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Consciousness

Parables For The New Conversation (Chapter 31: The Fisherman)

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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.”

31. The Fisherman

Around noon on the East beach on the island of Allandon, the fisherman sat at a makeshift table gutting and cleaning his morning catch. He was so focused on his task that he took a while to notice his dog standing beside him patiently, wagging his tail with a large stick in his mouth.

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“I don’t suppose you came here to help me prepare the fish for market,” he said playfully. The dog continued looking up at the fisherman, eyes full of anticipation.

“No you just came to play,” he said as he scruffed the dog’s head briskly. “Play, eat and sleep, that’s your life, isn’t it?”

He put down his boning knife and wiped his hands off with a nearby cloth. “Well, I suppose I could take a break,” he said to his dog. He took the stick from his dog’s mouth and ran along the beach, leading the eager dog with the stick. Then he threw the stick far down the shoreline, and his dog ran after it at full speed and retrieved it for him.

After a while they returned, and the fisherman put out some of his dog’s favorite food, which the dog dove right into.

“Sometimes I wish I had your life,” said the fisherman as he picked up the next fish to work on. “I mean, you seem to have it all.”

The fisherman looked over to the dog, as if he was expecting a response. Of course the dog paid no attention to the fisherman, and kept on eating.

“Well there is one thing I have that you don’t, even though it probably causes more trouble than it’s worth,” said the fisherman, raising his boning knife with mock pride. “At least I can wish for a different life!”

What differentiates us from the animals that grace our planet is our self-awareness. We recognize ourselves as separate and distinct from our environment. More than any other we are the species that has traveled furthest from the Dao and have forged deep into the darkness of the universe. This is what puts us on the leading edge of consciousness, and what actually makes the discovery of who we really are all the more exciting and magical. If we identified solely with the source, the act of creation might be felt as something happening outside of us, rather than through the prism of our individuality.

Since animals are closer to the Dao than we are, they are more or less in flow with life all the time. They don’t have much of an Ego Self holding them back, and so they cannot help but live in the moment, grounds for occasional envy amongst us humans. And yet, even if it were possible to do, few of us would honestly want to trade places with them. Down deep we sense that the greatest experiences life has to offer are predicated on awareness, and the more conscious we become, the more sublime our experience of being inspired becomes. This inspiration has grown with the growth of our consciousness, and today is moving us towards the penultimate revelation: that we create our reality by the way we think.

Kernels of the idea that our mental state actually has some creative impact on our world and what happens in it have been circulating in our society for quite some time. In recent years, the conversation has intensified around the power of positive thinking, the value of visualization, the influence of intention. The full extent of the effect of our thoughts and the role they play in our endeavor to fulfill our deepest desires is something that I believe we are just coming to grips with today.

It is not a matter of much debate that we will be able to more easily ‘win friends and influence people’ if we think and act confidently and positively in their company. And with the power to draw strength from our relationships it is no big stretch to see how we can directly improve upon our esteem, our career and monetary success, and our overall enjoyment of life. The idea of visualization is a bit more amorphous, but it has certainly penetrated many aspects of our lives in relation to the outcome of our performance. My own experience in sports like golf, for example, has made me a solid believer in the assertion that we have to visualize a good result in order to ensure a good result. The clearer our vision is of what is to come, the more likely the intended outcome will occur. Be the ball, a conscientious golfer may remind himself.

In general, the idea that we will be successful if we believe we will be successful is not so hard to accept when we can make a direct link between our attitude and our own behavior, and then see that our behavior has a direct effect on our environment in terms of the way in which people and circumstances react to us. However it is entirely another thing to suggest that the way we think can affect the world around us at a distance as it were, with no visible ties to what we are affecting. Can we really believe that positive thinking can attract the right person into our lives at the right time? That visualization can bring us abundance from an unexpected source? That intention can actually affect the weather?

Actually, in some sense, it is only modern Western societies that have been skeptical about these possibilities. In earlier times these ideas were not only accepted, they were the foundations of tribal rituals and religious practices of all kinds. These practices ranged from carrying out personal vendettas to bringing much-needed rain to the communal crops. Perhaps the only difference is that rather than believing the power to be within the minds of each individual in their culture, they vested it in the particular deity that they were devoted to. There was no doubt in their minds, however, about the invisible connection between discreet things in their environment, and the ability to tap into this ever-present web of influence through prayer and other acts of devotion.

The advent of science, which ushered in the mechanistic world view, has made it difficult for us to give credence to these invisible connections between our thoughts and what actually happens in the world. More than ever in human history, our attention has been focused on the material connections between things, because it has been seen as the only way to gain the power to get what we want in our world. This in part explains the all-consuming supremacy of money in our modern world which, for all intents and purposes, we have made into a material ‘thing’ that is the main source of acquiring the other ‘things’ that are supposed to fulfill our desires.

When a claim is made that someone has brought something material into being and fulfilled a desire by their thoughts alone, the inclination of our materialist mindset is to write it off as superstition, voodoo, or the opiate of religious fervor, maintaining that we have evolved beyond such mysticism. When uncanny events occur that seem to present us with exactly what we want, need, or have been asking for, and no clear cause-and-effect relationship can be found in the visible world, our habit of thought has been to simply attribute it to coincidence and haphazard randomness.

Like many habits, this habit of thought has been hard to break. But we have begun to do just that. The evidence to the contrary has started to become too overwhelming. And more and more this evidence has been coming from an unlikely source—science itself. Contemporary research in physics and other scientific fields demonstrates that the mechanistic world view itself may be one of the greatest superstitions in human history. Mechanism has no choice but to maintain that our thoughts are simply random offshoots of physical processes in the brain, without transcendent design or purpose. The notion that we have any intelligence outside of the domain of our physical bodies, and that this intelligence can actually have an effect on matter, is untenable in a mechanistic world. However the discoveries of modern physics beg to differ. They are actually demonstrating that it has become more reasonable to assert that mind creates matter rather than matter creating mind.

It is no surprise that Albert Einstein, whose driving ambition in his scientific pursuits was to ‘understand the mind of God’, was a key player in the modern revolution of scientific thought, and of thought in general. In his seminal 1906 paper On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies, Einstein essentially put our idea of objective reality on the shelf forever. He showed that both time and space—the underpinnings of objective measurements—were themselves subject to the conditions by which they were being observed and experienced. In other words, the actual passage of time and measurement of space are relative to the perspective of the observer. With relativity, the nature of things breaks away from the cold calculations of pure objectivity and suddenly becomes subjective. Relative is how things REALLY ARE, meaning that there is no absolute or objective reality as such.

While it has taken quite some time for us to catch on to this fundamental idea—over a century, to be precise—our way of thinking and living is starting to come around. We are beginning to discern that what we used to consider to be objective truths are simply unconscious agreements, collective habits of perception that are so ingrained that we consider them unchangeable objective facts. Now certainly we need many of these agreements in order to live and relate to each other, but that is not the same as saying they exist independent of us. In other words, they need an observing consciousness to become ‘real’. The proverbial tree that falls in the forest with nobody around, then, actually does not make a sound—although it is debatable as to whether there could ever be ‘nobody around’.

The discoveries of quantum physics, which studies the behavior of sub-atomic particles, have only further refined Einstein’s notion, showing that the objective world is not so ‘objective’ after all. Let us take for example any experiment conducted by a scientist, purportedly an unattached and objective observer who desires to report on exactly what he sees and draw conclusions from it. This seems all well and good for ‘traditional’ observation in which a scientist can stay unobtrusively a safe distance away.

The only problem is that with sub-atomic physics, the physicist cannot stay a safe distance away because he cannot escape an intimate relationship to that which he is observing, influencing its behavior just by observing it. In fact, it has been shown now that some kind of exchange goes on between the observer and the observed in every act of observation. Its effects are simply more noticeable at a sub-atomic level. Heisenberg’s famous uncertainty principle confirms this very fact. Electrons exist around a nucleus not as ‘things’ as such but rather as ‘probability clouds’ that necessarily wait for the attention of an observer to bring the electron to an actual position in space. Without that attention, the electron is actually and truly nowhere in particular.

Now in the broader phenomenal world that we live in every day, the effects of observation are not so instantaneous. There is much more to do than to position a single electron. However, while the processes might be more complex, science is starting to prove that consciousness is a participant at all levels of activity. As Lynn McTaggert says in The Intention Experiment,

The implication of these early experimental findings [of quantum physics] were profound: living consciousness somehow was the influence that turned the possibility of something into something real…living consciousness is somehow central to the process of transforming the unconstructed quantum world into something resembling everyday reality.

The study of sub-atomic particles, the building blocks of life as we know it, has brought scientists to the unavoidable conclusion that consciousness affects matter by way of a unified energy matrix that orders the universe and weaves an intelligent design throughout the largest and smallest of entities, and all those in between. The long search of science for a unified field is now being conceived as an energy storehouse of all possible events in space and time. All things material originate in an energy state, as potential, waiting for consciousness to put sufficient attention on one possibility to bring it into material existence. In other words, material events don’t just happen, they all originate from the focused attention of an observing intelligence on a given possibility.

The next big step science is in the process of taking is determining whether we are restricted to the role of observer, of passive consciousness, or if we can actually affect the world of our everyday lives with our consciousness in ways that we actually want. What spiritual traditions have been claiming all along—that we can shape our world and our lives with our intentions—has become the subject of rigorous scientific inquiry. Ground-breaking work done by people like biologist Rupert Sheldrake is opening up a vast new field of possibilities. His explorations demonstrate that not only can intention intervene in the bringing-into-being of matter, it is actually the foundation of such processes.

There’s a kind of intention, a kind of goal-directedness inherent in the very nature of life in the most fundamental processes that enable embryos to grow and even protein molecules to form. And I think that the kind of conscious intention we experience as part of our mental life has its background in this goal-directedness which is inherent in all living creatures, and is an essential part of the nature of life and an essential part of the nature of the organizing fields that organize living organisms.

At the height of scientific materialism in the West, large numbers of people were skeptical of all things immaterial and came to doubt that there was any purpose to our being created at all. But purpose, goal-directedness, and intention are being seen more and more as the foundations of material life. As science gets turned on its ear, it shifts from being the strongest proponent of a universe devoid of meaning and conscious design to validating the role of consciousness and the existence of an invisible world of spirit out of which the visible world emerges.

It was not long ago that science took pride in its orderly mechanistic vision, one which had us living in an unspeakably beautiful, highly sophisticated and fully functioning natural world and yet seriously doubting that there was an intelligent design behind it and a purpose to our own existence. Today, no longer is science strictly the domain of the visible and religion the domain of the invisible. The line in the sand has been crossed, and the tacit agreement between the two camps has begun to dissolve. The result is that we are starting to feel whole again.

This did not all happen by accident. For me, this is the master stroke of Creation itself. It was intended that the illusion of materialism become so powerful that we could doubt there was an intelligence behind it—because this doubt itself had a highly transcendent purpose. With this doubt, born of the emergence of the Western paradigm, of the aggrandizement of rationality over intuition, of the separation of science and spirituality, we have been brought to greater heights of individual self-consciousness. We have been propelled into a complexity that distinguishes us even more from our source and yet holds the possibility that we can feel ever more of its power.

In the universe consciousness cannot contract, it can only expand. Expanding consciousness is the flow of life and the inherent mandate of all living things. Our capacity as human beings to be conscious of ourselves brings us to the brink of a great epiphany about our purpose here: we were created to experience being creators ourselves. We have begun our ascent into a higher level of complexity, one that empowers us to create our world anew out of our conscious intentions, grounded in our deepest personal and collective desires.

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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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