Near-Death Experience Story of Mellen-Thomas Benedic

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In 1982, I died from terminal cancer. My condition was non-operable. I chose not to have chemotherapy. I was given six to eight months to live. Before this time, I had become increasingly despondent over the nuclear crisis, the ecology crisis, and so forth. I came to believe that nature had made a mistake – that we were probably a cancerous organism on the planet. And that is what eventually killed me.

Before my near-death experience, I tried all sorts of alternative healing methods. None helped. So I determined that this was between me and God. I had never really considered God. Neither was I into any kind of spirituality. But my approaching death sent me on a quest for more information about spirituality and alternative healing. I read various religions and philosophies. They gave hope that there was something on the other side.

I had no medical insurance, so my life savings went overnight on tests. Unwilling to drag my family into this, I determined to handle this myself. I ended up in hospice care and was blessed with an angel for my hospice caretaker, whom I will call “Anne.” She stayed with me through all that was to follow.

Into the Light

I woke up about 4:30 am and I knew that this was it. I was going to die. I called a few friends and said good-bye. I woke up Anne and made her promise that my dead body would remain undisturbed for six hours, since I had read that all kinds of interesting things happen when you die. I went back to sleep. The next thing I remember, I was fully aware and standing up. Yet my body was lying in the bed. I seemed to be surrounded by darkness, yet I could see every room in the house, and the roof, and even under the house.

A Light shone. I turned toward it, and was aware of its similarity to what others have described in near-death experiences. It was magnificent and tangible, alluring. I wanted to go towards that Light like I might want to go into my ideal mother’s or father’s arms. As I moved towards the Light, I knew that if I went into the Light, I would be dead. So I said/felt, “Please wait. I would like to talk to you before I go.”

The entire experience halted. I discovered that I was in control of the experience. My request was honored. I had conversations with the Light. That’s the best way I can describe it. The Light changed into different figures, like Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, archetypal images and signs. I asked in a kind of telepathy, “What is going on here?”

The information transmitted was that our beliefs shape the kind of feedback we receive. If you are a Buddhist or Catholic or Fundamentalist, you get a feedback loop of your own images. I became aware of a Higher Self matrix, a conduit to the Source. We all have a Higher Self, or an oversoul part of our being, a conduit. All Higher Selves are connected as one being. All humans are connected as one being.

It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. It was like all the love you’ve ever wanted, and it was the kind of love that cures, heals, regenerates. I was ready to go at that time. I said “I am ready, take me.” Then the Light turned into the most beautiful thing that I have ever seen: a mandala of human souls on this planet. I saw that we are the most beautiful creations – elegant, exotic … everything.

I just cannot say enough about how it changed my opinion of human beings in an instant. I said/thought/felt, “Oh, God, I didn’t realize.” I was astonished to find that there was no evil in any soul. People may do terrible things out of ignorance and lack, but no soul is evil. “What all people seek – what sustains them – is love,” the Light told me. “What distorts people is a lack of love.”

The revelations went on and on. I asked, “Does this mean that Humankind will be saved?” Like a trumpet blast with a shower of spiraling lights, the Light “spoke,” saying, “You save, redeem and heal yourself. You always have and always will. You were created with the power to do so from before the beginning of the world.” In that instant I realized that we have already been saved.

I thanked the Light of God with all my heart. The best thing I could come up with was: “Oh dear God, dear Universe, dear Great Self, I love my Life.” The Light seemed to breathe me in even more deeply, absorbing me. I entered into another realm more profound than the last, and was aware of an enormous stream of Light, vast and full, deep. I asked what it was. The Light answered, “This is the River of Life. Drink of this manna water to your heart’s content.” I drank deeply, in ecstasy.

The Void of Nothingness

Suddenly I seemed to be rocketing away from the planet on this stream of Life. I saw the earth fly away. The solar system whizzed by and disappeared. I flew through the center of the galaxy, absorbing more knowledge as I went. I learned that this galaxy – and the entire Universe – is bursting with many different varieties of life. I saw many worlds. We are not alone in this Universe. It seemed as if all the creations in the Universe soared past me and

Then a second Light appeared. As I passed into the second Light, I could perceive forever, beyond Infinity. I was in the Void, pre-Creation, the beginning of time, the first Word or vibration. I rested in the Eye of Creation and it seemed that I touched the Face of God. It was not a religious feeling. I was simply at One with Absolute Life and Consciousness.

I rode the stream directly into the center of the Light. I felt embraced by the Light as it took me in with its breath again. And the truth was obvious that there is no death; that nothing is born and nothing dies; that we are immortal beings, part of a natural living system that recycles itself endlessly.

It would take me years to assimilate the Void experience. It was less than nothing, yet greater than anything. Creation is God exploring God’s Self through every way imaginable. Through every piece of hair on your head, through every leaf on every tree, through every atom. God is exploring God’s Self. I saw everything as the Self of all. God is here. That’s what it is all about. Everything is made of light; everything is alive.

The Light of Love

I was never told that I had to come back. I just knew that I would. It was only natural, from what I had seen. As I began my return to the life cycle, it never crossed my mind, nor was I told, that I would return to the same body. It did not matter. I had complete trust in the Light and the Life process.

As the stream merged with the great Light, I asked never to forget the revelations and the feelings of what I had learned on the other side. I thought of myself as a human again and I was happy to be that. From what I have seen, I would be happy to be an atom in this universe. An atom. So to be the human part of God … this is the most fantastic blessing. It is a blessing beyond our wildest imagination of what a blessing can be.

For each and every one of us to be the human part of this experience is awesome, and magnificent. Each and every one of us, no matter where we are, screwed up or not, is a blessing to the planet, right where we are. So I went

But I reincarnated back into this body. I was so surprised when I opened my eyes, to be back in this body, back in my room with someone looking over me, crying her eyes out. It was Anne, my hospice caretaker. She had found me dead thirty minutes before. We do not know how long I was dead, only that she found me thirty minutes before. She had honored my wish to have my newly-dead body left alone. She can verify that I really was dead.

It was not a near-death experience. I believe I probably experienced death itself for at least an hour and a half. When I later awakened and saw the light outside, confused, I tried to get up to go to it, but I fell out of the bed. She heard a loud “clunk”, ran in, and found me on the floor. When I recovered, I was surprised and awed about what had happened. I had no memory at first of the experience. I kept slipping out of this world and kept asking, “Am I alive?” This world seemed more like a dream than that one.

Within three days, I was feeling normal again, clearer, yet different than ever before. My memories of the journey came back later. But from my return I could find nothing wrong with any human being I had ever seen. Previous to my death I was judgmental, believing that people were really screwed up.

About three months later a friend said I should get tested for the cancer. So I got the scans and so forth. I felt healthy. I still remember the doctor at the clinic looking at the “before” and “after” scans. He said, “I can find no sign of cancer now.” “A miracle?” I asked. “No,” he answered. “These things happen … spontaneous remission.” He seemed unimpressed. But I was impressed. I knew it was a miracle.

Lessons Learned

I asked God: “What is the best religion on the planet? Which one is right?” God said with great love: “It doesn’t matter.” What an incredible grace. It does not matter what religion we are. Religions come and they go. They change. Buddhism has not been here forever, Catholicism has not been here forever, and they are all about to become more enlightened. More light is coming into all systems now. Many will resist and fight about it,

When God said, “It doesn’t matter,” I understood that it is for us to care about, because we are the caring beings. The Source does not care if you are Protestant, Buddhist, or Jew. Each is a reflection, a facet of the whole. I wish that all religions would realize it and let each other be. It is not the end of separate religions, but live and let live. Each has a different view, and it all adds up to the big picture.

I went over to the other side with a lot of fears about toxic waste, nuclear missiles, the population explosion, the rain forest. I came back loving every single problem. I love nuclear waste. I love the mushroom cloud; this is the holiest mandala that we have manifested to date, as an archetype. More than any religion or philosophy on Earth, that terrible, wonderful cloud brought

Knowing that maybe we can blow up the planet fifty times, or 500 times, we finally realize that maybe we are all here together now. For a period, they had to keep setting off more bombs to get it into us. Then we started saying, “we do not need this any more.” Now we are actually in a safer world than we have ever been in, and it is going to get even safer.

So I came back loving toxic waste, because it brought us together. These things are so big. Clearing of the rain forest will slow down, and in fifty years there will be more trees on the planet than in a long time. If you are into ecology, go for it; you are that part of the system that is becoming aware. Go for it with all your might, but do not be depressed or disheartened. Earth is in the process of domesticating itself, and we are cells on that Body. Population increase is getting very close to the optimal range of energy to cause a shift in consciousness. That shift in consciousness will change politics, money, energy, and more.

The Great Mystery of life has little to do with intelligence. The Universe is not an intellectual process. The intellect is helpful; but our hearts are the wiser part of ourselves. Since my return I have experienced the Light spontaneously. I have learned how to get to that space almost any time in my meditation. You can also do this. You don’t have to die first. You are wired for it already. The body is the most magnificent Light being there is. The body is a universe of incredible Light. We don’t need to commune with God; God is already communing with us in every moment!

Note: The above text is a concise, slightly edited summary. For the full text of this inspiring near-death experience story, click here. For Mellen-Thomas Benedict’s personal website, see www.mellen-thomas.com. For other amazing near-death experience stories, see Anita’s highly inspiring near-death story at this link. For a rich and inspiring online lesson with other incredible near-death experience stories and more, click here. From PEERS.

Zen Master Alan Watts Discovers the Secrets of Aldous Huxley and His Art of Dying

Few figures were as influential as Alan Watts and Aldous Huxley in popularizing experiments with psychedelic drugs and Eastern religion in the 20th century. Watts did more to introduce Westerners to Zen Buddhism than almost anyone before or since; Huxley’s experiments with mescaline and LSD—as well as his literary critiques of Western technocratic rationalism—are well-known. But in a countercultural movement largely dominated by men—Watts and Huxley, Ken Kesey, Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg, etc—Huxley’s widow Laura came to play a significant role after her husband’s death.

In fact, as we’ve discussed before, she played a significant role during his death, injecting him with LSD and reading to him from The Tibetan Book of the Dead as he passed away. In the interview above, Laura speaks with Watts about that experience, one she learned from Aldous, who performed a similar service for his first wife as she died in 1955. The occasion of the interview—conducted at Watts’ Sausalito home in 1968—is the publication of Laura Huxley’s memoir of life with her husband, This Timeless Moment. But talk of the book soon prompts discussion of Huxley’s graceful exit, which Watts calls “a highly intelligent form of dying.”

Watts relates an anecdote about Goethe’s last hours, during which a visitor was told that he was “busy dying.” “Dying is an art,” says Watts, “and it’s also an adventure,” Laura adds. Their discussion then turns to Huxley’s final novel, Island (which you can read in PDF here). Island has rarely been favorably reviewed as a literary endeavor. And yet, as Watts points out, it wasn’t intended as literature, but as a “sociological blueprint in the form of a novel.” Laura Huxley, upset at the book’s chilly reception, wishes her husband had “written it straight.” Nonetheless, she points out that Island was much more than a Utopian fantasy or philosophical thought experiment. It was a document in which “every method, every recipe… is something he experimented with himself in his own life.” As Laura wrote in This Timeless Moment:

Every single thing that is written in Island has happened and it’s possible and actual … Island is really visionary common sense. Things that Aldous and many other people said, that were seen as so audacious – they are common sense, but they were visionary because they had not yet happened.

Those things included not only radical forms of living, but also, as Huxley himself demonstrated, radical ways of dying.

Related Content:

Aldous Huxley’s Most Beautiful, LSD-Assisted Death: A Letter from His Widow

Aldous Huxley Reads Dramatized Version of Brave New World

Leonard Cohen Narrates Film on The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Featuring the Dalai Lama (1994)

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Washington, DC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Grandpa and Jesus

Somewhere between running water and voices,  I hear drums. I can not make out what the voices are saying.  Just a low murmur.  I sure like the way the water and drums drown out the conversations that never stop. Pitches. Running water makes music and has different pitches in it’s rhythm. And the drum mimics the heart beat, but with decorations and ornaments that make the dragons fly by.

Grandpa was  clever at devising ingenious devices, the man with the grizzled beard always kept his eyes on the world. His advice was full of cut and dried old phrases. A lifetime working at the rubber plant left him with a lack of imagination,  he became an ordinary guy.  A descendant of the Dutch, settlers of New York, just an off handed, lonely, Knickerbocker guy. An old patroon. He was the guardian of activity…a divine entity. But he hadn’t a clue.

So anyway, the old patroon was legally blind from a large waterfall of cataracts. Clouds over the pupils. Hmmm…  He had them removed before laser surgery was discovered,  and now he was 92  (now being back then). He once asked me, as death got nearer to him, if I believed if Jesus really rose from the dead.

“I guess spiritually Grampa,” I answered and thought it was a pretty good answer. But like an admission of guilt, the words escaped from my mouth and ran into his ears and did not bother to hide in the halls of his brain till it made sense upon further investigation by him.

A great hostility and rage he became. “I know spiritually! I mean literally, do you believe it?” he yelled back angrily. The doubt on the face of a man wanting so badly to believe. I felt awkward so I said nothing. Perhaps I should have been honest and said no, but I remained silent…such an empty reply. Grandma, his wife and Baptist Christian believer, died two years before. And now his lonely body was nothing but a vessel for pain and grief. Poor guy, 92 years of life, only to be reduced to this. How fucking rude of life! He wanted to see his son, who died in World War II by a Kamikaze pilot, his 18 year old body lost in the ocean forever. He wanted to see his wife again, who through the years had became half of him. He wanted to believe the Christians so he could see his wife and son in heaven, but his doubt was torturing him. He was stuck in rational mode trying to believe a story full of holes, and his mind became strapped down and wasn’t free to wonder. He just couldn’t jump the hurdle that the church put up. Strangulation  by dogma.

As he laid dying in the hospital, his daughter, my aunt, lay dying from lung cancer just down the hall. But nobody told Grandpa. It would have been too much for him, they thought. I don’t know. I just let them think their thoughts, and do their deeds. My then much younger mom, his other daughter,  was with him when he left this world.  She watched him sit up in bed with his arms extended and call his wife’s name. My mother was sure he saw her, as he hugged the air and laid down and died.

Now I ask, “Grandpa, is there life after death?”

Silence…such an empty reply.

But somewhere between running water and voices, I hear drums.

Deathbed Visions, DMT & Consciousness – Reflections on Life and the Beyond

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In recent years in the West there have been a number of studies in which people on their deathbeds are asked what it is they most regret about their lives. An Australian palliative nurse, Bronnie Ware, conducted one such study of patients in her care – she spent several years looking after a range of people in the final 12 weeks of their lives and kept a record of their dying epiphanies, publishing them in her book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. Ware spoke of their astounding lucidity and identified five common themes which recurred over and over. These were:

  • That they had lived their lives true to themselves.
  • That they hadn’t worked so hard.
  • That they had the courage to express their own feelings.
  • That they had stayed in touch with their friends.
  • That they had allowed themselves to be happier.

What emerged is a pattern of conformity – both to those around them and wider society – which ultimately prohibited them from leading a truly satisfactory life in which their own dreams and ambitions were fully realised. From the treadmill of everyday work to the way in which we adopt our persona to suit the demands and expectations of others, these regrets are as predictable as they are a sad reflection of the skewed priorities which tend to dominate Western culture. At the same time they reflect something of a pessimistic approach to viewing life and death, focusing on the absence of something positive instead of an appreciation for the goodness that actually existed.

By contrast, Japanese documentarian and film-maker Hirokazu Kore-eda approached the idea of reflecting on life from a different perspective, asking hundreds of subjects from all walks of life – many of whom were not facing imminent death – to choose one cherished moment from their past which defined their lives. The result is a whimsical celebration of life in all its beauty and diversity, which also demonstrates how much people tend to fictionalize their past, with rose-tinted nostalgia heavily influencing their reminiscences. Choosing a single most cherished moment also proves to be considerably more difficult to do than listing one’s regrets, suggesting that negativity has become engrained in mankind’s mindset, as if anxiety and lamentation has become a driving force behind the species.

Kore-eda compiled the interviews and conducted many more for his film After Life, which straddles both documentary and work of fiction, and the result is a film which suggests the immanence of the human experience, with many themes and concepts emerging that a variety of different cultures would doubtless share. So too with deathbed phenomena – the paranormal experiences and visions of those on the brink of death – there is a unity across cultures, and indeed throughout history. Frequently these visions of heavenly creatures and deceased relatives have been considered evidence for the presence of a spirit realm and even as proof of the after life, comforting visions of a place beyond the familiar temporal realm.

The following account from Chaz Ebert, the wife of the popular American film critic Roger Ebert, highlights the nature of deathbed visions in a contemporary context:

“The one thing people might be surprised about—Roger said that he didn’t know if he could believe in God. He had his doubts. But toward the end, something really interesting happened. That week before Roger passed away, I would see him and he would talk about having visited this other place. I thought he was hallucinating. I thought they were giving him too much medication. But the day before he passed away, he wrote me a note: “This is all an elaborate hoax.” I asked him, “What’s a hoax?” And he was talking about this world, this place. He said it was all an illusion. I thought he was just confused. But he was not confused. He wasn’t visiting heaven, not the way we think of heaven. He described it as a vastness that you can’t even imagine. It was a place where the past, present, and future were happening all at once.”

Not surprisingly, when mainstream science first came to examine such phenomena in the early 20th century, they were rationalised by the materialistic mindset as being nothing more than hallucinations – a rationalisation which continues to the present day. There is some merit to this interpretation, as anyone who has taken psychedelic drugs can attest to.

Hallucinogenic drugs such as psilocybin and DMT are capable of manifesting alien realms and entities which for the user feel every bit as real as experiences they might have in sobriety; with DMT, visions of otherworldly beings are incredibly common. Given that the neuronal function of the brain at the point of death is impaired, experiencing a stage of cerebral hypoxia, it is entirely plausible that these visions correspond to these changes in brain activity. This would certainly parallel the work of Rick Strassman and his studies into DMT and the near-death experience, in which he posits that the pineal gland releases huge doses of the chemical at the moment of death.

But new theories have emerged in recent years which may finally take us towards a true reconciliation of science and spirit, in which the deathbed visions of people and places are neither the imaginative products of an ingrained cultural and historical perception of an afterlife nor chemically-induced hallucinations, but real phenomena which actually exist.

Harvard neurosurgeon Dr. Eben Alexander, recently interviewed on Waking Times, conducted extensive research which challenged the orthodoxy of reductive materialism and offered a radical new interpretation of the way in which consciousness functions. Rather than being a product of the brain, Alexander posits that “consciousness is at the core of an unfolding reality” and that beyond this there is a conscious force which exists external to the physical body. Additional research in the field of consciousness by Stanford University Professor Emeritus William A. Tiller has indicated a powerful realm between particles which is heavily influenced by human consciousness. This latent energy, which interacts between the conventionally-measured molecular/atomic substance is apparently spurred into interaction by intentions projected from the mind.

A number of prestigious scientists have long held to the theory of the multiverse, building upon the lack of predictability in quantum mechanics as the starting point for an ever-expanding array of parallel universes. Dr. Robert Lanza, in his book Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness Are the Key to Understanding the Nature of the Universe, put forward the notion – long held in religious and spiritual beliefs – that consciousness continues on after the death of the physical form. With consciousness the driving force behind the existence of the universe, Lanza believes that consciousness never actually dies, and that we only perceive it as doing so because of the identity people have with their bodies. Beyond this, Lanza suggests that consciousness can travel between universes at will – just as our bodies are thought of as the product of stardust (and there is solid mainstream science supporting that idea) so too are our “souls” intrinsically linked to the proto-consciousness which forms the fabric of space and time.

A recent study from Boston University revealed that belief in immortality may be hard-wired into the human brain, and while this study focused primarily on highlighting the cognitive roots of religious belief, an interesting aspect of the findings points to these beliefs originating not in culture and upbringing, as was initially assumed, but as intuitive concepts – natural drives rather than nurtured opinions. But perhaps this implicit awareness is more than mere fantasy – if the theories of Alexander, Tiller, Lanza and an increasing number of experts in a variety of fields prove to be correct, it would mean that humanity would have to radically revise its views on death itself, and deathbed reflections on hopes and regrets could become almost redundant.

Rather than validating the claims of religious institutions throughout history, confirmation of consciousness as a phenomena which both shapes the universe around us and transcends the physical realm would forge a new era of metaphysical enquiry. Albert Einstein famously predicted that “the religion of the future will be a cosmic religion” – that future may already be with us.

About the Author

Andrew Dilks writes on culture and politics at orwellwasright.co.uk. He is the author of Goliath and Flow. His newest book Prehistoric Highs: Mind-Altering Plants and the Birth of Civilization will be available in 2014.

This article is offered under Creative Commons license. It’s okay to republish it anywhere as long as attribution bio is included and all links remain intact. 

Mushroom Clouds

Psychedelic-Vision

When the world arises in me,
It’s just an illusion:
Water shimmering in the sun,
A vein of silver in mother-of-pearl,
A serpent in a strand of rope.

From me the world streams out
And in me it dissolves,
As a bracelet melts into gold,
A pot crumbles into clay,
A wave subsides into water.

I am God sounds a bit arrogant doesn’t it? How about this, I am God and so are you. Better? Well, only if you really understand the allegory. God is a concept that stands for that which we can’t identify. That which gives us life and co-creates this experience. Him, Her, It, the Force, Consciousness and many others names can symbolically be given to what some call God. I think it’s fair to say most have given up the thought that God is an old white bearded man in the sky, hopefully. Not all, and maybe not most. I do not personally know most people. I’ve only met a tiny percent of the world’s population, so most is mostly a useless word. Useless words shouldn’t be used. Too late now, but I’ll make a mental note about that. (Which would be useless as I can’t remember anything for very long anymore). (I just used useless again, didn’t I? I’ll never learn).

This Consciousness is in everything, absolutely everything, and in fact is all there really is. The last psychedelic trip I took was very interesting. I could see, feel and literally Be everything I saw. A rock, the wall, food. Everything was consciousness and I was connected intimately with everything I saw. I literally became that thing. Alas, explaining a trip to someone who’s never tripped is like explaining color to someone born blind. It’s impossible. But many might say, “Yes, but you were in a drug induced hallucination.” But no, it was a spiritual experience. Watch the movie DMT, The Spirit Molecule. Read how the Shamans used mushrooms. Catch up on some Terrence McKenna lectures. Better yet, take a trip if you’re an adult. You’ll never be the same again. (Don’t just find some stuff and take it, do it right, read up on it and have an experienced guide with you if possible. LSD is actually not the best for this, but it’s the easiest to get and will work just fine. Disclaimer: I did not just endorse hallucinogenic drugs, that was just your interpretation and twisting of my words. (Shame on you, implying and what not). :P

Or just start meditating, that is the slow way, but it will get you there. You will understand that reality is mostly made up of beliefs. Belief that an object is solid is the biggest illusion. It’s a mostly empty spaced atoms vibrating at a speed that makes it impossible to pass your hand through it. But it is not solid. And all ‘matter,’ including us, is connected to the invisible force I prefer to call Consciousness. There is no time, that’s also an illusion, a tool that helps humans function, but it’s not real. It would seem that Consciousness is flickering off and on, pulsating eternally, folding and unfolding into Itself, allowing us to experience that which is Ourselves. We are like a computer and Consciousness is like the server. We are like a virtual reality game. Reality too is evolving, and we will always be a part of it. Death is an illusion that only exists in the minds of the living. There is no end to existence. Don’t you think it odd that you exist right now, in this time, but never did before and never will again? It just doesn’t work like that.

Science and physicists know the nature of reality isn’t grounded in their fundamental materialism that they seem to be stuck in. Until mainstream science takes the leap and admits publically that there is a Force that animates us things will not change, but evolution by nature betters itself, so the time will come when we realize the system of fiat money and dependence on material things hurts us. It might be 10 years or 100 years or a thousand years. The reason the flimsy paradigm of science isn’t changing quicker is because of the fucking 5oo year persecution of the church. That resulted in science setting itself up us only materialistic with spirituality strictly taboo. Religion and science were once one entity. In ancient Egypt, they KNEW there was no death. They KNEW intuitively, from direct experience, not belief, that death was an illusion. They didn’t even have a word for death. The Hindus call the ‘dead’ the disappeared. They are still here, but their body has disappeared. The Buddha said everything is an illusion, the Hindus called illusion Maya. Mysticism and science do belong together.

To get your knowledge of reality from a religious book issued by a government for the purpose of control is insane. Words written by other humans are not to be worshipped. The meaning of the words have been lost anyways. The ‘Jew Peter’ is mythically ‘Jupiter,’ (and mystically something else long forgotten, or driven underground or out of existence), but it’s a form of chasing your own shadow. I.E. The statue in Rome of Peter is an old statue of Zeus, or Jupiter, right in plain sight and we don’t/won’t see it. Belief over rides reality. (Kennedy’s head went backward and part of his brain landed on the trunk, yet they say he was shot from behind AND called it a MAGIC bullet, and people believed). We really need to stop and analyze our beliefs. We can learn that we assign a belief to everything. There is nothing in our reality but beliefs, illusions, and not knowing this is hurting us, not helping. We need both a  spirituality based on reality and a “material experience” to be fully Human. Our purpose is to evolve and become Love. To realize our full potential, or better said, Remember our full potential, as it seems we had it at one time and lost it. That paradigm will come, I predict, when science makes that long awaited announcement to the public about what it already suspects.  Many PhDs are speaking out even now (but mainstream ain’t having anything to do with it yet), and their theories are harshly ridiculed by their peers. Stubborn and stupid, indeed it is. Oh well, it’s all in cycles. A circular circus. Like the snake biting it’s own tail.

Bill Hicks 101

Bill_Hicks_take_some_mushrooms

“Today a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration. That we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. There is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves.” ~ Bill Hicks

 

Ahead of his time? You bet. Born December 16, 1961 –  Died of cancer February 26, 1994 RIP Bill Hicks, thanks for your comedy/philososphy

One Soul, Many Bodies: The Case for Reincarnation

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What happens to us when we die? It’s a question everyone eventually asks themselves at some point in their life. It transcends racial, social, political, economic and gender lines, making it the one question common to all human beings whether we like it or not.

Yet ever since the first men and woman began pondering their mortality a hundred thousand years ago, the answer has eluded us. What does happen when we die? What becomes of our soul, our mind, our personality – our very essence? For that matter, do we even have such a thing as a soul, or is it all an illusion we have created to give ourselves a sense of permanence and the hope of immortality?

The rationalist answers this query by proclaiming that since we are nothing more than a collection of cells and our brains simply tissue encased within a mantle of bone, nothing can happen to us when we die. The essence, personality, mind – soul – or whatever we wish to call our consciousness, ceases to exist, endowing our time on this planet with no more meaning than that which we choose to give it during our brief sojourn here. This is, of course, the position of the atheist, which is what makes atheism, in my opinion, so easy. It requires nothing because it offers nothing, which strikes me as a fair trade.

To most people, however, this answer is unsatisfactory. It suggests that we are little more than some great cosmic accident and that, consequently, our life has no ultimate purpose, forcing us to contemplate an existence without meaning in a universe that, despite all its beauty and splendour, has no more significance – or ultimate permanence – than a flower that briefly blooms in the spring only to wither and die after a few short days of vibrant life.

I suppose there are people for whom such a prospect is acceptable. It does, after all, tidy things up and make life simply a little game we sentient beings like to play for no particularly good reason other than because we have no choice. Yet something deep within the human heart knows better. We instinctively understand that we are more than the sum of our parts, which is why most people believe their personalities will survive their physical demise in some form and will continue on long after their bones have turned to dust. This, of course, brings us to our second option, which is that the personality/ego/true self/whatever you want to call it does survive the demise of the body to exist – at least for a time – as a separate disembodied consciousness. If this is the case, however, the next question that logically follows is what happens next?

Some believe, for example, that we become ghosts – little more than disembodied spirits aimlessly wandering the Earth, capable of perceiving the physical realm but unable to interact with it in any meaningful way. They can even point to various evidences to support this contention, from reported hauntings to automatic writing, séances, and apparent disembodied spirits caught on film.

While I personally have no problem with the idea of ghosts, I don’t think existing as a disembodied consciousness is truly a viable long-term option for what happens to us. Ghosts always struck me as being transitory; beings stuck on the Earth plane for a time only to ultimately move on and so essentially vanish from our physical realm. As such, even if we are to become ghosts, it will be, at least for the vast majority of us, a brief experience and not our eternity. I suspect we all eventually move on to ‘greener pastures’, so to speak.

Now, however, is where things get more interesting. Most people, regardless of whether they believe in ghosts or not, believe that the essence of who we are – our “soul” if you will – goes some place. Heaven is the favoured destination for most; a place where our conscious personality, no longer shackled to the limitations and burdens of physical existence, survives within a perpetual state of bliss and joy throughout eternity. Some add to this by also embracing a belief in hell; a perpetual state of torment for those who turn to evil and so are doomed to exist forever within a conscious state of agony, regret, and fear.

Both positions, however, suffer from the same problem, and that is that they see our time here on this planet as but a blink of the eye of eternity, with the decisions we make – or fail to make – while in the body having profound and eternal ramifications. Unfortunately, this reduces the physical world to little more than a cosmic hatchery that exists only to birth new souls, each of which will spend a short time in it before winging – or, potentially, plunging – to their ultimate destiny.

While admittedly this idea does manage to make this single life of paramount importance, it also forces one to wonder why a physical realm is necessary at all. If the physical universe exists merely as a vehicle for our creation, why couldn’t the process be circumvented entirely and we be created directly into the spiritual realm – as was supposedly the case with God’s angels?

Why all the unnecessary pain and hardship of a physical existence – especially if there exists the very real danger that we might earn hell through our misdeeds – if the spirit realm is the only destination that awaits us? In such a context, physical existence seems not only pointless but, in many ways, even hazardous.

So where does that leave us? If no Heaven and if no Hell, then what’s left?

There is a third position to consider. It is one that until recently has been largely ignored in the West but has been embraced by literally billions of people around the world for thousands of years. It is the belief that this physical existence is neither insignificant nor transient, but instead is perpetually ongoing. It is the concept that our soul lives on not in some ethereal Eden – or Hades – somewhere, but realises perpetual existence through a process of continual rebirths into the physical realm, making our time on this planet not one single, brief experience, but a repetitive process realised through literally hundreds of lifetimes. It is a timeless belief – one that predates both Christianity and Islam by many centuries – and one that is known by many names in many cultures. It’s been called rebirth, regeneration, transmigration of the soul, even metempsychosis, but is perhaps best known to us today as reincarnation.

Upon first consideration, especially to those who haven’t given the idea great thought, reincarnation may seem to be a foreign or exotic concept, especially to the Western mind steeped in the scientific method and drenched in two thousand years of monotheistic religion. It is something for Hindu holy men to ponder, or New Agers to embrace, but nothing that seems particularly relevant to most Westerners today.

I can easily understand this perspective for it is one I held myself for the first forty years of my life. And the truth be told, it is an Eastern concept – one in vogue more than four millennia before Christ was born and a belief held to by nearly two billion of the world’s population today – making it one of the oldest and most enduring belief systems known to man. In fact, it may be the original post-mortem belief among early humans who probably considered the idea when they began noticing strong similarities between recently born offspring and their deceased ancestors. Perhaps the mannerisms or interests a child displayed reminded one of a deceased loved one or a birthmark mimicked that found on a long-dead grandparent, leading village elders to imagine that the dead ancestor had returned a second time – a not unreasonable assumption in cultures that naturally assumed the soul to be inherently immortal.

Unfortunately, Westerners have traditionally had a tendency to consider foreign or primordial religious concepts as primitive and so reject them out of hand. However, this perception appears to be slowly changing as reincarnationist beliefs have become more prevalent in the West, especially in the last fifty years, and is becoming increasingly popular to ever growing numbers of people.

A Lost Western Tradition of How the Soul Returns

Of course, unbeknownst to most people, reincarnation has always been a part of Western thought. The prospect that the soul repeatedly returns to the flesh flourished in ancient Greece almost three thousand years ago and may have played a far more important role in our development as a civilisation than traditional histories have led us to believe. Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, and Pythagoras all taught and believed in some form of rebirth, the foundations of which were later adopted by the great Roman philosophers Ovid, Virgil, and Cicero, along with a host of other great thinkers of antiquity.

In fact, reincarnationist concepts were so prevalent in the centuries immediately preceding the birth of Christ, that they played a major role in many of the “mystery” religions of the Mediterranean; religions which were themselves to become the template for other later mystical faith systems of the region. Reincarnation, then, far from being a purely foreign concept was, in fact, widespread and may have strongly influenced the shape and thrust of Greek and Roman philosophy.

Even more of a surprise to many people, however, is the fact that reincarnationist concepts were also part of some of the more mystical branches of traditional Western religion, from the Sufis of Islam to the Gnostics of the early centuries of Christianity, and even within the Hasidic and Kabbalist traditions in Judaism. In fact, at times it virtually flourished and, especially in the case of Christianity, almost became the predominant belief system during the first few centuries of the Church’s existence until it was forced underground by the more traditional, non-reincarnationist branches of Christianity. Its proponent’s writings declared heretical and burned, the concept was so successfully suppressed by the Church of Rome that few Christians today even realise it was ever a part of their own faith.

Why was it suppressed? The obvious answer is because it threatened authority. Western religion is largely dependent upon the belief that man is destined to “die once and then be judged” to maintain control. In promising multiple rebirths, however, reincarnation renders the proclamations of the Pope or the Grand Mufti or whomever was the ruling head at the time transitory and, the truth be told, irrelevant. As such, reincarnation threatened the Church’s very livelihood, making it a very dangerous idea that had to be either suppressed or labelled as heretical in order for the Church to maintain its power base. As a result, the concept remained largely unknown outside of Asia for probably seventeen of the last twenty-one centuries.

Its revival in the West was imminent, however, with the arrival of the Age of Enlightenment in the eighteenth century. Once the long forgotten writings of the ancient Greeks again became available and one could hold to previously forbidden ideas without forfeiting their lives, such once forbidden concepts as reincarnation became increasingly popular, especially among the intellectual elite of the era. Amongst those who held to some form of multiple rebirths are such notables as Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Benjamin Franklin, Shakespeare, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Voltaire, among others.

Interpreting What it Means to Reincarnate

However, since its reintroduction into the Western consciousness, reincarnation has undergone a transformation. It is no longer the unending “cycle of life” wheel taught by the Hindus and Buddhists, but has become a “school of higher education” designed to bring us to ever greater levels of spiritual enlightenment. This is why when a Hindu or a Buddhist and their fellow Western reincarnationist talk about the subject, it often appears as though they are speaking two different languages. This is because in some ways they are, which is where the confusion comes in.

To the Hindu, the soul is essentially stuck in a never ending cycle of rebirth which can never be broken due to the continual need to balance one’s karma. In effect, with each incarnation into the flesh, the human personality – a by-product of the underlying soul that birthed it – accumulates a degree of bad karma that must be worked off in order to restore balance to itself. Some of this karma can be worked off in life in the form of good works, but this is seldom sufficient to work off the entire debt, which must be accounted for in the next life by having the soul take on an incarnation that may be more difficult so the ongoing karmic debt can be worked off.

On rare occasions, a life may be so exemplary that the person might be born into a higher station (or caste in Hindu parlance) but as a rule, bad karma tends to outweigh good karma and, in being continually accumulated through each lifetime, adds to the growing debt that remains to be balanced and so perpetuating the rebirth cycle. (Of course, if one accumulates too much bad karma, they may not be reborn as a person at all, but could come back as an animal or even, in some teachings, an inanimate object such as a stone. This belief is called “transmigration of the soul” and is also a major element of Hindu teachings.)

Buddhism, on the other hand, while understanding the process of reincarnation in much the same way as does the Hindu, differs in that it teaches that the cycle of rebirth can be broken through achieving nirvana (literally, enlightenment), at which point the cycle is broken.

Enlightenment means essentially to be become aware of one’s true nature and to the realities contained within the Four Noble Truths as articulated by Gautama Buddha over two thousand years ago. These are: first, to be alive is to suffer due to the imperfection of human nature and the world around us; second, that the cause of suffering is attachment to transient things (in effect, craving or desiring things); third, that one can learn to let go of these attachments; and, finally, that the process of achieving enlightenment is progressive and may itself extend over many lifetimes.

In sharp contrast, to many Western reincarnationists, the purpose of rebirth is to learn the lessons we need to learn in each incarnation in order to advance to the next spiritual level which, while having some similarities to the Buddhist concept of slowly achieving enlightenment over a number of incarnations by practicing the Buddha’s Eightfold Path (right view, right intentions, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration), is actually quite different.

The Buddhist does not believe that one is “learning” new lessons with each lifetime, but simply applying the principles contained within the Eightfold Path until craving, ignorance, delusions and its effects gradually disappear as progress is made towards enlightenment. To the Western mindset, attachment is not seen as the source of the problem (though it does generally acknowledge that an obsessive attachment to things can be detrimental to spiritual growth).

Another significant difference between Eastern and Western concepts of reincarnation have to do with the perception of what it is, exactly, that is reincarnating. The Hindu sees the soul – the divine essence of God – as being the generator of each incarnation, with the individual personality or ego a transient expression of that soul.

In marked contrast, the Buddhist doesn’t believe in individualised souls at all, but believes the sense of self is merely an illusion created by our own perceptions – a conscious “memory” if you will, conceived by our assumption that we exist separately. To the Buddhist, we are all a part of a larger, divine consciousness that has simply taken on the very brief “illusion” that it is separate. The Buddhists compare our sense of existence to the waves upon the ocean; just as a wave is a temporary phenomena caused by wind and currents, our personality is equally as transient and is, upon death, absorbed back into the divine consciousness in the same way that a wave upon the ocean is eventually swallowed up by the ocean itself.

In the West, however, the personality – or ego – is more robust and generally considered immortal. To many, the soul and the personality are considered essentially synonymous, so as a result, when we die, our basic personality – complete with all its memories, life experiences, knowledge, and traits – returns in another body to continue its existence. It may not have a direct memory of its past life – though some people claim to be possess the ability to consciously remember their previous incarnations – but it is essentially the same personality starting life over again in another context.

The personality may experience dramatically new surroundings – for example, it may experience one incarnation as an Indian girl who lived and died in the nineteenth century and then return as a Spanish man in the twentieth century – but it is still the same “person” underlying each “role.” Of course, the experiences and environment it finds itself in through each subsequent incarnation will affect the base personality in both subtle and sometimes substantial ways, but this too is a part of the process. This is why the Westerner sees reincarnation in the context of “lessons.” After all, the Indian girl was able to experience and learn only so much in her short time on Earth, mandating that she return again – this time as a Spanish male – to learn those things she either neglected to learn or hadn’t the opportunity to learn in her previous incarnation.

This makes spiritual enlightenment a type of “to do” list that needs to be checked off in its entirety before we can cease the process of rebirth. (What happens after that is equally open to speculation among Westerners: some imagine we come back as avatars or spiritual teachers; others speculate that we start the process over again on another planet, while still others maintain that we move onto other dimensions. Apparently, the options available to the enlightened soul are extensive.)

I wonder, however, if the truth is not a conglomeration of each of these perceptions? Clearly the Eastern concepts of a parent soul that births each and every individual personality has merit, as does the Buddhist belief in the transient, temporary nature of the ego that is birthed. And the Western concept that we reincarnate until we learn what we need to know also has some validity and seems to parallel in some ways the Buddhist idea that the cycle of rebirth ends upon achieving enlightenment – however one chooses to define the term.

I often wonder if we aren’t all looking upon the same phenomena and not simply seeing only those parts of it that speak to us personally. I suspect our understanding of the purpose for reincarnation is lacking in many ways and may never be entirely complete, though I also believe we are making progress in coming to a fuller appreciation for its complexity and sophistication. Perhaps one day East and West will come together and merge their different perceptions and in so doing, form a complete whole that answers everyone’s questions.

Of course, I recognise that such may sound like a contradictory process. After all, how can there be a soul and yet not a soul, and how can the ego be immortal and yet transient? To combine both Western and Eastern concepts of reincarnation would seem to embrace paradox, but I have found it is often within the complexities of paradox that the truth exists. In fact, it is only our limited ability to understand that makes these apparent contradictions paradoxes in the first place.

I wonder if they would still appear as such were we to find the capacity within ourselves to truly understand on a level our current mental capacity does not permit. On the other hand, perhaps understanding these concepts is not done at a mind level, but on a spiritual level, which is a difficult place for many people to go.

Maybe in the end we were never meant to fully understand how reincarnation works, and that may be where the adventure really begins. Perhaps the question of what happens to us when we die was never meant to be answered but merely explored, for it is in seeking – not necessarily finding – the answer that growth can take place.

It may be, in fact, that it is only in abandoning our need to find the answers that we give them the ability to find us. In effect, we may be like the man who is so busy looking for treasure that he fails to realise he is searching for it within the bowels of a gold mine. Were he to but look up and see the treasure that shimmers all around him, he would realise how silly his fervent quest had been all along. Perhaps we need only do the same.

Jeff Allen Danelek’s latest book The Case for Reincarnation: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Soul (Llewellyn, 2010) is available from all good bookstores or via www.newdawnbooks.info.

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A native Minnesotan who currently resides in Colorado, JEFF ALLEN DANELEK has been working as a graphic artist and technical illustrator since leaving the Navy in 1984. He has been writing as a hobby for fifteen years, and enjoys presenting alternative theories on increasingly popular subjects dealing with the strange and inexplicable world around us. Danelek is regularly featured at seminars, conferences, and has been a frequent guest on Coast to Coast AM with George Noory and the X-Zone with Rob McConnell. His books include The Case for Ghosts, Atlantis: Lessons from a Prehistoric Civilization, UFOs: The Great Debate, and 2012: Extinction or Utopia: Doomsday Prophecies Explored. His latest book is The Case for Reincarnation: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Soul. Danelek is also a novelist and instructor at Colorado Free University. His website is www.ourcuriousworld.com.

The above article appeared in New Dawn Special Issue 14.

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