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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

RAW on the possibility of consciousness after death

Edward Babinski wrote to me last year and asked about Robert Anton Wilson, "Did he ever speak about hoping for life after death?  I'm curious."

I wrote back and said that I didn't know.

I noticed yesterday, however, that in the second David Brown interview, RAW was asked about that topic and took the time to give a thoughtful answer.

David: What do you think happens to consciousness after the death of the body?

Bob: I haven’t died yet, so I can’t speak with any assurance about that. My guesses remain guesses. I grant equal respect to the opinions of all men, women and ostriches, but no matter how sure any of  them sound, I still suspect them of  guessing, just like me. I wish they would use that liberating word “maybe” more often in their speculations.
If  I must flounder around in metaphysics, “the great Serbonian bog where armies whole have sunk,” I know of only five possibilities:  (1) heaven, (2) hell, (3) reincarnation, (4) “union with God” or some other entity a lot like “God,” and (5) oblivion. Only (1) heaven, seems frightening to me; an eternity of “bliss” with nobody around but Christians– such messmates as Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and others of that ilk–really sounds awful. There’s even a sinister rumor that the streets “are guarded” (brrrrrr!) by the United States Marines. Fortunately, according to the leading proponents of this model, I can’t get sent there because I don’t believe in Christ. Oh, goody. 
Of course, (2) hell sounds almost as bad, but it has its good points. Everybody  I admire from all history will get sent there, so the conversation should prove lively and stimulating. Besides, I find it impossble to believe that “God” (i.e. the assumed “Mind” behind the universe] suffers from the kind of  sadistic psychosis necessary to delight in eternal torture, and if “He” [or She  or It] does have that kind of nasty streak, well, as a part-time Buddhist, I’ll just have to forgive “Him” (or Her or It). I’ve started practising for this eventuality by forgiving all the people who’ve made this planet a good simulation of hell. 
(3) The reincarnation model  seems cheerier and somewhat less goofy than these morbid notions, so it doesn’t bother me. I even wish I could believe in it. 
(4) “Union with God” seems a great idea to me, if I understand it, like an acid trip that never ends. Now that’s what I’d prefer, if I have any choice in the matter. 
Finally, there’s (5) the oblivion model. I’ve never understood why so many people, like Woody Allen, find oblivion totally dreadful. If you’re oblivious, that implies no experience and, of course, no experiencer either. How can you fear or even resent what you will never experience? It seems to me that only an advanced case of narcissism, or a mangled confusion  of the map with the territory, can explain the bum rap that oblivion gets from most people. We all go there every night, between dreams, and it doesn’t hurt at all.


Edwardtbabinski said...

The experts on Heaven disagree about which conglomeration of religious believers will qualify, but they always seem to think that they personally belong to that elite group.An eternity with people that conceited seems intolerable to me.

An idea, which has terrified millions, claims that some of us will go to a place called Hell, where we will suffer eternal torture. This does not scare me because, when I try to imagine a Mind behind this universe, I cannot conceive that Mind, usually called “God,” as totally mad. I mean, guys, compare that “God” with the worst monsters you can think of--Adolph Hitler, Joe Stalin, that sort of guy. None of them ever inflicted more than finite pain on their victims. Even de Sade, in his sado-masochistic fantasy novels, never devised an unlimited torture. The idea that the Mind of Creation (if such exists) wants to torture some of its critters for endless infinities of infinities seems too absurd to take seriously. Such a deranged Mind could not create a mud hut, much less the exquisitely mathematical universe around us.

If such a monster-God did exist, the sane attitude would consist of practicing the Buddhist virtue of compassion. Don’t give way to hatred: try to understand and forgive him. Maybe He will recover his wits some day.

Robert Anton Wilson, “Cheerful Reflections on Death and Dying,” Gnoware, February 1999

Oz Fritz said...

In Cosmic Trigger RAW presents a life after death anecdote related to Aldous Huxley. The anniversary of Huxley's death was yesterday, the same day as this post. RAW also admits to realizing his immortality in CT.