Make Dr Death your friend in 2009

If you haven't already made a New Year's Resolution, let me suggest one: Make death your friend, your daily companion. Rather than thinking of death as the Grim Reaper, imagine "him" or "her" as Dr. Death, the greatest and wisest teacher and healer you'll ever have.

"Ridiculous," you say? If so, you're taking issue with some great thinkers. The eminent Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung said that it is psychologically beneficial to have death as a goal toward which to strive. Mozart called death the key to unlocking the door to true happiness. Shakespeare wrote that when we are prepared for death, life is sweeter. The French philosopher Michel de Montaigne said that "to practice death is to practice freedom." Essentially, what they all say is that in understanding death, we come to understand life and better enjoy it.

When friends and acquaintances hear of my recently-released book, The Articulate Dead, they often react with some hesitation, as if death is a taboo subject. When I tell them that the book is about scientific research strongly suggesting that consciousness survives physical death while also telling a little about the afterlife environment as reported through various sensitives who have been able penetrate the veil, "One life at a time for me," is a typical reaction, a subtle and supposedly "intelligent" way of saying that the person is not interested in the subject matter.

I respond to that comment by saying that I agree that we should be living in the present, not looking ahead to some distant afterlife. But I add that the best way to live in the present, or to live in the "now," is to "live in eternity." That always brings puzzled expressions and requires some explanation.

It is not easy to explain how to "live in eternity," but the best analogy I can come up with is retirement from the work force. Most people, even those who find some joy and fulfillment in their jobs, look forward to retirement. They envision more freedom and opportunity to pursue things that really interest them and which involve less stress and conflict than their occupations. They anticipate more time for leisure activities, travel, maybe even an around-the-world cruise. Retirement is not something they constantly dwell on, but it is a motivator that more or less straddles the dividing line between the conscious and the subconscious. That's what "living in eternity" is like - having that long range goal in the back of the mind while still focusing on the present. It's like a baseball player taking each game as it comes, but still envisioning some day being in the Hall of Fame. It's something of a dream that continually inspires him to face up to the challenges.

What if retirement meant no income of any kind - no savings, no social security, no pensions? There would be nothing to look forward to except poverty, squalor and despair. Unfortunately, that is how most people look at death and the afterlife. Orthodox religion has not been able to paint a picture that offers anything more than a humdrum heaven or horrific hell. Assuming that a person feels qualified for the humdrum heaven, how can he or she get excited about floating around on clouds all day while strumming a harp, or in what seems like an endless Sunday church service singing hymns and praising God? How appealing is that?

In effect, there are three approaches to viewing death: 1) a march into an abyss of nothingness; 2) seeing the humdrum heaven and horrific hell of orthodoxy; 3) viewing it like beginning retirement with an around-the-world cruise. Those who make friends with Dr. Death usually settle on number three.

Various polls suggest that 80-85 percent of the U.S. population believe in an afterlife, but the problem is that they don't really "believe." They just "hope" for it while striving to be "one with their toys," worshipping celebrities as gods, and living in the moment, having no conception what death brings. They might as well be marching toward the abyss of nothingness that the atheist does his best not to think about.

"The idea of death, the fear of it, haunts the human animal like nothing else," cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker wrote in his 1974 Pulitzer prize-winning book, The Denial of Death. "It is a mainspring of human activity - activity designed largely to avoid the fatality of death, to overcome it by denying it in some way that it is the final destiny of man."

To free oneself of death anxiety, Becker explained, nearly everyone chooses the path of repression. We bury the anxiety deep in the subconscious and go about our every day activities mostly oblivious to the fact that in the great scheme of things those activities are exceedingly short-term and for the most part meaningless.

"The enemy of mankind is basic repression," said Becker. The theme of his book is that the unrepressed life can bring into birth a new man. In another book along the same line, The Broken Connection, Robert Jay Lifton, a distinguished professor of psychiatry and psychology, says much the same thing as Becker. "In real psychological ways, one must know death in order to live with free imagination," is the way Lifton puts it.

Lifton tells us that we have to be able to imagine it, to visualize it before we can accept the survival of consciousness. Therein is the failure of orthodox religion; there is nothing to visualize beyond harps and clouds. When we make Dr. Death our companion, however, we can begin to visualize something, even though it may never be completely in focus. In so visualizing, we begin to comprehend the divine plan. We are able to understand that there is no sudden enlightenment on the Other Side. There is no heaven-hell dichotomy. There are planes or dimensions to which our undying minds or souls gravitate based on the spiritual development achieved on earth. We are able to formulate a paradigm that involves a Creative Force, whatever shape He, She, or It takes, and are able to see how the divine plan plays itself out in cosmic evolution. We see how we are really souls occupying bodies rather than bodies housing souls and how our souls are progressing in finding their way back to Oneness with the Creator through the challenges, the adversities, the trials and tribulations offered us in a particular lifetime. We understand how a life without adversity offers little opportunity for growth. We come to appreciate the words of Mozart that "death, as we consider it closely, is the true goal of our existence."

That's as difficult for most people to understand as the controversial Atkins' Diet, which I have undertaken as part of my New Year's resolution to lose 20 pounds, is for me to comprehend. The Atkins' Diet calls for the dieter to eat all kinds of fatty foods, at least in the beginning stages. That makes absolutely no sense to me, but I know it worked for me in the past. Just as mainstream scientists take issue with the findings of psychical researchers who have discovered an "afterlife," many scientists find fault with the Atkins' Diet. It's hard to know what to believe, but one thing becomes clear and that is that science nearly always lags behind truth. There is something of a paradox in both death and the Atkins' Diet, but life often seems like one big paradox.

It is possible to view death in a positive light, in the same way we view retirement, but, unfortunately, orthodox religion has been as closed-minded as mainstream science in opening itself to true enlightenment. The Bible tells us to "seek and ye shall find," and further says that "seek ye first the kingdom of God." But you have to know where to look, and orthodox religion still doesn't know where to look.

And that is why I wrote The Articulate Dead, hoping that at least a few people might read it and visualize a spirit world, thereby helping them make friends with Dr. Death and "live in eternity." Moreover, many spirit messages suggest that knowledge of fundamental facts about the way things work on the "other side" facilitate one's "awakening" and progress in the new environment.