Laurel’s “Fearing Fundamentalism” article that was published in “Salem Monthly” caught the eye of a Salem writer. He emailed Laurel, expressing interest in our plans to organize a local Church of the Churchless discussion group.
I’ve enjoyed browsing his “The Big If” weblog, whose masthead reads: “Some people think it’s crazy to believe in anything but death after life. Other people think it’s crazy to believe that death ends life. If death doesn't truly kill us--that's the big if--it changes everything.”
Amen to that, The Muse Guy (nom de plume of the weblog’s author). It does indeed change everything. Most postings on The Big If focus on near-death experiences and the evidence (or lack of it) for life after death. But “The Universe Made Me Do It” takes a broad look at how “the Universe” has become a substitute term for “God,” as in “Your house will sell when the Universe says it’s time.”
This is an apt observation that I had never thought of before. Nonetheless, when Laurel had finished reading that post she exclaimed, “Are you sure you don’t have another weblog? This guy sounds just like you.” I not-so-humbly thought, “Ah, how wonderful that Salem has another wise and eloquent writer on metaphysical matters.”
We do indeed seem to be kindred spirits. The Muse Guy has, well, mused on what it would be like to invent the church of your fondest dreams. Most of his vision sounds wonderful to me, though as a singing- and dancing-impaired person I’m not wild about the idea of expressing my spirituality in these fashions. My dream would be to observe the singers and dancers from a stationary mute position, waiting for the “service” to revolve back to talking.
Laurel and I are visualizing the Church of the Churchless as more of a discussion group. But it certainly is true that people “discuss” in different ways. Some are cerebral, some are emotional. Some are highly verbal, others are largely non-verbal. Some are looking for support, others seek to be challenged. A truly open, inclusive church would accommodate many types of people.
Concerning near-death experiences (NDEs), I enjoyed reading Treesha Richie’s account: “Near-Death Experience Of God As Holographic Presence Of Light And Sound.” Treesha facilitates meetings of the Portland Oregon Friends of IANDS (International Association for Near-Death Studies). I’m fascinated by stories of near-death experiences, largely because I readily admit to a deep fear of death. I’ve never had a NDE, per se, but I’ve experienced being embraced by the dark—the scary flip side of being embraced by the light.
Philosophically, near-death experiences tend to support a belief in reincarnation and karma. However, the Western (or at least American) mind seems to have a different “take” on this than Eastern mystics. For Hindu and Buddhist sages, reincarnation is unwanted and karma is its cause. But often the New Age approach is to look upon desire, the root of karma, as a good thing. “We are born again so that we may experience fresh desired forms of earthly life.” This is just what the Buddha said is the cause of suffering: desire.
So I’ve always found it hard to understand why coming back for another earthly life is supposed to be so great. If I’m confused, anxious, and looking for answers to the big questions of life now, what is going to change the next time around? I really like the prospect of experiencing God as a presence of light and sound, holographic or otherwise. Give it to me now though, not just after death. And don’t take it away once I have it.
Many forms of meditative practice refer to “dying while living.” This interests me more than actually coming close to dying and seeing what I experience, a decidedly chancy proposition. Voluntarily attempting to die to physicality while sitting comfortably on my meditation cushion is more appealing to me than non-voluntarily crashing head-on into a semi truck.
To my mind, NDEs offer an advance peek at what lies near the end of the spiritual path. Meditation is the path itself.