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What is Death? What Happens to Consciousness After We Die?

11553677_lWhy does everything have to die?

Life needs death to maintain a balance. Without one, you cannot have the other. Without death, living entities would multiply and consume everything, thus destroying all of creation. Consciousness provides for a balance by making life and death interdependent. Like the Apollonian energies of creation are balanced by the Dionysian energies of destruction, life and death are really two aspects of the same.

The renowned mythologist, Joseph Campbell, answers this question by demonstrating how Life lives on Death. In order to continue its existence, Life Must Feed on Other Life. Life and death, as a consequence, are two sides of the same coin.

Who or What Dies When We Lose a Friend or Loved One?

When the brain dies, we don’t know what happens. In fact, “happening” stops, for our bodies are the vehicles by which we experience this world of time and space.

When the body dies, the tools to experience this world – our sensory apparatus – cease to function. The body, however, is not merely a shell or avatar, giving us sensory experiences. The body is animated by something deeply rooted in all life – consciousness. While consciousness is immanent (present in every part of this universe), it is also transcendent. So, when the body dies, consciousness does not, for it is of the transcendent.

As we think, we create time (within the brain). We orient ourselves in time and space with apodictic certainty that the rules of the duality, to which we are subject, apply across the universe. We therefore understand that everything is subject to this great cycle of Birth / Death / Rebirth.

Recognition of this great cycle, seen throughout nature, may have played a part in the 1st great act of civilization – burial of the dead. Through this act we honor the heroic act of being alive and struggling through the various levels of consciousness we discussed in Robert Johnson’s work.

This act represents a beginning in the shift from human animal to human spirit.

What Becomes of Consciousness After We Die?

As we noted before, while the body dies, consciousness does not. Transcendent Consciousness is not of duality (the world of time and space); it transcends our sensory experience but also gives rise to it.

Time and Space are intrinsic to our experience of duality. As we think, we are creating time. One cannot describe transcendence is it is beyond time and space, it is everything and nothing, it is and it is not; it is beyond the act of description itself.

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The Three Levels of the Evolution of Consciousness Depicted in Classic Literature

The three levels of the evolution of consciousness, that vie for dominance at various points within our lives, are represented by Don Quixote, Hamlet and Faust in Robert Johnson’s seminal work, Transformation: Understanding the Three Levels of Masculine Consciousness.

Don_Quijote_and_Sancho_PanzaDon Quixote – the innocent child, unaware of life’s pain. This is simple awareness, a direct connection with nature.

File-Hamlet,_Prince_of_DemarkHamlet – conscious imperfection, a person divided within himself, not knowing how to act, feeling out of control, incomplete, powerless and in despair at the tragedies of life. This is often viewed as the state of Western man today.

Faust – the state of a fully integrated person, who has grown in awareness by struggling through the pitfalls and pain of the second level of consciousness. Through inner work, Faust – like us – restores to wholeness that which he had torn apart and becomes open to the ecstatic, authentic consciousness that derives from the alignment of ego and soul.

While the book title speaks of “masculine” consciousness, Johnson is not speaking of the male gender – these aspects of consciousness are applicable to all people, men and women alike. He is speaking of the attributes which are attached to the masculine aspect of the psyche – assertiveness, a call to action and the like. Johnson speaks to the feminine aspects of consciousness in his excellent work, She.