Ask the Right Question, Get the Right Answer
A couple of weeks ago I watched a CBS Sunday morning interview with a renowned psychologist and researcher who specializes in near-death experiences. This expert's approach was purely academic and clinical, rather refreshing in light of all the New Age chit-chat going on about this subject. This scientist had collected thousands of personal accounts from people who had been clinically dead, then were resuscitated. Predictably, there were a lot of shared experiences among these lucky (?) folks. The bright light, the outer-body experience of floating above oneself, seeing family members who had passed away before and so forth.
Like most people, I am extremely fascinated by these accounts and I have no doubt that when my time comes I, too, will experience that kind of thing. The fact is, however, that these people all came back. They did not really die. Period. When you are good and dead, you don't come back.
To illustrate the difference, I once wrote a short comment on this and transferred it to clay tablets. I do that kind of thing sometimes. Here is that piece: I read about an author and his near-death experience, and decided that I should look at it from the other direction. So let us imagine that there are many souls out there who do not have a human body. Perhaps they are aware of their existence, perhaps not. I have no idea. This is just for the sake of argument. So there they are, floating around up there or wherever they are, having a conversation, because one of them recently had a near-life experience. And here is what he or it told its fellow souls: There was a mighty big light and I saw a colossal creature dressed in white, and his powerful hands held me suspended high above the ground, and I was but tiny, and hanging upside down. The white giant slapped me on my butt several times. There was a powerful expanding force within me, but this life force was more than I could handle, the light died and I slipped back to be among my fellow souls. I know now that I was spared a human body so I could tell you what having a human body is all about. You will find yourself suspended upside down and slapped on the butt repeatedly. Trust me. It is nothing to look forward to.
Obviously, this was meant to be funny, but also to point out that our ideas and concepts about what the hereafter will look like are extremely limited. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee you that it will be very different from any expectations we may have. Just as this soul with a near-life experience never had the opportunity to truly experience what it is like to have a human body, anyone who has had a near-death experience never had a chance to be really, really dead, then come back and tell us about it.
The real issue, I think, is not to accumulate a range of concepts and expectations that conform to what you hope the hereafter will look like. That, I promise you, is a waste of time and, even more importantly, it will almost certainly prevent you from moving towards truly worthwhile spiritual realizations and understanding -- which require an open mind, not a head stuffed to the gills with ideas and concepts like a hoarders worthless treasures. Besides, our sensationalist and hyper-imaginative minds can come up with all kinds of ideas, all of them adjusted and customized to our own private and deepest personal hopes and desires.
For example, sure, I hope I will hook up with a few of my ancestors (but not all of them). I hope gravity is not as unforgiving and that I can fly high through a gorgeous sun-soaked sky with views of castles and golf courses. I hope that the reality of the afterlife is more in line with a happy hallucinatory experience than the dark mines of Solomon. I hope I will see my mommy again, and Arnoud, my all-time favorite dog. I hope I will have a consciousness and an identity, and that happiness dominates my experience. I hope the afterlife is a kind of super existence on another planet without wars and nothing but smiling people. I hope something like sex exists there too, but without the possibility of offspring so I don't have to deal with the duties and responsibilities that come with that. I hope that if there are pearly gates, they are there to keep people out, not to keep them in, because I do like my freedom. I hope I will be recognized as special and get to sit at His side. (I am pretty sure I can go ahead and scratch that one, but here is to hoping!) And the list goes on...
I am sure any one of you can come up with equally suitable and improbable scenarios. There must be plenty of people out there who are convinced it will be like this or like that. Personally, I don't mind admitting to myself, and to you, that I don't have the foggiest. Not even a tiny little clue. No matter how many of other people's near-death experiences I read about, I know that the best they can do is enforce our illusions. Fortunately, however, I have good reason to believe that it will be "all right!" I have no doubt about that. And so I don't really feel a need to try and figure out what the afterlife will be like. I will find out in due time, that is the only guarantee we have. I do, however, have a very powerful need to realize -- wait for it, here comes the really worthwhile question -- what part of me continues on when the rest of me is disposed off.
There you have it. The one question that is worthy of keeping you awake at night. Obviously, when you kick the bucket your physical body returns to dust. Gone for good. And if you managed to die at a ripe old age, you will probably be relieved; no more pills, diapers, oxygen tanks, etc. Also gone is your brain; the home of your mind. Poof! There go your dreams and expectations, your learned knowledge and your wealth of memories. They all belong to the realm of the mind, which supposedly is nothing but a whirling and twirling cluster of energy, hopping about neurons and such, and completely dependent on the proper workings of those gray cells -- gone now, for all eternity.
But is that all there was that made you, you? Obviously not. If that was all there was to being you, none of those thousands of people would have had near-death experiences. It would have just been pitch dark, like a dreamless sleep. There is also plenty of evidence that people who were supposed to be dead came back with knowledge about what happened around them when there was not a measure of energy left in the brain region, nor were they things they saw within their physical field of vision, even if their eyes had been open.
All in all, the fact that there is apparently another part of us that is not affected by death the way our body and mind is, is undeniable. Even if, as quite a few people assume, death is nothing but a big, dark, non-existence, that does not remove the fact that, at least for a few minutes, some kind of consciousness exists that is apparently not a hundred percent dependent on there being a functioning physical body around it.
And this is the question for which you need to find an answer. Because, and I am back to what in a previous blog I referred to as "Big Baby Logic," if you approach this question free from any external influence, as if you just now entered this human existence but with a fully functioning mind; no books or lectures or teachers or parents or priests or anyone having dumped their concepts into your blissfully empty but otherwise capable brain, the answer will undoubtedly be easier to find. Kind of like looking for a book in an otherwise empty room as opposed to a stuffed-to-the-ceiling library. Approach it like that, and here is what you DO know: Your most essential and primal consciousness is not dependent on a physical body. Remember, your dreams, ideas, concepts, identity, and perhaps even your ability to rationalize or draw conclusions may be lost due to that being part of the mind, but your ability to experience is not. Those people who had near-death experiences only talk about experiencing something, never about analyzing it, at least not while they were in the midst of their near-death experience. Experiencing anything involves absorbing a reality of some kind. They could see, yet their eyes were closed and the brain was not capable of taking in anything; there was no activity whatsoever. They could hear, yet what they heard did not enter their consciousness through their ears. And they could feel emotions. Powerful emotions. And yet they did not "think" about the experience while it was happening. In fact, all the things we can experience whilst alive and healthy, they could experience whilst dead as the proverbial door nail.
We wonder about the miracle of eyes and ears and the nose, the extraordinary creation of such brilliantly designed tools. The truth is, those incredibly complex and intricate tools exist in the physical world because they exist in, dare I say it, the "world of spirit." It is almost as if the ability to see, hear, feel, taste, etc. exists in a state of infinite and timeless perfection in the world of energy. And, perhaps evolution is nothing more than the creation of a mirrored reality in the world of matter, including fragments of independent consciousness that are capable of using these traits and absorbing another reality -- each of which is represented by a human being (or a cat or an earthworm or...).
Could it be that the bridge between the world of energy and the world of matter is life itself, including you, the human being? And, to continue my Big Baby Logic, could it be that your consciousness is the bridge between your physical existence and the energy that created you? And finally, could it be that crossing that bridge is only a matter of discovering which part of you is timeless, and henceforth plugging your awareness into that? By golly, that would be pretty darn cool, wouldn't it?
What would it be like to know this part of yourself? And by "knowing" I don't mean "having come to the conclusion that no other explanation exists." Or that "you accept this fact." Or that "the Bible or the Koran or the Upanishads are clear on that." No, what I mean is that you know it the way you know that air flows in and out of your lungs -- it is a reality of your existence. You can feel it. It is there. No need to understand what it is made of or who created it or anything else. The kind of knowing that sets it apart from believing. After all, if it exists and if it is part of you right now, why would you not be able or allowed to feel it, to recognize it, to become one with it?
Of course, throughout history people have used words like "soul" and "consciousness" to describe the part that they believe travels on, but always wrapped in blankets of expectations, dogmas and so forth ... which is why I don't like using words like that. Or words like "God" or "Creator" or any other labels loaded with other people's baggage. They always destroy the purity of Big Baby Logic.