Transfiguration can sometimes have the connotation of immortalization or transcending death. For obvious reasons death has long been a human preoccupation. Clancy Martin’s review of John Gray’s book The Immortalization Commission: Science and the Strange Quest to Cheat Death provides most of the factual material for this essay.
The intellect can be easily seduced into the pursuit of illusion and chief among these is what we call death. The belief in death requires an identification with the body as well as the mind. Because Simple Reality holds that our True-self identity is that of pure indestructible energy, the pursuit of an afterlife might appear to be somewhat pathetic as well as irrational, but nevertheless very interesting.
Most people in putting together their syllogisms arguing for or against an afterlife make the logical fallacy known as “argument from ignorance.” In truth, scientists, philosophers and many mystics have been and are today trapped in this particular type of ignorance. Very few people are aware of being in this very confining “cage” but 100 years ago some of the world’s most adventuresome thinkers were seeking a way to escape.
Among the personalities in our melodrama are the famous and not so famous, the brilliant and the quirky, scientists and mystics (who should have known better), politicians and authors, and the disembodied whom I suspect, if they were present at all, were having a good time at the expense of our zealous investigators. Oh well! On with the show.
The central question mesmerizing the investigators in question was whether life exists after death. “The Immortalization Commission opens a séance in 1874 attended by Charles Darwin, Francis Galton and George Eliot opens the story perhaps to show that serious scientists had fanciful imaginations and an active curiosity. [Next we have the august members of the] Society of Psychical Research counting among its members William James, Henri Bergson, John Ruskin, Alfred Lord Tennyson and W. E. Gladstone among its members.” The most common method of investigation were texts from automatic writing wherein someone writes while in a state of altered or disassociated consciousness. Helen Schucman, for example, channeled A Course in Miracles in this way. William James looked upon automatic writing as a way of gaining access to the unconscious. Also among the investigators of automatic writing were Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, William Butler Yeats, Ezra Pound and Aldous Huxley.
The problem these imminent explorers had is the same one that plagues humankind today. If you want to explore darkest Africa, first make sure you have arrived in Africa and not some other continent. The intrepid explorers we meet in this essay were looking for the insights found on the continent of P-A but they were, in fact, mucking about on the continent of P-B. Understandably they quickly became lost.
Just before the turn of the century, circa 1890, Cambridge philosopher and economist Henry Sidgwick, concluded that without an eternal soul the life “of every normal man is reduced to hopeless anarchy.” The irony is that if our seekers had either moved the site of their exploration from Africa (P-B) to Asia (P-A) they would have found genuine mystics who could have assured them that indeed their souls (psyches) were “eternal.”
Indeed, Seth told the people who showed up at Jane Roberts’ apartment in Elmira New York for nearly 20 years that “Human beings reincarnate many times, though not in the fashion in which many believe [and that] the past, present, and future exist in a simultaneous now, and we experience all of our lives simultaneously.” We don’t know what our eminent intellectuals would have made of that information over a century ago, but probably the same as what we do with it today, set it aside because it doesn’t fit into the narrative of P-B.
Any normally curious person would value the truth. One of Jane Roberts’ books was entitled The Nature of Personal Reality and we all have the same personal reality which means most of us would like to know: What is the nature of our collective reality? Seth answered that question. “His central message is that human beings create their own reality through thoughts, actions, and beliefs; in effect they are co-creators of the universe.” This is, of course, not so different from the definition of Simple Reality in that our worldview (beliefs, attitudes and values) define the story that contains us which in turn determines our identity (eternal True self or self-destructive false self) which drives our behavior (life enhancing response or anxiety-producing reactions).
We may find the worldviews of Seth, Jesus in A Course in Miracles or the trance-induced insights of Edgar Cayce too exotic to fit into our dominant P-B worldview but who can defend the dominant narrative on our planet today as being in any way desirable in its outcome. Perhaps we need to be more courageous in our explorations.
Humankind has long looked to religion for comfort and for answers to the more profound questions. The current state of global human consciousness including both physical and mental health indicates that we don’t believe the story we tell ourselves about life after death. “Our world reflects the basic thought form that there is no afterlife, which in this lifetime is the only thing that insures power is what can be had and gained. Sometimes we speak of an afterlife, but we do not really believe that after we leave the Earth we are still responsible for the choices that we have made upon the Earth or our choices would be very different.” Gary Zukav realized the importance of utilizing our power of choice. Those choices will have to be made in a very different context, however, if they are to result in a sustainable global village.
H. G. Wells had fantasies other than science fiction. He went to Russia in 1920 to meet with some remarkable scientists, engineers and commissars who believed that they could, in Wells’ own words, “seize control of evolution and lead the species to a better future” and “eventually, humans would become gods [co-creators].” This group included people we recognize today as mystics such as Madame Blavatsky, G. I. Gurdjieff and P. D. Ouspensky.
Well’s ideas had inspired fellow author, Maksim Gorky, a member of a pre-revolutionary group in Russia, who had an amazing insight as a member of a movement called “God-building.” “Gorky was convinced that the human personality, which he believed to produce ‘thought energy,’ was eternal, and essentially influenced the development of the universe itself.” Gorky was on friendly terms with Chekhov, Tolstoy and Lenin so he had the “ear” of several of the elite members of the Russian intelligentsia.
“The God-builders believed a true revolutionary must aim to deify humanity, an enterprise that includes the abolition of death.” Ironically then, the most radical of the “Immortalization Commission” turned out to be the most accurate in matching truth and reality. Simple Reality holds that we are all co-creators of our own reality and that death is an illusion. “When the Bolsheviks made Gorky’s friend Anatoly Lunacharsky (the name fits the job) head of the Commissariat of Enlightenment, he declared that the goal of the revolution was ‘the development of the human spirit into the All-Spirit.’”
Another author, Ursula Le Guin wrote a short story, The Island of the Immortals in which nobody died. In this story the horror was being unable to die as the body grew old. Socrates went to the opposite end of the immortality continuum with his “Best never born at all; once born, best quickly dead.” Perhaps that’s why he so willingly accepted the hemlock option over banishment from Athens.
Nietzsche had another version of the immortality that is reminiscent of the story in Harold Ramis’ film Groundhog Day in which we might relive our current lives endlessly, over and over, in exactly the same way. Or as Martin concludes “life seems to get much of its meaning from the fact that it ends.” What Martin is saying is that the body dies, which no one can dispute. The problem with many explorers of the Dark Continent was that they stopped looking too soon or claimed they had found the source of the ever-elusive Nile which was a kind of self-delusion. Identifying something as a truth does not make it so. The death of the body is not relevant since we are not a physical body to begin with. Riding in a vehicle called a Jeep does not make us a Jeep.
In Simple Reality we experience a life that has no ending and also has the magic and meaning that many of us seem to have been seeking for a very long time. If we are ever to arrive at Heaven-on-Earth in the eternal present moment we are going need another vehicle.
References and notes are available for this essay.
Find a much more in-depth discussion in books by Roy Charles Henry.