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December 11, 2011


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The funny thing about the "primal fear" of non-existence is that it doesn't exist.

Both existence AND non-existence are transient states. Their perfect equivalence is pretty much obvious. Beyond both transient states is Reality itself, which is the foundation of both states and about which nothing can be said.

I can honestly say that I have no fear of death - only of dying. When I lay my head down on the pillow each night, I always invite the Grim Reaper to do what he does best. And he invariably does - he just ignores me.

The experience of existing can only be known by contrast with its opposite, non-existence, so consciousness involves unconsciousness; being on is inseparable from being off. Only to the degree that I, the living am nothing, am I something. To be anything I must be constantly reminded that I am potentially nothing.

I find this fear of non-existence very strange. We do not fear sleep, nor being put under anascetic, the lights simply go out and why should death be any different. What is fearful about death is the possible pain that might be involved depending on the process of dying, and the notion of leaving your loved ones, but death itself is surely not a problem, since there is no consciousness to fear the void. IMO it is only when we are awake do we contemplate things like the void, in death we dont contemplate or fear anything.

George, you're right: dying is what we fear, not death. But while we're alive, the anticipation of not existing can be scary. This is natural. If animals don't have a survival instinct, they won't survive very long, and we humans are animals.

Evolved ones, so not only do most of us fear genuine threats, but also imagined ones, both physical and psychological. We also can envision a future where death threatens our existence, which can be almost as scary as an actual immediate threat.

So just as we can get chills up the spine by imagining a killer is following us as we walk along a dark street, so can we become afraid by imagining ourselves dying and never existing again.

Going to sleep isn't scary, because every time we've done this, we've woken up again. Of course, this isn't guaranteed.

I agree with you, though, that there's something strange about fearing a state where we don't exist. I don't think it's unnatural to do this, just strange -- like so much else in life.

Yes Brian, I suppose there is a fear of dying, which could be attributed to either the evolutionary survival instinct or the pain associated with dying. However, the idea of vast fathomless cold bleak void, seems more an imprinted cultural belief. I find it interesting, but I think death if anything is a release from the actual tormented process of dying.

What is interesting for me about nature is that on average we tend to die when we are older, when we have experienced the world and perhaps even grown tired of it to an extent. What i think might be a very traumatic experience is to die when one is young and feel that one has missed out on so much of what life has to offer.

If the atheist worlview is correct, and you subscribe to it, then there is absolutely nothing to fear, since its lights out, end of. If however, you believe there is an afterlife or some consciousness or reincarnation, then there are are sorts of 'fear' hooks which religions and various spiritial traditions have played on people's psychosis and fears since time immemorial.

I understood the whole point of your Sant Mat escapade was Shabd Yoga, which is teaching one how to die in effect. I dont quite see tho how knowing how to die in such supposedly altered states, teaches one about life tho.

God -or- Not God:


(audio file)

Being "dead" forever after we die could be no worse than being "unborn" forever before we were born. Was that so bad? And the eternity before birth was just as "long" as the eternity after death.

I agree with Tuscon (it's a variation on a famous Mark Twain quote) but for me, the thought of non-existence brings up questions of meaning and the point of it all. If I'm not going to remember any of this, who I am, what I experienced, if I'm not even going to know that I'm dead....then what's the point of any of it?

I find myself fighting nihilistic thoughts often. Anyone have advice on this? Would love to hear your thoughts.

Mike, maybe nihilistic thoughts don't have to be fought. Maybe those thoughts bring us closer to the truth about reality and are to be embraced.

I talked about this at the end of a recent post:

Here's a direct link to my "Joy of Nihilism" post:

Mike wrote:
"If I'm not going to remember any of this, who I am, what I experienced, if I'm not even going to know that I'm dead....then what's the point of any of it?"

Good question. In fact, that is the question that humans have been asking since time immemorial.

What IS the point of it all?

Well, there quite possibly may be no point. No point at all. So there is no answer to the question of... Why do we (why does anything) come into this apparent (conscious) existence, only to vanish again after some relative period of so-called "time"??

In the natural world, the world (universe) of nature (that we are part of), everything proceeds in cycles. Like the seasons of the year and the orbits of the planets and moons, the migration of birds, or the stars in the galaxy, or the birth, growth, decay and death of all organisms - plants, microbes, animals and humans. Event the Earth. Everything moves in cycles - from birth to growth to old age to death... and so it goes on and on, seemingly for countless millenia.

Whats the point? I think "the point" all depends on who or what is doing the asking. In this case its humans. The universe isn't asking, nor are animals, nor the mountains or the sea.

So maybe, its pointless to ask.

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