Tuesday, August 15, 2023


A New Cosmology; A Deeper Abyss

Ten years ago things were very different.  I had not yet reached senior status.  COVID had not wreaked its havoc on us and changed the world, permanently.  Most importantly for purposes of this entry, the New York Times had not published its seminal article, in December of 2017, implying if not stating that we share this globe with other, non-human forms of intelligence.

Ten years ago, I held views about life after death that were fairly conventional in my cohort of hyper-educated "pimples on the posterior of American financial empire."  One of two viewpoints had to be correct.  

Under the first view, we are nothing but animated creatures of the material world.  Any talk of "soul" or "spirit" must be limited to the entirely metaphorical.  When we die, the lifeless form lying in the morgue on a cold, blood-impervious table is all that we ever were, just minus the spark of Dr. Frankenstein, which itself arose via natural means whose mechanisms would soon be revealed by science.  This is the view held even now by the most sober of physicists, people like Sean Carroll and Neil de Grasse Tyson and Laurence Krauss.  Science has proven it to be the case.

Under the second view, when we die we go on to a happier valley.  We are drawn down a long tunnel towards a glorious light.  Our loved ones who have predeceased us meet and greet us there and help us on our journey to the light.  This is of course the view of people like Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, who can be regarded as the founder of serious "death studies," and Raymond Moody, author of "Life After Life."

If, ten years ago, I were forced to pick between the two views, I probably would have chosen the second, largely out of a philosophical predisposition, but also out of a vague sense that there is simply too much stuff going on for which materialism cannot account.

But since 2017 I find myself forced, really, onto a Third Way, as I try to make sense of the evidence to which I have been exposed via thousands of pages of reading, hundreds of hours of interviews and podcasts, all aimed in one way or another at what might be called "the penetration of the veil," not just in our own time but across all cultures from time immemorial.  Leonard Cohen said that "there is a crack in everything; that's how the Light gets in."  My best friend Sam, on his deathbed, when I asked him to explain the mysterious first verse of John -- "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" -- answered himself with a single, lower-case word -- the "vibration."

And so it is that much deeper thinkers than I, including C.J. Jung, Jacques Vallee, Richard Dolan, John Keel, Garry Nolan, Bernardo Kastrup, Darren King (the man who styles himself "ExoAcademian"), and even Aldous Huxley, all hover around the idea that we come from, and return to, a Common Ocean of Consciousness that has no beginning and no end.  The view has much in common with Tibetan Buddhism, particularly in its insinuations that there are things -- apparitions to the Buddhists but flashes of intelligence as real as you or me to me -- that act out of malevolence, and that our ultimate fate is to lose our identity altogether in the cosmic pool.

This Third Way escapes the internal contradictions that I see everywhere in more conventional views.  It is, unlike the scientific materialism of Carroll and Tyson and unlike the mainstream religious traditions, compatible with the facts:

  • God cannot have made the little tribe of Jews His "chosen people."
  • God the Father is petty and petulant; so is the Islamic God.
  • Jesus cannot have been sent down "to save us all from Satan's power when we were gone astray," notwithstanding Kierkegaard's clever attempt to turn the implausibility of Christianity into its highest virtue.
  • And yet Fatima really happened; 70,000 people were present at the great Spinning of the Sun.
  • Cattle mutilations are real; ask a veterinarian in Colorado.  Anecdotally, human mutilations may also be equally real.
  • Craft "as big as a Walmart" have hovered over our ICBM installations and disabled them.
  • Creatures from beyond the veil can choose whichever form they wish to use to impress something upon us -- awe, reverence, fear, confusion.  In 1897 they were friendly pilots of airships traveling across the central US, but they have also been elves, fairies, leprechauns, djinn, skinwalkers and dogmen, mantises and reptiles, angels and devils.
Even though they believe that they will simply be annihilated when they die, the aforementioned scientific materialists draw a real ontological comfort from the fact that they think they know, or soon will know, what is really happening.  And those in the Raymond Moody school of thought of course draw comfort from the notion that death will take them to the happy valley, there to be reunited with their loved ones.

Where I am now, as time gets very short, unfortunately offers little or no ontological comfort. I am not subscribing to a theory for the sake of stitching a stuffed animal that I can cling to in my sleep.  Rather, in the Ocean of Consciousness, I am as helpless and anonymous as an individual plankton in the deepest of our earthly seas.

In truth, it may be more healthy, psychologically, to follow the path of the folksinger Iris DeMent, who in her exquisitely down-home voice repeatedly admonishes us to "Let the Mystery Be."

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