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Editor's Essay: Part II
Will You Survive the Terror of Eternal Life?
return to "Eternity and Infinity" main-page
Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Ironman: "... the existential terror of staring into the void of space"
Editor's prefatory note:
Part I of this writing was meant to be a singularity. However, I’ve come to see that this entire subject is so important that a little more discussion is warranted. Certain elements providing beginning answer to “Surviving the Terror,” while addressed in Part I, were emphasized too much, with some, not enough.
Proportion is important. As well expressed by Dorothy Sayers, "The proportion and relations of things are just as much facts as the things themselves; and if you get those wrong, you falsify the picture really seriously."
Barclay was right – only “the gods” know how to live forever, and if we try this without ratcheting up our pay-grade, we’ll make a hash of it
For those who disagree, I’ll just reference a line from an old song: “alotta men didn’t and alotta men died.” The fact of the matter is, most – yes, most – of the people on the other side suffer, to one degree or another, in various forms of insanity.
They might be smiling, and they might talk about high-minded things, but, as the ancient Chinese man instructed us, they’re existential accidents waiting to happen, are consumed by a systemic sense of emptiness, egoic feelings of “I am not enough.” They experience no true happiness over there. Read about this mayhem in the article, “500 tape-recorded messages from the other side.”
“the dead ones”
In her lectures on the Iliad, Professor Elizabeth Vandiver informs us that human mortality is the crucial distinction between human beings and the very anthropomorphic Olympian gods. From the Greek, we see that the gods are “the athanatoi,” or “deathless ones.” They cannot die. Humans, however, are “the thnetoi,” that is “the dying” or “dead ones.” They must die.
Mortality, the annoying requirement of needing to die, according to Greek thinking, is the quintessential characteristic of the human condition. It’s how we identify these creatures.
Dr. Barclay, as we’ve seen, tells us that the familiar New Testament Greek word for “eternal” has a long history. It means, essentially, “living on the level of the gods.” The point is this:
Just because humans might be granted a post-mortem survival of consciousness doesn’t mean that they’ll automatically know how to use this gift. What we discover is that, when people cross over, generally speaking, they take all of their “earthbound” ideas with them. They try to live as mortals in an “immortal” environment. They hit the glass ceiling; they continue to live and act as if they were limited, needy, and “not enough.” And this great misperception not only makes them unhappy but mentally unbalanced; and as more time goes on, the more off-kilter they become. It happens slowly. It's like the old story of the frog being slowly boiled in water. This transformation happens so imperceptibly, the frog gets taken over before it knows anything's different. So too with the unenlightened ones on the other side - they become the walking "dead ones," even in Summerland. Read more about this in "the 500" article.
in Part I of this writing, I spent much time emphasizing the need to find one’s “true self”
And, of course, this needs to be the starting point. What good are we to ourselves, to full-bodied living, if we're dead and blind, if our "radar" hasn't been installed yet? Accessing the “true self” is the beginning of awareness, of one’s authentic life. It is a realization of our connection to Divinity itself, to Universal Consciousness.
And so, once we have this, pray tell, what further need have we of anything? We’ve come alive. Our eyes are now open. We’ve achieved, we've arrived, we have one foot over the line into authentic awareness.
does the story end here
There was a time when I thought that this is how the story ends, in terms of our spiritual evolvement. The problem is, however, as I've learned, there are people who have experienced “the true self,” the inner life, and even the extremely important “gap,” which we discussed in the “surrender” essay; even so, they languish in a form of narrow-minded darkness; half-dead, half-alive.
I once thought that finding "the true self" should mean something of utmost importance, the last word; and it is very important – but – though every one of the aforementioned people has caught a glimpse of “the inner riches,” each remains a totalitarian; not all the time, and not obviously, but every once in while they give themselves away by saying something that reveals an attitude of "I'm better," and “I thank thee Lord that I am not like other men.”
Understanding and witnessing this gross anomaly became, for me, one of the most instructive lessons of my life. I'm reminded of the parables of Jesus wherein he speaks of those who begin well, but then fall down, with growth stunted, as they fail to follow through.
Over the years, as I've discussed the concept of "the true self" and entering awareness, I'd sometimes posed the question, more to myself than to the reader: "Ok, becoming more conscious is very important, but exactly what are we to become conscious of?" Well, everything, really, but there is a focus, and I finally know the answer to this.
Elsewhere, I'd posted the following inset-box:
the most important concept on the Word Gems site
At the time of this writing, the Word Gems site conceals 794 documents; if printed, 10,000 or, maybe, 20,000 pages might ensue. Clearly, I’ve said more than I know.
I no longer feel the need to add anything to this corpus of information. Especially, with this final chapter of the "small room" book, I ask myself: if required to choose one most important concept from the many gold-nuggets I’ve been privileged to see, what would it be?
It’s is the “mind the gap” principle - introduced in the “Surrender and Acceptance” page, and further discussed in the “Zen” article, along with the “Just Sitting” writing.
“Mind the gap” means that one perceives the great existential separation between “true self” and “false self.” It allows one to say, “I am here, the real me, reveling in a quietude of peace, and over there, across the divide, is the emotional chaos which, for so long, has been masquerading as my essential self but, in fact, is an imposter.”
I feel there is no more important precept that one might possess to prepare one’s spirit for life in the next dimensions. Why is this? It is so because “mind the gap” means that you’ve not only accessed, but have crossed over the threshold into, the domain of the sacred soul.
In this celestial realm of certainty, wherein one is linked to Universal Consciousness, all mysteries will yet bow the neck and bend the knee to one’s investigations. In time, the hidden regularities of the universe will disgorge themselves as you come to understand more and more and more… and not even some of those on the other side for thousands of years, who have not yet perceived the efficacy of “mind the gap,” will be able to stand against you.
Editor’s note: Some may ask, shouldn’t love have something to do with a “most important concept”? And I would say, yes, of course, as mystics, poets, and saints instruct of its highest expression of the human spirit. However, unless we access the “true self,” we will never experience authentic love, but only its ersatz counterpart, mere egoic wanting and needing. When we do find ourselves in this way, true love, a perception of oneness, automatically and naturally rises to the surface of consciousness. It was there all the time, in the silent reaches of the soul, inaccessible however, due to “static on the line” from the “false self.”
I had billed the inset-box above as “the most important concept.” I think I may have oversold this superlative. While the box's concluding “Editor’s note” mitigates somewhat, I still feel that “most important” is misleading. It’s accurate in the sense of necessary first step; in other words, we can’t get to where we really want to go without first things first, such as “minding the gap.” However, Sayers is right, proportion is important, and if you get that wrong, “you falsify the picture really seriously."
What’s missing here?
“Minding the gap” starts the process of becoming a sane individual. Our eyes open. We become conscious in an elevated way. But, without more, eventually, we’ll feel like we’re living in hell. We're made to become conscious of a particular something.
The answer is not complicated. We’ve discussed this in a hundred writings. It is the primacy of true love in one’s life. Viktor Frankl, in his concentration-camp visions, exclaimed,
Man's Search for Meaning: Recounting an Auschwitz experience: "We stumbled on in the darkness, over big stones and through large puddles, along the one road running through the camp. The accompanying guards kept shouting at us and driving us with the butts of their rifles... But my mind clung to my wife's image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look... for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth - that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world may still know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when a man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way - an honorable way - in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment... I resumed talk with my loved one: I asked her questions, and she answered; she questioned me in return, and I answered."
the sparkling diamond on the black velvet cloth
I noticed that Frankl came to this insight while enduring the darkness of great atrocity. I now realize that this juxtapositioning of light and dark was not accidental but part of the process of his perspicacity: a diamond sparkles most brilliantly against a backdrop of black cloth.
This doesn’t mean that we need to be brutalized in order to see more clearly. (We discussed this in the “Prometheus” book.) There's a bloodless -- but not necessarily less horrific -- way of accomplishing the same.
Authentic spirituality does not spring from a regimen of trying very hard to do good works, of thinking good thoughts, of huffing-and-puffing to live a good life. (See the three articles on “spirituality.”)
All these good qualities are fine and to be valued, but all these, properly crafted, will be the result of true spirituality, not the origin.
What is needed is a ratcheting-up of one’s level of consciousness – even beyond that of “minding the gap.” What is needed is the contrasting “black velvet cloth” backdrop, a clear perception of one’s own inner darkness, the dysfunctional grasping “Little Me Ego.”
With this malady coming into view, we are now ready to perceive and to appreciate the sparkling diamond of the “inner riches,” the true self.
Dr. Carl Jung: “Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darkness of other people. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely. Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
Editor's note: "Opening a channel" allows us to see where we've gone wrong. Jung, in his own words, expresses Jesus' teaching of "first remove the beam in your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck in your brother's eye." Knowing your own darkness is the beginning of authentic spirituality.
how this “Part II” article came to be
It’s not necessary, nor desirable, to live in constant vision of the inner darkness. An occasional trip there is enough. It’s a mystical encounter, a journey into the “madness maddened.” It’s our cure for “I thank thee Lord that I am not like other men.”
I can think of two or three times in the last ten years when this horror has overtaken me. It’s a cleansing process, actually. I don’t like going there very often, and it’s not something you can really control, but when the higher self takes you there, let’s just say, it’s very educational.
Late one night, I was very tired, but I’d been thinking about this issue of “surviving the terror of eternal life.” Well, I’m the one who’s supposed to know about these things, with the years of research and all. And I do know about, more than others, all the good things to come in Summerland. Yet, in that late hour, a dread began to overcome me. I saw myself in Summerland. I had my little farm, and my animals, and my university studies, and my service projects, and my closest relatives around, plus good friends – all the things that make for a good life. But, I perceived that all this was not enough to "survive eternal life."
And I thought of a typical day in Summerland – but, this in itself is a problem, in that, there are no “days,” as such, just one long unbroken summer day, there’s no division of daytime and nighttime. This began to bother me, with an inadvertent feeling of, “How can I escape myself with sleep and the like if there’s no end to the day, if it just goes on and on? - and you can't die, you can't get away from it! How do you survive that?"
This discomfiture, like falling into an infinite bottomless pit, began to grow in my mind. A certain panic set in. And I realized that a good life in Summerland, if not properly oriented, can be just as much an "existential terror" as being lost in space.
Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Ironman: "... the existential terror of staring into the void of space"
And I clearly saw that university studies, charitable works, friends, and pets could help me only so much. At the end of the day – if there were such an end of day in Summerland -- one still needed to face oneself.
However, as I surveyed this “terror of eternal life,” I felt the warming answer rising from the depths. And I found myself understanding what Frankl saw in his revelations 90 years ago. Our true salvation is by love, through love, and in love. With this, a sense of fullness supported my weariness.
And I saw, more clearly than before – though I've written books on this subject – that without the love of a Sacred Beloved no one will survive the terror of eternal life.
In this we speak with Shakespeare’s Juliet to her absent one: “So dear I love him that, with him, All deaths I could endure. Without him, live no life.” This includes eternal life. The kind of romantic love to which we refer here is not John-and-Mary love. We need an elevated form allowing us to "live as the gods."
Rainer Maria Rilke: “It is part of the nature of every definitive love that sooner or later it can reach the beloved only in infinity.”
one more attempt at explaining the ineffable
I had finished this “Part II” article - thought I was finished. However, I found myself bothered by a sense that I had not yet expressed the essential concept. Granted, the answer here, that which allows us to “survive eternal life,” is the mind and viewpoint of God. And how does one capture that marvel in mere words on a page?
Nevertheless, allow me to try, one more time.
In the Christian tradition, popularized by Dante, there is a precept, a view of the reward of the blessed, the “Beatific Vision.”
Suffice to say, the general idea asserted that the highest station to which mortals could attain would be to spend eternity gazing upon the glorious splendiferous face of The Most High God. For endless eons to come, so the teaching suggested, we would be mesmerized, held in thrall, by the radiant visage of The Eternal God.
Well… the scientific evidence for the afterlife informs us that there is no “Great White Throne” on the other side, no “Sky God,” no grandfather figure with a long white beard. People over there do not see any visible indications of God; at least, none of popular religious conception. We have discussed this many times before. However, even though the “Beatific Vision” as portrayed by orthodoxy does not exist, I have come to see that this teaching contains a very beautiful underlying truth.
In my studies of classical mythology, I’ve learned that, not infrequently, a mythical hero or god, stories of which have been passed down through the centuries, just might bear a kernel of historical truth or wisdom-principle; for example, the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur. While no actual fantastic monster, half-bull and half-man, ever existed, archeological excavations of Knossos on Crete reveal some sort of ritualistic involvement of early Minoan civilization with elements of the Theseus-Minotaur legend.
So, too, in my view, the “Beatific Vision” offers a core truth, brings to us a glimpse of the infinite empyreal. There were those in ancient times, as in all times, who had psychic abilities and would receive images of the wonders of the next life. And some of these percipients, over the years, would have discerned the beautiful truth that the happiness of eternal life has something to do with basking in the “Beatific Vision,” an expression of Ultimate Beauty, that warms, comforts, and uplifts the soul.
One doesn’t have to be a fully-developed psychic to “see” or to “know” some of these things. I say this because I sense that these portals to highest reality are available to all of us, if we “open a channel.” This view of Beauty as elixir of life is what I’ve perceived for some years now, even before I'd brought to mind the concept of orthodoxy's “Beatific Vision.”
When an “open channel” of perception begins to uncloud the eyes, the eyes of the soul, we will see things, understand things. It will be a mystical revelation; but perhaps I should not use the term “mystical” because it sounds too religious, and that would give the wrong impression. The “open channel,” available to us all, produces a sense of joy, unparalleled in one’s life. And in receipt of this kind of “Beatific” joy, all fear and “terror of surviving eternity” melts away.
How can we encourage or facilitate this accessing of Ultimate Beauty? There is no sure formula. The ancient Spirit Guides indicate that it will happen for each of us, in this world or the next, at the right time, the right time for one’s soul to awaken. But how will this occur? Are we to literally see the face of God? I think not, and a million or a billion years from now we shall still affirm this statement. Then how?
I think there’s a reason why ancient prophecies insist that the “image of God” is revealed to us in the form of female and male. I feel that the truth of this doctrine extends far beyond biological attraction. As the great spiritual teachers have preached, this ultimate sense of affinity will not work for just any two fish in the sea; instead, it means, one particular woman made for one particular man. Each, as is said, becomes a “messiah,” a “savior,” to the other. Each to the other reveals the visage of the unknowable God. Each, via the agency of “made in the image,” transmits a sense of the “Beatific Vision” of the utterly transcendent and glorious God.
But why the need for a “savior”? – well, this is what we've been talking about here; but not orthodoxy's contrived "savior" - we need a savior, that is, we need a rescuing from the terrors of attempting to survive eternal life… alone, without her.
Plotinus had it exactly right (as we discussed in the "Meaning Of Beauty, Part II" writing). He articulated, so very well, this lofty view of the nature of Beauty: it is "the translucence," a shining through, "of the eternal splendor of the One" and of the Truth; only her true mate will perceive her loveliness as portal to an inner knowing of the Divine; a sacred mesmerization, an enrapturing "beatific vision," as she reveals, as no other pedagogue in the world - this one or the next - the hidden face of God.
We need this direct access to God, without which we shall not survive the "existential terror" of negotiating infinity, the unsettling sense of drifting aimlessly in the void, lost in space. In order to survive eternal life, we need to "live life as a god," and therefore we need a direct accessing of the beauty of God's face, "the eternal splendor of the One," which will rescue us from unending meaninglessness, from the zombie-camp of "the dead ones."
Only the "image of God," translated via the agency of the Sacred Beloved - one particular woman made for one particular man - shall answer, as "The Wedding Song" has it, his existential "cry of the heart."
Only the "beauty of God's face" will help us survive the terrors of eternity, and there's one, only one, particular person who can do this for you.