A Note On Death

How consciousness continues after death.

For several years I did body removals. Some were quite humorous, while others—not so much. A lot can happen in a week or two, especially in the summer months.

Having no emotional ties to a body made it a $50 job. It never once seemed like a spirit, or “someone” was missing from the body—only with an emotional connection might a loved one or friend hope it that way. Lots and lots of dead people where it actually appears that consciousness did not leave the body, but the body left consciousness. It simply disconnected from the grid.

By the way, the worst smell on earth is the breath of death—the decomposing gasses trapped in the lungs that expel when you first move a dead one.

This is my first hand observations of a single consciousness. Only if you were taught to believe otherwise would it appear any different than that. Consciousness remains in spite of life or death. It is what is.

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Author: jimoeba

Alternatives to big box religions and dogmas

91 thoughts on “A Note On Death”

        1. The version I know is “A friend helps you move. A true friend helps you move a body.”

          I had a friend who helped her friend (not me) move a body. She was in legal trouble for over a decade and spent about six months in prison on remand for accessory to murder (she was eventually given a plea bargain and sentenced to time served). When I asked her if she regretted it she said “Of course. But in the same circumstances I’d do it again.”

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    1. So it appears we have two options;
      Consciousness evolved through the geologic processes and every person has a little light of their own (how do we know this?) emergent property awareness. The scientific wordsmanship to explain this is nothing short of any religious explanation. Or, consciousness exists in spite of this apparatus and life forms come and go with nothing at all to show for it—it remains (no pun intended) intact as evidenced by nothing changing when someone dies. They don’t lose an ounce or even a fraction of that.
      It just seems to me, looking at the body vs say, a side of beef, that it was a user and not a creator of conscious attention. I could be wrong of course, but there are even some highly respected scientists that adhere to panpsychistic views of life and consciousness.
      Dealing with death this just seemed very apparent without the emotions that they appeared unplugged.

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      1. Well, I don’t think we really have much of a clue about consciousness, especially in regards to ‘objective’ knowledge. Death is irreducibly objective. It only happens to others. But consciousness is irreducibly subjective. I only have access to my own.

        Sure I’ve had experiences in which all attributes – including subjectivity/objectivity – seem to dispel like mist and I’m left with only pure consciousness. It seems impossible to conceive of it as other than universal because it has nothing that could distinguish it from ‘other’ consciousness. It seems we must all have the same one.

        But I think everything I think of as ‘me’ is bound up with my body and interrelationships. When I die it will be gone. There may still be consciousness but it won’t be my consciousness. Immortality or survival beyond death seem not only unlikely to me, but meaningless concepts.

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        1. Well, nothing is meaningful without it. Wouldn’t that be the constant underlying every equation?
          If you die and it will be gone, was it ever yours to begin with?

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          1. I think it’s very questionable as to whether anything is meaningful with it either – except inasmuch as you create your own meaning.

            If you die and it will be gone, was it ever yours to begin with?

            I’d suggest not. That’s part of what I was driving at in the last comment. When the sense of ‘you’ is gone the sense of consciousness remains. So it’s independent of you.

            As with so many things, I think a lot of the confusion we have about consciousness arises from how our language works. We talk about being conscious of something, which implies there is an inescapable subject/object element to consciousness.

            And we talk of being ‘unconscious’ as if consciousness can abandon us, at least temporarily. We have the experience of discontinuous time. One instant we’re being wheeled into theatre chatting with the nurse, the next we’re waking up in recovery with no sensation of time having passed. So we say we were ‘unconscious’. Consciousness wasn’t with us.

            But I think that’s jumping to conclusions. Our ability to form narrative memory may have stopped for a while but I don’t think that means our consciousness did.

            Retrograde amnesia and alcoholic blackouts offer an illustration of that. When you’re knocked out (or pass out) your sense of time passing often seems to stop a bit before the incident that made you ‘unconscious’. But I don’t think anyone believes you become unconscious first then are KO’d afterwards. What stops is your ability to encode long-term memories from short term ones. So it becomes impossible to recall the time leading up to passing out, though you were still consciously experiencing it as it happened.

            To me that’s evidence memory is physiological. It tends to rule out recalling past lives or being reunited with loved ones after death. But not consciousness independent of the body, or even of matter/energy and space-time.

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          2. or, was there ever a “you” to begin with? what is it that we call “me”?

            the body is a bundle of sensations, the mind a bundle of thoughts.
            ignore the sensations and remove the thoughts, what remains then?👓

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            1. A woman was making a booking at an exclusive French restaurant.

              “… and do you have anything for vegetarians?”

              “But of course, madame. Contempt.”

              Liked by 3 people

      2. Ya’ know, Jim … one can imagine and ponder and cogitate over some of the stuff you present in many of your posts — and maybe that’s your goal. To make us think. But somehow, for me, the endless ruminating over various possibilities wearies my brain. I guess it has a lot to do with the fact that long ago I made peace with my “self” and you (?) and/or others haven’t. Perhaps?

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        1. I am totally at peace. Simply curious. I don’t see things the way I used to so I’m playing with the toys.
          ”one can imagine and ponder and cogitate over some of the stuff”
          This isn’t as complicated as it has been determined by the experts. It’s all right out in the open, just like reincarnation or any other, it’s all in the way we’ve been conditioned to see it as a mystery.

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  1. Funny you mention that.

    This week I re-established contact with an old friend and we’ve done a lot of catching up. He’s a trained and experienced theatre nurse with plenty of experience of death and dying but for most of the last 25 years he’s been running a bungalow resort on Koh Phangan in Thailand.

    Over the years there have been several incidents of bodies washing up on the beach near the resort. Some have been in the water for quite a while. Few of the Thais, Laotians or Burmese staff members will work when there’s a body around, but the road through the jungle and over the granite ridges to the cove is very basic and becomes impassable in bad weather. Boat access isn’t an option when the seas are up either.

    My friend told me a hilarious, slapstick story of his attempts to get a decomposing body to the main town of Thongsala under such conditions and his various failures and compromises along the way. I won’t go into it here but it reads like a morbid Three Stooges script.

    And yeah, even after just an hour or so in warm weather the smell of death is pretty awful. A corpse that’s been in the water for a while has a perfume you’ll never forget.

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  2. when Michelangelo was learning to draw the human body anatomically, he had to resort to the only option available at the time, the graveyard. so he’d spend his nights digging out bodies and drawing them. one night, his father caught him coming back home early morning, and asked him “Where the hell were you? You smell like death!”
    i never forgot that scene. so ironic, from the graveyard to the heights of the Sistine creation!

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    1. I would probably just stick to online tutorials if I were in his shoes 😃
      I used to assist on autopsies and that would be a good spot to learn to draw. At least now you can rub vicks under your nose.

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  3. a note on conciousness as being located ‘inside’ the body. found this few days ago.

    “If you think about it, the belief that you are the body and perceive through the senses of the body is ridiculous.
    It is like believing that Velázquez’s Las Meninas could have been painted by the image of the painter that appears painted within the painting itself.
    The true painter has to be outside the picture.
    Can a video camera appear in the image of the film that was recorded with it?
    The true video camera has to be out of the film.
    Can a perception apparatus perceive a world in which the perception apparatus itself appears?
    The true perceiver has to be outside the perceived world.” ~some guy or other

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    1. Can a perception apparatus perceive a world in which the perception apparatus itself appears?
      The true perceiver has to be outside the perceived world.” ~some guy or other

      I think this puzzle is partly addressed by Douglas Hofstadter’s model of consciousness as recursive self-regard and partly by the ‘headlessness’ of Douglas Harding.

      When you imagine yourself – including your perception apparatus – then the apparatus of perception has become the act of imagination and no longer resides in the imagined picture. If you imagine yourself imagining yourself then you’ve moved the locus of perception out another level. You can never really imagine your own sense of perception precisely because you can’t step outside it.

      I think one reason the belief in life after death seems so reasonable is because when you imagine something beyond death, such as your own funeral, your position as ‘observer’ is implied even if you’re not in the picture. To imagine a universe without you in it you also need to imagine one without you imagining it. Tricky.

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      1. You can never really imagine your own sense of perception precisely because you can’t step outside it.

        Maybe I am misperceiving your meaning, but I step aside from myself (not necessarily outside of myself) to watch myself all the time. I also watch myself in my dreams, if that is related. The thing is, I had to teach myself to do these things. This is how I got to learn who I am, if I have learned who I am. I think I know, for whatever that is worth. The upshot of watching yourself is that it makes it so much easier to decide on who you want yourself to be. I can attest to the fact my ego does not like me doing this, though now that ego goes along with it else it will cease to exist. It now plays my game, not I its.

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          1. As I said, I do not step out, I step aside. The best I can describe it is I leave my ego-being, and take a perspective in my “spirit-being” that allows me to be an observer observing myself. It’s not a split personality, but it is like being two places at the same time even while occupying only one space. I don’t have English words for it, but I do it nonetheless. The thing is, when I do this, I never take the viewpoint of ego watching spirit, it is ALWAYS spirit watching ego. Thus I identify with spirit, and reject ego as being fake-me. But I need to use ego-me to get around in this world, otherwise spirit-me would probably end up in the looney bin. Sanity is an ego-thing.

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            1. rawgod, if you recognize your ego to be ‘fake’…how can you say you need it to live life?? how can you need something fake in order to be authentic?

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            2. Can’t speak for rawgod or his distinction between ego and spirit and I don’t consider my ego to be any more ‘fake’ than any other aspects of my mind, but the egoless non-dual state sure has a lot going for it. Problem is I don’t find it sustainable, which I guess proves I’m not some kind of enlightened being like Ramakrishna or Ken Wilbur.

              Without the sense of ‘me’ and ‘you’ I can’t communicate coherently. In such states I have no particular desire to communicate, but it makes the activities needed to sustain myself difficult. What makes them even more difficult is that when I’m completely in the present moment there’s no planning. I find there’s limits to spontaneous action. Cooking anything to a recipe, making a shopping list or budget, arranging transport …

              As with ego, I have no opinion as to whether dualism or nondualism is more ‘real’, but it sure seems to me society at the very least depends on dualist assumptions, including the ego. Maybe life itself. I guess the evolution of the cell membrane was the first thing that divided the universe into ‘self’ and ‘other’. Even if you see it as something that connects the organism to its environment rather than something that separates it still implies separation.

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            3. i guess the action continues as before, but the awareness is stabilized. the body/mind will move but only as a functioning of the whole.
              i would imagine there is even more spontaneity, as there is no doubt on any of the actions.

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            4. Yeah, maybe that’s at least part of what enlightenment is about. As Zen teaches, “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”

              But my ‘personal experience’ of non-dual egoless states doesn’t seem to show a way forward there, unless it’s the lessons they offer about my own lack of mindfulness. Perhaps that’s why so many wisdom traditions emphasise mundane, day to day activities. Until you’ve mastered them you can’t transcend yourself.

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            5. do you work with mantras? Om Aim Hreem Kleem. keep it going while you do your thing around the house.

              you should like this

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            6. do you work with mantras?

              Indeed I do. And though that’s not my main application for them I do find they help me sustain attention to many household chores. Like others with autism diagnoses I often overload in crowded, high stimulus environments such as shopping malls and mantras can do a lot to alleviate that. But they don’t serve so well when I’m trying to repair an appliance or chat with a neighbour and those are the sort of things I find problematic while ‘egoless’.

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            7. Fake in the sense that it isn’t “real” outside of this dimension we currently inhabit. In this dimension it is real enough, it knows how to traverse the world without me ending up in jail or a mental ward. But it is a social construct, useful for its purpose and not much else.
              (No, I’m not going to kill anyone, or anything like that. But I might go looking to tell a few hundred people off –mostly politicians– and making a total nuisance of myself. They deserve to be told off, but that is where our society breaks down. No one like to have to listen to someone telling them the truth about themselves. Even though I am Canadian, DJTJr would be mighty close to the top of my list. Oh howI would enjoy giving him a piece of my mind!)
              Take for instance my orange T-Shirt for Reconciliation Day in Canada. I would be wearing it if I got to tell the Pope off. The legend on the front reads “SOAP the POPE” in beautiful bold black letters. I would hope he would get the underlying message, let us savages do to him what the Church”s representatives did to them. Fair is fair!

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            8. Even though I am Canadian, DJTJr would be mighty close to the top of my list.

              If you’re into telling politicians what’s wrong with them I don’t think you need to travel far to give yourself a full-time job. Seems to me you could make a career of letting Pretty Boy Pierre know what you think.

              We’re a bit impoverished for that down-under. Our PM is so shallow and vacuous you soon run out of anything to say about him. Fortunately Parliament House is full of more substantial sociopaths, so the only limit is our vocabulary of profanities. Australian English is particularly blessed that way.

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            9. That”s Pretty Boy Pierre”s son Justin, and as politicians go he is way down my list. The two top spots are reserved for Trump and Alberta premier, “mini-Trump” Jason Kenny.
              Unfortunately, no one is willing to pay me to talk to either, and they wouldn’t listen anyhow.

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    1. Yes sir! O the circumstances humans can find themselves in, and in the strangest places too.
      Imagine getting caught dead with your pants down and the porn still playing on your laptop—while the neighbor was stating “at least he was a Christian”.
      I showed tremendous restraint…

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  4. I have to ask, Jim, why would a dead body look, feel, or weigh differently if its consciousness leaves the body at death? Consciousness seems to be something you are either aware of, or not. In my own head I cannot believe there are people who cannot distinguish between consciousness and nonconsciousness–as opposed to unconsciousness, which is a totally different thing altogether. But having said that, I know the battle my consciousness had with my ego-being in order to to subjugate that ego. The “I” now belongs to my consciousness, not to my ego. And in so doing, the meaning of “I” has changed.
    But getting back to dead bodies, where the consciousness has no reason to remain after death of the body, the thing that you can see missing is life. But unless you accept that life is the driving force of the body, dead will be dead to you, and no one can tell you any different.
    Yes, it is all a matter of perception, but that depends on who is doing the perceiving. And, in truth, talking about this while alive is just that, talk. Only when we are dead will it matter or not if something exists after death or not. No earthly discussion can be anything but meaningless.

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    1. Well Ben, interesting yes, but the entire spectrum of humanity caught at a moment frozen on the stage, unexpectedly displaying their last living act. People are strange creatures when you remove the masks.

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  5. Great blog, Jim, great topic. I have often wondered of the differences between a living body and a dead body. Sometimes, without any indication of death, it seems almost as if the person could wake up and walk off the table. What do you think happens to that “energy” that sparks animation in a human body? In the Einsteinian principle of energy can neither be created nor destroyed, where does the energy go? Is it actually energy in some form?

    Personally, I think there’s a better chance of proving some form of existence past life than the presence of a supernatural being that defies all the normal rules of physics and reality.

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    1. where does the energy go? Many believe (and I agree) that it is simply absorbed back into the universe. Of course others want to believe that it continues on in some state of “consciousness..” To me, such thinking goes back to our natural fear of death and the cessation of “me.” In any case, there is little doubt that few are looking forward to discovering the answer to your question.

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          1. Sure, I would write a book called “Things I didn’t learn in science school”! 😁
            Really though, what is the point of winning any game but winning?

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            1. Well, some do play strictly for fun and entertainment. Not everyone is competitive. I do admit, however, that there are SOME (as evidenced by various blog comments related to certain topics) that fit the definition to a “T”. 😉

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            2. Certainly. Sometimes it gets a little old being unable to discuss anything but strict atheism or be mocked. I was almost ready to start hiding under the covers late at night with a flashlight, just to think outside their box.

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            3. i agree with Nan. if you feel there’s something to crack, you’ll always be “outside” it, so to say. understaing requires a subject and an object. if you want to understand it, you must become It. the universe is always the only subject.

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      1. Nan, why a profound understanding of what is “me” is necessary to remove fear of death, and with that, all fears. why the Hindus put so much emphasys on the ‘Self-inquiry method’ by asking ourselves “who am I”? That is, not me as female, daughter, Catholic, etc, all of which are temporary indentificaions, but the being behind all these.
        because once we realize what we are, we instantaneously know what ‘god’ is. 😊

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    2. Not sure if you’re referring to the 2nd law of thermodynamics or Einstein’s special relativity. The two however, are inextricably linked.
      I do think E=mc2 covers it better.
      Mass and energy are the same entity and can be changed into each other. In the equation, the increased relativistic mass(m) of a body times the speed of light squared (c2) is equal to the kinetic energy (E) of that body.
      The only thing missing (the real constant) is consciousness. Without it even the equation is meaningless

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        1. Funny how this has really gone nowhere, yet, not entertaining either. I think it seems to work well in reverse though. Instead of a lifeless audience—an empty tomb of a lifeless subject seems to still be the best seller.

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          1. Ok, my bad. I’ll grant that I laid these matters (death and religion) “to rest” decades ago (pre-Internet), so I have no strong opinion on either topic.

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            1. I think that is actually an excellent point. Internet free atheism has some real power to it. Your ability to decipher out the bullshit without all the influence speaks of your reasoning prowess? IMO.
              My wife had the same ability, but now belief requires a special kind of dismissal to the evidence, or lack thereof.

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            2. I think that is actually an excellent point. Internet free atheism has some real power to it.

              Must be an American thing. Most of my friends for most of my life – including at school – have been atheists. Even most of my fellow Boy Scouts were atheists, despite an unenforceable rule that you were supposed to believe in a ‘higher power’ to be a Scout.

              In primary school (ages 4-11) you were supposed to nominate a Christian faith so they knew which spiritual guidance class to send you to. Students used to change their religion according to which preacher they liked. For a while most of us were Baptists because the minister played guitar and sang. We quickly converted to Presbyterianism when they send a pastor who was a skilled ventriloquist.

              In High School spiritual guidance was last period on Friday and optional. We reverted to atheism.

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            3. I appreciate people like my brother who, in spite of the heavy indoctrinations of our childhood called bs on the whole thing when he was about 14. I was more trusting that my parents knew what they were doing. They didn’t.

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            4. My Dad was nominally Catholic and my Mum nominally Anglican at a time when that sort of thing mattered in Australia. They married in a Methodist church as a compromise.

              My Dad was really an atheist who hated Catholicism because of how he was treated in the Catholic school he was sent to. His sisters pressured him to raise us kids in the Church but they had no chance.

              My Mum has always been a serial New Ager. In my earliest memories she was into the fraudulent ‘Tibetan lama’, Lobsang Rampa. While I was a child she was variously an astrologer, a tarot card reader, a past life regressionist, a crystal pendulum ‘clairvoyant’ and an Erich von Daniken true believer. Few of her fads lasted more than a couple of years. She’s still at it. These days she’s a certified Reiki Master, who can even heal people who are hundreds of miles away and can send the healing back through time to reverse childhood trauma. Or at least she was about five years back when I last asked. The fashion has probably passed by now and she’s reading tea leaves or something.

              Neither of my folks ever tried to pressure me to believe any of that but I picked up some useful stuff from Mum. She took me to meditation classes and an Alan Watts discussion group when I was quite young because I asked to go. She also taught me palmistry, which was my most successful pick-up technique when I was at uni.

              Both of my siblings and all my step-siblings are atheists, as were all my nieces and nephews last I checked. ‘No religion’ has been the most popular faith in Australian censuses for decades.

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            5. One thing that I have come to appreciate about Hindu and Chinese philosophies are they were pretty in line with my own , expert free thought processes I traveled down after I deconverted. They still hold on to a couple of contradictions though, but pressing any philosophy past it’s comfortable norm we all arrive at the same beginning. Some just can’t fathom that without a “who” involved, but that doesn’t exist either.

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            6. I used to think that, but I eventually twigged that Indian and Chinese philosophical/religious thought were incredibly rich and pluralist traditions that I only had a tiny window into. The stuff I thought I agreed with had mostly been decontextualised in cultural translation so I could make it mean what I wanted it to. Mostly it was about matching stuff I didn’t understand in esoteric books with stuff I didn’t understand in my own head.

              I call myself a Hindu these days because I have unfathomable experiences that seem to map more closely onto the Mahakali of Kashmir Shaivism than anything else I know of, but mostly I can’t get my head around them at all. So really I should tick the box marked ‘confused’.

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            7. Mountains are once again mountains, streams streams… I agree with you.
              Anything that becomes institutionalized becomes corrupt as well.
              The part that disturbs me about the Self is even someone like Sri Ramama Maharishi says ultimately everyone’s ultimate destiny (after many lifetimes) is liberation, but states very clearly that ego is an illusion. It’s all a dream of Brahman so where’s the sense in that?

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            8. Yeah, but what does ‘illusion’ mean in that context? You could argue all thoughts are illusions because they lack objective reality.
              I think the important fact about ego is that it’s optional. You don’t have to see yourself as a discrete individual separate to everything else and you don’t have to attach a list of attributes to yourself to make yourself ‘real’. Once you get that whether ego is illusory or not is irrelevant.

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            9. I agree with ego part mostly—unless you want to crack the code and see it for yourself. Is there is a difference between knowing through reason and experiencing it first hand?

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            10. I definitely think so. I thought I ‘knew’ it through reason for ages before I first realised it as an ‘experience’.
              I could ask you if there’s a difference between knowing about sex by thinking about it and experiencing it, but that would be misleading. The difference between cogitating about no-self and realising it is more profound. The latter completely undermines the whole process of reason, which, like knowledge, is ego-bound.

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            11. I feel like I’m in stages. Atheism was simply a reboot, a clean slate of unbelief. Then came my own observations of the world, leading me to say, true there are no gods, but is there nothing at all?
              Then I step into realizing the illusory nature of things (nothing is what it appears to be) thinking “I” can crack the code only to realize I don’t exist to do it. It is all a dreamlike manifestation that isn’t mine at all.
              In Mormon scripture The book of Moses, he says he sees man is nothing, which thing I had never supposed” Mormons take this nothing as In worthless, the sinner, but it really means no-thing. A very wise interpretation of the experience that they don’t comprehend.

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            12. If there isn’t, how could anything at all matter? Why does anything at all matter? Why all the political and religious passions and hatreds and judgements would just be comedic, moot points to keep us occupied til we pass. How could you judge Hitler if there is no eventual outcomes? That is where we are at. Nothing matters at all.

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            13. IMO, anything and everything that “matters” is an individual thing. For example, to Christians, the idea of a supreme being matters.

              Do you believe that what “matters” is important to our existence?

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            14. Not at all. Likely the opposite is true. Nearly verything that matters becomes the detriment. In stead of going with the course of nature, we stake a claim that “this is the correct way” or yearn for a time in the past while the stream keeps flowing.
              I do think that someone who has the capacity to blow it all up is the type of person that thinks it all matters.

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            15. How could you judge Hitler if there is no eventual outcomes?

              As I’ve said, if you’re judging according to outcomes you can’t. It’s like the Chinese horse proverb. “Maybe, maybe not”. Teleology is a mug’s game.

              What you can know is how you feel about actions. Go with that, not what you think.

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            16. For someone raised in a faith I think moving beyond atheism is usually more significant than finding it.
              Those who stick with it are prone to becoming religious fundamentalists without a God.

              “No God is the One True God and we must smite the unbelievers with Scientism.”

              I’m good with the notion I can never know how the universe works and if there’s entities like gods around I’m unlikely to have the cognitive tools to conceptualise them or the sensory apparatus to apprehend them. Heck, I don’t even know how my own mind works. Doesn’t stop me having fun playing with it though. It’s the only game in town.

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            17. It seems to be the best game anywhere. What could an infinite and all knowing eternal do to relive the boredom of infinite living, than subject yourself to a game where you didn’t know?

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            18. If you mean the process of reasoning about it, it was interesting and didn’t seem to do any harm so I guess it was worth it as much as anything I think about. But I don’t know it led to realising it, except inasmuch as my whole life did. The realisation made my whole life, before and after, worth it but it’s not like it was a goal I worked towards.

              I did a lot of fumbling about imagining I was seeking it without knowing what I was seeking but when it came it didn’t seem an achievement, result or pay off. More like grace.

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            19. Yes and no. In a way, I kind of envy those who leave religion now because they have a wealth of information and guidance at their disposal. Even the word “atheist” was a foreign concept to me at the time because I’d always been told there were only two kinds of people in the world: those who chose to obey God (us Christians) and those who don’t (the rest of the world).

              “. . . but examine everything; hold firmly to that which is good,” 1 Thessalonians 5:21 (NASB)

              That verse has served me well, both then and now. Soon after abandoning religion, I eventually began to examine all of the other “faith-based” institutions I had unreflexively subscribed to (government, education, news media, medical and scientific) and found them wanting, as well.

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