Death and Life are The Same: A Peak Experience

When I was 21 years old, I had an experience of the ultimate, the infinite Oneness that we all are, that everything is.

Here’s how it happened: I was with a friend, and had taken a small amount of a entheogen – a psychedelic I was experimenting in order to experience greater consciousness, get acquainted with the spiritual first-hand (LSD) – he had given me. For some unknown reason, the quiet thought came to me: “Death and Life are the Same”. This came as an absolute truth: totally quiet, self-evident, no reason to question it. It just was. Soon after that I decided – no deliberation, just again everything was self-evident – to stop breathing. I was sitting in a chair on a balcony. I put my head back, which helped restrict the har flow as it happens I suppose. In any case, in this peaceful quiet state, I started to merge with a light. All pervasive. The “I” I normal take myself to be, dissolved completely. All there was was infinite love, knowledge, peace. no space, no time. Utterly timeless and yet infinite – all points connected to all other points in this infinite spaceless space. Indescribable, Infinite bliss. Maybe what they call “heaven”.
Why “I” came back I didn’t know.

You could call it an “out of body” experience, yet what is a body? This going into the light and coming back down into a body, this transition showed me that it’s not coming into a body but more the fact that the body is a kind of illusion – the body illusion simply re-appears to the infinite self, as a limited “thing” or phenomenon – there was no thing to go back into, just a changed experience, a concretization of the “it” – the infinite energy, intelligence, whatever you want to call this all-pervasive light of knowing.

Near Death Experience (NDE) are related in that such experiences point to the nature of the mind and consciousness. They are very paradoxical however, because they seem extremely real – more real than ordinary waking consciousness – yet are so out-of-the-ordinary and subjective by nature, that it’s hard to “bring back” any solid proof of what happened, other than one’s report of it.

This experience happened in my 20’s long before I had any understanding of the philosophical basis of it. And it seemed to validate the reality of what is called universal “Mind”.

I did something that, though from an ordinary perspective seems crazy or nonsensical, seemed utterly self-evident and logical: I put my head back, relaxed and stopped breathing. I then started to ascend towards a light: “I” became one with, lost all sense of separateness and identify, merged into some “energy” for lack of a better word, an infinite void, yet completely full and filling all, beyond time and space, utterly quiet but buzzing with energy, that I could describe as infinite Knowledge, infinite Peace, infinite Love. I”m sure from the outside it didn’t last long, but subjectively I had no way of measuring how long I was “there”, since time was meaningless.

It left me in the days that followed, seeing love as what people need, and feeling very peaceful. Life was to catch up with me though, and I lost that sense of peace. I only felt I occasionally, such as while out in nature.

Years later, after a college education, I tried to define it as the intersection of Infinite Love, Beauty and Truth: the trinity the Ancient Greeks spoke of. Yet all those words can’t possibly describe what it was like. It seemed more real than any ordinary consciousness. A Super-reality, like a dimension that enfolds all dimensions, including the crude physical one we inhabit normally. It was sort of like light, sort of like energy, intelligent. But the word “intelligent” doesn’t capture it. Why does the non-you need intelligence or knowledge when all is one and infinite and there is perfect peace and love? All is perfect, beyond any definition of “perfect”.

Only problem is, I’m never been sure why I came back, down here to corporeal “reality”. Which seemed so complicated and heavy… 🙂 Perhaps to learn to love and be just Be.
I’ve read other NDE accounts but they are usually so laden with religious meaning and symbolism and specific sorts of images, that I wonder why mine was so pure and different? What I experienced was totally general or universal. Maybe because I wasn’t raised religious?

Years later, I read about Zen Buddhism, and studied meditation at a Zen center, and something resonated. It was the first time I felt like there was a “container” (a form) for the experience.
The closest thing I’ve heard to it is what Buddhists call a “Nirvana” experience. I’ve also hear it called the “Godhead”.
Even later I was to shed Buddhism and explore psychology. This led me eventually to the Psychology of Mind, which became Health Realization, then The Three Principles. I also find sustenance in wisdom tracings that use Christian language and concepts. There is no contradiction between religions, because all religious experience is in the mind of human beings. And a true religious experience is beyond religion, is universal, would hold for all beings, including aliens and animals. All the symbols, rituals, ideas and artifacts of religion – even if you call Buddhism a “science of mind” – indeed even the concepts and language of The Three Principles – are made up using the power of thought.

Was it real or was it some kind of brain phenomenon, a survival response brought on by lack of oxygen? Perhaps I won’t know for sure until I die. But it seems to be our ideas of death are all secondhand formations of our imaginations, that we’ve picked up or created, from culture, friends, family, and so forth. The fact is we don’t know what death is. Is it real? What is the actual point of death – it’s an arbitrary line that we make up, looking from the outside.

All I can say for certain is that it was a gift, a glimpse. Though the reality of it will always be a puzzle on this plane of existence, I got to see, briefly but powerfully, what the mystics of all ages are always pointing to! For that I’m grateful.

NOTES

Videos:

Pam Reynold’s Near Death Experience – “This case comes the closest to hard evidence that consciousness survives physical death”

The Day I Died (Documentary):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1vWoUoiaP4

Books:

Science and the Near-Death Experience: How Consciousness Survives Death, by Chris Carter

Articles:

Salon Magazine: Near death, explained: New science is shedding light on what really happens during out-of-body experiences — with shocking results. by MARIO BEAUREGARD:

“The scientific NDE studies performed over the past decades indicate that heightened mental functions can be experienced independently of the body at a time when brain activity is greatly impaired or seemingly absent (such as during cardiac arrest). Some of these studies demonstrate that blind people can have veridical perceptions during OBEs associated with an NDE. Other investigations show that NDEs often result in deep psychological and spiritual changes.

These findings strongly challenge the mainstream neuroscientific view that mind and consciousness result solely from brain activity. As we have seen, such a view fails to account for how NDErs can experience—while their hearts are stopped—vivid and complex thoughts and acquire veridical information about objects or events remote from their bodies.

NDE studies also suggest that after physical death, mind and consciousness may continue in a transcendent level of reality that normally is not accessible to our senses and awareness. Needless to say, this view is utterly incompatible with the belief of many materialists that the material world is the only reality.

Excerpted with permission from ‘The Brain Wars: The Scientific Battle Over the Existence of the Mind and the Proof That Will Change the Way We Live Our Lives. Courtesy of HarperOne.”

Proof of Heaven, by Eben Alexander. A questionable account of a supposed NDE.
I had a dialogue ith science fiction writer Daniel Jeffries in response to it: dialogues-with-a-mad-solipsist
Dying To Be Me: My Journey from Cancer, to Near Death, to True Healing, by Anita Moorjani

Research Studies:

“Characteristics of Near-Death Experiences Memories as Compared to Real and Imagined Events Memories”
http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0057620

COMA Science Group:
http://www.coma.ulg.ac.be/research.html
“Our team assesses the recovery of neurological disability and of neuronal plasticity in severely brain damaged patients with altered states of consciousness by means of multimodal functional neuroimaging
It aims at characterizing the brain structure and the residual cerebral function in patients who survive a severe brain injury: patients in coma, vegetative state, minimally conscious state and locked in syndrome.
The importance of this project is twofold. First, these patients represent a problem in terms of diagnosis, prognosis, treatment and daily management. Second, these patients offer the opportunity to explore human consciousness, which is presently one major conundrum neurosciences have to solve. Indeed, these patients present a complete, nearly graded, range of conscious states from unconsciousness (coma) to full awareness (locked-in syndrome).

” ‘Afterlife’ feels ‘even more real than real,’ researcher says ”
http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/09/health/belgium-near-death-experiences

The Dream: A Brief Personal History with The Three Principles

Someone asked me again – this time it was Jamie Smart, via an online message – “sounds like you’ve been aware of these principles for many years. When/where did you first hear about them?”. So here we go, the story, in brief.

In 1997 I had a dream that set me on the path of learning The Three Principles. In this dream I learned that happiness and peace are the most natural expressions of who we are at the core. It is our nature. It is only our imaginations that get in the way. When we relax and clear this thinking in the moment, our problems do not exist and we can reveal a more beautiful feeling: our innate health and purity of mind. There are no words for it. It exists before the activity of the mind and words. 

The dream was really about the dream we all live in.

The Three Principles – the spiritual psychology based on universal Mind, Consciousness and Thought – has gone through various permutations over the years. For a while it was called “Psychology of Mind”, and “Health Realization”.

In the early 90’s had been seeing a traditional psychotherapist (psychodynamic, family therapist, etc.), and had gotten frustrated with what seemed to be an endless circular game: we’d go over problems and situations, suggest reasons from the past or due to personal psychology, and skills to try. Though occasionally I felt some brief lifting of the heavy feelings, they’d be back again, and I’d go back to spend yet more time and money and be the same troubled person or feeling again. It was a fragile sense of health and being, if any. After expressing this frustration one day, she suggested I look into cognitive behavioral therapy, and mentioned the name Ellis.

I searched and found a book by Albert Ellis on Rational Emotive Therapy. What a revelation that was!: not because of the exercises of working on thoughts (thoughts can hard to know in retrospect or be aware of if unconscious, takes effort to find and undo, and the technique wears out quickly), but because it was the first time I heard that thought creates feeling! What a tremendous, liberating insight! A huge lightbulb went off. Why had she not told me this!? All this money and time spent on therapy and she could have said it years ago.

This was a 180 shift from the “old” psychology, of going into the past, or analyzing relationships, or trying to figure out what’s wrong and how to fix it. If thought creates feeling, then happiness is as close as one thought away.

All of this put the lie to the idea that depression was a chemical imbalance in origin (You’ll need to take Prozac or some other SSRI or anti-depressant the rest of your life, just as diabetics do, because you have a medical condition), or determined through time, since I released myself from it.

In 1997, after all this psychology work, and endless study of psychology, philosophy, brain science, techniques, self-help, and on and on, I was still not very happy with my relationship, my work, or my life. And I was working very hard thinking about myself, and analyzing. One morning I had a remarkable dream. I awoke feeling a peace I hadn’t ever remembered feeling.

Here is my journal entry:

8-25-97
The simplicity, clarity, and naturalness of this dream are difficult to convey.
Had a dream where [in the dream] I wrote this in a journal about my dream, made a page in the page:
Sept. 23, 1997 6AM
The purpose of life is enjoyment, (pleasure, fun), happiness.
Amazing that that’s such a radical thing. But it’s true, and it’s crystal clear, and it’s beneficial to others, so much so, to be happy around them, an inspiration.

8-26-97
And in another segment of the dream, this kid was shown or told about his mother having surgery – some scary picture – and then he became all worried and obsessed. So I took this little boy aside, and started asking him in a gentle, happy, excited way, not letting myself get involved in the fear, “Remember that big submarine in the movie and that part where…” and the kid’s mind goes to his imagination of something that he liked that was neat and fascinating, and leaves the morbid, frightening thoughts behind) they had this big room where they were projecting images onto a big screen, and they got all these pictures of all these orange things they could think of – fires and oranges and flowers and…”

So the was dream about our innate peace of mind, and that happiness is the birthright, and the means, rather than a by-product of achievement, and how it’s only our imaginations that scare us away from this peaceful state (“thinking” in Three Principles parlance). Shortly after this event, I happened to glance over and see Richard Carlson’s book You Can Be Happy No Matter What in a New Thought church bookstore. It jumped out at me somehow from a bookshelf: I had a feeling “Yes! this is it.”. I read it eagerly.

Carlson’s book was good, but seemed a little watered down, gave me a slight headache (what is he trying to get at?); however I wanted to know what was behind it: he was obviously onto “It”, the key I that had revealed itself in the dream. I found a footnote in the back about Roger Mills’ book (Sanity, Insanity and Common Sense: The Groundbreaking New Approach to Happiness by Dr. Rick Suarez, Dr. Roger C. Mills and Darlene Stewart. Fawcett, Columbine, 1987). With some effort, I was able to get copies of this from a university library. That led me to the Health Realization Institute, getting Sydney Banks tapes from the Psychology of Mind Center and Allan Flood, going to a Psychology of Mind conference in 1998, meeting Roger Mills, Amie Mills, George Pransky, and then taking a program with Elsie Spittle in 1999. The rest is history as they say… There’s much more to the story but I’ll put it in a longer article perhaps.

In one sense it doesn’t really matter how anyone comes across “the principles”. It only matter how good or deep their understanding is Now. Their “pedigree” is their humanness, as George Pransky so beautifully put it. It could be out another way too: your understanding is measured by the peace, love and happiness.