That question, of what happens after we die, has always mystified me. The question that is almost impossible to answer with any level of certainty.
The idea of going away into oblivion, into the “dark room” that you can never emerge from, as Watts said, is indeed horrifying. It makes my stomach turn, just at the thought of it. On the other side of the spectrum, the idea that we somehow persist afterwards seems convenient; but a bit too easy. It seems like its just my “ego” wanting to exist forever, when it may not really be practical.
The idea, however, the “you” are “everything”, or that you are the “universe experiencing itself”; means that, in a manner of speaking, you are like a thought in the mind of the universe, one of a countless array of thoughts that it thinks in infinite permutations. I feel much better thinking of it that way. It seems far more balanced and correct.
Still, there is a sadness inside me, that thinks, this individual me should go on existing forever. Who knows? Maybe the Buddhists who speak of reincarnation of the soul were correct. Perhaps our individual soul is reborn, to a point, so as to evolve over many lifetimes, with the eventual option to “return to source.”
I would like to share with you a mind bending discussion from Taoist adept Alan Watts. In this, Watts discusses topics related to humanity’s perspective on god, truth, heresy and the divinity of the human being. This is sure to elevate your level of thought, feeling and awareness to new levels if you’ll allow it.
”Life itself is a disease with a very poor prognosis, it lingers on for years and invariably ends with death!”
Alan Watts is one of the most fascinating minds of the 20th century. I still recall discovering his books, for the first time, several years ago; starting with This is It and later The B∞k: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are. Of all of the books I have read over the years, these two have some of the most profound influences on my relationship with reality.
His work is very powerful. Once you connect with it, it infuses with your very being and becomes a new facet of your awareness.
Alan has several foundational concepts, which he utilizes in his work. There is this idea that, what we think of as “our self” is not really who we are; but is instead an ego, or an entity that attaches to the self and tricks itself into thinking that it is the self. This ego gives itself the idea that everything in life fits into neat little boxes, simplified concepts, that causes us to act more rigidly; thus constraining our behavior and limiting our possibilities.
One of the biggest casualties of the ego, is not being able to fully exist in the moment. That is the theme of This is It; the notion that what is most important is being here, right now; in this body that is holding you. Yet the general tenancy is to escape the now for something that is to happen sometime in the future.
Opening up the mind to these new concepts of reality is one of the most edifying experiences. It really helps you to re-think this idea we call truth. It opens up a world of infinite inter-connectedness and inter-dependence.
A 1971 television recording with Alan Watts walking in the mountains and talking about the limitations of technology and the problem of trying to keep track of an infinite universe with a single tracked mind. Video posted by Alan’s son and courtesy of alanwatts.com.