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Parables For The New Conversation (Chapter 27: The Testament)

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The following is a chapter from my book ‘Parables For The New Conversation.’ One chapter will be published every Sunday for 36 weeks here on Collective Evolution. (I would recommend you start with Chapter 1 if you haven’t already read it.) I hope my words are a source of enjoyment and inspiration for you, the reader. If perchance you would like to purchase a signed paperback copy of the book, you can do so on my production company website Pandora’s Box Office.

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From the back cover: “Imagine a conversation that centers around possibility—the possibility that we can be more accepting of our own judgments, that we can find unity through our diversity, that we can shed the light of our love on the things we fear most. Imagine a conversation where our greatest polarities are coming together, a meeting place of East and West, of spirituality and materialism, of religion and science, where the stage is being set for a collective leap in consciousness more magnificent than any we have known in our history.

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Now imagine that this conversation honors your uniqueness and frees you to speak from your heart, helping you to navigate your way more deliberately along your distinct path. Imagine that this conversation puts you squarely into the seat of creator—of your fortunes, your relationships, your life—thereby putting the fulfillment of your deepest personal desires well within your grasp.

‘Parables for the New Conversation’ is a spellbinding odyssey through metaphor and prose, personal sagas and historic events, where together author and reader explore the proposal that at its most profound level, life is about learning to consciously manifest the experiences we desire–and thus having fun. The conversation touches on many diverse themes but always circles back to who we are and how our purposes are intertwined, for it is only when we see that our personal desires are perfectly aligned with the destiny of humanity as a whole that we will give ourselves full permission to enjoy the most exquisite experiences life has to offer.”

27. The Testament

By noon on Remembrance Day most of the villagers had found their way into a large circle in the village square. Remembrance Day on the island of Allandon was a celebration of the present through an embracing and owning of injustices and atrocities of the past. Any one would have the opportunity to give testament, in their own words, to events from their collective history that they felt needed to be remembered.

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After several minutes of silent contemplation together, the orchard owner was the first to rise. He put his hands in the air and bowed his head.

“Let us remember a time when we gathered up the harvest for the few, so that we could grow fat while others starved.”

“We remember,” the villagers said in unison.

The renovator stood up next. “Let us remember a time when we burned homes and villages, so that we could strike fear in the lives of others.”

“We remember,” the villagers said.

The old woman who cleaned the village square banged her pail on the ground signaling that she wanted to speak: “Let us remember a time when we tortured those who thought differently, massacred those who looked differently, a time when we raped the defenseless for pleasure and dismembered the innocent without remorse.”

“We remember,” the villagers said.

After a short silence, the orchard owner encouraged the young man who planted seeds in his orchard to say something. As the seed planter stood up and looked around shyly, the villagers clapped to encourage him to speak. And so with a deep breath he began.

“Let us remember that when the news of these acts of cruelty came into our ears and eyes—often as these events were still going on—we felt deep sadness in our hearts and anguish in our minds. But at the time we did not consider them our acts. We only judged them as wrong and mostly did nothing.”

There were audible gasps among the villagers. Some bowed their heads while others looked about perplexed. The seed planter bent down to the orchard owner and whispered, “Did I say something wrong? Aren’t people supposed to say ‘We remember’?”

The orchard owner smiled wistfully and said, “Give us some time. We will.”

If we step into the future just a little bit, it is not hard to imagine that we will look back to the present day and marvel at our relative inaction in the face of the human suffering and need on our planet. This is not at all to discount the incredible work that is being done by people to directly address the sickness, the starvation, the disease and the injustice; but it is still the work of the few, the exceptional, and the money that we provide for this work remains a drop in the bucket of global wealth, especially when compared to the amount being used to manufacture the tools of war and destruction.

More than ever in our history, we are front and center to the misery that is occurring around the world. We are hearing more about the aftermath of natural disasters, becoming more acutely aware of the spread of deadly diseases, and witnessing in graphic detail the catastrophic consequences of wars and conflicts as they happen. It makes us wonder if this is occurring because of the advances of modern telecommunications, or if the world really is headed towards fragmentation and eventual self-destruction. Either way it has become nearly impossible to turn a blind eye to it.

And perhaps that is a good thing. Not because we are more likely to be guilted into giving a donation, or to drop everything to become a relief worker abroad, or even to be forced to appreciate all that we have. The reason I say it is a good thing is because I feel that the broadcasting of human atrocities of the past and present sharpens our collective self-awareness and propels the evolution of our consciousness, which is the only avenue that will lead us to that long sought-after dream of world peace. Before Adolf Hitler orchestrated the holocaust, few people would have considered such massive crimes against humanity possible in the twentieth century. However they occurred, not because of the twisted vision of a single man, but because of the complicity of so many whose darkness had gone unexamined.

In a way, few people made a greater contribution to the eradication of discrimination than Adolf Hitler, because through his actions the darkness that was in humanity as a whole rose to the surface, like a disease that moves from deep inside us and erupts on our skin for all to see. The holocaust is rightly kept in memory not as a reminder that an evil man perpetrated unthinkable deeds, but that something in the darkness of our collective soul made such an event possible.

In the new conversation humanity is a true community, in which we share ownership of the darkness and fear that explodes into the world. As the development of the individual reaches new heights, so too is there a greater opportunity to see ourselves as One. So long ago Jesus implored that ‘he who is without sin should cast the first stone,’ to show us that the blame placed by one person or group on another is not really where the solution is but actually where the problem lies.

Blaming others for all the suffering in the world is a rather limited way to empathize with that suffering. We are better off being straight and simply saying that it causes us suffering as well. We may deny that we are affected, but denial is an acute form of that suffering. For a long time we have used coping mechanisms to escape from the guilt, the shame, the sadness that the current state of the world brings to us.

But can we be faulted? Can we really be expected to fathom what it is like to be an innocent bystander in a war zone and be captured, terrorized, and finally have our head sawed off? Can we grasp the anguish of a woman who is dying a painful death from AIDS as a result of having been raped repeatedly by soldiers of her own country? We might be excused for avoiding much more than a cursory, detached glance at these events, for fear of being overwhelmed and not being able to get on with our lives.

But this fear is only reasonable at our old level of consciousness, the one we are growing out of. It is coming from a place where we feel absolutely helpless and powerless, disconnected from our world and what goes on in it. From the point of view of our old consciousness, being at peace with what is going on in the world can only be seen as complete ignorance or unmitigated apathy. And so we proclaim righteously that these horrible events in the world are wrong, that they should not be happening!

Ah, but this is where we need to be the most careful, because—I’ll say it again—herein lies the lynchpin of the whole problem. What is most pressingly needed, in this matter as with all human matters, is not our judgment, but rather our acceptance.

But that seems absurd! How can I suggest that we lend acceptance to these horrible events? If we don’t judge these events as wrong, then why would we ever act to make things right? In accepting the occurrence of these events, are we not automatically condoning these human actions and sending a message to the perpetrators to keep right on doing them? These are the questions we ask ourselves. What we ask less often is: how effective has our judgment been in bringing peace and harmony to our world? If we look at the evidence honestly, we will realize it has been wholly ineffective.

In order to bring about lasting change we are required to bring our consciousness to a level above the one in which these problems were made and continue to perpetuate. Let’s face it once and for all: judgment does not lead to action, it only leads to reaction. Look at what has been happening in the Middle East since the end of the second World War. It is a chronicle of reaction. But history does not have to be about reaction. It can be about creation. The only thing we need to do is stop being informed on how to act based on what we know from our past, the favorite stomping ground of our Ego Self, and act instead from our deepest voice inside, from our self that is connected to the All, our Dao Self.

Let us begin with the most obvious of propositions: what is, is. In other words, if an event has occurred or is occurring, then judging it to be bad or wrong or horrible does not change or affect or negate the event one iota. It only changes us. It separates us from the event. It makes us feel powerless, because it makes us feel as though we are not part of the event, that we are not connected to it in any way. If we are not connected to it then we have no power to affect change.

Now true, our governments show us that if you have enough might, you can effect some changes in the world using the old paradigm of good over evil. But these are not the deep lasting changes that get to the source of any problem. These are more like the superficial shifting of lines on a map and titles of governments, while the real energy behind these events are pushed down into the depths of men and women, to re-emerge at the first opportunity. Ever wonder when the wars will end? The War on Terror? The War on Drugs? The War on Cancer? They will end the moment we stop believing in the need to wage war, the moment that our consciousness evolves enough to see that war is self-perpetuating.

It is tempting to pronounce ourselves on the side of good, but believe it or not, being on the side of good is actually the problem. Being on the side of good is really equivalent to being on the side of evil, for we will always be ‘evil’ in the minds of the group that we are opposed to, the side that we have called evil. This old consciousness is driven by our fear, and makes us proclaim to others that “you are with us or you are against us.” Even those who want to remain neutral become the enemy. It is only with an elevated consciousness that we can arrive at the truth about all the fighting we do—that ‘we have met the enemy, and he is us’.

In war, everybody believes that they are on the side of good. Everybody believes that the One, the Dao, God, Allah—is on their side, and their fight is in their Name. But this is the most absurd of contradictions. When you are on a ‘side’, it means you are in opposition to. It means you are fighting against. If we are truly with the One, the Dao, then we are not against—anything! There is only the One! Duality is transcended, duality which is fueled by judgment, by right and wrong, good and evil. Mother Theresa may have encapsulated this best when asked to join an anti-war march. She declined, and then added, “but if you have a march for peace, I will be there.” Perhaps, finally, we are ready to step into a consciousness that sees beyond the very human obsession with good and evil.

We have always had visionaries throughout our history who have known about this, and in their own way have tried to inspire people to a consciousness of unity. They realized that this consciousness cannot be forced, cannot be pushed, but can only be offered softly and humbly as a choice. We may have heard the words of this wisdom thousands of times in hundreds of different settings, but seldom have gotten to its core. No matter. The words will continue to be there for when we are ready. And when we are able to let our minds become still, it may be possible to hear those words again inside us as if for the first time, words of a stirring speech, a sacred text, or even a song like this visionary oeuvre by John Lennon:

Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try

No hell below us, above us only sky

Imagine all the people, living for today…

.

Imagine there’s no countries, it isn’t hard to do

Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too

Imagine all the people, living life in peace…

.

You may say I’m a dreamer,

But I’m not the only one

I hope someday you’ll join us

And the world will be as one

.

Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can

No need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man

Imagine all the people, sharing all the world…

.

You may say I’m a dreamer,

But I’m not the only one

I hope someday you’ll join us

And the world will live as one [1]

We are ready to be moved by great visions like this, and we are preparing to share similar visions of our own. The move to a new approach has started to change the way we are all thinking about healing the divisions on our planet. When we approach life from our Dao Self, we think globally rather than locally. We take ownership of the ills of the world rather than opposition to them. A recent campaign for AIDS awareness read ‘We All Have AIDS’, which shows the growing awareness that each one of us is complicit in any condition that befalls humanity, and we are an essential part of the healing of that condition as well.

Many organizations are now being created which, although certainly supportive of action in the world, are focused on the proliferation of a consciousness of unity. Initiatives like Humanity’s team, Alliance for a New Humanity, and the One campaign believe that when a critical mass of people have elevated their consciousness to the point that it is abundantly clear and self-evident that we are all One, something will become immediately obvious: there is nothing more pressing to do than to put all our energies into helping the most desperate among us in any way possible. This means no longer marginalizing people and nations when their ways are different from ours. This means making a priority of sharing our food, water, medicine and other resources.

This happens in the most spontaneous way. When we gain greater self-awareness our hearts are opened. If enough people move into this higher awareness, it is not impossible that one day the world will be freely willing to offer up all its resources—yes, ALL its resources—until each human being on the planet is free from worry and suffering.

Imagine if your young child was sick and needed immediate medical attention to survive. Would you decide that since you have budgeted 3.5% of your total wealth to this matter, that you would stop after it runs out? You would let your child die? I don’t think so. When we think about humanity the way most of us currently think about our immediate family, when we realize we are connected in just the same way, our behavior in the world will naturally change.

In the new conversation caring about others on our planet is not a command or even a request. The new conversation is simply an exploration of the experiences in life that we truly want, in a space provided for the expression of our truest, clearest, most grounded selves. In itself life isn’t bothered with the prospects of people starving and the planet disintegrating through war. Life will go on regardless. Our world is the backdrop to our experience, providing us with the possibility to make choices. When the situation in our world is dire it just makes those choices more meaningful, more felt. If we really could free ourselves from our old consciousness, we might have no greater desire than to care for the less fortunate among us and help to heal our planet of the Ego-devastation it has experienced throughout its history.

This does not all have to be overwhelming. In the consciousness of unity we realize that as goes the microcosm, so goes the macrocosm. Each shift in our individual consciousness affects human consciousness as a whole. Each gesture, each interaction with others in our lives has global consequences. And so if we want to exercise our choice to help make the world better for all people on the planet, we need to look no further than healing our everyday relationships.

[1] Imagine Words and Music by John Lennon©1971 (Renewed 1999) LENONO.MUSIC All rights Controlled and Administered by EMI BLACKWOOD MUSIC INC., All Rights Reserved, International Copyright Secured, Used by Permission

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Consciousness

New Moon In Virgo: Efficiency & Practicality

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We are having a New Moon in Virgo on September 17th. This is initiating a 29.5 day lunar cycle and new wave of energy for the coming month; however, the astrological configurations mentioned in this article will be more prominent over the following two weeks. This cycle will include a Full Moon in Aries on October 1st/2nd.

Virgo season began on August 22nd/23rd, nearly a month prior to this Lunation, and will end on September 22nd/23rd when Libra season begins. However, his New Moon will still carry some of its Virgo themes into the first eight days of Libra season prior to the Full Moon.

This is a good period of working with and co-creating with the energies of this sign. Virgo is associated with productivity, duties, service, health, cleanliness, and purity. It is organized, adaptable, conscientious, skillful, orderly, punctual, diligent, efficient, analytical, detailed, discerning, precise, and practical.

Virgo is about problem solving, adjusting to changing conditions, and coming up with solutions. Negatively, this energy can be cynical, fussy, high strung, and perfectionistic. It can also be exorbitantly mentally oriented as well as overly critical and discriminating.

Mars began its retrograde a week prior to this New Moon which will last until mid-November. This energy is a significant part of the current astrological backdrop. Generally it is a time that can ultimately help to facilitate a change in how we apply ourselves in certain areas of life, however, the retrograde period itself can bring frustrations and challenges that help with that process. You can read more about this Mars Retrograde here.

New Moon Trine Saturn & Quincunx Mars Retrograde

This New Moon is in a tight trine with Saturn in Capricorn which is transitioning out of its retrograde at the end of the month. This can be a good period for operating in a responsible, cautious, orderly, productive, realistic and practical way. However, considering that Saturn is finishing up its backwards motion, these next couple of weeks are generally better for getting things sorted out and prepared as well as perhaps focusing on tasks that you have already been working on.

It is possible that in late September and in early October, we can experience some sort of shift, or change in gears, that can take things into a different direction. Saturn will be in a square with Mars Retrograde at that time, and we may have to contend with limitations and obstacles that can affect how certain things move forward.

This New Moon is also in a quincunx with Mars retrograde which can reflect annoyances, tension, or conflicts that may require adjustments and adaptability. Issues that come up may be at odds with our needs or the way we want to express ourselves. This energy is the strongest on the 19th/20th but can also be more noticeable on the day of the New Moon.

New Moon Square Lunar Nodes, Mercury Square Jupiter

This New Moon is also in a close square to the North Node in Gemini opposing the South Node in Sagittarius. We may be at odds between the past (South Node) and the future (North Node), beliefs (Sagittarius) and facts (Gemini), our immediate aspects of life (Gemini) and the world at large (Sagittarius).

However, the focal point should be the North Node in Gemini and expressions of the South Node in Sagittarius energy should be serving that focal point and not be the emphasis. The rulers of the Nodes, Mercury (Gemini) and Jupiter (Sagittarius) are also in a tight square with each other at the time of this New Moon. This can reflect tension between these two sides and potentially conflicts between ideas, viewpoints, and opinions.

Jupiter is in the limiting Saturnian sign of Capricorn while Mercury is better placed in Libra, the sign of diplomacy, seeking common ground, considering different needs/perspectives, and fairness. Mercury square Jupiter can be good for learning but it can also be excessive when it comes to information and we can more easily be mentally scattered.

Mercury Quincunx Neptune, Then Square Pluto, Saturn & Opposing Mars

Mercury is in a quincunx with Neptune which is strongest on the 18th/19th. This energy makes it harder to integrate or juggle our intuitive, creative, imaginative, compassionate or spiritual expression with our mind, communication, tasks, and thought process. Issues pertaining to lack of boundaries, flakiness, delusion, escapism, intoxication, may come up.

Mercury moves towards a square with Pluto which is strongest on the 20th/21st. Our thoughts and communications can be deep, powerful, penetrating, investigative, raw, real, and potentially intense. This can also reflect obsessive or compulsive behavior, suspicion, fears, anxiety, or conflicts pertaining to power or authority.

Mercury then moves to a square with Saturn (22nd/23rd) followed by an opposition to Mars retrograde (23rd/24th), creating a t-square formation in that time period with the separating Pluto energy (20th/21st, mentioned above) tied into it a bit. This can be a time of obstacles, delays, communication issues, pessimism, and conflicts while we can get more easily irritated or angered. Circumstances may come up that can be pushing us to be more cautious, realistic, or responsible.

This period is the beginning of Mercury’s pre-shadow period in which it will be returning to another square with Saturn. Some of the issues or developments that occur at this time may be connected to things that will play out during the retrograde (October 13th/14th until November 3rd/4th) and weeks surrounding that period. It will also be the Equinox and therefore this energy is imprinted into the following three months in which it can manifest in other ways/areas separate from this initial period.

Making Intentions & Things To Consider

What can you do to be more practical, productive, and efficient? Is there anything you can or should implement to improve your health and functionality? What have the circumstances, developments, or challenges over the last week (leading up to this New Moon) shown you in how you should be applying yourself? Do you need to implement stronger boundaries? Do you need to be more adaptable? Are you clinging to the past or are you willing to take steps to help you grow? What aspects or details of your immediate life, surroundings, or relationships do you need to focus on more and what excesses or broad aspects of your life are getting in the way of that?

These are just some examples of what to consider or focus your intentions on at this time. However, it is good to reflect on anything else that is coming up for you. It is generally best to make any intentions within the first 24 hours following a New Moon. The exact moment it will occur is 11:00am Universal Time on September 17th. You can click here to see what that is in your time zone.

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Consciousness

Why We Get Into Fights When Sharing Information

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We’re in a time when mainstream media and traditional conversations are failing to address a number of important topics within society, anything from current events to politics and so on, and this is birthing a great deal of ‘alternative conversation’ that often stems from alternative media.

But with this, comes to the common ‘fight’ between various ideas and ideologies that is much more avoidable than we often realize. I wanted to share a quick tid bit from a recent episode discussing how we can reflect to develop better communication and connection faculties that can make a big difference in how we communicate important ideas that are emerging without creating such huge divides ad tension.

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Consciousness

Thoughts On Life After Death – Does ‘Consciousness’ Survive When We Die?

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Some fascinating research has been conducted over the past several years that make the discussion of life after death quite interesting.

  • Reflect On:

    Ancient wisdom and teachings have been 'proven' right with regards to quantum physics, neuroscience and health in many different ways. Would the same apply to life after death? Can we ever really know?

With over 100 years of research into the nature of death and survival of consciousness, a more sophisticated way of looking at the evidence seems to be emerging. Based on a number of interviews and wide reading, Lance Butler outlines a new understanding based on science as well as spiritual experience.

Even Life after Death changes; like everything else, ideas about Survival have both a history and, if I can put it this way, a future. Some changes are modestly noticeable if one first looks back to the heyday of Spiritualism and the founding of the SPR in the late nineteenth century and then forward to the late twentieth century. In that time ouija boards, to put it schematically, were replaced by NDE research. But there is also a feeling of sameness, even latterly of stagnation, over the period.

During the last twenty or thirty years, too, things have moved forward slowly, but the feeling one still gets reading the main summarising or investigative texts in the field – say Gary Schwartz’s The Afterlife Experiments of 2003 or David Fontana’s Is There An Afterlife? of 2005 – is that the paradigm has remained unchanged. If we put together, for instance, recent examples of mediumship, the NDE material collected since Raymond Moody’s Life after Life of 1975, the ITC evidence (by definition modern), and Scole we find that although it constitutes more evidence, it is roughly the same kind of evidence as it was thirty-five or, in the case of mediumship, a hundred-and-thirty-five years ago.

Fontana, for instance, is able freely to cite nineteenth-century material, stories from the 1920s and 1940s, research from the 1960s, his own experience of poltergeists from the 1980s and the Scole material from around 2000. It all fits quite well; it all adds up to an interesting case for Survival; and it’s still there. One of the strongest arguments for Survival seems to be the fact that, in spite of modern scepticism and modern analytical and investigative techniques, Life after Death hasn’t simply gone away like Phlogiston theory or Geocentrism or Phrenology or bloodletting. Fontana’s evidence is not of a new nature, but it is increasingly solid.

The Need For A New Paradigm

And the evidence has continued to stack up, but it’s still apparent at the end of the first decade of the 21st century that the paradigm has not changed much. More veridical channelings, identifiable voices of the dead on untuned (sometimes even unplugged) radios, better NDEs, everything that happened at Scole – these are all useful grist to the Survival mill, but they do not seem to do have done much for a widening of scientific acceptance of any sort of afterlife. In particular we do not yet seem to have digested quantum physics properly, nor the recent thinking in consciousness studies.

In these circumstances I set out in 2009 to interview a handful of people, all well-known to the SMN, to find out ‘where they are now’ on the matter of Life after Death; I hoped thus to see if there are currently any developments of our Survival paradigm. The interviewees were Rupert Sheldrake, Bernard Carr, Peter Fenwick, David Lorimer, Iain McGilchrist, Matthew Manning and Pim van Lommel[1].

Van Lommel’s response to my opening question, which asked directly about the afterlife, was a little startling: ‘I never talk about life after death,’ he said. My heart sank a little. Had I got hold of the wrong Dutch cardiologist? But no, it appeared that what he meant is that ‘life after death’ may only temporarily resemble life as we know it here and now; more importantly the quantum ‘non-locality’ of the other side means that it is without time and can be considered to ‘contain’ past, present, and future simultaneously. It is ‘a space or dimension without place or time.’ The simultaneity of the Life Review during many NDEs is well known and that may give us a hint as to what the ‘infinite consciousness’ that apparently awaits us (while not of course really ‘awaiting’ anything) might be like.

Many people, van Lommel continued, have experienced non-duality, non-locality, greater or ‘cosmic’ consciousness. That is the ‘thing’ that is always there, timelessly; it is the incomprehensible greater ‘place’ with which we interface only at very special times. From the perspective of this quantum zone life and death are irrelevant concepts. ‘Life’ in this present world is a species of illusion that we go through, indeed that we actually create. Life ‘over there’ however is certainly not ‘life as we know it.’

Interestingly, van Lommel is quite happy to accept that NDE survivors cannot find the right language to describe their experiences adequately. Of course not. Our language is a tool for the here-and-now, for space and time. As is the case with quantum physics, we are able to mouth words about cosmic experiences, but the words have difficulty in demonstrating any significant content.

Beyond The Self?

I will return to van Lommel at the end of this but for now come with me to visit Peter Fenwick, who also managed to take the feet from under me when I questioned him; in his case the moment came after a good hour of explanation of his research into End-of-Life Experiences when he said, with the smaller of his two smiles, ‘But we do not have a personal self. We are embedded in the matrix of the universe which is our consciousness.’ Different words for pretty much what van Lommel was saying, then, and incidentally what Neale Donald Walsch says repeatedly in his Conversations with God series (‘There is only one of us’).

Fenwick suggests, following Alain Forget, that we can be ‘awakened’ here in this life (to moments of cosmic consciousness) and says that the ego ‘casts a pall over our consciousnesses.’ We are parts of a whole and need to ‘crystallise the light body’ as we do in dreams in similar states. The ‘limited ego’ is a ‘false self’ but even a glimpse of universal consciousness (‘available right now!’) shows us a bigger self.

In extreme NDE cases, Peter pointed out, people seem to go very far, ‘to the point where the illusion of separateness is about to collapse completely.’ In this life we merely make up our stories of life and death. When we recognise that the real is universal consciousness, questions of Survival become non-questions because there is really no birth and no death, just consciousness. Religions, seeking vainly to sift the saved from the non-saved, have lost their spiritual nature by not recognising this universality.

Bernard Carr filled in some of the detail of this radical and rather Buddhist conception of the afterlife. He suggested a ‘hierarchy of dimensions’ that may lead up to or end in ultimate consciousness (‘anatta’ – the empty centre of the onion) but meanwhile there are astral levels and reincarnation possibilities as we all head for what must, by definition, be the only possible goal. For Carr there are different levels of space to accommodate these dimensions and the mind creates the world both here and hereafter where a species of ‘dream-world’ awaits us.

New Metaphors

For Rupert Sheldrake, we already know what it will be like to be disembodied because we have the experience of possessing a ‘dream-body’ at night when we sleep. And, of course, for a physicist like Carr, everything comes down to energy, that is frequencies. Already for Sheldrake there are, famously, morphic fields in which the unknown energies, perhaps those of the ‘non-local’ quantum ‘world,’ operate. And all this, to go back to van Lommel’s opening remarks, is here as may become apparent after death when we may begin to ‘know the place for the first time.’

Sheldrake also observed, as many now would, that, for a while at least, we may get the Life after Death that we expect. We can move beyond our entrapment in desires and the unreal and come to expect something higher and more real, but then again we may not escape from our present lives all at once. He approves of imagination in the shape of myths, fairytales, and dreams, and points out that these are fields that are not based in material reality. They enact some of the possibilities contained in the infinite quantum field. Like Carr, Sheldrake is ‘not dualistic,’ ‘not a super-naturalist’; there is no separate realm into which we can ‘go.’

Mathew Manning, speaking from the deepest and widest experience of things psychic, spiritual, or, as I would now say, ‘non-local,’ stressed that knowledge of Life after Death is not ordinary knowledge. In his view we learn what we need to know in this life and then move on to less knowable realms. He is also more interested in energy than in ‘life’ as a metaphor for Survival. His famous psychic recreation of Durer’s drawings, and of many other works of art and texts in languages unknown to him, are not so much, he says, ‘Durer coming through’ (the older version of Life after Death perhaps) as a psychic picking-up of the energy of the original moment of artistic creation; it is less a matter of an individual’s survival and more a matter of energy circulating as the scientists tell us it does.

Personality & Beyond

By this time I felt that some sort of a pattern was building up. The new paradigm is perhaps only subtly different from the old one but it seemed to be emerging with some new and useful emphases. The claims now made about Survival are less personal than they used to be, for one thing, and the respect for the ideas of quantum-physics more solid. David Lorimer, for instance, told me that he sees Life after Death as ‘another state of consciousness’ in which it may be ‘a less distinctive personality that is you.’ He says he is less concerned now with the survival of his own personality as such. We may come to see that each ‘personality’ is ‘an expression of the universal.’ He quotes Betty Kovacs: ‘Birth is a coming into being of form (‘me’) and death a dissolution of form.’ Cosmic consciousness would be the ‘dissolution of all boundaries.’ We are like blocks of ice floating in the Arctic Ocean of universal consciousness; there is development, evolution, both here and hereafter, but we all belong to and return to the same sea in the end. This is not new, of course, it belongs in Hinduism and Buddhism where we become more ‘ourselves’ by becoming less our individual selves; it is also, according to Lorimer, the inevitable direction of consciousness studies as pursued since the founding of the Journal of Consciousness Studies in 1994.

The most ‘materialist’ person I interviewed was Iain McGilchrist. For him, ‘materiality is an important part of any kind of being we might have’; as he pointed out to me, ‘the universe has gone to an awful lot of trouble to produce this material world.’ Surely a useful corrective. If, to put it bluntly, cosmic consciousness is so terrific, why did it have to add us, messy as we are, not to mention the immense quantum charade of the universe, to what it already had? Why bother to Big Bang if you could just go on being perfect? I know that there are good answers to these questions but McGilchrist’s approach reminds us not to fall into the trap of treating spirituality as if our dinners, our doings, and our bodies didn’t matter at all.

But McGilchrist too is singing off the same page of our now-slightly-revised hymn book. As he put it, ‘the notion that one would be forever oneself is an appalling idea.’ For him consciousness ‘pre-exists us and isn’t created by our brains; our brains simply transmit or transduce it.’ But there is and always will be an ‘I’ – it is ‘God,’ we may come to see, who is the ‘Great I’ that is all of us.

New Directions

The publication in 2010 of Pim van Lommel’s Consciousness Beyond Life has been tremendously convenient for this small investigation. His book, subtitled accurately ‘The Science of the Near-Death Experience,’ seems to me to effect the shift in thinking that we have needed.  It is not a huge shift but it should now change the quality of the debate.

Encouragingly, the interviews which I conducted before Pim’s book had been translated into English fit very well with its proposals. After undertaking them and reading Pim’s book I begin to discern the outlines of the altered paradigm. Here are some of its main features:

  • We shouldn’t be naïve about any possible life after death. The appearance of deceased relatives at the death-bed or during NDEs or channeling, in particular, may not mean that Granny is continuing her old life more or less as before. Life in another ‘dimension’ may be more a matter of thought, of our wishes and, of precisely, appearance.
  • The hitherto rather weak connection between Quantum Physics and Survival looks as if it has gained a toe-hold in the intellectually-respectable world. ‘Non-locality,’ a term with origins found exclusively in QP, may be an appropriate replacement for the older term ‘spiritual.’ Physics too does not stop and will surely become less and less like its nineteenth-century avatar; in other words it will become weirder, looser, more improbable, more closely associated with consciousness, more ‘non-local,’ less simply ‘materialist.’
  • Life after Death is really not either ‘life’ as we know it nor ‘after’ our deaths, for the ‘non-local’ is always with us and underpins our world and our lives all the time; or perhaps I should use some unthinkable expression such as ‘all the non-time.’
  • NDEs do definitely occur during periods of negative brain activity. Whatever else they may mean they constitute clear evidence that the brain cannot be the whole story when it comes to explaining consciousness. Van Lommel’s research has changed things a little, and it is only the beginning of a long process whose end seems, at the very least, less and less likely to be straightforward materialism as we have known it.
  • In the matter of Survival we should expect both everything and not too much. By ‘everything’ I mean that Survival is connected with the universal or ‘infinite’ consciousness from the perspective of which all other things are apparently in some way illusory. By ‘not too much’ I mean that one of the main things one may see through, as consciousness is liberated from the material, is one’s ‘own’ personality.
  • ‘Energy’ is perhaps the metaphor that best connects the world of the non-local (or transpersonal or spiritual) with the world of physics. We do not yet know how energy can exist in the non-local where the energetic, involving movement by definition, should be absent because in that ‘dimension’ there is no time or space. But that there is some energy there – in Dark Matter or as Dark Energy perhaps – is evident from the fact that we are here at all; it was some sort of energy that brought about the Big Bang and before that there was no locality by definition.
  • Here, and hereafter, we seem to create our own worlds through our personal consciousnesses. The great or universal consciousness may be what creates the universe. We may do the smaller job of creating our own ‘worlds’ and ‘lives.’ Language makes all, but it cannot describe adequately the process by which it does this.
  • Buddhists, Hindus, and mystics of all stripes have the right approach. We need to read Angelus Silesius rather than too much academic philosophy. We, or parts of us, may be temporarily reincarnated. For a while after death we may perhaps need to ‘live’ in a place that we recognise (we won’t find that too hard to create presumably) but there would then be a moving on, into realms literally indescribable.
  • Body is particle and consciousness is wave. Our particles at death undergo what they have always undergone, change into something else. The waves of consciousness persist just as the scientists tell us all energy forms persist, forever. But we do not infinitely persist as the ‘us’ we currently think we are; ‘we’ will persist, if we do, as something endlessly ‘greater’.
  • This is all embarrassingly similar to the propositions of many religions. But it is not, in itself, religion at all.
  • Inverted commas are needed in this area passim. ‘Life’ ‘after’ ‘death?’ We do not, and cannot, really ‘know’ about all this. Not even with the sensible and modest knowledge of science. Especially not with that.

——————–

Written by Lance St John Butler, who is a Professor of British Literature in the University of Pau.

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