A Requiem for Mass.
ll dressed up and nowhere to go. The "afterlife" is a misleading word because there is only life, and it never stops no matter how things appear. The theater of a funeral is an expensive show for the mourners' benefit. After all, the deceased aren't present to appreciate the drama, are they. Or are they? There could be an unseen guest watching and listening to the pageantry with great wonder from another room.
The Other Room.
Spending the night at my grandmother's tiny apartment was a treat when I was a small child. We would watch black and white television into the night. Her favorite fare was stuff like Dragnet, The Untouchables and Perry Mason. I would always fall asleep on the old couch. When I awoke, I was in her bedroom and the sun would be streaming through the window. It was morning. I had no memory of how I ended up there. As a kid it was always surprising. She would pick up my little body up from the couch and carry me to her double bed, where she gently lay me down in the other room. I have told this story at many funerals as an illustration to describe the transition of death.
In my teens I felt drawn to the field of mortuary science, but chose art college instead. In 1978 I was called to the gospel ministry. An average student, it took awhile to complete my post-secondary education in Bible with a B.S. degree in Pastoral Studies. My first church was like men were waiting for a pastor to come so they could die. With no experience I was doing almost back to back funerals. I sat with men on their deathbeds, consoled families, wrote homilies for the departed and grew acquainted with local funeral directors. Plenty of business. One remarked to me how similar our vocations were, providing essentially the same service.
When the time came to bury my parents, I was a bit more seasoned. Dad went first. He had recently purchased two plots at Philadelphia's prestigious West Laurel Hill Cemetery. Here were the mausoleums of famous industrialists and barons of days past. Being a Jew, dad's service was a delicate matter. I really had no idea what he believed, but I also knew what he did not believe. I read from the Book of Lamentations. Before he died it seemed like he was trying to reconnect with his Jewish roots. For him, an accomplished painter, creativity was the purpose of life. I figured he might be listening. Except for my mom who rode in a limousine, we all walked behind the hearse as snow fell silently. A mourner sang kaddish at his committal. My powerful father always had the last word, until now. I think death must have surprised him. Two black men with shovels stood in the cold at a distance politely waiting. I stopped to greet them. They were part of the whole drama too.
“If a man die, shall he live again?” - Job 14:4.
"They're in a better place." Typical of words we say to comfort survivors of a loved one, especially after a long illness or a difficult death. But we really don't know, do we? What place is that? Is it any different or better from this place? There is no way to know unless someone goes there and comes back to tell us. But dead men tell no tales, and nothing will convince the unbeliever, the skeptic or the pessimist: You just die and stay that way. The show is over, that's all.
No it's not! We have the testimony of Jesus Christ: "I am he that liveth and was dead. Behold, I am alive forever!" The other side is side by side with this side, we just can't see it. Death is not the end of life, because when we die we are actually more alive than before! Now, what happens at death all depends on your situation. It's not much different from life in the physical, largely dictated and manifested by your own choices. Like this world, there are certain laws and boundaries in operation as well. When we dream at night, our consciousness leaves our body and has vivid experiences out of time and space. There are people you know there but not here. Recurring events- even a whole saga can happen like chapters during the night. We return in the morning to the everyday world. But in death, you simply don't return. That's the astral plane you were on while dreaming. All experience, whether here or there, is only a creation of your own thoughts. All manifest things are the result of thinking and holding in consciousness that which we believe is so.
We have been misled concerning death. A wise man learns to change what he believes as he matures in knowledge. What you were sure of before may not be what you think now. Or later. It's not God's judgment you face but your own soul, an unflinching look at your total entity including past lives. There are no secrets, nowhere to hide, nothing can be feigned. We are not condemned for who we are, but to plan for our next stage of existence. Wise teachers are there to assist us.1:26
Sometimes people are not immediately aware they are dead. But once the vital connection is lost re-entry is impossible. This can cause panic at first until the soul is acclimated to its environment. Here there are new freedoms and less limitations. For many, it is a surprising relief just to realize they are still conscious.
N.D.E. Near-Death Experience.
Countless people claim to have had this experience. It sometimes happens during an accident, sudden illness or surgery. It seems a negative NDE is never reported, it's always the same: Their life flashes before them; a tunnel with light at the end, a bucolic scene or a benevolent luminous Being speaking, telling them "you must go back," etc.
The problem with such accounts is they are always the same: Too homogeneous. Each soul has distinctly different perception; religions are diverse; karma to be considered - casting doubt on this overworked scenario being the only one awaiting all persons at death. Where's the imagination? We see what we expect to see, influenced by conditioning and power of suggestion. If Jesus is what you are hoping to see, that's what you see. It doesn't mean it's really Jesus, remember you're dreaming. This principle of the self-fulfilling, after-death vision is described in one of the most detailed, scholarly and comprehensive books written on the subject, "Seth Speaks." Sometimes dead men do tell tales.
The Seth Material (1970) is a collection of writings dictated by Jane Roberts to her husband from late 1963 until her death in 1984. Roberts claimed the words were spoken by an entity called "Seth." The material is regarded as one of the most influential channeled texts of the twentieth century revival of occult interest. The reader who wants to know what happens when you die will be profoundly affected by this fascinating book: Instead of needless fear, ready to face the event of a lifetime.
In 1963, Jane Roberts and her husband experimented with a Ouija board as part of Roberts' research for a book on ESP. Roberts claimed she began to receive coherent messages from a male personality on December 2, 1963, who later identified himself as Seth. Soon after she reported hearing the messages in her head and began to dictating as her husband wrote rapidly in shorthand. For 21 years, until Jane's death in 1984, Roberts held regular sessions in which she went into trance and purportedly spoke on behalf of Seth. It is an impressive work. Having withstood the test of time, it is still considered one of the most dynamic and brilliant maps of inner reality available today.
According to Roberts, Seth described himself as independent of her subconscious, indicating he had completed his earthly incarnations and was speaking from an adjacent plane of existence. The Seth personality described himself as a teacher and said: "This material has been given by others in times and places, but is given again for each succeeding generation throughout the centuries."
The core teachings of the Seth Material are based on the principle that consciousness creates matter, and that each individual creates his or her own reality through thoughts, beliefs and expectations, and that the "point of power" through which the individual can effect change is in the present moment. God is referred to as "All That Is." Included is the evolution of the soul; aspects of death and rebirth; multidimensional realities, parallel lives and the Story of Christ.
"The Silver Cord."
This idea comes from the Book of Ecclesiastes, melancholy prose by Solomon, Israel's third king. He grew old, looking back on his glamorous life as nothing but vanity and vexation. From Chapter 12:6, 7.
"Or ever the silver cord be loosed, ...then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: And the spirit shall return unto God who gave it."
The Silver Cord is also known as the sutratma, or life-thread of the antahkarana, and refers to a life-giving linkage from the higher self, or Atman, down to the physical body.
Ātman is the true self beyond identification with phenomena, the essence; the spiritual life principle of the universe, especially when regarded as inherent in the real self of the individual. A person's soul.
Babies are born into this world with an umbilical cord connecting them to the life-giving source of the mother which is disconnected after birth. People die and enter the spirit world with an "umbilical-like cord" connecting their spirit body to the life-giving source of the physical body which is disconnected after death. Those having a near-death experience have described seeing this "umbilical-like cord" connecting their spirit body to their physical body. Many religious traditions describe this spirit-body connecting cord which is commonly known as the "silver cord." Just as the baby's umbilical cord must be severed for the baby to experience life, the silver cord must be severed for the spirit body to experience spiritual life. It is believed that the near-death experience does not involve the silver cord becoming severed; otherwise, the near-death experience would then become irreversible bodily death.
Death is not what many seem to think. It's not the horrible thing which is often pictured. Just a change - just a visit. The shears or scissors are indeed the implements most representative of life and death to man. These indeed unite by dividing - and divide by uniting. The cord does not, as usually thought, extend from the center - but is broken from the head, the forehead - that soft portion we see pulsate in the infant.
"Do you believe in ghosts? I do." - William Castle, producer.
The 1960 film, "Thirteen Ghosts" by William Castle and Rob White was about a man named Cyrus Zorba, who inherits an old mansion from his uncle, Dr. Zorba, a collector of ghosts from all around the world. Along with the house came a housekeeper, played by Margaret Hamilton. Plus a peculiar pair of spectacles with special lenses invented by Dr. Zorba, through which ghosts could be seen. The effect was a Saturday afternoon theater filled with screaming kids!
We received our very own Ghost Viewer along with our matinee movie ticket so we could follow along with Cyrus Zorba: Looking through red cellophane to see them, or blue if you were too scared and chose not to. Horror movies aside, the campy "Illusion-O" feature was actually scientific, an ingenious idea with regard to the spirit world- filled with beings inhabiting parts of the light spectrum invisible to us mortals.
If the veil were drawn, you would see yourself surrounded by unseen spirit beings and intelligences unfamiliar to our physical world. Yet they are there, separated from us by a thin filament. These beings are going about their own affairs with as little regard for us as we have for them. Sometimes the dead will haunt familiar abodes, often in denial, still attached and needing to be convinced that they have died. There are beings, according to Seth, assigned to gently help them understand.
It's not a tragic, somber event at all! Is that why we're here, to learn and prepare for the big moment? Our great exploits and accomplishments really amount to little. Our fortunes are gobbled up by heirs and taxes. Only what remains is what Christ called "treasure in heaven."
Of what value is that? "Lay not up treasure on earth where moth and dust doth corrupt and thieves break in and steal." Our only legacy is how we treated others. A word, a smile, a handshake can be a true gift.
If you didn't catch the pun in the title, "mass" doesn't refer to the Eucharist, but the stuff of this world: Matter, the substance we feel is solid. Einstein concluded mass is equal to light, which is all there really is. When the hour comes, with bravery we must bid farewell to the material things we think are so important: Family and friends, cars, homes, money. Compared to the vivid astral planes which are telepathic, the smart-phones we clench every waking minute will seem like a child's toy. The Wisdom of Truth, not charitable works is the treasure Jesus spoke of. Nobody can earn Life, and riches you can't take with you. But wisdom increases: The highest interest-bearing investment in the universe.
Truth is of no concern to the material-minded man, he is unable to discern it. One parable, The Rich Fool, describes this type: He is boastful, proud and confident in his many goods. "Thou fool!" Said the Lord. "Tonight thy soul shall be required of thee! Then whose shall those things be?" In another type, The Parable of the Hidden Treasure, when a man discovered where it was buried he was so overjoyed he bought the entire field. A wise speculator.
Ring around the rosy, a pocket full of posies.
Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.
2017 was a vintage year in my life for what felt like the grapes of wrath. My older brother and spiritual teacher went insane and committed suicide. The same brother who led me to the master forty-five years ago. He was 68. It was indeed baffling. One last family funeral to do, a task I never expected. Not Scott: So beloved the service was standing room only.
“If I ever get out of here, gonna give it all away. Too rich for charity, all I need is fine today. If I ever get out of here.” - The Beatles
"That wasn't the Scott we knew," everyone said. "He wouldn't have done that." Well it was him, and he did do that. I spoke with him only two weeks before by phone. "God is judging me," he said. "That's not so! I told him, You have done nothing wrong!" When the conversation ended, I hung up with a brief premonition. Nah, I thought. He'll be okay. Coincidentally, I was having my own health problems: Miserable and in constant pain.
"I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course.” - St. Paul
I thought the journey was about becoming joyful and spiritual, but this was hell. The path is not an easy one by any means. The closer we get the harder it becomes: We must endure the crucible of our own alchemy, the meltdown of impurities in the furnace of hard experience. Like a warrior, clawing our way to the threshold, tattered with battle scars- ready to advance and finally graduate this life. But during the refining process all we know is confusion. Alone in my garage late at night I would go and pray. Loud and out-loud, demanding answers from God's Silence. I knew exactly how my brother felt: It's the home stretch.
At times I pondered: I could start my car engine right here, sit in it and just go to sleep- Forever. It would be so easy. I thought of searching for my brother, but I pressed on and the long, agonizing nights always passed. I could not go, I had to stay.
One night I noticed a frog in my garage and momentarily forgot about my problems. "You can't stay here buddy." I chased him and grabbed him, cupping him in my hands. I have a pond lit up at night. I briskly carried the frightened, squirming frog out to the water and opened my hands. He leaped onto the rocks where other frogs were taking a swim. He must have thought he died and went to heaven. Like my grandmother used to do, I carried it to another room.
St. Paul said, We die while we live. A little bit each day as we yield, transformed into the likeness of Our Creator. Literally too, the cells in your body decay and grow back again. Imperceptibly, by ten years time all your parts are replaced, torn down and rebuilt until finally they must give out. We are not immortal and mistakenly think we are this body. The thought of losing it brings panic. My own father's last directive: Keep me alive whatever it takes! But alas, not even death obeyed him. A different kind of body awaits us- a suitable one. So you just painlessly, effortlessly slip into your new model. A sweet ride.