On Being Prepared for Death
Posted on 29 January 2018, 9:09
As I was midway through Michael Grosso’s recently reissued book, The Final Choice: Death or Transcendence, my wife’s smartphone beeped (I have a dumbphone, so mine didn’t beep), with an emergency text alert from Hawaii civil defense authorities saying that a ballistic missile was inbound and to seek shelter. It ended with “This is not a drill.”
As widely reported worldwide, it was a false alarm, someone having pushed the wrong button in the civil defense headquarters. Due to bureaucratic bumbling, it took 38 minutes for authorities to notify the public that it was a mistake. During those 38 minutes, many residents and visitors who received the message reportedly suffered varying degrees of anxiety and panic attacks.
The “fallout,” as reported by the media and more directly by some friends caught up in the drama, brought to mind the words of the French philosopher Michel de Montaigne: “They come and they go and they trot and they dance, and never a word about death. All well and good. Yet, when death does come – to them, their wives, their children, their friends – catching them unawares and unprepared, then what storms of passion overwhelm them, what cries, what fury, what despair!” In this case, death didn’t come, but many cries and furies were heard, even death threats made against the anonymous button pusher. The State of Hawaii went so far as to establish a Crisis Line for those unable to deal with the emotional distress and in need of counseling.
All that is not to suggest that those who accept the reality of the survival of consciousness at death would not experience some degree of anxiety at the thought of being annihilated by a nuclear bomb or that they would simply say, “Bring it on!” It is to suggest, however, that such anxiety might be considerably mitigated by such a belief and that psychological counseling would not be necessary. The suggestion goes well beyond such a scenario, though, and extends to the way we grieve the deaths of our loved ones. As August Goforth points out in his recently released book, The Risen: A Companion to Grief, knowing that life continues beyond death makes all things bearable.
Grosso’s book examines humanity’s attitude toward death – from embracing it, as some mystics have done, to escaping from it, as is so common among the masses today. “Beneath the ceaseless changes of history, death remains a changeless fact of life,” Grosso states in the Introduction. “The fact is constant; the meaning varies from culture to culture and from age to age. We are at present living through a twilight of worldviews, and nobody quite has the answers, in spite of science, to the perennial questions and great mysteries of life and death.” He adds that the book is born of the discontent with the materialism of the ruling classes in many places, a discontent that ends “with the core image of nothingness waiting to swallow us up in the last act.”
Grosso further notes that the whole subject of human survival of death seems “unfairly to be ignored and even despised.” Lacking, he says, is a picture of the world we can live with, one that we can hold onto when death seems near. “Reductive science smothers us with machines and information,” he offers, “but is useless when it comes to matters of the heart or questions of the soul.”
The author of five other books, including The Man Who Could Fly, discussed in my October 23, 2017 post, Grosso taught humanities and philosophy at Marymount Manhattan College, City University of New York, and New Jersey City University and is affiliated with the Division of Perceptual Studies at the University of Virginia.
Grosso notes that while there is an ever increasing abundance of research, coming to us from mediumship, near-death experiences, reincarnation studies, and deathbed phenomena, suggestive of postmortem survival, belief in an afterlife seems to be at an all-time low. This, he sees, as being the result, in great part, of practical materialism in everyday life leaving little space to encounter the transcendent. In earlier societies, before all the technological advances we have witnessed in recent decades, consciousness was much more permeable to alternate realities. As I read Grosso’s words, I imagined a scene from 1800s, before electronic distractions, in which the woman of the house was knitting and her husband whittling before a fireplace, both frequently staring into the flames and allowing spirit influence to permeate the consciousness and settle in the subconscious.
“Brainwashed by mainstream scientistic materialism, we feel constrained by their ideas of what is possible,” Grosso continues. “Tied to constricted worldviews, we submit to the status quo, however soul-deadening. Faced with more idealistic possibilities, we respond with passive skepticism.” Materialism, he says, neglects the unseen dimension and serves to keep us distracted and unaware of the Transcendent.
Leo Tolstoy’s classic story of Ivan Ilych is cited as perhaps a typical ending for many non-believers. A judge by profession, Ilych looked to pleasure, status and power as his gods, until his world began to crumble as he approached death and what he saw as an abyss of nothingness.
The NDE, Grosso opines, is a “metaphysical paradigm-buster,” a phenomenon that points increasingly toward undermining the mechanistic universe subscribed to by mainstream science. In Chapter Five, he summarizes a number of NDEs, pointing out how the standard debunking theory of oxygen deprivation does not explain them. “Consciousness delocalized suggests the possibility of a prolonged or even permanent out-of-body experience – also known as the afterlife,” he writes, also telling of two of his own out-of-body experiences in which he found himself light, mobile, electric, and ecstatic, at the same time feeling angst over his concern about getting lost in mental space.
Grosso quotes from a paper written by a student in one of his classes, after he had introduced the class to types of evidence for an afterlife. “The greatest problem that death presents, in my opinion, is its finality,” Mary, the student, wrote. “When I began this course I had feelings of anger, desperation, fear and confusion. My daughter, age six, is dying of leukemia. Her fears were hard enough to deal with, but compounded by my own fears the task was next to impossible….[but] now I feel that when the end comes, I will still feel pain but I also feel that my child may go on to another dimension.” Mary goes on to say that she has conveyed some of the evidence to her daughter and that her daughter now seems more relaxed and her anxiety diminished. If nothing else, the evidential stories gave the mother and daughter hope that death was not the end. If only our world leaders could understand what Grosso so astutely explains. I doubt that the counselors answering the Crisis Line in Hawaii will even allude to the “larger life.” I suspect they’ll tell those victims of emotional distress to “live in the present,” and think about all the good things they still have. Enjoy a good movie, read a good novel, play games, or escape from reality in the easiest way possible. The wisdom offered by today’s mental health experts is “overwhelming.”
“At a time when everywhere the danger of mass destruction is increasing, we need a new philosophy of life and death, an enriched mythology of transcendence,” Grosso says. “In it, the conscience of science and of consciousness would be firmly intact.”
And to again quote Montaigne: “To practice death is to practice freedom. Let us have nothing more in mind than death. At every instant, let us evoke it in our imagination under all aspects. Let us wait for it everywhere.”
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.
Next blog post: Feb. 5.
Thank you for your interest in this blog and in my book. I would have to reread that book to see the exact context in which I used “expansion of consciousness,” and it might take me some time to find it; however, what it means to me off the top of my head and in the broadest sense is learning as much as we can about the world of spirit, or to put it another way, to develop an awareness that goes as far as possible beyond material things. The consciousness of so many people today seems to be limited to the material world, and I believe that it is the cause of all the chaos and turmoil in the world today. They live in an existential void and see no meaning in life, so it is “eat, drink, and be merry.” Once we open ourselves to the world of spirit and begin to “live in eternity,” not just in the “moment,” we can live happier and more fulfilling lives in the here and now.
At least that is the way I see it. I’m not a preacher and try not to come across as one. But that’s how it has worked for me and a number of my friends who share those beliefs. So, whatever it is worth….
Again, thanks for asking.
Michael Tymn, Sat 10 Feb, 10:05
Thank you for your opinion on this matter. I did wonder if there was more discussion on the contemplation spheres in More Spirit Teachings now that I know there is, I shall track down a copy.
In your book the “Afterlife Revealed” you discussed the concept of a “expansion of consciousness”, what do you mean by this?
Chad W Luter, Fri 9 Feb, 21:42
Your page numbers are different than mine, but the sections are apparently the same. I gather that spheres of contemplation are above the spheres of purging and below the “Oneness” of true heaven. If they can actually be numbered, which I believe is just symbolic for our benefit, I would see the third and to a lesser extent the fourth spheres as spheres of purging, what Catholics call purgatory, and perhaps the fifth and sixth spheres as spheres of contemplation, the seventh being the true heaven. But Imperator says in other places, especially in “More Spirit Teachings” that the higher we go in the spheres the more it is beyond human comprehension. Even the third and fourth spheres are beyond human comprehension. If you haven’t read “More Spirit Teachings,” I really recommend them. You can find them on the Internet at Meilach.com
Michael Tymn, Fri 9 Feb, 07:06
All references from Spirit Teachings.
Section II - p14,p23
Section V - p35
Section XXVIII - p219
Chad W Luter, Thu 8 Feb, 18:08
I’m sorry, but I don’t recall Imperator’s discussion of the spheres of contemplation. I just quickly thumbed through Stainton Moses’s “Spirit Teachings” but couldn’t find anything on it. What is the reference and page numbers for this?
Michael Tymn, Wed 7 Feb, 20:57
Michael, what is your interpretation of the spheres of contemplation as taught by Imperator.
Chad W Luter, Wed 7 Feb, 19:02
I’m guilty of not taking it too seriously. My first thought was that our defense system would shoot it down before it got here. I was thinking one missile rather than many, since N. Korea didn’t seem to have the capability to launch a number of them. I immediately put on the TV and radio and there was regular programming, nothing about an incoming missile. Nor was there an air raid siren. About 75% of me said it is a false alarm, about 15% said it would be shot down before it got here, and the remaining 10% said if it does hit I hope I don’t survive it. I guess I didn’t take it seriously enough to have a life review. I have life reviews all the time as it is.
Michael Tymn, Tue 6 Feb, 20:03
Yes, it doesn’t seem like we are making much progress, although I know many people who think we are. Its difficult to measure.
I’m glad to know you have “seen the light.”
Michael Tymn, Sat 3 Feb, 04:48
Thanks for looking into this Michael, and thanks for all of the work you do! There are still some of us in the younger generation who have found the truth, not through religion or mainstream science, but by simply taking a look at the afterlife evidence that’s out there. I’m just an average 34 year old, married father of 3, work my day job as a chiropractor, but in my spare time I’ve immersed myself in afterlife studies and parapsychology. And it has changed my life as I no longer fear death and live this current life with more meaning and purpose. I just wish there was a way to get the rest of society on board, seems like it’s been an uphill battle for 150+ years that still hasn’t gained much ground unfortunately.
Chris Myers, Thu 1 Feb, 18:42
I checked Silver Birch and this is what I found, for what it is worth:
Q. If life is a continual change and evolution, and reincarnation is a fact, how can we be sure of meeting our loved ones when we pass over, and of enjoying the life of bliss with them promised to us?
A. Love will always know its own, for love is the greatest force in the universe. Love will always attract its beloved and love will always meet its love, for nothing can prevent the union of those who love.
Michael Tymn, Wed 31 Jan, 19:32
Thanks for the reply! (I have also wondered if I’m related to Frederick Myers, as my family tree has a lot of branches throughout England, although I was born and raised in Ontario, Canada)
The group soul explanation seems to make the most sense to me as well. I remember reading in Jeffrey Marks’ The Afterlife Interviews, the discarnate spirts who were answering his questions about the group soul/oversoul. They said that you can encounter yourself in the afterlife, but a different version of yourself who lived a different life in the past. So that raises the question of whether it is the same individual who reincarnates or a member of your group soul? Like you said, probably beyond human comprehension at this point in the game.
Chris Myers, Wed 31 Jan, 18:28
Chad, thank you for your comment. I agree with you and am stymied by the resistance.
Chris, I have wondered about that myself, i.e., whether “part” of a person’s soul reincarnates and another “part” remains in the afterlife environment and is still there to greet loved ones, etc. I have read something to that effect, but I don’t recall where. Frederic Myers (no relation, I assume) hints at something like that in his discussion of the group soul in “The Road to Immortality” by Geraldine Cummins. (see my blog post of March 13, 2017 in archives at left). One might infer it from others who have talked about the group soul, including Silver Birch. Perhaps Seth, too. Sorry, I can’t offer more.
As I have stated in past blogs, I think reincarnation is beyond human comprehension and that’s why I rarely discuss the subject.
Michael Tymn, Wed 31 Jan, 08:21
I have a question Michael ( not related to this article, which is great by the way) that just came to me this morning. Is there any research or evidence that talks about a discarnate spirit communicating through a medium, who has also been reincarnated into this world at the same time? So basically, if you die and choose to reincarnate, is there a part of you or your “Oversoul” or “higher self” that remains in the afterlife, which can communicate via mediums or greet loved ones on passing over or during an NDE? Has this ever been shown to happen in the literature? Would love to hear your thoughts or theory on this , stumped myself!!
Chris Myers, Tue 30 Jan, 18:27
Thanks and keep up with the great work!
It does seem strange to me that the theory of materialism is still the accepted view of reality by orthodox science, given all the accepted findings in quantum physics,in particular the double slit experiment which cast’s doubt on this theory.
Although different physicists come to different conclusions regarding the implications of this and other experiments within quantum physics none of them can deny that the conscious observer is having an effect on fundamental particles.
This interpretation certainly gives weight to consciousness not being a mere epiphenomenal product of the brain but a fundamental property of reality.
Chad W Luter, Mon 29 Jan, 15:13
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