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Parables For The New Conversation (Chapter 28: The Hairdresser)

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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.”

28. The Hairdresser

One day the choreographer walked into the village hair salon on the island of Allandon and went straight to the hairdresser, who was her best friend as well as her boyfriend’s sister.

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“Can we talk?” said the choreographer.

“Well, I’m a little tied up right now,” said the hairdresser, who was busy cutting the hair of the renovator’s apprentice.

“It’s about your brother,” said the choreographer.

“What a coincidence,” the hairdresser said without lifting her eyes.

“Why’s that?”

“My brother was just here getting a haircut. He said if I saw you he wanted me to tell you…”

“Oh, he has something to tell me, does he? And now he’s getting his sister to do it?” The choreographer shook her head. “Have I ever told you that your brother is impossible to be with?”

“Yes, you have actually,” teased the hairdresser. “You said he knows nothing about relationships.” The apprentice shot the hairdresser a grin.

“Exactly. Why I’m still going out with him I’ll never know,” said the choreographer.

“Are the two of you not talking again?”

“Of course not. He’s making no effort to have a real conversation with me.”

“Perhaps he finds you difficult to talk to.”

I’m difficult to talk to? He’s the one that just wants to hear himself talk,” the choreographer said. “It’s always about what he needs.”

“What does he need?”

“What does he need?” the choreographer mocked, arms up in dismay as she walked back towards the door. She turned and said, “Do you know what he really needs? He needs someone to tell him to just listen for once.”

The hairdresser stopped cutting for a moment and said, “You know, that’s funny, because…”

“In fact, the next time you see him tell him that, would you? Tell him next time to be ready to listen for what I need!” The choreographer left the salon, slamming the door shut behind her.

The hairdresser looked at the apprentice. “That’s just what my brother asked me to tell her,” she said with a wink.

When I look back to my earlier relationships, I see that I had the whole thing backwards. I was very controlling, felt that I knew better, and tended to be quite judgmental of behavior that did not lead to where I thought the relationship should be going. Often I encountered opposition from my significant other, and when there wasn’t opposition there was resignation. In my mind I was just trying to help my girlfriends communicate better, be emotionally stronger, and basically grow up so that we could both enjoy a better relationship. I thought I was helping to heal problems but I was probably causing more damage than anything. While my end goal may have been to develop a relationship of trust, openness and acceptance, I couldn’t see that my means of achieving it were anything but open, trusting, and accepting. And therein lies all the difference, a lesson I would learn in small steps over the course of a long climb.

One step I remember very well involved a girlfriend who had a tendency to be critical of how I talked, how I dressed, and how I acted with people. No matter how hard I tried to get her to stop it, whether through pleading, building a strong argument against it, getting angry or not talking at all, nothing worked. Fed up with the situation, I approached a friend and coach for help on the sidelines of a workshop she was facilitating. I remember the conversation almost verbatim because it was such a long-standing problem that I thought that only prolonged hours of analysis would scratch the surface of the issue. Instead:

Me: I’m having a big problem with my girlfriend.

Coach: What is it?

Me: She’s not allowing me to be myself.

Coach: Does she really have the power to prevent you from being yourself?

Me: Do you mean that she doesn’t?

Coach: (knowing smile)

Me: All these things she says and does, they aren’t actually preventing me from being myself?

Coach: What do you think?

That was it. Now admittedly, I must have been ready for this revelation. Or more precisely, I was ready to apply it to my life, because the idea was already familiar to me. Her final question triggered a shift in my perception, and suddenly I was no longer a prisoner to my girlfriend’s opinions. I realized that I didn’t have to change her behavior at all. Nor did I have to change my own. I just needed to accept what is. This short conversation changed nothing in the world, and yet it made me feel free.

For me, relationships used to be about changing what was out there: convincing, arguing, threatening, cajoling, or appeasing the other in order to get them to change in some way and do what I wanted them to do. Even that old standard, compromising, rests within this old paradigm. When we compromise, we make changes out there, changes as to how we behave in the world, so that the other person makes changes as to how they behave in the world.

The new conversation is about changing the world in here: the only change that really affects us has to do with ourselves, while our partner can remain free to keep doing exactly what they are doing. We are not changing our behavior, we are simply changing our perspective, the way we look out upon life. From this inner change, our outer appearance and behavior is transformed naturally. We become an ever fuller authentic self. Just seeing things from a different place—shifting from the Ego Self to the Dao Self—makes it possible to be at peace in our relationships. As a result of deciding to foster change in here rather than out there we gain control of all the changes we seek in our lives, and conflict begins to vanish. We become agents of healing in our relationships, almost as a byproduct of our personal consciousness work within ourselves.

My conflict with my girlfriend stemmed from my desire to get her to change her behavior. In my mind it had to be done somehow. I could see no other options. The irony of the situation is not lost on me. I was angry with my girlfriend for not accepting me for who I was. But I was doing exactly the same thing: I was not accepting her for who she was.

This just reinforces the notion prevalent in the new conversation that our relationships are like mirrors. Eventually the behavior we are putting out is the behavior we will get back. When I stopped trying to change her, lo and behold—the landscape of our relationship was magically transformed. It’s not just that her behavior didn’t bother me any more, which would have been enough. It’s that over a short period of time her behavior actually stopped happening. When she no longer needed to react to my desire to change her, she must have started to lose her own desire to change me.

When we create a space in our relationships founded in acceptance, the experience of unity which we call love inevitably shows up, not as something coming from the other as much as something whose expression we allow within ourselves. Rumi said, ‘Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.’ If we approach our intimate relationships not as a way to get love but as an opportunity to unblock the love that flows through us, then our relationships become an eminently satisfying way of helping one another move into our Dao Self where our already-connected state of being, our love, is revealed to us.

If we want a relationship in which openness, acceptance, and freedom exist, then obviously we have to begin by providing that for the other. This is what love in a relationship really represents for me: an acceptance of exactly who the other person is, or even more—a reverence for their uniqueness. But what if they are not doing it? Well, somebody has to make the first move. We cannot simply wait to be inspired by the other to act. We need to be the change we want to see in our relationship.

In order to play a role in the evolution of human consciousness we don’t have to start a big movement or speak to thousands of people at a time. Creating space in our relationships, one by one, is the fundamental way we participate in making the planet a better place to live for everyone. In fact, it is only through relationships that a change in consciousness can happen in the world at all.

We are all in this together. Our common journey is to help one another on our individual paths. If we can somehow find the patience to just listen, and the strength to withhold our judgment, at least for a moment, we will help in the growth of an environment of trust and healing in the world. Perhaps we don’t realize the impact of creating a space for others—sometimes we still act as though only our advice and our opinions are helpful. But then, we need only reflect on the conversations in our past that really had an impact on us, where someone listened and really gave us the space to hear ourselves think. The more we become interested in listening without judgment, the more likely we will get our turn to express ourselves when we really need to.

We have the opportunity to make a difference not just with our significant other but in all our relationships. Whether it be letting go of expectations we put on our children, accepting our parents and relatives as they are, or forgiving our friends for past mistakes, we can make a difference in the awakening of their consciousness but more importantly we can awaken our own. Creating a space for others to be is actually one of the greatest acts of self-love we can perform. Accepting others always brings us peace. Forgiving others always makes us more free. As we get more ambitious, we can even work on creating a space of love and acceptance for the people who we least get along with, the ones that really push our buttons, knowing that this will truly lead us further down the path of self-realization.

Always keep in mind, though, that none of this is achieved through compulsion, obligation, or duty. It is essential to come from choice. When being accepting, forgiving, and non-judgmental is a duty, our power is lost. When we identify ourselves as people who should not judge others, then what happens when we falter and stumble? We judge ourselves. We fall into thinking that our jealousy, our anger, our judgment is wrong. And so we call ourselves wrong. We feel shame. We censor what we say and suppress our feelings. And this is where the devastation really happens. Now suddenly we’ve taken away all the space for ourselves to be. Without giving this space to ourselves, we can hardly provide it for others. We hide our darkness from the world not only because others disapprove of it, but because we disapprove of it ourselves.

To avoid the spiral of self-recrimination, it is important to establish a starting point. I have had success in healing my relationships with others only to the extent that I healed my relationship with my self. I needed to get to the point where I could look in the mirror and say “I love you”. To be with what is in the world was anchored in being with what is in myself. When I was younger I searched desperately for love and approval from others because I had not given it to myself. The great relationship I had been searching for, the one that would finally make me feel right with the world, was within me the whole time.

In a way our relationships with others serve us best when they strengthen our relationship with ourselves. When others create room for us to safely express everything inside of ourselves, not just what is easy to say and hear, they can help us move forward in our evolution. Our judgments are important clues for us, direct pointers to the part of our own fear and darkness that is crying out for our attention. Whether it manifests as jealousy, anger, blame, or pessimism, all judgment will be uncovered at its root as self-judgment. It is ironic that many of us who aspire in earnest to expand our consciousness by letting go of judgment get stuck when we judge ourselves for not being able to fully let go. In these instances it becomes invaluable to have a trusted other to remind us that not only our judgments but also our inability to let go of our judgments is perfectly OK.

There is perhaps no single choice we can make in the world more powerful than the choice to work together to embrace and transform our darkness. This is the choice to enter the new conversation. Rather than politely side-stepping our fears, we can allow them to be one of the topics of discussion. When the conversation is founded in trust and authenticity, we are able to provide each other with some valuable perspective. As we help each other to become more conscious of our own fears, and we get to realize how much they are driving us in our lives, we move into greater choice. As a consequence we become ever more powerful in helping each other face these fears—so goes this upward spiral. Fostering simple awareness begins the transformation of our darkness into something noble and beautiful.

While the cloud of darkness that hangs over the world today is undeniably vast, there is no reason to be overwhelmed by it. We are best to focus on one relationship at a time, and even then, we have to accept that all our relationships are works-in-progress. Still, the prospects are exciting. As we become able to provide the space in our relationships to heal through awareness, we become part of the evolution of our collective human consciousness, which will one day amass the power to heal the world.

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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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