Graceful Exits: How Great Beings Die by Sushila Blackman

Death is a subject obscured by fear and denial. When we do think of dying, we are more often concerned with how to avoid the pain and suffering that may accompany our death than we are with really confronting the meaning of death and how to approach it. Sushila Blackman places death–and life–in a truer perspective, by telling us of others who have left this world with dignity.

“Graceful Exits” offers valuable guidance in the form of 108 stories recounting the ways in which Hindu, Tibetan Buddhist, and Zen masters, both ancient and modern, have confronted their own deaths. By directly presenting the grace, clarity, and even humor with which great spiritual teachers have met the end of their days, Blackman provides inspiration and nourishment to anyone truly concerned with the fundamental issues of life and death.

From Library Journal:

Blackman narrates the death stories of over 100 Tibetan, Hindu, and Zen masters, ancient and modern. The striking element in these accounts is a sense of being fully prepared to meet death. Blackman grappled with lung cancer and came to peace with her own fears about death as she compiled this book, completed only a few months before she died. As Blackman notes, the Judaeo-Christian perspective of death is not represented here, but this fills a demand for inspirational books about death and Eastern spirituality. – Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

“Written in lucid prose, the book is a training manual for making graceful exits from this life.”—Publishers Weekly

“Not since the ground-breaking work of Kubler-Ross on death and dying has there been such a much needed compilation of inspirational stories and examples of how to prepare oneself for the inevitable.”—Midwestern Book Review

“This beautiful little book is a gem. It contributes to our understanding that we are truly timeless.”—Deepak Chopra, M.D.

“A magical little volume. It reveals with simplicity and lucidity how wise and compassionate living leads to a wise and compassionate death.”—Glenn H. Mullin, author of Death and Dying: The Tibetan Tradition

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Swami Kriyananda – “What happens when a person dies?”

Answers to common spiritual questions with Swami Kriyananda.

Swami Kriyananda is a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda and is an internationally known author, lecturer, and composer. Widely recognized as one of the world’s foremost authorities on meditation and yoga, he has taught these principles and techniques to hundreds of thousands of students around the world. In 1968, Kriyananda founded Ananda Village in Nevada City, California, dedicated to spreading the spirit of friendship, service, and community throughout the world.

Ananda is recognized as one of the most successful intentional community in the world. Today, over 1000 people reside in seven Ananda communities throughout the U.S. (Seattle, Palo Alto, Portland, Sacramento and Los Angeles) and in Assisi, Italy and Delhi, India.

Science and the Future of Cloning: Is Immortality Possible? ~ Patrick Takahashi

An MSNBC poll shows that 81 percent of Americans don’t believe in the afterife. Yet, a Pew Forum poll shows that 82 percent do believe in an afterlife. How can two respectable organizations be so different in their surveys? On-line poll crashing perhaps. Well, 90 percent or so of Americans claim to believe in a God, so chances are the Pew version is closer to reality.

Whether you believe or not, most of us have thought about death, and for many “something” after our present life seems better than a dark eternal gloom forever. Hoping the Bible, Koran and virtually every religious publication are right, let us nevertheless speculate on the biological option, for there is a finite chance that they might all be wrong. I certainly haven’t seen anything close to compelling proof.

What is “eternal life?” In one sense, all living creatures today are essentially already immortal. We should be able to, someday, trace ourselves back through 50 billion DNA copyings over 4 billion years to determine our LUCA. Our DNA has, thus, had everlasting life. While our species almost became extinct in that Great Toba Supervolcano Eruption of 73,000 BC, where Homo sapiens dropped to perhaps a thousand breeding pairs, we have recovered well, survived the potential nuclear winter of the Cold War, and have no obvious doomsday event on the horizon, except, maybe, for The Venus Syndrome.

Of course, we will also live through our children and their children. Plus, the products of our life, such as letters, books, digital photos and statues, will be around long after we expire.

However, Woody Allen has expressed a sense that he was not satisfied with immortality through his works, for he wanted to live forever by not dying. Conscious eternal life, if not rejuvenation and reversal, then, is an ultimate goal on the level of world peace and universal happiness. Sounds a bit like Heaven.

There are at least two pathways to continue your presence. One does not involve human cloning. Without going into telomeres and ribonucleoproteins, let me just say that science is actually close to finding and checking the aging gene. Someday, you might be able to take a pill and stop growing old. The question is, can this technique be perfected before you get too old? You can still, then, of course, get killed in an auto accident or through an illness, but that so-called 130 year old lady from Georgia (of the former Soviet Union) could someday be commonplace.

The other is cloning, and there are two kinds: therapeutic and reproductive. The former is almost okay, while the latter is verboten, except in certain countries where the laws are fuzzy. You can expect some future breakthrough in countries where religion is not dominant.

Animal reproductive cloning is old news. Scotland produced Dolly in 1997, with mice in Hawaii (1998), Prometea in Italy (horse, 2003), Little Nicky in the USA (a cat, 2004) and Snuppy in South Korea (dog, 2006). Thus, the concept of reproductive cloning has been proven to be real.

So let’s get to reproductive human cloning, laden with legal and moral land mines. I sat in on a seminar by Nobel Laureate Joshua Lederberg almost half a century ago while a student at Stanford, where this concept came up during the discussion. The field has both come a long way, and not really that much, over this period.

The UN General Assembly in August of 2005 did adopt a declaration prohibiting all forms of human cloning. The vote was 87 in support, 34 in opposition and 70 abstaining or absent. But the edict was non-binding. The European Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine prohibits human cloning, but has not been ratified by most countries. There is, further, a Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which bans reproductive human cloning, but it has no legal standing.

So where is the USA on human cloning? Human cloning is legal in the U.S., but there are some Federal prohibitions against research. The George W. Bush regime was especially difficult, and Barack Obama ended the ban on embryonic stem cell research, while remaining opposed to human cloning.

Stanford formed a stem cell institute in 2003 and Harvard initiated efforts to clone human embryos in 2006. They initially were attempting to fund this work with private donors without any government assistance. Mind you, they are not cloning humans, as Harvard would like to harvest stem cells to fight leukemia and diabetes. The University of California at San Francisco announced a similar pursuit. Advanced Cell Technology of Massachusetts is commercializing human embryonic stem cell cloning services.

Some countries have observed the American reluctance to support human cloning research and have taken definite steps. There was South Korea and their scandal. The situation is somewhat foggy in the United Kingdom, as the University of Newscastle in 2005 claimed to clone the first human embryo.

Singapore, a former British colony of 4.5 million people, has entered the competition. For all intents and purposes, while a democracy, it is about as close to a benevolent dictatorship as there exists today. The government decides what is best and gets the job done. Biotechnology is a priority area. They created Biopolis, a $300 million, 2 million square foot research center focused on biomedical development, recruiting world class scientists, some who were fed up with the national politics in their own country. Singapore is trying to establish a world sanctuary for stem cell research. While first inaugurated in 2003, Biopolis is already home to scientists from 50 nations. While reproductive human cloning is banned, I can see this island someday becoming the site of choice for therapeutic cloning, as depicted in a former CBS television drama Century City.

What about China? Is China a cloning paradise? University of Connecticut animal cloning director Jerry Yang Xiangzhong told The Standard, China’s business newspaper, that China can jump ahead of the U.S. in three years if their scientists were given the green light to proceed. His contention is that in much of the developed world scientific progress in this field is hindered by political and religious debates. There is also the moral problem with something called human dignity. Apparently, these difficulties would not be experienced in China. Tragically, Professor “Yang” passed away last year at the age of 49.

Okay, let’s say someday human reproductive cloning is attained. The concern always comes up about what good this is, as I won’t know this will be the real me. Well, it has been speculated that by the time all these bioethical hurdles are cleared, computer technology will be developed to the stage where your memory can be transferred to this new body. The field now exceeds 100 trillion calculations per second (1014 cps), and should be at least ten times faster in a decade, at which capability the brain can be simulated. Such a computer should only cost about $1000 in 2020.

That’s not all. There are algorithms and biological interfacing challenges. This field is just beginning, but the odds are, this fantasy for immortality could be possible in 25 years.

Finally, the cost factor. Only billionaires might be able to afford eternal life. So if you were worried about exacerbating our already overpopulated world, economics, as they are already affecting birth rates, will also check the growth of human reproductive cloning.


Biography of Patrick Takahashi
Professor Takahashi was born and grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii, is Director Emeritus with the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute of the University of Hawaii, former professor of engineering and the author of two SIMPLE SOLUTION:

…for Planet Earth
…for Humanity

books, as listed in the May 18, 2008 issue of the Honolulu Advertiser:

He was for 15 years director of the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute and co-founder of the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research, where his team initiated projects in open cycle OTEC, which will power the Blue Revolution (Chapter 4 of Book 1), and methanol from the gasification and catalysis of biomass (Chapter 2 of Book 1), which provides a more sensible biofuel option than ethanol from food.

Nearly three decades ago he helped draft original bills in the U.S. Senate on hydrogen, wind power, ocean thermal energy conversion and related sustainable resource topics. The hydrogen bill established the guidelines for the national hydrogen and fuel cell program, and is reported in Chapter 3 of Book 1. He managed the Hard Minerals Act (which featured strategic minerals and marine methane hydrates from the seabed).

Professor Takahashi worked for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory on laser fusion (Chapter 1 of Book 1) and sustainable resources, and for the NASA Ames Research Center on the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (Chapter 4 of Book 2).

He was awarded the Bechtel Energy Award by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Spark Matsunaga Memorial Award by the National Hydrogen Association and Ocean Pioneer Award by the Ocean Energy Council.

Long for This World: The Strange Science of Immortality~ Jonathan Weiner


From Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer Jonathan Weiner comes a fast-paced and astonishing scientific adventure story: has the long-sought secret of eternal youth at last been found?

In recent years, the dream of eternal youth has started to look like more than just a dream. In the twentieth century alone, life expectancy increased by more than thirty years—almost as much time as humans have gained in the whole span of human existence.

Today a motley array of scientists, researchers, and entrepreneurs believe that another, bigger leap is at hand—that human immortality is not only possible, but attainable in our own time. Is there genius or folly in the dreams of these charismatic but eccentric thinkers?

In Long for This World, Jonathan Weiner, a natural storyteller and an intrepid reporter with a gift for making cutting-edge science understandable, takes the reader on a whirlwind intellectual quest to find out.

From Berkeley to the Bronx, from Cambridge University to Dante’s tomb in Ravenna, Weiner meets the leading intellectuals in the field and delves into the mind-blowing science behind the latest research. He traces the centuries-old, fascinating history of the quest for longevity in art, science, and literature, from Gilgamesh to Shakespeare, Doctor Faustus to “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”

And he tells the dramatic story of how aging could be conquered once and for all, focusing on the ideas of those who believe aging is a curable disease. Chief among them is the extraordinary Aubrey de Grey, a garrulous Englishman who bears more than a passing resemblance to Methuselah (at 969 years, the oldest man in the Bible) and who is perhaps immortality’s most radical and engaging true believer.

A rollicking scientific adventure story in the grand manner of Oliver Sacks, Long for This World is science writing of the highest order and with the highest stakes. Could we live forever? And if we could…would we want to?

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Infinity:The Ultimate Trip –Journey Beyond Death A Film by Jay Weidner


* Full Synopsis

Take a trip into the afterlife to see what happens when we pass beyond this world as renowned experts from across the globe examines the phenomena that is alternately fascinating and terrifying: Death. What if the end of this life is only the beginning of a spectacular supernatural journey? People who have physically died and returned to tell about it report experiences that defy any rational or logical explanation, and baffle doctors and scientists alike.

Once they’ve stood at the edge of the mysterious abyss, any lingering fears of death seems to simply dissipate. In this documentary, colorful imagery flows across the screen as experts like Gregg Braden, Brian Weiss, and Alberto Volloldo reveal why death is not something to be feared, but something to embrace as one of the most fantastic journeys we will ever take. ~ Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide

Infinity
The Ultimate Trip –Journey Beyond Death
A Film by Jay Weidner

Featuring Gregg Braden, Dannion Brinkley, Renate Dollinger, Stanislav Grof, John Holland, Dzogchen Ponlop, Robert Thurman, Alberto Villoldo, Neale Donald Walsch and Brian Weiss. View Trailer

What happens after we pass from this world? Is there a life after this one? Or do we just disappear forever? These are the questions asked in this powerful and poignant feature documentary, Infinity: The Ultimate Trip. Many may be surprised by the answers.

Featuring noted experts Gregg Braden, Dannion Brinkley, Renate Dollinger. Stanislav Grof, John Holland, Dzogchen Ponlop, Robert Thurman, Alberto Villoldo, Neale Donald Walsch and Brian Weiss, Infinity: The Ultimate Trip brings a message of hope and optimism concerning the most mysterious act in a human life; the end of this life and journey to the beyond.

Using vital and beautiful imagery, along with personal accounts of near-death experiences, reincarnation and more, Infinity brings forth the story of our own infinite nature, what to expect after death and the magic and beauty that awaits us on the other side. Here we learn of the energetic landscape of the world that we enter after we die, the angels, or beings of light, who assist us in the passing and the promise of a new life. Infinity: The Ultimate Trip is an honest and hopeful assessment of the greatest journey that any of us will ever take. It changes our view from that of dread and pessimism to one of hope, joy and light.

Spiritual Truth #1 – All-Knowing Awareness


For those seeking Enlightenment, Self-Realization, No-Mind, Buddhahood, Nirvana, Liberation, Oneness, Utter Completion, All-Being, Bliss, Zen, Peace, Love, Truth, Pure Awareness, Infinity, The Absolute, Reality, God, Tao, Source, Presence, Spirit, Divinity, Nature, One Mind, Collective Consciousness, Formless Existence, etc.

ACIM – Extreme Forgiveness & Acceptance for Enlightenment

Full-blown, extreme, radical forgiveness & acceptance brings utter peace of mind. Forgiveness for Enlightenment. Inspired by A Course in Miracles (ACIM).

UNDERSTANDING IS REALIZING ~ Master Strokes of Shri Ranjit Maharaj’s Teachings

“Never worry for anything, whatever state you are in. It is only a bodily or mind’s affair. You are stateless. All these states come and go. You are always He. Never accept anything less. What is there to prove, zero is always zero. You are untouchable. Forget everything and you are He at this very moment. There is nothing to leave and nothing to take. You are Self without self. There is only Oneness in the world. There is no duality. Everybody is He, so why worry.”

This small book is a collection of Ranjit Maharaj’s invaluable words, which are simple, straight forward and penetrate the heart of the sincere seeker of Reality. The teaching of Maharaj, like that of his master, Siddharameshwar Maharaj, is based on a simple and direct transmission of knowledge. He insists that what you see, perceive, think and feel is not true, because it is impermanent. By accepting this Truth through understanding, you discover who you really are, the eternal Reality, That which lies beyond all knowledge and ignorance. The book also contains many photos of both Ranjit and Siddharameshwar Maharaj.

Ranjit Maharaj Self Realization / Renunciation

AGAIN MORE ON the topic of “i dont exist!” (Renunciation) you are birthless and deathless, true renunciation is to see that you dont exist! and that nothing is true!

You play a part as the body/ mind but know and understand i am not this- it is just a part i play! There is no need to change anything or do anything as all action is itself bondage and indicates doership -have the deep understanding i dont exist and i do nothing-be in it but be out of it all-and the ego will eventually subside (as it never existed)and no mind remains

For Realization nothing needs to be done, for you are THAT already, thoughts and wrong beliefs cover your true Self.

Shri Ranjit Maharaj explains this so well! Surrender to the MASTER (i dont exist) THEN YOU trueself will shine.

Ranjit Maharaj, I dont exist, conciousness, awareness

Ranjit Maharaj-the Master says “AS long as you exist you cannot accept what i say” One must understand that i does not exist, if i does not exist then who does? HE alone remains, yourself self without self.

When you forget yourself Master-THE SELF remains and you are that! the Master and aspirant are one-without saying or experiencing! when you are not there-i dont exist
there is no one to experiene anything, experience is itself illusion and indicates the illusory ego! say i dont exist and churn this until mind becomes no mind!

Adi Da Samraj: EgoDeath Part 4 – 6


Adi Da continues to critique the usual (degenerate) approaches to rid ourselves of the feeling of fear, or through religious distractions. He brings us to the critical understanding of self-contraction or the avoidance of relationship and feeling… and the cultic rituals that reinforce the sense of immunity.

Adi Da Samraj: EgoDeath5

Here Beloved Adi Da climaxes his illumination as He guides listeners directly into naked fear as the necessary passage to Love. Magnificient. BTW, this talk can be found in the book, Scientific Proof of the Existence of God Will Soon Be Announced by the White House!

Adi Da Samraj, EgoDeath6

Beloved finishes this consideration by describing ego death as the “natural” process of sixth stage yoga that serves as the bridge to the transfiguring stages of full enlightenment.

Adi Da Samraj: EgoDeath and the Chaos of Experience: Parts 1 – 3

BIOGRAPHY OFADI DA SAMRAJ

Adi Da Samraj Born on Long Island in 1939, Adi Da describes his early years as being focused in two fundamental activities: investigating how to realize truth, and developing the ability to communicate that truth through artistic means (both visual and literary).

Adi Da graduated from Columbia University in 1961 with a BA in philosophy, and from Stanford University in 1966 with an MA in English literature. His master’s thesis, a study of core issues in modernism, focused on Gertrude Stein and painters of the same period. In 1964, he began a period of practice under a succession of spiritual teachers in the United States and India that culminated six years later in the conclusion of his spiritual quest.

In the years since, Adi Da has created a large body of spiritual writings-over sixty published books-and is widely recognized as one of the most significant spiritual teachers living today.

Adi Da began his first serious work in the photographic medium in the early 1960s. During the mid-60s to mid-90s, he also produced a body of drawings, paintings, and sculptural forms. Between 1998 and early 2006, he concentrated on camera-based imagery (both photographic and videographic), creating a highly complex body of work that exceeds 60,000 still images (and also includes a great many hours of videographic image-work).

Adi Da Samraj in his studioHis work in the photographic medium evolved through black-and-white to color (and combinations of the two). He relates to his photographic images as “blueprints”, using them as the basis for making fabrications of many kinds. To date, these fabrications include photographic prints, pigmented ink on canvas, plasma screen installations, and multi-media screen-projected performance events-with additional forms of fabrication planned for the future. These fabricated works characteristically involve the grouping of multiple images in specific combinations and configurations.

Beginning in early 2006, Adi Da Samraj initiated a new phase in his artistic work by beginning to work entirely in the digital medium, and also by fabricating his digitally-based images principally as monumental pigmented-ink prints mounted on aluminum substructures. In some cases, this digital imagery incorporates photographic elements, while, in other cases, the imagery is generated entirely by digital means.

Adi Da Samraj states that his intention as an artist is to offer a visual communication of the truth of “reality itself”-by “allowing reality to manifest itself” in and as the “space” of his works of art.


Adi Da links the mind and ego in understanding and calls for the non-mythic seriousness in spiritual practice.

Adi Da Samraj: EgoDeath, the mind Is Narcissus

Adi Da Samraj continues to illuminate the separate self and the illusions of inwardness, mind, popular religious techniques, and the search for experience. “The truth is absolutely NOT within.”

Adi Da Samraj: EgoDeath3

Adi Da continues to criticize the “inner-consciousness”, the “I”, the inwardness of mind as the “way” of salvation. He leads listeners to accept, utterly accept their deepest fear instead of strategizing ways to avoid our primary fear.

Quest for immortality

New Scientist talks to Aubrey de Grey, Nick Bostrom and Anders Sandberg about how we could become immortal. More: http://www.newscientist.com/channel/o&#8230;

A Little Boost for Immortality – Deepak Chopra


As we all grow older, the span of mortality left to us becomes smaller and smaller. This shrinkage naturally makes us think about immortality. The possibility of surviving death lies at the heart of almost every religion, yet it would be comforting if factual evidence existed, not simply the reassurance of spiritual guides. I was so deeply affected by my father’s death a few years ago that I wrote an entire book to consider if life after death can be proved. I emerged from that project with a good deal of comfort and reassurance. And all of it was rationally based.

I won’t repeat the many arguments in favor of the afterlife (the book is called Life After Death if you are deeply interested). Most people have heard about near-death experiences and on the other side the scoffers who reject such experiences. It’s hard to get believers and skeptics to agree even on basic points, so wide is the gap between the two camps. But gradually science has had to confront the possibility of immortality — not yet for the soul but for the basic fabric of the universe.

It’s a given in physics that matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed. In recent years theorists have extended this notion to information. We began to hear about information fields that are as basic to the cosmos as energy fields. Why? Because as simple molecules grew into more complex ones, they kept moving into even greater complexity. You’d think that once it reached thousands of individual atoms, an organic chemical would break apart instead of building itself into an even more complex molecule. Yet life has evolved inexorably. Blue-green algae, a very primitive life form, is still with it, but it no longer rules the scene. Without wiping out the lower forms of life, evolution kept adding on.

Some kind of invisible glue is at work, and for the moment, information is favored as that glue. If the information invisibly holding a molecule together has its own integrity, then striving for a creation like human DNA, with its three billion individual codons, seems more plausible. It’s like having a vocabulary that you build on. The tendency is to add more words, not to randomly lose the early ones as you go. Just as you may have to remind yourself of old words, Nature reminds itself of earlier life forms, which is what happens in the womb as a human fetus develops from a single fertilized ovum, passing through stages that repeat the biology of fish, reptiles, lower mammals, and so forth on its journey to being fully human. Ultimately, nothing valuable is forgotten.

The bald fact is that DNA exists, whether or not a theory can explain it. Another bald fact is that every person is already a field of information containing trillions of data, each one related to an experience. As billions of pieces of raw data bombard our senses every day, the information field shifts, changes, and grows. No mechanical notion of randomness makes sense here. What we observe in ourselves is that information has a life of its own.

Some scientists believe that information can only be transformed; it cannot be created or destroyed. That sounds convincing for molecules, but the implications for human immortality are also striking. It’s too easy to palm off the afterlife as something incidental to human comfort, a way of not being frightened by death or a primitive reaction to the unknown. Atheists and skeptics, who are astonishingly glib as a group, constantly fall back on the primitiveness of sacred beliefs, disregarding that they are talking to people who are not primitive, afraid, or myth mongers. (Some believers, in fact, are quite a bit less primitive than the usual run of atheists and skeptics.)

Let’s say that we stop condescending to sacred belief and take it seriously. Then we find that reincarnation, for example, fits rather well with the idea of constantly transforming information. The soul fits rather well into the notion that information can organize itself into a coherent, contained structure, the way DNA organizes billions of chemical bits into a coherent, contained structure. I’m not saying that information is enough to explain the soul. We must account for consciousness, too. It’s very nice if my memories survive my demise the way a computer’s hard drive survives when the machine is turned off. But what we really want is that “I,” the self, survives.

I think that wish, basic as it is, blocks our vision. This limited self that is encased in a physical body stands for much more — it stands for consciousness as a whole. No one contains all the possibilities of the mind, which are infinite. Yet the field of consciousness, like the field of information, does contain the whole. That’s how a field works. The electromagnetic field contains all the electromagnetic energy in the universe, even though a compass or an electric toaster manifests only the tiniest fraction of the field.

Immortality got a boost when science realized that fields are the source of everything that exists, and since a field isn’t solid, visible, perceived by the senses, or contained by a single brain, the whole solid, visible world was called into question. In short, the immortal came first in Nature, the mortal came second. All change must be explained against the background of non-change. Immortality is just a synonym for wholeness. I know that sounds very abstract, and we haven’t even touched on the details of relating advanced physics to consciousness.

But at least we can keep an open mind about immortality without dividing into outworn camps of religionists versus scientists. By recognizing that the really big things like mind, consciousness, the origin of life, and the birth of the cosmos remain very open questions, we won’t fall into the simplistic close-mindedness that scoffs at immortality. The scoffers should be running for cover, because science is undermining them more and more every day.
Deepak Chopra on Intent.com

Experiencing the Next World Now – By Michael Grosso


From the scientific underground of psychic research comes a stunning report on the evidence for life after death. But all the proof in the world is nothing when compared to actual experience with the place beyond.

This book takes the reader to the next level — and offers a more personal kind of journey. If there is a “next world,” it must be nearby, and the path leads through the gateways of our own minds. Philosopher Michael Grosso shows us how to open these passages — or at least peek through a keyhole — and glimpse what may lie beyond. This is the guidebook for an adventure that nobody can refuse.

Posted by Greg

Michael Grosso is a teacher, author, and painter, whose interests span psychical research, metaphysical art, the parapsychology of religion, and, primarily, philosophy. [Michael Grosso] He received his Ph.D. in philosophy, and studied classical Greek, at Columbia University, and has taught at City University of New York, Marymount Manhattan College, and City University of New Jersey. He is currently affiliated with the Division of Personality Studies of the University of Virginia.

Michael has published books on topics ranging from life after death to the mythologies of endtime – some titles include The Millennium Myth, Soulmaking, and Frontiers of the Soul. His most recent book, Experiencing the Next World Now (Amazon US and UK), presents the best current evidence for life after death, but also offers the reader practical methods for ‘peeking through the keyhole’ at what may lie beyond.

GT: Hi Michael, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Could you begin by introducing yourself to readers with a short history of how and why you began your research into the idea of ‘the afterlife’?

MG: Probably what first got me going was realizing one day I was going to die. ‘So what does this mean?’, I thought. But there was something else. I kept having experiences that contradicted the mainline materialism dished up in the schools–especially graduate school in which belief in spirits was sheer heresy.

What I experienced and what the standard view of reality was, were at odds. That got me to study psychical research: what was really going on?

GT: Could you describe in more detail these experiences which led you to re-evaluate the standard view of reality?

MG: I actually had a variety of paranormal experiences. One of the most striking was a series of three dreams in which I saw Ronald Reagan being shot. [Soulmaking] From the images I could see he was shot in the shoulder (he was), and the last dream was symbolic, in which I saw the President naked from the waist up and beaming with health. I inferred he would survive any attack (correct).

I reported these dreams to my students who were duly astonished when the man was actually shot. I’ve seen apparitions of dead people that conveyed veridical information, for example, a dead great aunt I had never met but whom I later identified in a photo I’d never seen. I also projected my tangible double across the Atlantic ocean to my girlfriend. For details, see my book Soulmaking (1997) Hampton Roads Publishing (available from Amazon US and UK).

GT: Your latest book, Experiencing the Next World Now contains a broad review of the evidence for the survival of consciousness after death, to this point. Could you share with readers which cases you would consider the ‘best of the best’? And, to provide some balance, what do you see as the main arguments against the survival hypothesis?

MG: The whole pattern of survival-related stories–not individual startling cases–is what persuades me that some people continue to be conscious after they shed their bodies. There are types of case, certain features of cases, that suggest survival.

For example, if there is verified intelligence from a deceased person, like when a lost will is found through a deceased agent. Or suppose a stranger intrudes on a mediumistic performance, and correctly identifies himself.

There are records of known deceased researchers communicating through several mediums at a time. Numerous, detailed reports of reincarnation memories, behaviors, and related birth marks and birth deffects, strengthen the survival hypothesis. The near-death experience is suggestive. Parts of the brain go out of commission during cardiac arrest and general anaesthesia.

Without these parts, conscious experience is believed to be impossible. But under these conditiuons, in the famous near-death experience, people not only have conscious experiences, they have enhanced experiences. And then there are those excursions out of the body, verified objectively, which point to the separability of consciousness from the body. It’s really the detailed pattern that convinces me something very interesting is going on.

GT: The book goes beyond the idea of simply serving up evidence from others on ‘survival’ though, and encourages readers toward personal experience through methods of altering consciousness.

Now we all know that the ‘New Age’/’Metaphysical’ section at the local bookstore is filled with titles by self-appointed experts on such ideas – how do we sort the wheat from the chaff and find the genuine methods which might provide something worthwhile?

To my mind, perhaps the best idea is to trust those with a history – for example, shamanic methods of altering consciousness and other ancient rites. Would you agree with this, or do you believe we need to formulate new methods for our modern lifestyle?

MG: I think there is a wealth of traditiional materials we can draw upon to guide us to “experience the next world now.” We could model ourselves after native vision questers, Tibetan dreamers, Sufi color enthusiasts, or Chinese foetal breathers.

I try to understand the psychology at work in a given system, and to adapt that understanding to my practical life. The idea is to reconstitute myself in such a way that I become more transparent, more porous to trans- or sub-liminal impressions, images, energies. The Kingdom of Heaven is within us; it’s another state of consciousness.

GT: Having said that, do you think it is necessary that people have guidance in this sort of exploration? Despite the ‘gnostic dream’ of doing it all yourself – away from the rigidity of organised religion – many of the ancient systems employed ‘superiors’ to help the neophyte understand and integrate their experiences.

MG: Of course it’s always wise to allow oneself to be guided by those more knowledgeable in any field of endeavor. Trouble is, there are few clear and unequivocal experts in this realm of experience, which depends on luck, context, and inspiration–a little like art or any creative venture. There is bound to be an element of risk in stepping beyond the enchanted boundary and fools and the foolhardy should beware. But how can we legislate against self-exploration?

GT: In your essay “The Flatliner Paradigm”, you explain your own feelings about the possibility of survival of consciousness: [The Millennium Myth] “When I look closely within myself, what I feel constraining me toward belief in probable extinction is the sense that I do not inhabit the kind of universe where the leap into a new mode of existence after biological death is possible or, at any rate, probable.”

Do you think this is based on valid reasoning, or is your concern perhaps a result of inculcation in the materialist paradigm? I’d appreciate hearing more of your ‘inner dialogue’ on this subject.

MG: Thanks for that question. There is no doubt about the hypnotic spell of the materialist paradigm. In spite of direct experiences of my own, my views on survival remain in skeptical suspense.

On the other hand, there’s nothing we know about the universe that forbids the idea of conscious survival. After all, against the miracle of there being a universe in the first place, and of dumb matter evolving into an Einstein or Nicole Kidman, and then consciousness appearing on the scene, it seems like just another evolutionary lift-off into novelty for consciousness to slip away from its neural substrate..

GT: Do you think that quantum physics might play a role in allowing humanity to accept better some of these models? Some of the concepts in modern physics surely throw our whole concept of reality into doubt?

MG: I think concepts of modern physics could play a role in two ways. First, they show that our naive mechanistic and materialistic views of the world are a misleading facade for what ultimate reality may really consist of.

Next to quantum realities, nonlocality, etc., what’s the big deal about the paranormal? Second, on some interpretations of quantum physics mind proves to be an integral feature of our description of reality.

GT: Nevertheless, the scientific paradigm is still very much grounded in Newtonian physics. In fact, you have written that “thanks to scientific materialism, the dominant metaphysical conceit of the age, anything supporting the reality of minds as substances…tends to be ignored, if not repressed, by the watchdogs of mainstream culture.”

Could you say who you regard as the ‘watchdogs’, and can you cite examples of the repression of evidence?

MG: The watchdogs are embedded in all layers of the culture, the press, the scientific establishment, the university, the religious establishment, etc. The repression takes the form of negative hallucinations; the evidence is not noticed, discussed, regarded. Here’s an amusing example. I gave a copy of Alan Gauld’s Mediumship and Survival to a fellow philosopher; he refused to look at it. “It’s just a book,” he said.

GT: So, with the materialist paradigm as entrenched as it is, one would think that it would require some ‘shock’ to move towards contemplation of the survival hypothesis rather than simple accumulation of experimental data. While veridical out-of-body experiences (OBEs) are not in themselves proof of survival, do you think solid evidence on this front could be used an ‘assault’ on the current paradigm?

MG: Why just veridical OBEs? I believe there’s a huge amount of data, normal, abnormal, and supernormal, from hypnotic reversals of congenital disease (icthyosis) and placebos that invert physiological responses to Joseph of Copertino’s levitations that assaults the paradigm. Then there’s strictly normal stuff like subjective consciousness, its unity, memory, dreams, free voluntary acts, etc. that can’t be digested by physicalism. Very few are willing to look at all this with a cool comprehensive eye.

GT: Well, I was thinking more in terms of what it would take to win over your CSICOPs out there – and I think it would have to be something very straightforward to remove room for doubting.

I would say positive results in viewing hidden symbols or numbers through out-of-body experience would constitute extremely strong evidence. Having said that, scientists such as Dean Radin might argue that we’re already at that point with the mass of positive results over the past decade in related fields (remote viewing, precognition etc).

MG: I agree with Dean and believe there is ample data out there already, experimental and spontaneous cases, that suffice to prove to any rational and open-minded person that psi is a fact of nature and that a decent case can be made for postmortem survival. I often tell diehard disbelievers to read the first ten or fifteen volumes of the English Proceedings for Psychical Research and then come back for a chat.

GT: Lastly, I’d like to cover the question of whether we are seeing a core mechanism at work behind many seemingly different experiences. Ken Ring has written about the integration of near-death experience (NDE) study with other areas such as shamanism and abductions. [Experiencing the Next World Now] Jacques Vallee and John Keel have long espoused a psychical aspect to the UFO question.

John Mack has now brought a similar question to bear in abduction research, and of late research into entheogens (for example, Rick Strassman with DMT and Karl Jansen with Ketamine) has contemplated the same areas. Your book covers these topics as well. Are we seeing some great awakening to the unity of these experiences, and perhaps a validation of Henri Corbin’s ideas of the imaginal realms (versus the imaginary or utopian)?

MG: I could add to that list of names. It would be nice if someone made an anthology of theoretical papers on the unity you allude to. We could use a good general theory of psi-mediated anomalies; I think it would shed light on certain points in religious studies.

As for the imaginal world, surcharged and undergirded by the psychokinetic and extrasensorial properties of psi, it’s a potent theoretical construct. We could use it to corral all manner of mind-monster and metaphysical wild bunch.

GT: Sounds like a good project for the weekend at the very least, Michael! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us here at the Daily Grail, and best wishes for the success of your book.

Table of Contents
Introduction

PART ONE: Experiences
Chapter 1: Ecstatic Journeys
Chapter 2: Of Ghosts & Spirits
Chapter 3: The Medium and the Message
Chapter 4: One Self, Many Bodies

PART TWO: Challenges
Chapter 5: Explanations
Chapter 6: Imagining the Next World

PART THREE: Connections
Chapter 7: Evolution
Chapter 8: Mental Bridges
Chapter 9: The Otherworld Nearby

PART FOUR: Practice
Chapter 10: Flatliner Models
Chapter 11: Changing Our Way of Life

Deepak Chopra’s new bestselling book: Reinventing the Body,Resurrecting the Soul [updated]


A Message from Deepak Chopra
Dear Readers and Friends,

In our quest to grow and evolve, we all run into obstacles. We meet resistance. Change proves stubborn and at times impossible. Anything that I can do to overcome these obstacles is a contribution I never wish to pass up.

In my new book I address the most difficult obstacle of all: the body.

The human body can be a source of the miraculous. The very minute I write this message to you, someone in a laboratory somewhere is breaking through old concepts about the body, discovering that what was once a machine made of flesh and bones is actually a living process, a river without boundaries. Yet you and I find ourselves with bodies that wear out, age, grow sick, and disappoint our highest aspirations for freedom and creativity.

Clearly, the body needs to be reinvented. That’s the main theme of my new book, Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul. I throw out every fixed belief about what the body can and cannot do. In their place, I offer five breakthrough ideas that can completely alter how you see your body and what you do with it.

•Breakthrough #1 — Your Physical Body Is an Illusion

•Breakthrough #2 — Your Real Body Is Energy

•Breakthrough #3 — Awareness Has Magic

•Breakthrough #4 — You Can Improve Your Genes

•Breakthrough #5 — Time Isn’t Your enemy

Each of these breakthroughs overturns an outmoded belief that turns into a physical limitation. If you think of your body as a physical object, you will cooperate with aging, because what is aging but a physical object wearing out? If you believe that time is your enemy, aging has gained another ally. If you accept that your genes are fixed, they take away your freedom to change.

What these five breakthroughs have in common is this: you can change your body through consciousness, because despite its physical appearance, your body is the product of consciousness to begin with. There is no difference between a thought and a molecule in the brain. Each intention sends signals to every cell in the body, causing the cell to change. Therefore, the most natural way to achieve change is through the power of intention.

The second half of the book’s title, Resurrecting the Soul, extends the power of consciousness far beyond the physical. The soul is your spiritual body. It brings nourishment to every cell as surely as nutrients are brought by the blood. Most people believe they have a soul, but they rarely if ever feel connected to it. When you reconnect, a kind of resurrection occurs: you discover that the closer you live to your soul, the better for your body.

Health, anti-aging, a strong sense of self, centeredness, spontaneous right action, the increase of love and compassion — these are all united at the deepest level of consciousness. Every cell is aware of the state of your soul, and vice versa. One consciousness, constantly moving and evolving, is who you really are.

This conclusion is the most important one I’ve arrived at after thirty years of teaching people how to unite body, mind, and soul. Union cannot be achieved one piece at a time. Even though most people attack their problems one at a time and have mixed priorities in their lives, the truth is that wholeness is wholeness. People don’t feel whole because they have excluded their bodies from the spiritual journey, judging the body to be inferior, defective, ugly, and devoid of intelligence. At the other end of the scale, they have sent the soul into a never-never region above and beyond this world.

So as you reinvent your body, which means accepting it as part of your whole consciousness, the soul must also be brought back into partnership with it. Five soul breakthroughs are needed:

•Breakthrough #6 — There’s an Easier Way to Live

•Breakthrough #7 — Love Awakens the Soul

•Breakthrough #8 — Be as Boundless as Your Soul

•Breakthrough #9 — The Fruit of Surrender Is Grace

•Breakthrough #10 — The Universe Evolves through You

When you absorb these ten ideas, and follow the practical exercises attached to each, you will turn the process of life in a new direction. Instead of being blocked by obstacles, areas of freedom open up where you never imagined them. I speak personally, because the seed of this book dates back to my first days in medical school. When I used a scalpel to slice beyond the barrier of the skin, I gained scientific knowledge about the body, but at the same time I sacrificed the body’s mystery and holiness.

We need to have both. The reason you can reinvent the body rests upon solid new evidence about the brain, genes, and lifestyle changes. Yet those are the windows through which a much greater truth can be seen, which is this. When the flow of life encompasses mind, body, and soul, a person has found the easiest way to live. We must put out of our heads that unity is an exotic, faraway goal reached only by the spiritually gifted.

When you delve into Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul, your allegiance will shift to wholeness. You won’t be fixated on your body, your mind, or your spiritual path. The three will merge, as they must in order to be whole. The reunion is the most joyous experience anyone can have, and happily for all of us, it’s also the most natural.

Deepak Chopra interviewed for ONE THE MOVIE

This is a clip from one of the interviews conducted during filming ONE THE MOVIE.

In this clip Dr. Deepak Chopra comments on the questions:

1. Why is there suffering in the world?
– Deep imbalances in the eco-systems;
– People identifying themselves with a tribal mindset;
– A divisive and quarrelsome religion that is frequently becoming idiotic;

2. What happens after death?
– No such thing as a ‘person’; Our body is recycled dust, our breath are recycled air, thought is recycled information, emotion is recycled energy;
– In the deepest reality, a person is a dynamic bundle of consciousness that is constantly transforming;
– Simplest answer – the universe continues to evolve as observer and observed.
– In reality, you are the infinite being with localized perspective that is impermanent and transient. You are the universe.
– What happens when you die? But you were never born, so the question is irrelevant.

3. What is your wish for the world?
4. How would God want us to respond to aggression and terrorism?

ONE… The Movie weaves the novice filmmaker’s remarkable adventures with the answers to life’s ultimate questions in a journey that just may transform your way of seeing the world as ONE.

Stroked by the Guru – An interview with Ram Dass


Ram Dass’ books–“Be Here Now,” “The Only Dance There Is,” and “Journey of Awakening,” among others–and lectures have been an inspiration to many people.He is responsible for turning on many people in the West to Eastern religious ideas. He created the Hanuman Foundation to spread spiritually directed social action in the West, and co-founded the Seva Foundation, international service organization working on public health and social justice issues, which has made major progress in combating blindness in India and Nepal.

When I was in high school, I carried around a copy of “Be Here Now” everywhere I went. It had a huge influence on how I formed my spiritual perspective. I was very sad when I discovered that Ram Dass had had a stroke in February of 1997. I interviewed him last spring to find out how the stroke had affected his outlook on life. During the interview, he had trouble finding words. There were a lot of long pauses, but I could tell that his mind and spirit were essentially unchanged. Behind the difficulty with communication was the same old Ram Dass, and I found him more inspirational than ever.

–David Jay Brown

David: What do you remember from your stroke?

Ram Dass: I was lying in bed fantasizing that I was an old man. I was trying to find a way in myself to experience that fantasy because I was writing a book about conscious aging, and since I was only sixty-five, I thought I was too young to write the book. A friend of mine called from New York and said I sounded sick. While I fantasized about being old, I hadn’t noticed that I was having a stroke. So he called my secretaries, who lived nearby and told them that he thought something was wrong with me.

My secretaries came right over. By then I had gotten out of bed and was lying on the floor. I had this weak leg, which I had figured I would have as an old man. My secretaries looked at me and then called 911. The next thing I knew I was looking up into the faces of these young firemen. I just thought that they were looking at me as an old man—I still don’t remember anything more that happened except for being wheeled on the gurney in the hospital. Friends, nurses, and doctors all came in with concerned looks on their faces, because they were told I was dying. But I just thought that I was enjoying this fantasy of being an old man and wasn’t really sick at all.

David: How has your stroke changed your body physically and mentally?

Ram Dass: It damaged my brain in such a way that I’m unable to move my right arm and leg. The whole right side of my body is pretty much numb at the skin, but there is plenty of pain. The stroke has also affected my ability to speak. I have difficulty expressing concepts. The dressing room for concepts—where I dress them in words—has been harmed by the stroke. I have the concepts but no words to play with.

David: What have you learned from your stroke?

Ram Dass: One of the things my guru said is that when he suffers, it brings him closer to God. I have found this too. The stroke is benevolent because the suffering is bringing me closer to God. It’s the guru’s grace, and his blessing is the stroke. Before the stroke I enjoyed playing golf, driving my MG sports car, playing my cello. Now I can’t do any of those things. I can’t do, do, do all the time.

The way I approach what happened is that with the stroke began I began a new incarnation. In the last incarnation I was a golfer, a sports car driver, a musician. Now I have given all that up. The psychological suffering only comes when I compare incarnations—if say, oh, I used to be able to play the cello. So I say my guru has stroked me to bring me closer to a spiritual domain.

I’ve learned that silence is good. I knew that before but I’ve learned it thoroughly now. I’ve learned about helping. In my life before I was a “helper,” and serving was power. Now I am helpless. Instead of my book How Can I Help? now I can have a book called How Can you Help Me? From the point in the morning when I wake up, I need help: Going to the bathroom, eating, going anywhere, I need to ask for help from those around me. That’s powerlessness. But I’ve learned that even that role can be played with compassion, so that my helpers and I can serve each other.

David: How has your stroke affected your spiritual outlook?

Ram Dass: It’s gotten me deeper into karma yoga. This is my karma, and it is also my yoga. I think that it’s taught me more about how suffering is a stepping-stone toward a spiritual goal. My stroke has also affected people. I was a spiritual friend for many, many people—through my books, tapes, or lectures. I was an identification figure for them, an the stroke shook them. They couldn’t figure out why a person with such spiritual naches could suffer a stroke. It undermined the feeling that only good comes to those who are good. I wanted to open the hearts of people, and my stroke did this and much more than my books, tapes or anything else.

David: How has medical marijuana been helpful to you?

Ram Dass: It has helped me quiet down the spasticity and the pain. It’s also given me a perspective toward the stroke that’s spiritual. I haven’t found many doctors who understand that medical marijuana is good for people who have had strokes, although there are data that show it has been good for stroke victims, because it’s good for brain function. I’ve had to fight my way against doctors to use medical marijuana.

David: Have you had any psychedelic experiences since your stroke?

Ram Dass: Sure.

David: Have they been any different from the experiences you had prior to the stroke?

Ram Dass: No, they were not particularly different. But I think that psychedelic experiences helped me gain perspective. They helped me escape from the perspective of minds around me—the healers who are focused on the body. I needed to use a psychedelic to focus on the spirit.

David: What do you think happens to consciousness after the death of the physical body?

Ram Dass: I think it jumps into a body of some kind, on some plane of existence, and it goes on doing that until its Buddhist sense, it jumps into form until it merges into formlessness. From a Hindu point of view, consciousness keeps going through reincarnations, which are learning experiences for the soul.

David: Is there anything else about how your stroke affected you that you’d like to add?

Ram Dass: I think that it’s increased my humanness. It’s a strange thing to say, but when I started out my spiritual journey I was a psychologist, and I was busy being an ego. Then I got into my spiritual nature. I was a soul, and pushed away my ego and body. Now I’m not pushing away these things. I’m making friends with my body. The stroke taught me honor those planes of consciousness which include the physical. Since my stroke, some of my friends say they’ve found me human, and that I was never human before. They mean I’m inhabiting my ego. Now they can find me as an individual, whereas before they could only find me as a soul.

J. KRISHNAMURTI : Immortality. Part 1 (of 6).

Conversation of Jiddu Krishnamurti with Prof. Allan W Anderson, California,1974.

Jiddu Krishnamurti (Telugu: జిడ్డు కృష్ణ మూర్తి) or J. Krishnamurti (Telugu: జే . కృష్ణ మూర్తి) or (Tamil: கிருஷ்ணமூர்த்தி) , (May 12, 1895February 17, 1986) was a renowned writer and speaker on philosophical and spiritual subjects.

His subject matter included: psychological revolution, the nature of the mind, meditation, human relationships, and bringing about positive change in society.

He constantly stressed the need for a revolution in the psyche of every human being and emphasized that such revolution cannot be brought about by any external entity, be it religious, political, or social.

Soul Development

Soul Development
The Only Solid Ground in the Universe

In the almost twenty years that I’ve been a spiritual teacher, I’ve learned an enormous amount about the nature of the human soul. Initially, this was not a subject I thought much about, nor did I have many preconceived beliefs or ideas about it. In fact, being a teacher of enlightenment, my early emphasis was on getting people to let go of and transcend any and all notions of self, including even most of the ideas we have about our souls.

But gradually, I have come to understand and appreciate that the spiritual path is as much about the development of the soul as it is about the transcendence of the ego and conditioned mind. Indeed, these days I often wonder: Unless we have truly developed our own souls, are we ready or is it even appropriate for us to take that next step of transcending the mind? Unless we have developed our souls, will there be any solid ground from which to leap?

I’ve come to the conclusion that the most important reason to do spiritual practice is to develop the soul. A lot of us naively assume that our souls are fully developed, that our capacity for integrity, authenticity, transparency, conscience, goodness, and love is already there and just needs to be realized. But that’s simply not true.

The soul—which I’m defining as our capacity for these deeply positive human qualities—is something that, in most of us, desperately needs to be developed. Too many of us live in a fractured state, deeply divided against ourselves—often far more so than we are aware of or able to feel. We exist in a self-generated vacuum of moral ambiguity, where everything is relative and our attention is focused mainly on our emotional state. Most of us know a lot more about what really matters than we are willing to live up to.

Indeed, we are attracted to that which is beautiful, profound, and meaningful but find ourselves lacking the soul strength to really struggle, to engage in a life-and-death wrestling match with our own division, cynicism, and inertia. The awful truth is that it is just easier for us not to care that much. In order to care that much, we have to be willing to feel a connection with life that is so deep that it hurts.

We have to be ready to step onto the field of our own experience in a way that is authentic, unconditional, and deeply committed—to embrace a kind of fearless vulnerability where our transparency is our strength and the living experience of connection is permanent, unbroken, and inescapable.

The life-embracing capacity of the highly developed soul comes directly from the transformative spiritual experience of oneness, wholeness, and completeness. When the self has directly seen that its own deepest depths are absolutely full to overflowing, all existential doubt is extinguished and we are freed to embrace the life process without reservation.

But even then, our conviction and our surrender will be tested, again and again and again. How much love do we have in our hearts, even when we are being challenged? How strong is our integrity, even at those times when it seems that the whole universe is conspiring to tempt us to compromise?

How alone are we willing to stand in what we know to be true? Soul strength is spiritual strength. It is the ultimate source of dignity and self-respect. And it is exactly this position of unwavering conviction that we so desperately need to cultivate if we’re going to change the very fabric of the emotional, psychological, philosophical, and spiritual field that we all share.

Nobody can do this for us. Others can lead by example, but we alone must develop our own souls. Interestingly, the aspiration to cultivate our capacity for integrity, authenticity, transparency, and conscience comes from the soul itself, the very part of ourselves that is crying out to be developed.

The instant we surrender to the soul’s demand, we will find access to the oneness, wholeness, and completeness that is the source of all spiritual strength. But that strength needs to be cultivated daily, never assumed or taken for granted. Spiritual practice, undertaken in earnest, gives access to that source, and that is why it is the ultimate reference point for the evolving soul in a deeply divided world.

Once we have found this source and have consciously said yes to the noble task of soul cultivation, there is no turning back. If, after saying yes, we do allow ourselves to hesitate and fall prey to the powerful forces of inertia and cynicism, we may not only lose faith in that source but also lose access to it.

That is why it has been said that it is better never to begin on the spiritual path than to begin and give up before one has succeeded unequivocally. Once we have said yes, we must succeed, because we have seen with our own eyes, felt with our own heart, and recognized with our own mind what integrity, authenticity, transparency, and conscience truly are: the only solid ground in the universe.
Andrew Cohen

Dadi Janki – I, the Soul, Belong to God

Dadi Janki speaks about her life, her awakening, and the purpose of creation. In this multi-faceted exchange with Andrew Cohen, Dadi Janki’s pure expression of the timeless Dharma and Cohen’s articulation of Evolutionary Enlightenment reveal fascinating contours of the contemporary spiritual landscape.

There was a moment when the inner eye opened up, and I was able to look in and discover who I am.”

Biography

Dadi Janki Dadi Janki, widely regarded as one of today’s living saints, first began her work with the Brahma Kumaris when she joined their World Spiritual University in 1937 at the age of 21 and soon became one of its most prominent leaders. Transcending established norms of religion, society, and culture, she has taken universal spiritual truths, worked with them in the laboratory of her own life, and translated them into practical tools for improving the human condition.

Though diminutive in physical stature, and simple in dress and manner, Dadi Janki has earned a prominent role of spiritual influence and prominence on the world stage. In 1974, she left India to base herself in London, England, and has since overseen the establishment of spiritual centers in 84 countries, as well as launched projects in 129 countries to help people contribute to a better world by rekindling their higher vision and values.

In the 1980s the Brahma Kumaris, with Dadi Janki at their helm, gained NGO status at the United Nations. In 1986 she launched the Brahma Kumaris Million Minutes of Peace Appeal, an appeal that collected minutes of peace and quiet reflection. It was so successful that it became the largest non-fundraising project for the United Nations during its International Year of Peace. In the early 1990s, she was invited to be one of the UN Keepers of Wisdom, a group of spiritual leaders asked to provide a spiritual perspective on critical areas of concern in the world.

Over 80 years old, Dadi still travels extensively, as Joint Administrative Head of the Brahma Kumaris, enabling leaders from the worlds of politics, religion, medicine, science, education, psychology, and other fields, as well as individuals at every level in society, to absorb spiritual strength by renewing their own link

Even the Heavens Are Not Immortal

An Alluring Vision of Death

An interview with Connie Barlow
by Craig Hamilton

In a culture obsessed with the preservation and extension of life, defending the value of death may seem like a task fit for few but the devil. But for biologist Connie Barlow, singing the Grim Reaper’s merits is becoming nothing short of an inspired mission.

Having spent the last three years on a nonstop nationwide speaking tour with her husband, Michael Dowd, this itinerant “evolutionary evangelist” and author of such popular science books as Ghosts of Evolution and Evolution Extended has recently unveiled a new chapter in her running rendition of “the great story” of our cosmic and terrestrial history. Death, as Barlow tells it, is not something to be feared, or even merely accepted, but is a healthy and life-giving part of the cosmic process that deserves our wholehearted embrace.

Is science’s race to free us from mortality’s grip a misguided and perhaps even perilous attempt to override the cosmic order? What are the evolutionary implications of making a permanent break in one of nature’s most time-proven cycles? If we were to do away with death, what would become of life? Barlow spoke with us about her passion for the perishable and her thoughts on the quest for immortality.

WIE: There’s a growing body of scientists who are convinced that before long—some even would say in the next twenty years—we’re going to have the capacity to extend the human life span indefinitely and attain physical immortality. Based on your own understanding of biology, do you think such a thing could be possible?

Connie Barlow: Honestly, I haven’t wanted to think about it. But I guess I’d probably have to say yes. If we’re speaking about long extensions of life, if not actual immortality, I’d certainly say yes. But I haven’t wanted to think about it.

WIE: Why not?

Barlow: Because I don’t like the prospect. For one thing, it will exacerbate the schism between the haves and the have-nots because, obviously, the whole world isn’t going to have access to this. For another, I view it as undesirable because we’re having enough trouble right now limiting our reproduction, and if we have a significant number of people who are engaged in that sort of life extension, it will create even more of a population problem on the earth.

But more fundamentally, I think that our tendency to avoid the thought of death or think that there’s something wrong with death actually limits our understanding of life and our zest for life. When people have such an individualized sense of self and self-importance that they don’t see the larger picture in which death functions, that to me is immaturity.

I mean, if you view your individual self as being this body and this mind here, then the prospect of death could be rather frightening. But in what I would consider a broader, more mature understanding of the self, the fear of death eases up. In fact, death becomes something that’s seen as good for the whole, and also good for individuals.

When I look at the new cosmology—which harvests discoveries from all the modern mainstream sciences—the conclusion I draw is that death is not only natural, it’s generative. Understanding that death is natural and coming to peace with it can happen at any level of human development.

For thousands of years, our myths and creation stories have given us that peace. But only recently has it become possible to see death not just as natural but as creative and generative at all levels of reality; not just to reconcile with the fact of death but to see goodness in and feel gratitude for death.

So many of the things that we love and cherish in life would not even be here were it not for death. And the way that I’ve come to this more alluring vision of death has been through cultivating what I like to call “deep-time eyes,” eyes that see the fourteen-billion-year story of the universe as a sacred story.

WIE: Could you give us some examples of what helped awaken you to this more alluring vision of death?

Barlow: I’d love to. My own field is evolutionary biology and evolutionary ecology—that is, a deep-time understanding of ecology and biology. But the example that was the most eye-opening for me came later in life, from outside my own field. And that is the understanding from astronomy and astrophysics that what powers stars is the creation of elements.

The original simplest element in the universe is hydrogen; it’s been here since the beginning, since the big bang. In the center of stars, gravity fuses hydrogen atoms into more complex atoms. Our sun is fusing hydrogen into helium right now. And as it approaches death, it will be fusing helium into carbon. Larger stars than our sun move on and fuse carbon into silicon, and silicon into calcium, and so on.

Every single element in our bodies, other than hydrogen, was once inside a giant star that lived and died before our sun was born. As stars died and recycled themselves, they sent their elements pulsing or exploding out into the galaxy.

These elements eventually came upon primordial clouds of hydrogen gas and were caught up by the gravity of those clouds as though by spider webs, providing the matter from which new generations of stars could be formed. And these stars, such as our sun, enriched as they were by the creativity of previous generations of stars, were able to have rocky planets around them, whereas the first generations of stars could not.

We are recycled stardust. Everything we love and everything we see is recycled stardust. And we’re only here because the heavens and the stars are not immortal. To me, that’s an eye-opening insight, particularly when we think of how our religious traditions view the heavens as where God is, as immortal. Over the life span of human cultures, stars do not come and go. But over the life span of geological periods they certainly do. Death is in the heavens just as much as it is on earth.

WIE: In this example from cosmology, you’re using death as a metaphor, because the elements and the stars were never alive in the sense of our biological definition of life. In the way we normally think of live versus dead, they’re dead matter already—dead matter taking another form. Are you saying that the same principles apply to living systems as well?

Barlow: Right now we’re looking out the window at these glorious trees. The only way we have trees that can stand up against the wind and gravity, and move their leaves up toward the light of the sun, is because previous generations of tree cells have died but haven’t been immediately recycled. That’s what wood is: dead cells that now provide support for the very thin layers of living cells between the wood and the bark.

But the litany of examples that come out of the biological sciences really starts with evolutionary biology. The basic underlying premise of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is the understanding that species have gone extinct in the past.

Around the beginning of the 1800s, paleontologists were out discovering fossils and they realized that enough of the world had been explored to be able to state definitively that a certain animal whose bones they’d found—be it a mastodon or a mammoth—no longer existed on the earth. Whether people believed in God or didn’t believe in God, there was huge resistance to the idea that nature could have produced something so “imperfect” that it would go extinct.

Once that was understood, Charles Darwin could open his eyes to what he was seeing in the world and visualize the whole complexification of life for the first time in history. It was now possible to see how wave upon wave of species had come into existence and gone out of existence, and that through that process, there were tendrils of complexification. Eyes developed. Fins developed. Wings developed. Neurons developed into congregations that we call brains. All of that depended on the death not just of individuals but of whole species.

So fundamentally, if we love ourselves and our consciousness enough to want to keep going forever, then from a biological standpoint, we must embrace death. Death is the reason we’re sitting here talking about the prospect of immortality. We’re only here because death is creative.

Another example from biology is fetal development in animals. First, egg and sperm come together as zygote and reproduction starts happening, with cells doubling and doubling and doubling. We start off as a sphere. And then, through differential death—that is, some cells go on and reproduce for a certain number of cell divisions, some die earlier, and so forth—we take on shape.

The great evolutionary gift of multicellularity is the celebration of form and shape, and that’s because of the death of individual cells within the development of creatures.

Neurons begin dying in human brains from infancy, and scientists have always thought that that was just the aging process starting early. But in the last five years they’ve discovered that the death of neurons actually allows more connections to be made between those neurons that remain.

And as we know from complexity theory, and from our own lives, it’s the connections that allow creative intelligence to emerge. We’ve also discovered that even in a healthy adult, there is a winnowing away and a replenishment of cells. It’s called programmed cell death. Part of it is due to oxidation, and the people working on life extension are trying to reduce that oxidation.

But even with minor injuries, if the body stopped discerning when to recycle the elements from certain cells and start anew, we would be wasting away even faster than we already are. Cells that forget that there is a time in their life that they need to die and stop reproducing—whether they’ve had their DNA damaged by toxic chemicals or radiation or some other means—are called cancer.

So, from the smallest levels within our bodies to the largest levels out there in the universe, we have a whole nested reality in which death is not just natural, it’s creative. It’s what allows everything to be. Were it not for death, there would be no such thing as food. Everything we eat was once alive.

When you’re eating salad, or anything that’s uncooked, those cells are still alive right at the moment you’re eating. You’re killing them as they go into you. Even if immortality comes about in some way, we still can’t eliminate death from the whole cycle of life.

WIE: Ray Kurzweil thinks that we’re no longer going to need food because our digestive systems will be replaced by little nanobots in our bloodstreams that will administer all the right nutrients at the precise time we need them. Therefore, eating food will become just an aesthetic activity.

Barlow: Once you go the route of thinking about immortality, so much sort of gets swept up along with it. If we got to the point where we were no longer growing food, would we no longer value leaves falling in the autumn and becoming compost?

How much of our aesthetic appreciation of the world would change if we didn’t have the poignancy of death—of looking at death in the autumn, and the beauty of the leaves, and also having a resonance within us that, especially as we get older, we’re in the autumn of our lives too? Would we just completely lose our connection with the natural world? I don’t know.

Or take another example. If we were immortal, eventually we’d get to the point where, at least on this planet, we would have to outlaw having any more children. And the warm, fuzzy part of us wants to always go on having babies. But also from the standpoint of cultural development along an evolutionary trajectory, there’s something to be said for a world in which you can always have children. There’s something to be said for what happens to human beings when their formative years occur at later and later stages of cultural development.

I met a woman recently who told me that in her work with kids, she is seeing that this generation of children is remarkably different from previous generations because the world they’re growing up in is changing so fast. I often think, “What would I be like today had I grown up with the understanding that my ancestors include the stars?” So much of who we are has to do not with what we read or learn later in life but with how our imaginations form as children.

So I, for one, would not want to live on a planet without death and without children, where we’re all just grown-ups together forever. For some reason, people who are into immortality find the prospect of immortality more alluring than the prospect of a mortal life, and I don’t go there. I mean, if someone were to give me the choice to actually download my brain and live forever, or have some sort of nutritional supports so I would live forever, I would absolutely say No. I can’t imagine a worse hell.

WIE: What if the technologies for immortal life become so widespread and so built into the fabric of everything that it becomes natural to live forever, or at least for a very long time? And all you have to do is take a pill to stop the dying process, to stop all kinds of diseases and degeneration.

At some point, people who take the position you’re taking are going to have to say, “I choose death.” So I’m curious: At what point would it be? It obviously wouldn’t be now, because we all have that choice every day. You could choose death over life today if you wanted to, and you are choosing life.

Barlow: Right.

WIE: Well, how do you know it’s going to be any different in fifty years? Maybe in fifty years, you’ll still wake up and say, “I’m going to choose life.” And you will. And then in another fifty years, life will still be rich and interesting, and once again you’ll want to choose life. Given the option, can you be sure that at some point you would want to choose death over life?

Barlow: The thing is, I don’t view it in those terms. The prospect that unless I chose to die, I would live healthily forever, or for a thousand years, is appalling to me. Where would we get our motivation for not putting things off till tomorrow? Or next century? Where would we get our sense of real poignancy in a moment of joy with a spouse?

The moments that we feel most alive are when we recognize that our experience is passing, that at some point it will be gone. But if we’re always at a point where our experience will never go away—like if I were going to be married for a thousand years—then I just think life would be diminished. It wouldn’t be as rich. We would have to develop a whole new psychology, and it ain’t the one I’ve got right now.

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