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YOU WILL BE BROKEN INTO PIECES
The Body, Soul, and Spirit and Three Traditions About Death
The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and cuts so deeply it divides the soul from the spirit.
... I cut you in pieces with ... the words of my mouth.
Consider this, or I will tear you to pieces ...
[Those who] have altogether broken the yoke, and burst the bonds ... shall be torn in pieces ...
... ye shall be broken in pieces ... ye shall be broken in pieces.
Death had always been both inevitable and inscrutable. No one knew what was on the other side, but all knew they'd end up there eventually.
In a world saturated with chaos and injustice, humanity came to view death as the only certainty. Nothing else could be counted on. Subject to everything from thirty-second tornadoes to 1,000-year ice ages, and earthquakes that seemed to be constantly decimating cities, shifting rivers, or altering landscapes, the world never seemed very stable. For tens of thousands of years, humanity watched slack-jawed and uncomprehending as oceans became deserts and mountains became islands, as sea levels rose and fell, as the Earth's magnetic poles wandered drunkenly across the globe, as the very constellations in the sky slowly rearranged themselves. It registered upon humanity's developing psyche, albeit dimly, that the sky could change; comets, supernovas, and eclipses reminded humanity again and again that even the very heavens were subject to inconsistency and upheaval. Every generation learned the hard way that nothing—neither land nor sky nor even country or culture—could be counted on; political powers came and went as regularly as the breath of a sleeping child, and cultures were forever evolving, degenerating, or being conquered. Generation after generation, age after age, mankind observed everything under the sun, but ultimately saw nothing but change.
The point was impossible to overlook, having been hammered into humanity's psyche every day for tens of thousands of years: everything changed. Everything, that is, except death. Death was the only constant the human race ever encountered, the only equalizer, the only certainty. Death owned everything. Death was forever, eternal, like a god. Death was everything.
Once Man determined that death was the only thing that could be counted on, he did count on it, heavily. The leaders of the world were so thoroughly convinced of the reliability of death, in fact, that they based all their power and position on it, founding the empires of the world on the simple hypothesis that when a man was killed, he would stay dead.
For tens of thousands of years, the heavy shadow of death hung unchallenged over all the world, silently denying the reality and value of life, and this fact, as much as anything, shaped the development of the human psyche. For tens of thousands of years, every family, nation, and race came up with its own ideas about death; religions, cultures, even great civilizations were founded on such beliefs. In the inner recesses of the human psyche, the great and mysterious Secret of Death took on proportions so enormous they were barely even hinted at by humanity's ultimate tribute to death, the Great Pyramid of Egypt. Death felt like the oppressive shadow of just such a mountain; looming monstrously over everything, it was simultaneously unknowable yet unforgettable, undeniable yet unalterable.
It's doubtful whether anyone living today could fully appreciate how profound an impression it must have made upon humanity when, 2,000 years ago, an entirely new wrinkle appeared in this mystery, a wrinkle which forever altered the image of death in the human psyche. An unprecedented report began circulating at that time, insisting, despite all reason, that someone came back. From the most wretched slave to the most exalted prince, people everywhere found their grasp on reality challenged by the idea that somebody had risen from the dead.
The story changed the human psyche, and the world it ruled, forever. The idea that life could triumph over death had entered the human psyche for the first time, and nothing would ever be the same again. Death remained inscrutable, but it no longer seemed to be quite so inevitable. In response to this change, the whole world changed.
However, while death may have seemed somewhat less inevitable than before, people still didn't know what death was, except now a man was supposed to have risen from the grave, and no one understood how that could be possible, either. The legends surrounding this man claimed that his death represented a great boon to humanity, that through it, somehow, many others would be saved from death; but no one pretended to understand the actual logical mechanics of how this was supposed to work. Conquering death, it seemed, only deepened its mystery. With Jesus' entry into the picture, the nature of death became—and remains today—the central mystery of the Judeo-Christian tradition, around which all else ultimately revolves.
These all-important questions remain unanswered 2,000 years later. In fact, in all these years not a single theory has surfaced offering intellectually honest explanations of the nature of death, the Christian Resurrection, or the promise of eternal life. These three mysteries are all really just different facets of the same question—what is death?
Those few traditions we do have about death offer three mutually exclusive answers to its mystery, and the origins of each stretch back into the unrecorded depths of time. One school of thought simply holds that there is no afterlife at all, that physical death completely terminates the individual; another promises an afterlife of perpetual reincarnation; and the third warns of an eternal afterlife in either heaven or hell. These three conflicting traditions have remained deadlocked since the dawn of history; today, as in every age, each enjoys massive support from equally enthusiastic devotees.
Science and Death
People today tend to take for granted that modern science will provide solutions for all the dreary problems that plagued previous generations. However, even though it has proven itself marvelously capable of untying many of the other thorny knots of reality, science doesn't seem to provide much help in solving this particular dilemma.
The primary scientific opinion is that once the body dies, the individual is entirely dead and nothing remains. However, two new branches of scientific investigation have arisen in the latter half of the twentieth century, both offering formidable rebuttals to that opinion. Unfortunately, these new studies also seem to contend with each other. The data coming in from past-life regression research strongly suggests that the reincarnation tradition is correct; subjects who delve hypnotically into their unconscious memories consistently come up with convincing recollections of past lives. The data coming in from near-death experience research, however, indicates just the opposite—that after death people permanently enter heaven-or-hell type experiences, generally found to be populated with long-deceased friends and relatives. Finding those friends and relatives there directly conflicts with the data from the past-life regression research: those long-lost friends and relatives have obviously not reincarnated, since they still remain in that "heaven" or "hell" the near-death experiencers briefly visit. So, according to science, after death we either die entirely, or we reincarnate, or we permanently enter a heaven or hell.
Science doesn't seem to be much help.
On the other hand, traditional religions are known to have preserved some of humanity's oldest and most valued teachings. Possessing mysterious origins, many such traditions seem to be older even than any specific culture or civilization. Religions have always claimed to safeguard invaluable information from primordial times, including, they say, the secrets of life and death. Since science, that celebrated panacea of the twentieth century, has failed thus far to solve this mystery, such traditions deserve, if for no other reason than their very longevity, to be examined as well.
The Binary Mind
In his chronicle of humanity's origins, the author of Genesis betrays a pronounced interest in binary systems. Apparently perceiving nature itself as fundamentally binary, Genesis suggests that everything was originally created in complementary units of twos: chaos and light, heaven and earth, sun and moon, day and night, water and firmament, plants and animals, man and woman, and soul and spirit (Genesis 1:3-27). Today, science would add a few more items to such a list: the brain, perfectly divided into left side and right side, and the human psyche itself, with its conscious and unconscious halves.
But it wasn't always realized that the human psyche possesses a binary structure; it was only in the last century that science even conceded the existence of the unconscious. Before Freud, fully half of all human consciousness went essentially unrecognized by science; today, the scientific world universally acknowledges that the human psyche is indeed formed of two separate and distinct components.
Study of the mind has revealed that the conscious and unconscious are, despite what their names suggest, not merely two different forms of the same substance; the unconscious is not just a lesser or lower form of consciousness. They are fundamentally different types of mind, with completely different modes of operation.
Consciousness proceeds in terms of analysis and differentiation, in terms of special attention to "the most minute details." The unconscious, on the other hand, has an opposite way of thinking. Non-analytical, undifferentiated, it takes its symbols as they are, and does not break them down as consciousness does.... [T]he basic categories and ways of procedure are different in consciousness from those that prevail in the unconscious.... Its mode of thinking is altogether different from what we understand by "thinking."
Each side of the psyche possesses characteristics and capacities unique to itself. However, neither part is sufficient alone; each needs the input of the other. The two sides of the mind thus complement one another, together forming a whole—the self—far greater than the sum of their parts.
The conscious mind's objectivity allows it to distinguish and differentiate between forms, providing humanity with its logic and analytic reasoning, the foundation of all science, technology, and civilization. And, more importantly still, the conscious mind has free will, the power to make choices and decisions. The basic design of the human mind grants all the free will to the conscious and none to the unconscious, which risks letting the mind become one-sided. The conscious is able, under this design, to repress and inhibit its other half, the unconscious; and since it is essentially masculine, or self-assertive, in nature, it tends to use this ability regularly.
The unconscious has equally essential qualities. Although much of its activity occurs outside our awareness, the unconscious is constantly releasing material into the conscious mind; this secret participation of the unconscious is vital, providing the balance necessary for a healthy psyche.
Whereas the conscious is logical, the unconscious is emotional; and since it lies below the threshold of awareness, we tend to experience the emotion it releases into the conscious not as something we have chosen, but as something which happens to us. And whereas the conscious is active and enterprising and takes the initiative, the unconscious is almost purely reactive in nature; much of what it does is in response to outside stimuli. It is also receptive and therefore functions as the mind's memory center, receiving and storing all information, experiences, and other memory data. The unconscious contains a complete, perfectly preserved, unedited record of all the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of a person's past. However, since the memory-bearing unconscious is also emotionally-based, memory recall tends to be an emotional experience; memories are generally found to be imbued with an aura of emotion. Memories which lack an emotional charge, having little personal meaning or importance, tend to be more difficult to recall than memories which contain strong emotional ingredients. Storing all memory, the unconscious is necessarily both vast and deep and has often been likened to a limitless dark ocean within the psyche.
Essentially female in character, the unconscious is the source of value-awareness in the human psyche. While the conscious will coolly note an object's outer characteristics, it takes the unconscious' more intuitive perspective to recognize if those characteristics hold any personal value or meaning; the conscious quantifies, the unconscious qualifies.
Although the unconscious is subjective, allowing feeling, rather than law, to form the ultimate basis of its value system, it also possesses an innate understanding of good and evil, making it the source of humanity's moral consciousness. And, as the inner creator of images and patterns, the "matrix-mind" that gives birth to thought-forms in the psyche, it is also the source of all instinct, intuition, and dreams.
While the conscious mind tends to recognize specific details and differences between things, the unconscious focuses on issues of connectedness and unity; thus, the unconscious often reflects a certain timeless quality, a feeling of oneness and universality.
These two halves of the mind are fully dependent upon one another; each lacks and needs what the other possesses. While the conscious is the seat of free will, able to make new and creative decisions, by itself it has no ability for recall, and must rely on the unconscious to provide it with memory data when it needs it. The unconscious, the equal but opposite partner of the conscious, lacks free will; like an automatic computer, it is incapable of making any independent decisions whatsoever. But the unconscious instinctively recognizes all subjective value content, automatically processes all command messages, and, as the seat of all memory, precisely records all input from the conscious.
Although psychology first discovered this binary mind in the days of Freud and Jung in the early 1900s, it took biology nearly a full century longer to make the same discovery for itself. In recent years, however, medical research on the hemispheres of the human brain has reached essentially the same conclusions as those arrived at by Freud and Jung—that a fundamental division exists within the psyche. Each hemisphere seems to have a mind of its own; or, rather, each hemisphere seems to be related to a different half of the whole mind. The two hemispheres, again, seem to have completely different styles of processing information: the left hemisphere seems language- and analysis-oriented, while the right seems to process information holistically. The left brain, like the conscious, is critical and detail-oriented, while the right brain, like the unconscious, seems emotional, creative, comprehensive, pattern-matching, and analogy-forming, and is even suspected of being the source of dreams.
Two Minds, Two Scenarios
Since, in apparent support of modern psychological theory, medical research also seems to have found evidence of two distinct realms of consciousness in the human psyche, the question now becomes, "What happens to such a binary mind at death?"
The fate of this binary system is the key to the Secret of Death: whatever happens to one's mind after death would indicate the nature, if any, of the afterlife. If personal consciousness continues on in any fashion after physical death, then there is such a thing as an afterlife; but if no threads of one's psyche survive at all, there is not. It has always seemed, quite reasonably, that these were the only two alternatives, that death could only go one way or the other. Yet not one of Earth's present philosophies or religions has taken into account the binary structure of the human psyche in connection with the question of post-death survival of consciousness. Instead, only two dominant theories postulate an afterlife—either a never-ending flow of reincarnations or a never-changing eternity in either heaven or hell.
Excerpted from THE DIVISION OF CONSCIOUSNESS by PETER NOVAK. Copyright © 1997 Peter Novak. Excerpted by permission of Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc..
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