By Wayne Saalman
[Photo by Matheus Ferrero]
WE ALL WANT TO LIVE FOREVER and why wouldn’t, or shouldn’t, we? Life is precious. It is amazing no matter if we see the world from a purely materialist perspective and believe that life as we know it is the result of a fortuitous, random event that is at present inexplicable or choose to take a “spiritual” perspective and see life as a miracle, the result of a Supreme Being whose existence is itself an inexplicable mystery.
Beyond those two points of view, there are those who simply prefer to look at life as a great and exciting adventure to be lived at breakneck pace and consider it totally irrelevant how it came into being. After all, no one knows for sure, as most people are willing to admit, so forget about it.
Then there are those who take life totally for granted and see nothing particularly profound about what is occurring here in this world. As to what life means, how it came into existence or what happens to any of us once we “slip the mortal coil” that only brings an indifferent shrug from such people.
The fact is, of course, the physical body does die and there seems to be precious little we can do about it.
Still, it is intriguing to think the unthinkable, to ponder the imponderable, to imagine the impossible from time to time if for no other reason than for letting it serve to keep our imagination fired up.
Curiously, certain highly intelligent authors have claimed in some of their books that there are historic instances of mystics and yogis who have outwitted the Grim Reaper and have achieved a state of immortality. This achievement is invariably connected to spiritual techniques of an “occult” nature, for occult simply means “occluded from view” or “hidden”. Thus we get tales of highly advanced yogis living in seclusion in places like the Himalayas, but also we hear about the secret art of alchemy. Alchemy, of course, was the forerunner of the science of chemistry and this viewpoint advances the idea that there are substances — secret elixirs — than can prolong life indefinitely. Not surprising, to modern minds this seems the more realistic option than sitting in a cave on your backside for twenty or thirty years working to control and manipulate your circulatory systems while employing mind over matter to keep your cell membranes from aging.
Such tales dazzle us, of course, but one eventually sees that there is essentially no evidence that the physical body can be kept youthful forever or that anyone can live on in total defiance of the biological machinations of the genetic clock within the body.
Still, diehard scientific materialists pin their hopes on pharmaceutical wonder drugs, while those predisposed to spirituality nurture dreams of eternal life in other dimensions.
There are no guarantees or proofs for either viewpoint, unfortunately, and the risk factor is clearly considerable if one dares to ingest pharmaceutical substances of a questionable nature.
Still, taking no thought and no action of any kind seems either apathetic or defeatist. If one wishes to live forever, then surely one can do something, anything, to pursue that end!
It begins for everyone, I believe, with looking at and studying options.
When one does that the one thing that one is able to control is one’s attitude toward any and all elusive notions that can found in the cultural forums of the world. Attitude is primarily propelled by a spectrum of perspectives on the existential mysteries that surround us and it can infuse one’s life with amazing magnitudes of intrigue, many of which can be quite uplifting and carry one to wondrous mental and emotional heights.
In my mind, the more hopeful possibility for immortality is not in the physical, material realm, but in the sphere of the psycho-spiritual domain. Why? Because the physical realm offers a very narrow spectrum of potentially successful approaches to immortality, while the psycho-spiritual realm appears to be wide open with possibility.
Consider, for example, the possibility that there is absolutely no need whatsoever for anyone to try to become an immortal because we already are immortal in a spiritual sense. In this perspective, each of us is a psycho-spiritual essence and that essence quite simply lives on when the material body ceases to function. It can live on to float about the earth like a ghost or to slip away into Heaven, Hell or elsewhere.
This is certainly what more than one religion tells us, but so too do metaphysicians, shamans, yogis and near-death returnees, all of whom offer powerful anecdotal experiences with quite distinct characterizations.
The theory of reincarnation is also a tantalizing possibility to consider and there are scores of well-researched instances where children who have insisted that they are really someone else entirely have had researchers track down corroborative evidence to support their claims of a past life in a very specific environment.
A further possibility is that when the psycho-spiritual essence departs the physical body that essence passes on into other dimensions and simply remains incorporeal. As a disembodied being a person may wander through etheric realms virtually forever. One may also encounter “beings” made entirely of light and visit worlds beyond our wildest imaginings here on this Earth.
Some of these “beings of light” are said to be there for us when we die in order to help us review the life we have just led. Near-death returnees tell us that during this review process one revisits every minute of one’s life on Earth and insist that one can even linger as long one likes in certain moments in order to either revel in them once more or to understand them better. The returnees also insist that we may go backwards or forwards in time in order to revisit any period of our life that we wish for whatever purpose we choose. Imagine the incredible depth of emotion that could be experienced while undertaking this profoundly captivating review if one chose to linger over a host of the most meaningful moments one ever lived.
Who is to say that one or more of these possibilities cannot happen?
How, I am impelled to ask, can it be a more intelligent approach to life to believe that the human brain is indisputably the generator of consciousness and that once the body ceases to function, then all conscious awareness simply dissipates into oblivion? This, of course, is the considered assessment of diehard scientific materialists.
I have to say, each to their own, but as for me I am keeping my options infinite and holding out hope that there is far more to life than what only meets the curious human eye.
The famous lines by William Blake from the Auguries of Innocence spring to mind: “To see a World in a grain of sand, / And a Heaven in a wild flower, / Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand, / And Eternity in an hour.”