The Fear of Death: A Great Illusion, by Ginny Brock
(Article originally published in The Llewellyn Journal.)
Fear is the most fearful of all things, and it, in itself, is an illusion. The fear of death is one of its greatest cultivations. Death can freak you out totally. And unless you think about it, take it apart molecule by molecule, and begin to figure it out, it will continue to paralyze you. Look around the next airport you visit. White knuckles everywhere, intestinal uproars, darting eyes, shrill rudeness, and suspicion fill the air. The fear of death has a grip on at least half of the travelers there.
No one is immune to fear; it goes around like the common cold. It infects whole congregations with ideas of hellfire and damnation. The politics of fear affect whole populations. Put a snake within ten feet of me and some primordial instinct takes hold and I discover that I can jump five feet off the ground—and fly the rest of the way. Well, more or less. The fear of death has given me wings.
Illusion or not, fear can really turn on the jets inside us. It's called an illusion, because if we think it through we find that there are things we can do to change the emotion. Whistling a happy tune with a snake rearing back to strike doesn't quite do it for me. But I can get the heck out of its way—quietly and with a minimum of fuss.
Mohandas Gandhi, the great Hindu pacifist, was once quoted as having said that the more he thought about it, the more he studied, the more he became convinced that sorrow over death may be the greatest illusion. "There is no death," he said. "No separation of substance."
Sorrow may be an illusion, but it also brings great physical pain. Gandhi is saying that if we can see through the illusory mists of sorrow with its incumbent pain, if we can understand and believe that there is no death, we can then take the deep sorrow out of grief.
We don't die. I know that. Our physical bodies stop working when, for whatever reason, old age, illness, or accident, the source of their energy departs. "The dear departed" is what we miss, what we grieve for, but in the reality of the collective consciousness, their energy is still very much alive, very much within our own sphere of consciousness, our own physical and ethereal space. It hasn't left us.
But you already know this. You're just not sure whether you believe it or not. Have you ever felt a spirit? Or heard a spirit? Have you ever seen one in a dream? Most of us have. And most of us shake our heads in disbelief and say, "I've had too much coffee!" It's not easy to admit that you've seen a ghost; nobody wants to open themselves to ridicule. And it's not surprising. For centuries, we've been well tutored in keeping our mouths shut about such things. But there have been some over the years who weren't so prudent, and they paid for it. It wasn't all that long ago that people who said they saw dead people or people who claimed to be able to communicate with the dead, would be hauled up before some pontifical city council, and asked to explain themselves by a group of blustering, pot-bellied old men spraying spit all over the place. The next thing they knew, they were being carted off to the nearest fire pit. And the whole village showed up for the fireworks!
Well, I see dead people. I feel them, I hear them, and I communicate with them. I have no fear of ridicule, and because witch burning has become unfashionable, I'm not afraid of institutional councils or inquisitions. I'm hoping to light up the village in a very different way, with light that can permeate that darkest part of our greatest fear—the fear of death.
Since childhood I've been aware of other realities that hang out with us. Ghosts, if you like, auras around people, I pick up mood or illness in someone very easily. But I never paid much attention to any of this as I was growing up. Much like a dog or a cat, I accepted their presence without question or much interest. They just were. It wasn't until I lost a parent, and then another parent, and then a husband that I began to take serious notice. Following my husband's death, I began to study everything I could get my hands on that had anything to do with death and dying, but most particularly, soul survival. Little did I know that all of this study was actually preparing me for the most devastating event of all—the death of my youngest son at age twenty-six.
"He died at 3:20 p.m. …The ticking of ice on the windows had stopped. Snow fell gently on the city. It blanketed the asphalt, the brick walkway, the street near the hospital. No birds sang. Nothing moved but the steady, white flutter of Rocky Mountain snow. Denver lay still beneath its crystals. As still as death and the silence that comes with dying."*
Buried under the rubble of my life, the cave-in of my existence, I searched for every teacher on the subject of soul-survival I had ever had. I researched the writings of Plato, Socrates, the French philosophers, and the Transcendentalists of New England (who included Walt Whitman, Longfellow, Emerson, and Louisa May Alcott). And then one evening, sitting in the gloom of a hotel bedroom, exhausted and filled with paralyzing sorrow, a shaft of light broke through the darkness. It began to glow, and to grow stronger and stronger as it filled the space around me, permeating the blackness, its warmth melting the ice in my heart as I stared in awe at the spirit of my son.
My physical eyes were open and trying to focus on something they couldn't see...my sixth sense, my spirit watched in amazement. He was alive, whole, feeling—his hair was dark and curly brown—just as I had seen it five days ago before he died, and his cheeks were flushed. When his eyes met mine they were filled with tears. The emotion I felt in him was stronger than any emotion I've ever felt on Earth. My son lived!
We don't die. We go on from here, leaving the limiting constraints of this human body behind. What a relief! We once again become the magnificent spirit being that is our natural state. We move on thought. We manifest our desires, our wishes in thought, and our understanding of all things human is clarified and we are filled with deep compassion beyond our earthly understanding. So I am told. In myriad conversations with my son I learned about the place he's in. These talks are usually preceded by a massive whoosh of energy that signals he is with me; I feel his essence, but not only that, I hear his voice, I can feel his skin—living and warm, I can touch his face and his hair.
I still miss his physical presence. So much. I would like to pick up the phone and just say "Hi!" I would like to hug him and hold him just one more time. When I have those very human thoughts, I suddenly remember that I can. He hasn't gone far. Of that I am sure.
Sometimes someone will say, "Yeah, you're a writer—you can imagine anything you want! Maybe you're imagining all this." And that's true. As a writer I have a boundless imagination that I recognize as such and I understand very well. It will take me anywhere I like; I can make it do anything I want to. The difference between it and this other energy is that I cannot manipulate it. The messages I get are sure and come from outside of me and my knowledge. I cannot change them or make them sound the way I want them to. They just are.
So, death is not an illusion. But because we are human we feel the illusion of sorrow and grief. The best part of this is that we all have the ability to transcend our humanity; most of us have just forgotten that once we were vibrant spirit beings who could do miraculous things. We still are, but now we're covered in this sheath called the human body. It's not impermeable. There are constant "bleed-throughs," and memories from the other side. Have you ever dreamed you were flying? Voila!
We are vibrant spirits living on a human plane with all its difficulties. Fear may be our greatest challenge. Could it be that one of our reasons for being here is to conquer fear in all its aspects, in all its disguises? I'm thinking that that is the secret of true happiness.
*From the book By Morning's Light by Ginny Brock. Copyright 2012 by Ginny Brock. Used by permission from Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd.
Article originally published in The Llewellyn Journal. Copyright Llewellyn Worldwide, 2012. All rights reserved.