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  XIX. Mixed Bag of Poems  

Contents:

Vol. 1

i. Introduction

I. “In the Beginning…”

II. Synchronistic Webs

III. Daily Encounters

IV. Infinity’s Point

V. BodyTemple

VI. Observations

VII. Enlightenment

VIII. Alternatives

IX. The New Age Center

X. “At the End…”

Vol. 2

XI. Enlightenment Poems

XII. Worldly Concerns

XIII. New Poems

XIV. New Poems

XV. New Poems

Vol. 3

XVI. Awakening Poems

XVII. Truth-Seeker Poems

XVIII. Osho's Teaching Aphorisms

XIX. Mixed Bag of Poems
   The Gospel of Judas REVISITED
   Trans-Substantiation
   Reprogramming Explicated
   The 12th Planet/The End of Days
   White Powder Gold: Food for the Light Body
   Last Night's Dream

   Death: Existentially Experimenting with Experience

A short summary of Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and The Shaping of Christianity, by Elaine Pagels and Karen King.

The Gospel of Judas REVISITED

  1. For the masses the Da Vinci Code opened a new
       perspective on early Church history.
    Now, in the Gospel of Judas, first impressions:
       Judas, an angry man, with a hateful message,
       strident, mocking tone and slanderous accusations.
    BUT, upon further reflection: Judas ALSO presents
       Jesus' brilliant teaching about the spiritual life;
       especially the disputes1 early on.
    Judas's anger: How could a deeply, loving, good God
       desire the bloody sacrificial death and suffering of
       Jesus and his followers?
    Thus, What does the execution2 of Jesus MEAN?
     

  2. Bishop Irenaeus decided the marks of the "true Church":
       creed, clergy, and canon. ONLY books approved by
       the Bishops!
    Yet the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Mary of
       Magdala
    encourage believers to seek God within
       themselves, with no mention of churches, much less,
       of clergy.
    In this context, the Gospel of Judas adds new information
       about the mysteries of the Kingdom.
    Is it the leaders and founders of the Christian movement
       who really betray Jesus?
     
  3. Is it Peter who had a deeper understanding of Jesus'
       Gospel? Or, maybe Thomas or James (Gospel of
       Thomas
    ); or, Mary of Magdala (Gospel of Mary)?
    Who has the strongest connection with Jesus, and
       whose vision can be trusted?
    The Bishops say martyrdom is God's will and Judas is
       angry about this! as well as the MEANING important
       Christians give to the death of Jesus and his followers.
    Judas claims the Bishops are WRONG, both in the
       "God" they worship and in thinking that the PHYSICAL
       body will be raised to eternal life.
     
  4. Judas teaches that the supposed "God" whom the
       twelve worship is merely a lower angel who is leading
       them astray by impelling them to offer bloody
       "sacrificial" deaths of their wives and children.
    The Church leaders do not know who Jesus is and
       do not understand who God is!
    What kind of God would require anyone--much less
       his own son--to die in agony before He accepts his
       followers?
    Those who imagine that human sacrifice pleases God
       have no understanding of the Father.
    Judas rejects the resurrection of the PHYSICAL body,
       and says that Jesus' death is meant to FREE people
       from the power of lower-world rulers.
    For humans to gain eternal life, they have to perceive
       the deeper vision of God that emerges from within,
       for they have within them spiritual resources of which
       they are unaware.
    So, for Judas, creation "in our image" refers to our original.
       spiritual nature, hidden deep within.
     
  5. The Gospel of Judas leads us right into the center of the
       debates about what Christianity would become.
    We get a more detailed, complex, and above all,
       human account of the history of Christianity.
    "A Final Note" (page 103): Reopen the canon, asks
       the authors? No, not useful, but the Gospel of Judas
       belongs within the history of Christianity and to the
       literature of spiritual transformation.
     
  6. I (Ken Pollinger) personally disagree with the Final
       Note above.
    For these newly found gospels and their meaning
       demonstrate that the established canon and their
       "official" interpretation, and expanded teachings,
       give a biased, one-sided, erroneous view of many
       of the important debates that existed in the early
       Church. AND ARE STILL PREACHED!

    Thus, REOPEN THE CANON AND THEN DROP IT!
    Consider ALL the gospels and literature of early
       Christianity equally valid and open to discussion and
       learning. No need to authoritatively declare which are
       right and which wrong. Let each person decide for
       themselves.

Footnotes:

  1. Later historians depicted Christianity as an unbroken procession of a uniform faith! Yet, the early history was tumultuous--a time of intense reflection, experimentation, and struggle involving every fundamental issue. No unified or uniform institute existed. And, obviously, the Gospel of Judas (150 AD) wasn't written by Judas.
  2. New Testament scholars differ in judgment about what and how much in the gospel stories is based on actual history. Concerning the crucifixion: "history prophesied," or "prophecy historicized." Each gospel retells differently Jesus' death as a way to emphasize the theological points the author wants to make. 

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NOTE: While attending 2006 Christmas Service at a local Church, I couldn't help but wonder about what was happening at the altar.

Trans-Substantiation

  1. Where stand ye
       regarding the body and blood of Jesus?
    And whence came such a ritual?1
     

  2. Catholics and others: the "wafer" (bread)
       and wine ACTUALLY become the
    REAL Body (Flesh) and Blood of Jesus.
    So . . . eat the Body and drink the Blood!2
    And don't forget to genuflect upon leaving.
     
  3. Gnostics, Protestants and others:
       these elements (bread and wine)
       are JUST SYMBOLS,
       reminding us of His sacrifice.
    Bow your head, don't genuflect, upon leaving.
     
  4. Skeptics, Agnostics, Atheists and others:
       since the Jesus STORY is just one of the
    MYTHIC literature available,
    Neither is Catholic ACTUALITY
       nor Protestant SYMBOLOGY of importance.
    No need to genuflect nor bow.
     
  5. Another view of Trans-substantiation
       is provided by Almaas3.
    The repressed unaware aspects of the soul
       essence is reawakened and integrated;
       thus, the aspect is trans-substantiated,
       that is, becomes a subtle substance,
    And it is these transformed aspects that
       we take into the Afterlife.4
     
  6. So. . . Where stand ye? And why?
    Based on your tradition and faith,
       or, on your personal research and reasoning?
    Or, both?
    Or, maybe you just don't care about these "unsecular" subjects.
    But many do, so maybe it does matter in your
       interactive behavior and/or conversations.
    And maybe it doesn't
     
  7. As for me, I'm still standing.

Footnotes:

  1. There is much literature about where this ritual came from. Without listing all the sources, let's concentrate on a very important one that PAUL OF TARSUS learned as a lad.
    The Mysteries of Mithras: The Pagan Belief That Shaped the Christian World, by Payam Nabarz and Caitlin Matthews
    The Roman Cult of Mithras, by Manfred Clauss;
    The Religion of the Mithras Cult in the Roman Empire, by Roger Back;
    Mysteries of Mithra, by Franz Cumont;
    The Mysteries of Mithra, by George Rober Stow;
    Mithras: Mysteries and Initiation Rediscovered, by D. Jason Cooper;
    Mithras Liturgy: Text, Translation and Commentary, by Hans Dieter Betz;
    Mithras, by Esme Wynne-Tyson;
    Roman Society and the Religion of Mithra, by Samuel Dill;
    A Mithriac Ritual of the Cult of Mithra, by G.R. S. Mead;
    Mithra and the Imperial Power of Rome, by Franz Cumont.
  2. But don't you dare eat anybody else's body and drink their blood!
  3.  
  4. The Mystery of Death and Dying, by Earlyne Chaney; Life After Death, by Deepak Chopra.

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NOTE: Rereading Spiritually Incorrect Enlightenment, by Jed McKenna, where he claims that Moby Dick is one of the greatest spiritual classics ever written: "It's the American Mahabbarata."

Reprogramming Explicated

  1. Last year I wrote "Programming, Deprogramming, and Reprogramming."
    After rereading McKenna's two books1
       necessity is seen to explicate the reprogramming part.
    For it is the PROCESS of Enlightenment that needs further explanation.
     
  2. A search and destroy mission is required:
       the attributive ego MUST go!
       while the functioning ego remains.
    ALL teachers must go, no matter who they are.
    Kill Buddha, Jesus, Moses, Muhammad, Krishna, etc.
    The battle is absolute!
    For religion is institutionalized DENIAL.
     
  3. Is the spiritual quest really going anywhere?
    Are we spiritual groupies, involved in an endless
       cycle of spiritual infatuations?
    Is the spiritual quest another form of self delusion?
    THE ONLY REAL AND SPIRITUAL THINKING IS TO THINK
       FOR YOURSELF AND FIGURE OUT WHAT'S TRUE FOR YOU!!
    Do you want to wake up, or just want a more enjoyable dream?
    There is only TRUTH and illusion, and within illusion,
       there is only fear and denial.
     
  4. With Ahab, in Moby Dick, we need to STRIKE through
       EVERY MASK, EVERY WALL in our life and death
       struggle for our FREEDOM (from the LIE, eg. Moby Dick).
    Moby Dick, by Herman Melville, is the Truth-Seekers'
       Handbook--it is an escape plan drawn by one who escaped.
    The only criteria by which to judge anything is whether
       it's of value to our PROCESS of waking up or not.
     
  5. Perhaps McKenna is the FIRST to really see the spiritual
       depths of Moby Dick, a really tough book to interpret.
    Enjoy the read.

Footnotes:

  1. Spiritual Enlightenment; and Spiritually Incorrect Enlightenment, both by Jed McKenna.

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NOTE: After reading The End of Days: Armageddon and Prophecies of the Return, by Zecharia Sitchin, I couldn't help but recall his first foundational book, The 12th Planet. The first shall be last, and the last first. Please review the hyperlinked figures in the footnotes.

The 12th Planet/The End of Days

  1. 5 Billion years ago, a stray planet (Nibiru)
       with its moons, collided with planet Tiamat1
    The result: the creation of Earth, its Moon,
       the Asteroid Belt/comets, and capture of Nibiru
       in our solar system, with a great elliptical orbit of 3600 Earth-years.2
    The Earth was "seeded": thus began "natural evolution."
     
  2. Then arrived 450,000 years ago, the "Anunnaki "gods"
       -"those who from heaven to Earth came.( the biblical Nefilim).
    Anu, the ruler, and half-brother heads of two clans:
       one of Enki; the other, of Enlil.
    Mission Control Center and Spaceport were
       established3, with 600 Anunnaki on Earth, and
       300 others manning a planetary Way Station on Mars.
    The rules of succession and marriage so important
       that conflict, and eventually war, broke out between them.
     
  3. A rebellion/strike broke out among the "astronauts" mining
       the gold in the 200,000 -year old gold mines.
    Enki and Ninharsag to the rescue: the ovum of a female Homo erectus
       (through natural evolution) was fertilized by the genes of
       an Anunnaki astronaut, thus creating Homo Sapiens.4
    These served as miners and gardeners, genetically created slaves.
    And they multiplied!!!!
     
  4. Three regions created: First, Mesopotamia with Sumer (3800 BC).
       Enlil rules.
    Second, in Africa, with Nile River and Egypt (3100 BC).
       Enki rules.
    Third, Indus Valley (2900 BC).
       Inanna/Ishtar rules.
    Sitchin spells out the history in his Earth Chronicles books.
    100,000 BC: the Anunnaki marry the daughters of man--
    "when the sons of the gods (Elohim) married the daughers of men"
       (Gensis 6: 1-2)
    49,000 BC: humans of Anunnaki parentage elevated
       to rule. Enlil furious and plots Mankind's demise.
    Enter the Deluge (approx 11,000 BC)
     
  5. Ziusudra/Noah builds a submersible ship, with DNA
       structure of the animals, and survives.
    Enlil grants implements and seeds; Enki domesticates animals.
    Jerusalem was the new Mission Control Center5,
       the Sinai Peninsula the new Spaceport.
    Enter the biblical tale-and-role of Abraham and the Hebrews.
    Once again, Sitchin's many books describe all the
       events surrounding Egypt, the Hebrews, and the wars among the "gods."
    3760: Kingship granted to Mankind.
    2193: Terah, Abraham's father, born in Nippur into a priestly family.
    2123: Abraham born.
     
  6. The Fateful Century.
    Marduk and Nabu, of Enki's lineage, rage battle with
    Nergal and Ninurta, on Enlil's side.
    The Holy of Holies is defiled and Nabu with
       his Canaanite followers march on the Spaceport.
    2024 BC: The Great Council of the Anunnaki
       approve the use of nuclear weapons.
    Nergal and Ninurta destroy the Sinai Peninsula Spaceport
       and the errant Canaanite cities, with seven nuclear bombs.
    A RADIOACTIVE CLOUD PASSES OVER SUMER.
    Sumer and its great civilization is no more!
    Its legacy passes to Abraham's seed: Isaac.
    See Sitchin for Hebrew history; The Hebrews are
       Yahweh's chosen people.
    Chosen for what? To be caretakers of the "landing sites."
     
  7. 610-560 BC: upon Nibiru's return once again,
       the Anunnaki "gods" left Earth and ascended
       to heaven (Nibiru). Some remained behind.
    The "Nazca Lines" in Peru was the last spaceport,
       from there they went to the Way Station, Mars.
    And, on Dec. 25, 167 BC, "the abomination of desolation"
       (an idol, a statue repesenting Zeus, with sacrifices to him),
       was placed in the Temple marked the start of the END OF DAYS.
    With Jesus of Nazareth, the actual count of the END OF DAYS begins.
     
  8. When will they return? When will they return?
    And what will the Return signal?
    A Second Coming, a new beginning; or,
       a catastrophic Apocalypse, Armageddon?
    Mayan Calendar; 2012 AD?
    2087: Thoth's magical number of 52?
    2240: Hebrew calendar of Nippur?
    Yet these three are linear and a cyclical device seems necessary.
     
  9. Enter the Divine Time orbital period of Nibiru, or
       the Celestial Time of the zodiacal Precession.
    Sir Isaac Newton speculated: the world would end:
        a. between 2132- 2370
        b. between 2090-2374
        c. between 2060-2370.
    NIBIRU'S NEXT ARRIVAL IS ABOUT 2900 AD!!
    Yet, the Anunnaki can return before that.
    See Point A and Point B on footnote # 6 below.
    The time between them is     Earth years?
    Thus, according to Sitchin, the Return of the Anunnaki
       "gods" will happen BEFORE THE END OF THE
       AGE OF PICES (2160 AD)
     

  10. Are you, your children or grandchildren
       ready to welcome the returning "gods?"
    Care to read about them?--see all the Earth Chronicles by Sitchin.7
    OR, is all this too much to accept?
    Keep it in the myth category and forget about it?
    Read, ponder, and decide for yourself which
       makes for the most meaning for you.
    And, of course, this says very little about the "God" of the "gods".8
    For that try other systems of thought.9

Footnotes: All figures below are reprinted with permission of Zecharia Sitchin.

  1. Figure 41 and 42 in The End of Days.
  2. Figure 1
  3. Figure 2
  4. Figure 153 in The 12th Planet
  5. Figure 3 in The End of Days.
  6. Figure 130
  7. Of course, I then read his other books:
    The Stairway to Heaven
    The Wars of Gods and Men
    The Lost Realms
    When Time Began
    The Cosmic Code

    as well as:
    Genesis Revisited
    Divine Encounters
    The Lost Book of Enki
    The Earth Chronicles Expeditions
    The End of Days
    Journeys to the Mythical Past

  8. See The Lost Book of Enki by Zacharia Sitchin, pg 271.

  9. Advaita Vedanta, Enlightenment literature, and others.

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NOTE: One of the most important books I've yet read. Lost Secrets of the Sacred Ark: Amazing Revelations of the Incredible Power of Gold, by Laurence Gardner.

White Powder Gold: Food for the Light Body

  1. Ancient Sumer: "an-na," (fire-stone; shem-an-na)
    The Hebrews: "manna" in the OT.
    Egyptians: "What is it?" (Mfkzt)
    Alchemist's dream: "the elixir of life"
    Or, the "spittle of God," "the semen of the father in heaven"
    Maybe, "the Golden Tear from the Eye of Horus"
    "Give us this day our daily BREAD"
    Gold transmuted into FOOD!
     
  2. White Powder Gold, says Gardner.
    The food, the light, one takes into one's body.
    The food of the gods.
    Today, this is OREM (Orbitally Rearranged Monatomic Elements)
       obtained from precious metals (Gold, platinum, silver,
       palladium, osmium, ruthenium, rhodium, and iridium)
    Superdeformation of the nuclei of these results in a
       monatomic, superconductivity, high spin, low energy
       state wherein the extraordinary characteristics of the
       white powder of gold can be manifested (ORME transmutation)
     
  3. White powder gold becomes pure white light and translates
       into a dimension beyond the physical plane.
    Food for the "Light Body," for the pineal and
       pituitary glands, to open the Third Eye in order to
       see with intuitive knowledge.
    Thus, raising human consciousness and acting as a
       gravity-defiant SUPERCONDUCTOR1
     
  4. The resurrected gold culture.
    Interested? Try chp 7, "Electrikus," or
       chapter 8, "The Orbit of Light"
    Want to experience some? www.graal.co.uk
    Have fun! (After 4 months my experience will be posted)

Footnotes:

1. Some interesting quotes.

"It is important to note that from the time of King Solomon's reign (c. 968 BC), the Ark was not used and the Temple's GOLD CULTURE came to an abrupt end." "The Ark was eventually hidden in the reign of Josiah so as not to be seized by the Bablyonians." "Jeremiah, before the Temple was demolished, carried the Ark to Ireland where it became known as Lia Fail: the Stone of Destiny."

"Fractional vaporization" is the process whereby Gold is transmuted to powder." Chp. 11, "A Parallel Dimension," relates David Hudson's story about this substance. UTTERLY FASCINATING!!!

A few more quotes to ENTICE you to read this VERY IMPORTANT book:

"A superconductor does not conduct by way of standard conductivity, but by way of the frequency of its inherent light."

"Any amount of energy can be stored in a monatomic (single) atomized superconductor, and transferred over any distance on a quantum wave which knows no boundaries of space or time."

"Puthoff concluded that the powder was "exotic matter" and was capable of bending space-time:--so the Mfkzt powder would then be resonating in a different dimension--it was literally transported into an alternative plane--a fifth dimension of space-time.

"The Ark would have been a powerfully generative superconductor." Truly, a mind-blowing book!

This book also presents a VERY DETAILED history of the Knights Templar and the Catholic Church's fanatical attempt to suppress them and the Bloodline of Jesus while trying to find the Ark of the Covenant, with related "ancient knowledge" found under the Temple of Solomon.

INTERESTING QUESTIONS:

Can monatomic platinum group metals resonate with deformed body cells causing the DNA to relax and become corrected--actually rectifying altered cells?

Is this a CANCER treatment to end all drug industry treatments-- not a cancer killer but a malformed cell CORRECTOR?

Is this a "sacramental material", an "exotic matter?"

Why did the International Monetary Fund (IMF), starting in l999, sell large quantities of gold bullion--to help aid the Indebted Poor Countries OR to sell CHEAP gold to UNDESCRIBED APPROVED buyers?

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Last Night's Dream:
The Language of Presence/Aliveness/Energy/Ecstasy

  1. Intellectual swordmanship over some point.
    The other challenges my thought and
    I REALIZE his insight (truth),
    Immediately I challenge HIS insight
       yielding both a "gotcha" and another
       --deeper--insight (aha experience).
     
  2. Heard the beautiful ALIVE howling of the wind
       outside, reminding me of Pavorati's singing before bed.
    How ENERGY arose and totally filled my senses with ecstasy.
    Recalling, too, my Costa Rican experience in the
    Rainforest1and how my heart broke open.
    Feeling, again, the exquisite melody of the flute
       while TOTALLY PRESENT with the magic mushroom.
    Overwhelmed with BEAUTY!
    Wanting it to never end!!!!
     
  3. Yet it's all there in ALL sounds, even the loud "obnoxious"
       disc blasting of the youth driving by in their cars.
    It's the ALIVENESS I shoot for, look for, yearn for--
       applying the GESTALT perspective to bring that
    ALIVENESS to some new manifestation.
    The language of PRESENCE, of ALIVENESS,
       of ENERGY, of AWARENESS.
    Sexual endeavors, especially, are for the presence of PRESENCE,
       for the flow of ENERGY, for the ALIVENESS of the moment.
    A sense of being TOTALLY ALIVE, aware, EXPANDED,
       experiencing the delicious taste of the MYSTERY.
     
  4. WHAT an incredible dream! Had to wake up at 5:30 am
       and write it down so as not to lose it.
    Enlightened while asleep!!

Footnote

  1. See poem, "Too Much," (Demaisado) on website www.NewAgePointofInfinity.com click onto Spiritual Poetry on left side.

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A recent essay on DEATH appeared in the New York Times--very Western-thought oriented.  I couldn't help but think about the Eastern no-thought orientation.  So, the two follow below.

THE NEW YORK TIMES February 15, 2009

Essay Death: Bad?

By JIM HOLT

To be “philosophical” about something, in common parlance, is to face it calmly, without irrational anxiety. And the paradigm of a thing to be philosophical about is death. Here Socrates is held to be the model. Sentenced to die by an Athenian court on the charge of impiety, he serenely drank the fatal cup of hemlock. Death, he told his friends, might be annihilation, in which case it is like a long, dreamless slumber; or it might be a migration of the soul from one place to another. Either way, it is nothing to be feared.

Cicero said that to philosophize is to learn how to die — a pithy statement, but a misleading one. There is more to philosophizing than that. Broadly speaking, philosophy has three concerns: how the world hangs together, how our beliefs can be justified, and how to live. Arguably, learning how to die fits under the third of these. If you wanted to get rhetorically elastic about it, you might even say that by learning how to die we learn how to live.

That thought is more or less the inspiration behind Simon Critchley’s Book of Dead Philosophers (Vintage, paper, $15.95). What defines bourgeois life in the West today is our pervasive dread of death — so claims Critchley, a philosophy professor at the New School in New York. (He wrote this book, he tells us more than once, on a hill overlooking Los Angeles — which, because of “its peculiar terror of annihilation,” is “surely a candidate city for the world capital of death.”) As long as we are afraid of death, Critchley thinks, we cannot really be happy. And one way to overcome this fear is by looking to the example of philosophers. “I want to defend the ideal of the philosophical death,” Critchley writes.

So he takes us on a breezy and often entertaining tour through the history of philosophy, looking at how 190 or so philosophers from ancient times to the present lived and died. Not all of the deaths recounted are as edifying as Socrates’. Plato, for example, may have died of a lice infestation. The Enlightenment thinker La Mettrie seemed to have expired after eating a quantity of truffle pâté. Several deaths are precipitated by collisions: Montaigne’s brother was killed by a tennis ball; Rousseau died of cerebral bleeding, possibly as a result of being knocked down by a galloping Great Dane; and Roland Barthes was blindsided by a dry-cleaning truck. The American pragmatist John Dewey, who lived into his 90s, came to the most banal end of all: he broke his hip and then succumbed to pneumonia.

Critchley has a mischievous sense of humor, and he certainly does not shrink from the embodied nature of his subjects. There is arch merrymaking over beans (Pythagoras and Empedocles proscribed them) and flatulence (Metrocles became suicidally distraught over a bean-related gaseous indiscretion during a lecture rehearsal). We are told of Marx’s genital carbuncles, Nietzsche’s syphilitic coprophagy and Freud’s cancerous cheek growth, so malodorous that it repelled his favorite dog, a chow. There are Woody Allenish moments, as when the moribund Democritus “ordered many hot loaves of bread to be brought to his house. By applying these to his nostrils he somehow managed to postpone his death.” And there are last words, the best of which belong to Hein­rich Heine: “God will pardon me. It’s his métier.”

How are we to cultivate the wisdom necessary to confront death? It’s hard to find a consistent message here. Montaigne trained for the end by keeping death “continually present, not merely in my imagination, but in my mouth.” Spinoza went to the contrary extreme, declaring, “A free man thinks least of all of death.” Dying philosophically means dying cheerfully — that is what one would presume from the examples cited in this book. The beau ideal is David Hume, who, when asked whether the thought of annihilation terrified him, calmly replied, “Not the least.”

The idea that death is not such a bad thing may be liberating, but is it true? Ancient philosophers tended to think so, and Critchley (along with Hume) finds their attitude congenial. He writes, “The philosopher looks death in the face and has the strength to say that it is nothing.”

There are three classic arguments, all derived from Epicurus and his follower Lucretius, that it is irrational to fear death. If death is annihilation, the first one goes, then there are no nasty post-death experiences to worry about. As Epicurus put it, where death is, I am not; where I am, death is not. The second says it does not matter whether you die young or old, for in either case you’ll be dead for an eternity. The third points out that your nonexistence after your death is merely the mirror image of your nonexistence before your birth. Why should you be any more disturbed by the one than by the other? These arguments are invoked in Critchley’s book, but their logic goes unexamined. Unfortunately, all three are pretty lousy. The American philosopher Thomas Nagel, in his 1970 essay “Death,” showed what was wrong with the first. Just because you don’t experience something as nasty, or indeed experience it at all, doesn’t mean it’s not bad for you. Suppose, Nagel says, an intelligent person has a brain injury that reduces him to the mental condition of a contented baby. Certainly this would be a grave misfortune for the person. Then is not the same true for death, where the loss is still more severe?

The second argument is just as poor. It implies that John Keats’s demise at 25 was no more unfortunate than Tolstoy’s at 82, since both will be dead for an eternity anyway. The odd thing about this argument, as the (dead) English philosopher Bernard Williams noticed, is that it contradicts the first one. True, the amount of time you’re around to enjoy the goods of life doesn’t mathematically reduce the eternity of your death. But the amount of time you’re dead matters only if there’s something undesirable about being dead.

The third argument, that your posthumous nonexistence is no more to be feared than your prenatal nonexistence, also fails. As Nagel observed, there is an important asymmetry between the two abysses that temporally flank your life. The time after you die is time of which your death deprives you. You might have lived longer. But you could not possibly have existed in the time before your birth. Had you been conceived earlier than you actually were, you would have had a different genetic identity. In other words, you would not be you.

Cultivating indifference to death is not only philosophically unsound. It can be morally dangerous. If my own death is nothing, then why get worked up over the deaths of others? The barrenness of the Epicurean attitude — enjoy life from moment to moment and don’t worry about death — is epitomized by George Santayana, one of Critchley’s exemplary dead philosophers. After resigning from Harvard, Santayana lived in Rome, where he was discovered by American soldiers after the liberation of Italy in 1944. Asked his opinion of the war by a journalist from Life magazine, Santayana fatuously replied, “I know nothing; I live in the Eternal.”

Contrast the example of Miguel de Unamuno, a 20th-century Spaniard inexplicably omitted by Critchley. No one had a greater terror of death than Unamuno, who wrote that “as a child, I remained unmoved when shown the most moving pictures of hell, for even then nothing appeared to me quite so horrible as nothingness itself.” In 1936, at the risk of being lynched by a Falangist mob, Unamuno publicly faced down the pro-Franco thug Millán Astray. Placed under house arrest, Unamuno died 10 weeks later. Aptly, the Falangist battle cry Unamuno found most repellent was “Viva la Muerte!” — long live death.

Jim Holt is the author of “Stop Me if You’ve Heard This: A History and Philosophy of Jokes.” He is working on a book about the puzzle of existence.

 

DEATH: Existentially Experimenting with Experience

  1. Lie down, relax, let go.
    Imagine you're dead.
    Feel AS IF you are dead.
    What's it like to be dead?
    Gradually thoughts dissipate,
       same for emotions.
     
  2. Now be aware, awake, alert.
    What are you EXPERIENCING right now?
    Observe, watch, witness what's happening.
     
  3. Silence, stillness, quiet now reigns.
    No past, no future--just NOW.
    Surrendering, emptiness is
       is sensed/felt/experienced.
    Imperceptively breathing, continually releasing.
    Awareness presents itself.
     
  4. The sense of self disappears,
       a shift of perception occurs.
    Directly experiencing my true nature.
    I am that which is watching.
    Awakening from ALL identifications,
       ALL conditionings.
    Awakening FROM the "me."
    Going beyond the veil of duality.
     
  5. Seeking ends: the seeker and
       the seeking dissolve.
    An experience of complete and utter non-resistance.
    Experience the energy of nondivision!
    Awakedness wakes up from the "me"
       and wholeness/unity is experienced.
    Finally the dreamstate yields to
       Absolute Reality.
     
  6. Thus, my personal worldview/my personal self
       is nothing but a dream in Universal mind.
    The bondage broken; Free at last!

    Surrendering is the name of the game.
    Willfulness is replaced by a sense of flow
    The Holy Spirit becomes Wholisitc Consciousness.
    So. . . let it happen.

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