Mind, Body, Soul|Dec 24, 2014 5:03 AM| by:

Death and Immortality

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The quest for immortality is as old as man himself. Without knowing death it seems we cannot fully understand life itself.

But who can know death? The dead do not tell tales. And the living do not experience death. True we can know something about the process of death of the body. We can perhaps answer what happens to the body when someone dies. But can one know the state of one who has experienced death?

For all physical conditions, there is a corresponding state of awareness. There is, for instance, a state of awareness when the body is inert and asleep; a state of awareness when the body walks and runs; a state of awareness when the body is hurt or sick and, a state of awareness when the body is in perfect balance and health.

What is the state of awareness when the body is dead?

Science is baffled by this question, for, to it death is synonymous with the death of the body. Just as immortality, for the modern scientific mind, is synonymous with the preservation of life in the body. The ancients questioned this presumption. They dared to ask, – does really nothing survive?

Is death the ridiculous end of life? Is it the last cruel laugh of Nature on man’s attempt at growth and perfection? Is it the vain end of all we hope and dream, aspire and become? Is it the final abyss where all sink – the sage and sinner, the scientist and the fool?

If that be so, the whole significance and meaning of life is subject to question. It would also be absurd to aspire for immortality. For who would care for living indefinitely?

The rational conclusions of our mind are however often contradicted by the intuition and faith of our heart. It is a strange paradox that from birth to death, we aspire and labour for growth.

Despite the knowledge that one day we all die, we always behave as if we are immortal. Some suggest it genetic programming as the cause – but that explains nothing, only pushes the question back. One shelves off the responsibility to a mysterious, all-determining gene that is struggling for billions of years to survive. And it has succeeded in fooling death. The gene does not die. It only changes form. It passes from one generation to another, defying death. For it replicates itself endlessly like the head of a hydra or the body of an amoeba. And man, nothing more than a conglomeration of cells with genes seeks to replicate himself and live endlessly! That is the scientific view.

Its offshoot is that the only kind of immortality possible for a person is a collective one, – the prolongation of the race and species. This too, one sees and observes. What one also observes is that the cellular body of the human being changes several times in a life. Yet, a sense of ‘being the same person’ continues to link us to these ‘micro-deaths’.

Let us look at the whole thing again. Let us raise a few fundamental questions and answer them in all sincerity.

Do genes explain everything – the traits, characteristics, personality, habits, of a human being? We know that human beings show a very wide range of attributes and characteristics not only in degree of expression but also in the quality itself. What is even more interesting is that this wide variation is found not in unrelated persons but in the same family, even in twins and often enough in the same individual. The same person may at one time under one set of conditions display fear and at another display courage. Not only that, even in the same conditions the individual can, by will and learning, so completely change himself as to display a totally opposite behaviour. The myth of the omnipotent gene is shattered. Does it mean that the genetic endowment has been modified? Or perhaps, as is much more likely, the psychological traits are not passed genetically at all. The genes merely lay the broad foundation or perhaps frame the building of the body. But it has little say in the matter of who or what type of person shall dwell in the body. To believe that a few amino acids could determine everything is like believing that a few bricks could, of their own volition arrange themselves and build a beautiful mansion.

It is not only possible, but largely probable that the psychological characteristics of an individual are passed down through a process whose nature we do not know. This process would relate with the material and genetic substances on the one side and experience on the other. Thus, it would enrich itself, grow in content and quality and be capable of transmitting itself to all things that are receptive and can hold the corresponding vibration. This non-genetic, horizontal transmission could explain evolution, its growth and enrichment. Genes are then not vehicles of evolution but rather the agents of preservation. They preserve change rather than cause it. If a superior mutant gene was the cause of evolution, one would have expected all genetic diseases to have been naturally eliminated and disappear. That, however, is far from being true. Genes, faithful to their task, seem to carry on regardless of natural selection. The genes themselves, looked at from the point of view of their function are one form of memory imprinted upon the consciousness of the species. This is not the memory, of day to day processes, which is based upon sense associations – of sound, sight, touch and other gross and subtle senses which give a representative ‘image’ to our consciousness leading to a recall. Or else a conscious and voluntary will to reproduce the external scene or image to bring back the usual memory of the event. This memory is based on associations of feelings, associations of ideas, associations of complex psychological states of self and world awareness. The memory of the genes is a subconscious memory which works habitually and automatically. It relates largely to our body’s functioning. Psychological memory (memory of subjective self-awareness) is much more complex. It perhaps goes beyond the physical events and experiences of a single life time.

It is a fact now well known to modern psychology that memory is a state-dependent phenomenon. Experiences of one state (like alcoholic intoxication) are forgotten in another state (black-outs). However the memory comes back again (on drinking alcohol again) if we are put in the same state. That is how we see the same dream-experiences despite variations in the waking state. It is not that such a loss of memory in passage from one state to another is indispensable. For instance, two different states may abruptly telescope into each other as when someone is suddenly woken up while dreaming. But normally, as these are two distinctly different states, such telescoping leads to a kind of momentary confusion. Hence Nature provides for blank spaces of consciousness through which one travels from one state to another. To integrate these different states is not only possible but an essential work for conscious evolution. The human embryo, for instance, lives in rapid succession the different stages of form-evolution – the bird, the reptile etc., – before arriving at the human stage. A secret link of oneness, a universal association always holds everything together despite all outer variations and differentiation. This is done through building bridges to cover the gap between one state of awareness and another. This is a deliberate process that was known and developed by the ancient occult sciences and it was through this that men and women of exceptional caliber and self-awareness went into the domain of death and brought back the real process and significance of it. In India, this knowledge has been largely generalised and widely held through folklore and belief-systems through generations. While at present, to the critical and sceptical modern intellect, these things appear as fanciful imagination, to the eye of experience, these are reproducible truths of experience. It is because of these gaps of unconsciousness that a large number of those who had near death experiences or coma due to any reason are unable to recollect anything in their waking state. Yet, the very same people can, in a state of deliberate hypnotic regression, reveal or relive things forgotten to the outer self. Hypnotic regression is in fact one of the known ways of gaining access to these concealed memories.

Death and immortality need to be understood through experience. Physical death may be a loosening of the subconscious memory’s associations, – a decentralisation of consciousness. This could explain the ‘genetic accidents’ and ‘errors’ of aging finally culminating in death. If the subconscious association were intact there is no reason why genes should suddenly go crazy after years of faithful and habitual working. After all, certain plants and trees can renew an old and worn-out limb easily. There is no reason why this renewal should not be possible in a human body. ‘Genetic programming’ we might comment, but genes are instruments of a subconscious memory which translates itself as ‘genetic aberrations’ when it fails. Nature however has a utility of the aberration too. The Creative-Intelligence that works with precision and perfection in each element and atom enters deliberately into error and accident. So too genetic deprogramming, the loosening of associations, has a meaning. An association of different elements in Nature (physical, psychological and even social) gives us an infinite field for growth and experience on a finite basis. The need and value of an experience being over, the association must dissolve if a fresh experience and new possibility of growth is to be undertaken. The ‘being’ deliberately assumes the bondage; it deliberately dissolves it; and, it deliberately takes it up again. Each time, it takes it up, it is a different and fresh field. It is through these cycles of birth and growth and death and rebirth that the truth of our being grows and becomes ready for manifesting a higher level of force; – Force of Knowledge, Force of Power, Force of the Joy of living, Force of Love, Force of Creative Delight. A time comes when this ascent at one level of form is so complete that the being bursts into a new dimension. There too it begins to seek new possibilities of manifestation. It begins to seek a new form to embody a new level of consciousness, a new force of being. Evolution assumes, in this logic of things, a double sense and purpose. On the one side it is an evolution of forms, as present biology sees it. On the other side, and more importantly, it is an evolution of consciousness and its capacities. It is even likely that the latter precedes the former. An evolution of consciousness serves as a catalyst for a sort of chain reaction on several level till the form it inhabits bursts and surpasses its natural limits and enters into another mode of functioning and being.

Modern science is sceptical of this. Firstly, because, it sees in life nothing else but a play of mechanical energy which is amazingly well-ordered in appearance out of a background of apparent indeterminate chaos. All, according to modern scientific understanding, is a mechanical law and process. And whatever seems to escape this fixed law is merely a chance anomaly, a freak of Nature, an exception that only proves the rule.

Secondly, science does not admit any being or soul behind Nature. There are phenomena and the laws and processes behind them. At most, it admits a vague, incomprehensible force. This force itself is regarded as mechanical and inconscient, not conscious and self-willed.

To the eye of ancient experience, the view of science is based on a limited and partial knowledge. Science has probed only the material domain. Its instruments of science are not geared to pick up the impact of any other forces than material that shape events and acts. Yet even the most complex machine working on material energy is surpassed by the smile of a child. The babble of an infant has a quality that can be felt and experienced but eludes definition in simple terms of mechanics of movement. Conscious experience is not a physical act, it is much more. The same physical act, even identical, can lead to totally different kinds of conscious experience. This difference is due to the difference in cognitive association, a process too complex to be cabined within the narrow range of chemical and electrophysiological neural events. These chemical events are only a basis, they provide a formal material structure but do not determine the experience. Matter serves as a scaffolding to create a bridge between the Spiritual Reality and Nature but it cannot decide what will go across it.

So how do these associations form? What determines the process? To know the laws of association and dissolution (birth and death) is to almost knock at the mysterious gates of Death. At the level of waking consciousness, we know it is preferential interest and attention that helps in forming associations. We associate with and remember things which have drawn our attention, either positively (pleasant) or negatively (painful). Negative associations are usually thrust into a vast unconscious domain where they lie dormant as a ‘complex’. The pleasant ones are used as a rough basis for a day-to-day appraisal of events and reactions.

Keeping in harmony with the unity of things, the fundamental law is the same. At each level, associations form out of a preferential interest and attention. Only the value, need and truth of each level is different and so are the associations. The sensational values of our outer waking consciousness may be quite different from those of our subliminal consciousness. One task life has is to recast the values and associations of our outer consciousness in the true values determined from a greater, deeper, higher level. This means dissolving many of the outer associations which work upon the body as ‘force of habit’ and on the mind as ‘temperament and character’ forming new and fresh associations. So dissolution is a process of evolution. Death is the obverse side of life. In the body itself we find a secret physical consciousness constantly dissolving ‘old’ and useless cells and replacing them by new ones. In this sense, physically we are new born several times in our lives. It is only by habitual subconscious association that we die. This ‘habit of death’, this ‘association of age with decay’ is not an individual phenomenon. That is why no individual by his sole will and effort can conquer physical death. When all the associations are dissolved, we discover the One Immortal Self that shines in us and in all forms. That Self is the imperishable, indestructible element in us. Realising that Self we realise and live in the consciousness of Immortality. It is a state of awareness which remains even after the form dies and perishes. That, in the Indian sense, is Immortality which prepares us for a greater and more comprehensive Immortality. Touched by this dynamic Power, even the very body can become immortal. A new being and a new race can inhabit a new body.