“…but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.” So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.” ~ Carl Spackler Assistant Grounds Keeper Bushwood Country Club.
The above quote comes from a story that Bill Murray’s charter in the 1980 movie Caddyshack, tells about being a caddy to the Dali Lama. The ‘Lama’ portends to provide him with “total consciousness” on his deathbed as payment for his caddying services – which is nice.
It is an often quoted and dearly beloved line by fans, and while it is a cute bit from the movie that helps to portray the oddness of the character, it is the concept behind the quote that seems to capture the imagination of the viewer. It begs the question – What if? What if there is something after death and what is that?
Most mainline religions today offer up some sort of afterlife. Each provides their version of a heaven or a hell with the occasional purgatory and/or reincarnation thrown in for good measure. How that all exactly looks depends on the dogma each individual subscribes to. I find it somewhat amusing that when it comes down to it, most people default that they and all of theirs before them are destined to the heaven accommodation – which is nice.
Death being something that few really discuss, what happens after the body is declared as such, seems also remiss from our conversation. If it is talked about, it seems that it is more in a fantastical way rather than solid philosophical/theological tenets.
Of course what we are missing here is Aristotle’s view on death, which is that of the dreamless sleep. His view is that the body and “soul” belong together, so that when the body ceases to exist, so dies the soul. This view brings us the idea that we are all just future worm food, and that is it. Whatever energy our existence stored is then transferred back to the “universe” from whence it came. We all came from stardust, and in some way or another we will all be that again through the decay of our body – which is maybe nice?
What if there was another option? One that somewhat brings these two together. One that dives a bit into that “Total Consciousness” concept up there. To do that, we should probably look into what the fuck that phrase might even mean. What even IS total consciousness?
There are many dictionary definitions of the term consciousness. The first being:
“… awareness of one’s own existence, sensations, thoughts, surroundings, etc.”
Another example from the dictionary is:
“Philosophy. the mind or the mental faculties as characterized by thought, feelings, and volition.”
It would seem that awareness, thoughts, feelings and purpose seem to be the major characteristics of consciousness. It should be noted that a lot of definitions I went through like to parlay consciousness with unconsciousness (that of sleeping and dreams). I get that, but in this musing I am not sure how useful that is.
But another definition that comes up is this:
“the thoughts and feelings, collectively, of an individual or of an aggregate of people”.
This is used more along the lines of “moral consciousness”. But what if we expanded on that in our discussion here? Because it would seem that this brings us closer to this idea of Total Consciousness. While the definition above gives an either or flavor to the individual OR the collective of a group of people, I’m more interested here in that collective (it’s very Borg of me, isn’t it).
Eastern meets Western
Meditation is something that is very trendy right now. People seem to be looking for ways to essentially escape the rat race, and the promises of meditation hints at bringing that about. This of course is a much more western view of this Buddhist and Sufi practices.
I will say, however, that I have seen a decent amount of empirical scientific evidence that a mindful meditation practice really can reduce stress and take that edge off of the so called rat race mentality we envelope into our daily Western life. It is much more mainstream today for there to be meditative methods in use at even the corporate office.
This focus is about an expanded self awareness that helps to bring more peace and harmony to one’s own life. But it does not stop at the self, and THIS is where I really want to go with the idea of Total Consciousness.
In EVERY major religion, and pretty much most of the “minor” ones, there is this idea that is heavily sprinkled into its doctrine that we are all one. That we are all connected. Other than in the Buddhist and Sufi faiths, it is something that is thrown in, but not viewed as a major precept. If it is, it is often only referred as “we” who believe the same. And even that can get spun down to the sect level, as in meaning only Catholics, or Baptist for example.
What IF the idea of receiving Total Consciousness on your death bed, actually IS A THING? And what if, that is THE thing that ALL of us receive in the end? And by total consciousness I mean a full peaceful experience (understanding, awareness…) of all beings as one; an experience that not even the most mindful and experienced of mediators have experienced here on earth. Sort of the Aristotle idea that we all return to one, but there IS awareness to it all. No good/bad, sinner/saint connotation, but just a simple pure bonding together?
So, RC, what the heck brings this up now? Contemplating our own mortality are we? Well, no, not in particular. It’s something I have contemplated much in the past as it just fascinates me in many ways. But today I bring it to this space because my dear friend Kim McCambly asked me to do so. When I say dear friend, I mean that in all sincerity. However, this is not a person that I speak with on a regular basis. Heck, until they reached out to me recently it had probably been over a month since we communicated, and even longer since we had really sat down and talked one to one. But they came to me (of all people) with their story and wanting an understanding.
Take into account this is not a deeply religious person, nor one fully enveloped in the woo either. Yeah, there is astrology that is followed and the essential oil thing, but we are not talking anything over the top here. This is just your average person who had a near death experience (actually 2 of them in a 15 min span) and really was not sure what to make of that.
Here’s the story
Having had some odd test results regarding heart functioning, Kim was in outpatient having an angiogram done. This is a procedure where a catheter is run up an artery from the thigh to the heart and dye is injected to the blood stream. X-ray images are taken and can show if you have blockages in the arteries or other issues in and around the heart. It’s about a 30-60 min outpatient procedure with minor risk issues.
Everything went fine, and there were no blockages at all found. An electrical issue was discovered that might be causing the odd test results. While our patient was a little disappointed in the results (as this does not answer their health questions like a blockage would have) it’s still good news. Just waiting in the recovery room, lying flat in bed, the urge to pee came upon our friend. The nurse slowly raised them up and got them into a position to get out of the bed for the walk to the loo. Our patient said, “I don’t feel right.” The nurse replied, “What does that mean?” And then BOOM BOOM OUT GO THE LIGHTS!
CODE BLUE! Kim’s heart stopped. According to observers, her face lost all color and she went straight back in bed and was out. In this episode, there was nothing at all. No consciousness, no nothing. They paddled her a couple of times and she came to. Our patient did not remember anything from the nurse’s question on. “I had no idea what happened, it was just like waking up from being asleep.”
Here is where things get interesting. Kim can remember waking up. She remembers conversations that happened afterwards and the exact words that were said, and being able to respond clearly to those conversations, HOWEVER, there was somewhat of a fog to it all, like she wasn’t totally there, but not something Kim could consciously identify. She also remembers the room being dimly lit, except for one bright lamp. There was no lamp in the room, and as you can imagine, that room was pretty bright after that scare.
About 15 min. pass and the Dr. wants to have the patient raised up again to see how they’d do. Slowly getting to the same position and…BOOM BOOM OUT GO THE LIGHTS! Second flat line on the monitor, only this time, there was a consciousness. “I heard a murmur of voices, and could see the outline of people. There were no solid shapes, but I definitely saw color. A red outfit was one of them. [There were no red outfits in the recovery room] It was a bright white all around.” Kim went on, “We were moving toward each other, these people and I. I had the sensation of moving, but did not have any awareness or sight of my own body. I could not understand any words. I was very comfortable, and felt extraordinary peace.” She later described that feeling of peace being unlike any other they had ever felt in her life. And then, a new awareness came; Kim knew she had to go back.
This is the one that kinda gets me. She really has no idea WHAT is going on (and is quite content with that), but knows she has to go “back”. No one tells her this, she just knows. BAM – we’re baaaaccckkkk.
Waking up again in the recovery room, our patient this time has total consciousness of where they now are. Room is bright and all is recognized. She could hear the Dr. and the nurses say to her, “come on Kim, stay with us here.” When she awoke, there was only one question remaining, “Why did you bring me back?” With that, in our patients mind, it was all over. Kim had no doubts what so ever that she was now fine and totally in the here and now. This wasn’t just a “feeling” this was a knowing that this was the case. Knowing in a way that neither they, nor any science could possibly explain. She was not angry about being back, but there is a little bit of disappointment. Makes you think a little, huh?
I have never personally had a near death experience. Just as our patient has, I have passed out and or fainted once or twice in my life. According to Kim though, this is nothing like that at all. At one moment there is consciousness here, and in the very next, there is consciousness somewhere else.
I have, however, talked to a few other people who have had these experiences. Some, as in this case, had been under anesthesia shortly before the incident, some had not. Some had been very sick, some not really at all. None had been deeply religious people, and in one case they had never even heard of “near death experiences” prior to it happening. All could recall shapes of people, and had a “feeling” that at least one of them was a parent, grandparent, or sibling that had gone before them, but they couldn’t positively identify them by “sight”.
One particular person, a professor of mine, had it happen twice a few years apart. His second experience was much longer, and he could actually hear one distinct voice at the end, just before waking back up telling him – “You have to go back now”. He woke up so angry about being away from that connected peace that he pulled out all of the IV’s and chords that were attached to him.
I have been told that there are stories that are not so white light peaceful experiences; however I have not had a one to one conversation with anyone who has had as such.
Look, I’m not here to convince you of anything at all, or to push any sort of agenda on you. Yes, I have read scientific explanations that these are just “dreams” or some sort of unconscious defragging of the brain going on. AND yes I am aware of the one’s that have been outed as total lies. I’m just here right now with this last experience posing the question, what if. What if we ARE all one like most religions preach? Would knowing that change our behavior in the here and now? Would we actually make those things in our lives that we SAY are important a real priority? Would we live this life better?
What if we will all receive total consciousness on our deathbed? You’d have that goin for you. Wouldn’t that be nice?