End of Life Matters

Hopefully, my current life will continue another 50-70 years or so.  I don’t think I’d want to live to be much older than 100 since I feel that after that many years I’d be so sadly out of date it would trash any future incarnations, but I don’t want to die too young either because I’d like to see the far side of 70 for once (I can’t recall a single life where I did).

That being said, I’m probably more aware than ever that my meter’s going to run out one of these days, maybe sooner or maybe later.  And I think I want to have my affairs in order if I were to die unexpectedly.

If there’s time, I want the Cathar ritual of Consolamentum to be performed when I am obviously near death; understandably, it is very unlikely we could find a Cathar revivalist parfait on such short notice but if it’s at all possible, please do this for me.  If not, see if you can find a Buddhist priest to do readings or prayers, or at least try to find a recording of the Bardo Thodol.  I believe that both the Cathars and the Buddhists were among the recipients of the divine light.

I am not too concerned with my possessions if I were to die young since, even if we can’t manage to afford the wedding we’ve been wanting, my fiance will probably get anything of mine that he’d want to keep and plenty of support from my family, especially my father.  When I can no longer risk leaving Dad to look after him because of illness, injury, or old age, I’ll make preparations but until then I’m not concerned.

I am however concerned with the arrangements of my death and funeral being done in such a way that I’ll be more likely to remember my current life in future incarnations and the process of crossing into the bardo state will be easier for me.

As I recall, I was able to attend my own funeral in at least one instance (with John).  A prompt burial probably helped.  I think I should be buried promptly and without all the dolling up that usually goes into funerals these days.  A distinctive headstone, a grave near recognizable land marks, and possibly a tree next to the grave will be helpful in allowing me to recognize my grave, and keeping my body there intact might be helpful with the process of quantum entanglement (which I suspect had something to do with the way I saw John’s grave remotely as it was in the recent past).  If I’m buried before the stone is placed this may be especially useful.

As for specifics on this distinctive headstone, I want my name, my birth and death dates, the Greek phrase “γνῶθι σεαυτόν,” and an ankh based on a distinctive Ankh amulet found in the British museum (the art deco-looking one from Gebel Barkal), an Ankh styled to look like a modified cross flory, or a rosy cross.  As for the stone itself, go for something simple and dignified sort of like John got, though try not to make it look too much like John’s CWGC headstone (e.g. don’t copy the layout or dimensions of his stone and if possible use different materials).

As for the ceremony, allow any fellow Gnostic who knows anything about me to speak.  Read from the Gospel of Thomas, verses 1-5.  Allow a Buddhist monk to say a prayer, then tell those who have come what has likely become of me, if I haven’t simply ceased to be (which still might happen).

If I die violently, tell them I’m going through a really troubling time and need all the prayers, thoughts, parting words, and good vibes they can send.  Ask them to continue to pray for my soul until they have recovered from losing me.  By then I should have found my way to my next life.

If I die peacefully, tell them I’m probably in something like heaven, though not eternally; only long enough to be born again elsewhere in a short while.  Pray for my soul anyway after whatever your personal beliefs are, or simply try talking to me and saying out loud what you never would have said to me when I was alive if nothing else; I suspect that this practice is helpful in allowing souls to get their bearings.

Don’t worry about wearing black.  Come in whatever you’re wearing.  It’s going to be a funeral on a short notice anyway.

Don’t worry about the coffin or embalming.  I didn’t have either at L’Epintette and it didn’t matter.  Since a coffin will probably be required just get a simple box and don’t even bother with a vault if you can avoid that legally.  If you think I deserve better, have some of my artist friends paint it or something but don’t try to seal me away in some glorified tupperwear; that’s not necessary.

Don’t use one of those minivan hearses, or an SUV conversion; on the off chance I can see what’s going on I don’t want to see my mortal remains being carted around like 2x4s from home depot.

Do play some music.  Good music.  Assume that I can still hear this and get some good musicians and/or singers.  I don’t want all of these pieces but I’ll name some suggestions.  “Da Stiegen Die Menschen” from Beethoven’s “Cantata on the Death of Joseph II” is a good one, as is “Kyrie” from Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis.  Maybe Rachmaninov’s “Isle of the Dead.”  Seikilos’ song is a piece that goes back to Ancient Greece and is the oldest funerary music in existence, I would love that.  I sort of like the Prelude from Parsifal or the Prelude from Lohengrin, I wouldn’t mind either of those.

One last thing: I don’t want any more secrets when I die.  Make all of my notes publicly available to peruse and for those who know who I am, don’t be afraid to tell everyone that I’ve been here before, and that’s how I know I’ll be back.  Tell them about the life I lived before this one and the wonderful things discovering that life did for my writing and for the thoughtful way I tend to live nowadays.

Hopefully, no one will need this information for a long time.  I anticipate updating these final wishes many times over the years as I continue to live and grow.  Each version will be a snapshot of where I am spiritually at that time; this example, from the very beginning of 2015, will be one of the first where I feel some confidence that I know what to expect after I’m gone.

I had an earlier text on how I wanted to be buried back when I was a Pagan.  It suited me back then, but it doesn’t suit me now.  My journey is ongoing and I want to be sure I’m buried wherever I am on that journey at the end of my life.  I see no shame in changing one’s beliefs often if one is changing them to accommodate certain extraordinary evidence one is confronted with.  In my life, that extraordinary evidence has been curiously abundant.

The Middle Way

The Buddhist idea of the middle way is simple: you cannot force yourself to let go of more than you’re ready to.

Part of me is still a science fiction writer yearning for recognition.  Part of me is still a displaced Tommy who just wants to go home.

I cannot deny that nature, and so I make small concessions.

This year, I decided to buy a Christmas pudding to share with my fiance.  It’s certainly no surrogate for the life I lost nearly a century ago but it’s a piece of that identity that is still firmly within my reach and doesn’t cost a great deal.

I’ve paid online and I’ll go to pick it up at a Scottish shop in Southeast this coming week.  Somehow, it just feels right.

Long live the middle way.

Semi-Coherent Rant About Reality

The more I look into the ideas I had in my previous life, the more terrified I am, if for no other reason than they seem to be the topic of serious discussions.

The universe as a simulation?  There are people who have treated that as a serious topic of discussion.

The universe as a hologram?  That’s pretty much considered a solid theory.

And what’s beyond this hologram or simulation?  Are we all dead and lying in cold pac?  Or is that what the Black Iron Prison really is, a false reality that we’re stuck in?  If our world really is a simulation, who is running this show and what do they want?

And how did I end up here, if I was Phil?  Shouldn’t I have transcended?  Unless there really is no hope of transcendence or unless I was captured before I could ascend…

I’m beginning to wonder if anything matters, or if there is any way off of this ride.  That’s the leap of faith that Gnosticism, Buddhism, and Hinduism ask of us: to believe that it is possible to wake up from the endless dream and return to our true home in literal union with the divine.  But I know from my previous life’s writings that I thought for sure I was free and I didn’t fear death.

Was I cheated?  Was I foiled?  Or was I just deluded into thinking I’d be free when I had too many attachments and flaws to work out?  I know in Buddhism it’s believed that it takes many enlightened lives to achieve freedom from Samsara and become a Boddhisattva who can either return at will or leave as they please.  But what if that’s just a meaning-defining myth to mollify those who thought they were going to escape, only to reincarnate and remember that their hopes had been dashed?

I could go in some dark places with the likely conjectures from all of this.  I could eventually drive myself insane trying to figure it out.  I could also go about living my life trying to forget what I’ve learned about the path my soul has taken, but that feels unnatural and so unlike me.

I hope that everyone who said that this reality is a simulation is wrong but I have no reason to disbelieve them.  Whenever my current avatar dies, I’m constantly rebooted into another with a partial memory wipe and only a vague sense of who my previous avatar was.  But who is the player behind these avatars?  Who am I, or is there an “I” behind them at all?  What is real and how do I wake up, if I choose to reject falsehood?

I just want the truth.  I want to live beyond illusions.  I want to transcend.  I want to end this cycle of rebooting into a pointless realm of surrogate activity.  It’s fun being a science fiction writer and all but the real intelligence behind me, I think, must be so much more than that if it can be all these things I remember being.

Buddhists say that by wanting enlightenment, you become attached to the idea of enlightenment and defeat your own purpose.  But is that true?  How can I not want the only thing that, so far as I can tell, is real?

I’ll play out this scene where I’m a struggling writer one more time, but I don’t want to do it again.  I hope I figure out a way to either fade from the picture and unexist, or else a lasting solution to not mind existing so much.

A Kōan: The Bear and the Monk

A monk finds a bear in his room.

The bear will leave sometimes, but it always comes back.

The monk tries not feeding it, but the bear still comes.

The monk tries banging on bells and drums to make the bear go away, but the bear still comes.

The monk tries feeding the bear, hoping to appease it, but this makes the bear come more often and it becomes aggressive toward the monk.

Finally, the monk decides that he will sit quietly and not allow the bear to interrupt his prayers when it comes, though he will not encourage it to stay.

At first it is difficult and patience is required, but in time he comes to not mind the bear so much, and it comes less often.

In time, perhaps, the bear will leave, but the monk no longer cares.  He finds joy not in spite of the bear, nor because of the bear, but outside of the bear’s presence entirely.

How It Would Feel

Tonight I took on a question that left me feeling more at ease with the idea of reincarnation than I’ve ever been.

I asked myself, if I had been Buddha in a previous life, how would I feel upon suddenly remembering that?

And my first thought was that if Buddha reincarnated at all, then he failed, miserably.  After all, his stated goal was to escape from suffering by acknowledging one’s true nature and escaping after death into a state of complete singularity with the universe.  To be reincarnated again and again for what would have to be thousands of years by now, would be the exact opposite of what he sought to do.

My second thought was that another chance to see the matter from a new perspective is always a good thing, and that, though even Buddha could be wrong, there’s nothing to be ashamed of.

We have been sages before and forgotten ourselves; even a most sublime son among philosophers could do the same.  And that is what makes us all equal and grand and full of un-tapped potential; we don’t know the strength of our own souls.  A Buddha one day, an ox-herder the next.  Back up through the Ten Bulls again, to rebuild the house one level at a time.  But there is beauty even in that because what we build the next time is even greater than what we built the first time.

Then I had this incredible flash: perhaps enlightenment is not a fixed point but an ever-extending thread of Gnosis back, by and by, to the true nature of things.  Perhaps Buddha’s insights were only a way station onto something deeper, and that Buddha could reincarnate having still succeeded in advancing the human spirit.

Say for example that the early observation by Hermes Trismegistos that “that which is above is that which is below” was merely an early breakthrough.  When this truth became apparent to those who heard it and meditated upon it, they were ready for greater revelations.  So too with every other point about the universe that has been understood to be true.  As the human spirit accepts new ideas, it develops a tolerance for newer, bolder ideas and is forever forging into previously-inaccessible reaches of Gnosis.

I must stress that I do not believe and am not seriously suggesting that I was Buddha and failed to achieve ultimate enlightenment; only that I feel that I have reached a point where I’m so accustomed to weirdness that it just wouldn’t bother me if I was.  There’d be fuck all I could do about it, except smile, laugh, and say “Well, the joke really was on me” before simply trying in earnest to live mindfully and compassionately.  The wheel turns as always, and all is well.

 

Another One…

Another weird coincidence involving Buddhism and a possible past life of mine has surfaced.

There was my discovery of the Wild Fox Koan (with the potentially useful admonition “don’t forget about cause and effect”) after recalling a possible past life as a fox near a Zen temple.  Then there was the group of Buddhist monks who made sand mandalas at Salisbury Cathedral around the time I had a flash of insight that my experiences following John’s death were actually compatible with what was taught in the Bardo Thodol.

Here’s another one.  It seems that very close to Philip K. Dick’s former high school, Berkeley High School in Berkeley, CA, there’s an institution called the Dharma College, a sort of Buddhist think tank apparently.  And the street it’s on, Harold Way, was very nearly re-named “Dharma Way.”

So Phil went to school near, but not on, a street nearly called Dharma Way…  and when you consider Phil’s erudite but troubled life and the double meanings of the phrase “Dharma Way,” well, it seems downright fitting.  You could say he spent his whole life “near Dharma Way,” but not on it.

File this under “interesting.”

My One Gripe About the Story of Buddha

I admit, there is one gripe I have about the story of Buddha.

As much as they may have been a distraction and an obstacle to his goals, once he had married and had a child, wouldn’t Siddhartha be morally obligated to be there for them?  Also, calling your child “ball and chain” and then leaving them in the night is not the behavior of a wise or compassionate person.

Granted, I know that part of the story has him essentially locked in a sort of velvet prison, free to do anything so long as he is protected from pain, need, and suffering by his doting family.  And I imagine part of the point of the story is that he was literally not allowed to leave on his own, so a “jail break” of sorts makes sense.  But why take it out on the child?  Why call them “ball and chain,” of all things?  That’s not the child’s fault and I think it should be considered a negative example of how to frame your thoughts when involved in a similar situation.

I suppose a cynic would be able to use that to bolster their case that the whole story is somehow unwholesome to cling to and rife with human failings.  But in all likelihood, it’s the fault of the scribes and scholars who recorded these stories, not a gross failing of the subject of their story nor of the ideas attributed to him.  And one of the more generous traits of Buddhism is its broad acceptance of allegory and its injunction to take only what you know to be wise from the texts.  Dharma is not what is written, but what you learn from what is written, and negative examples of conduct are just as valid as positive ones provided you have the basic wisdom to know which is which.

I would add that I feel that the idea of leaving one’s family to become an ascetic is generally not a practice to be encouraged.  One who marries and has a child has expressed one commitment explicitly in their marriage vows, and one commitment implicitly in the act of conception.  I remember wanting to become a monk toward the end of my life as William Longespee, but the abbot at Ile de Re (I believe Claude was his name) wouldn’t have it; I had promised Ela to return, after all.

Also, one of my greatest regrets if I was Phil was the way I went through wives and proved to be anything but a model father for three children.  My memories of them are vague and have not been confirmed, but in truth I feel bad for them and I wish I could remember more about them, or that I could tell them that if I was their father I’m incredibly sorry for putting all of them through bitter divorces and leaving them without a father.

Keep your promises and do not neglect those who need you.  Treat your commitments seriously unless they do more harm than good.  This I firmly believe.