Conquering the fear of oblivion (in 15 minutes)

Photo by Bernardo Kastrup of a statue by Hildegard Bienen,
hereby released into the public domain.

Most people fear death. And amongst those, most do so because death seems to entail oblivion, the end of everything we are. In this brief essay, I want to help you follow your own direct experience to realize that, whatever death may be, it isn't the end of you; not even of a part of you. This realization, in my view, is fairly simple to achieve and I personally don't include it in my list of critical existential questions. But our mainstream cultural narrative has created a false monster here that distracts most people from the real questions. So let me try to make a contribution towards changing this distorted state of affairs. What follows requires no spiritual background, belief, knowledge or skill; indeed, it doesn't require anything other than sincerity and attentive introspection for about 15 minutes. It focuses solely on your direct experience of your own being, without addressing thought-oriented philosophical questions. For the latter, I recommend Part III of my latest book More Than Allegory, wherein a series of dialogues addresses all the relevant points in a coherent, logical manner. So my proposal is this: as you read what follows below, park your thoughts for a few minutes. Only thereafter, go to More Than Allegory so to give yourself intellectual permission to embrace the direct realization you are about to have.

Available now!

Try to read what follows in a quiet place, without distractions like people walking or chatting around you. No need for any special preparation, just try to remain undisturbed for a few minutes. Allow yourself to focus inward, on your own inner experience, as opposed to external stimuli. Once you are ready, let's start.

Have you noticed that you experience yourself to be the same being since as early as you can remember? My first memory is a brief flash of my first birthday. I was sitting on a bed surrounded by colorful toys. I still remember the slight apprehension I had about a huge green elephant at the edge of the bed. In my experience, that one-year-old toddler was me. Yet, nothing about him has remained the same: not a single atom of his body is likely to have remained in mine since then. His thoughts, fears and desires have nothing to do with mine today. His appearance has surely changed completely. The pattern of his genes may have remained largely the same, but that doesn't explain why I still identify myself with him. After all, people with a twin sibling don't feel that they are their sibling, do they? So you see, there's nothing one can pin down about that one-year-old toddler that could explain this continuing sense of identity. Yet, I have a crystal-clear, unambiguous sense that he indeed was me.

If you search your own memories and feelings, you will notice the same. There is nothing you can pin down about the infant, the child, the teenager or the young adult you once were that has remained intact in you today. Everything about them has changed: their bodies, appearance, feelings, dreams, thoughts, opinions, everything. Yet, you viscerally believe, even know, that they were you. If you now inquire a little deeper within yourself, you will notice that the only thing that has remained intact is the felt sense of "I" behind them all, which is still the same felt sense of "I" you experience today. Make a little pause right now and confirm this for yourself. Don't look for anything you can point at, or give words to, in order to pin down this felt sense of "I." You can only feel it, not define it, for it is that which does all the defining. Can you see how that sense, and that sense alone, is the real you?

This "I" has never left and has never changed throughout your life, although everything else did. This "I" is the only constant and it can't, thus, be explained in terms of anything else, for everything else did change. Clearly, the real you isn't your body, thoughts, opinions, emotions, etc. The real you is this constant "I" that has witnessed the body, thoughts, opinions, emotions, etc., as they changed throughout your life. Don't let thoughts creep in and make you lose touch with our line of inquiry here; keep your attention on your own felt sense of being for now.

What you feel yourself to be is outside time, in that it doesn't change. It's untouchable. It didn't grow. It didn't mature. It didn't age. It's now precisely what it was when you were one year old. As far as your felt sense of being informs you, that's the real you. You are this unchanging "I" behind each and every moment of your life; the quiet witness of them all. Everything else has taken place within this "I" as its experiences. Your bodily sensations, perceptions, thoughts, emotions, your varying self-images, etc., have all come into existence within what you are. As experiences, where else could they have arisen? What is your body but a set of experiences witnessed within the space of your subjectivity?

These experiences provide a mirror to the witness that you are. Life and world are a symbolic mirror for that which experiences them (I explain this philosophically, and at length, in More Than Allegory). The problem is that, at some point before puberty, you began to look at some of the images in this mirror and say: "That's me!" You began to point at these experiences and think that you are them. In a thought-dominated culture such as our own, conceived identity usurped your felt identity. The result is entirely equivalent to a person staring into a mirror and proclaiming herself to be an image in the mirror. But if I broke the mirror, the witness of the images would remain intact, without a scratch, wouldn't she? I can't hurt or kill a person simply by breaking the mirror she is looking at.

"Melting mirror," photo by Bernardo Kastrup, hereby released into the public domain.

Death is the melting away of the mirror. Yet you are not, and have never been, an image in the mirror. That you think you are is just that: a thought. When the mirror dissolves, you remain intact. Nothing about you goes away or is lost.

Human beings are the only animals that know the mirror will eventually dissolve. And because we, absurdly, think that we are an image in the mirror, we derive great anxiety from this knowledge. As death approaches, the mirror begins to crumple and crack. Staring in horror at the increasingly distorted, mangled images in it, we think we are losing ourselves bit by bit. We think we are vanishing. But again, we are the ones looking at the mirror, not an image in it. Amnesic of this fact, we grasp at illusions and try to hold 'ourselves' together. Naturally, this is futile. We go nowhere after the mirror vanishes. We remain right where we were all along, being exactly what we have been all along.

Anxiety about oblivion vanishes if this is truly understood. We know then that the mirror has ever only been a folded-in configuration of ourselves, meant to allow us to see ourselves in some way, which eventually unfolds so we can again rest in pure being. The truth of the matter is that we are all condemned to the vertigo of eternity.

Comments

  1. Bernado. The Witness position very succinctly described! Do you think (feel?) that this understanding as you describe it here "now" will hold for you during the actual rather than conceptual process of the death of your body?

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    1. I was always so completely frustrated with Heaven, angels, afterlife. It scared me more that everyone was agreeing on something that made no sense.

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    2. Does it make sense that you could only exist for 70 years out of eternity?
      What's different about the eternity you exist in and the one you supposedly didn't exist in in the past or the one you can't exist in in the future?

      To me the most nonsensical idea is that you can only exist once and that for only a short period of time.

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    3. I've had an NDE and from that I know that physical death works like this: One aware second you are in your body, with the kind of 'I' awareness that Bernardo is speaking of; the next aware second you are out of your body but your 'I' awareness is still intact (though what you perceive with it can be radically altered - particularly so as the the NDE progresses/deepens).

      Death is simple and in itself nothing at all to worry about - there is no loss of 'I'. Quite to the contrary, as the NDE deepens your sense of 'I' becomes much, much more expanded - you gain in 'I-ness'. This gaining of 'I-ness', funnily enough, can include the 'I-ness' of other beings being merged with your own (though with no loss of any kind of your own 'I-ness' - it isn't a 'take over', it isn't 'possession' by an 'other'). I can't explain this very well, its difficult to put in words but it just happens automatically as the NDE deepens - at least that is what happened for me. In any case, it really is an astonishingly beautiful state to find yourself in.

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    4. The fear of oblivion is an absurdity because we cannot imagine it. We can imagine being reduced and impaired, and reach for analogies like the view of a beetle, but lacking any consciousness whatsoever is not a reality we can negotiate in anything but a humorous way. Fearing oblivion makes as much sense as fearing Tuesdays.

      My working conclusion, tentative as it necessarily is, is that we exist in a state which is exclusively referential for reasons we can only guess at. We recognise symbols, like stepping stones over a spate stream that threatens to carry us away, and identify their importance and give them names, but we cannot fully embrace them - yet. Their lack of objectivity lends some people to suggest they are illusions, totems thrown up by the unconscious to preserve itself, but I believe what we call the symbolic is ultimate reality, and believe those symbols will ultimately take shape and reveal themselves in their perfection.

      If this reads like metaphysics, it's because language has no power to navigate the symbol. The thing we call belief offers plasticity to these symbols, and an acknowledgement of its importance is the best we can offer given our other limitations. End of diatribe!

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    5. Unfortunately, that is not how the universe works. The “I” is a temporary being that will undergo a dramatic change upon death. The “I” will realize that it is not singular and is part of a human soul system that is a multi-dimensional being of time. There are past lives and future lives that the “I” may rejoin with, reform into, or separate from, to improve the evolution of the “self” and its other “selves.” Selves will combine for a particular purpose and may even combine with other souls for a particular purpose. There is an “us” factor of many forms that become dominant.

      I assure you that the “I” you present now, is nowhere close to the real you. Much of “you” will go away or is lost due to a choice. The “self” will drop every idea that does not pertain to the timeless world of Light. When the “I” awakes in a world of Light, it will then begin to completely change itself. The “I” never stops transforming and this essay makes it seem as if the “I” is unchanging. Simply not true. The “I” is always temporary because it is always changing – by design.

      Our personalities that we know now, will drop many of its cherished aspects. In some cases, that could be the whole part of an adult life, because the life just lived, was fully a delusional nature. And the energy reverts back to an age of innocence, let’s say 8 or 10 years of age. Of which the human soul system can use. I would assume that is none of you, because you are striving for realness just by reading this article and participating with this website. So may I give you an example of a revision backwards: Donald Trump is a completely fake personality that serves no purpose and thus his energy is reverted backwards upon death. His adult life was all about “self” that the human soul system will not be able to use. Hence my phrase - “Heaven is filled with children.”

      I lived as a Cro-Magnon, every aspect of that “I” is now useless to my human soul system. Does one think that this primitive thought system still exists in the future? Such is the case for your temporary “self”.

      Here’s a deeper truth. The most advanced version of you created a temporary “I” for this realm of time. Now the real question presents itself. Why would extremely advance human soul systems continue to play with time, when time is not real? Answer that question and many problems are solved.

      A clue: there are many humans that have completely ignore their human soul and heart. They have lived in darkness. Upon death, they may continue to live in darkness with all the crazy consciousness that remains there, or they may reduce themselves back to a childlike state just to reenter the Light. Eventually, personalities that went into darkness like a Hitler figure, are persuaded out of darkness and back into Light as immature energy.

      Where do you think you live? Don’t let the fake Light from the sun fool you. We all live in darkness.

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  2. I again comment: if your implicit interest in many posts is the existence of an afterlife, why not discuss specific cases that point to the existence of an afterlife? I prefer that than this.

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    1. Juan, I'm sorry you prefer something else than what my work is about. You've made this point a million times already. Please do not troll me.

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    2. If I have made these points many times, it is to see if you change your mind, but it seems impossible.

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    3. Juan H - Have you really not read the vast literature on this subject? You can't expect Bernardo to reproduce it. The phrase 'existence of an afterlife' is such an impossible muddle of words that I can't imagine how there could ever be a case of it.

      The article seems extremely valuable for its simplicity and accessibility and I shall be sending a link to few people. It reminded me of Schrodinger's essay on this topic, which ends...

      “The youth that I was,” you may come to speak of him in the third person; indeed, the protagonist of the novel you are reading is probably nearer to your heart, certainly more intensely alive and better known to you. Yet there has been no intermediate break, no death. And even if a skilled hypnotist succeeded in blotting out entirely all your earlier reminiscences, you would not find that he had killed you. In no case is there a loss of personal existence to deplore.

      Nor will there ever be.”

      Erwin Scrödinger
      The I That Is God



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    4. I prefer Bernardo's philosophical approach to this subject than NDE accounts because while those people may have died, they did come back, and therefore their afterlife, if it really was one, was short-lived and now they're continuing on again in their real life. Personally I suspect some form of reincarnation because I've without any shadow of a doubt experienced an incarnation. Alan Watts explains all of this. Every incarnation is always the current one.

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    5. "The phrase 'existence of an afterlife' is such an impossible muddle of words that I can't imagine how there could ever be a case of it."

      Explain it. Psychical Researchers are dedicated to make a case for an afterlife, so I do not see this supposed muddle.

      "The article seems extremely valuable for its simplicity and accessibility and I shall be sending a link to few people."

      But it is useless, because i only see a way to not fear death, and through evidence on the existence of an afterlife.

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    6. Juan, you've posted the same comment three times and I've had to delete the copies. Please delete the copies yourself next time.

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    7. "I prefer Bernardo's philosophical approach to this subject than NDE accounts because while those people may have died, they did come back, and therefore their afterlife, if it really was one, was short-lived and now they're continuing on again in their real life."

      That's two things that need not be in dispute: one is theory and other evidence. I prefer theory based on an evidence about afterlife, which is not only NDEs, but apparitions, mediumship.

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    8. C'mon Juan, I give you a little help. Get a browser and google "Near death experience". Be sure to read all the literature on the subject.

      Se you 30 years from, after you've done reading :D :D :D

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  3. But for me the fear of oblivion isn't yet conquered. Only the fear of the oblivion of the self. I understand that the witness is eternal, but the stuff it witnesses can still be the object of oblivion. Even if I lose the fear of the death of the I, I still have de fear of the dissapearance of my experiences, like dear people or situations.

    The fact that the witness is eternal still doesn't make me more happy when I know that what I love is not. And what I love is what I experience.

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    1. Your daily experiences disappear when ever you dream and yet everything is perfectly natural. Are you worried about this daily existence in your dreams?
      No. Don't worry you will know more love after this dream fades away then you ever can here.

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    2. I'm not worried because in the dream I don't know that it is a dream. When I'm dreaming I still think that I'm in my normal daily life, that's why I don't worry. And if I have a lucid dream I don't worry because I know my world will come back when I wake up.

      But I don't know what kind of experiences I will have after death.

      I'm not sure if they will be related to the experiences of this life, like adulthood experiences are related to childhood experiences in a seamless chain that makes the illusion of continuation, or if my memories will be totaly erased and the links will all be broken like when I was born.

      If the first is true, it's fine for me. But the second option makes me worry.

      Everything we say about the afterlife is speculation, and unless I have direct experience of these matters I don't think I can believe that after death is like this or that just because someone said it.

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    3. All you love, ultimately, _is_ that which cannot disappear.

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    4. Everything we say about the afterlife is speculation

      Those who have come back have already given us a good idea what it is like..

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    5. In other words, everything that made the psychic researchers is speculation? Agh.

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    6. Juan. It is not speculation. Re Gash is wrong in my opinion. I wish I could say 'in my experience' but I'm not quite sure about this. At any rate, I believe that the idea we cannot know about death and must speculate is tosh. Indeed, I'd see Bernardo's article as stating that it is tosh. I'd see the entire wisdom literature as stating it is tosh. It will, of course, be true for most of us that we do not know.

      As for being unworried by the disappearance of our experiences into oblivion, I suspect this state can only be attained if one has 'experienced' (or not-experienced?) throwing them into oblivion at least once in our practice or perhaps had an NDE. The 'peace that passeth all understanding' cannot be something to fear even if it does look like oblivion to our intellect, as an intellectual construct.

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    7. But if my comment was directed against the claim that all around the afterlife is speculation, because the psychic research.

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  4. Why do you assume a "melting away of the mirror" and not a reconfiguration of the mirror? The Eastern traditions talk about continuous rebirth as long as you identify with any small piece of the mirror.

    So maybe the show goes on until you finally dis identify from absolutely everything and then there is no longer the underlying cause that sustains the mirror and only then does the mirror truly melt away. Who knows?

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    1. Perhaps. I am open to the possibility of a reconfiguration of the mirror. I just wanted to take what most people consider to be the worst-case scenario.

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  5. Also there are no individual "I"s. We are all the one "I". I am you, you are me, we are one.

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    1. And yet you do not feel what I feel.

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    2. Since I am you of course I feel what you feel. However the reasons I feel any specific way may be different.

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    3. Not so, because you do not know what I'm feeling now. The assertion all is one looks good but is meaningless.

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    4. The assertion that consciousness can somehow be differentiated is meaningless

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    5. I feel that even though we are made of the same "stuff" (consciousness) , it does not mean our experiences are identical.

      We are joined at one level yet separate on another.

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    6. Juan - It seems highly reasonable of you, as a critic, to say that this idea of being both distinct and identical is reasonable. It would be necessary for a grasp of the idea that consciousness can seem to be Many and yet be One.

      Perhaps you could think of a vast cone standing on its end where differentiation increases as the cone widens and reduces as we return to the source, the point on which the whole thing is balanced. Imagine that we can explore the levels of the cone within our own consciousness all the way back to the source, and thus know what we share with all sentient beings and much about what happens when we die.

      Plotinus uses a hypersphere as a metaphor which seems much better but a cone would be an easier classical version.
      .

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    7. The only way for a protrusion to has dignity, is to has I. Each whirlpool is unrepeteable and has its own sacred history. I am thinking in what said Nicolai Berdyaev and Marc Gafni. May be mind at large needs that difference and needs and loves all and each whirlpool.

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  6. I'm guessing you intended to type "wouldn't she" near the end of paragraph #7.

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  7. The truth of the matter is that we are all condemned to the vertigo of eternity.

    The vertigo of eternity can be simply faced by...forgetting. which we all do to some extent.

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    1. And that's what leads to other sorts of suffering. There's little escape. :-)

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    2. Seems to me the NDErs are quite happy about the post death state and their only regret is returning to this particular dream. Why should we anticipate suffering when returning to our true state of being?

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    3. What I meant is that we forget the vertigo of eternity while alive; because we think we're finite, leading to other forms of suffering.

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    4. Maybe you could read this "My Life after death" .

      It seems that someone had decided to describe plain and simple what's on the other side, considering that the referenced author, Erik Medhus, suicided on 2010. :D

      What to think about this book? Meh. I don't really know. But I've read it and the cross validation with NDE literarure is solid. T

      here are also big new info in this book. Maybe it can be used as source material.

      You can see the reference to this book here
      http://channelingerik.com/

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  8. What would be your objections (if any) to killing oneself to truly find out what death is?

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    1. Unnecessary... we're all going to die and find out anyway. So we might as well first find out what life is; no small task.

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  9. Your argument is flawed, because even though the ego does not change, this does not imply that the self is eternal. I also think people today need to overcome the fear of death is empirical evidence for the existenmce of an personal afterlife as NDEs, apparitions and mediumship.

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    1. You misunderstand what the ego is. As for your further points, you've made them many, many times already. There's no point repeating them. If you do, I will have to treat you like a troll (http://www.bernardokastrup.com/p/policy.html, item 4.1).

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    2. But my objection remains unaddressed.

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    3. I know what is the ego. It is not the body neither the mind nor the personality, but the possessor of all that, but without it the ego is nothing, so just psychical research can offer some answers on what has the ego after bodily death.

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    4. Juan - I'm have more time than Bernardo so I'll repeat his statement.

      You do not understand the ego. For people who hold Bernardo's view or knowledge, as the case may be, the ego is not eternal. It would not even be real. Forget the ego. It is an irrelevance, part of life's baggage.

      Your objections indicate a lack of interest in the topics since this would be mysticism 101. Why not leave aside the arguing and first try to understand what Bernardo is saying.

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    5. But what arrogance, so I do not like to comment on the Internet. I made clear that I understand what the ego is. And for me the question of the afterlife is a matter of psychical research, not mysticism.

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  10. I agree with your thesis, Bernardo. Going further, though, many fear dying more than death: loss of memory, mobility, self-reliance, and of course, increasing pain as the body deteriorates. Some even welcome the thought of oblivion in this context, or even while experiencing joy, since after a peak experience, it's all downhill:

    "Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
    I have been half in love with easeful Death,
    Call'd him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
    To take into the air my quiet breath;
    Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
    To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
    While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
    In such an ecstasy!"

    (Keats: Ode To A Nightingale)

    Then there is the possibility of the same witness having to return to experience loss of innocence all over again; as you know, this does not necessarily appeal!

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  11. As a child, I accidentally discovered self hypnosis by starting into the bathroom mirror. It was very disorienting. Many years later I learned through research what I had done. As to oblivion, I've never felt that fear.

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  12. I like the eastern idea that as long as one wishes one can reincarnate. I know that through subtle intention I can quite extensively influence the life I lead. Have that experience now for at least 25 years. I believe for myself that I am able to "die" consciously while projecting in my mind that what I want to experience in my next life........

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  13. That's why I am projecting my envisioned world in 3D virtual reality and hope to melt with it when I die :) But it already comes true in this life....

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  14. It appears to me moreso that we exist as cells in some type of superorganism which we can't conceive and it cannot conceive us individually. If we consider the evolution of the universe from simple elements to basic living cells to yet more complex organisms, this seems likely. So just as the micoorganisms and cells that comprise me have a life and sentience of their own, the unifying effect in this 'container' of I is a singular perception of a billion life forms. A higher overarching level of awareness may not even have a perception of duality or the Darwinist bloodbath of this evolutionary crucible we perceive as cruel.

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    1. If some awareness is "higher", it should "transcend and include", as Ken Wilber says. If that consciousness cannot perceive what we do, I doubt if I'd call it "higher".

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    2. The universe did not evolve. It exists as a whole image in the One mind we all are. Just as if you saw the grand canyon in virtual reality. Though it looks like the layers were laid down over time the image is complete and exists all at once.

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  15. Tjsailor, you are speaking in very nebulous terms. But just consider the phenomenal world of space time, and take a look at Eric J. Chaisson, Cosmic Evolution: The Rise of Complexity in Nature. That we are cells in a larger organism is very logical.

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    1. Not nebulous at all. We already know that matter does not exist and all is dependent on Consciousness. It may LOOK like the universe has evolved but as Bernardo has pointed out there is no such thing as time. Where do time and space exist? Within Consciousness like every thing else. The only thing you can ever know is in the present. Anything you think you know about the past is also known in the present. The whole universe is continuously created in the present. If you insist on invoking some flow of time the only thing one could say is that the present creates the past.

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  16. Very good. Self awareness is the "folding" of consciousness on itself. Consciousness Itself knows no "self" but when it "looks" at Itself (the mirror) it sees infinite possibilities, like when you dream. This is the world and us.

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  17. Where is this sense of the unchanging "I" prior to birth? The continuity you speak of and posit, which I too have experienced and understand, does not seem to extend prior to being born. Your story begins with a comparison to your sense of "I" as a 1 year old to your same sense now. Yet, in my experience, I cannot relate to the same sense of myself being prior to birth which causes issue if this unchanging sense of "I" is eternal. At the least, it would follow that the sense of being prior to birth is qualitatively different, therefore it is not continuous or unchanging and thus could be qualitatively different after death.

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    1. Can you relate to the sense you had of yourself on 28 November 2004? (or pick another date you cannot remember) Where is the sense of the unchanging "I" on that date?

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  18. What necessitates in science that you cease to exist for infinity at death rather than cease to exist temporarily?

    I think neuroscience and physics can prove that brain death is an end of subjective experience. But I've never seen science provide an argument for why that state of nonexistence should be a permanent end. What stops you from existing again sometime during the infinity after your death, perhaps for an infinite number of times? In a naturalistic/materialistic sense.

    I was thinking that with an infinite amount of time and if space is infinite, then everything that's possible must happen in this universe. So quantum fluctuations would pop your brain into existence an infinity of times after the universe has undergone heat death. Why wouldn't you suddenly find yourself existing again in each of these brains that has the same neural configuration/atomic arrangement?

    But it just seems superfluous. There's probably an infinity of subjectivities in reality. Why is it necessary that the infinity of existences each exist for infinity? Why isn't it simply that all subjectivities are one-time happenings? Why would nature go through the bother of giving every observer/agent an eternal duration of existence?

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    1. Scott: you really need to do some serious research into philosophy, survival evidence, neuroscience and and the implications of Quantum Mechanics. I suggest by starting with Dr. Kastrup's book WHY MATERIALISM IS BOLOGNA.

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  19. "I think neuroscience and physics can prove that brain death is an end of subjective experience."

    They can not prove that; they can only verify that there are not correlates of experience (either behavior or neural activity).

    Moreover, there is evidence that the experience continues after biological death: NDEs, apparitions and mediumship.

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    1. It can be proven. If you've ever fainted you lose consciousness and cease to exist. The reason you lost consciousness is because of a lack of oxygenated blood flow getting to the brain. So, when you die your heart stops pumping blood to your brain. Your consciousness can't exist after death because there's not just insufficient blood flow, there's no blood flow at all. You will not exist when you are dead. This is self-evident, you can experience it yourself by fainting. The brain depends on adequate blood flow at all times for consciousness to be sustained. Given how fragile consciousness is, in that it can be so easily disrupted, the prospects of existing after death are dim.

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    2. Scott, apparently you have no idea what you are talking about. Fainting is known today to be experientially rich (see e.g. Macnab, A. J. et al. (2009). Asphyxial games or “the choking game”: a potentially fatal risk behavior. Injury Prevention, 14, pp. 45–49; Neal, R. M. (2008). The Path to Addiction: And Other Troubles We Are Born to Know. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse; Whinnery, J. and Whinnery, A. (1990). Acceleration-Induced Loss of Consciousness: A Review of 500 Episodes. Archives of Neurology, 47 (7), pp. 764-776).

      Indeed, other forms of apparent unconsciousness because of cerebral hypoxia--caused by e.g. hyperventilation--are also known to be experientially rich (see e.g. Retz (2007). Tripping Without Drugs: experience with Hyperventilation (ID 14651). Erowid.org. [Online]. Available from: www.erowid.org/exp/14651 [Accessed 29 May 2016]; Rhinewine, J. P. and Williams, O. J. (2007). Holotropic Breathwork: The Potential Role of a Prolonged, Voluntary Hyperventilation Procedure as an Adjunct to Psychotherapy. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 13 (7), pp. 771-776; etc.).

      There is evidence for implicit perception even during general anesthesia (see e.g. Kihlstrom, J. F. and Cork, R. C. (2007), “Anesthesia”, in Velmans, M. & Schneider, S. (eds.), The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness (Oxford, UK: Blackwell)).

      All you can assert upon coming round from a fainting episode--or any other episode of apparent unconsciousness--is that you cannot remember having experiences during the episode, not that experiences did not occur. As a matter of fact, often we wake up in the morning thinking that we were unconscious all night, only to remember hours later that we had very intense dreams.

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  20. Why don't you go the whole way towards solipsism? Where everything the observer observes is showing it something about itself. So reality is a sole observer observing itself. The entire world is reflecting what only you are. Every event is revealing something about your psyche. All wars going on, murderers, child molesters, are tendencies that have become rigid in your awareness. Why draw the line, to think that other entities actually exist in "their" organisms you see? There's no world that you're seeing, it's your consciousness looking at itself. It seems the only reason you'd draw a line is for comfort purposes. Everything has only ever been experienced through you because there is only you. You're god, if you want to call yourself that. When you walk around the environment you're not really moving anywhere. You can't get mad at people around you because they're just hardened tendencies in your mentality. If you want to make the easiest thing the hardest thing imaginable, then you'll believe you're powerless over something more than you. Then you'll maybe smash yourself on the rocks when you jump off the cliff. You'll believe that touching a surface with a high thermal temperature will be unpleasant. All lyrics in music are written about this existence you're undergoing, all television shows are modelling your mental state. Why believe in unprovable and unfalsifiable minds that you aren't right now or why even believe that you'll ever be them. A true skeptic wouldn't assume there's consciousnesses they can't know exist by any means. Especially when you pay attention to everything happening around you and it acts as if it's mirroring you. Although you could say this is schizophrenia, no one can tell anyone what reality is. Everything has an immensity of meaning, an infinity of meaning, personalized to you. In childhood shutting it out, telling ourselves we're not It, too afraid of the power we bear. This would apply only to one subject though. Maybe the laws of our consciousness which we experience as laws of physics break down before this existence and after this existence. Cast into an ineffable anything goes experience of feeling everything imaginable simultaneously. And maybe some union finally, at some point, to where the observer and observed are restored into total harmony. Ignoring the meaning of stomach sounds, why we seem forced to sleep, eat and drink. At some time you start trying to control life and an I forms, and at death you lose that attempt at trying to control everything that's happening around you and in you - you just let go. Entering the weirdest state imaginable, almost as if to auto-correct you and return you to the natural state of being. The natural state of being before you were corrupted by the entropy of your mind. Psychedelics may trigger you to enter this death state, especially if you don't try to fight the extreme state it's pulling you into. And you'll stop feeling like you're experiencing life through this body. Everything you see in the world is showing you to yourself. Going to the moon because you ignored your own existence and what the world could provide, wearing clothing because you don't want to face what you really are. A rushing denied in you, embarrassed to admit to yourself that you're god. God turning into an atheist. Sleep feels like boredom and dissatisfaction that builds up because you have no hope, you don't believe or trust in anything, not yourself and not others. Fear of oblivion after death is the fear of a lack of light, an idea that came about from that fear. Thoughts are dead memories of feeling, the fear of feeling is when thinking was created. You can't stop thinking and the plague spreads across the world.

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    Replies
    1. Sorry, I couldn't read the whole text. Judging only from the initial lines, you seem to fail to understand what philosophy is about.

      Delete
  21. "Human beings are the only animals that know the mirror will eventually dissolve."

    This blanket statement almost ruined your otherwise beautiful deconstruction of the human idea of self for me. How can you possibly know this to be true? Personally I doubt it... there is a hard-wired knowledge (and accompanying fear) in all animals, and hard-wired though it may be, it is nevertheless knowledge. Now if you insert the word "consciously" before "know" it may become a bit more true, but other higher animals also have forms of consciousness, even if different from ours. Many of the more intelligent social mammals mourn their dead, and elephants deliberately go to "graveyards" when they feel the end of their life is near... these behaviors don't prove anything, but they certainly point to a conception of death not that dissimilar from ours.

    In general, whenever I hear (read) "humans are the only animal that..." my right eyebrow goes up. The weight of the evidence is more and more against any and all human exceptionalism... read Frans de Waal's excellent new book "Are we smart enough to know how smart animals are?" for a very up-to-date and well balanced take on this matter.

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  22. Bernardo, thanks for another great article which to me also seems a good piece of poetry (especially together with the melting photo). I like this sense of life you've got and the words you use to describe it. Being a linguist I'm a person whose head never shuts up, if you know what I mean :) But I can perfectly remember what it's like not to speak in your head - just perceive (it happens when your speaking skills aren't good enough to help you process it). To prevent myself from writing a book here :) I get to the point. After reading this article of yours I thought of a 1 min meditation: just take an instant and remember HOW you watched the world when you couldn't speak well - the state itself. Not sure it could work for everybody... However it already does for me. So thanks again :) Mary

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  23. This book makes the best argument for why death is oblivion:

    https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Myth_of_an_Afterlife.html?id=dlRuBwAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover

    Just to hear the other side. I know better understanding the relationship between the mind and brain would be of interest to you.

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  24. Hey Bernardo, why do you say that your current body does not have any of the same atoms it had when you were one year old? Aren't the atoms in your brain the same, since brain cells typically aren't replaced and you have the same ones from birth until death?

    http://www.livescience.com/33179-does-human-body-replace-cells-seven-years.html

    That seems to strengthen the case for physicalism a bit, if the brain is mostly materially the same from birth until death.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Brain cells also metabolize and constantly renew the atoms that compose them, even if they don't do mitosis.

      Delete
  25. Bernardo, this article on Oblivion is beautifully sound. Would you ever consider doing a short VIDEO rendering of this? I think that would be a great companion to the prose itself.

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  26. hi Bernardo. as someone who struggles with this fear on a daily basis, i am trying very hard to absorb the concepts you lay out here. i do get a tingly moment of 'whoa' realization when i contemplate the paragraph where you contrast the unchanging 'I' with the constantly transformed body, thoughts, etc.

    where i lose the plot is towards the end of the article. if i am interpreting the final two paragraphs correctly, you seem to be implying that the witness ('I') will carry on observing after bodily death... which admittedly would vanquish the fear of oblivion, however for me, nothing within this essay points to the 'I' not vanishing right along with the melted mirror.

    i get the distinction between the mirror and the witness, but i don't get how the two being distinct necessarily means that one outlasts the other. any help / thoughts for me on this?

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    1. The mirror is a metaphor for a particular class of experience that we associate with externality: perceptions, thoughts and opinions projected out as facts, etc. But there are other classes of experience: thoughts and emotions that we do NOT project out, recognizing them as our own inner mentation. These inner thoughts and emotions, of course, are distinctly different from perception as well. In conclusion: they require no mirror. Yet, these inner thoughts and emotions can still be witnessed. So there is still an "I," a sense of self, which has experiences, even after the dissolution of the mirror.

      Delete

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