“Lightly, my darling, lightly. Even when it comes to dying. Nothing ponderous, or portentious, or emphatic. No rhetoric, no tremolos, no self-conscious persona putting on its celebrated imitation of Christ or Goethe or Little Nell. And, of course, no theology, no metaphysics. Just the fact of dying and the fact of the Clear Light. So throw away all your baggage and go forward. There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. That’s why you must walk so lightly. . . .”
“The Light,” came the hoarse whisper, “the Clear Light. It’s here — along with the pain, in spite of the pain.”
“And where are you?”
“Over there, in the corner. I can see myself there. And she can see my body on the bed.”
“Brighter,” came the barely audible whisper, “brighter.” And a smile of happiness intense almost to the point of elation transfigured her face.
Through his tears Dr. Robert smiled back at her. “So now you can let go, my darling.” He stroked her gray hair. “Now you can let go. Let go,” he insisted. “Let go of this poor old body. You don’t need it anymore. Let it fall away from you. Leave it lying there like a pile of worn-out clothes. . . . Go on, go on into the Light, into the peace, into the living peace of the Clear Light.”
Once, in the Orient, I talked of suicide with a sage whose clear and gentle eyes seemed forever to be gazing at a never-ending sunset. “Dying is no solution,” he affirmed. “And living?” I asked. “Nor living either,” he conceded. “But, who tells you there is a solution?”
For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun.
Every moment is a risk.
. . . I am in the endless deliberate instant of the vision given by death, the million dying spasms of the radiating consciousness of words, the last of me, wailing within, turbulent with the terror that I no longer know where I am, nor if there are voices to hear me and answer back. . . . the vortex does not stop, the winds of the whirlpool — God’s gyre again? — are heavy with consequence, and I sink or do I fly? all vectors gone, while in my center, clear as the icy eye of cocaine, I race toward a point of judgment, my courage and cowardice (my masculine thrust and retreat from the avaricious energy-plucking hairy old grotto of Time) trailing behind me in that comet of connotations which is the past topographically reversed by the vision of now, as if in recovering the past I am chasing after the future, so that the past, the net of the name-giving surface perceiving past, is my future again, and I go out into the past, into the trail of the cold eye of past relationship, the eye of my I at home in the object-filled chaos of any ego I choose, at least for this short while between the stirrup and the ground, for in an instant — will it be eternally long? like some cell at the crisis of its cellish destiny, I race into the midnight mind, the dream-haunted determinations of that God of whom I was a part, and will He choose me to be born again? have I proven one of His best? am I embryo in some belly of the divisible feminine Time, or is the journey yet to make? Or worst of all am I? — and the cry which is without sound shrieks in my ears — am I already on the way out? a fetor of God’s brown sausage in His time of diarrhea, oozing and sucking and bleating like a fecal puppy about to pass away past the last pinch of the divine sphincter with only the toilet of Time, oldest hag of them all, to spin me away into the spiral of star-lit empty waters. So I approach Him, if I have not already lost Him, God, in His destiny, in which he may succeed, or tragically fail, for God like us suffers the ambition to make a destiny more extraordinary than was conceived for Him, yes God is like Me, only more so.
To the question “Where does the soul go, when the body dies?” Jacob Boehme answered: “There is no necessity for it to go anywhere.”
There is no separate, indivisible, specific point of death. Life is a state of becoming, and death is a part of this process of becoming. You are alive now, a consciousness knowing itself, sparkling with cognition amid a debris of dead and dying cells, alive while the atoms and molecules of your body die and are reborn. You are alive, therefore, in the midst of small deaths; portions of your own image crumble away moment by moment and are replaced, and you scarcely give the matter a thought. So you are to some extent now alive in the midst of the death of yourself — alive despite, and yet because of, the multitudinous deaths and rebirths that occur within your body in physical terms. . . .
The ideas that you have involving the nature of reality will strongly color your [after-death] experiences, for you will interpret them in the light of your beliefs, even as you now interpret daily life according to your ideas of what is possible or not possible. . . .
A belief in hell fires can cause you to hallucinate Hades’ conditions. A belief in a stereotyped heaven can result in a hallucination of heavenly conditions. You always form your own reality according to your ideas and expectations. This is the nature of consciousness in whatever reality it finds itself. Such hallucinations, I assure you, are temporary.
It is said by men who know about these things that the smallest living cell probably contains over a quarter of a million protein molecules engaged in the multitudinous coordinated activities which make up the phenomenon of life. At the instant of death, whether of man or microbe, that ordered, incredible spinning passes away in an almost furious haste of those same particles to get themselves back into the chaotic unplanned earth.
I do not think, if someone finally twists the key successfully in the tiniest and most humble house of life, that many of these questions will be answered, or that the dark forces which create lights in the deep sea and living batteries in the waters of tropical swamps, or the dread cycles of parasites, or the most noble workings of the human brain, will be much if at all revealed. Rather, I would say that if “dead” matter has reared up this curious landscape of fiddling crickets, song sparrows, and wondering men, it must be plain even to the most devoted materialist that the matter of which he speaks contains amazing, if not dreadful powers, and may not impossibly be, as Hardy has suggested, “but one mask of many worn by the Great Face behind.”
We are made to be mortal, and yet we die. It’s horrible, it can’t be taken seriously.
To suffer one’s death and to be reborn is not easy.
Those people who pretend that the death of a goldfish can teach little children about death are refusing to face reality. The death of a goldfish and the death of a father? Oh, no. That is no equation.
Once Maharajji and Mr. Tewari were talking on the parapet at Hanuman Garh. Maharajji looked up above him and closed his eyes for a moment and told Tewari that a certain old woman devotee from down in the plains had just died. Then he giggled and and laughed and laughed. Tewari, who had known Maharajji for many years, was taken aback and said, “You butcher! How can you laugh at the death of a human being?” Maharajji looked at him in surprise and said, “Would you rather have me pretend I’m one of the puppets?”
Why is it we are frightened of death? — as most people are. Frightened of what? Do please observe your own fears of what we call death — being frightened of coming to the end of the battle we call living. We are frightened of the unknown, what might happen; we are frightened of leaving the known things, the family, the books, the attachment to your house and furniture, to the people near us. We are frightened to let go of the things known; and the known is this living in sorrow, pain, and despair, with occasional flashes of joy; there is no end to this constant struggle; that is what we call living — of that we are frightened to let go. . . . Can one die to everything that is “known,” psychologically, from day to day? Can one die, psychologically, to all one’s past, to all the attachments, fears, to the anxiety, vanity, and pride, so completely that tomorrow you wake up a fresh human being?
I thought a lot about dying. But I said Fuck it.
Melnick says the soul is immortal and lives on after the body drops away, but if my soul exists without my body, I am convinced all my clothes will be loosefitting.
If we live, we live; if we die, we die; if we suffer, we suffer; if we are terrified, we are terrified. There is no problem about it.
. . . I say live it out like a god Sure of immortal life, though you are in doubt, Is the way to live it. If that doesn’t make God proud of you Then God is nothing but gravitation, Or sleep is the golden goal.
Nature, immune as to a sacrifice of straw dogs, Faces the decay of its fruits. A sound man, immune as to a sacrifice of straw dogs, Faces the passing of human generations. The universe, like a bellows, Is always emptying, always full: The more it yields, the more it holds.
Part of being conscious is not trying to impose a limited rational model on how the world is, but rather in realizing that the rational model is a finite sub-system and that the law of the universe is infinite. To work with someone who is dying in the face of these paradoxes is to see the perfection of the dying and at the same moment to work full-time to relieve the suffering involved and to prepare the person for the moment of death.
In the Eastern tradition, the state of your consciousness at the last moment of life is so crucial that you spend your whole life preparing for that moment. We’ve had many assassinations in our culture recently and when we think what it was like for Bobby Kennedy or Jack Kennedy, if they had any thought, what it would have been. “Oh, I’ve been shot!” or “He did it,” or “Goodbye,” or “Get him,” or “Forgive him.” Mahatma Gandhi walked out into a garden to give a press conference and a gunman shot him three or four times, but as he was falling the only thing that came out of his mouth was, “Ram. . . .” The name of God. He was ready!
At the moment of death you let go lightly, you go out into the light, towards the One, towards God. The only thing that died, after all, was another set of thoughts of who you were this time around.
“Only if one loves this earth with unbending passion can one relieve one’s sadness,” don Juan said. “A warrior is always joyful because his love is unalterable and his beloved, the earth, embraces him and bestows upon him inconceivable gifts. The sadness belongs only to those who hate the very thing that gives shelter to their beings.”
Don Juan again caressed the ground with tenderness. “This lovely being, which is alive to its last recesses and understands every feeling, soothed me, it cured me of my pains, and finally when I had fully understood my love for it, it taught me freedom.”
He paused. The silence around us was frightening. The wind hissed softly and then I heard the distant barking of a lone dog. . . .
“That dog’s barking is the nocturnal voice of a man,” don Juan said. “It comes from a house in that valley towards the south. A man is shouting through his dog, since they are companion slaves for life, his sadness, his boredom. He’s begging his death to come and release him from the dull and dreary chains of life. . . . That barking, and the loneliness it creates, speaks of the feelings of men. Men for whom an entire life was like one Sunday afternoon, an afternoon which was not altogether miserable, but rather hot and dull and uncomfortable. They sweated and fussed a great deal. They didn’t know where to go, or what to do. That afternoon left them only with the memory of petty annoyances and tedium, and then suddenly it was over; it was already night. . . . The antidote that kills that poison is here. . . . Only the love for this splendorous being can give freedom to a warrior’s spirit; and freedom is joy, efficiency, and abandon in the face of any odds. That is the last lesson. It is always left for the last moment, for the moment of ultimate solitude when a man faces his death and his aloneness. Only then does it make sense.”