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life and death quote

If you believe, like so many profess to, in the existence of the human soul (or consciousness, if you prefer) as something separate from the material body, then you must also accept that the sharp distinctions we draw between life and death don’t make logical sense. How do you define life? Are you so completely entwined and identified with your body and its chemical processes that you can’t imagine a ‘self’ without them? It’s a bit like saying that your car is you, or your clothes are you; if you leave one and shed the other, are you no longer yourself?

I have written before about what all children know when their pet dies. After ‘death,’ the body has nothing to do with the pet. Everything that made that animal your pet departs at the moment of death. We do ourselves a disservice by asking WHERE the pet ‘went.’ The usual categories upon which we depend to locate a self do not apply here. Only in the material world can one say where you are in space and time. Does that mean that you do not exist after your material body ‘gives up the ghost’? Of course not. You exist, but not as a material entity. Sometimes we can contact the self that exists after physical death, and for centuries, human beings have done so. Contact with the non-material self has happened countless times and will continue to happen.

Why is this so hard to believe? For me, that’s the real mystery. There is abundant evidence dating back thousands of years that all cultures on this planet have engaged in practices designed to contact the departed. Contact with the ‘deceased’ has been empirically studied for 150 years. That’s all the Society for Psychical Research did for many, many years. In any jury on the planet, the case for life after life has been proven time and time and time again. Why, then, is our culture so loath to accept something that any intelligent human being, reviewing the evidence, would be utterly convinced of?

Two reasons:

1) American culture focuses almost exclusively on the material world, because we are a capitalist culture that needs materialism to justify our economic system. If you focus exclusively on making this life comfortable and fun, then you need to buy a lot of stuff to accomplish the American goal of getting rich. YOLO is the supporting doctrine for consumerism. BUY baby, buy a lot, because you only live once!!!

2) Religion. If religion is the exclusive domain of the human spirit, then all expressions of that spirit can be controlled and defined by doctrine, often in the service of an economic and political system that directly benefits from that doctrine (think fundamentalists of any stripe).

OK, so you might think that this is all too pessimistic or too conspiracy-theorist, but it makes sense to me after years of contemplating this topic. If you agree, or if you don’t, write to me!

–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD/PHW

The Devil is a Nice Guy

Lucifer 1

I watched the first episode of “Lucifer” when it premiered. One would expect a few things given that this is television, after all: the supposedly “immune to Lucifer’s charms” detective looks to be about 26, tops, and is hot, of course. Nothing new there.

Lauren German

I expected Lucifer to be tall, dark and handsome, as is appropriate for a Romantic portrayal of the fallen angel (there’s a rich tradition in European, 19th century literature of portraying the Devil that way). There are plenty of inside jokes about Lucifer’s “Father,” and his reluctance to return to the Underworld. Some of the acting is rather bad, and the story is somewhat simplistic and seems targeted to teens and 20-somethings, who deserve better than these diluted story lines and predictable plot twists. Everything seems too easy, natural and light in this show, and even when they are attempting to be serious via the apparitions of the black-winged angel admonishing Lucifer for being bad, nothing seems particularly weighty, and certainly nothing here suggests real evil.

And therein lies the rub. There is no attempt here to address the nature of evil. Here, Lucifer is portrayed as the “devil with a soul,” a character that nobody would take seriously as evil incarnate. This reinforces the idea that evil is kind of cool, sexy, bad in a rebellious teenager kind of bad, and most of all, nothing to be truly afraid of. If, however, you have ever been confronted with true evil, the kind that sears your soul and makes you fear for your sanity, then you know that it’s truly dangerous to make evil appear bland and adventurous.

Hanna Arendt

True evil loves to hide behind such silliness. My favorite line about the Devil comes from “The Usual Suspects”: ‘The greatest trick of the Devil was convincing the world he didn’t exist’. The other ‘greatest trick of the devil’ is convincing the world that evil isn’t all that bad, and can actually be fun and super sexy! Our American media culture is so used to downplaying anything truly awful and scary to the point of inculcating in us all a sort of moral mediocrity, a blase attitude about anything too upsetting. Yes, I do understand that the Entertainment Industry’s job is to ‘entertain’ us, but I also think that if your topic is Lucifer and, by association, evil, then you have some obligation to at least SUGGEST how evil truly operates in the world. This has been done well before: think of the iconic figure of Hannibal Lecter. Look at those eyes. Those are eyes that suggest the power and horror of evil. Not the blandly handsome eyes of our hero in this new show.

Hannibal

Why bother taking evil seriously? Quite simply, because it exists and can destroy our lives. It kills, mains, seduces, rapes, distracts, lies, manipulates and destroys the good and the noble in our character. It threatens our humanity, our love, our hope and our belief in God. It can lurk in obvious places, such as in the hearts of ruthless killers, but it also can be found corrupting our politicians, bankers, CEOs and anyone or any group with power over others’ lives. Evil can be found all over social media, distracting us from useful and creative pursuits. It can be found in a raised fist at home. It can be found on paranormal investigations, classrooms, offices, homes, churches . . . it’s everywhere.

banality of evil

That, my friend, is truly terrifying. We have to fight it wherever it infects our environment. It’s not going to show itself in obvious ways. We need a moral education; we are starving for shows about the true nature of Good and Evil and powerful ways to combat the demons. Shows like “Lucifer” do us all a disservice by turning evil into a fun hour of hot guys in nightclubs. We can’t be warriors for the Good until we know what we are truly fighting.

Lucifer

Kitty with Yale degree

Is this shameless self promotion on my part, bragging about my degree? Well, sure it is! I worked my ass off to get this PhD, and I’m damn proud of it. Why post this now? There are some articles circulating on social media sites debating whether or not one needs ‘fancy letters’ after one’s name in order to be a published expert on the paranormal. Before I go any further, my degree is not in the ‘paranormal’ because, as I will elucidate, there ARE NO DEGREES IN THE PARANORMAL. My degree is in Spanish literature, culture and language with a minor in Portuguese. My degree, however, did prepare me to conduct research into survival of consciousness, but first things first.

1) There are no ‘experts’ on the paranormal. What makes an expert? Usually a degree in your field (yup, those fancy letters again), articles in peer reviewed journals, the respect of your colleagues, and a solid reputation in academic or institutional circles. In other words, a community of your peers decides whether or not you’re an expert. The study of the paranormal at the moment lacks a rigorous curriculum of study with experts in the field. There is no formal degree in the paranormal. The closest you can get is the University of Arizona, the University of Virginia and the University of Edinburgh. Those universities have “divisions,” usually housed within the Psychology Department, that explore such anomalies as ESP, transpersonal awareness, survival of consciousness, the study of mediumship and reincarnation. You can’t obtain a “degree” in the paranormal; you have to get the PhD within the department of psychology or psychiatry first, and that requires taking a ton of basic, academic courses in the discipline. You are not, when you graduate, an “expert” in the paranormal, but a trained psychologist whose research interests delve into the so-called ‘paranormal.’

2) You can be well respected in paranormal community outside of higher education, but you give something up. What do you give up? The respect of academia and the larger culture, which still recognizes education and degrees as necessary for expertise in a subject. Are there idiotic professors with fancy letters after their name? OF COURSE. There are people who can find ways to earn a PhD without any original or interesting thinking on their part. It is entirely possible to spend several years slavishly imitating whatever your professors tell you just so you can get that degree, and once you have it, you can endlessly repeat what others have told you and never really accomplish anything of value. That is true in every, single profession. Letters after your name do not make you talented, original or your work worth reading. But it does mean this: You worked hard for something you wanted. You took years’ worth of courses, you read hundreds of books, you wrote countless papers, your had to research your topic at 3:00 AM in the all-night section of your university library, you gave up your social life while you studied for oral comprehensive exams, you almost passed out from exhaustion writing your 500 page dissertation . . . I could go on and on. If you received your PhD from a legitimate institution of higher learning, then there were blood, sweat and tears involved.

3) Any degree from a college or university should mean that you know how to conduct research and think critically. THIS IS IMPORTANT. Since there is no formal degree in parapsychology that I am aware of, there is a HUGE benefit to a BA, MA and/or PhD in another field. You learn how to approach a topic critically and you understand what is necessary to conduct formal research. You read and read and read and read and read everything you can get your hands on. You know all about the Society for Psychical Research and can name most of the founding members. You are a member of the ASPR. There are many things you can do right now to improve your level of expertise in the paranormal, with or without a degree. If you want to take your education into your own hands, go for it. However, if you are not actively conducting research and reading the ‘paranormal canon’ of great works, then you will end up going in circles with the weirdness of what you’re experiencing on investigations. You need a theory. In order to come up with a theory, or various theories, you need to educate yourself first.

4) Look, nobody needs a degree to investigate a haunted site. I get that. Nobody needs to read in order to collect a million audio clips. Nobody needs to study the history of a place or catch up on quantum theory in order to do a Ghost Box session. Here is the problem with all this investigating without studying: you will amass hundreds, thousands, of audio clips, photos, video clips and so on without any kind of supporting theory to explain it. You will end up a collector of random bits of information without telling your audience what it might mean on a larger, philosophical level. You need History, Science, Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology and the Humanities to understand the enormity of what you are stumbling across in the dark. It’s important what you are all doing; IT IS TOO IMPORTANT TO DO AS A HOBBY. You need commitment, you need to read, you need to think. I don’t care if you have a fancy degree, but you do need an education.

I do care that you find answers for us all, answers that are not repetitive, vainglorious or frivolous. Dive down into the meaning of the mystery, however you can, and share what you find with the rest of us.

That’s what truly matters.

–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD
Yale University, 1992

Dear Mr. Bowie

Bowie last photo

Dear Mr. Bowie,

You are receiving more tributes, accolades and remembrances today than you probably imagined possible. You have never been so famous. I wish you didn’t have to die to receive so much attention. There isn’t much I can add to what everybody else is saying; I already wrote about your importance to me in a previous post. I don’t pretend to say anything wildly different or creative, but I still want to take this opportunity to say goodbye and God speed.

I’ve spent my life trying to figure out that place/space where you are now. I don’t have any answers, of course; but you have them. A stupid, silly, sad part of me thinks that you’ll resurface soon, alive, since you titled your last video “Lazarus,” and we all know that Lazarus rises from the dead. You don’t need to come back, though. I know that. You’re done, and you probably accepted that a long time ago.

I would be lying if I said my feelings weren’t conflicted. Too many stunningly creative people die in part due to their addictions. I don’t know for sure, but I would guess your addictions had something to do with your death. It’s not something the media is going to talk about, and people might hate me for bringing it up, but when you see so much mayhem, illness and death associated with substance abuse, it’s hard not to be just a little angry.

I know. Who cares? Your death happened, it’s over and there’s nothing anyone can do about that except mourn. I was waiting to see what you would do in your 70s, 80s and beyond. I really did think you were eternal. I suppose your death brings that reality closer to us all . . . but somehow you have transformed even death into art, your best performance to date. That seems so appropriate, of course, so typical of your genius.

You leave us like Major Tom, floating off into Heaven’s blue. You were an amazing character until the end, pulling off your exit without any of us knowing that it was coming. I will never forget today, for truly it’s one of my worst and best days, the day my hero took off for outer space and both abandoned and inspired me. You kept that fundamental mystery about you down to the last second, and now you’re exploring the greatest mystery of them all.

You changed my life. You have also changed how I see death. Somehow, in some way I don’t understand yet, you have turned your death into a transformation and a metamorphosis. It’s almost like you knew what lay ahead, and you looked forward to it, with all of its strangeness. Lazarus returned to life after four days. I know that nobody will see you on Thursday, because you want to be where you are. I just wish you could tell us what it’s like.

I wish many things. Most of all, I wish you well on this long, strange trip. I will miss you for the rest of my life.

–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD/PHW

Kirsten 50 again

Kirsten 50 once again

Kirsten 50

Hello New Year.

There were many topics that I listed for myself, but it has become something of a chore to figure out what people want to hear, or attempting to divine what it is my readers like. Truth be told, I don’t know who my readers are, for the most part. I don’t know what they like, what drives them, what they are passionate about; and I want to know. So, please, if you are reading this, take the time to tell me what you live for. In the meantime, I will tell you about a stunning epiphany that has led me to reevaluate my entire life.

I’m not having fun. I feel guilty about having fun. I always think that if I’m having fun, I should be doing something else. Everything I do is very serious: my resolutions, my Community Center, my teaching, my parenting, my few friendships, my relationship with family, my financial life, my house hunting, my writing, and so on. I do stupid things designed to make me feel terrible, such as taking multiple ‘selfies’ and submitting them to web sites to see how old people think I am. I’m embarrassed by this, I truly am, but I’m in a confessional mode. I turned 50, you see, and decided that my youth was officially over, my time on Earth is limited, and I need to accomplish all my goals RIGHT NOW. In order to accomplish all my goals—one of which is to help all of my hundreds of students find success and happiness—I need to be very serious and control everything and everybody so that my life is predictable and not scary.

But life is scary. Or perhaps I’ve made it that way. Truth be told, I don’t understand exactly why I’m here or what I’m supposed to do with myself. My grim determination to save everybody and change the world before my 51st birthday has sucked all the joy out of my existence. I count down days and weeks like I’m in prison. My fear that 50 is the ending of something has created such panic—it’s like someone told me that my 25 year old self is dead, and I have to mourn her and move on. The problem is, I feel closer to 25 now than I did ten years ago. Time is confusing. Everybody tells you that you’re old and time is dragging you towards death, but time seems to move in circles. You double back and repeat certain emotions that you remember from decades ago. I have more in common with 25 year old Kirsten than any other age I’ve ever been. I’m not sure why this is so; perhaps it’s because I don’t have child care responsibilities anymore, or some other reason I have yet to figure out.

The epiphany also has to do with this weird need to ‘act my age,’ and I have no idea how to do that. I don’t know what it means to be 50, because I’ve never done it before. I know how to be in my 20s, 30s and 40s, but 50 is new territory, and I think I made the mistake of thinking that I was supposed to give up fun in favor of acting like a mature adult, but I don’t know what mature adults do. I would like to go to a club and have a drink and dance, but then I think that younger people will scorn me for my age and my inappropriate behavior. I believe that people my age need to own a home, watch certain television shows, be mentors, be teachers, be wise, lead by example, not make mistakes, dress appropriately, wear different makeup, avoid black outfits, stop global warming, be more politically active, find God (now), and I don’t know, a thousand other things. I read all these articles about 50 year olds, and most of them just depress me.

I’m supposed to lead others because I’m old and wise, but I feel young and ignorant. I’m supposed to be a mentor, but I don’t even know what I want to do when I grow up. I’m supposed to accept my ‘changing face,’ but it makes me want to cry to see these physical changes in me that make me look older than I feel. I’m supposed to have something fascinating to write for my readers, but I need them to write something fascinating for me. I am lost at this age, because everything I think I’m supposed to do doesn’t make sense for me. I don’t feel that I have an age at all, just an accumulation of experiences that puts me into a context, and maybe I’ve had more experiences than my 24 year old students, but I don’t feel much different from them. I just look different, and everyone seems to think that’s important. It’s not. It isn’t important, and I don’t know how to wrap my head around the fact that nothing anyone is hammering into my head about 50 is remotely understandable.

Over and over again, family and culture have expected me to grow up, be responsible, get a career, raise a family, work, work, work, be useful, be productive, own things, look mature, not act like a child or a teenager, fit in, not be weird, not be quirky, not rock the boat, not say certain things, not piss people off and on and on. Oh shit, I’m a teenager!! That’s what this all sounds like! The endless selfies, the insecurities, the lack of a stable identity, the locked-down rebellion, the not fitting in thing . . . I’m afraid 50 and 18 are about the same experience, in the end.

Dear Readers: WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO ABOUT THIS???? CAN YOU PLEASE OFFER ME SOME HELP HERE? Because, honestly, I’m not wise. I don’t have the answers. I don’t have answers for myself, and I certainly don’t have them for anyone else. Can someone offer some kind words, or some insightful inspiration? I’ve been pretending for a long time that I’m a brilliant and mature woman, but I’m not. The gig is up.

–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD/PHW

What to Pray For

Praying hands

Praying hands

2015 ended poorly. In fact, without going into great detail, the year left me in a state of near constant anxiety, insecurity, sadness and confusion. When I have fallen into a state of spiritual disrepair, I pray; but I am not satisfied with the way I am praying. Prayer, I should add, has nothing to do with one’s religious affiliation. Prayer is universal and cosmic in nature.

What do I not like about the way I have connected–or not connected–with God? I wasn’t sure until this morning. Sometimes, what you THINK is bothering you is simply a screen or a deflection from what is ACTUALLY bothering you. Praying for a particular outcome does not work. For me, there is no point praying that I won’t die or get sick, because it is our peculiar human destiny–along with everything in the natural, material world–to get sick and die. I might hate that, find it unfair, repugnant, crazy, terrible, and so on, but I can’t change it, and I’m not going to pray for the impossible. When I was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness 18 years ago, I did not pray that God would spare my life. I asked only that the result of the process leave me more spiritually evolved and more healed as a broken human than I was before.

I didn’t die. Once again, I survived. I did grow a tremendous amount in the direction of God, but what really upset me was the reality of what that means. Following God can be terribly painful. It means letting go of the people who have hurt you, giving up homes, family, friends and sometimes, your very life. Most of all, following a universal principle means losing your fear. You are forced to lose your fear to follow God, even the biggest fear of all: your physical death. Did I succeed in losing my fear? HELL NO. However, I did learn a huge lesson: as long as you try to control what happens to you and to other people, you will be miserable and afraid. I can’t control someone else’s path in life, even if that path horrifies me, upsets me or confuses me. I can’t even control what happens to me, much less other people! My job is not to micromanage change, but to accept it and attempt to understand it. Of course, I can take productive and proactive steps to change my circumstances, and one should always move forward on a path towards a goal; but if the path floods or you get lost along the way, what matters is your resilience, your faith and you ability to see God through the obstacles.

I have discovered that it is far better to pray for someone’s continued, spiritual evolution and healing. I can’t know what form that will take. If I pray for one’s spirit instead of one’s body, I have allowed God to decide the form that the healing will take. That is what I am attempting to do for everyone I love: I won’t pray that Uncle Todd stop smoking, but I will pray that he is spiritually transformed to such an extent that he will no longer wish to harm his body, the temple for his soul. This is all we can do, pray for enlightenment, for progress, for deep understanding. The particular way this progress will manifest itself is not our concern or within our power to determine.

When I thought I had only a few years left of life back in my early thirties, I understood it was useless to ask God to spare my life. If I needed to die to evolve in the next life, then so be it. If I was supposed to lose my life at that time in my development, then my job was to accept it as gracefully as possible and find a way to make that time mean something. For in truth, we are ALL on borrowed time and we ALL have to learn this lesson, whether we have only a few months to figure it our, or a few decades. In the end, we have the same task; some of us have to learn it faster than others. None of us escape suffering, and it is now my belief that most of us don’t learn anything at all unless we’re in pain and we figure out how to relieve that pain through considered and thoughtful prayer and meditation.

My particular case is odd, since I was dying at age five from kidney problems. I truly was not expected to survive, and I knew it then. What has been the strangest experience for me in this life is to have survived at all. I think that is why I am often confused about my path, about what I am supposed to do with myself. That is why every year I make resolutions to figure out what my mission is as Kirsten in this life. Death seems oddly more familiar to me, and what I mean by that is not annihilation of consciousness, but that state one is in between lives. I came into the world very strongly connected to my previous life (I have written about this before in previous posts on this site) and remembering a great deal of who I used to be. As a child, I felt that I was ‘going back’ to a place I had been before that was much more familiar than the hospital and my family. I couldn’t explain where that place was or what my role was in it, but I KNEW it. Now, halfway through my life, I still feel that I am not entirely HERE. On a purely animal level, death terrifies me. The physical self is hard wired not to die. On the level of consciousness and identity, death means very little. It’s a gateway to a more understandable world. I was there before, I’ll be there again.

I do believe with all my heart and soul that prayer works and is effective, but not if the prayer is directed towards specific, concrete, ego-driven goals or desires. The prayer must not be grounded in fear of loss. The only prayers that work are those that ask for love and light to do their work in and through us. We must heal our fractured, fearful minds before the real work of transformation can begin.

Many blessings to you and yours in 2016.

–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD/PHW

Proof of Immortality

0016OP

0016OP

Kitty Odd Black and White

This time of year is really difficult for me. I have Seasonal Affective Disorder and have to use a ‘happy light’, but it’s not just that–these short days and the odd winter light make me think of death, not birth; so while Christians celebrate the arrival of Jesus (which, in fact, happened in September according to historical records), I am contemplating the endings of things.

I accept my particular mindset and the inevitability of my mood this time of year, but sometimes, I really need help. That happened yesterday. I was tired of my general tendency to believe that anything really good that happens to me or to my little family will be followed swiftly by some kind of cosmic punishment. It looks like we just bought a house for the first time since we lost our home in 2013, via a you-have-no-choice short sale. I have been so overwhelmed by this that I managed to convince myself that since something good just happened, I will either get cancer, or a truck will flatten me crossing the street from Starbucks, or we’ll have some catastrophic event that will drain all of our money and put us in the street, or some other variation on that general theme.

I parked near the soon-to-be new house and walked a few minutes until I reached a trail behind Mulholland (this is one, big reason we bought the house–the location allows me to walk into the hills). I scurried into the scrubby, fragrant underbrush and soon was well hidden among the tumbleweeds, oak trees and prickly bushes whose name I never look up. The goldfinches were cheeping and extracting seeds from dry weeds, a scrub jay cried out nearby, and assorted hummingbirds zoomed by me in their incessant search for juicy flowers. Then I talked to God.

I have conversations with God on a fairly regular basis; but a caveat: please, dear Reader, don’t see me as a Bible-thumping fundamentalist–I am very liberal in my spiritual views and although I do identify as Christian, I do not evangelize. This time, I was really emotional, crying out in the wilderness, and completely, spiritually naked. I said that I was tired of not allowing myself to be happy. I asked for permission to let that go, along with the main reason that I put myself through such torment: fear and insecurity. The events of the last three years–crises with my kid, the loss of our home, issues at work, illnesses in the family, financial challenges, and more–had conspired to turn me into a terrified, depressed, fatalistic pessimist who had lost all faith in the world around her, and worse, in herself.

I also cried out about Death, which I think is deep down the root of all my fears. If I have such limited time to learn, to figure so many things out, then I am not going to succeed, and if it all ends in death, then why bother to evolve at all? This was a crisis of faith in its purest form: if you’re going to end my existence, God, then why I am here at all? What’s the point? I made Him a promise: I am going to let go of my anxiety and my fear to the best of my ability, but please, help me to understand these things I have asked You. What happened after that was life changing, and I am going to be processing it for quite awhile.

As I walked home, I ‘heard’ a voice that asked me: do you remember who you were at 15? Think about your emotions then, the way you thought things through, your core personality, that girl in Spain who was absorbing her surroundings at light speed, that girl who first found God watching an image of the Virgin Mary surrounded in candles, flowers and gold. Is that girl gone? “No,” I said aloud, “she is me.” That person who is and has always been me is NOT SUBJECT TO TIME. Time passing has not changed Kirsten’s fundamental characteristics, personality, preoccupations, emotional identity or spiritual essence. All that has changed is her biology: she doesn’t look exactly the same. That’s the only difference.

That which is not subject to time is, therefore, not subject to death. Death cannot happen without the passage of time; the passage of time ‘kills’ organisms via entropy. Entropy cannot occur without the concept of moving forward in time. Consciousness is not a time or entropy affected concept or phenomena. The source of consciousness is outside of the physical organism that expresses it, just as radio waves exist outside of the radio itself, or television transmissions are not “in” the television set itself. What allows for the show to play is not the show itself. “Kirsten” is expressed at the moment in a physical body that changes and will pass away; but “Kirsten” is consciousness, emotion, spirit and soul–none of which are dependent on her body to continue to exist.

We have become so obsessed with the question of HOW this happens–how a conscious personality moves from one state to another, or one body to another, that we have missed the important point: WE DON’T DIE. By “we,” I mean our essential, defining characteristics, our ‘anima’, our consciousness, our essence, and our eternal selves, that which recognizes itself as a particular expression of the universe. Think for a moment: go back to a point in time and ask yourself WHO you were; is that person gone? Has he or she been obliterated by the passage of time? The core individual who recognizes him or herself as the same over time is not part of your body. Do you mourn the stray hair that washes down the drain? Do you cry over your loss of self when you cut your nails? Of course not, you say; but what about my brain? There are people with less than half a brain who function normally. But that’s not the point; your brain is filtering and expressing consciousness and is quite necessary in that process. It is not, however, producing it.

You have always been you and will always be you, whether you die once or a thousand times, whether you are born once or a thousand times. Your birth and your death do not make you who you are. They are physical transitions necessary for the version of you that is here now.

One would expect that this epiphany would bring instant relief, but it has not. If fact, the consequences are huge and daunting. If I can’t die, then I can’t ever stop existing, even is my existence is painful or emotionally difficult. There is no stopping the process or opting out when I’m sick of being in the world, or ‘being’ in general. This kicked off a kind of existential panic like I’ve never felt in my life. The cry in the wilderness was for the end of pain, which, if the answer had been different, would end at the very least with my death. The answer received, however, was of a very different nature. Since there is no end in sight, I have to handle the pain, the challenges, and the fears and the insecurities without the comfort of knowing that it will all vanish when I die.

So there is no choice. You have to progress, you have to work through all the dramas and traumas until you find peace. That could take more than this life, and probably will take a few more–God knows how many. Although is seems appealing to have another and another shot at life, there is also something deeply frightening about eternal life. You simply cannot choose to stop it and you cannot escape it. Last night, I was reading something dismal about global warming that said 80% of us will be dead by 2100 due to climate change. I told Ty that I was glad I would be dead by then and wouldn’t have to experience it. Then I remembered the lesson from earlier today: there is no way to escape life. You might very well be there to experience it. You might be one of the people that helps the planet recover, or you might have some other role in the global catastrophe. You don’t, however, get to skip out on a problem you helped to create.

I am so overwhelmed by knowing this. I wrote about this concept over the years, but it was always a plausible theory and not a lived reality. I connected in such a strong way with the universal intelligence that I was granted an answer to the most fundamental question. Living with that answer is the next, huge challenge. I will be ‘unpacking’ this insight for quite awhile, always hoping that anyone who reads this will share their own experience of asking a difficult question and receiving a transformative answer. If this particular question has also been answered for you, I hope that you will tell me about it in the comments section below.

With much love and respect,

Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD

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