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One Life at a Time:  The Way of the Philistine?

Posted on 24 March 2014, 10:23

Many friends and relatives who know of my interest in death and afterlife studies express concern that it is an unhealthy or taboo subject matter.  “One life at a time for me” is a typical reaction, a subtle and supposedly “intelligent” way of saying that the person is not interested in discussing anything related to death and the afterlife.

I always agree that the focus should be on this life, not the next one, but I usually go on to explain that an interest in a future life does not mean that the primary focus is not on this life.  If the person is at all receptive to it, I point out that my interest in a future life helps me better understand, appreciate, and fully live this life.  “We can live with the consciousness of immortality, and it will give an added coloring and beauty to life,” is the way philosopher Alice Bailey put it.  “We can foster the awareness of our future transition, and live with the expectation of its wonder.  Death thus faced, and regarded as a prelude to further living experience, takes on a different meaning.”

Addressing concerns that being too focused on the afterlife will make a person unfit for the “practical” life, philosopher Lilian Whiting pointed out that the truth is just the opposite. “Let one realize the absolute continuity of existence and at once life becomes worth living,” she offered.

A group of entities, dubbed the “Invisibles” by popular author Stewart Edward White, communicated through the mediumship of White’s wife, Betty.  (Below). They referred to the desired awareness of spiritual matters, including death, as “habitual spiritual consciousness.”  Concerned that White might misunderstand and assume that they were saying that the focus should be entirely on the spiritual world, they explained: “This does not imply any retirement into some state of permanent abstraction, nor any priggish watchfulness to determine that your every move is transcendental.  It means simply that each day, when you finish your practice, you do not close the experience like a book, but carry it around with you like a treasured possession.  Instead of being completely forgotten, it remains in the back of your mind, communicating its influence automatically to your actions and reactions, and ready at any moment, if specifically called upon, to lend a helping hand.”


The Invisibles called “balancing” the earthly life with the eternal life the “art of life.”  They stressed that the best way to deal with life’s adversities is by viewing them from the higher consciousness.

Frederic W. H. Myers, (below) a Cambridge scholar and one of the founders of the Society for Psychical Research in London, is a good example of someone who was able to develop his spiritual consciousness to the point where, in embracing death, he found joy and fulfillment in life.  At Myers’s memorial service in 1901, Sir Oliver Lodge recalled that Myers, when visiting the United States a few years earlier, swam the Niagara River below the treacherous falls.  Myers told Lodge that the thought suddenly flashed upon him that he might die, but there was no fear connected with this thought.  Rather, he saw the whole experience as a joyous adventure, for, as Lodge put it, “his clear and happy faith was the outcome entirely of his scientific researches” which strongly suggested survival.


Present at Myers’s deathbed, Professor William James of Harvard wrote that “his serenity, in fact, his eagerness to go, and his extraordinary intellectual vitality up to the very time the death agony began, and even in the midst of it, were a superb spectacle and deeply impressed the doctors, as well as ourselves.”

Professor James, one of the pioneers of psychology, took issue with the non-believers of his day who said we should be living for the moment, when he wrote:  “Let sanguine healthy-mindedness do its best with its strange power of living in the moment and ignoring and forgetting, still the evil background is really there to be thought of, and the skull will grin in at the banquet. In the practical life of the individual, we know how his whole gloom or glee about any present fact depends on the remoter schemes and hopes of which it stands related.  Its significance and framing give it the chief part of its value.  Let it be known to lead nowhere, and however agreeable it may be in its immediacy, its glow and guilding vanish.  The old man, sick with an insidious internal disease, may laugh and quaff his wine at first as well as ever, but he knows his fate now, for the doctors have revealed it, and the knowledge knocks the satisfaction out of all these functions.  They are partners of death and the worm is their brother, and they turn to a mere flatness.” 

James added that “the luster of the present hour is always borrowed from the background of possibilities it goes with.”  In other words, you can’t effectively live in the moment or in the present without considering the future.  James went on to say that a nameless Unheimlichkeit, i.e., eeriness, comes over us at the thought of there being nothing eternal in our final purpose, in the objects of those loves and aspirations which are our deepest energies.   

Of course, age is a big factor in one’s desire or ability to embrace death.  The person still establishing him- or herself in a career and raising a family may not find time to pause and see the need for such an interest. While I gave it passing thoughts in my younger years, I didn’t really get interested in it until after the age of 50.  Now, at 77, with family raising and work life well behind me, and with a growing number of health-related issues, I can’t help think about it.  What puzzles me is that people in my own age group with similar or greater health issues are often among those who give me the “one life at a time” pitch.  They act like they are content in continuing to be “one with their toys,”  even the few toys they have left, but I suspect that most of them are just repressing their anxieties and burying their heads in the sand. 

“When a man is seventy-five he cannot help sometimes thinking about death,” wrote the great philosopher and poet Goethe.  “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.”

Existentialist philosopher Søren Kierkegaard wrote:  “If there were no eternal consciousness in a man, if at the foundation of all there lay only a wildly seething power which writhing with obscure passions produced everything that is great and everything that is insignificant, if a bottomless void never satiated lay hidden beneath all – what then would life be but despair?”  Kierkegaard called “Philistinism” the worst kind of despair.  The Philistine, as Kierkegaard saw him, is someone so tranquilized in the mundane or the trivial that he lacks the awareness that he is even in despair. “For Philistinism thinks it is in control of possibility; it thinks that when it has decoyed this prodigious elasticity into the field of probability or into the mad-house, it holds it a prisoner; it carries possibility around like a prisoner in the cage of the probable, shows it off, imagines itself to be the master, does not take note that precisely thereby it has taken itself captive to be the slave of spiritlessness and to be the most pitiful of all things…but Philistinism spiritlessly celebrates its triumph.”

As I see it, those people in their declining years who want to live “one life at a time” are victims of Philistinism.  They are not even aware that they are in despair.  The problem is that they are either locked into the orthodox religious view of the afterlife, seemingly a very boring and monotonous existence, or they have rejected all religious views and see death as nothing more than the obliteration or extinction of the personality.  If they were to become receptive to learning about death and the afterlife, they might discover what I and others have found – a much more vibrant and dynamic existence, increasingly more vibrant and dynamic than the earth life as one evolves in it, assuming that one is prepared for it and does not require a lengthy adjustment and adaptation period.  But if the person will not open his/her mind to the evidence for survival and the information coming down the vibration scale about the nature of the afterlife, he or she is destined to remain in the Philistine mindset.

But if the person doesn’t realize he/she is in despair, what’s the problem?  Isn’t ignorance bliss for them?  Why should I care what they think or don’t think?  I care because ignorance fosters more ignorance and leads to a more materialistic world, one in which the Epicurean motto of “eat, drink, and be merry,” prevails, as it seemingly does in today’s world – a world in chaos and full of turmoil, an increasingly hedonistic world, one perhaps not unlike that of ancient Rome when Nero played his fiddle as the city burned.  But I also care because indications are that the Philistine likely faces a difficult adjustment and adaptation period after death.  It’s like going on a trip to a foreign country without a passport, without any money, without any luggage, without knowing anything about the place, with no maps, and knowing nothing of the language there. The person will likely struggle and flounder, when with a little advance preparation for the journey he/she might quickly adjust and adapt after arriving there.
The eminent Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung said that it is psychologically beneficial to have death as a goal toward which to strive. Mozart called death the key to unlocking the door to true happiness.  Shakespeare wrote that when we are prepared for death, life is sweeter.  The French philosopher Michel de Montaigne said that “to practice death is to practice freedom.”

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die is published by White Crow Books. His latest book, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife is now available on Amazon and other online book stores. 

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Next blog: April 7th



Those who know little of afterlife, or do not probe it deeply, miss far more than they realize.  For Illumined Souls (of The Universal Spiritual Brother&Sisterhood;) have told us that while survival is a most important first step towards Truth revealed through mediumship, it is by no means the entire journey—a journey of almost unimaginable beauty.

John, Wed 2 Apr, 08:15

A most needed discussion. Yes and we also need to live knowing what is waiting for us on the other side of the veil in preparation for when we drop our physical body. But, this was not really mentioned here and it should have been.  I thought this blog was basically about Spiritualists and their proven truths and philosophies.

I was very perturbed to read amongst all the historical names listed that Luciferian, teacher of hidden darkness,  Alice Bailey AKA LUCIS PRESS—the lying perpetrator and acting agent of NEW AGE is mentioned.  Why?  This shows bad research.  There was no need to add her to your long list of names.  Alice Bailey, Madame Blavatski et al., both of Reincarnation fame do not belong here if you are really seeking the truth.  Mike this proven false teaching that you are also aware is FALSE, makes one looks at the earth and not the next REAL life.  It’s about Light or no Light?  Truth by waking up or Darkness by staying asleep.  In Quantum Mechanics which is what the Soul IS there can be no RE-incarnation.  TIME IS AN ILLUSION SO THERE CAN BE NO “RE,” PERIOD.  One needs to understanding why Soul Embodiments if NOT the same as Spirit re-incarnation. RE-incarnation is for people who are not awake at the moment and have not bothered to ask enough right questions about what is beyond this testing place called earth.

I am very disappointed that you slip back wards after showing the true Light of Cora L.V. (Scott, Hatch, Tappan) Richmond, the most famous Spiritualist Medium and Philosophy Teacher when in Full Trance, a platform speaker to thousands. 1840 - 1923.  Although there were other good mediums, and Emma Harding Britten IS NOT one of them , Cora L.V. Richmond is the only person that I personally recognize from Higher Spiritualism and ask the world to take a look for free in my on-line Archives. Yes, I sell books also, but at under cost mostly. I do not do this to make money, but as a duty to bring more light to the world.
I would like to see more reaching for the Light of Truth.

I hope my little spiritual complaint is taken in the right light and will help to waken at least one person.
Love and Light

Ziaa, Tue 1 Apr, 22:36

Insightful and right on the money Mike! Philistines will always be around but perhaps even nature could teach them a thing or two. What are we to make of the many illustrations that we are confronted with day after day from the world around us? Take nature, for example. Not even the tiniest particle can disappear without trace.

If there are any philistines reading this then please think about that for a moment. Once you do, your thoughts about life may change. If science has found that nothing can disappear without trace, then I would argue that nature doesn’t know extinction. All it knows is transformation! At some point in the future, the philistine approach will be in the minority, but just like the tiniest particles in nature, may never disappear completely. Great article!

Grahame, Wed 26 Mar, 14:40

Throughout my at least 40 years of discussions with people regarding “death”...
I have found those who don’t want to talk about it…
- They fear the unknown.
- They fear what might happen to them, especially if they have a guilty conscience.
- They are superstitious and fear speaking about it…as it may tempt fate.
- Many have no belief system and it makes them uneasy.
I believe that the more spiritual knowledge spreads the better. If they are prepared, they are in a more peaceful condition
when they return to the afterlife.
As a medium that conducts regular spirit sessions, our group has for years had to assist so many confused about their current situation.
Mike, the work you do and have done assists greatly in spreading this spiritual knowledge. Keep up the great work!

Yvonne Limoges, Wed 26 Mar, 09:40

How about “living one life at a time” as discipline rather than philistinism, not implying disbelief but rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.

Coyd, Tue 25 Mar, 18:16

An inspired analysis of our condition and a brilliant collection of quotes.  Thank you!

Stafford Betty, Tue 25 Mar, 04:26

Hey Dougie,
It was theoretical physicist and Nobel prize winner Max Planck who said, “Science advances one funeral at a time!”  How true! How true! - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Tue 25 Mar, 01:09

Another great article Mike.

Wendy Zammit, Mon 24 Mar, 22:32

Perhaps an article about how common reincarnation and past lives are in other countries compared to t he United States would be in order.  Because with the concept of past lives, death is accepted more since it’s just another type of life that goes on.  Just a thought.

Karen Herrick PhD, Mon 24 Mar, 20:51

Well, here I go again referencing Patience Worth, but the following are several of my favorite lines written by Patience and somewhat apropos of this article.  They are from a much larger poem titled “The Day’s Work”, in which she notes daily human activities, which I recommend should be read in its entirety.

“Men who live! live to the last bitter dreg within the cup, quaffing with delight the potion of death — in defiance lifting the goblet;

Men who sit within the shadow of their doubt, beholding the cup of death in fearing, waiting for tomorrow who already hath laid her hand upon the cup’s brim — tomorrow whose finger pointeth to Eternity!

Amos Oliver Doyle, Mon 24 Mar, 15:55

I once heard, I forget the source, that the only way that “old” attitudes change is “funeral by funeral”, one death at a time I suppose. Thanks for the always interesting articles!

Dougie Dudgeon, Mon 24 Mar, 12:40

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“Life After Death – The Communicator” by Paul Beard – If the telephone rings, naturally the caller is expected to identify himself. In post-mortem communication, necessitating something far more complex than a telephone, it is not enough to seek the speakers identity. One needs to estimate also as far as is possible his present status and stature. This involves a number of factors, overlapping and hard to keep separate, each bringing its own kind of difficulty. Four such factors can readily be named. Read here
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