Are mystics bothered by the thought of death?
Death seems part of a process to which I am completely reconciled. I wouldn’t mind not waking up in the morning.
The subject was mentioned a year ago at a garden party and an otherwise lively, optimistic woman, a passionate, accomplished water colourist, went into breakdown mode before our very eyes. A year later she was taken off an airplane and rushed to hospital with a heart attack. Now she can’t travel by air. She is frail and fearful, loves life, is very emotionally attached to it. Mortality is not discussed in her presence.
Human life is tenuous. Ordinary humans can be very attached to life, deeply pained at the fear of loss of familiarity with life generally and their lives in particular when they die.
A friend wrote recently with a list of her attachments: “My mind, my thoughts, memories, my body, its care and feeding my family, my garden and this place where we live. Nature’s wonders and beauty, the astonishment of art the beauty of animals, the choice to create, my membership in the human race and its history and future.”
Bear in mind the mystic experience that attachment is one of the distracting “veils” separating humans from the real reality of existence, (Lust, Anger, Greed, Attachment and Ego being the others). Some religions still think these attachments are the work of the devil. Whatever, attachments do need to be taken seriously if death is to be approached with equanamity. Some experiential knowledge schools assume their seekers will want to be absolutely on their own at the moment of death so as to be able to concentrate on relinquishment of one thing into the transition to the other.
Death can’t be avoided. But talking and thinking about it beforehand can lessen the original impact of its finality, the inescapability of being wrenched helplessly from all we know and think we are. We never used to be able to talk about cancer a few years ago. That changed, and so will our attitude to public acknowledgement of death and its consequences that start before we even get there …
No wonder so many of the experiential knowledge schools berate what they see as people’s minds working in default from sheer spiritual neglect. Their experience is that mind controls human behaviour, physicaly, mentally, and spiritually. Stephen Hawking, the famous theroretical physicist, says the brain is just a fleshy mud computer, the mind does the programming.
Some of the thinking of the experiential knowledge schools’ predates Hawkings. They assert you can control the mind, therefore the brain too, to some extent, though not wholly, and that you can enter a more spiritual frame of mind thereby that gives you some access to real reality.
My friend also asked, ” ….how does (the experience) affect who you think you are now?”
One of the things reality showed me is that I am a what, not a who. A who is a human construct, and as such, a digression at best. In reality, I is of no consequence except as a carrier of something that belongs to the Reality and is perhaps maturing before taking up its position in Reality again.
Or maybe this human process is just how Reality knows itself, as some schools believe is the case? Among many of the things I was given was the ability to listen, hear, discern, accept and endure.
My experiences were spontaneous, unbidden, unexpected. Like the reports on other people who have had this experience of reality, I had no discernible qualification to receive it, no educational, physical, mental, or any other attribute, other than innocence and late development perhaps. The experiences left me utterly confident in what I had experienced, but bewildered. I had been returned to being human to deal with the revelation. I was concerned people would find out I was mentally ill. I became more and more alienated from the human mythomanias that rule day to day human lives. It was difficult to function in every day human society and organisation. But I was progressively enlightened to the facts of real reality and I eventually became reconciled, content and watchful here, though uncomfortable in my masquerading as wholly normal human, with interests in human banalties that in fact only exasperated me and exacerbated a lack of patience with suchlike. It was a relief when I got to the stage where I suddenly developed small talk and can now socialise more easily… Small talk is now an easy mask, though I do feel conscience stricken, sometimes, My mind seems less on default now. It awaits my commands, (more or less …).
My friend wrote: “Some attachments prevent us from realizing higher realities and so are shunned by those on the path.”
Yes, those on the path do work on it, in my experience. I know I won’t have any attachments in the Reality after death. Reality just is, and I am that. This will be totally infused into That. In the absence of any personal evidence to the contrary, I presume this applies to many experiencers.
We’re so enfolded, infused with joy in the continuum of Reality after human death that awareness of something so mundane as humanity won’t even present itself to us as an option. Even so, love would keep us wholly there, not here. Here, love is lust, anger, greed, attachment and ego. There, it’s complete, integrated ACCEPTANCE – then, now and forever.
My friend pooh-poohed my attitude of detachment. “Oh come on,” she said, “surely you’re attached to your lovely, successful sons, your grandchildren and your beautiful wife?” I told her birth pangs are painful, but beautiful too. Death is a birth. More joy and acceptance is awaiting us than we have ever experienced, if my own experiences are anything to go by. All is well. Mankind is very young. No one knows how long it’s going to last. We may be an experiment. Maybe a failing one? No matter, the spirit goes on. Thankfully, in my view, humans aren’t in charge of the process.
My friend agreed that by the time she gets to the end she will probably have no self willed options either … She has breast cancer. She wrote this to me the other day:
“I, too, accept that it will all be over soon, that my life has had great meaning and value to me, that it has been a gift beyond measure to be alive in a human mind, to experience this amazing Universe in a time of much knowing and much change. I feel deeply blessed, even by my stupid mistakes.
“I wish I could be sure of continued awareness after leaving my body. That would be great. To watch the world unfold as eternity unfolds and yet not have to be here for the hard stuff.”
You don’t leave the body, the body leaves you. The “more real you” goes on …
Then she thought: “We are running out of time for this life. What are our priorities?
Mine aren’t human. Therein lies death to the Reality of spirituality in personal human experience. There is little to be gained in spiritual Reality from the study of human beings, in my opinion.
I’ve been surprised for some time that I’m still here. Of course I have twinges of human sadness at the thought of leaving some deep mental (ie, emotional) attachments; mind stuff that has been gathered here. Every birth has pangs. But when the time comes, I don’t think they will prevail. My spiritual mentor used to ask what we’d try to rescue if our house was on fire. Any answer is wrong.
What really concerns me about death is that we’re all living longer. Are we edging towards enduring the Bible’s promise of a 120 year life span some scientists agree we’re designed for …? If so, I have an inlaw who has had vicissitudes in his life that the thought of living to 120 is going to make him tear his hair out, because his experience coincides with what he found Socrates of ancient times believed:
“We too must endure and persevere in the inquiry, and then courage will not laugh at our faintheartedness in searching for courage; which after all may, very likely, be endurance.” Socrates, Philosopher, 470 BC-399.