After an absolute, mystical experience of the end, or an NDE, one’s existence may then, probably, be focused on the fact that one has witnessed the indescribable as such, the non-separation of the whole, an imminence of actual death, and yet the survival of consciousness, and the possibility of its super-life. The miracle of which one has been the dumbfounded and almost impotent witness, destroys forever the face value of ideas, forms, sensations, human realities, which all have become too ‘provincial’.
The mystical experience has no essence.
For some it represents the destruction of the individual, of the self. For others it prefigures a change of paradigm. For still others, there is nothing to say, nothing to prove, everything is beyond imagination, and expression.
It is quite inexplicable that one’s unassuming self can somewhat unexpectedly absorb and sustain the entire mystical experience, though it effectively destroys any idea of the Divine, of the Cosmos, and even the Self.
It is equally incomprehensible that the (human) self remains capable of resisting the ecstatic impact of the (divine) Self. Face to Face. Panim.
How can it be that the human self suddenly gets out of itself and ecstatically merges with the divine Self, disappears into it, remains conscious and aware of this assimilation, this disintegration, throughout the cancellation of itself?
The individual, the self, is to be swallowed up in the Whole, the Godhead. The paradox is that this small self, swallowed up by the divine ocean, never loses its consciousness of still being this particular self, a small but effective point of consciousness tossed about in an unheard-of ecstatic storm, a wind of infinite strength. This weak self remains irresistibly invincible, unbreakable, it does not dissolve, ever, whatever infinitely powerful is the Self that invades and overcomes it…
Mysticism and tragedy have this in common that they transform into close neighbors, death and life, the nothing and the whole, the freedom and the dissolution of the self.
The mystic experience melts, allows oneself to be absorbed, in and by these superior powers ; the tragic experience confronts the self with them and shatters it.
In the first case, the self escapes any personal interpretation of what led it there, free to rush without restraint in an indescribable ecstasy.
In the second case, the tragic self loses its individuality at the very moment when it makes the supreme choice, the one that is supposed to confirm it in the purity of the Self, the one in which it discovers the proper power of exaltation.
Who can say then what is alive and what is dead, in the mystical self and in the tragic self, so much death now seems a super-life, and life a kind of mild death.
Heraclitus famously said:
“The immortals are mortal and the mortals, immortal; the life of some is the death of others, the death of some is the life of others.”i
Super-life, or its miracle, is not something you see every day, admittedly.
There are some people who laugh about any sort of miracle. The passage of the Red Sea, the pillars of fire and the clouds, the resurrection of Lazarus, the multiplication of the loaves, they just laugh about it. And how old-fashioned it all seems to them, how useless, how forever devoid of any (modern) meaning!
But for the witnesses who see with their own eyes, there is no doubt, only the miracle is real, really real, resplendent with surreality. But this glitter and splash is also a door to death. The miracle in reality announces an after-world, a meta-reality, for which nothing prepares us, except what the miracle precisely lets us glimpse.
Death then, for those who accept to learn the lesson, is only an obligatory passage, like the Red Sea once was, towards a desert traversed by columns and clouds, towards some putative Promised Land, or some resurrection, in another universe where one will be satiated with ‘super-essential’ bread (in Greek epiousion, – as in τὸν ἄρτον τὸν ἐπιούσιον).
When death approaches with its velvet steps the eyes open. The soul becomes more conscious of itself, not of its victories or defeats, which then matter little, but of its irresistible inner drive for life. Life wants to live. But the border is there, tangible, the soul approaches it, is it a wall, a door, a bottomless abyss?
Until the last moment the enigma remains. Only a few souls have seen in advance what was beyond the experience. By what miracle?
They see what awaits them behind death, something like a thousand suns, or rather a zillion suns, as words fail them. And they see their very self melting away, a drop of pure fire in the infinite ocean.
No, no, that is just illusion, assert the skeptics, simple chemistry of the brain during its initial necrosis, derisory neurochemical whirlwind, panic of asphyxiated synapses.
What does the polemic matter at this hour? One moment more and one will be fixed for ever, in a direction or another.
One cannot, by the sole force of reasoning, exclude one or the other way, the one leading to nothingness and the one opening on the ocean of possibilities.
After all, was not birth, if one remembers, like a red and very narrow passage, leaving a first world behind?
It is in the last moments, oh paradox, that life takes on all its meaning, takes on all its weight, fills itself with all the emotions, regrets, hopes, laughter and happiness.
All this melts into a single point, hyper-dense, heavy with all the experience, an over-concentrated center, and which is, however, no more than a light baggage, a meager bundle, suddenly, for the eternal migrant that the living being discovers to be in the vicinity of death.
The essence of the man lies in this unique point, made of a nebula of myriads of moments, this total sum of existence and oblivion.
This is another way of solving the hackneyed question of essence and existence. Neither one nor the other precedes.
It is this single dense point, gravitating from a whole life, which is only real, miraculously real, and which allows to add a little to the oceanic immensity.
The surreal ocean that aggregates, and agrees, all that has lived, and will live.