She told me she understood what I was saying—that the root of all fear is the fear of death—but that for her it was not true. Fear of death fled her during an experience that occurred between clinical death and medical resuscitation. In that experience she stood as a soul in a tunnel of light that radiated love-bliss through her. There were radiant others there with her in the tunnel as well. All was joy in this near-death experience and it changed her forever.
She still has fears in life, yes, she admits, but death is not among them. How can she fear death knowing there is an afterlife? And knowing that it is heaven?
Does a positive near-death experience (NDE) eradicate the fear of death? Or does it lessen, and in some cases eradicate, the stranglehold of Westernized brain-self for heart-self? Do those raised in heart-based cultures fear death in the way that we do? Surely, they do not because they do not process time the way we do. Their ancestors don’t live in the deep past, they are here now. Everything is both past and here now. But we Westerners process time linearly—that is, we see a past, present, and future. Experiencing life this way, we see that our future has an ending called “death.” Beyond death is the unknown, it’s a mystery about which we imagine and teach innumerable great and terrible things.
What is fear of death? Isn’t it fear of discontinuity? Fear of total annihilation?
The brain-based self is the egoic self. Ego is the thought that governs all other thoughts. Ego mistakenly believes it is its job title—an entity separate and apart from those thoughts—an actual being in and of itself. This is an illusion. There is no governor called “I” governing thoughts. There is the brain’s process of governing, which is a thought process. But if I don’t understand that, if I believe I am more than thought, alive unto myself, then I fear death.
Truly, what I am is the brain/body’s life drive being personified as fear of death. The physical body does not want to die until it is ready through old age, the ravages of disease, or what have you. In those circumstances one may say they are “ready to die”. There can be acceptance. Outside of those circumstances, however, we feel it is “not our time to go” and so we reflexively struggle to stay alive. The body wants to live and this is translated into the self fearing death. All very materialistic, right?
Now, the body is confronted with death in an NDE. A perceiver still exists even though the body is out of commission. This continuity of personhood is a welcome surprise to the Westerner; to be expected in nonlinear heart cultures. If the Westernized person is religious, an NDE may confirm their beliefs about the afterlife—whether they experienced “heaven” or “hell”. If they were atheist prior to the experience, they may be inclined to get religion because, seemingly, here it is, more real than real. But in heart cultures, none of this is a surprise, none of it belongs to Western religion, and in most cases they have taught themselves how to stay or move on after life.
All of this is to point out that what Westernized people experience in an NDE is the death of the brain’s ego-self illusion and the continuity of the witness beneath that mask. Being physically resuscitated, one comes back reorganized. Such a one comes back into heart-self but hasn’t the culture to understand and foster this new sense of being—which is its own problem. For now it is enough to say that she comes back the same but different. Herself but alighted differently. She glows. She knows. There is no death. Linear time was a lie. The brain-self was an illusion. We all go on eternally. Fear of physical death has been wiped away because, as we have discovered, that fear was a mistranslation of the body’s life drive personified and felt as “I”.
But fear of physical death is not fear of death per se. The larger fear of death is fear of discontinuity—fear of annihilation. And now, thanks to the NDE, that fear is firmly suppressed because the experiencer, in seeing continuity beyond the physical, and feeling the forgiving bliss of transpersonal love, has given herself permission to ignore the fear of annihilation. This is the fear that exists even in heart cultures who do not over-identify with and as the brain—who understand life enough to not fear physical death.
There is another question that must be asked here: Is facing the fear of death the same as understanding it? Near-death experiences can offer a dramatic confrontation with death if one realizes she is about to die and then does, but still finds herself existing. Similarly, one who ingests a large amount of a hallucinogenic compound often has a phase of regret with the knowledge that there’s no turning back. This fear snowballs into a fear of death that is quelled either when they submerge into their dramatic visionary journeys or upon their return to normal consciousness. Facing and confronting death is not the same as understanding it, for to face or confront and “win” requires an “I” that overcomes the fear to remain intact, to remain relatively the same but different. Now you know something that others who have not gone through these ordeals can only guess at. Perhaps you are more heart-centered, more open and loving, less hardened and demanding. But you are still you and you can still fall from that perch back into brain mode. You can even redevelop that fear of physical death if you’re not careful, because you don’t understand the whole movement. And because you live in a brain-based society, you can develop a type of heart-based narcissism where you only talk to likeminded people and repress real discernment because it feels too much like brainy judgments. Whereas before you were closed off to heart, now you run the risk of closing off to brain. It is not enough to transcend the brain, one must transcend and include the healthy aspects of brain.
Expanding the mind includes expanding the self, but it is not the total transformation that occurs without choice, without will, when one fully understands all of this. When one understands all of this movement, that understanding has its own effect, which is stillness. And that stillness is a void. And that void is the life force. And now such a one who understands dies and is reborn, truly alive—heart, brain, and all of the body. But only if one does not read these words hoping for, praying for, or expecting a result, for that is also movement.
Movement is the wrong move. In movement there is no moving on.