Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Helloween

“In the middle of the journey of our life I found myself within a dark woods where the straight way was lost.” (The Divine Comedy - Inferno, Dante Alighieri c. 1308-1321)

            The word Halloween has its roots in Old English. First used in the 16th century, it denotes the eve before All Saints Day, a day when "all Saints" were venerated and honoured. Halloween itself evolved from pagan influences but "the etymology of the word is Christian." It is primarily believed to have been derived from the Celtic Samhain (Hallowmas), a Gaelic harvest festival dating back as far as the 9th and 10th century and held each year on October 31st and November 1st.  In the Christian tradition, it was believed that each year the "souls of the departed" walk the earth from death until All Saints' Day, on November 1st, when they finally reach their fate. All Hallows' Eve was the "last chance for the dead to gain vengeance on their enemies before moving onto the next world." Christians would dress up, donning masks and costumes, in an attempt to hide from these vindictive spirits.
            When I was involved with the Pentecostal Church, it was not the 'real' Christians who wore costumes on Halloween, but ignorant heathens who, whether they knew it or not, were paying homage to evil and the devil by doing so. Claiming superstition was a tool of Satan, this church (as I knew it) cast out these unclean spirits and forbade the congregation to participate in anything relating to, what my pastor called, "Helloween." At seventeen years of age, I did not miss the irony. I became more than a little curious when this righteous conviction was expressed and so I asked Reverend Hickey what the implication in this change of wording was. He explained to me that any soul bound to this earthly realm was inevitably cast into hell. Only the pious and "saved" would journey to heaven immediately upon their death. Therefore, any such representation on any person (including children), and anyone who practices this cultural worship of the devil which society calls Halloween, most certainly risks, in the end, being tossed by God into the pit and the hellfire "reserved for Satan and his minions." I had no idea when I was eight years old that I was allowing evil spirits to corrupt me through my Kato costume (Green Hornet's sidekick), increasing my chances of being sent straight to hell. I wonder had I died on that Helloween night if I would have been allowed to take my candy with me?
            Even I knew, in my limited mind, that Reverend Hickey's doctrine was not scriptural, but rather it too was cultural in its nature. He had taught in sermon himself that the dead only rise at the Last Trumpet and then face the Judgment. He had preached that in the end we all, coincidentally, will be then separated by costume, either as sheep or goats. The sheep, like lambs of God, go to heaven while the goats, with horns like the devils, go to hell. This apparent contradiction, made by this 'man of God', opened my eyes, acting like a pinnacle between the God I knew then and the hell which had suddenly started to flicker its fire at my heels. The more I questioned, the higher went the heat. I knew from my good Christian training all the talk about hell, but I never imagined the God I knew would actually create such a place, let alone send someone He professed to love to it, forever. I suppose noting my minister's conflict in ideology was a beginning for me, a pitchfork in the road, to hell if I would follow, leading to the depths of it.
            Growing up in the United Church of Canada, I just assumed that since Moses never bothered to mention hell, and neither did any of my minsters, then it must be irrelevant. Something must explain away why Jesus referred to it several times. From Milton's Paradise Lost to Dante's Divine Comedy, all the way to Rice's Memnoch the Devil or the Book of Revelation, were these literary tales not true fiction but instead a reality I had been taught to ignore? Coming face to face with this realism not only scared the hell out of me, it sent me on a journey to discover the truth about that hell. Why would a benevolent God need such a place? What about unconditional love? Was mankind's fate simply a consequence of the battle between the sons of light and the sons of darkness (good and evil)? Could I find the answers in its history, in its evolution, and in its expression or would I just end up barbecue?

“Hope not ever to see Heaven. I have come to lead you to the other shore;
into eternal darkness; into fire and into ice.”
(Inferno, Dante Alighieri)


 

            Throughout the history of religion, the construct called hell has evolved and changed. This tends to be reflected by the culture in which each of these developments occurred. The nature of hell, the victims of this judgment, and even the standards of admission, have all shifted and morphed over the last few millennia. Each religious tradition seems to have its own vision of the ghastly place. In Buddhist cosmology, Naraka (hell) is a place of great suffering, but not as the consequence of divine judgment, nor does it denote eternal punishment. While the Islamic understanding of hell tends to follow the Christian lead, the Qur'an reveals variations not well known in western culture. The gate(s) of hell stand defended by Maalik, an angel assigned to lead the guards of hell, known as Zabaaniyah. The Islamic hell differentiates between one level of torment and another, including Zamhareer: "the Hell of extreme coldness, of unbearable blizzards, ice, and snow."
            Most religious traditions define hell as "a place of suffering in the afterlife." Usually located beneath the Earth's outer crust, the origins of hell are as varied as its representation found in art, literature and modern media. Early Christianity seems to have been influenced by Greco-Roman thought as only "a very, very few righteous and favoured souls came to a pleasant afterlife." The rest of mankind lingered forever in "a nondescript, shadowy, relatively unpleasant afterlife." It is apparent from the lack of writings by early Christians regarding hell that they "appear not to have taken these [ideas] as literally as many do today."
            It goes without saying that the greatest influences on any theology of hell lie within the pages of the Bible. In the Old Testament, the word sheol, “the House of Dust and Darkness", is the only word which suggests anything resembling a hell. It is here that all the dead gather. Every soul, without distinction, was imprisoned in this virulent place, "where souls were left to dine only on dust and live in an unrelenting haze of ash." To the Hebrew, life was most important and anything conceptual after that was ambiguous and undeveloped. There was "a presumption of life after death," and little more. For the Old Testament writers, sheol represents "the state of the dead, the invisible world, without regard to their goodness or badness, their happiness or misery."
            The Old Testament reveals that sheol is that "place or state of the dead." Within its pages, there is no reference point for any modern doctrine of hell. There is no threat of endless punishment and "it is not revealed in the Law of Moses." Besides having to read through the book of Numbers, there is no hell anywhere in the Old Testament. When the Septuagint (Judaic scriptures translated into Greek) was completed in 132 BCE, the word sheol was rendered hades. For the early members of Christianity, "the two words were taken to mean the same thing, or at least, something close."

“Abandon hope, all ye who enter here."
(Inferno, Dante Alighieri)


 

            When Christianity began to expand westward around the 5th century, out of Western Europe came The Gospel of Nicodemus. Written in Latin, this medieval vision of hell shaped the consciousness of Christians exposed to its "grand early advanced vision of Hell." Of course, it found its diabolical roots in the New Testament.  Most Judeo-Christian literature and art, created post-resurrection, was inspired using scripture as a muse. Ideas on hell and damnation, based entirely on the New Testament, influenced not only theocratic but also cultural institutions, turning what was once a place of shade into a pit of brimstone, everlasting torture and hellfire. The modern mindset regarding such a hellish place is heavily influenced by this incorporation of scripturally-based expressions found in such works as Dante's Divine Comedy and Goethe's Faust.  
            The word translated as 'hell' in scripture, literally means "the grave." Only twelve of fifty-four times that the word 'hell' appears in scripture does the original mean "a place of burning." In the New Testament, there are three words translated as hell from the original Greek to English. Gehenna (γε‘εννα) refers to the "Valley of Hinnon", which was a garbage dump outside of Jerusalem. Hades ('αδης) is the Greek god of the underworld, as well as his place of residence. Tartaros (ταρταρος ) is part of hades, reserved for "those few dead who especially offended the gods during life."  In Tartaros, the damned are sentenced to eternal torment.
            Gehenna was a nasty place. Because the city used it for garbage disposal there was constant fire and consumption. "Profane sacrificial practices" had left Gehenna with a bad reputation. The people "held the place in such abomination that they cast into it all kinds of filth, and the carcasses of beasts, and the unburied bodies of criminals who had been executed." Anyone who was considered to have died in their sin, including those "without hope of salvation" (those who commit suicide), met this fiery end.  In the New Testament, Gehenna is often used "as a metaphor for the final place of punishment for the wicked after the resurrection." It is a literal reference and a descriptive, meant to cast fear and horror. It is the most common word for hell in the New Testament.
            While the god of the underworld and his domain are based in Classic Greek Mythology, the word Hades also had diverse meaning in Hellenistic literature. It was considered "a grave or tomb; the domain of the dead; the dead, collectively (e.g. one's ancestors or forefathers); or what it had originally meant, the place where dead spirits end up after dying." In the New Testament, the word hades means "a grave" or "dead end." Metaphorically speaking, it is also used to refer to "destruction"(Luke 10:15). As mentioned, early Christians, like literate Jews from the same period, used the Greek hades in translation of the Hebrew sheol. Only in the Story of Lazarus and Dives (Luke 16:19-31) was hades depicted as a place of agony.  Some would argue that "this parable reflects the intertestamental Jewish view of hades (or sheol) as containing separate divisions for the wicked and righteous." Eventually, everyone will end up in hell.
            Tartaros appears only once in the New Testament. Like Gehenna, Tartaros conjured up notions of eternal suffering (2 Peter 2:4).  It was considered "a deep, gloomy place, a pit, or an abyss used as a dungeon of torment and suffering that resides beneath the underworld." Around 400 BCE, Plato wrote about the judgment of the soul, and he believed that any resulting punishment involved being sent to Tartaros. The New Testament, however, does not use the word to denote human souls being sent there. It appears to be used in parallel with the word found in 1 Enoch, where 200 fallen angels are held. The writer of 2 Peter warns "God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell [Tartaros], putting them in chains of darkness [gloomy dungeons] to be held for judgment" (New International Version).

“And when he had put his hand on mine with a cheerful look, wherefrom I took courage, he brought me within to the secret things. Here sighs, laments, and deep wailings were resounding through the starless air; wherefore at first I wept thereat. Strange tongues, horrible utterances, words of woe, accents of anger, voices high and faint, and sounds of hands with them, were making a tumult which whirls always in that air forever dark, like the sand when the whirlwind breathes.” (Inferno, Dante Alighieri)


 

              Hell is the condition of separation from God. The symbolic language used in the Bible does not refer to an actual place, but rather it is a person's "state of being," a suffering brought by this deprivation from the Holy. Any modern misunderstanding of its meaning is to misconstrue the true nature of God and His relationship with mankind. If God keeps sinners in eternal fires, living forever in unending torment, then the promises He makes within scripture would remain uncompleted. Evil would prevail. The sacrifice of Jesus would be for nothing and the "new heaven and a new earth" (Revelation 21:1) anticipated by His followers would be for naught. Rather than ridding the world of sin, He would perpetuate it. It is clear, the Kingdom come will be a place without agony and sadness, where "there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4). Hell has no power, no sting.    
            In the Book of Romans (6:23), Paul reveals the "the wages of sin is death," not eternal punishment in some fiery hell-place. According to Jesus, hellfire isn't even meant for human beings, but it is "prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41). When a person wastes their life in sin, Jesus casts them to the garbage pit. (Mark 9:43-44). The Book of Acts contains almost 30 years of apostolic observation, starting with the Ascension. Somehow, within the text, there is no mention of hell (Gehenna). All those years of evangelising yet, "these men of God, addressing people of all characters and nations, never, under any circumstances, threaten them with the torments of Gehenna, or allude to it in the most distant manner." Then again, why would someone warn you of something when it is not relevant? If Hell is "part of divine revelation" why was this not divulged to the Gentiles and the Jews targeted for salvation in the pages of Acts?
            In the Old Testament, sin equals death. In the Book of Ezekiel (18:4), "the one who sins is the one who will die" (NIV). The dead will be "ashes under the soles" (Malachi 4:1-3) of those who are righteous and redeemed by their God. We are told in the Book of Psalms that in "a little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found" (37:10). From the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, God instructs Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If they do, they will "surely die" (Genesis 2:17). When the devil (serpent) tells Eve, “you will not surely die” (Genesis 3:4), implying life after death, he seems to, if we believe in a place of eternal punishment for wrongdoers, make God into a liar. If there is such a thing as the devil, did he make hell through nothing more than his lies?

"On every hand I saw a great plain of woe and cruel torment. Bitter tombs were scattered with flame made to glow all over, hotter than iron need be for any craft. And such dire laments issued forth as come only from those who are truly wretched, suffering and forever lost!” (Inferno, Dante Alighieri)

             The view of hell has been greatly altered and modified with the passage of time. From the days of early Christianity to modern day, it has undergone a distinct and somewhat unique metamorphosis. A few thousand years of additions here, and a few more tweaks there, and an idea such as "the grave" has been transformed, corrupted by ignorance and theory into a punishment through divine judgment and a pit of torture and fire. Like the concept of Halloween, the original idea has shifted and evolved through cultural influence, scriptural interpretation and developments in science and technology. From the beginning, man was only guessing, reaching for understanding in a world quite harsh and unforgiving. These ethereal superstitions and approximations evolved not through some form of divine revelation but through human fear and translation.
            Each religious tradition has developed their own diverse ideas regarding Hell. Each sect of Christianity, from forms of Catholicism to splinter groups in Protestantism, has conjured up their own picture of this place of hellfire. Literalists seize the idea of "conditional immortality," where "the soul dies with the body and does not live again until the resurrection," while "annihilationists" believe that "the soul is mortal unless granted eternal life, making it possible to be destroyed in Hell." Both interpretations are scripturally based, but speculation appears to have shaped these doctrines. The result seems to validate any misunderstanding regarding God's character and any of the superstitions that always seem to come from religion. These are not the only ones.
            Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the soul perishes when a person dies and that hell is "a state of non-existence." Unitarian-Universalists believe that "all human souls (and even demons) will be eventually reconciled with God and admitted to Heaven." This "universal reconciliation" is the based on the teachings of Origen Adamantius (184/185 – 253/254), an early Church Father. Swedenborgianism claims that "hell exists because evil people want it to. Mankind, not God, introduced evil to the human race." Even popular culture has shaped our misunderstanding of this question, as with television, music and especially video games and the computer. Classical art may have added to our confusion but modern technology and the Internet Age have pretty much killed the devil, turning hell into a literary villain's headquarters or an obsolete idea whose time has gone. Some even believe that this reality is hell, the place of tribulation and suffering here on earth. Unfortunately, for most, hell is still a place of doom for the sinner and the unbeliever, including all the kids collecting candy on Helloween night.
            It seems we spend our lives in descent. We forget that actual history has changed the way we see things down below us. The same place an early Christian might have imagined hell to be holds little in common with what a modern Christian understands as hell. As human beings we have developed and so too have our insights and ideas. The last two thousand years have manipulated hell from an ambiguous universal resolve to a torrent of condemnation and suffering. Karl Marx observed that "religion is the opium of the people." For me, hell is a control mechanism for the ignorant. When institutions of God start using the truth instead of fear then we will have truly evolved for the Kingdom. The truth is out there. The truth is we just don't know anything concrete about this place of the damned, no more than we do about heaven. If we continue to disregard the notion that the modern meaning of hell does not match the original, then hell will continue to be found in translation.

 “The path to paradise begins in hell.”
(Inferno, Dante Alighieri)

 

 
Sources


The History of Hell
Alice K. Turner, 2001
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publishing

http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/2377563-divina-commedia-l-inferno
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halloween
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naraka_(Buddhism)
http://www.earlychristianhistory.info/hell.html
http://www.helltruth.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hell
http://www.auburn.edu/~allenkc/tbhell.html
http://what-the-hell-is-hell.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divine_comedy
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Septuagint
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hades
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tartarus

 

Photo

 
http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/200903/200903_000_Why_Hell.cfm
http://wordincarnate.wordpress.com/2011/05/17/does-anybody-really-want-to-go-to-hell/

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

twinkling

 

"I've been lately thinking about my life's time
All the things I've done and how it's been
And I can't help believing in my own mind
I know I'm gonna hate to see it end"

             I want to live. This comes as a great surprise to me, considering just how much effort I spent earlier in my life trying to get off this planet. I never considered getting older, or what this experience might be like, but here I stand determined to carry on as long as I possibly can. It can be surreal for me, this passing of time and aging within it. Even though I am grateful for the life I have had, I am often stopped dead in my tracks, overwhelmed by just how quickly each day is passing me by. I have to admit I get a little frightened, in light of this inevitable. Chances are that I am much more than half done my living. There is more road behind me than in front of me. From here to back then, and from here to the end, differ little in measure, each is really not that distant from now. Despite dragging my feet in protest, time just keeps marching on.  
            During the process of living, time seems to pass so slowly. Sometimes, it lingers on like torture. Then, in the "twinkling of an eye," it is gone and soon we are all to follow. As we exist, we do not wish to see it pass. We ignore this inescapable future then constantly ask how we can see that far?  The next thing we know and there we are. Perhaps it is fear that makes us not pay attention. Perhaps the constant flux that comes with living acts to shield us from the fate we all must one day face. Life carries on, but we forget it has, consciously denying the destiny of every man. We abhor alteration. We try so diligently to keep things the same, but apparently the only thing that stays the same is the reality that everything changes, and it changes until it ends.
            It is a certainty, this destination we try so hard not to remember. It doesn't seem fair somehow, that all this trying to live a good life, trying to be happy, is for naught. Things might be different if we knew where we are going. Will we simply reach a dead end? What if when we die the light at the end of tunnel is just us being pushed out of another vagina? Is there really a heaven? For all religious thought, for all our spiritual experiences, we do not have a clue. The only guarantee we have is that we all will surely die. It's a difficult thing to play a game with passion when you realize that you are going to lose no matter what you do. If the outcome is always the same, what difference do the rules of engagement make? The abandon I once called my friend now cascades as fear over the life I have left to live. I will admit that I look forward to the rest of my days, all in all, but I can no longer ignore the fact of this endgame. Despite having lasted this long, I would never have imagined just how well I play.  I guess I am in it to win it.

"No one knows whether death,
which people fear to be the greatest evil,
may not be the greatest good."
(Plato, Classical Greek Philosopher)

            I have to admit it has been a wonderful life. This irony does not escape me since we are all going to die eventually. This reality I simply cannot escape; it goes without saying. Suddenly, I have found myself deeply mindful of my life and how quickly it is passing. I realize it has always been this way, but my youth did not allow such notions to find fruition in my mind. Even when I escaped from my past, after years of trying to end myself, I did not recognize how valuable time is. Whatever enlightenment I now entertain has helped me see how much of it I have wasted. I am clear in knowing just how little I have left. I can hear my clock clicking away, tick - tock - tick - tock, to the end of the show, as the final crescendo within some countdown to the end of my days. 
            I'm not sure whether being aware of your own approaching death is a good thing or a bad thing. We all must realize there is absolutely nothing we can do about it, but is it destructive or constructive in its nature? Does it help or does it hinder? I am sure that recognizing my time is growing short has modified my thinking, changed me in a way quite foreign to my previous state of being. For the first time in my life, I have apprehension regarding my own doom. It has never been this way for me. I either didn't care or I was willing to take my chances. I am starting to question, both my beliefs and the traditions in which I was raised. I have become eschatologically challenged, questioning myself and the spiritual foundations which, to this point, have gotten me pretty far down the highway I am travelling on.  
            Unfortunately, we all let time fly past us. We try to grab hold of it, but no matter what we do, we all end up just watching it go. It sure does 'zoom, zoom.' After all, life is temporary and dying is an unrelenting decline. I graduated high school in 1983. Almost thirty years, since then, have passed in the blink of an eye. If I add those years from where I stand now, then I will be over in a twinkling. It is arguable that if those thirty years flew by me so fast back when, then the countdown to the end of my days will be one of rapid declension. I have to admit I am intimidated by this. I wonder where it all went and how to make the most of the time I have left. Somehow, I have become unsure of what lies ahead and it scares me to a degree. Quite often, it scares me a lot. I am painfully aware that this turkey is more than half baked. 
            Death is a powerful tool. I imagine its approach may have been easier for people before all the literalists started dangling us over the fiery pit. Death has become a punishment rather than a reward. I have strong convictions regarding the afterlife and the spiritual implications that death brings with it. Having experienced what we call the Near-Death Experience, I disregard anything which does not align itself with the essence of this event. I have come to conclude the act of dying is akin to waking in a dream. This paradigm shift occurs when the matter we are becomes the energy we have always been. There are no angels or demons waiting for us. There is no courtroom full of devils condemning us. Most certainly, heaven has no virgins as reward for your dying. We start out as seed, safe in the womb, then we transition to growth and a life of maturation. Physical death becomes a release. I guess I am unsure of what happens next. This makes sense to me as I believe we are not supposed to know.
             Any fear of death I may have is the result of socio-religious conditioning. I don't trust because I have been taught not to trust. When it comes right down to it, if there is death "and then the judgement," we are all in a lot of trouble. I see no jury and I see no judge. I choose to believe death is a good thing, at least from the other vantage point. We really cannot know, regardless of how we long for answers, so we should choose to hold on to the hope that heaven is for all and life is worth living.

"I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
(1 Corinthians 15:50-55, NIV)

             So many religions, particularly from the Abrahamic tradition, hold death as a gateway to something better than we have in our mortal condition. This is what religion is supposed to be used for. Despite not truly knowing what lies in waiting, the idea that there is something beyond this life brings hope to those about to face their doom and security to those who embrace the idea of an afterlife. Arguably, death is not the right word for this process. Rebirth, transition, perhaps metamorphosis, even the concept of heaven reveals, to those paying attention, that there really is no death. 
            We spend so much time concentrating on how to behave according to scripture, usually to earn a place in heaven, that we forget all the other truths that scripture can offer. It is clear from recorded history that every tribe of mankind throughout human history has believed in some form of life after death. The variables are usually the result of cultural and regional influences. If we all are to be changed, if we truly believe this highway doesn't end, then what the hell are we so afraid of?  

"How can you prove whether at this moment we are sleeping, and all our thoughts are a dream; or whether we are awake, and talking to one another in the waking state?" (Plato, student of Socrates)

            I have convinced myself that it is "normal" to fear one's own death. It's a human thing I imagine. In truth, my fear comes from a deeply selfish place. If there is no more, if nothing is but oblivion, then I will never see my friends again. I will never talk to my Great-Grandfather. I will never play catch with Doug. I will never embrace my Mother once more. This possibility is almost more than I can bear. I must now convince myself that I know better and I have to make it stick. I can't spend the rest of my life frozen in fear. I can't just forget either. I just wish I could be sure.
 

            On May 13th, 2012, I sat down and said goodbye to the television program Desperate Housewives. After eight seasons of visiting Wisteria Lane, every Sunday, the series closed with a poignant display of eschatology. As the main character Susan Mayer, played by Teri Hatcher, pulled away bound for New York, every departed soul from the block appeared in succession to bid her adieu. There was no separation by status, they all stood together, dressed in stark white, gazing out like beacons from an unseen light. This portion moved me deeply. I pictured all my friends and family, and those I have known, lingering to guide me as I go on my way. The next day the idea brought me to tears. Since then, I cannot shake the reality that my time is slipping away.
            I suppose in some strange way I'm dealing with the entire issue now rather than later, when I can least afford to. I am going to have to decide whether I want to live my life like I'm dying, or die not having lived my life. Perhaps one day I will simply fall to sleep then wake up from this dream. I hope at that point, I am still twinkling.

 "I have to say it now
It's been a good life all in all
It's really fine to have the chance to hang around ...
And talk of poems and prayers and promises
And things that we believe in
How sweet it is to love someone
How right it is to care
How long it's been since yesterday
What about tomorrow?
What about our dreams
And all the memories we share?"
(Poems Prayers and Promises, John Denver 1971)

 

 

 
Sources



 
 

Photo
 
http://jalopnik.com/399448/the-coffin-kart-for-your-budding-little-undertaker

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Mercy Mercy Me


"The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes."
(The Merchant of Venice, Act 4 Sc. 1, William Shakespeare)
 
 
 
 
            Around the time I attended kindergarten, my Father raised white mice for pet shops throughout the Toronto area. The majority of them were nothing but a food source for snakes and larger reptiles. Part of our rec room was littered with old aquariums and cages, each one housing dozens of rodent nuggets. I was constantly amused by this collection and its content. My first pet, Charlotte, was an offspring of these specimens. At any given time, there were hundreds of scampering morsels, all fighting for what little life they had left. I don't think Í really grasped the implication of raising these vermin as meat. I had never witnessed a feasting so the concept never really stuck in my head. I would have kept every single fluff if I had been allowed. I guess this explains my lifelong infatuation with gnawers. I have owned quite a few.
            I prefer medium sized rodents myself. Gerbils, hamsters and even rats have sat safely on top of wall units or shelving, all the while tasty treats themselves, eyed by one cat or another. I usually purchase a pair of females, preferably from the same litter. Currently, I have a mixed black and white rat named Sybil. Her sister Savannah had to be put down on July 4th, 2012 after a crippling stroke. They would both hoard away the treats I gave them under the close watch of my current cats Fritz and Shadowe; hungrily they stare at the top of my bookcase. A few years ago, Shadowe got ahold of one gerbil and played with it to near death. He actually licked part of her little grey head off. Some say it was cruel what I did. When I was sure of her continual suffering, and sure she would eventually pass away from her injuries, I took my small friend and held her underwater in the toilet. A few bubbles and she was at peace. I buried her on the hill with all my other pets.  
            In 2010, after the death of the remaining sister, I decided to digress and I adopted a small plain white mouse who I called Abby. Abby lived a good life. I spoiled her with every taste and gastronomical delight life had to offer. She was a testament to tripling in size. My bad, she was more pig than rodent in the end. It was either an allergic reaction, or mange, carried with her from the pet store, that sealed her fate. When her body suddenly covered in bloodied sores and her soft, tiny cries could no longer be ignored, I did, once again, what I had to do. I know she was just a little thing, no real meaning but sustenance, but it broke my heart to have to put her out of her misery. I'm getting tired of tiny bubbles and the pet cemetery is running out of burial plots.      
 
 
“Teach me to feel another's woe
To hide the fault I see
That mercy I to others show
That mercy show to me.”
(The Universal Prayer, Alexander Pope c. 1738)
 
 
             I had been friends with Maurice for a few years when he set himself to flame on his chesterfield. The authorities maintained he had passed out due to pharmaceuticals when his cigarette fell, setting the plastic covering, then the couch, on fire. A neighbour called 911 and they found him engulfed, burning like kindling. Most of his physical form was ravaged by the flames, consuming well over eighty-five percent of his body surface. The worst part was the melting, that volcanic ooze of plastic that grafted itself to his burning body. He was, literally, boiled then entombed in the stuff. Thank God he never came out of his coma.
            The weeks passed and Maurice lingered on, helped to life by artificial means. His friends and family kept a vigil, hoping somehow he could survive such a ghastly fate. I know that he never moved, never gestured, and never even blinked the entire time he lay there. Tubes and electrodes made him look like something from an Alien movie, contrived and very much without humanity. I am not often left speechless, but as I stood two feet from him, watching his heartbeat on the electrocardiogram, words failed me. I had never seen such a horrid remnant of a man. I wanted to help him somehow, to ease his pain, but I could only watch as he was left to suffer. I prayed he was no longer a prisoner of his charcoaled coil, rather he had already gone on to a better place. The days continued to pass and Maurice continued to wane. Still, the vigil kept on.  
            His family decided to turn off the machines the day Maurice's nose fell off. I assume this was the straw that broke the camel's back. I did not attend his cessation, but I understand it was a silent event. I imagine most of the family had already said their goodbyes and this was merely a formal declaration of his end.  His burial was for family only. When some time had passed, I called his cousin Keith, who was also a friend of mine, and inquired how the family was faring. Keith always had a way of turning anything into a great big joke, inappropriate or not. When I asked about the cremation and funeral, he callously replied, "We got half price off on the incineration." 
 
 
"Mortem misericors saepe pro vita dabit.”
[Mercy often inflicts death]
(Seneca the Younger - Lucius Annaeus, 4 BCE - 65 CE)
 
 
             She had feared death most of her life. It was not so much the finality, or the other side of living, which brought much trepidation. It was the act of dying, the process, and what that process might entail for her that haunted her most. She did not want to be left on life support, should that need arise; no tubes, no wires, to let her linger on. She did not want any extraordinary actions to be taken to bring her back. She simply wished, in her heart of hearts, to die in her own home and to go quickly, with no pain.   
            She had almost left us once before. During surgery they lost her and had difficulty bringing her back. They left her alone in the ICU, monitoring her condition from outside the room. She told me she later saw a black cloaked figure in the doorway of that hospital room, which scared the living shit out of her. Since then, with every heart attack, she reminded me of her wishes. When they found the cancer, she stood firm on her intentions. "Just let me be," she used to say.
            Sometimes we win all the battles but still end up losing the war. This was the way it was to be for my Mother. No matter what they told her, time after time, she carried on. She survived so many life threatening conditions that it often seemed like nature was chasing her down for to claim. She eventually ran out of places to run. I remember cursing God for all her pain and strife. Every moment of her day was torture, living to know it was almost over. She lasted for more than five years after they told her there was nothing they could do. She lived with that knowledge and it tormented her so. She was scared, that much is for sure. I know she wanted to stay on this side of heaven, I asked her so. One morning, she had her breakfast with my Dad, took her prescribed medications, then laid down on the matrimonial bed to get a little more rest. They tell me she was gone in an instant.
 
 
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy."
(Matthew 5:3-7, NIV)
 
 
             I have a million reasons to believe that there is no God. For all the claims of mortal men that He is with us, there is little to their depositions. All the arguments, all the theocracy and still there is no tangible proof. I suppose it is all about faith then, for all the good that form of trust will do. It's hard to have faith in something when it seems not only illogical but screams of injustice. When I get lost in the weight of it all, and I cannot find my way, I have to remind myself that there is no justice. When I forget the road I am walking, I have to remember there is only mercy.
            No matter the terms of my dissension, this fact alone convinces me that there is something more, that there is a God out there somewhere. Mercy is the incarnation of the divine. Mercy is manifest in God's true will, compassion. There is no other beatitude with such command and no stronger force in all of creation. Mercy is God. God is mercy. Mercy dwells within us. I always end up turning to this ambiguity when it seems I have forgotten my direction. I lean on it, not only as comfort, but in recognition of the way life has revealed Him to me. No matter the lot, His mercy is visible in the moments when we need Him the most. He is in an act of mercy given in love; an act of mercy given in release; an act of mercy realized in death. Mercy is intangible proof.
 
 
'I heard an Angel singing
When the day was springing,
"Mercy, Pity, Peace
Is the world's release."
 
Thus he sung all day
Over the new mown hay,
Till the sun went down
And haycocks looked brown.
 
I heard a Devil curse
Over the heath and the furze,
"Mercy could be no more,
If there was nobody poor,
 
And pity no more could be,
If all were as happy as we."
At his curse the sun went down,
And the heavens gave a frown.
 
Down pour'd the heavy rain
Over the new reap'd grain ...
And Miseries' increase
Is Mercy, Pity, Peace.'
(I Heard an Angel, William Blake c. 1793)
 
 
 
 
 
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Mercy and Truth Are Met Together,
Righteousness and Peace Have Kissed Each Other
William Blake c. late 1700s (from Psalm 85:10, KJV)
 
 
 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Eggrolls


"My mother loved children -
She would have given anything if I had been one."
(Groucho Marx)



             I don't have any children. I have to admit that fact does not leave me longing. Children are a complicated mesh of responsibility and influence. When I see someone carrying a child, I am often reminded of a missing piece from my life, but I knew long ago that kids would never be an option for me. This has little to do with being gay. I refuse to transfer any genetic predisposition, or medical flaw, onto something so vulnerable and unsuspecting. I truly believe it would just not be fair. I know that I have made the right decision. On the other hand, when it comes right down to it, no matter how much exposure I have had to kids, or how much time I have actually spent with them, I don't really enjoy their company. For lack of a better term, I am a pedophobe, having "fear or dislike of children."
            Don't get me wrong, it is easy for me to entertain them, I just don't like them. On the occasion when I do have contact with one, I have about a fifteen minute threshold before I bolt for the door. I can handle older kids, for longer times, like those who have moved on from toddler all the way to teen. There is nothing worse, however, in my social experience, than these obtuse globs of flesh panting for attention. I don't even think babies are cute; an uncircumcised - like mound of jellied skin, covered in goo and slobber. The cries of these tiny things are like a banshee wail, piercing my mind through to my very spirit. I have to leave the area when one is screaming in bursts; for fear that I will explode myself, detonating over and over again with "shut the fuck up!!"
            Besides the obvious (not having sex with women), being gay has had its benefits. One would imagine, based on all the moral treatise from history, that homosexuality only brings lasciviousness and misery. For me, it is a blessing that my loins bore no fruit. The loss of freedom one entertains when raising a child is not an issue for me. I am able to come and go at my leisure, without the constant pull. It's enough for me to have to show up once a week or so to restock for my cats. Life should be all about the child when one is a parent, a sacrifice made by you through nature. I do not have to live up to these expectations or be ruled by these standards.

"Familiarity breeds contempt - and children." (Mark Twain)

            My favourite part of the childless life is the amount of disposable income one accumulates. With no diapers, and no necessities, and no further consideration required, I can spoil myself in the absence of rugrats, one and all. I can spend all the money I want. I get to walk around my home naked whenever I want. I eat what I will then I get to leave dirty dishes in the sink to grow mould, should I choose. I get to curse and swear anytime I feel like it. I get to smoke in my own space. I can even have sex on the living room floor if the mood so hits me (and my better half). I am not tied down by the conventions of parenthood so I do not chance influencing another life with my limitations and any propensity I may have for sin. I do not have to worry about raising someone, or moulding someone, by my example. I have only to worry for my life and the lives of those adults with whom I share that life. I am free, in an odd kind of way; free from having to restrain myself. I am not even sure that I could. I've seen enough dysfunctional families to recognize the absence of children can be a blessing, at least, if not for the parents, then for the victims. Sometimes I wonder if certain children would have been better off had they never been born. I won't follow this thinking any further.    
            I don't discriminate; I have little tolerance for each of them. Even the members of my family, limited by their age, more often than not give me a headache. I love my nieces and nephews, I really do, but they can get back to me when they hit puberty. Although I seem to have this innate ability to appear "cool" to them, I do not favour my involvement. I suppose on some level I am afraid of influencing them or allowing my ways to become their ways. Kids are like sponges, absorbing everything they see and experience as if it was gospel. I may joke with the junior members of my family, I may even play with the children of my friends and neighbours, but I am constantly ill at ease with them. I don't want to say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing, yet I refuse to censor myself for anyone. When children ask me a question, I am compelled to tell them the truth, regardless of what that truth may be.

"Tell the children the truth." (Bob Marley)

            I have the greatest respect for people who raise children. Since I do not have any plans to get me one, I am timid about sticking my nose in where it doesn't belong. Like with abortion, I have no right to an opinion that doesn't personally involve me. It is not my place to tell someone how to raise their child, let alone whether they should have one.  I will say that while a majority of families seem functional, and constructive, many children are left to the means of morons who think that because they can't put on a rubber they have any business producing a child. You don't even have to include those who abuse their kids in this grouping, after all they are far worse than moronic and deserve a special place in the hell that is all their own. Perhaps evil does have a face. I just shake my head when I am witness to such things. On occasion, I entertain that China may have the right idea. Creating a child should be a little bit more than some deposit and return policy. After all, you need a license to fish. You need a licence to own a cat or to own a dog. You even need a license to own a gun but any asshole can have a child on the spur of a moment and without permit.

"There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul
than the way in which it treats its children." (Nelson Mandela)

            In my teens and early twenties, I taught Sunday School at the family church. For more than a decade, I had my own class and, every September, my own new "pupils." I'm not sure why I picked the 8 - 9 year old age class, but I wonder if it wasn't some form of self-flagellation. Despite loathing the responsibility, I planned each study, followed all the guidelines and presented each lesson. Near the end of my tenure, I led the music department, preparing songs and plays for the kids to participate in. Although I didn't hate the overall experience, it did help cement my disdain for most young people. I just couldn't deal with all the questions, not being able to advise them outside Biblical teachings. It was never a question of not being able to deal, or handle, all those half- grown demons, it was impatience and frustration and an inability to relate to them on a level playing field. When I was a boy I didn't act that way, or at least I didn't in my mind's eye. Every season, those snot-nosed little shits would corral themselves into the church's classrooms, such vile little monsters. They had no respect, no consideration and, most certainly, no interest in being there. I was not some babysitter, and I most certainly never received compensation, yet year after year I did the good Christian thing and tossed myself to the lion cubs.   

"Our heritage and ideals, our code and standards - the things we live by and teach our children - are preserved or diminished by how freely we exchange ideas and feelings."
(Walt Disney)

            When I was fifteen, I agreed to babysit for a straight couple down the street. Their financial offer was just right and I figured watching two kids for a few hours would be easy money. I had babysat other children I knew, but I had yet to experience the torment of being trapped with some stranger's children. It was a warm evening, on a summer Sunday around 7 p.m., when I entered the first Circle of hell. The oldest child was a lovely little girl, all shy and demure, barely 5 years of age. Her infant brother, around a year in age, seemed happy enough to meet me. I had no idea that once his parents left for a few hours of theatre, in the big city, that I would be trapped in the lower realms of a "Dante-esque" labyrinth. Both children took to bed rather easily, hush hush little baby and all that stuff. As I sat down, readied for an evening of early 1980s television, the demon rose from the pit. He started crying and then proceeded to cry some more. While his sister slept through the entire ordeal, anytime I walked away from his crib, sonic pulses of vocal distress echoed through the layers of the house and my psyche. I had never been exposed to such an unhappy child. Eventually, the noise was too much and I considered fleeing the place before the cops came and charged me with infant neglect. As the screeches left his wee, yet powerful orifice, crescendo after crescendo sent shivers down my spine. I was trapped in a reality I had not created, and the only thing I could think of, besides inappropriately taping his cakehole shut, was to hold on to the lad until his tears subsided. At first, as I paced in the living room, this solution appeared ineffective. When the opening of The Jeffersons began, I started to move on up to a quieter place. I must have sung that theme song fifty times before that poor little boy finally gave in to rest. I put him down, still whispering about "the east side." He ultimately lulled himself to sleep while, I assumed, dreaming of "a deluxe apartment in the sky."     

"Children are completely egoistic;
they feel their needs intensely and strive ruthlessly to satisfy them."
(Sigmund Freud)

            In the spring of 1986, I was offered employment in the child care field, my co-op placement during the coming summer. St. Luke's Chapel, on the campus of Victoria Hospital in London Ontario, was looking for a male candidate in Early Child Care Development. Primarily because of the years I spent involved with children from my church, I fell under consideration for the probationary position. Beneath the chapel, St. Luke's acted as a day facility for the children of employees throughout the medical complex. Doctors and nurses and technicians would leave their kids with the staff of seven. I don't know why I agreed to spend my summer under a church, full of children, but nevertheless I did just that. For four months, I spent each weekday in contact with non-adults ranging in age from three months to five years. I changed diapers, got puked on, and watched every one drift off into an afternoon slumber. I got to know each youngster, spellbound by the midget human beings stuffed into inadequately compact packages. I laughed with them and sighed for them, developing a bond which was alien to me. I built a life around this position, relocating from Strathroy and proceeding to embrace a future that I had previously refused to consider. I was told I was a natural and was offered a full-time position. I got the call on a Saturday. I was shocked and disgusted to learn that one of the children I worked so closely with had been abused "far beyond reason." I don't know whether he lived or died but I know I never returned to that place. I never even let myself say goodbye. I just couldn't handle it.

"Adults are obsolete children." (Dr. Seuss)

            I don't believe that I would have made a good parent. I also believe it is admirable to recognize your own limitations. Some fail to see. I wish more people took the time to consider the child rather than their overinflated ego or irresponsible yearning to bear young. Hell, most days I have enough trouble looking after myself without having to consider something so reliant on me for safety and security. People who have productive nurturing skills and treat good parenting as an obligation and not a hobby are to be applauded. I know I sure as hell couldn't do it. I stand in wonder when I realize there are still people who become parents on purpose, by their own choice.
            My parents had five children and, besides me, each of those children had children of their own. All in all, there are almost twenty offspring, including step-children. Do you still get eggrolls with seventeen? A few from that generation now have children of their own. I don't believe it is a stretch to conclude that my family are pretty much all breeders. Sometimes I question if I was thrown into the mix as a form of population control. This might explain the increase in homosexuality worldwide. Any urge I might have to procreate will have to find life vicariously through my siblings. I just pray they are all finished with being fruitful and multiplying.  

"Teach your children well
Their father's hell did slowly go by
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picked
The one you'll know by
Don't you ever ask them why?
If they told you
You would cry
So just look at them and sigh
And know they love you"
(Teach Your Children, Crosby Stills Nash & Young 1970)

 


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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Little Fish

“Excuse me,” said an ocean fish, “You are older than I so can
you tell me where to find this thing they call the Ocean?”
“The Ocean,” said the older fish, “is the thing you are in now,”
“Oh, this? But this is water. What I’m seeking is the Ocean,”
said the disappointed fish as he swam away to search elsewhere.

Stop searching, little fish.
There isn’t anything to look for.
All you have to do is look.
(The Little Fish, Anthony De Mello 1982)



            Many traditional Asian practices evolved from the ancient view that all things are interconnected and interrelating at all times. Patterns were discovered and so observers concluded that everything has a natural movement, a continual flux; everything is in constant modification. This observation recognized "a force that creates change, a vitality that is inherent in all things." This energy is known as 'Qi', sometimes called 'Chi', and its manifestation is part of the "inner alchemy" within creation.
            Each form within the universe has its own type of Qi. Dirt has one type, while clouds have another and stardust yet another. Each form of Qi is unique to each substance. Air, water, fire are all composed differently so each manifests Qi differently. Tom, Dick and Harry are similarly composed so they manifest Qi in the same manner. As a "byproduct of living", each form produces this vibrational field of energy. The field may consist of the singular and/or the collective, but to varying degrees.
            One tomato plant puts off a small amount of energy, but a field of tomato plants produces a larger field of unified energy. Within the cellular structure of the human body, each cell produces a yield, but the unified cells of the entire body put out a stronger, integrated force. This field of energy is comprised of the smaller fields, self-contained.  Similar macrocosms share similar energies. Human beings have the same "anatomical landscape," so "this energy will flow in the same patterns in individuals." These patterns, or pathways, are called the Meridian System in acupuncture. There are points along this system where Qi "pools", resulting in an acupuncture point. The electrical properties of Qi allow these points to "be located with electrical devices that measure the electrical resistance of skin."
            The concept of Qi is considered under alternative medicine and esoteric energy, resulting in a bias understanding of the properties of life-force. It is very much also a scientific notion, due to its "vibratory nature." This "flow and tremoring" does not occur only on a spiritual level, it is "happening continuously at molecular, atomic and sub-atomic levels." This animation or velocity, is known by many different names depending on the cultural setting it is expressed within. The Japanese call it 'ki' and in India it is known as 'prana' or 'shakti'. The ancient Egyptians referred to it as 'ka', while the ancient Greeks referred to it as 'pneuma'. Parts of Africa know it as 'ashe' while Hawaiian cultures refer to it as 'ha' or the better known 'mana'. In the Christian tradition, it has been anthropomorphized as the 'Holy Spirit' while Native Americans refer to it, more appropriately, as the 'Great Spirit'.
            Human beings are born with ancestral or 'Yuan Qi', an inborn constitution, considered 'pre-natal' and gradually used up in the course of one's lifetime. We also absorb Qi throughout that lifetime, called 'Hou tain Qi' or 'post-natal Qi' in the Qigong tradition from China. The foods we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink produce this energy which we assimilate into our bodies over time. Our aura or 'Wei Qi' is a defensive layer of Qi that flows "at the surface of the body, as a protective sheath." Each organ has a life-force of its own, such as Lung-Qi, Brain-Qi or Eye-Qi. There is a flow to Qi. Like a river, it will move unimpeded or will shift or stall with obstruction. Balanced and free-flowing Qi will result in "good health and stability while stagnant or imbalanced Qi leads to disease." The same principles of Qi which apply to human beings also apply to the natural world around us. The earth, essentially, is one giant macrocosm.  
            The parts of the earth, "in terms of natural landscapes", like oceans, rainforests and the Arctic, as well as "man-made structures", such as farmland, buildings and highways, all have these patterns of Qi. Like with acupunctural therapies, "so does the practitioner of Feng Shui perceive energetic imbalances in natural or man-made landscapes, and then apply various techniques to remedy those imbalances." The goal for both is "a more open flow of energy in the particular (internal or external) environment."
            In 1997, a United States National Institutes of Health consensus statement on acupuncture noted that concepts such as Qi "are difficult to reconcile with contemporary biomedical information." The practitioner of Qi understands things very differently. Awareness enables one to sense this vital energy which circulates throughout all things, specifically our mortal form. This awareness cultivates perception; we can "feel ourselves and our world as fluid, and as spacious." Recognizing that all things contain this energy not only allows us to "experience our bodies as being comprised of patterns and flows of Qi", we can also become aware of "the vibratory nature of all that is." This "rise in insight" allows us to recognize our place within the greater scheme of things.  We can understand, and through this understanding, we can recognize the way we think and the way we feel are also forms of energy, energy we can harness and control.

“The dying often have the sensation of rising up and floating above their own body while it is surrounded by a medical team, and watching it down below, while feeling comfortable. They experience the feeling of being in a spiritual body that appears to be a sort of living energy field.”
(Dr. Raymond Moody, American Psychologist)

            In the weeks following my Near Death Experience, something strange but wonderful began to progress within me. At first, this sensation and experience seemed artificial, an awareness that I doubted and found easily dismissed. I believed this condition was medical, a consequence, much agreed on by the doctors and professionals who have examined me. Yes, I felt different, and given more time, I acted different, but I refused to recognize this shift as anything outside my actual physical experience. I minimized the event and any residue it may have brought. I pushed it aside, doing all I could to forget my new cognizance.
            In my mind, I knew I had travelled to another place, a place where energy was the primary substance, a tangible rather than the ethereal stuff known to me through my mortal experience. As much as I tried to explain it away, I could not forget this overwhelming yet unaccountable experience. When I first awoke in that infirmary, this world was suddenly a different place. I was sure my overdose had screwed up my brain so I pushed the lingering side-effects aside and tried to move on in the reality I had just attempted to leave behind. When one journey ends, a new one always begins. We cannot escape our highway, no matter how we try to explain it away.
            When my spirit was in stasis, I could see forms of energy and interact with them. It was obvious I was not a prisoner to the physics of an earthly plane. The "visible world is the invisible organization of energy" but this otherly place was a visible organization of the very same energy. There was warmth, goodness and safety in this light. For some reason, I carried that differential with me back to the snow bank where my body was found. From the moment I opened my eyes, in hospital, I could see it. There was a glow to this coil, an aura of energy with varying colours and degrees of potency. I could see it wrapped around everything. From the potted plant on the windowsill, to the nurse at her station, everything pulsed with this field of energy, a field I wanted to go away.
            As time passed, I explained it away. It must be damage from the cold, or the pharmaceuticals I had used in an attempt to off myself. I tried to turn it off, claiming it as some evil that would hinder my place in the Kingdom of God. This "expansion of faculties or enlargements of perceptual range" remained, regardless of my religious beliefs. These "patterns" intimidated me. I was a receptacle of fear, and misconstrued these experiences as "the devil's work" when in actuality they were more cognate to what Christians refer to as the "gifts of the spirit."

"Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world." (1 John 4:1, NIV)

             People who have undergone a NDE become "more altruistic, less materialistic, and more loving." Value structures change and, for many, "their taste for ego-boosting achievement." The NDE is "a profound emotional experience."  People are convinced that they've seen Jesus, or Buddha, or even heaven. Upon return, many experience a radical alteration, as if they had become a different person. Many near-death survivors experience psychic phenomena, and in many cases these phenomena become normal and ordinary experiences in their daily lives.

"Perhaps there is a pattern set up in the heavens for one who desires to see it, and having seen it, to find one in himself."
(Plato, Classical Greek Philosopher)

            The divine lives within you; Qi, the Spirit, reveals "the sole purpose of existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of being." We tend to forget we all have this light and place it to scepticism and wonder. This mystery is the true source of all science and art. It is the base of all religious content and a universal truth found in most sacred traditions. Intelligence, the mind is "woven into the fabric of our universe in a way that altogether surpasses our understanding."  We can only attempt to know, since everything exists only by this underlying force. We all can access this "spectrum of knowing, a spectrum that includes, at the very least, the eye of flesh, the eye of mind, and the eye of spirit." The spark is within you, an etheric and subjective bright.
            As with the mind, the body is affected by the NDE. The physical shell and the way one lives their life undergo changes as well. There are physiological aftereffects. Many experience substantially altered energy levels, hypersensitive to light and sound, unusual reactions to chemicals (especially pharmaceuticals), stress is easier to handle, lower blood pressure results, and increased intelligence is common.  Many survivors become charismatic, they assimilate quicker, they experience an increase in allergies, while latent talents surface. They develop a great hunger for knowledge, they experience "synaesthesia," they are more orgasmic, and for many, inner child issues surface. It is commonplace for NDErs to become "electrical sensitive"; an individual's energy field affects electricity and electronic devices such as watches and cellphones.  

'He came to the Master in sannyasi robes.
And he spoke sannyasi language:
“For years I have been seeking God. I have sought Him everywhere that
He is said to be: on mountain peaks, the vastness of the desert, and the
silence of the cloister and the dwellings of the poor.”
“Have you found him?” the Master asked.
“No. I have not. Have you?”

What could the Master say? The evening sun was sending shafts of
golden light into the room. Hundreds of sparrows were twittering on
a banyan tree. In the distance one could hear the sound of highway traffic.
A mosquito droned a warning that it was going to strike...
And yet this man could sit there and say he had not found Him.

After a while he left, disappointed, to search elsewhere.'
(The Little Fish, Anthony De Mello 1982)

 

 

 

Sources

http://www.easterncurrents.ca/for-patients/the-five-pillars-of-tcm/acupuncture/qi-flow-theory
http://taoism.about.com/od/qi/a/Qi.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ch%27i
http://www.near-death.com/experiences/evidence05.html
http://www.near-death.com/quotes.html#life

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/synaesthesia

 

 

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