I’d like to begin by saying that nothing dies. There is no death. Things CHANGE, but they do not die. What we call death we perceive as an ending. But it’s not an ending, really, it’s part of the Wheel rolling…
What do we mean when we say he or she “died”? What does it mean? WHAT dies? Often people are afraid that someone they love will die. This is difficult for us because the one you love is there one moment, and the next they seem to go away. It seems as if you can’t share with them anymore, or hear their voice. They go away, whether you want them to or not, whether THEY want to or not. It’s a mystery.
The Sufis say “There is no God but God”. It means there is nothing that is not God. NOTHING. The Holy One is present in all things, and all things dwell within the Holy ONE. In the same way that your body is made up of billions of “individual” molecules, so each being - & perhaps whole solar systems – are analogous to cells or molecules within a larger being. All beings & things are manifestations of that which goes on forever. Scientists tell us that all things are made of energy, and that energy can be neither created nor destroyed. But what do they mean? What IS energy? Keep in mind that this is only a word that humans made up to try and define or label a mystery that cannot be defined. But beyond the insufficient name, what IS it?
If you took high school physics, you may remember that those bland textbooks unimaginatively stated, “Energy is the ability to do work.” A miserable definition that must have been coined by some ruling class owner of many Industrial Revolution factory smokestacks. But William Blake, the great poet who railed so VERY imaginatively against those obscene smokestacks, as they blackened the skies of England, gave us another definition. Blake said, Energy is eternal delight!”
Which definition do you prefer?
This life is glorious! There is majesty & wonder and beauty so intense that sometimes I can barely stand to touch my feet to the earth. And everywhere you look, everything you experience is an endless stream of miraculous interactions. It never stops. Cross your legs – how did you do that? Open your eyes and feast on endless images – beautiful men and women and children and horses and foxes and roses and on and on… Close your eyes and there is the comfort of stillness and darkness. And that movement of the eyelids happened because 32 muscles comprised of billions of molecules all agreed that is should be so. And you didn’t even have to think about it.
And the horses and foxes and your eyelids and the car you crashed last week and the bird outside your window, and the small child’s giggling laughter or your boss yelling at you and the dog that bit your leg and the sweet deep kiss planted upon your mouth – it’s all the same stuff. It’s all this mystery that we’ve labeled “energy”. But what IS it?
When the scientists say that energy can be neither created nor destroyed, it sounds very much to me like the statement they made to me when I was a kid in Catholic school (a very mixed bag, believe me) – that “God is, always was and always will be”. If energy can be neither created nor destroyed, then what dies? What is there to fear?
God, Truth, Energy, The Essence of Life – none of these words make it. But SOMETHING is there, and THAT’S what I want. I’m not talking about God as it’s often been mandated to us by religions. No, I mean THE God, THE Energy, THE Essence that’s deeper than any intellectual concept – in that place where there is no separation, no “self” or “other”. In that place our true being exists and does not die. That is what we truly are. Not our careers, or occupations or hobbies, or hairstyles. Not any nationality or religion – we are not those things. We are not our “standing in society”. We are not our bodies or bank accounts or egos or even our names. All of that is dust. It comes and goes. But at the center of it ALL, there is true being.
I can’t tell you what I know based on scientific evidence, nor on some supposedly “infallible” interpretation of some scripture or another. All I can tell you is what I see and experience in this life – and everywhere I look I see God. “The faith that stands on authority” Emerson tells us, “is not faith”.
In Hindu cosmology, the idea is that a soul re-incarnates over & over until such time that a state of perfection (for lack of a better word) is reached and the individual soul merges with the Universal Soul, with the ESSENCE, what in Western terms is sometimes called “heaven”. Likewise, the Western concept of the “end of the world” – an idea which cause fear, if not outright panic – in the minds of children, and adults as well, has a kind of Hindu corollary. But in Hinduism the idea roughly is this: that again, all beings are part of the One, and that the “world” is an idea which includes all planets, solar systems, The Cosmos. And when that One being’s physical form “dies” after an outrageously long period of time – what is presently called Kali Yuga – the whole of Creation incarnates again. The world is born anew. There may be many such worlds – perhaps it goes on forever. Why not? It’s at least as good an idea as, “Well, someday the world will end and then, that’s it, there’ll just be “nothing”. Or, “there is no life after death. You just dies and then your body decays and then there’s nothing”. To my mind, the problem with both of these “nothing” theories is that they lack Imagination. As it is, I see such a lack of Imagination in modern America, why would we want to carry it over into the grave? Please, I am disrespecting no one here. I am only saying that, given the amount of wonder and miracles in this life – look at the natural world, the functioning of the stars, and your own glorious body – given so much wonder and miracle, why would we believe in such a thing as “limits”?
I am asking no one to buy anything, but, perhaps it is possible that one who can imagine incarnations leading to perfection may manifest that experience. For another, perhaps it’s a kind of heaven, for another who’s given his or her energy repeatedly to the fear and pain of some kind of hell, maybe that is what they’ll manifest. And likewise, for one who says, “You may just die and then there’s nothing” – maybe that is what they create for themselves. I don’t know. I’m only wondering out loud. Again, William Blake wrote (and to me it’s beyond, beyond, BEYOND profound): “Imagination is the real and eternal world of which this vegetable Universe is but a faint shadow”.
Your Imagination is here for a reason.
Love is what we know of the Great Mystery. Of what we know, Love alone is permanent. To the extent that we put all else aside for Love, that’s the extent to which we are awake. At that center, nothing dies.