is an excellent expositor of traditional Advaita Vedanta and who complements these other teachers very well (and also thinks well of them).
Paul, Fri 21 Aug, 13:46
This reincarnation business is a red herring invented by professional wreckers like James Randi in order to make sure people never find out that Sir William Crookes proved survival in 1874. When Rita Goold’s etheric team asked me if there was anybody they would like then to get for me as I was coming back next week with my mother. I said in 1983 that I would love to meet my father again who passed over in 1967. They did not say, “sorry he has been reincarnated.” They said, “If he is over here with us, we will try and dig him out.”
Michael Roll, Fri 21 Aug, 08:52
Click onto the front page of my website:
Here you can read the results of Sir William Crookes three years experiments proving survival.
Click onto Florence Cook. It is only a materialisation medium that can prove survival, all five senses are working at one of these experiments. Mental mediums only give good evidence. Michael Roll
Hi again and thank you for your helpful observations.
“Is the source of your fear based in the residue of doubt that you possess regarding survival? Or is it based in something else, something more subtle? It is in the nature of the ego to be afraid - that is just what egos do. And there is very often a gap between “head knowledge” and, let us say, “embodied knowledge.” It may simply be that you have the first but not the second.”
Yes! This “more subtle” ego fear is the crux of the matter. It is the conclusion I have come to myself.
“That’s the same reason I hate driving over a bridge especially one that is long and rises so that I cannot see the other side.”
I also have a fear of driving over bridges but mine is a fear of heights. Again it is irrational because I am not going to drive through those substantial barriers and fall to my death into the river below, but just the sight of the river below has me tempted to drive across with my eyes closed.
“The extent to which our personality and consciousness remain identifiable as “our own”—-vs. the extent to which we’ll exist as part of something even larger than the “group soul”—-or eventually, be fully absorbed into “God”—-is a question that even the most highly-placed of our various other-side sources don’t begin to have an answer.”
This is part of the same fear, I think. The ego fears oblivion even if that comes as a result of merging, returning or dissipating into the source from which we came. It is still the loss of personal identity. I recently watched a few talks (on YouTube) by Rupert Spira and he, I think, subscribes to this view where the personal identity is abandoned much as the physical body is abandoned. I get the impression that this is the inevitable conclusion of non-duality: a single, undivided awareness. My own conclusion falls somewhat short of that in that I imagine that the source has intentionally divided into as many forms as it can imagine even though these forms are never really outside or separate, they have self-awareness and, as in the sub-title of Seth Speaks, “eternal validity”.
“Fearing dying is one thing, fearing death quite another. Good luck in coming to grips with the issue.”
Thank you, Michael. Yes, I agree. There is something that gives me comfort although I will only experience it in my final moments. My step-mother, in her hospital bed just days before she died, was asked by a priest “Are you ready?” I was angry at his directness (I was only 18 at the time) but her answer has stayed with me ever since. She said that yes, she was ready and that she was at peace and looking forward to moving on. Having read several books about the dying process, it seems that this acceptance is common and I can only hope for it as I approach my departure. On the other hand, I remember reading about the final moments of the great mathematician, John von Neumann, who suffered from a similar fear to my own and raged against the dying of the light.
David Chamberlain, Thu 20 Aug, 22:23
“moving from one room to another”, AFAIK, was Hellen Keller’s description of what she believed death to be like. At least there’s that famous quote of hers: “Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there’s a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see.”
Is there a shared source of inspiration here, maybe an idiom or a classical literary source of which I’m ignorant?
ududy22 ., Thu 20 Aug, 20:16
As one who likes to have control over my life, fear of dying for me means loss of control. Once one is in the process of dying or is dead there can be no coming back, (Well, usually!) There is no other direction one can take other than to go forward into whatever death brings, either oblivion or continuation in another dimension either good or bad. That is the real fear for me.
That’s the same reason I hate driving over a bridge especially one that is long and rises so that I cannot see the other side. That is, once I have committed to driving over the bridge I have to continue, I can’t turn around or stop and if it is an arched bridge I don’t know where I am going since I can’t see the other side. For me death and driving over a bridge generate the same anticipatory anxiety - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Thu 20 Aug, 16:42
Several thoughts in response to your very elegantly stated “cri de couer”...
Firstly—-and please take this in the spirit in which it’s intended—-as you are apparently well acquainted with at least some of the evidence firmly pointing to our continued survival, the problem you’re having may well indicate some type of “mental block” which might be responsive to professional therapy. I have no personal experience in this area (other than as a patient MANY moons ago)but it may be worth looking into.
Secondly—-you’re not alone. Even after my many years of research in this field, I also find myself, at times, very much questioning what lies ahead. NOT the fact that continued existence lies ahead—-the evidence for that is just too extensive and too powerful to dismiss. Rather, I find myself questioning the NATURE of that existence, specifically as we develop and move on to the higher levels of the afterlife. In a nutshell, I question the continuance (or non) of our existence as “individuals.” The extent to which our personality and consciousness remain identifiable as “our own”—-vs. the extent to which we’ll exist as part of something even larger than the “group soul”—-or eventually, be fully absorbed into “God”—-is a question that even the most highly-placed of our various other-side sources don’t begin to have an answer. The most interesting evaluation—-I’m not sure if it was from Myers or someone else—-was that no matter how much things might change as we develop, “nothing is lost.”
Don Porteous, Thu 20 Aug, 15:50
I’m sorry to hear that your conviction, even if not 100%, doesn’t mitigate the fear of death for you. I don’t know if I have any answers other than to suggest you may fear the fear of death more than death itself or you are actually fearing the dying process rather than death, per se. I don’t think that is unusual. I have the same reservations about going to the doctor and being told of some terminal condition, which I’d prefer not to know about. Fearing dying is one thing, fearing death quite another. Good luck in coming to grips with the issue.
Michael Tymn, Thu 20 Aug, 15:36
People are funny. On the face of it, it shouldn’t seem that either the insouciant individual convinced of personal annihilation or the fear-ridden individual convinced of personal continuance should exist as actual possibilities, and yet, as you and your son demonstrate, they do. The latter case, however, seems easier to understand, for even if conviction is based on abundant evidence, the residue of doubt can remain.
You say that your conviction is “a little shy of 100%.” I suspect that in practice, none of us do better than this. There is always a residue of dissatisfaction with the evidence that remains even after many years of study. I myself have this. There are certain things I wish were clearer or possessed more wide-ranging and consistent testimony. Conviction is by nature asymptotic and rarely if ever converges to completion. Fortunately, this is not necessary.
Is the source of your fear based in the residue of doubt that you possess regarding survival? Or is it based in something else, something more subtle? It is in the nature of the ego to be afraid - that is just what egos do. And there is very often a gap between “head knowledge” and, let us say, “embodied knowledge.” It may simply be that you have the first but not the second.
A point of comparison that strikes me here is the distinction between, say, someone who is undergone a near-death experience vis-a-vis someone who has merely read or watched numerous near-death experience accounts. There is great value in the latter. In fact Bruce Greyson (I believe I have that right, and sorry for the lack of a reference, but I’m on vacation and don’t have my sources readily available) authored a paper comparing the psychological benefits of those who had actually undergone near-death experiences against those who had merely read numerous near-death experience accounts and found that even the latter accrued many of the benefits of the former. Nevertheless, it’s not the same. The latter still only have head knowledge while the former have embodied knowledge.
What should you, personally, do however to alleviate the fear that rides you? I think it is very hard to give general answers in such a case and I don’t know your situation to advise in detail, but what I might suggest is that you try to analyze or discover what your sense of fear is rooted in. Is it the residue of doubt in the possibility of survival? Or is it something else?
As I believe I have commented upon in an earlier post, one may certainly legitimately fear the dying process with its attendant limitations and pains and one may also certainly fear posthumous “sorting” into a discarnate situation congruent with one’s inner nature. One might also legitimately fear certain forms of dying such as by explosion, as discussed in Robert Crookall’s “The Supreme Adventure”. But dying itself is an inevitability and leads inevitably, according to the best evidence, to continuation in “new life”.
In reference to this same text, it might be useful for you to reconceptualize what dying in fact is. Crookall is perhaps the best source we have for the doctrine of multiple subtle bodies as extracted from discarnate-related evidence. As he makes abundantly clear, dying is simply the dropping of the outermost body and habitation in the next outermost body which we in fact carry and live in now, however little we realize this. Near-death experience accounts, which are both numerous and extensively studied and which typically feature the astral or etheric body, depending on whatever name you give it, are very clear evidence of the existence of such a subtle body. Out of body experiences lend evidence to the same. As an imprecise analogy, it’s a bit like stepping out of one’s suit and standing in one’s undergarments. Who would fear that?
It is a curious thing that only rarely seems commented upon that two aspects of discarnate existence - reincarnation and the group soul - both involve a certain loss of egoic identity, tightly conceived. The first through a kind of overlayment of new personality and the second through a kind of merging with other personalities. Yet somehow, this does not seem to evoke the same egoic fear even among those convinced of survival. Why should this be?
Paul, Thu 20 Aug, 12:54
Permit me one more poem by Patience Worth. - AOD
HOW SHALL I DIE?
How shall I die?
Shall I lay me down upon a rosed couch—-
Sipping cool waters, and languorously die?
Shall I do some mighty deed!
Split open my throat to sing beyond my brothers?
Plunge my blade within a bath of blood
To write my name in scarlet
On the script of time?
How shall I die?
Shall I meet Death, and embrace her while sleeping,
Believing her my love, never knowing,
That the hour for the Great Encounter hath come?
How shall I die?
A hero, leaving Earth to shout my plaudits?
Or shall I know the morning,
That bringeth forth my bride Death
In her white robes, smiling,
And pointing not unto some darksome way,
But unto my Kingdom?
Shall I then kiss my blade and follow her—-
New days to conquer?—-God grant it!
Amos Oliver Doyle, Thu 20 Aug, 12:09
Just as a note: My aged grandfather after he had a near death experience reported he met a woman dressed in white whom he thought was his bride and he was going to get married.
This blog post is particularly relevant to me as I shall explain.
You say “The conviction that I will survive death in a greater reality does much to mitigate the fear of death…” but I have to say that, for me, there is no such mitigation. Admittedly, my conviction is a little shy of 100% but I would argue the case for survival at any opportunity. Nevertheless, I am encumbered by a fear of death that has been with me since childhood and only gets more intense as my three-score-years-and-ten looms into view.
When others ask me why I am afraid I find it difficult to explain. My son - a beloved and good-hearted nihilist - says that he is not afraid because there is nothing to fear after death - literally nothing. Others who share my worldview supporting the idea of an afterlife say, much as you do, that there is nothing to fear about death because there is no death. Yet I am full of dread. I dread a visit to my GP in case some test discovers a terminal cancer. I dread the thought of knowing that my days are numbered and I know the number.
So I gravitate towards discussions like this, looking for ever more evidence as though I don’t have enough already. I really could write a book relating all that evidence, much as you and many others have done. And I do find the evidence compelling. I just wish that my ego would sit up and take notice because I am convinced that it is my ego that is the part of me living in fear.
Michael, thank you for your words, they do provide comfort.
David Chamberlain, Thu 20 Aug, 03:05
Thank you for the comment. I must confess that haunted houses is a subject that has not really interested me and I have not watched more than a few minutes of any of those TV programs dealing with the subject.
Michael Tymn, Wed 19 Aug, 20:07
Two additional points I might mention with regard to your observations on the stance of the humanist/nihilist are, on the one hand its essential cold-heartedness, and on the other hand, it’s essential avoidance. With regard to the first, it is not that the humanist merely condemns himself to postmortem oblivion, but that he also condemns all of humanity to the same fate, including those whom he claims most to love and hold most dear. With regard to the second, the first point could be understandable were it not that he is actively avoidant of possible evidence of post-mortem survival contrary to his own dismal view. There is something deeply perverse in this, something that might be inexcusable in an individual, were it not for the fact that so many contemporary humanists/nihilists are essentially intellectual victims of the culture to which they have been born. Strangely, this often applies most strongly to those who are most intelligent and intellectually accomplished in modern worldly terms, who might be thought to have the wit to see their way out of the intellectual trap, and yet somehow are the ones who tend to be caught in it all the more readily and firmly.
Paul, Wed 19 Aug, 20:06
Yes, the book is being processed by White Crow Books. Things are somewhat backed up because of the pandemic. Thank you for your interest.
Also, thanks to Gaby for the comment and to Amos for the link and quote. .
Michael Tymn, Wed 19 Aug, 10:35
Dear Michael thank you for a most interesting and thoughtful post; from recollection Alan Harrington who tackled the meaningless corporate life in his classic ‘Life in the Crystal Palace’ (1959) was writing about cryogenics and trying to achieve a physical immortality. Over the years talking with many psychic investigators who look into haunted houses few among those who take a parapsychological perspective feel that they have turned up much in the way to support the hypothesis that ghostly manifestations are signs of survival or intelligent communication. However, once disembodied one’s perceptions may be of a wholly different nature which it is impossible to comprehend or describe in language. Of all the ghost hunters I have known personally, writer and broadcaster Dennis Bardens (1911-2004) author of Ghosts and Hauntings (1965) was the most eloquent and optimistic concerning post-mortem survival. Speaking at a meeting of the Ghost Club at the Wig and Pen Club in November 1999 he compared dying to “moving from one room to another” or “chrysalis turning into a butterfly”. He was convinced by personal experiences and those of many others over he had met over a 70-year period as well as that accumulated by psychical researchers from 1882. At his funeral in February 2004 the cheerful song ‘Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries’ was played as the closing music to remind mourners of his confidence.
ALAN MURDIE, Wed 19 Aug, 10:18
Rod Johnson, Wed 19 Aug, 03:03
Is your new book still
going on sell this year?
I look forward to its publication. Thanks!
I very much enjoyed reading this article and the comments. Everyday conversations even with elderly people do not go very deep into the subject, so it is satisfying for me reading here. Thank you so much, to all. I have no doubt that the soul lives on after death. In my experience, death comes when it is time to come. Often fear of death is in vain.
Gaby Kessler, Tue 18 Aug, 21:59
Paul and Art,
Yes, the afterlife experiences of the nihilist are definitely a consideration. They may very well struggle in a dream world, not realizing they are dead for a period of time, however time plays out there. When my nihilist friend comments that if he’s wrong he’ll know about it right away, I tell him not to count on it. I tell him that I will try to get him to understand that he is dead, but just as he doesn’t believe me know he won’t believe me then.
Thanks to Amos for the additional links. They are very interesting and helpful.
Michael Tymn, Tue 18 Aug, 21:24
Amos Oliver Doyle, Tue 18 Aug, 19:59
“Happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it will elude you; but, if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.” - Henry David Thoreau
I have mentioned several times on this website and provided several links to a German website ‘Empirische Jenseitsforschung’ on YouTube. I like this website because it provides first-hand information, “hard evidence”, from people who have had a near death experience or who experience some other uncommon psychic gifts. This is not second or third had information from a book written 100 or 150 years ago. It is current up-to date reports of people living today. It is something I refer to as “hard evidence” and not embellished by writers who want to sell a book. The information is “straight from the horse’s mouth” so to speak. The moderator wisely does not ask many leading questions but has a standard list of questions he asks all of the participants he interviews. It is very low key and photographed in high definition; a very well-done interview site.
It is in German so that may turn off English speakers but there has been a great effort to provide English translations for most of the interviews. The auto-generated translations are not good so don’t use them. Not all videos have English translations but many do. Check the settings icon at the bottom of the video and turn on the English translation if there is one.
Don’t stop at just one video. Try to find and watch all of them; there are many. The preponderance of similar information from those who have experienced near death is overwhelming and very convincing. There are differences in the near death experience of course but overall there are some underlying similarities in all of them that support what many bloggers on this site have been saying over and over again and have gleaned from other writers.
Don’t overlook this very informative website. I surmise that there are many other sources of paranormal information in the world that are overlooked by English speaking people just because there are not translated into English. e.g., Chico Xavier in Portuguese. Don’t let that stop you from perusing ‘Empirische Jenseitsforschung’. I think it has some corroborating hard evidence to provide about life after death. – AOD
Here is one of the more recent ones.
Amos Oliver Doyle, Tue 18 Aug, 16:50
Another point to bring into the discussion is a consideration of the discarnate cost of a secular, materialist, ,humanist, nihilist framework of belief. Given that such a framework does not accord with reality, there is, as I see it, a twofold cost to be borne. First, that of simply having to unlearn that which one has falsely learned. The degree of difficulty will vary with the individual, but with some “hard cases”, they could be “stuck” in their false belief and only extract themselves with difficulty. This is not a “judgment” but rather the natural consequence of a misalignment of outlook. Second, that of the possible or even likely erosion of character in light of such beliefs and the consequent discarnate consequences attending upon this. Again, this is not a judgment, but rather the natural effect of the “specific gravity” that leads the soul to discarnate conditions suited to its nature. Of course, many a humanist would claim to be morally “good” and in a contemporary conventional way many are. But there are fundamental distinctions between such contemporary goodness and goodness traditionally understood. On this, see, for instance, Alastair McIntyre’s “After Virtue”. Neither of these costs are considered by the contemporary secular humanist. They are not escaped through such ignorance, however, but rather must be borne in due season. As a final related point, do wonder about the distinction between an essentially privately held humanism vs one that is noisily preached so as to implant the maximum number of incarnate souls with such beliefs. What is the additional attendant cost to be borne by such false secular proselytism?
Paul, Tue 18 Aug, 11:51
From all the near death experience descriptions I’ve read death is not exactly like walking through a doorway because the physics of the other side seems to be very different than the physics we normally enjoy here. The physics of heaven seems to be much more akin to what Michael Talbott wrote about in his book The Holographic Universe, the physics of holographic film which means that everything that is here is also there but we won’t be as tied to space and time as we are here and our thoughts will control where and when and what we are experiencing. We won’t be limited to just one space and time like we are in this dimension. Also the separation that we experience here simply doesn’t exist in heaven like it does here which leads me to believe that everything we have loved and lost in this life will be waiting for us on the other side. In other words we get it all back, everything. Which means the separation we have experienced here simply will not exist on the other side. This place we are now is a holographic projection and the other side seems to be the original holographic film from which our current reality is projected from.
Art, Tue 18 Aug, 11:36
Thanks to all for the comments thus far. As for Dave’s comment, I’m not sure how being “stir-crazy” from confinement overlaps with the fear of death, but I can see some ties. Clearly, much of the world seems to be experiencing some degree of insanity. I think physicist James Beichler hits the nail on the head in suggesting that we are entering an evolutionary period that precedes a probable hereditary leap to a new species of human in the overall human collective and individual human consciousness. He says that such is a leap is preceded by a state of maximum chaos. Can it get any more chaotic?
Michael Tymn, Tue 18 Aug, 01:39
Thanks for this Mike. Always enjoy your posts. And congratulations for making the 1,000 month mark. I like the month as a market rather than years. Somehow the passing of moons seems more human scale than revolutions around the sun. As for me, I think that death is going to be a great adventure - one that I’m looking forward to. It will be interesting to know if I still feel that way in my 999th month.
All the best, BW
Bart Walton, Tue 18 Aug, 00:20
Nihilism leads to a kind of hedonistic approach to life. “If it makes you happy, the rest doesn’t matter”, or “you have to try to be happy” and other such phrases, so commom today, would look a little eccentric or unexpected in the past. Ancient civilizations like the greek knew that the purpose of life is not to have happiness, but to have purpose, and this can be seen in their famous stories such as the Iliad. Pursuit of happines by itself was considered like a plague, responsible for the fall of civilizations, like the Roman. And pursuit of happiness can paradoxicaly lead to unhapiness. Materialistic people are very often very bitter and envious, and that’s a side effect of the hedonistic mind. And then, sure, when they get old they will have a very hard time to deal with said “extinction” - when you’re 20 years old it might be easy, but not so much when you’re nearing 75. Sorry for the bad English.
Josué, Mon 17 Aug, 23:53
Enjoyed this witty essay Mike, thanks. I have experienced some spirit contacts with materialists over the years, a couple were with Christopher Hitchens and are available online at my “anotherwordofgord.wordpress” blog and are included in my book “Embracing Your Divinity - Instead Of Your Doubt”.
gordon phinn, Mon 17 Aug, 22:21
I note that an intelligent and compassionate discussion of this topic in the media is as rare an event as finding hen’s teeth. What a shame Mike’s
Keith P in England, Mon 17 Aug, 20:05
erudite offering does not enjoy far wider coverage; for all out sakes. What can we do about it?
I am as sure that there is a life after bodily death—and this is based on evidence, not on faith—as I am that I am typing this message. But I also have to admit that I don’t fear the idea of extinction. What IS to be feared is the idea of unrelenting pain and punishment after death: and this is what I believe many in the ‘when you’re dead, you’re dead’ school of thought are really rejecting, whether or not they are aware of it.
James McArthur, Mon 17 Aug, 19:45
From a comment in the Daily Telegraph today:
The thing you notice about the responses of the self-proclaimed atheists here is that they are angry people, determined to rain on other people’s parades.
All they have to do re God is, like Voltaire, say ‘I have no need of that hypothesis’, but they don’t.
MickeyD, Mon 17 Aug, 19:27
Another wonderfully erudite article. We must stick to our convictions of survival via the evidence that we have uncovered. There is no other explanation for the best cases that we have uncovered in our quest for truth. Fear is the enemy. P.S. I adore the writing of the Patience Worth persona.
Tricia, Mon 17 Aug, 19:19
Too much context, Michael. There are no conditions to be met and the only pitfalls to be avoided are created by context. Death itself happens in less than the blink of an eye. Many people are taken completely by surprise at the instantaneous nature of the transition. It is hard to let go of the notion that when alive we are immersed in something with which we must come to terms. Physical existence is a total illusion and all that happens at death is that we are made aware of it. The appropriate response to death should be, “Oh, I must have dozed off for a moment. I thought I was having a physical experience.”
Frank Juszczyk, Mon 17 Aug, 19:13
Very nice column. As I read it I got the impression that you were discussing the weltenschauung of the post-World War II materialist, reductionist, Darwinist academics.
You and I for at least 50 years have been familiar with how they see the world.
But something else is going on now. I believe that the Covid-19 Virus pandemic has thrown a monkey wrench into the gears. Several friends that I have had for many decades who are normally well-adjusted and reasonably laid-back have become nervous wrecks due to the effects of the pandemic. The fear of contracting a killer disease and the uncertainty about being able to prevent its contraction has rendered them irritable, cranky, confused and no longer very stable. As the months pass and the number of Covid-19 deaths increases here and elsewhere in the world your average Joe from the 20s through the 80s and beyond have become a jumpy lot indeed.
At least in the minds of the materialist, reductionist, Darwinist academics over the years they believe they were applying pure reason and logic to reaching their oblivion conclusion. Now I sense in the case of so many people I know – my age and much younger – intensifying fear seems to be blotting out reason. The fear is driving them into desperation in the struggle to avoid becoming a Covid 19 Virus victim.
What you have to say about that?
David Stang, Mon 17 Aug, 18:27
I have come to think that if one really believes in survival of a soul and that there is a possibility that the soul reincarnates a few or many times back on earth or some other planet. Then why fear dying? As Helen Keller, who was blind and deaf from early childhood is reported to have once said “Death is like walking from one room into another. The only difference is that I shall be able to see and hear in that other room.” Just for a moment accept as truth that to a soul in another reality who has lived on earth or other places once or many times, death is nothing, just a walking from one room into another. It doesn’t matter how or when one makes that transition or whether the time to return to a life that is short or long, whether peaceful or traumatic. It is of no consequence from that perspective of a parallel reality of the eternal soul. - AOD
On October 16, 1914 the spirit entity Patience Worth dictated to Pearl Curran a poem about dying:
Shall I arise and know thee, brother, when like a bubble
I am blown into eternity from this pipe of clay?
Or shall I burst and float these atoms in a joyous spray
At the beholding of this home prepared for me and thee?
And shall we together mingle our joys in one supreme joy in Him?
It matters not, beloved, so comfort thee,
For should the blowing be the end, what then?
Hast not thy pack been full, and mine?
We are weary of the work of living
And sinking into oblivion would be rest.
But sure as sun shall rise my dust shall be unloosed,
And blown into new fields of new days.
I see full fields yet to be harvested, and I am weary;
I see fresh business of living, work yet to be done, and I am weary.
Oh, let me fold these tired hands and sleep.
Beloved, I trust, and expect my trust, for ne’er yet did He fail.
Amos Oliver Doyle, Mon 17 Aug, 15:09
Patience Worth: October 15, 1914
Another excellent article, and very timely. I note how great numbers of men and women are incarcerating themselves to escape death by the virus. I take the usual precautions and live a fairly normal life. No doubt my attitude is influenced by my confidence that death is not the end. As Goethe says, the sun only appears to set—it doesn’t really.
Stafford Betty, Mon 17 Aug, 14:00
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