Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

About the Fear of Death and Speculations on “the Afterlife”

Originally posted on January 16, 2008

Someone read this blog and asked me what I thought about the fear of dying and theories of the afterlife. I don’t know much, but I enjoy thinking, so here are some thoughts:

I think a lot of the fear of death comes from the fear communicated to young children by parents and others who are afraid. They’re afraid because they’ve been taught that death is scary—it is something about which we should be afraid. But I imagine a different scenario: If little kids were told that it is a glorious privilege to be alive in 3-D form, but in fact we’re always alive in the universe. We are part of the Great Becoming, as everything is and always was and will be. (Some call this God, or Allah, Goddess or Great Spirit, or the Source, or Nirvana, Pleroma or the All, and many other names.)

But everything lives and dies, even the stars. Some things live for a few days only, some for billions of years. This is how The Great Becoming rejuvenates itself, gives itself opportunities to create anew, make up new games, new possibilities, keeps the creativity alive.

It’s natural, then, and good, for things to die. When something dies, it goes back to being a part of the Great Becoming. In your own body, you have millions of cells that die each day, from your skin, in your intestinal tract, red blood cells, and they die; and new ones are born: and you live on, rejuvenated, refreshed. So we are cells in the Body of God, and we are born to help God be most alive. When we appreciate the sunset or the song of a bird, we are helping to re-circulate the vitality of God. And when we die, we give ourselves back, so that our parts can be recycled.

Yes, it feels sad, and is sad to those around, for part of the family or neighborhood, part of the story that’s going on, to lose one of its members. And people grieve, and sometimes cry. That part of the story is over. Like a beautiful piece of music when it’s finished. Learning to weave that in to life, for us to take the best of what was and build on it, is part of growing up.

In this story, our body parts are broken down and then used again in new forms. Our soul parts combine with the spirit energy of the cosmos. Our life story, our experience, is all “remembered” by God, as is the story of every atom and bee, every asteroid and star, every bacterium and elephant. All are remembered as part of the unfolding Creative Advance or Becoming of the Cosmos.

There are some disadvantages to the more common current theories of after-life: If we are taught that death is bad and being our egos is good, and that we can’t enjoy life unless we enjoy it as “unitary” egos, then we’ll fear not being unitary egos. We’ll fear experiences of surrender, ecstasy, deep meditation, losing ourselves in anything—even a great book or movie. We have to keep control, keep reminding ourselves—literally, re-mind-ing— that we are who we think we are. (Ironically, who most people think they are is only a thousandth of the magnificence of what the psyche really is!—and in some ways, only a near-infinitesmal part of what we are as expressions of the greater spiritual consciousness.)

Some Other Theories of “After-Life.”

What if instead of imagining a heaven as a location and we as our ordinary familiar selves “living” there— a very difficult fantasy to sustain, by the way—, we considered some alternative hypotheses:

I’m not too keen on one-life to one-life reincarnation. There are a lot of problems with that hypothesis, not the least of which is that one cannot readily ascertain if one has been promoted or demoted. Even if you could remember a past life, what does that do for you? What lessons can you draw from it? Or might you use that (as you tend to use everything else) as a potential excuse?

How about this idea? We shuffle 52 cards to get an interesting variety of hands. Human life shuffles 46 or so chromosomes and thousands of genes to get interesting varieties. What if at a soul level every being, when s/he dies, breaks up into 52 soul fragments? And when a new baby is born, its soul is composed of 52 soul fragments gathered from those given off by others?

What I like about this is that I can use this to explain all sorts of oddities—idiosyncratic tastes, interests, quirks, etc. I imagine in the “inter-soul” domain that not just humans contribute their soul fragments, but all sorts of sentient beings—animals, elves, faeries, extra-terrestrial “aliens,” anything we can imagine as existing! Wow! Okay, so maybe we’re made of 32% miscellaneous people from all over—and maybe from all historical eras—, and a little bit from non-human sources, just for spice, and a couple of ancestors, or parts of the great spiritual beings our ancestors loved. Maybe there are some old enemies and family members, teachers and students, like you get in those people who report “past lives” under hypnotic regression. (But it turns out that you didn’t have just that one past life, but you’re sort of psychically plugged in to or resonating with certain patterns—soul fragments—that “fit” with what you need to learn in this life.)

I can assure you with great confidence and all the authority that I can marshal that I am just making this stuff up and have no idea as to its truth value. I can say that some of these ideas, although a bit weird, are not much weirder than many of the myths that are more familiar to you—and many of which you have even spent parts or much of your life in thinking of as “true.” Indeed, my proposed scenarios may have a few advantages over the more popular myths that are floating around—or maybe not be as vulnerable to some of the disadvantages.

A bit of editorial commentary: Hell is an especially nasty and unnecessary myth, but in another paper I analyze how it arose and became pervasive. For now, let’s just put that in the pile of currently familiar and popular myths about the afterlife.

So there are two theories of afterlife—merging with the All and believing that parts of your soul are inspiring and enjoying through the lives of those who come after you. Okay, here’s another one: You become an angel. But there are forty (more or less) levels of angel-hood, from assistant “gofer” flunky angel who just sweeps up a few left over clouds to cherubic supervisor of the grand high-falutin-top-level angels. And you go through continued thousand-lifetime apprenticeships and learn tons of useful stuff that only angels can understand, and become more skilled. At five or ten levels up you get the honor and hard work of helping poor benighted humans to evolve—you get to be part of the guardian angel platoon that helps each person. (In another blogpage I’ll describe the workings of this platoon.)

Why be alive on this Earth Plane? Aha! Being an angel is great in a thousand ways we cannot imagine, and yet there are a lot of things the best angels can’t enjoy: Being material means that events are experienced more vividly, and this is one of the many missions / agendas of the Great Becoming: What’s it like to “be” everything?  So angels are a bit insubstantial (literally), and so, too, their tasting and feeling is even less vivid than dream events. But what we call ordinary awake-ness in three-dimensional space, in time (4th dimension), having to use energy to move matter around (take a deep breath now)… well, that opens up tons of aesthetic possibilities!

Aesthetic Possibilities

Enjoy that deep breath, and enjoy the next one. Feel the tension if you don’t breath for a bit and then go ahead and breath: Aaah! Notice that feeling. And consider that even the fact that life can seem difficult is itself an opportunity to create new things: Inventions to make it less difficult; building habits and routines. Finding sources of solace or compensating enjoyment. Singing while you work—hey! That helps!

Every human experience is an opportunity for God to experience more vividly certain types of events that no angel can experience. Without our material density, our gross sensations, God can’t experience what we experience! And that would be a shame. Who would deny experience to the One Mind?

God in this scheme isn’t omnipotent in the way most religions think about it, sort of capable of micromanaging and control; rather, the omnipotence is relative: it is the value gradient in all events, that subtle “still, small voice” that hints at longer-term enjoyments. Thus, God lures us towards the good, whatever may be better for each organism in the longer term.

This is a very inefficient system, with billions of deaths of not just billions of organisms, but also of species! But the Divine makes billions of stars so that there may be one that sustains life; and organisms create millions of eggs and sperm cells so that one zygote is fertilized, and there are thousands of embryos and larvae and other tiny baby creatures that are part of the food chain for other critters but one survives and grows to sexual maturity. Ditto for trees and seeds, for all kinds of life forms. Profligacy is a basic principle of 3-D existence. (I confess to knowing rather little if anything at all about other dimensions and realities and cosmos-es, though I’m not shy about making stuff up.)

Anyway, in summary, I take refuge or solace in the myth that I get to be a part of this Great Becoming and that I get to help, even, in however tiny a way. And you get to play with me in this cosmos—and we can play at the edge of the Creative Advance! Hey, there never were blogs and internets and international connections globally! What the poet-mystic-philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin called the “noosphere” is becoming alive, more complex, more integrated, more like an evolving biosphere, developing global consciousness. And as it does, people are thinking also about the greater Cosmos and their place in it, and thus the noosphere itself is evolving into what Teilhard called a “theosphere,” a growing awareness of their being a part of the Greater Spiritual Life of the Multi-Verse. Whee!

2 Responses to “About the Fear of Death and Speculations on “the Afterlife””

  • sue says:

    I have been thinking lately about the nature of the soul, and my itty bitty brain concludes that the soul is likely a ‘bundle of parts.’ You mentioned that a body is made up of cells. To that notion, I would add that even every atom of matter is comprised of parts (neutrons, protons,electrons). And even those parts are comprised of sub-units. People do not usually contemplate the nature of souls, because children are told the usual stoty about souls, death, heaven, and hell. Atoms are rather stable (except for the ones giving off radiation), and normally an atom is not broken down. But the compounds formed by atoms readily form and breakdown. It seems quite logical to me that the soul is made up of components. The important question for me: does the soul break down upon death (like the cells of the body or an unstable compound), or does the soul stay in-tact (like most stable atoms). Or is the answer somewhere in between. Perhaps the soul can shed some of its parts while keeping most of its character. One last point (if you are reading this), according to who’s rule is the soul limited to changing only at birth/conception or death. Why can my soul not have a component added or lost today? And maybe the poor kids suffering from autism, just did not acuire enough soul components during their first few months of life (when humans normally develop a soul). I know that does not exactly fit with the medical community’s theories about autism being a problem with brain development. But perhaps part of normal brain develpment for humans includes obtaining a soul. Perhaps some day scientist will actually understand the interaction of the brain and the soul (if such a thing exists).

  • Jordan says:

    Wonderful blog and topic! I enjoyed your workshop today, and heard you “sing while you worked” a bit.
    The breathe is a great bridge… especially a deep one.

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