Death is not the End

Our bodies are going to die but that’s okay – they know how to die. I was amazed when I saw this: that life knows how to die, how to let one form of itself settle out and go. We don’t have to teach our bodies how to live, and we don’t have to teach them how to die. It is hard to believe, actually.

This is why A Course in Miracles would so often point out that our bodies are wholly neutral communication devices whose only real purpose is the Holy Spirit’s purpose of forgiveness (see W-pI.199.4:3-5). They are like flowers or stones or horses or stars. They are just assemblages of matter – biological chemical machines doing what they were made to do. Morality and ethics and metaphysics don’t enter into it.

So from time to time I remember that: this body, with its parts that have been fun, parts that have been painful, features I like and features I don’t, and so on and so forth, is going to die and disappear. Emptied of breath, burned to ash and scattered on a Vermont mountain or in the sea, to be carried away by breezes and currents. It’s not so scary when I realized I don’t have to do anything about it: I don’t even have to accept it. It’s just part of what is. It’s part of the movement of Life.

And when the body goes, the egoic self goes too. All my memories and dreams, my hopes and fears, my narrative identity, the vast and intricate story that I call “Sean” and others call “Love” or “Dad” or “Professor” or “blowhard” or whatever are going to go, too. Death is the end of that self – it, too, will empty out and fade away.

This is true whether we are Jesus or Stalin or Emily Dickinson or the Earl of Sandwich. Traces of our activity might remain in the form of ideology or art or whatever, but still. Death brings the body to a close, and brings to a close as well the narrative self attached to that body. So much of our human culture and evolution resists this fact, and has developed many sophisticated defense systems against it, but so what? You can dress your pig in a tuxedo but he’s still a pig. You can invent stories of an afterlife, of streets paved with gold on which angels gently trod, but that doesn’t make it truth.

When we give attention to the fundamental question of separation (the observer from the observed) then we are led naturally to the truth, which is that there is no separation. And we can at last relax and breathe within life, without needing to solve or improve or amend it in any way.

However stressful this insight seems to us – however much it roils the subconscious folds – A Course in Miracles teaches that it’s all okay because this death is not the end of what we are in truth.

To the ego, the goal is death, which is its end. But to the Holy Spirit the goal is life, which has no end (T-15.I.2:8-9).

Thus, what ends – what is subject to ending, which includes bodies (ours and animals), stars, moonlight, cheesecake, bluets, tree stumps, rainbows, kisses and clocks – are simply passing forms (the dream or illusion) of what is real, because it does not end. And Life is that: and that is all Life is. It is what continues: what flows. What else could it be? It’s not the variegated forms it takes. Those forms come and go but they come and go within Life. Our bodies and stories, too. And it’s okay – it’s more than okay. It’s what Peace is, and Joy, too.

I am rereading Tara Singh’s lovely little book Gifts from the Retreat. His reading, understanding and sharing of A Course in Miracles is simultaneously so rich and so simple. How grateful I am to have encountered him, his wise and clear teaching!

The Benediction that we are now beginning
to discover is THE ACTION OF LIFE –
It is involuntary and impersonal.

The Action is ever of Life.
Every moment Its perfection is complete.

It is independent.
To the Spirit, no justifications are valid.

It deals with the individual
and not abstract ideas.
Action is the humanistic beauty
of the individual.

It deals with the goodness in each
and awakens us to higher values.
Circumstances and the assumptions
of consequences It dissolves.

We can read this – or have it pointed out to us – and it won’t be without some hint of meaning, but we still have to bring it into application. That is our responsibility. For a long time, I understood this to mean diligent effort on my part – this site emerged out of that desire to refuse to be casual, to be bent at all costs on awakening.

But it is simpler than that – much simpler. It is simply a question of attention. When we give attention to the fundamental question of separation (the observer from the observed) then we are led naturally to the truth, which is that there is no separation. And we can at last relax and breathe within life, without needing to solve or improve or amend it in any way.

This happens in its own time and way. It isn’t something we do – it’s more in the nature of a sunrise. It is more in the nature of a gift already given. When we stop resisting and trying so hard, Life reveals its inherent perfection just as it is. No mysteries, no secrets.

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