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  I don’t think I’d want to live to be much older than 100 since I feel that after that many years I’d be so sadly out of date it would trash any future incarnations, but I don’t want to die too young either because I’d like to see the far side of 70 for once (I can’t recall a single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

Thoughts on the Dying Process

I’ve had some thoughts recently on the dying process that I’ve been trying to think of how to convey.  Here’s what I’ve got so far, don’t take it too seriously because even I’m not sure about it:

Generally, there are two dominant narratives on death in our culture.

The first says that the body separates from the soul, and the soul passes into either an afterlife or reincarnation.  This is the dualist position of the separate body and soul which is common across cultures.  To this view, the near death experience is a witness testimony to the existence of Heaven (and more rarely, Hell).

The second narrative says that what we call the soul is a function of the body, and is no more reborn than a computer is reborn after its hard drive is wiped.  To this view, the near death experience is the result of a recently-discovered phenomenon in which the dying brain releases massive amounts of a potent psychoactive compound called Dimethyl Tryptamine (DMT) and sends the brain on a goodbye trip before shutting down completely in a final wave of terminal activity.

But what if the evidence of these two positions was less contradictory than we presumed?  Where would you find any sort of common ground between them?

The answer, to me, is in the DMT.

Now, it’s time for a confession which might well discredit me.  I have used psychedelics.  Where I live, it’s extremely easy to get things like psilocybe mushrooms and there is a local variety (p. azurescens) that is extremely potent.  Before trying these, I spent a great deal of time researching how to make the most of it, and it seems the best thing you can do is make yourself comfortable, think good thoughts, and don’t fight where it wants to take you.  This was not what induced past life memories (that was a product of severe stress) but it did produce vivid sensations of acceleration, weightlessness, and brief, temporary losses of ego.  It is worth noting that by being mindful of set and setting, I have never experienced what some call a “bad trip.”

What I have discovered, however, is that the quality of insight you have will be directly proportional to the quality of what your mind is focused on.  Obviously, you’re not going to have an epiphany getting stoned while watching old reruns of Ren and Stimpy stuffing your face with Cheetos.  Garbage in, garbage out.  If you give your mind shits and giggles, you will get only shits and giggles, but if you give it something profound to ponder, then you’ll find you are a more insightful being than you ever knew.  It is the door, but not the path.

Now consider this: psilocybin (along with LSD) is a DMT analog.  It produces much the same effects.  Also consider that the sort of tranquility and acceptance required for a psychedelic experience is much like the frame of mind proposed in the Bardo Thodol (or Tibetan Book of the Dead, as it is known in the West).

This could mean any and all of the following:

*That Timothy Leary was correct in finding a parallel between the psychedelic experience and the Bardo Thodol, even though it was not known in his time that the dying brain releases DMT.

*That psychedelic drugs could induce the state of readiness for transcending and understanding death and rebirth, though not enlightenment itself.

*That we know of Heaven from those who have passed through a positive Bardo state because they had the correct set and setting when they died.

*That we know of Hell from those who passed through a negative Bardo state because they died fearful, unprepared, or consumed by guilt.

This last point seems to be borne out by my memories of how John felt after death, in a confusing morass of form and shape coupled by an unpleasant and frightening sensation of moving simultaneously in a thousand directions without going anywhere.  I have spoken to others who remember passing through something closer to an NDE description of heaven, and this would also explain the small but significant number of people whose NDEs provided a Hellish experience.  Those who are uncertain about their personal beliefs or are killed in bad situations (like, say, a muddy trench in France) would be the most vulnerable.

There is one problem with all this that I’m trying to hash out: what happens in violent deaths where the brain is destroyed before you can have any sort of trip, good or bad?  Would it lead to a confused Bardo state?  Is this where hauntings come from, perhaps?  This is important because so many of those killed in the Great War were simply blown to pieces too small to gather.  If the body and soul are a dual entity, then it would stand to reason that the soul would leave a body quite forcefully in that case, but without the chemical guide to map things for their dying minds, how would it know where to go next?  Would they even know they were dead?

The hypothesis is imperfect and relies on a lot of suppositions, but it is interesting to consider the parallels between Buddhist conceptions of the afterlife, the psychedelic experience, and the scientific evidence of the dying process.